Warning. This isnt my usual style of writing, it is full of cuss words and frustration and darkness and struggle in the attempt to recover and heal. Read at your own discretion. This is my reaction to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery may they rest in peace and power.
A Scolding in Seven Pieces
Why do none of us really want to know? Why do we tell ourselves stories that will hide the pain?
Is it true that a gazelle will die willingly in the jaws of the predator? I mean allow itself to succumb to suffocation to its predator…is that true? Is it to save the others? Is it a sacrifice? Do gazelles think that way? Are these the myths we speak about creatures which should be free but we wish them and will them into our hierarchy of good and natural deaths? Is that why it hurts some less to shoot them and dismember them into trophies?
As it dies, does it will itself into a dark and endless sleep? Does the gazelle know it has no heaven? Does it wish for more light as its own eclipses? How does that suffocating gazelle feel?
2. 1775 the year I got The Cooking Gene.
A year before the Declaration of Independence, each one of my grandparents had an Ancestor who arrived in America. Some had been here for 3-4 generations, others were just arriving.
My maternal grandmother’s direct paternal line arrived from Ghana in the 1770’s. He passed down the story of being Asante. Dock work. Farm work. Wife and children sold South to Alabama from Virginia.
My maternal grandmother’s direct maternal line arrived from Sierra Leone in the 1760s-1770s. She was Mende. Rice fields. Later Alabama cotton. Days of misery and misfortune.
My paternal grandmother’s people were in Virginia since the late 1600s at least. Many of them came from eastern Nigeria, home of the Igbo. 1710-1750s… Tobacco fields.
My paternal grandfather’s direct paternal Ancestor arrived in the 1760’s from Ghana. He was Ewe and Akan. Tobacco and indigo then cotton fields.
My paternal grandfather’s direct maternal Ancestor arrived from Sierra Leone between 1750-1775. She was Temne and Fulani. Rice fields then cotton fields.
One of his Ancestors arrived from the Sundi Kingdom of Kongo in the early to mid 1800’s, we think he was probably “illegal.” Cotton fields of the upstate.
My maternal Grandfather’s paternal line was founded by British American r/a/p/i/s/t who held my female Ancestor in bondage. There are many like him in my blood, Confederates all. I am more stars and bars than stars and stripes.
So many I am related to Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney. Gd made up for it by making me a distant cousin of Samuel L. Jackson.
My maternal Grandfather’s direct maternal line was from Ghana. I am more kente cloth than Old Glory. More Akan ancestry. Tobacco fields.
His mother’s direct paternal bloodline went back to John son of Sarah, who made the middle Passage into Virginia around 1765-1774. Tobacco then cotton.
The rest were from Senegal, Gambia, Madagascar, Angola, Dahomey and Liberia, even east Africa. Some were English, Scottish, Irish and Scots-Irish. Some were Virginia Native Americans, some were Jews. Through their different veins rode the Vikings, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, the Middle East, Central Asia and East Asia. But all you see officer is suspicion and prey. 100% gazelle. By accident of birth, I am the beginning of humankind, every Diaspora, I am the Middle Passage and the American dream deferred. I was here before St. Augustine, before the Mayflower, before Ellis Island, before the airplane. This is why our sages taught–“When you save a life you save the entire world..”
Chauvin….Chauvin….I’m talking to your demons…I’m talking to your dark side. Looking into those hollow America killing eyes. I want to understand that demon in you….you know…the one that keeps shouting in you…the side that must kill the ni**er. Kill that ni**er. Kill the ni**ers. KILL THEM. With a knee. You up North, no tree needed. Take a knee right? Dare you to disrespect MY flag. This is not your country. That anthem talks about scaring the slaves into submission. Don’t you know this is a WHITE MANz country?
Apply the pressure of white nationalism. Lean in, apply the pressure of comorbidities caused by the Middle Passage. Go on Aryan prince, hit him with that white male alpha authority and that stink of Hitler. Come on —don’t let Soros win–it’s the Jews right? They want your daughter and son to suffer in the new zebra order. Is that what the anti-Semites told you? Apply that anti-Blackness, hold the fuc*er down until he dies like a gazelle. You are the lion, he is the prey. Let him cry out and just take all the ni**ers with him—to sleep. They have no heaven except this earth we tolerate them on. Our unfortunate tolerated pets, little gazelles. He is limp, the war can begin. Bannon said Satan is his master and the nation must be destroyed. Nobody listened.
Hey Demon! Listen to me! None of your colonial power can fu*k with me…I know who I am…I know who you are I will call you by your real name and watch you burn…
White Supremacist Patriarchal Animosity Fragility Rage Uber Monstrosity
If you kill me you kill the entire world. You kill your entire history. You kill your Adam and your Eve and your Cain and your Abel and everyone who roamed Eden.. You kill generations. You kill the world’s oldest DNA. You kill the makers of American food. You kill the creators of your soundtrack. You kill veterans from every fuc*ing war. You kill your greatest comedians and inventors and innovators and writers, and inspiration for writers and your poets and the women who bore your children when you were the most infamous of all the baby-daddies using African and Native women. WE ARE YOUR COUSINS and you want to kill us because you can’t stand to look in our eyes and see yourselves and see the sins of your fathers and their rampant gleeful illegitimacy. If you kill us you kill the greatest money maker in American history–not American cleverness or wit or inspiration but the womb of the Black woman. You didn’t deserve King! You kill the same kind of blood that was the first blood to die for this country. None of your magic beats karma, the Orisha, none of your magic can hold this gotdamn wolf by the ears when you taunt it. Your upside down Bible cannot stay the power of our mojo—-
The flag is red white and blue.
The money is green.
But you cannot avoid the shout of our dead—
When they scream
Ogun’s knife cries out for blood,
It is not clean.
For a week now he has watched my face with green eyes. He is my best friend, my lover, my fiance, a white man with two tablespoons of Black from a woman that passed into whiteness, a little more Roma from wagons that went from India to England, and lots of “white.” Alabama and Tennessee Slaveholders and Indian hunters he is ashamed of, veterans he is proud of. He is mostly Scottish indentured servant and Mennonite war dissenter, peacemaker Germans. A pioneer woman who saved her life by climbing the sole tree on an Oklahoma plain when the last of the bison thundered on earth rather than heaven and night after night he watches me and holds me as I scream at another part of his people. I rage, and I cry and he doesn’t hold me back or tell me not to cry or scream or mourn because I couldn’t love him if he did not respect me or give me my space.
Every night at sunset we watch the sifting of anarchist from protester to white supremacist plant as if it matters. We coddle dinner together. He looks at my face when I’m not looking at him but when he looks me in the eyes he does not let the helplessness show. He wants to go stand up to power but I tell him he must stay. The reporters and journalists keep saying “peace,” what is that? Violence they speak of but every night I hear fu*k–a thousand times from the cops and watch people lose eyes, get gassed, get trampled by horses, run into with cars, spat on, and windows broken into–did they really have to try to muddle screams and shash tires and taze him?
The red dots grow across the map like measles. RedSummer2.0 I don’t feel like being respectable. My nightmares—I wake up unable to breathe. Fear of being next. He knows when I wake up screaming.
We are dying of an invisible serial killer
Just when we caught a human one…
The money trees are bare.
It’s summer. We just got started.
The kids are not alright.
The revolution is cellular.
Nobody has anything to do but die or vote..or watch the Tiger Queen
We are watching lions and leopards and hyenas hunt gazelles…
Ahmaud then Breonna then George then….
All 45 can do is juggle a Bible and shake it at the youth as if they are vampires
He wants to be something before he closes his eyes
…like the gazelle.
5. Bull Connor 2.0
Barr and his jowls. Mean lying cuss. Sheltering in place behind a G-d we are sure will not want him. He is playing Bull Connor for the camera. Tom Cotton is the new John C. Calhoun. 45 is Nixon in 68. How much reading do you have to do on your way to the protest to understand this hellish moment?
I am watching them hurt Washingtonians–I am screaming at the TV. 45 comes out. Gold Glory and G-dless. A TV ad shoots up the next day–crisp and clean, a totalitarian fantasy.
The sisters text me and write me–they know I am prey. They are too–but I can’t say that–I vow to die a martyr before they are disrespected. The brothers call. We want to go to war but we are past our warrior days but not quiet aged.
The white and non-Black friends call and text–they worry that I may be in my own bunker, the walls closing in.
I don’t know what to say really–so I wrote this.
6. America, America, this is the anthem throw your damn hands up and don’t shoot Love note to the red kaps
They are still talking about Kap’s knee…
And if only the Negroes were law abiding and they were 1950s Negroes on Beulah and Amos and Andy and that one Black lady in Mayberry and on the Waltons but we could still extract value from their bodies–labor, entertainment, abuse, sex, and someone to(sm) other
Why can’t they just be gazelles and maybe after we live in peace with ourselves we will yawn and let them pee next to us again or whatever they want this time, the water fountains weren’t as bad as we thought they were…its not like they hit any of the generational wealth some of us gained from working them to death…speaking of stealing Dakota real estate…what about the looters…what about the violence…Minnesota legislature doesn’t even want to preserve the original name of where the Missouri meets the Mississippi..Bdote…the creation place..of the Dakota ppl….they were lynched by Lincoln for trying to take their country back from Laura Ingalls Eildibut wanna talk about looting… King would have been—(I can’t even repeat that bull*hit;)
Don’t they know pieces of cloth are more important especially when they are made in China making America slump again like our little red hats to go along with our little red books (they will be out next term)?
Don’t they know songs are worth more than a million of their fingernails….
Jingoism and (white) nationalism and Jesus as Thor oh-my
A holy war designed to restore the natural order of rocket launchers at Starbucks…
Of lion and leopard and hyena on gazelle
It’s the circle of strife.
Some will read this and say I hate them because I hate what is done to us. Some will say I ignore their casualties and therefore I am not preaching true equality. Some say I should forget the past. Some say I am brainwashed. No not really. I love me more than I could ever hate you.
And I love you enough to tell you that you are wrong about me and us and this and the dream and the ideals and everything. I am not the traumas some inflict on me and you’se guys are not the traumas others like you inflict on us–unless you parrot and project your dystopia–then you are quite the same.
No, I don’t hate you. I had a grandmother–the descendant of 1775. I had grandparents who taught me my history and wanted me to be in better days.
I’m not a gazelle. I’m not your prey. I am not a predator in reverse because I love myself more than your vision. You are gazelle tonyoir own lion
And I understand I will always be queer by color and sexuality and faith and philosophy in your eyes and I celebrate that because I am every color in the rainbow.
Otherwise I really have zero f*cks to give whether or not you love me back. I have my work to do—grace, compassion, peace, love and all that good old time religion stuff…and I don’t have time to waste it.
This place–is not a thing to be squandered. You say we should unify around the symbols of obfuscation born in slavery and Native removal and manifest destiny and I say no—we can choose new ways to be one—understanding how much our blood has crossed. We are deliciously impure—looking at you Steve King—enjoy retirement—its on us. If you are not multicultural and kissed by otherness and soaked in the world of your neighbor you have wasted your opportunity to be an American to be a part of an accidental planned experiment. The glory here is not in melting but melding by learning from each other and having no boundaries on opportunities…and to have those opportunities black people cannot be the canaries in the American coal mine any longer. Black Lives Matter and if they do not there is no reason to dream in American.
Indigenous people are not to be annihilated by governors on the Dakota plains offering 21st century smallpox blankets…or in the deserts of the Navajo Nation…
Poor people aren’t dumb. Black and Brown tired of this covid—bio warfare nonsense…
Trans people being able to fight would guarantee America is better.
Trans lives not being snuffed out would mean that too.
Asian Americans are tired of reliving the Exclusion Act and Manzanar and being blamed for your sneezes
Women should have equal pay for equal work and the protections on the sky and waters and earth should be restored. The Earth Mama is at war with us, and pier one is closing so you cannot appease her with dead reeds wrapped in plastic and bead portiere this is not a lewk. She wants her planet back–MAKE EARTH GREAT AGAIN. She has blown dust on us and it became Babalu and as he dances the plague spreads.
Brown people are tired. From the Rez to the Barrio to the Masjid and Gurdwara and Temple.
The Jews are tired. We showed you how to survive during Pesach–you didn’t listen.
The lesbians are tired of saving the world without thanks.
The bisexuals are tired of being invisible.
The gays–well we are horny and tired.
The kids are bored.
The cats want us gone.
The dogs are all going to have separation anxiety.
The elders are lonely.
The introverts are just fine.
The extroverts are stir crazy and the ambiverts are ambivalent.
I just want you to understand :
Black Lives Matter means I should be able to do normal things without dying. I should not die a flashpoint. So many Black women. So many Black men. So many Black people. They were not gazelles. They did not die as a sacrifice for the herd. They did not succumb for you. So many brown people and allies and friends and framily just all of us have finally said–across the earth this has got to stop, enough is enough, this is gazelle on gazelle on gazelle. Black Lives Matter means NOT only saving Black Lives but making sure Black people can live lives of quality, dignity and freedom. You should be thinking, thank G-d that Black woman can have a child in optimum safety or have her doctors interact with her in a respectful way. You should be thinking isnt it great his name or her hair isn’t a barrier to a job or they can live wherever they want and get a loan for it. You should be thinking oh those two friends are of different backgrounds and people won’t ascribe a drug deal or sexual fetish or a robbery to their interaction. You should be thinking isnt it great Black he or she is feeling themself and that’s important given the historic erasure of Black joy and beauty. Or that a Black person can be academically or artistically gifted without help or assistance from anyone else.
She can drive a car, put the kids to bed, he can jog or eat ice cream or live to raise their little ones or go birdwatching or have a barbecue.
Black Lives Matter means not being scared to go to a doctor as a Black man because you’ll be ignored or worse experimented on like an laboratory animal. It means being a Black woman¬ being considered aggressive because you won’t suffer other people’s passive¬ so passive microaggressions. It means being Black of any color or shade or faith or sexuality etc.¬ having people vivisect your identity because u don’t fit a bubble. It means people don’t assume you’re poor or that poor means culturally disadvantaged&if you are financially challenged that you aren’t less of a human being. It means living a life of mental& physical health un-impacted by the stress of racial slights and systemic racism& living off 5 black dollars to a white 100. Black Lives Matter should begin at birth&be an inheritance for generations to come.&don’t forget it means law enforcement and vigilantes don’t get to profile you&destroy your life. And maybe I can sleep again.
Epilogue: What does it feel like to face a gun to your head?
The Good Black
If you really believe in “the good Black,” let me offer you a cautionary personal tale. A few years ago, a friend of mine was taking to me to synagogue on the commemoration of Tisha B’Av. He’s white, I am obviously of a certain “continental origin” and a car almost hit us on the passenger side of the vehicle. I was the passenger; the person in the car was driving erratically. I said nothing—but I grimaced and frowned. My friend got agitated, but did not drive in an aggressive fashion.
The unmarked car suddenly put on a siren and we the driver began to glare at me—through me—with a look of absolute disdain. He was ready for reprisal. We were pulled over—not on the side of the road, but into a parking lot. He got out of the car, pulled his gun and told my white friend, “TELL YOUR PASSENGER TO PUT HIS F—G HANDS UP ON THE DASHBOARD AND NOT TO MOVE THEM! YEAH MOTH–KER YOU’RE SO G–DAMNED BAD! WHAT’S THAT MOTH—KER, A GUN?”
It was my prayerbook. It had G-d’s name on it, beautiful gold Hebrew letters gleaming at me on a sunless day. In kippa, dress clothes and non-leather shoes, headed to synagogue, I had a gun at my head by a Montgomery County Maryland police officer calling for backup…which curiously never came. He never asked my friend to put his hands up. Said friend got out of the car, handed over his ID. I was far from trembling, afraid or submissive when he returned—gun drawn—to my side of the vehicle—I was Nat Turner mad. He patted me down and even threw my kippa on the ground. No reason, no cause. He loudly pronounced my name over the radio, confident he was going to turn a glare—a reckless eyeballing– into an arrest.
Surprise! No moving violations on the part of my friend, the driver, no weapons on me, no rap sheet, nothing. Jack shit. The policeman got nervous. I was not a good catch. He softened his approach with awkward verbal retreats until the tense conversation ended in “Have a nice day.” the motherfucker smiled at me. No apologies, no attempt at breaking down his wall.
I was not appeased. But I was too scared to say anything or file a complaint. I knew the man’s name for all of seven days. Then I forgot it. I had heard stories about the Blue line. I didn’t want any further harassment; I put it away—I didn’t speak about it—until now.
I am afraid that had that cop been turned up one more notch I would not be writing this—I’d have been big fat, scary, Black, worthless and dead. Oh, and by the way, this is one of six negative encounters with law enforcement I have had where I was in no way held in the commission of a crime, arrested, or held until being tried for a crime. I was the passenger with a white friend, and it was alleged I was a drug dealer because we were at a gas station, “a little bit too long.” I was on a bus and every Black male was asked to present his ID and had his bag searched. I have been stopped for walking while Black and pressed up against a wall.
Wanna know the worst part? When the people passing you on the sidewalk look at you with a presumptive glance that they believe you wouldn’t have gotten in trouble if you hadn’t done something wrong. You are guilty until proven innocent, and even then you ain’t so damn innocent. You are the good black, the good boy, and by god you might just get your reward in heaven if you just suppress your jungle anger and just suck it up and forget that this moment has a dark past and that 2020 and 1619 have just been linked together in an ignoble chain. This is the moment Mama and Daddy gave you “the talk” about; and nothing prepared you for that look you get from the onlookers as you, the consummate “Other,” get a hand in the crack of your ass.
love you. This is powerful, beautiful, painful, needed. hold on tight to one another. be safe and strong. xoxo Marcie
MARCIE COHEN FERRIS
American Studies, UNC-CH
Faculty Editor, Southern Cultures
@ferrismcf | MarcieCohenFerris.com
Follow along with my current book project: EdibleNC.com
Sent from my iPhone
Wow! This is an extraordinarily powerful piece of writing! How could anyone upon reading it not be
filled with an influx of emotions?
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Thanks for sharing your journey! Well written and well received.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Your writing leaves me with a kaleidoscope of emotions: sorrow, anger, shame, hope and resolve. I humbly take the knee and even though I am only one; I resolve to do better by making my views public against racism and voting in EVERY election to make this country a nation where equality is extended to all; a nation that has no room for hate; a nation that learns from its history and changes the future for the greater good of all; a nation where I can call every person regardless of color, gender or faith – brother, sister and friend. Thank you and God Bless.
Superb writing, prose and depiction Michael. Bravo!
Thank you so much. You touch our hearts and minds and souls. Stay strong and stay well, and thank you.
Wow. Thank you.
Thank you. I am humbled by your words and your insights. I find myself not only more cognizant than ever of my white privilege, but wondering how to be more overtly supportive and challenging to others on theirs. I’m not sure overtly is the word I want, but I can’t think of a better word at this moment.
I’m tired of watching and listening to bullshit about Kap and BLM protests inconveniencing people and “how dare they” while cheering for assholes like the ammosexuals who showed up demanding haircuts on the steps of their state houses armed to the teeth with semi automatic weapons demanding the heads governors. When shown white men, armed to the teeth, are arrested and taken through a Burger King for food on the way to the police station while a person of any other color would have been shot full of holes on the spot, I want to scream. And my outrage is but a pittance compared to yours.
I want to be better, but I’m not sure how to be. And that saddens me.
good to hear from you. Was beginning to wonder at your long silence. Maybe it’s just my comuter?
I love comments. All I could think of was the verse, Jesus wept. I think it’s the shortest verse in the bible (at least new testament), and I cry.
We need to educate these people. Somehow. We are all related. ALL of our ancestors walked out of Africa, some sooner than others. Everyone is, according to the white supremicists, colored — black, brown, yellow, copper.
Very powerful words, Mr. Twitty. Thank you and well done.
Plans Canceled? Have I got a book for you!!
Lenora Good Books: Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country http://sandhbooks.com/story/madame-dorion/ Blood on the Ground: Elegies for Waiilatpu, http://www.redbatbooks.com/bloodontheground.html Jibutu: Daughter of the Desert, http://tinyurl.com/y8jb396j Blog: lenoragood.wordpress.com Stay safe, stay healthy, and remember to care for one another, because one another is all we’ve really got.
It took me all day to get through each section. Thank you.
A powerful piece. I am word-less. Thank you.
I’ve been thinking of you often lately and wondering what you might say here, with your gift for words. This is agonizingly beautiful and powerful and heartwrenching. Thank you so much for sharing it
Thank you. Beautiful and raw.
Ase, you always go deep. Thank you for this expression and the wealth of history you embed in your work.
Thank you so much for writing that beautiful piece. I am a 66 year old white woman with an interracial/biracial extended family. If that weren’t the case, I would feel the same but maybe not so urgently. Close proximity to life threatening danger has a way of thrusting reality in one’s face. I too worry about my beautiful black & white niece and her black husband, their precious 2 small children and what may happen to them in a country that is reverting back, after just a brief pause where belated efforts were made, to another historic nightmare. I hope it will bring you at least a bit of solace to know that there are others like me. We can’t ever fully know or understand your pain but we stand with you just the same!
I could never thank you enough, and I could never not try. You ‘sing a song of yourself’ that is of your own self, and in being you, sings of all America, of all humans, that sings to Mother Nature, celebrating who ‘we could be if we would be who we really are.’ Your song includes the voices of Whitman and Ginzburg and Hughes and the Griots whose names were deliberately erased yet give the meter and rhyme to America’s voice. Your song rises above the more than 400 years of pain and hatred and evil to sing of joy, righteous anger, courage and love. In singing your song you celebrate all of whom you are, and challenge all of us to be who are. My prayer is that we will rise to that challenge, and that you keep singing; knowing that your voice inspires us.
I am that white woman. The one who reads The Empire of Cotton, The Known World, Stamped from the Beginning, How to be an AntiRacist…but who cannot just shake off, dig out, the racism that has threaded through my ancestors, through my body. Oh ever so politely. Yours is a powerful and beautifully written scolding. A poem.
Love your writing & love you. Thank you.
Thank you. I want to say I love you but I know it might sound fake. But your breadth of knowledge and your command of emotion, words, meter and language moved me. Every word mattered. Be safe. Be well.
Wow, very powerful- like Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman stirred into a potent, yet beautiful (and much needed) tonic.
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