Well. It turns out the election looks scary. The country may not be recognizable. Folks are not adhering to social distancing orders, and Chipotle is late with your Door Dash meal. That’s it. Time to move to Amsterdam. Time to reinvent yourself. Time to get an artist grant, cry about it and leave communities in need behind. Weren’t you just marching for black lives two weeks ago? Weren’t you just tweeting about kids in cages? Didn’t you say you would tear the fabric of reality apart of RBG was replaced? Didn’t you join an antiracist book club and proclaim that you were ready to make a change? Yes. That was said but it wasn’t meant.
Today I saw three of my white artist friends just decide to leave the country for ones that have better healthcare, gun laws, and democracy. I freaking get it. I was almost there in 2014.
I went to France. I felt a joy I had never known before. I walked through the streets feeling alive and free. I almost thought about moving there. I was learning the language steadily, and I had white friends who wanted to live there too. We would be artists together and just make art forever and I wouldn’t have to ever think about anything again. I could wake up and journal, and then go wandering through Paris for hours, and then I could find an artist collective to get involved with and we could make experimental beautiful things. Then we could party together all night and wake up and do the same thing again tomorrow. I wouldn’t have to think about my cousin losing herself to severe depression. I wouldn’t have to think about my parents losing their home. I wouldn’t have to think about anything. I could just make art and eat crepes, and dance the night away. However, when I saw the news and heard that Micheal Brown had been shot my whole body seized up. I was in a train station in Paris. I felt my whole body shake. I felt it in the depths of my soul. I knew I couldn’t stay in Paris and live that free manic pixie dream. My skin colored in and I realized that this fantasy was not mine to have.
As my white friends continued to text away on their phones in the train station. I was sick. I wanted justice. I wanted to fight. So I took to the streets. I became an educator. In 2014 I did all of this for days, for years. I screamed on megaphones. I worked with organizers. I met people who were more than Twitter handles. I felt like something could change. But as the years came and went my heart continued to break.
Now these white friends have had enough. I realize now they never wanted to try on the first place. I remember them rolling their eyes on Snapchat in 2014 as I see them packing their bags and moving away now. Right before the election. They are arrogantly posting statuses about how America is too much for them to bear.
I don’t talk to these people anymore. I have long since realized they don’t care about my humanity. However, it still hurts. I wish I could fly away to a utopia. I wish this country wasn’t in my blood. I wish my city wasn’t engrained in my bone marrow. I wish my people weren’t my life force. Then I could dance away and pretend nothing matters. I could be happy with it if I made the choice. I wouldn’t look out the window longingly praying that my kin are safe. I would be so happy stupid and free.
I really want to be happy stupid and free.
But I’m not, and that sucks. I don’t know if I’m asking lukewarm white people to stay. Their fair weather activism never really helped anyone anyway. Their sewn Pussy Hats and cries on Instagram for justice were always hollow. I guess this is good because we are seeing who is solid. We are seeing who has love deeper than their own skin. We are seeing who is willing to stand for something and who can be blown away like the wind.
I’m not asking for protests in the streets. I’m asking for check ins for BIPOC folks and cash app donations for those who are in need. I’m not asking for tears on Instagram. I’m asking for genuine love and care about those who it seems popular to care about. I’m not even asking people to stay in this country. I’m just asking that they don’t run because they can’t face their racism. Not the racism of their family. Their own racism. Because when they run because America is to painful to look at it is a personal escape. They can take away their own responsibility in this system. Just by leaving it.
I don’t know what’s right. I can barely sleep at night over this. But I’m holding my family close and bracing for impact. I am talking to and checking in with those I love and trying to find solutions through all of this. My heart hurts when I think of those who claimed to care leaving. They now ignore me and turn away from their own guilty decision. Look me in the eye when you leave. Look at the state of the country where you feel like you could do nothing and kiss it goodbye. Look into the eyes of the child in a cage that you promised to free on your Facebook post and tell them you were lying the whole time, and you just wanted likes and clout.
For future reference, don’t say anything at all. If you are going to do nothing. Just do nothing. Don’t pontificate about having something to give, and then give nothing. That is painful. I would prefer an honest: “Hey I have nothing to give and I don’t know what to do or where to start.” From the beginning. Don’t lead with your guilt or you’ll run away with your shame. Lead with honesty. Give what you can, and then you won’t have to bolt when your feel you’ve given too much.