This week: A reflection on something personal and reflective. Like COVID-19. Or being a black woman in an insanely racist America. After the anger and tears of this week, I want to step back and share insights from brilliant colleagues of color. First, this powerful piece by Jackie Byers, Oakland organizer, and writer.
The Breakup letter: Dear John
I am so tired of this dance… So exhausted with this relationship. It seems like we keep doing this-love hate thing. I love you and you hate me but you need me and you made it so i think i need you too. It's like we are cursed to be together forever. Not just in this life. I have been dancing with you through past lives and generations. My feet are tired.
This two-step leaves my toes bruised and bloody because you've got no rhythm and your ass keeps accidentally stepping on my toes over and over again. Then you look at me like it was my fault. You seem so sure it was my fault that I started to believe it myself. I start apologizing and stuttering cause I am fool enough to think my big feet just got in the way. I was just too much of myself to be safe from your accidents. “Sorry,” I say, scrunching my toes inside my shoes trying to be ever so careful.
I am so tired of this dance...so exhausted with this relationship. You have told me I am ugly. I burn my skin and hair just to be pretty to you. I even hid my curves because you called me fat and said I wasn't soft and feminine enough. My features were too hard and my voice too much. That's what you told me though in your eyes I saw desire. The desire that took me countless times never looking for my permission. A desire that left me broken and in tears. A desire that left you disgusted with your contradiction so you blamed me. You said I was abnormally sexual and you couldn’t help yourself. Even your main chick noticed your desire and started trying to look like me. The world bowed down somehow to her imitation of the very woman it despised. She became famous for her plastic curves, ultraviolet skin and cornrowed hair. I longed to be her….the very woman that was an imitation of me.
I am so tired of this dance...so exhausted with this relationship. No matter how hard I work you call me lazy. No matter how many degrees I get you question my intelligence. You tell me if I try harder and be a little less myself then I could be exceptional. I kill myself trying to be exceptional. I give you all I have and it's not enough. I am dependent on you. When I try to go on my own you sabotage me. You build a ceiling over me when I try to reach the sky. You humiliate me when I break it. I am still too loud. Too angry. Too Black. Too much. Yet I long for your approval.
I am so tired of this relationship. You tell me that you love me. You tell me that I am imagining this abuse. You tell me that you are trying to help me. You tell me I need to take responsibility. that i can have anything i want if i just become less me and more you. That my home is your home. All the while you try to break me.
If that wasn’t enough. you killed my sons. My baby who was outside playing with a toy gun. You blamed me for being a terrible parent. I should have known how jumpy you get when black hands are on guns even if they are children's hands on a toy. It's no excuse, it's my fault Tamir died.
You killed my other son because you said he talked back to you when you confronted him. He was too big and black and he had got in trouble before so when he got into it at the corner store it was his fault and you left him in the street to die. Mike was left on the street.
You killed my baby boy because he should have not been wearing a hood. I should know how you feel around Black skin in Black hoods. It's too much Black and the candy could have been a gun. I thought Trayvon was safe in a good neighborhood.
You killed my nephew on New Years because you were nervous and thought your gun was a taser and it was my fault because i should have told him not to take the BART on New Year’s Eve and wearing a Black beanie was just too much Black. My dear Oscar is nothing but a memory and a mural now.
My cousin Ahmad was jogging down the street. He had so many dreams. I thought he was “exceptional” so he should have been safe but it was my fault because I should have known that a Black man running gets you anxious and he should have known to stop when you said stop.
My sister worked so hard even during this pandemic. Risking her life as an EMT to save others but you murdered her as she was abruptly awakened from her sleep by you kicking in the door. Then you say it was Breanna’s boyfriend's fault he should have known it was YOU kicking in the door in the middle of the night so you were justified in shooting both of them and he shouldn’t have tried to defend himself.
My niece was taking care of my aunt in her house and you did a ‘welfare check” on her because as you say she was stupid enough to leave the door open causing her neighbors to be concerned and call you and so you shot her through the window. I should have told Atatiana to not look out the window because shadows and Blackness make you uncomfortable and you being uncomfortable might get her killed.
You have killed so many members of my family I can’t name them all and I have begged and pleaded. I have cried and screamed inside. I have mourned and grieved. I have died a thousand times. I have even believed you thinking it was my fault, replaying all the things I did to deserve this until I thought I was insane. I became paralyzed in my own fear.
But when I heard about Big Floyd it was the last straw. How he called out for his momma as he gasped for air. I heard all my sons and daughters call out for me. Something has moved in me and quickened my soul. Maybe I’m finally tired enough.
I am tired of crying and asking. I am tired of pleading. I am tired of lowering my gaze and softening my voice. You are a psychopath, you are heartless. There is no stopping you. My very existence is a threat to you. I finally saw it in your eyes with that half of smile as you killed my Brother. There was a pleasure in it. I know now what has taken me so long to see. YOU are a murderer and you hate us and you won't stop until you devour our bodies, minds, and spirits. You are the devil my grandmother spoke of.
Dear John. Dear America. I am breaking up with you for good. I don’t want to hear another sorry. It's time to salvage what dignity I have left and save the family I still have. I am done with you america. I am done.
And I won't go peacefully. This meek and mild trying to please you with white teeth smiles and lowered gaze woman, died underneath your knee that day. What emerged was a rage that cannot be quenched until i see justice and not the justice you talk about but real justice. What does that mean? I don’t know yet because to tell you the truth I ain't ever seen it before. But I figure I'll know it when I do.
Until then I am gonna burn all your shit. These bruised, tired feet are done dancing with the devil. You can call me names and tell me I’m savage but I don't care what you think anymore. Being nice and compliant has done nothing but get my family killed. I am using every last breath I have. The breath you have so casually taken away from so many people I love and I am going to inhale some healing. I am filling myself back up again with the love that God meant for me to have and exhale every toxic lie you have told me in this abusive relationship. Then I am going to scream until I get my voice back and call all the ancestors to come back and beat your ass.
With my back straight and my head held high I am gonna pick up these tired feet and do what i should have done a long time ago. I am gonna walk away from you like Miss Celie in the color purple. Until you do right by me america ...."Until you do right by me, everything you think about is going to. crumble.”
Important read: One of my most favorite writers (and makers) is Michael C Twitty, a brilliant African-American, queer Jewish man and the author of The Cooking Gene, which, with Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, is one of the most brilliant and instructive books about being Black, race, culture history identity and, well, everything, I have ever read. His new essay, A Scolding in Seven Pieces, shares his “reaction to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery may they rest in peace and power.”
“If you kill me you kill the entire world. You kill your entire history. You kill your Adam and your Eve and your Cain and your Abel and everyone who roamed Eden.. You kill generations. You kill the world’s oldest DNA. You kill the makers of American food. You kill the creators of your soundtrack. You kill veterans from every fuc*ing war. You kill your greatest comedians and inventors and innovators and writers, and inspiration for writers and your poets and the women who bore your children when you were the most infamous of all the baby-daddies using African and Native women.”
Discussion thread: What are you doing to help cope with your stress?
Parting Bits--this week, COVID-19 important reads
Race: So many terrible things have happened this past month for African Americans in this country (and for all of us). This essay by Sabrina Strings about the ways that systemic racism, the legacy of slavery, and economic oppression are contributing to black people dying from COVID-19 at way higher numbers is a must-read.
Related: Health Disparities and COVID-19 resource list, Harvard Medical School, a terrific list of webinars, organizations, articles and more
A guide to protesting during a pandemic, by Yasmin Tayag. Heading into the streets? Useful tips and observations.
Health-Maybe it’s the D: A new peer-reviewed, clinical report says that maintaining healthy levels of Vitamin D helps protect against COVID-19. The authors write “...We found significant crude relationships between vitamin D levels and the number of COVID-19 cases and especially the mortality caused by this infection. The most vulnerable group of the population for COVID-19, the aging population, is also the one that has the most deficit Vitamin D levels.”
Wishing you all the best this coming week. Send me some feedback (email@example.com) and stand up for what you believe.
“have you learned nothing from sunsets
flaming the entire sky with soft edges
fuchsia periwinkle whisps,
taut and temporary nature taking day,
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