I thought long and hard about writing this, partly for fear of saying the wrong thing, of getting this fucked up, of not saying what I mean, of being misconstrued or misquoted, but fuck it all, I need to say this.
I love black America.
My friends in San Francisco, those who don’t judge my actions, who understand survival, who have a sense of moral outrage, who care what happens to The Boy and me, are all black. Standing there crying in the hallway, scared of what the actions of a social worker had led to, it was these friends who put their arms around me, pandemic or no. A fiercely lovely, beautiful, strong, intelligent, stoic young woman grinned at me and outlined for me why she will never live in fear of The System, why she will resist, why she won’t back down, why she will live her life lawfully with her head up, and not constantly appeasing the cops or the courts of the other instruments of control and fear, “and if they shoot me, Detroit, you had better smash shit up for me.”
Tears were running down my cheeks. This is my friend, my ride or die. This is the young woman who sits laughing with me till tears run down our cheeks. I’ve never seen her give up. I’ve never seen her compromise. I have never seen her back down. I admire her greatly. I suspect between the two of us we are almost invincible.
“Smash shit up! I’ll burn the world down, darling. I’ll have every single fucking news agency there. I would stand candlelight vigil. I would fucking have streets named after you, but it’s not fair. You should be an old lady one day, a cute little old lady with a story of love and a long life she enjoyed to look back on. Please be careful. Please. These motherfuckers shoot without question, children, unarmed men with sandwiches in their hands, women in their beds, for fucks sake be careful.”
What kind of world is this where friends, sisters, have this conversation and it not be ridiculous. What kind of world is it that a black woman is challenged going into her own apartment? What kind of world do we live in? America needs healing and we are not even close to getting there. We are not even within reach of understanding as a country, the vicious truth of racism between these seas to shining seas.
She grinned her cheeky grin that betrays a hint of steel and fire, and made a joke which I won’t repeat but involved bejewelling an image of her face onto her ex’s car window. I love her like a little sister that I get exasperated at but can’t help admire.
So here I am. I have been embraced by this small mostly black community in San Francisco. They do their best and some to help homeless families. Sometimes the world fucks up. Sometimes other agencies fuck things up. Sometimes someone from some charity who should know better puts me at risk, and my friends are as outraged as any other person who gives a shit about me and the Boy. For all the problems, the shelter partying leading to sleepless months, the social despair, there is more heart, more spirit, more comprehension of suffering, more general compassion here than I have experienced in any other time during my life in this beautiful but flawed country. I am rejecting the label ‘illegal’, ‘undocumented’. I am an American. I am a San Franciscan. I live here and I’ll die here. I love this country. I am an asset to it. This is my spiritual home. This is where I am safest. I earnt my wings, my highway shoes, my devotion, but I am not blind. People, we have problems, and as long as they go unchecked this country will decline.
When my own son, who is visibly partly far east Asian (please not the colonial ‘Oriental’ very offensive) gets racially based abuse, and I am subjected to slurs about my slightly butch appearance (call me a ‘boy’ or a ‘dyke’ again in the street and I am in the mood to fucking pepper spray their homophobic asses), and this in damn San Francisco, bastion of gay rights and with a large and vibrant Asian community, it makes me despair. This political media driven narrative that divides us into our ‘tribes’, trying to turn the black community against the Asian community, Muslims against Jews, heck, even gay men against lesbians, is all just a ploy to divide and conquer. We are so much weaker apart. We are so much stronger when we band together against the hate mongers, the ugly right wing shift of the world, against those who would seek to control and own dominion, of those who would push hate and ugliness.
All black lives matter. When my friends joke to stand next to them because they are more likely to get shot than me, it isn’t funny, it is gallows humor, and it is truth. As downtrodden, in danger and suffering as much as I am, my whiteness offers me some degree of protection, and it makes me want to vomit.