Dear President Biden,
This morning on our dog-walk-in-the-rain we took a lap around the Sandpoint Country Club to the east of us, an old haunt that we used to frequent almost once a week pre-COVID for it’s lush landscaping, sweeping views of Lake Washington, and sedate drivers. About halfway around the loop I pondered aloud what the place would be like (actually meaning the whole US) if the neighborhood were not only not an anomaly, but if it were peopled with racially and ethnically diverse inhabitants instead of the nearly 100% non-mix of White people who really live there. Laura and I could only stay on the topic briefly since it’s so f**ing not reality, but seriously, what if we had either not committed all of the horrendous human rights abuses and atrocities we’ve committed over our 400+ year history or we had engaged meaningfully in truth and reconciliation processes (plural) and in providing real reparations to those harmed?
I know it’s not going to change a damn thing to engage in such “what ifs,” but for a lot of White people such thought exercises could very well shake some things loose since so many of us living (and working and shopping and everything else-ing) in exclusively White spaces never stop to wonder why we are surrounded only by other White people. For many of us all White spaces, or spaces with the barest sprinkling of people of color, are simply the norm – it’s how things are and ergo, how things are supposed to be. And really, all of this is by design, it really is how things are supposed to be from the standpoint of systemic racism and White supremacy.
Relatedly, please read today’s WP Outlook essay by Tre Johnson; I think I must have been doing an anticipatory little tiny mind-meld with him this morning. The title of his piece is: The guilty verdict brought relief. But justice belongs to an alternate reality. Johnson recalls having read Marvel comics as a kid and how one of the storylines involved the beaten down heroes going through a magic mirror portal called the Siege Perilous and coming out in the lives they’d always wanted to lead. After describing the different vocations and past-times they suddenly found themselves inhabiting, Johnson says:
“For once, they don’t have to fight for the basic right to move through the world like everyone else. They just get to be.”
He goes on to say that he loves being Black and doesn’t want to not be Black but that he wants…
“… America, someone, to create a Siege Perilous for Black Americans, a portal that can transport us into a world that doesn’t treat us as if we were disposable mutants.”
And then Johnson introduces a brilliant twist. He says that he doesn’t want Chauvin locked away or executed. Rather, he wants him to go through something like the anti-Siege Perilous (maybe the Perilous Siege?) where he experiences life as a Black person in America, from the beginning all the way through to now so that he can feel full the weight of the oppressive system, a system built on the premise that its perfectly reasonable for Black people not to have mundane “good” deaths or live in places like the Sandpoint Country Club.
May we all be safe and able to die mundane “good” deaths.
May we be willing to reset our whole way of being to bring this revolution about.
May we have the strength and the resolve to stop propping up White privilege.
May we accept that systemic racism is not sustainable – it is poison.