Brilliance

I am desperately trying to overcome issues with getting my writing out in the world. So, I am self-censoring less, practicing faith that there are audiences for my voice and just posting my morning 15 minutes of writing. Take it or leave it. But this is what I wrote this morning.

I wonder about all the brilliance stolen from us.

Talking with a dear friend who just finished their phd, working on the virtual morass of a class I am teaching on the Law and reading some of the commentary circulating in this moment in academia has caused a great deal of reflection on my part. And I am really feeling the profound wounds that I have, particularly the ways that I have been treated since leaving Mills College. Part of the power of a diverse women’s college like Mills is in what isn’t explicitly said or at least how its values actually play out on the ground. At Mills, it was just assumed that I had thoughts. Education that takes seriously folks from marginalized groups, women, folks of color, queer folks.

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We move around in the world sometimes being treated like such shit. The mismatch between the world’s projections and the brilliance in one’s mind and heart, can be crushing. Sometimes I feel like I could go crazy. My mind keeps working on the mismatch later after interactions, even when I try and set it aside. I wake up in the night, like my brain has been working on a math problem from earlier and it clicked. Except what clicks is the illogic of some other person’s logic: “oh he thought I didn’t understand him.” “oh! She was implying that I had stolen that scarf I was wearing.” “oh! Wait I get it, he just randomly started telling me that white people experience racism too.” My mind keeps trying to figure other people out because humans need other people to survive. The bullshit gendered, racism- shit in people’s minds spews into our interaction and my brain has to do the sorting. Because people do their own making sense on you.

Now I have power in this. I very effectively burn various herbs to cleanse myself of the shit of other people. I talk to myself alone in my house about the intellectual questions before me. My brilliance shines so bright, many days it feels like other people’s small shit doesn’t really matter. I am so creative and interesting. I have so many ideas. I am beautiful. But I am also so so tired. There is also just enough time for what I am here to do, and it isn’t educate white people on things easily before them in books, art, real life, everywhere.

I am also so so tired

Some of the wounds I have been reflecting on most this week can be traced back to white folks who thought they were protecting me, or mentoring me. A lot of liberal white folks are enacting violence on people of color and I worry that if the yard stick is a Trumponian hatred, we will miss some really important work that this time offers. There is all this kind of epistemological violence that whiteness does.

I wonder about all the brilliance stolen from us. All the genius locked up in prisons, beaten out of Black folks by poverty or popular culture or low expectations. It feels like there is this whole fantastical world on the other side of all this shit. I am sure we can barely imagine the full beauty of what could be. What if all the brilliance of BIPOC folks was nurtured? If there was space to breathe? If our voices, our contributions mattered fully?

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my life has unraveled before

It feels like the world is ending and I think it really is. I keep detailing all the things I need for a compound with my preschooler. I need her to survive. Antibiotics, seeds, Toni Morrison’s books. The world as we knew it in modern capitalism had the seeds of its own death inside of it all along. Everything is falling apart. The Earth is reclaiming its autonomy from human domination. And it’s bittersweet. In some sense, I have been preparing for this my whole life. Abolition is center stage. President Trump is threatening to withdraw federal funding from “Anarchist Cities” who consider defunding the police. Abolition is cast as lawlessness and him as the bearer of law and order. If I had written this as some abolitionist scifi plot ten years ago, people would have said that it was a bit too on the nose, canned, too tidy. I have been curiously silent on my blog and elsewhere. Folks keep coming out of the woodwork to tell me I wasn’t crazy after all. That is little consolation now. So, while the system I have spent my life trying to abolish is crumbling, I am both thrilled at the creative possibilities for us humans and concerned about loss of life. We aren’t handling this very well. We are collectively agitated, a bit ready to pop off on some folks and the clarity of the moment is so startling, it is oddly dizzying. What do humans need to hear right now?

Slow down. Move with intention and love. Purge supremacy from our hearts and focus on the basics: food, shelter, connection, medicine, play. Music, art, bread. Water, Air, Fire, Earth. If you are moving so fast that you are tripping over stuff or bumping into walls, slow down. I keep grazing this one wall coming out of my bedroom. Navigate. Breathe. Keep taking steps forward. Surrender to the consequences and the process, the learning and transformation here.

Sometimes my life has unraveled. Yours most likely has too. One time, I broke up with a partner and had nowhere to go. I remember seriously wondering if he had other women’s bodies buried in that house. I had to pack my stuff and get out before he came back. I got a cheap hotel room and figured out how to pay for it day by day. I remember waiting at a car rental place for my credit card to clear the rental. I needed this car to move all my possessions and the hotel I could afford was way outside the city of Seattle. I knew if it cleared, it would be by the skin of my teeth with a dash of luck. This isn’t a story about how it worked out. I think my card got declined and I felt ashamed and I held back tears like it was no big deal. I went back to the drawing board. I got on a bus and figured something out. My record player got lost somewhere with a friend who I entrusted it to. Our paths diverged.

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The point is, most of us have had our worlds fall apart. Now it’s happening on a collective scale. It is scary and new and a bit dizzying. But because my life has fallen apart before and I have had to remake it many times, I know how generative this can be. It isn’t just destruction. It isn’t just scary. It’s a chance to emerge more ourselves, more aligned. It is like sitting outside a cheap hotel, smoking a cigarette on a cold morning with a clarity to match the cool air and the deep breaths. Liberation is so startling.

We can change. We can build a new life, a new world. We already have everything we need, ourselves and each other.