If I wrote the piece I am scared to write it would go something like this:
I was adopted into a white family that claimed they had unconditional love. I was brought up in white communities and even lived in Oregon, founded to be a white utopia, for a brief spell. And even when I lived in Kenya, I lived on the school’s compound where most of the teachers were white and therefore were my neighbors. These spaces, families, and communities loved me. There is no denying that. But the love was conditional for many. Only when I did not expand past the space they allocated for me, I had their support. But as soon as I started evaluating whiteness, as soon as I started to unlearn the anti-blackness I was taught, I was then accused of being divisive.
The cute kid adopted from the orphanage grew up.
I. Grew. Up.
So here I am now, an ocean away from home in another home, clutching a loved US passport and making the best with what I have.
(Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for where I am. But my need for survival doesn’t cease just because I am grateful for the good. And I hate how I even have to say that I’m glad so the rest of my words will not be discredited under the tropes of the ungrateful adoptee, the disgruntled American citizen, or the angry Black woman.)
My family gatherings, work environments, doctor’s offices, former educational institutions (yes, even you, Rosslyn Academy — just because you’re in Kenya does not leave you exempt from how you perpetuate white supremacy and American Christianity), favourite stores, towns, and cities are full of traitors who would rather hitch themselves to white supremacy than to critically evaluate whiteness and then divest from it. And no, this is not just a naming to those that voted for Donald Trump. This is to everyone white who decided that losing their whiteness in order to be liberated was too big a price to pay so they would rather our capitol be breached and our ground poisoned than give up power.
And I want to walk away from this all but these are family matters. Quite literally, being adopted by white people, and family meaning humanity. The liberation of my people and the liberation of white people from whiteness, from white supremacy, are not as far apart as we may think — unfortunately or fortunately. That means no one gets left behind and those behind keep us from moving forward.
There are no new thoughts here. Just new layers to this heartbreak.
Just family that would rather say they just don’t understand or have time to understand the “black-white thing” but they love me regardless before using me as a reason why they simply can’t be racist. Just churches that would still rather pray general prayers for our nation than discuss how they helped elect officials that helped incite insurrection and how they’re instrumental in upholding racism. Just “I’m not racist” white people who thank Black folks for educating them and then decide to remain silent despite all the love and effort poured into them at the detriment of Black peace. And a thousand other examples that I haven’t the time and energy to name.
And to compile upon this hurt, we cannot even discuss how deep these wounds are, personal and country, because their shame and pride gets in the way of productive conversation.
I’m tired of experiencing this violence on personal, national, and global levels and then being made into a villain for disturbing whiteness by speaking while its eating lunch. And even more than that, I’m tired of including white people in these liberation efforts even though I know their involvement is not only vital for freedom, but the key to solving this mess they made.
I can, and have in the past, given many thoughts to the sympathy and understanding of white people. I have been asked to give and give. Grace, privacy, education, time… the list goes on. And I have given freely. Before you say this, yes, I could list maybe twenty white people I talk comfortably about race with and feel totally safe in interactions with them without censoring. But that is not the point and I’m not here to ‘not all white people’ this mess. For far too long that has been a loophole people who are unwilling to deconstruct their own whiteness and love saying in conjunction with “I recognize my white privilege.”
We’re past that. We’ve been past that.
They erected a noose in the nation’s capitol while filming insurrection and instead of helping each other divest from whiteness, many of you are sharing images of Black and Indigenous violence at the hands of the state to contrast that with how a white supremacist government treated white supremacists. Leave Black people out of this mess.
Go save yourselves and then go back for your communities. We’re waiting for you to do this. We’ve been waiting and doing our part.
Call you, whiteness. Call you, family. Call this whatever you want as long as it is personal. These people breaching the capitol building and trying to stage a coup are your family members, elected officials, lawyers, law enforcement, doctors, coworkers, communities.
None of you are exempt from grappling with these wounds and this violence.
And maybe tomorrow I will be back with more grace and patience. But today this is what I have to offer.
I suppose I was scared to write this because within our fragile ecosystems we call relationships, platonic, familial, and romantic, I am not sure my bonds with people can withstand this pain and fury I am ready to deal out.
Maybe I was apprehensive to write this unbound in honesty because once I see it laid out I have to admit that I am ashamed that I love the white people in my life so much I’ve been willing to disrespect my own human need to express the truth behind my emotions just so they will keep me proximate.
So here is to those of us having to choose between biting our tongues and losing our families. May we speak and find ourselves surrounded by the love we questioned they have for us. And may we be found in new embraces when those we know will inevitably walk away, withholding their love for us in search of worshiping whiteness.
All my love,
*I am more than a writer of Black pain and tragedy. But in this moment, I have nothing else to offer but this heartbreak and rage. So while you feast on it, please also know that I am vast in my complexities and capable of creating and documenting more than a narrative of grief.