Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Hardest Letter I've Had to Write: Post Zimmerman Thoughts

Longtime blog contributor, labor activist and string bassist extraordinaire Reece Chenault decided to share his thoughts about the Zimmerman verdict and what it says about us as a country and community in a short, highly personal and brutally honest piece. Share your thoughts in the comments....

Dear Future Child, 
I love you very much and I have some important yet difficult things to tell you.  It breaks my heart that this is the second letter I have written to you and I am sorry that it even needs to exist.

You will be born into a country that fears your mind, your body, indeed your very existence.  "Why?" you will surely ask (because you are my child and I know what kind of person is born from the marriage of Anice and Reece :-) ) and I can only respond that there are too many reasons why for me to truthfully answer you without feeling like I've left something out. Someday we'll get into that stuff at a time you choose (because that's what kids do) but for now let's just let the question and knowledge hang out there.

My silliness and the joy I express are real and you shouldn't forget that... but I have lived in fear for the majority of my adult life.  Thankfully, my childhood was the one I hope yours will be in that I was surrounded by family and friends who protected me while I was growing into my adult body, shielding me from many experiences I am eternally grateful I never had.  Hopefully by the time you're born I'll be (a great deal) smaller but I'm always going to be tall.  Your grandparents, as you will learn to understand, are fiercely intelligent black people with good hearts.  That tenacity, that physical and mental height advantage, that tradition of being proud makes us just that more likely to be targets for someone else.  At a certain age, I was taught that the best way to ensure that I wouldn't suffer the consequences of my birth was probably just to react like I would a dangerous animal:  take preventative measures, slow your movements, watch carefully for attack, gather information, when possible and safe just run away.  I am often ashamed of it but it has kept me alive.  Fear is an incredibly powerful motivator.

These particular fears have names that you need to remember:  racism and oppression.  There are more names for them, but for now that's what we're dealing with.  It is so much more complicated than anything I can express in a letter.

By bringing you into a world where racism and oppression exist, I have done you a disservice.  You deserve so much better than the place you live now.  America and I have promised you so many things.  I intend to deliver on those promises but it seems likely now that I have failed on many of them.  It is perfectly acceptable to cry about this, even in anger.  I will hold you when you do so and will probably join you in weeping bitter tears over such a shitty thing.  In fact, as I write this I cry.  I mourn the innocence you will lose and my role in that loss.

America, I'm so sorry to say, has no intention of doing so.  Learning that lesson will be so hard for you because you are smart and when you learn it your heart will break a little like my own.  It is perfectly acceptable to cry about this and I will hold you when you do so.  I will not join you, however, in crying bitter tears over this. I've cried plenty over this one and as of the writing of this letter, I'm determined to never do so again.  I've made the decision that America isn't worth my tears anymore.  Until you come to face that decision on your own, do what feels right for you. Dreams are so important and a dream of living in an America that lives up to expectations is worth holding on to when it fills instead of empties the heart.

The occasion of this letter's writing is in memory of scores of young black people who died of racism and oppression.  Otherwise I never would have written it because I really didn't want you to know until much later.  I've held onto the hope that you'll never experience it in the same way for so long and I'm not happy that I don't expect that hope to materialize anymore.  
Finally, and I say this with so much love, but you have to choose whether or not any of this knowledge will inform your decisions in life.  Just by telling you what I've told you I have, in a way, robbed you of some choices.  I don't like doing that to you and again, I'm really sorry for it, but I felt you needed to be told by someone that cares about you.  What you do next is up to you and if you decide that racism and oppression are things you will ignore I will have just as much respect and love for you as if you decided to dedicate your life to eradicating them. Not because I agree with either decision but because you are my child and I will always love you. Take care, drive carefully, and please call your mom.  She is likely worrying about you as much as I am right now. 
blog comments powered by Disqus