Tag Archives: Missouri

Storytime

1 Jan

leap year page 1

Here in Los Angeles, California, it’s just shy of three hours to the close of January 1st, 2016. Today’s not been much different than any other day, closer to weekend-style even though it’s Friday, but not quite the same because one of my roommates is out of town, and the other is recovering from a long stretch of mandated human interaction, and I myself just returned from The Hellhole That Is Currently Underwater.*

But still, all in all, pretty much the same as any other day. January 1st has no particular magic to create a grand shift in my life. It is just an arbitrary designation of the passage of time.

Except… we don’t want it to be, do we? We want there to be some power in the rustle of a new calendar being hung on the wall. We want there to be some force that we can harness through the symbolic gesture of wiping the slate clean. Whatever the year, we want 01/01 to be not just one more day full of nothing more than more of the same, but rather to be one glistening 24-hour chance to grasp hold of a future we haven’t yet tainted. A notebook that’s got no smudges or eraser marks. A slab of clay, wet and waiting, for us to pick up and do something with.

We want it to be the start of a new story, ripe for the telling.

2016 is a particularly good year for that, it seems. We’ve got a leap year ahead. One whole extra day for awesome.

And I, who makes much of her living out of words, sits here at the close of page 1 of 366 wonder – what makes a good story? What do I want?

What do you want?

What makes a story worth it, after it all, when you’re running out space for lines on the page and midnight is tolling and another book, another voice, another year is chasing at your heels? What is it in a story that will leave you satisfied at “the end” – or even better, hungry for more?

If you’ve got some thoughts to tell, I’d like to listen.

——-

* Missouri. Not necessarily an intrinsically bad place, but a historically terrible destination for me in particular. Also, it’s rained so much there in the past few days that a house literally floated away. It was on the news, guys.

It can be okay in the summer, though.

Just… mind the tornadoes.

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A White and Shiny and Probably Horrendously Inflammatory Blog Post

4 Dec

Dear White People,

it happened again. Another murderer got away because of white skin and a shiny badge. We drive around with our white skin and our shiny cars, mere passersby to injustice on the streets. We sit in our white houses with our shiny lives and ignore the systematic burning of a people to the ground. In both Missouri and New York, we like our white snow and our shiny presents, having the luxury of not caring that outside, it’s cold. We’ve got our white skin and our shiny privilege. We don’t have to worry about frostbite.

Look, I know. I know. I make generalizations. White people are also poor. White people are kind. White people suffer. White people care.

White people built this whole fucking country to be poor in and to be kind in and to suffer and care in ’cause we stole it from yet another people without our skin tone.

We established that this was the best country, our country, and disallowed anyone else access to that pronoun. Even when we shipped human beings over like Fedex two-week arrival packages. “Here, Mary Sue, I got you a nice black girl to help you and Ma with your dresses.” “But Daddy, I wanted the other black girl, with the different nose!”

It is horrible. It is insensitive. It is true.

Slaves could be shot for trying to run away. Apparently this is still true when it comes to white police masters. And those police will not be indicted, because after all, they were just trying to subdue their property. They know what those black skins are like. You can’t reason with them. Just gotta bring ’em down, bloodshed be damned. It was their own damn fault for running away and resisting anyway.

Please excuse me while I go vomit. Alternatively while I go chop off my fingers, because they hate themselves for ever having to write those words.

White people, this is who we are. Maybe not you, individually. But as a people, this is what we have filled history with stories of. This is the name we have made for ourselves.

And I really don’t fucking like it.

We try to make a difference. We volunteer. We tweet. We write fucking blog posts. But none of these are going to pry the arms off the neck of a dead black man. And in the end, that’s really what we needed to do. Before the suffocation even happened.

I am a thin, white female. If a man tried to touch me and I screamed at him not to, but he persisted anyway, it would be the police’s job to come and save me, because in my case, that man’s actions would have been labelled assault. The police damn well know there are other ways to arrest a noncompliant but nonviolent person. And no way in hell do they want the upper-middle class parents of a white girl coming after them and saying one of their male officers assaulted me. Noooo way in hell would they let that come even close to happening.

Change me into a black man and apparently none of that matters anymore.

If a man held me down and suffocated me after I’d screamed and screamed that I couldn’t breathe, and the coroner fucking ruled it a homicide, there would indictments and apologies from the police department and a mass outcry at the unthinkable wretchedness of it all. I would be a martyr, not an example. That police officer wouldn’t even get to be a mall cop. He’d be in jail. Twenty-five years to life.

Change the color of my skin and my genitalia, and apparently this all isn’t even worth a trial.

This is not justice. This is bias, prejudice, flat out hatred in our goddamn justice system.

What do you do when the laws are broken?

What do you do when we are broken?

And what do you do when that brokenness causes us to break other people?

Kill them, even.

I don’t know what to do. I wish I did. Apologies stopped cutting it about twenty black-victim homicides ago. But… I don’t know how to make us better. I as an individual am trying to do the damn best I can to check my privilege and help as appropriate. I know there are others, hordes of others, who are doing the same. But apparently these hordes are not in the justice system. Or if they are, apparently they decided that the tougher incidences like these are when they should sit down and shut up and pretend like suffocating a black man who uses words like “please,” “officer,” and “sir” is a perfectly reasonable things to do.

I don’t know how to prod us all in the back, to fucking wake us up any time we’re being idiots or accomplices to murder. We’ve lost all the sticks because we made our slaves bundle them up and throw them into our hearth fires a long time ago. We, the collective we, white people, have made this a country of white people first, everyone else be damned if you haven’t made yourself as otherwise white as possible. And it’s not okay. This is so fucking not okay.

We said we were founding this country on equality and justice. We’ve got about two hundred and thirty eight years that say that’s not what we did. White people, we have failed.

Maybe it’s time we got the fuck out. Literally, metaphorically… I don’t know. But nobody else seems to either, because we’ve got a two hundred and thirty-eight year old problem here.

And when everything is white and shiny, it’s hard to see through the glare and notice that.

Ferguson

14 Aug
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This is my home.

Well, that is, in an extended sort of way. I grew up in St. Louis, on the other side of town. Or rather the other “quarter” of town, because that is always how St. Louis has been divvied up, based on its socioeconomic populations. There’s West County, the safe, predominantly upper-middle and upper class white suburbia of St. Louis. Then South County, the older part of town populated by the lower-middle class echelon of African Americans and elderly white folks – unless you hit the “West End,” the posh upper class carved-out part of downtown. Then East St. Louis, the portion of my city responsible for putting us at #1 on the US’s Most Dangerous Cities list some years back. And finally, NoCo. North County. Ferguson.

Ferguson was essentially another SoCo. A mix of lower-middle class folks that in St. Louis constituted the “average African American,” “white trash,” and “old fogies.” My paternal grandmother lived there for most of her life. For me, it was a place to visit. Not a place to live. But still, it was a place that while I was in high school my mother would have only required me to call her when I got there and when I was leaving, not every five minutes, as would have been the case with downtown or East St. Louis.

Ferguson was not supposed to be that much of a time bomb.

I have never particularly loved my city. In fact, come the close of high school, I did every damn thing I could to get myself out of it. The Midwest, it’s such a closed-in place. The same sights, same ideas, same issues. All just sitting there. Caged in the bound middle of the country. Stewing. I ran away to the West Coast, where people colorful and vibrant in every sense of the words filled the streets.

The Midwest has always frightened me. It is a place of putting up white picket fences to hide the blood pooling in our yards from the wounds we all carry. It is a place where racial tension continues to draw and quarter our city, literally, and yet nobody will talk about it.

It’s a place where a wrong (i.e. “liberal”) word can get you hit by you father and a wrong movement can get you shot by a stranger.

It’s a place where everyone dresses according to the rules of their sector. Different branches of the same store will carry different types of clothing, depending on whether they’re catering to the prep kids of West County or the blinged-out teenagers of SoCo.

It’s a place where trusting the police force is a crapshoot. It’s all one big algorithm, hinging on variables like skin color and county location and whether or not you happened to be driving a particularly nice car. My grandfather was once head of security for much of downtown; it was always his mission to diffuse any issues with the least amount of conflict necessary. He wanted to calm people, not create statements. It was people he worked to keep safe, over buildings or signs or ideology.

Apparently not so, these days.

My city resounds with the cry of “I am big and you are little. I am right, and you are wrong.” It is a presumption that has always terrified me the most about that Arch-bound city. Walk under that Arch, and you must subscribe to a certain level of conformity. Break from that conformity, even just gathering to say that you don’t agree with the way something is going down, and – well, I guess we’re seeing now how that plays out.

I am right, and you are wrong.

Stay on your side of this line, and I’ll not say you’ve threatened mine.

My city is divided into four quarters. Apparently now we’re killing to keep people in them.

I’m sorry, Ferguson. I didn’t ever think we’d treat you this badly. The whole point of calling something a “quarter” is to indicate it’s needed to make up part of a whole.

Despite all its posturing, my city has not been whole for quite a while now.