CW: historical and contemporary violence against marginalized communities, including racism, queerphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and sexual assault
Yesterday in one of my classes, regarding an article written by afro-pessimist Jared Sexton, we discussed rage. Rage in its purest form. Rage that is not even oriented towards revenge or even justice. Rage as release.
Having this discussion this week has been painfully applicable.
Before I write this, I want to acknowledge that so many of these knowledges come from others, particularly the scholarship of women of color. I am still not sure how to be accountable for that in the right ways, or how to write this without enacting different forms of epistemic colonialism. But at the bare minimum, I want to acknowledge where these truths are largely coming from and how it is problematic that they too often carry more weight when they come out of a white mouth.
Donald Trump has been inaugurated for just five full days. In this time, he has signed more executive orders – made more policy-related decisions – than anyone can keep track of. In my head, I imagine an assembly line of conservative politicians processing through the Oval Office, papers in hand, waiting for the many policies we’ve been fighting against for years to be signed. Simply signed. There’s no more governmental blocks – no Congress or Judiciary to act as a safeguard. The three branches of government are a sea of red and it is appropriate that this is the same color as blood.
Where is your outrage? Where is the anger towards the ways in which democracy is being vanquished in favor of totalitarian rule? Why do you no longer care about the “American values” you prize – the ones in your Holy Constitution that you carry around in your back pocket.
You are the ones that remove any lingering doubt that this empty rhetoric of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is lip service. You are the ones that confirm for the rest of us that American values are – and have always been – nothing more than hate.
This is the only explanation for a group of people who can love American history so much and simultaneously deny the rest of our screams at what is to come. It is only through hatred that our national history can be experienced as nostalgia.
I want to tell you to think of Internment Camps as Trump prepares to block refugees from Syria and to block the visa issues to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. I want you to think of drones – think of complete and total decimation. How this has been happening for years with no end in mind. I want you to think about civilians. I want you to think of holocaust.
And I want you to be reminded of that same Holocaust when you think of your white neighbor who draws swastikas on playground equipment. The neighbors who have been sending bomb threats to Jewish community centers nationwide. And how you, so proud of the defeat of Nazi Germany, now sit quietly.
I want you to think about people being dragged out of their homes, jobs, and schools by ICE. I want you to think about what that goddamn wall actually means. About families divided. About children torn from the only home they’ve ever known. I want you to think about the women who braided their hair together on the El Paso de Norte International bridge in protest in hopes that this could be stronger than chain-links. When you look at the White House website and see that it is no longer translated into Spanish, I want you to think about the English-Only movement and its attempt to eliminate a Chicanx consciousness and how this is another form of systemic erasure.
I want to tell you to think of Jim Crow Laws. To ask you to recognize that these policies may look very different today but that this racialized caste-system is nothing but the same. As you look at videos of Trump standing in front of President Lincoln (a man who only encouraged emancipation for its political convenience), I want you to think about of how mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and police violence exist in the genealogy of the transatlantic slave trade. I want you to admit the real reason why you will never utter the phrase Black Lives Matter. Every time you have something to drink, I want you to think about the fact that Flint, Michigan has not had clean water in 1,007 days. Then I want you to remember that the GOP quietly closed an investigation to this case.
And while you’re thinking about water, I want you to think about Standing Rock. How fire hoses are blasting the bodies of Native Americans with ice cold water in below-freezing temperatures – the same sacred substance they are fighting so ardently to protect. When you’re sitting in your Christian Churches, I want you to think of the sanctity of spiritual spaces and the fact that the pipeline construction tears through these indigenous holy grounds. And then I want you to think about missionaries. I want you to learn what the word “boarding school” actually means. That assimilation is just as much genocide as the Trail of Tears. That our country doesn’t care about a group of people that we already consider long-gone.
As Trump continues to legally silence the Environmental Protection Agency and National Park Services, I can’t help but think about how we will not be able to care about the planet when it is long-gone.
I want you to think about how this rape of the planet is related to the penetration and exploitation of bodies that are feminized. I want you to remember that 1 in 4 cis women, 1 in 2 trans people, and 1 in 10 cis men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. I want you to know what it feels like to live with that kind of ticking time bomb in your mind. I want your blood to have run cold like it did for the survivors in your own family history when Trump talked about grabbing women by the pussy. I want you to realize the number of trans people, especially trans women, that have had their genitals manipulated by the state. I want you to know that when Trump endorsed sexual assault, I thought about the man who yelled that he would stick a finger up inside of me while I was at a Pride march. How I thought of the men who have thought that they could turn me cisgender and straight. How when I was thinking about Trump’s sexual entitlement, I thought about the boy who locked me in a bathroom when I was eight years old and forced me to look at his dick while he urinated. How he didn’t let me say no. I want you to know that there was never a time of innocence.
I want you to think about how the (gentrified) city that you are living in was built on the backbones of the bodies of people of color, especially women. That the birth of a nation was an excruciating and violent thing. That women of colors’ wombs have been emptied through forced sterilization long before white women began fighting for their own freedom of choice. When you put on your clothes in the morning, I want you to think of coat hanger abortions. I want you to know that this is what people will resort to with Trump’s gag-rule and HR-7.
As we dialogue about this in our own communities, I want you to think about how sexual health is not just a white cisgender women’s issue. I want you to visualize the impact of AIDS when you acknowledge that Pence defunded HIV-related care and gave those monies to groups involved in “conversion therapy.” I want you to stop telling me that you are my ally as you justify the legitimacy of a man who supports the use of electroshock therapy on queer folks to change us. As you tell us not to have the (legitimate) worry about benefits for same-sex couples going away, I want to scream that I don’t even care about marriage equality when last year there were 26 reported trans people murdered in the United States and that almost all of them were trans women of color. I want you to believe me when I say that violence has been increasing. That in November a group of men spray-painted the word “Trump” on a trans woman’s truck and set it on fire outside the house that she and her three-year-old daughter were inside. That three trans people were murdered in the U.S. within the first week of 2017.
I want you to stop denying all of the hate crimes committed in Trump’s name. I want you to recognize that taking away people’s healthcare is its own sort of violence. I want you to count the number of pre-existing conditions that there are, and I want you to think about what it means to be told that your physical body makes you less than human.
I want you to think about how in this country Black, Latin@, Native American, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, queer, disabled, and poor people are all less than human.
Writing this, I realize there are so many more things that I want you to think about – to consider a world outside of the experiences that you directly know.
But as I think about you and where you are coming from, I have to resign myself to the fact that at this point, I’m not sure if it even matters. That you are set in your ways and guided by a fantasy of the American Dream.
So I guess that leaves the rest of us.
What I know is that I am tired of being told to give things a chance. I am tired of being told to not be angry, devastated, or scared.
I am tired of being told to not be.