From July/August 2014:
I have a confession. (I have the flu). (Don’t fucking comment on this if you don’t read the entire thing, please.) A lot of people may not remember, but on New Year's Eve of 2009? A young black kid named Oscar Grant was shot in the back by a BaRT cop who claimed he was reaching for his tazer. I watched the video when it surfaced, kind of on an odd lark. I had basically been eschewing, or running screaming as much as I could, living the life I was living at the time, politics on some phony ideological principle that they were bourgeois, that they weren't relative to my life, wrote them off as something my parents continually told me someday I would come around and wake up to with the same passionate fervor that they had. At the time I didn't believe it, and I did my best to patently ignore most current events outside of music and pop culture. But I clicked the video. And I watched him get shot. And I listened to the girl gasp and scream "They shot him!" I felt sick and I cried and I tried to forget about it.
Later, I watched the riots in downtown Oakland on YouTube. I was living in the east bay then but nowhere near downtown but it suddenly all felt very real and present and close. I thought about cops. I have always had an avowed compassion for authority figures - probably owing to some sexual fixation, tbh - I thought about my high school sculpture teacher who condemned pigs outright in her Birkenstocks and drapey black monochrome uniform. I thought about the compulsion to become a cop, or a member of the military. Sometimes it seemed like an attractive out - like I could just surrender myself to that paradigm and still feel free tog flourish within it. I have always thrived with at least some outside structure. I had a lot of actually positive interactions with cops in Kansas City. The same two always seemed to be breaking up parties in midtown, but calmly, obviously having bigger fish to fry. My first night in my first apartment I witnessed a shooting and gave a statement and I saw that officer a lot in the ensuing years, even once at Chili's lol. He always seemed to remember me and asked how I was doing. Of course we were both white.
My high school was pretty diverse. Probably not as much as I like to rnemeber it, but there was a lot of mixing of cultures and races there and it got pretty wild, with 3,000 kids. I've spoken at length in a lot lf contexts about my first experiences of observed racism - because no matter where you are, white people on this planet at this time are never entitled to claim they have experiences racism. Absolutely never - and how devastating they were, but things got murkier the older and I got and the more drugs I did and the more I drowned my brain in booze. I remember a girl in my sewing class who was late in a pregnancy passionately disavowing my seicaloty, telling me she would never allow her son to be gay. I replied that it wasn't something anyone could change, even more than she could change the color of her skin that was born with. She fucking flipped, standing up and screaming that she had no choice to have been born black and Native American. How dare I compare my sin to her skin color! I mean yeah, her not having a choice was my point, but she didn't get it, and the teacher shushed us. At lunch that day her brother walked up to my table, me and like two nerds lol, and said if I ever so much as talked to his sister again he would shoot me in the face, geaturing towards his belt as if he had the piece right there. I stood up and walked to the principles office to report him and I was told that I had equated her race with a sinful act, and was in the wrong, and assured that he didn't have access to a gun. Lol how did they know?
Like I said, things got murky, they get murky with age. I taught myself Spanish to communicate with the hot ass dudes that cooked at the restaurant I worked at, cozied up to their sisters and cousins at school trying to be down with them, I mistakenly enrolled in a slower track math class and stayed on the slow track the whole time, because I thought the kids were cooler. The classes were, I don't know f this is obvious or racist to say, but they were more diverse on the slower track. I made friends with a girl from Afghanistan, a black girl who got me, had a diamond E on her gold tooth and left when she got pregnant, scruffy white trash dudes who laughed at the sci if books I read during breaks. None of this really matters, but in the ensuing years I tried to fashion myself as friends with everyone, as someone who experienced much, but kids were mean, people were scary. I saw that shooting. I got chased several times wandering around midtown and downtown Kansas City - by far not even remotely the most dangerous areas - by dudes, had my house robbed several times - once by a crack dealer I let crash my couch, my bad. By the time I was living in Oakland and watching Oscar Grant get gunned down, I had formed some really toxic associations, with many people.
Men I wrote off patently as sexual objects and obsolete abusers and destroyers, women as their willing partners in crime, the girls that sneered at me on the train, that rolled their eyes when I waited on them and snuck backstage during our drag shows, grabbing our tits and asses and bemoaning how fat we made them look. But I let myself really slide into hatred when it came to black people. Of course, I was still sleeping with any man I could lure into my clutches, and of the punks, the artists, the weirdos, I enjoyed the friendship of people of all colors and creeds, even decrying racism openly with my new politically aware friends in the Bay Area, disavowing the racist jokes me and my friends would make in Kansas City, pretending ourselves as somehow part of a punk exception from any and all moral accountability. But I let some things fester within me. Living and working in Oakland, I had 10 year old kids walk up to me, shove me and call me a faggot, black teens cross the street to surround me in a circle and tell me to get the fuck out of their neighborhood with my faggot ass walking around shirtless (asking for it?), had literal packs of teenagers chase me on several occasions, me running as fast as I could in kitten heels to reach the train turnstile and the relative safety of the subway platform, though I was threatened there, too, and aboard the train, where strangers tended to look away as if I wasn’t being publicly accosted.
Hopefully it’s obvious that I’m not writing this to demonize black people, nor is this an attempt to write myself or white people, or white queers or trans (or whatever I am) people into the narrative about race, but like it or not, we are a part of it. We are all a part of this racially striated society. I want to make amends for the attitudes I held during that time. I want to make amends for the things I said. Though I know there really isn’t a way to do so. I just want to get it off my chest.
The belief that I held, when I watched that video of that kid get gunned down, while lying on his stomach, with his hands bound behind his back, was that if they hadn’t have been fucking around on the train, it never would have happened. I’m crying because I’m really disgusted at myself not just for thinking it, but for actually having the gall to say it out loud, I’m not sure to who or how often, but I know I did. That was a dark time for me. It came to a breaking point a couple of years later, so disgusted with society was I, so confused about my place in the world, that I had finally theorized that the only reason I could possibly have been put on this planet, ostensibly in the body of the global oppressor but feeling like an aberrant mutation, all my sexual urges and desires pointing me in the exact opposite direction of “normal” men and women, telling me not to procreate, that the solution had to be patricide. I was put on this planet as an agent of the apocalypse. Mother Nature was sick of us and she was using queers as her first wave of world destroyers to wreak havoc within society and eventually over-populate the straights until we all simply went extinct in a hedonistic refusal to procreate. I LITERALLY, ACTUALLY, WHOLE-HEARTEDLY believed this was my purpose. I didn’t care about people. I obviously didn’t care about myself, looking back at all the things I was putting into my body in retrospect, I didn’t care about my parents, to whom I delivered this decree with toxic glee, even as I wept, feeling the terrible burden of one who must, at the very least, conceptually, ideologically murder one’s direct ancestors.
Side note, maybe also racist, you decide, hopefully someone calls me out for this but not another racist white person from my high school, I voted for Obama the first time. My ex and I, politically ignorant as we were, simply took the Bay Guardian’s who to vote for page that year and voted exactly as they said, liberally, like Democrats. I was living in the East Bay when he won, when the day cares on my block - down the street from Malcolm X High School, and you KNOW those motherfucking kids gave me SO much hell every day for my looks as I wandered to the deli across the street - erupted with cheers of, “OBAMA! OBAMA!” And honestly for all his faults, which are myriad, and the faults of the system, for which you can’t really blame the figurehead, but also, who else are you supposed to blame, besides all of us, which I also do…, I do deeply believe in at least the rhetoric that Obama espoused during his first run up to presidential election. I was inspired then, and I find it inspiring and beautiful that forever after these years, every black kid in America knows that they could some day become president, at least the men …
But that brings me back to these interactions, and these attitudes, and how sick I feel about the things I said and did then. To make a long and painful story of an uphill journey towards self-realization short, I read a passage in Anatomy of the Spirit that completely altered my life, in which Caroline Myss describes what an imbalance of the first chakra feels like - depression, malaise, full body lethargy, etc - and describes the relationships that rule this energy center, which are: One’s relationship with one’s family, and one’s relationship with the tribe or society at large. My world came crashing down when I read that. I was sick, so sick then - had been sober for months and was only feeling bad for it, even without the life altering daily hang overs, and I couldn’t figure it out. The saying of fake it til’ you make it really rings true in this situation. No I didn’t come to a radical compassion or whole hearted embrace of the world and every person on it and my family in that moment, but I did have a flash of realization, that if I were to survive, and thrive, and do the things I knew I wanted to do, and have any hope of changing the world in the ways I wanted, no felt deeply, divinely compelled to see it changed, I had to fucking switch my game up. So I did, or at least I started.
Which brings me to where I am now. I’m not trying to say that I was harboring some deep-seeded racism like what you see on tv right now in Ferguson, or all over Facebook feeds, or Twitter, or everywhere all the time, and I do mean EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME, if you aren’t seeing it OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES, but it was a shade of that, and I feel badly about it. It didn’t change the way I treated anyone. I remember driving cross country moving to California with my then boyfriend, who was a decent deal older than me, and him telling me I had to clean up and show less skin in these podunk towns lest we get jumped, and I got on my high horse and told him that I enter every situation expecting people to respect me, knowing that I will respect them, and thus they treat me accordingly. This worked very well for me, to a point, but of course there were still the aforementioned black kids, and something I realized is that yes, knowing I am not going to call someone a racial slur to their face is way different than actually respecting someone, and their history, and the history of their people and the struggle that they face, that we all face, every day. We live in a deeply racially divided society. When I got to New York I was kind of unabashedly bummed that everywhere was top 40 hip hop all the time (which was reserved for the lesbian parties in SF - the queens all listened to house music), and I vocally decried mainstream hip hop culture for its materialism, and for the conscious self-hatred and inter-community hatred it inspires within the black community. You see all these fucking dudes hating on each other because their sneakers aren’t clean enough, they don’t have the latest model, their rims aren’t fancy enough, this is a gross stereotype but it is real, this culture has been enshrined within the mainstream and sold back to the people for and from whom it originated at the cost of their lives, in many cases, in the same way that crack was thrust onto the streets of cities across America. There are forces at work in this world that have many vested interests in keeping black people poor - and, yes, many white people, and latinos, and all kinds of people - and white people rich. This isn’t just a question of the way every person on the street treats every other. But that is a question too.
I guess I’m just trying to say I’m disgusted with myself for having held on to these ideas, about black people making their own lot, about a black kid deserving to be shot, just because some black kids, or many, have fucked with me on the train. Say nothing to the way the black community treats its trans women, but are the whites any better? What about the queers? We all remember Mathew Shepherd, yo. It seems so earth-shatteringly hard for white people to accept that they have a privilege of experience that is so far outside the experience we have enshrined with our institutions, our economies, our “public” schools, our prisons, our police forces and their policies, our political system where money equals a vote, for everyone who is not white to have. Yes, white women have it hard too, in ways I can’t even imagine, trans or whatever as I am. Queers, trans people of all colors, whatever our purpose - and there are so many - have it hard, too, in ways maybe even some people of color can’t truly fathom. But that’s not really the point.
I don’t want to condemn people, my friends, white people in general - though I easily could - our ancestors, or even myself, I just want to come clean. I did wrong things, I held wrong attitudes, I said hurtful things, even if my intention wasn’t to harm, and in order for me to move on and make the world a better place, I have to atone for it. And I believe that is what the worodl needs, right now. Yes, it starts at home, with your personal interactions, with your thoughts even, but it’s not enough to just not be racist, because we live in a society founded on racist principles, constitution or not, on a continent we stole from brown people we massacred and lied to, and then forced our brown slaves to pave over and build anew. That reality is not going to change, and if black kids are going to stop getting shot, and trans women are going to stop getting killed, and our cops and military and politicians are going to retain their humanity, it has to extend out, past the self, past your family and your immediate friends, off of your Facebook wall. Because at the end of the day, this shit isn’t working for anyone. White people keep black people down because they are afraid, but there is always someone at the top, and someone below them with a knife waiting for their back, even when you get so high up that it’s only stuffy white men, those men are suffering to. We are all suffering, and I’m making a personal step towards atonement and assuagement by saying, I fucked up, I recognize my immense privilege and I vow to use every fucking breath on this planet to work towards changing the way things are.
I guess that’s my Ferguson post.