As I sit here reflecting on this historic and catalytic moment in time, I cannot help but think that this is this generation’s revolution not yet fully fledged. The old adage of “it will get worse before it gets better” also comes to mind. Of course, I am grieving, mourning, saddened and angered. And in the wake of the egregious tragedy based in racism that is the death of George Floyd (we say his name!), I am simultaneously experiencing a sense of impending doom and dread, and grasping at the hope that we might finally be on the precipice of a new awakening. It is about goddamned time.
I am not as young as many of my college fellows. I am, in fact, older than some of my professors. I have been around the block and seen some things. I was raised in a state that still refers to members of the First Nations as “savages” and builds jails based upon the number of People of Color there are in the region. A place where Black men do not graduate high school and there are more of them in prison than in society. A place where cops keep controlled substances in their vehicles and plant them as evidence on innocent people of color because they are bored. Yes, I said that, and it’s true.
As has been said by our beloved President Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, I lived through Rodney King’s brutal assault, and James Byrd, Jr.’s murder, which happened only 5 hours away from me. I have myself been the victim of police brutality. In Texas they call it “driving while black”, and it will get you pulled over, abused, and arrested just for having the audacity to get behind the wheel of a car. I have seen decades of the violence perpetrated against Black and Brown and other marginalized peoples. Not just the overt and fatal kinds, but also the microaggression, the stigmatization, the exclusion, the poorly veiled oppression. It is maddening, infuriating, and sickening, and it continues despite our supposed societal progression towards equity and justice. The racial caste system that this country was founded on is still very much alive and well, and several assholes are getting rich off of us. I say we are no freer today than we were in the days of Jim Crow and slavery. Oppression has simply found new masks to wear, new smiling faces to confuse us, but the culprits are the same. The man behind the curtain has never changed.
Racism does not exist in a vacuum. It is not always plain and recognizable. It comes cloaked under the guise of institution, order, and safety. Those charged to protect and serve us all are apparently unclear about what that means or who WE are. Human beings are treated like animals and then condemned for acting accordingly in an attempt to survive their own persecution. This. Must. End.
It turns out that the revolution WILL be televised. It is happening right now, across this nation, both peaceably and by force. I will not tell you not to choose the latter, although for myself I will abstain and instead choose peace. That is your choice to make, and I understand that sometimes one must meet the opposing force with equal force. I will, however, say this. Be careful that you show up looking and acting like what you stand for. Do not become your enemy. Do not let your anger make you a merchant of cruelty and violence, for they tend to land where they are not directed. But do show up, for yourself and for each other. There are now more of us than there are of them, and they know it. Let them tremble if they like. We will process our anger, our sadness, and our fear, and we will fight on. Because the war is just beginning, if you haven’t realized it yet. This pandemic has proven three things to me:
1) We are resilient and can survive anything when we work as a community and respect and support one another.
2) Our government does not care about us. Never has, never will. They do enough to keep us from rioting, and no more. COVID-19 has made this fact all the more evident. And that is why the riots happen.
3) We have the power to end our own oppression and unseat the White, patriarchal, oppressive oligarchy. We always have. How bad will it get before we do? In the end, that is, in part, up to us.
I am Black, Native, Poor, Queer, Gay, Defiant, Illegal, Disobedient. A troublemaker, and a rebel. I know what it feels like to be oppressed, suppressed, and rejected.
I am also Proud, Strong, Resilient, Trailblazing, Courageous, Noble, Powerful, and Unstoppable. I am vibrant and worthy. I know what it feels like to rise up, time after time.
And so do you, and everyone else who has felt the press of someone’s knee against their neck as they cry for air, beg for mercy. They have pressed upon us and held us down since we were born, and we are still here. And we will still be here tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. It is time we pressed back; today, tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, until we are upright and tall. I will stand with you.
HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT!!!
Astro (they/them) is the Editor-in-Chief of the Seattle Collegian, the President of Seattle Central's Queer Cooperative club, a fully-professed Guard with the Sisters of the Mother House of Washington, a social worker and behavioral scientist, founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance at Seattle Central (TDoR), Board Member-At-Large with Diversity Alliance of Puget Sound (DAPS), and a self-identified Queer-Alien-Person-Of-Color. They have won awards for their journalism and community service work as well as for innovation in leadership and academic excellence, and are an active and outspoken advocate and activist for both the LGBTQ+ and recovery communities. They speak regularly at events relevant to these causes, and work closely with their fellows to support these communities. Social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion are their banners, and their belief in the gifts, strengths, and resilience of all minoritized communities is the driving motivation behind their work and their mission: using the powers of journalism, self-expression, creativity, conversation and connection to uplift and foster acceptance for all peoples.