Sunday, October 15, 2017

Keith Wallace

(grammartarians, sorry, i had to write this quickly...)

last night there was an extra powerful performance at MASS MoCA, and I wished all my apolitical, center, and Republican friends could have seen it, I couldn't stop thinking of them. artist Keith Wallace presented a one-man performance about growing up in North Philadelphia, a predominantly African American an Puerto Rican area, where the public schools are some of the most under-funded in the US (makes me extremely angry) and a high percentage live under the poverty line. Keith recreated the block parties, basketball culture, his family... the main theme was the high percentage of African Americans murdered by police. ..those of us on the left already know this, we know about Black Lives Matter, and i think "murder" or "death" is the concept that sticks in our heads, maybe also "abuse of power" and "inaction" or "apathy". but what I took from the performance and the discussion afterwards was something less discussed -- the everyday fear and accumulated trauma for African Americans when they step outside of their homes, and when a cop drives by, and when a cop walks by. having to walk on eggshells at every moment to ensure they have their driver's license on them, that their phone is charged; that their driving and car plate/registration/tags/lights are perfect. if you get pulled over to make sure you try to pull over in an area where there are witnesses and street lights. -- And I think of the sloppy way I live. (my car registration and tags expired two months ago.) I kept thinking about my apolitical, center, and Republican acquaintances who either don't know "how power works", or don't care. I kept thinking of this repressive macho culture in the US that I've always tried to get far away from, that culture that normalizes aggressive behavior and guns and competition, where the biggest, the strongest, the fastest, the richest, the least sentimental, the least sympathetic are valued. Anyway, towards the end of the performance, the stage was black and silent, the protagonist was pulled over for an unknown reason, and when he reached for his cellphone, he was shot in the head.

everyone was left feeling depressed and helpless. but the discussion afterwards was helpful. the purpose of this post is to share some of the solutions/ways forward from the discussion:

- our feeling depressed, etc., doesn't help. take action. - (esp. for us academics) intellectualize less, act more.

- fund public education and educate yourself on the issues - this is uncomfortable for some white people, we just have to deal with it, it's not as uncomfortable for us as it is for others who have to live with this every time they step out of their house

- the fact that white people don't have to deal with the concept of "race" on a daily basis is an example of "white privilege" (a racist privilege)

- the helpless/not-knowing-what-to-do-feeling is false. action has never been easier to take. all we have to do is google and we can find organizations in our areas that are mobilizing against violence and discrimination.

- poor folks are often held in jail for minor non-violent crimes because they can't afford bail. there is an organization: that lends bail money.

- find a way to reach out to disadvantaged youth who are being trashed by our economic and public school system (this is hard to do, but, again, google)

(two final notes, that weren't mentioned last night:

1. thinking again of the apolitical, center, and Republican people i know... i imagine people living in the suburbs/rural areas may think this is all abstract, or movie-like, as i used to, some may not see the problems in their backyard and conclude that this is all baloney. but actually there are local connections. local politicians and representatives in every area hold public meetings and vote on issues that either worsen or improve these problems.

2. the months after little t won the election, i kept thinking that the solution lies in having conversation with apolitical, center, and Republican people. it hasn't worked. i thought i'd be having debates online, at the grocery store, with neighbors, and in the classroom. it hasn't happened. i haven't seen any public debate at all, not even on college campuses where debates used to be common. maybe it's impossible in a country that's dominated by social media isolation, screens, false information, poor K-12 schooling, and a president who has made so many racist comments we've lost track. so I'm thinking now that if everyone empathetic could just take a tiny action that would be good enough to start rocking the boat. that's all!

No comments: