*note: This post had a very dynamic discussion thread over on Facebook where it was first published.
I was just explaining to my husband why I don’t want a black car (we are looking for a used car right now as poor jeep-y is on her last legs) and especially not one with tinted windows. He keeps finding perfectly good vehicles and I keep veto-ing them. We finally sat down and he asked me, “what is it about a black car that is so aesthetically reprehensible to you.”
I thought about it a second and remembered reading I Don’t Know How to Talk to White People About Ferguson yesterday and it bubbled up inside me. It’s not safe for me, a brown person, to drive a car like that. I have seen it over and over in my life, from the cop that yelled furious profanities at me when I was 18 because my plates didn’t match to the cops and military I see treating other brown people around the world with deep injustice. My children have already learned to fear the police though I didn’t mean to teach them this.
Being brown is the thing that makes driving a shitty vehicle, or wearing shitty clothes at the border, unsafe. Tinted windows are not an option. My aesthetics have become a wall of protection, a collusion, a fucking necessity which I guard with a sometimes ugly vehemence.
This is why making a spelling error, or getting the wrong answer, or asking the wrong question has a different sting for me than it does for you white friend/husband/colleague. I am not saying you asked for it. I am not saying you deserved it. I am saying it is fact. It was given to you, an unhappy fate, an obligation, a possible prayer, a shot at redemption.
This is why I long to get as far away as possible from Portland and its live-ability, its beautiful parks, its whitewashed liberalism that resists me in a million not-quite invisible ways, that worships beauty and offers it only to those willing to lose their tinted windows and black thumping heart beats.
There is a way for you to understand white friends. Say no to “whiteness.” Find your way back to the humility and vision and savage self that is your birthright too. Look at the histories, the real ones, yours, ours… and grieve. I don’t mean “think its wrong,” I mean, grieve. Watch the ugliness and let is crack your walls, let it soften your expressions. Teach your children to grieve. Let your heart break because you finally see that our broken-ness, our mass of strangled lives, is shared and your grief is the only way for you to understand it.
Then you will know what to say, or not say.