I awake Saturday morning. Awaiting me is a team text from Shana about IG. I lie there, lamenting my lack of sleep. I rub my Quarantine Food Baby and think about Danielle’s upcoming postpartum post. I speak with Shana about said IG post. I check the news again, to see if the situation in America’s cities has gotten worse overnight. I do not want to face the day. I do not want to face my guilt or my sadness. It is all too heavy. I try to think about how we’ll get outside today (we’ve committed to going outside five days out of seven during quarantine) — without putting ourselves in potential danger of a protest that could potentially get out of hand. You can imagine how selfish this feels.
I move to the living room for my morning yoga. I watch the line of the cars on the highway. I know in my gut these cars are coming to Center City to attend the protest I am going to skip. I begin to think about my response. I watch as the city’s police force, in their cars with their bicycles attached, head into Center City to get into place for the protest I have decided we are not attending.
I had struggled through a day of “wrong responses” on Friday. First, Mr. Trump’s inflammatory response to the nation’s protests (the looting and shooting one). “Wrong response,” I thought. Then I listened, appalled, as columnist David Brooks gave another “wrong response” when Brian Lehrer asked him to put the President’s tweet into the context of his previous days’ column “If We Had A Real Leader”. Instead of condemning the president’s call for violence against protestors and looters, Brooks buried the idea in a lament about us living under the barrage of Mr. Trump’s Twitt-ocracy over the past three years. He said maybe it’s a complicated response, because he doesn’t condone rioting. He — clearly — could not bring himself to condemn the president’s call for violence. This seemingly insignificant moment overshadowed — and dare I say ignited — my mood of overwhelming sadness for an entire weekend. This glaringly incorrect response to a people’s suffering and its leader’s failure.
During our team catch-up Friday, when prompted by Syd, Shana said she would write her weekend post about “something light.” She said she has just written about Ahmaud Arbery’s death and that nothing changes. Disappointing response, I thought.
I had an afternoon check-in with A. I was sad. I needed to regroup. We re-grouped. We spoke of Woke Sadness. Maybe we’d do a Facebook Live for TME on Woke Sadness. S checked in. She’d written a post. She had sat down and gotten angry and written. I love when S does that.
As I do yoga, my mind is cinematic. I had scrolled through the AP and NY Times apps the night before, as I have done nightly since we’ve been in quarantine, and looked at all the pictures of chaos coming out of America’s cities. I do not have a TV for this reason. My mind is visual enough. Living in a pandemic has given any obsessive or compulsive anxieties new life. My amygdala is already working overtime.
I watch my mind as I do yoga. It explores my own response — or lack thereof.
Is it the images — the ones my mind is stuck on — of people — officers and protestors, their faces within inches of each other — yelling, my mind translating this as a transmission of COVID-19 — that is keeping me from protesting today?
I mean…anyone who has been hospitalized as a COVID-19 patient, and had no test or inconclusive test results, has no interest in being hospitalized for COVID-19, and therefore, quite frankly, no interest in being near other people.
The nonchalance of Derek Chauvin, smug and calm, spread around social media…I don’t need to watch the video. I finally learned that in 2016, after years of traumatizing myself by doing so every summer (Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Philando Castille). Of course, it took someone else to point out that people of color viewing so much violence against other people of color can be traumatizing. It is.
Perhaps it is because I am no longer an expat? I attended plenty of protests in 2016 and 2017 with Goose in tow — from Standing Rock to the Women’s March and the Healthcare March — and even in 2018. Even though I returned to the U.S. in 2014, I still considered myself an expat for a number of years. As an expat, I had power. I had power, because for the six years I lived overseas, I got to be an American. Just an American. Nationality, ethnicity, religion…yes, I had to answer some of those questions and check those boxes—but for both nationality and ethnicity, I could simply write U.S.A or North American. I didn’t have to go through the mental minefield and jungle of arguments to determine whether to choose “Black,” “African-American”, Native American”, “White”, “Multiracial,” “Other,” … “Should I choose one, or check all that mathematically apply? America’s history is complex. Being African-American is complex.” “Is there a benefit to one over the other on this particular form?” “Will it work against me to declare my “race”? “Why are they asking for a race? Race is a social construct and we should stop giving it power.” So by the time I returned to the U.S., I felt human. I felt strong and independent and socio-economically invincible…even if I was broke.
I’ve done this before!! I’ve grabbed my bike, strapped my 4- then 5-year-old daughter in for protests so she could learn social justice the way other young warriors have. I was not worried back then – Obama too, had made me American with his notion of a shared narrative.
Philly for 20 years has successfully and peacefully protested, and I have experienced that. Granted, I learned to get there on time and leave when it was officially over (usually because it was a weeknight, and we had to have dinner and get ready for bed), but I showed up. I showed up — and with Goose.
Of course my fears — because that’s what they are, anxiety running amok in the midst of America’s Crisis of Violence in the midst of a Global Pandemic — are not about The Protest. And my reasons for staying home are not about not wanting to protest.
My fears? Are of a police system on steroids.
The militarization of American police departments — if you remember that exploration in 2014 after the riots in Ferguson — is one of the greatest fears I live with. It has only become amplified since I have given birth and reluctantly returned with my daughter to a country that has taken the bodies of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many more.
I have no fear of a protest or protestors or even of rioters or looters. I have no fear of my fellow citizens (except maybe some of the gun-toting ones). I can get myself in and out of a dangerous situation — all the more easier when my daughter was in the seat on my bicycle than if, like now, she’d have to be on her own, us unconnected. It is an inappropriate police response that paralyzes me, imprisons me in my own home — and in my head.
A, K and I check in over text. K expresses her desire to head to the protest. I express my guilt over my lack of will. I feel ashamed of my response — or lack of response.
Unfortunately, the stream of police cars with the bicycles attached (that I associate with peaceful protests) morph throughout the day into a traumatizing montage of invisible — but not silent — unrest — in a very disturbing way.
I try to go about my day — Monday is looming and the housework and home admin must get done. But what does Monday even mean right now? What does work even look like on Monday? I sit at my desk to start the grocery order. I move to the kitchen to cook. I start moving plants to the balcony that have been waiting to be planted for months. I lay out a “magic screen” to hang on the balcony door. I tell Goose to get ready because we are going outside soon. I do all of this over and over and over again, in circles, unable to quiet the monologue in my head. Mid-afternoon, I see there is no traffic on the highway — 676, aka the Vine Expressway — which runs through the city. This is not a good sign.
The expressway is eye-level with our apartment.
We look. The police have blocked the highway. And then it begins. The activity that will continue throughout the weekend — that continues until now. Caravans of police — police vans, paddy wagons, state trooper SUVs — with their sirens back and forth across the expressway. Helicopters above us. The police car that is blocking the off-ramp angled just so, so that it is facing us. It is clear we are not going to go outside today, that I am not going to prove to myself that I am not afraid. I anxiously check my phone for news updates. Last time I had looked, the scheduled protests of the day had been peaceful; the first even socially distant. It is time to pot the plants.
We go to the balcony. In front of the police, with helicopters whirring above us, my stomach churning, Goose starts planting the herb garden my mother sent her for Easter; I am propagating plants.
How can I sit here potting plants? I am a coward.
I am planting new life, new life in honor of George Floyd. I feel calm for 30 seconds…or the length of that thought.
I am — if that officer is white, if that officer is prejudiced — defying a stereotype. I am planting plants with my daughter on a “nice” Saturday afternoon.
It is a good thing we did not go on the roof of the parking lot to jump rope. Are those police helicopters or news choppers? What if we had gone to the roof, and they mistook our jumping rope for aggressive behavior or got confused and thought we had weapons?
You are being a good parent for staying home. You could have gone to the City Hall protest and things would have been fine, and you would be continuing to model for your daughter social justice, like you used to. You would be doing what countless others are doing, and risking your life, because at this point, for us, it’s either the Coronavirus or the Police State, pick your poison.
But there’s your daughter.
I am a “high yellow” woman. I fly under the radar of the police. I could likely go protest safely. My daughter identifies as a person of color or as a black person or as a brown person? Even though she’s not a black boy, we are black. Even though she is light-skinned, bi-racial, a dual citizen, a third-culture kid. She has been raised as a person of color, but she has not been overly racialized or imprinted by colorism (well, she was, but we took care of that — for now). And even though she does not look like the traditional object of police violence, I find myself with an overpowering need to protect her body from this very American phenomenon.
I am exhausted. I cannot imagine going anywhere right now. Why again? Why are we dealing with this death again? Every freakin’ summer. I am overwhelmed with sadness. What is the correct response?
I wonder what the police are doing to the protestors. I wonder how many are protesting and how many are rioting.
I am being terrorized by these Vehicles Of Aggression.
No matter. I hope the police respond appropriately — which is, in effect, not to respond. Let the police cars burn. That is what’s happening nearby and so far, the police are there and not responding. They are letting it burn and not hurting anyone.
I am calm for another 30 seconds. I am certain our mayor, Jim, gave strict instructions not to shoot. I have to believe this.
Oops…that lasted for about 5 minutes…now they bring the tear gas.
Should we warn our friends that the highway is closed? Do I say we hope they are safe? Do I hope they went to the protest today? Who am I?
It is night. I get Goose settled in her room with a podcast, so that I can drink and try to watch some comedy. This is absurd. The sirens and the caravans — symbols of this police state and everything it represents — keep criss-crossing the highway. The Lights Of Death. The Sirens Of Oppression. The vehicles on their way to commit violence against a people. To restore “law and order.” Every time their caravans zoom across the expressway, they bring with them images of police dogs and batons and water hoses and guns and knees on necks and a country at war with itself.
I go to the window. I check my phone for the news. The city is literally on fire. I talk to A. She can see the smoke from her rooftop. I check on a friend to see if they were out in Brooklyn. They have seen the fire on social media. “You should try to get out of there tomorrow,” they say.
I see a man walking around the periphery of the building. He looks official, but I am unsure. I call the front desk — Fuck An A, who am I? I am a black Karen. There are people out there risking their lives for us — so me, my daughter, my brother, his family, my father, my uncles, my cousin…can LIVE, can stay alive, and I am calling security about a white man in khakis and a polo to make sure he’s kosher. He is. They’ve hired extra security tonight on account of someone trying to set fire to a nearby apartment. I am relieved. I wonder if I should have gotten a deadbolt for my apartment. I wonder about my privilege in even having that thought. What gives me the right to want to feel safe? That part of the Constitution does not apply to me. Safety implies I can continue up the Hierarchy of Human Needs to happiness, and the pursuit of happiness is not supposed to apply to me. Feeling secure makes me feel guilty.
The blue and red lights continue flashing, reflecting on my living room walls. I hear The Noises. Grenade? Firecracker? Gun shot? Tear gas canister? Rubber bullet?
Many Americans live in what we — during my 20s — referred to as the police state. Frequent over-policing, red and blue lights constantly flashing in windows, the sound of sirens on the daily, being prepared to get down at any moment. I am lucky, this, right now, is temporary — I hope.
I go into Goose’s room to turn off her twinkly lights. Welp, that’s not gonna work. The lights flash across her blinds, reflecting off her white walls.
How am I gonna go to sleep knowing these flashing lights will wake her or that I’ve left lights on in her room? Maybe I should go on the balcony and gesture to the officer that his flashing lights are keeping us up — as if they are the most disruptive aspect of this moment — No. That will surely get me shot. There are children in this country who fall asleep this way every night. What makes us so special that I should be upset about this?
It’s after 2:00 AM. I pace. I try to do yoga. I check the news. Finally things get quiet. The trooper blocking the highway departs. I am both relieved and a little worried.
K declares the protest could use her “white lady body” today. I give her my blessing, tell her she gets 1.5 hours to do so. A suggests heading downtown to clean up. I have a work call. We will be home. I am overwhelmed.
The police caravans begin again. The Parades Of Aggression Headed Toward Civilians who are assembled in peaceful protest, and also, in anger. This time, the caravans include huge tractor trailer-sized paddy wagons. And also prison buses from the Sheriff’s office. These things make me nauseous.
Goose is highly in-tune with the “excitement” on the highway. I try to figure out if she is scared. She says she is not. Yet every time we speak with anyone on Sunday and Monday, the first thing she says, even before “hi” is “we live by the highway. There are helicopters.” It doesn’t occur to me — until I hear someone on Monday’s Brian Lehrer Show explain that her child has no schema for these images YET to associate them with violence — that the reason I am a nervous wreck and my 8-year-old is merely in a tizzy is that she does not have decades of violent actions and horrific images to associate with these Death Squads. She just sees police cars and vans and SUVs and trucks and buses on their way to “deal with” the protestors — whatever that means for this 8-year-old.
Ever since we arrived back in the States, I think of her when I see the police. I freak out (inside) any time she’s near an officer other than the bicycle cops. My stomach sloshes if we are in line at the Starbucks — yes, THAT Starbucks — or on the bus, and in the holster of an officer is a gun, at right about the height of her head.
Explaining to my daughter that we live in a police state wasn’t on my agenda for this weekend, nor was reflecting on the degree to which violence is American. Or death by racism. I can manage to give her only bits and pieces, adding to what I’ve already taught her to protect herself. I don’t completely shield her from the truth — she gets the public radio version all day, every day. But the full horrors of race in America — for black and brown people — are so traumatic that they need not be rushed.
I am traumatized by this machinery of the state.
Things are not right. The National Guard is on their way. We check in on K. She has that protest high — the one where you are feeling good because you and your neighbors are taking action together — and declares her group is headed in our direction. We tell her to go home. She finally says OK as her group gets closer to crossing the river toward West Philly.
Then the crazy sirens begin, and the caravans are more ominous. The black, armored military-style vehicles are in on the action now, heading west. I am nauseous. I text K. “Your ass better be on this side of the river, —!” and I use her given name.
My mind is a hell. On top of my guilt about not protesting, I am now left to imagine what will happen once these Awful Symbols Of Hate And Violence reach their destination. My imagination is a hell of images — of batons and police dogs and fire hoses and armored vehicles and tear gas and officers in riot gear and people giving each other COVID-19 with their yelling.
Somehow, in between nervously looking out the window, (from our vantage point, we can see if the officers are going North, West, East or South, and that is where my mind goes) I get a few things done. Bathrooms get cleaned, groceries get ordered, dinner gets made. I remember none of this. By now I am no longer thinking about my inappropriate response to the protest — about not going. I am obsessed with the wrong response of our government. By their very presence these officers are inciting violence, and then turning it back on The People.
I know exactly where the police — that word seems so inaccurate — Upholders Of A Militarized State? — are. We see and hear the helicopters. We watch their Symbols of Hate. We hear The Noises. Grenade? Firecracker? Gun shot? Tear gas canister? Rubber bullet?
We eat dinner outside on the balcony. Throat tight, I am tense. Is that officer watching us? Can I leave Goose out here alone to go in for dessert? How can we sit here eating on the balcony when the police might be beating and killing the people who are protesting police brutality?
What gives me this right? What is this privilege? Can I leave my daughter out here, alone, while I step inside and know that when I come back out she will be here, alive?
Finally, around 10 PM, the news feed is updated. The pictures on the ground are reassuring. Much better than my imagination. Yes, people were tear gassed. Yes, rubber bullets were fired — at people. Yes, it is the Wrong Response. But so far, all the people are alive. One of our city council members is there, engaging with the protestors, letting them speak with the mayor by phone. The officers are there, but they are standing, and the armored vehicles are in the background. I am reminded that during the actual protests, it is OK.
If I had gone to the protest, would I have experienced that protest high, would I have felt like I had done something and not spent the weekend anxiously imagining all the terrible things The State is doing to The People? On one hand, maybe. On the other, would I have returned after our hour and a half was up, and witnessed the “police activity” along the expressway and watched my mind devolve into What Hell Might Be Happening Once The Peaceful Part Is Over anyway? Instead, in my overwhelming sadness and my exhaustion and my obsessive tendencies and my ‘protecting my daughter’ excuses, I let my friend and her “white lady body,” go. I don’t know how I feel about this.
Sometime on Sunday, while chopping the garnishes for dinner, I call my dad. I think I should check in on him. I am worried about the effect this death of another black body might have on him. He has TVs all over his house. He would have been unable to avoid the video. When he answers, I am surprised that he is in the garden to clean the grill. He is concerned about us. He is reassured that we are home. He tells us to take care of ourselves and not do anything stupid. I am surprised. He asks about our coronavirus precautions. He seems — relatively — unperturbed and un-engrossed in the news. This man who cheered around the house when he reached his 34th birthday. (At the time, in the ‘80s, that was the average lifespan of a black man in America.) This was a man who was devastated by the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia. This was a man who’d spent much of the ‘60s and ‘70s as a dashiki-wearing revolutionary, no stranger to protest and anti-establishment actions. The same man who was proud of me only half-an-administration ago, for going to protest was now encouraging me to keep myself and my family at home. And somewhere in there he says — the phrase I never want to hear, the phrase that negates the idealism I have lived my life with in all my anti-racist, diversity-cheering child- and adulthood; the phrase I never expected to hear from my father, who even while working for a major, natural resource-exploiting capitalist corporation tried to protect the rainforest and has spent his retirement as a master gardener who plants trees in his metropolitan city — “Nothing ever changes.”
Another disappointing response.
A few articles of interest and related to this essay, have come out since Sunday. If you’d like to explore some of the topics touched on further, they’re below. Also, since Sunday night, at least a dozen people have been killed during the unrest, some by police, others in acts of vigilante justice. If you don’t check out the posts below, at least listen to this Fresh Air interview: From Freddie Gray To George Floyd: Wes Moore Says It’s Time To ‘Change The Systems’
On Protests & The Police Response
- The Past And Present Of Protests In America (Listen)
- Was That A Firecracker Or A Gunshot? Uncertainty In America’s Streets (Read)
- In America, Protest Is Patriotic (Read)
- The Videos That Rocked America. The Song That Knows Our Rage. (Read)
- Corrosive Effects of Tear Gas Could Intensify Coronavirus Pandemic (Read)
On Images Of Black Death & The Trauma They Cause
- Please Stop Showing the Video of George Floyd’s Death (Read)
- For Black Americans, Using Social Media Means Risking PTSD (Read)
- Check in on Your Black Employees, Now (Read)
Thank you for sharing this — all of it. I’m listening.
Thank you, KLO. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your support. Sending you light. xo, Lex
What a powerful essay. I am here, I am listening.
Thank you, Anne. Sending you light. xo, Lex
That was beautiful and powerful. I hear you. I support you. Your daughter has a good, strong mama.
Thank you, Heather. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your support. Your comment fills my bucket. Sending you light. xo, Lex
It makes me sad that we have such different realities about police and I am sorry that we do. As such, I may not necessarily always agree with everything you say, but I am always eager to read it and try to learn from it. And as always, your writing makes this so easy to do. Thank you for this.
Oh, Elizabeth, girl. It makes me sad, too. I wish I could hug you. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for reading, even though I know you are exhausted. I’m so glad you are part of this community. Looking forward to a time when we can see each other again. xo, Lex
I would like to reach through the screen and give you a hug. Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you, Kristen. Virtual hug accepted, and needed. Thank you for being here. xo, Lex
I have been a long time reader, since ANMJ, but it’s officially time we part ways. Racism is wrong and unacceptable and we must work as a community and listen to create change, no one is arguing that, but this blatant disregard on law enforcement is heart breaking. We cannot move forward without open communication but right now, that doesn’t seem to be possible. You don’t have to march to make a change or have an impact on racism. Everyone is so quick to jump on the anti-police narrative without truly doing the research and it’s beyond frustrating. As a LEO wife, my spouse has has twenty years of law enforcement experience in three separate major cities and taught at a national academy and sadly, his experience has been the same in each. No one, let me say that again, NO ONE condones the behavior of those officers who abuse their badge and power but to say ACAB or carry an He has had three separate people try to kill him,black, hispanic and asian and do we hold it against the entire racial community? No, that would be absurd right? Try looking up the statistics on Medical Malpractice and how may people doctors kill a year.
If you’re looking for some statistics this is a great article The Myth of Systemic Police Racism: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-myth-of-systemic-police-racism-11591119883?mod=opinion_lead_pos5&fbclid=IwAR3SHVUi5eJ4QKGL0d8gh-4-TTRm99iGlHr70pAiPC_mJlAovnnSUOLMPdQ
112 people have been shot in Chicago since Friday. One hundred and twelve. In the last week 5 people have been murdered in Columbus.Do their lives matter less because they weren’t murdered by police officers?
Dante McCormick B/M 19
Harry Williams B/M 29
Jeffrey Delong O/M 26
Erick Peeples B/M 43
Kaykimia Ruffin B/F 27
This is a pretty powerful message from a previous gang member and worth watching: https://www.facebook.com/100026430022293/videos/554536008770728/
As for the methods LEOs are using to handle rioting and protests, it’s pretty easy to judge when you don’t have any idea what they’re experiencing. The tear gas at the Library, wasn’t tear gas at all, and the photo of LEOs destroying a water station at a Peaceful protest? Those water bottles are used as weapons and were being made in to molotov cocktails in some cities but that doesn’t fit the media’s narrative of creating fear and chaos so they don’t report the facts. A lot of ANTIFA members are infiltrating peaceful protests and creating an environment that simply isn’t safe for protestors or LEO. Maybe go ride with the police in the most violent parts of town before you rush to post these things. I am willing to bet your perspective would shift.
Yes, these are hard conversations but they deserve to be heard as well. Do something after your march; that’s not the end of your duty. Open your heart. Let others be heard. We can’t instill change without one conversation. Be kind. Teach your babies. Stop making such broad generalizations and lead with love. Our world needs it.
Hi, Julia. Thank you for this insight. I’m unclear on the motives for attempting to co-opt my experience. There are so many fallacies of logic here, I don’t know where to begin. Let’s begin with Hypothesis Contrary to Fact. Did you even read the post? It’s about my personal experience. And as a woman of color in America, I have 41 years of experience with the police; I am not jumping on an anti-police bandwagon. My father has nearly 70 years’ experience; my brother 39. I could go on, but you get the picture. Secondly, I did not single out individual officers here, and when I did, I said “if he is white, and if he is prejudiced.” My essay refers to symbols of a militarized policing SYSTEM.
Also, this is not an essay about our doctors or our inaptly named “healthcare system,” nor is it an essay about bad lawyers or spineless congresspeople. It’s not even really an essay about police. It is about MY experience. Two days in MY life, in MY mind. There is no “blatant disregard” for law enforcement here. Nowhere did I shirk any directives from the police or disobey them or say anything inciteful. I had to look up ACAB, so clearly your anti-policing vocabulary is wider than mine. I have no interest in some “statistics” about what I have experienced in my personal life, but I’m glad you have them for when you need them. This is not an essay about death or about murder or about individual homocides as your Red Herring suggests.
Also, ANTIFA doesn’t have members or a leader. It is not an organization; it is a movement of individuals and groups.
Also, I’ve spent time with “LEO”s (thank you for educating me on this acronym, also) — like when I was journalist, and spent time in the jail and at home with an officer — her name was Lieutenant Love, and she led with love; I’ve spent time with officers when I was a teacher, and we had to have them in the school; I’ve even spent friendly time with officers, like when I was college — handshakes and hugging and first-name basis included. This essay is not about individual officers.
I don’t feel the need to address every point in your argument, because you clearly missed the point of mine. There are so many fallacies of logic here that are not only impossible to address in any reasonable amount of time, but they also bury any succinct argument you have in defense of “LEOs” as you call them.
In general, any productive discourse does not include telling other people what they think, feel and are experiencing. This is not a broad generalization, this is my experience and my thoughts about them. I have no idea what you have experienced, and I certainly wouldn’t try to impose my imagination on your narrative to override that. Also, about the idea of how I haven’t led with love and I have not taught my babies — in addition to my friends and family, there’s about a decades-worth of students around the globe, and an 8-year-old who would likely disagree with this Ad Hominem statement.
I love a collective discourse. I love a good discussion. I love a good debate. I’m a huge proponent of the Socratic method. However, this response is very far from anything I can address is these comments because it seems little to do with what I actually wrote.
Thank you Lex, for sharing so much
Thank you for reading, Jeanine. It is highly personal, so I appreciate your reading and commenting. Take good care. Stay healthy. xo, Lex
I’m here. I’m listening. I’m so god damn sorry.
Thank you, Bridget. The support is appreciated. (and ps — you don’t have to apologize. I love the sentiment, though.) Hugs. xo, Lex
Wow. You have checked a lot of boxes here: speaking over a woman of color, check; telling that person of color that her narrative is wrong, check; whataboutism, check; antifa are the real bad guys, check.
The hypocrisy in signing off with “let others be heard” is astounding. People of color have been shouting from the rooftops for years and white America has not heard them.
Thank you, Tracy. Sending you light. – xo, Lex
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment, Michelle. – xo, Lex
I’m appalled by how you’ve stereotyped the law enforcement community in this post. This anti-police message is irresponsible and I can only imagine that you would feel differently if your spouse, like mine, had been taking both physical violence from the protestors and the vitriol of the larger public and media for the better part of a week now. And that’s just this week, of course. I’ve heard my husband’s lived experiences and I’ve seen how it’s played out on the “news” and there has been glaring discrepancies because many people- and you would seem to be among them- are wedded to a certain narrative. The continued lack of nuance from TME- and the lack of empathy for people whose family members have been endangered, or whose businesses have been destroyed during the rioting and looting- is truly disheartening. Julia’s post above had some great suggestions and links if the TME team is interested in expanding their worldview.
“I can only imagine you’d feel differently” if you’d had the same experiences that Alexis has had. She’s not “wedded to a certain narrative,” she has lived it. And it sounds like you’d benefit from expanding your worldview yourself, Autumn. There’s a reason she’s scared for her daughter – and looking at this list of black people killed by police officers is a pretty clear indicator of why: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/police-killings-recent-history-george-floyd-1.5593768 and that’s only since 2014.
Take 12-year-old Tamir Rice, for example: “Tamir Rice was playing in a Cleveland park when a police cruiser pulled up. Within two seconds of getting out of his squad car, officer Timothy Loehmann shot the boy. Loehmann and another officer, Frank Garmback, had arrived in response to a 911 call in which someone told dispatchers a “juvenile” was “pulling a gun in and out of his pants and pointing it at people.” The caller also expressed doubt that the gun was real. It was, in fact, a toy pellet gun. Rice died in hospital the next day.” The officer? Not charged.
You have a narrative based on your husband’s experience with his job. Alexis has a different one based on her DIRECT experience with the police. Don’t tell her her message is irresponsible because you don’t understand it or have never experienced it. You accuse her of a lack of empathy while displaying none yourself. Talk about disheartening.
Are you genuinely saying that disagreement with this post isn’t allowed because the writer is a person of color? How is that of benefit to anyone?
Actually, yes. But these conversations are how we all learn and move forward and it is time for people like me to take the time to explain. The system set up to ‘protect’ American citizens has completely failed and needs to be changed. That is what all of this is about. No one should have to be hurt or should have to die, yet Black Americans have been hurt and killed at alarmingly disproportionate rates to others for decades, centuries. This is not the time for our white feelings and opinions to drown out Black voices. It is the time to listen to our Black citizens who have been the targets of systemic racism for many many years. The system set up long ago is fueled by us white people not listening to our Black friends experiences and not learning what we can do to help and instigating change. That is now what we are finally waking up to and finally hoping to move forward with. I really hope you can find some time to listen and learn and read about antiracism. Shana has been offering to send copies of White Fragility to those who would like to learn more. I am happy to do the same, if you would be up for reading it.
This essay is so incredibly powerful. Thank you, Ms. Richardson, for sharing your thoughts with us.
Thank you, Ariana — for taking the time to read, to comment and to compliment. Take good care. Hugs, Lex
OMG I needed to read this today. I felt the same way staying home with my children.
Oh, Leila. You are felt. I find relief in your comment, and I am — glad isn’t the right word — grateful? that you’re able to relate. Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I hope you are able to find some peace. Sending you light. — xo, Lex
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Thank you for being here, Lee. Thank you. – xo, Lex
Julia Thank you for this!!!!
I’m listening. Thank you for sharing. I think we have to walk through the darkness to reach the light. May we all reach the light together.
I love everything about this, Ginger. Thank you. Peace and Light. xo, Lex
There has been not one Antifa member arrested for these riots. There has been white supremacists arrested for that, however. Antifa is a red herring to distract people from what is really going on.
Scotti- thanks for taking the time to reply.
I haven’t invalidated her actual lived experiences in my comment. Nor have I taken a stance that all cops are good, or that all police killings are justified, or that racism doesn’t exist, or that there isn’t room for systemic change. I’m simply asking the TME team- not just Alexis- to consider their inflammatory rhetoric during a volatile time and not paint ALL cops and their families as the enemy. If you don’t want to hear a dissenting voice, or if you don’t think my feelings are valuable because I represent the “other”, perhaps the TME team should make that clear. I certainly respect your right to conduct your business as you see fit.
You stated that she had stereotyped the law enforcement community (she didn’t), that her message was anti-police (it wasn’t), and that she was wedded to a specific narrative . . . so all of those statements together seem to point to an attempt to invalidate her experience. I didn’t get the message that she was painting ALL cops and their families as the enemy at all in this post and I don’t know how you got that from her words. To me, this was a very personal essay about her experience–not a condemnation of individual police officers (and ESPECIALLY not their entire families, like you’ve stated–is that not the same type of rhetoric you accuse us of?). Everyone is welcome here, and dissenting voices among them. We read every comment. But perhaps your message to the team as a whole would have been better received had it not been in response to a personal essay from the voice of one of our black contributors.
Lex, I applaud you. I almost feel physical pain radiating from your words. I had to read in small doses because the tears for you were flowing. You are conflicted in the what to do, say, not do, not say category and it is in fact painful. Please be proud of yourself, it’s clear that your intent is peace, both for your family and the world at-large. I admire you as a Mom and as a person.
Oh, Bern….You’re comment made me cry a little bit — in the good way. Thank you for the support. Your words are like a big, warm virtual hug. Thank you. This means so much. Take good care. xo, Lex
Thank you for taking the time and emotional effort to share your experience with us. It is appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to read, Aeriel. Be well. xo, Lex
I have a fellow LEO who worked undercover with ANTIFA during the riots in Charlotte in 2016. I assure you they are very real and dangerous and to say anything otherwise, with what I imagine to be limited personal experience, is reckless and irresponsible.
This resonates. I have been struggling with all. these. things. as an adopted POC growing up in a white family in a very white community in rural America, as the mom of children who are POC, as a woman, as a human. Thank you.
Thank you, Nina. You are felt. Take good care. Be well. xo, Lex
Thank you for writing this article. Even if a few comments make it clear that some people are not capable of reading a personal piece about fear and anxiety and the moment-by-moment grappling with “what’s the right thing to do?” without responding with #notall[group] nonsense, I think it’s so, so valuable to share your fears and thoughts in this way. For every person who bristles and willfully skips past the raw, heartbreaking feelings you’ve expressed, I hope there are 10 who stop in their tracks and really, truly take this piece for the gift that it is, allowing us to imagine, if only briefly, imperfectly, what it might be like to be you. We white women can’t possibly understand the length and breadth of your experience, but thanks to your skilled writing, for a small moment, I caught a small glimpse.
What a beautiful, heartfelt response, KT. Thank you for always showing up. Be well. Hugs, Lex
Thank you for sharing your experience through this powerful essay. I’m a white woman, and I want to learn, so I appreciate your vulnerability. For what it’s worth, I think you’re an amazing mother and teacher.
Thank you for reading, Jennifer. And I’m grateful for the compliment. Take good care. Hugs, Lex
Hi Laura, I don’t think any meaningful conversation can be a one-way street. I also want to clarify that the “disagreement” wasn’t about racism unless you’re implying that being antiracist requires one to be antipolice. Given the antipolice sentiment expressed on this website I wouldn’t feel safe supplying my address. But if you wanted to send an electronic copy of the book I’d be happy to read it and share my thoughts!
Learning to be antiracist is an education outside what we have already come to believe around racism. It is an action we can take, especially right now, to unlearn what our society has continually taught us, as white people. I have started reading more about this in the past couple of years and realize clearly now how it is something I have to seek out to learn because the messages I received growing up, in school and in our society in general did not give me the entire picture. It gave me the incomplete and in most cases completely wrong view of what our Black friends experience here. If you feel ok sharing your Kindle/Amazon email address I am more than happy to gift the book to you.
Happy to see that you responded with this tone. My sentiment was juuust about the same, but you beat me to it. I’m glad I checked prior to posting my composed comment because a reply from the article’s author carries far more weight than my interpretation. Bravo.
As a mother, I similarly struggle with the decision to keep them safe vs. exposing them to activism during these times. A younger me, not protecting children would likely have joined the peaceful demonstrations (a definite yes without pandemic concerns). It takes daily self-convincing, but I believe there are many ways to get involved, all headed in the same direction, and I’ve just chosen a different lane…for now. We should try not to be too hard on ourselves if we find we’re in a different place today than yesterday. Love to you in the decision you make for your family.
Thank you for everything you’ve written here. This speaks volumes. And yes…we may get out there — eventually…peacefully, responsibly, and maybe just a little bit at time…and there are other ways to act if we don’t. Thank you. Take care. Stay safe. xo, Lex
I have not seen any real evidence that Antifa is this big thing so far. I’m more concerned about the Boogaloo Bois – the white supremacist group that was actually causing that harm at one of these protests.
Absolutely. Thank you for pointing that out, Michelle — xo, Lex
True, Michelle. Thank you. xo, Lex
Thank you for sharing Alexia, and for what it is worth, for the commenters who are upset by what they perceive to be a monolithic treatment of law enforcement (I did not read it that way) … are you saying that your spouse/SO/family member in law enforcement is fine with things the way they are? They don’t feel like any system change is necessary?
Thank you, Lisa. Sending you light. Take care. xo, Lex
Alexis – you absolutely don’t have to address anything Julia said. This is white fragility and defensiveness and gaslighting at its worst. I’m sorry you had to read this after sharing such a vulnerable, honest account of what it’s been like to live through the past several days. I’m sorry that so many people refuse to listen. I’m sorry that so many refuse to believe that a single person can be wonderful and working for change in a system that is a racist mess, and that that doesn’t negate the fact that the system is a racist mess.
I’m grateful for your words, your willingness to put in the emotional labor of sharing your experiences, and your kindness and patience even in the face of infuriating behavior. You are not alone. I vow to continue working hard and listening hard and learning hard so that we can dismantle this racist police state we have created.
You are clearly doing the work, Shannon (as if I’m one to judge). But thank you. Sometimes we write because we want to, sometimes because we need to. This was the latter, and I’m grateful that Shana has built this platform and given us the courage to share, and also that such sharing hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. Thank you for reading this, and for commenting, and for your support. Sending you light. xo, Lex
Julia- I beg you to step outside your own personal experience for one moment. Broaden your view to a view beyond your own. You have made it quite clear that you are concerned about police officers because you are married to one. Fine. But what you have also made clear (and may be unaware that you’ve made clear here) is that you are concerned about police officers above anyone and anything else. You are not allowing room for ANYTHING else. You are, in essence, answering “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.” But, of course, all lives CAN’T matter UNTIL Black lives matter. Alexis is sharing her experiences and feelings about encountering the police. You are responding with, “Yeah, but what about the fact that police officers get scared and get hurt, too?” It’s apples and oranges. Police officers know that their job involves a certain level of danger. It is a literal part of the job (though scary, yes). Black folks have not signed a contract to risk their lives by existing. It’s a wildly different situation. Please stop. Alexis’s piece is not about you. I beg you to listen harder – even if it makes you uncomfortable – and hear that this is not about you. It’s not about your spouse. Please stop turning it into something it’s not.
Alexis, you’ve put in a lot of labor to give the readers of TME a snapshot of your your life as a Black woman raising a Black child. Thank you and I am sorry people are trying to invalidate your personal experience.
To the commenters who are family members of police or law enforcement officers, I am continually confused why family members make every critique personal and seem to believe that the police force is a system above reproach. I have worked in public health for 20+ years and understand that quality improvement is an essential part of EVERY system. EVERY SYSTEM in our country was designed to uphold white supremacy and needs to be fixed. Critiquing the ways that police are trained, are expected to protect each other and each other’s reputations (at all costs, even if civilian lives are lost), are responsible for treating the byproducts of poverty and addiction as crimes rather than social issues – all of these things deserve open critique and collaborative solutions for improvement, including (in my opinion) redirecting funds from policing to other social services that would help reduce crime. And my favorite cousin is a “LEO” and thankfully he sees ways that law enforcement needs to improve to reduce anti-Black racist violence and killings because he sees himself as part of the solution to improving his field rather than making it about his feelings.
Thank you, Shannon, for reading and for sharing your support. Your words are a hug. Peace and Light, Lex
Alexis, thank you for sharing your experience. I appreciate your words; I see you and I’m listening.
Thank you, Alexis. xo, Lex
Alexis, your words are foreign to me and out of my experience, but that’s the problem. I have a lot of intellectual knowledge of history and statistics but not a lot of knowledge of black experiences, or stories. My youngest son is disabled. Before he was born, I knew that people with disabilities were discriminated against, I knew it was even worse in some other countries, but would I have been moved to do anything? Maybe not, it was just another thing in my long list of known injustices in the world. Now that I have experienced it first hand, my friends also know because they talk with me. I am going to do more listening, asking questions, intentionally siting in places of discomfort to hear from Black voices. I would love to read more about the intersectionality of anit-racism and the disability movement. Does anyone know of any good books or groups?
Laura, thank you so much for taking the time to thoughtfully respond. I love this idea about the intersectionality of anti-racism and the disability movement! I am sure it exists. I taught for 5 years in a school where a disproportionately high number of children — like ⅔ of kids — had IEPs and 504s, and since a disproportionate number of black children get labeled with disabilities, I am certain there is intersectionality somewhere. I hope someone knows, but I will do some checking also.
LauraB, I have a physical disability and have a son with an intellectual disability and I share your experience. Until I had my son, I thought I knew the fullness of the disability experience. I did not. It is so valuable to hear the lived experiences of people of color in a way that history and statistics does not provide. I don’t know of any good resources on the intersectionality of anti-racism and disability rights — but I’ll be looking for them!
Love this. xo.
Thank you for sharing your experience and point of view. I am a healthcare provider and because of a possible risk of contracting Covid I choose to eat my lunch in my car rather that in the work break room. Recently our city and those nearby have been threatened by some violence and looters. Yesterday I felt unsafe, uncomfortable and hyper vigilant sitting in my car and eating my lunch for fear of someone randomly and unprovoked attacking me. And then I thought, “Well, this is the way Black people feel all the time!” I don’t pretend to walk in your shoes, but we are all more alike then different. I hear you, see you and am listening.
This is so valid, Lisa. Thank you for sharing. I haven’t heard this yet, because it just came out today and I’ll hear it this weekend, but it might be worth a listen after your experience: https://whyy.org/episodes/the-impact-of-police-violence-on-health/. xo, Lex
OK. I need to make a few real quick comments, primarily to Julia and Autumn, and secondarily to make sure there’s no misinterpretation of where I stand. 1) I am not pro-violence. I do not wish violence on any individual or their families — EVER — that includes police and other law enforcement officers. As an example, to say that an empty police car should be allowed to burn (NOT that someone should burn it) is to say that if no police react to it, then the situation will not escalate and people will not get hurt. The car may be the subject of the sentence, but the objective is to sustain human life by preventing the situation from escalating. Again, I do not wish harm on any individuals or their families, including the police.
2) I would like to see police reform, substantial reform, and most immediately, the demilitarization of police and the end of qualified immunity. I hope the Supreme Court is on the latter right now.
3) Yes, I recognize ANTIFA is real. I know they exist, but there is no hierarchical structure; it is not a formal organization. ANTIFA is a movement, the same way civil rights is a movement, but unlike the civil rights movement where we can point to specific people and organizations, ANTIFA is comprised of different individuals and groups functioning on their own. And quite frankly, there are some people, particularly people of color, who may feel safer with ANTIFA around during a protest, not because they want violence, but because they want to know someone is there to protect them. I do not want to turn this into a discussion about ANTIFA, because that’s a distraction, but I do want to acknowledge that. And, as Michelle pointed out, the boogaloo Bois are a much greater threat to a peaceful movement than ANTIFA. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/opinion/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis.html
It took me a full six days to process my weekend and put it into this post. It took me a full 6 days to process whether I could go out into the streets to support human beings staying alive — what could be construed as a very simple decision. I would understand if it took you six days to process – or a little bit of time— what one human being experienced over the weekend. It’s a lot. It’s heavy. It’s not something I expect anyone to immediately digest. I understand you may not support us right now, but I do hope you will stay. Stay and listen. And let’s try to not attack each other as individuals and human beings. Sending you light. Much love — Lex
So heart breaking. I’m so sorry you’re having to live with this sense of danger and then guilt for wanting to keep your family safe and not partake in protests. Sharing your personal experience is action too. Thank you for being vulnerable and brave and letting us get a hint of your lived experience. It is helping me re-examine my knowledge and understanding of systemic racism in Canada where we have an unfortunate habit of comparing ourselves to the very low bar of the USA.
Thank you for thoughtful response, Allison. I realized when I saw your note how grateful I am for consistent, thoughtful readers like you. I was like “I’ve missed her” — probably b/c i haven’t written in so long, ha…but I guess I had something to say. It’s interesting…my ex-husband (Canadian) frequently manifested that habit (and still does), but your comment also makes me reflect on how regardless of the positive individual and local experiences we have — with real people, in everyday life — it doesn’t erase or negate the systemic problems and their effects. Stay light. xo, Lex
Lex, I felt so heavy and tired and sad reading your post and I imagine that is a mere fraction of what you were feeling when you wrote it. You are not obligated to protest, any more than you are obligated to try to educate a bunch of us people, although of course your efforts are appreciated. You are obligated to keep you and your daughter safe and I have no doubt that you made the right choice for that moment for your family. It cannot only fall on black people to protest their own brutalization. It cannot only fall on black people to educate white people about their privilege and biases and latent racism. That is too big a burden and you are burdened enough by what this system is doing. Please do not beat yourself up over not protesting. The work will be done, by many different people in many different ways. You are doing your part. You do not have to do it all.
I love everything about this, Renee. Thank you. It’s been a week, and yes, it was/is heavy. It is also such a relief to be seen. And yeah…now that I’ve processed and explored, we might get back out there — maybe after my antibody test gets back, and like a responsible mother, and especially once things are a little less “hot”. But there are also plenty of other ways to act purposefully if we don’t. Thank you. Hugs. – Lex
Lisa, I had the privilege of hearing Amy Julia Becker a white woman who has a daughter with Down syndrome talk about her book “White Picket Fences: Turning toward love in a world divided by privilege.” It’s an autobiography of sorts, but I haven’t seen anything else.
This one is for Julia who keeps saying she is going to part ways, but…. keeps posting terribly tone deaf rants.
Julia, I am a white girl too, but you clearly don’t get it. I would challenge you to actually listen to what the complexities of what Alexis has laid out here and challenge yourself to feel uncomfortable for a hot second and learn from it. Alexis, the cacophony of emotions is evident here and I thank you for sharing.
I’m trying to be a better listener as well. We all need police, that we can agree, but the current system is badly broken and dramatic upheaval has to happen for that to change.
If you’re uncomfortable with that, the World Wide Web is a big open space. Godspeed.
Thank you, Maggie. Hugs, Lex
Like you, I was an expat for some years and my kids were born overseas. Living within another culture and being an “immigrant” myself (even one whose skin colour “fit in”) and also looking at Canada from outside really allowed me to gain new perspective and move back with ears and eyes more ready to hear and see deeply. And to reexamine the “Canadian story” my education taught. I am trying to ensure my own kids don’t believe the fairy tale version of multiculturalism I learned but still have the hope to try to make it become true. I so appreciate the emotional energy people are expending to share their stories and shine light on local issues.
Ps. As a very occasional commenter but long time reader I’m so touched that I registered as someone you missed engaging with. 🙂
Alexis, than you for speaking. I’m listening. I hear you.
Thank you, SS. Take good care. xo, Lex
Thank you so much for sharing! You raw and personal words are so meaningful. TME is one of the few fashion blogs I continue to follow because you don’t ignore the larger issues. These are HUMAN issues and now is the time for us to not be quiet and complacent.
Thank you, Sharon :-). I love this sentiment. Take good care. xo, Lex
Thank you for sharing this, Alexis. I’m with you. To you in the comments who are invalidating Alexis’s experience, you should be ashamed. Your pro-police stance has been the dominant narrative for the entire history of this country — and you’re the ones in the power position — and you can’t have the humility to listen to another mother’s lived experience? Very glad to see Scotti and Laura in these comments using your (our) privilege to educate these women.
Thank you for reading, Elisabeth. What a powerful response. Take good care. Hugs, Lex
This was extremely brave and powerful. Thank you for writing and sharing.
Thank you for showing up, Ally. xo, Lex
I am sorry it took me so long to read your post. I am a white woman with a biracial (black identifying) teenage son. I resonated so much with your fears as a mother, though I have never had that experience on a personal level. Thank you so much for writing.
People who protest and ignore social distancing aren’t only potentially hurting their own health, they are risking the health of innocent children with disabilities (most of them minorities).
The way the system is set up school based speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy are not deemed essential. Children with disabilities in group homes have been unable to have visits from their parents.
In order for this at risk population to get the help they deserve, NY either has to make the services essential OR the virus numbers have to be low. Since the services aren’t deemed essential, services for these children are dependent on everyone making healthy choices. They and their parents no longer have autonomy over their own health, they are dependent upon the numbers generated by the general population. And yes, minorities make up a higher percentage of this underrepresented population.
I wish there was more discussion/press for these innocent children in need. I wish people would realize that the health of the children is dependent on everyone making smart choices.