Image from the LA Times
In an essay titled Ritualizing My Humanity, J.A. Micheline says a lot about who does and does not get to “choose” to be dangerous, today. White girls do, and can call it cute, feel empowered by it, and then tuck it away under the bed or behind a smile the minute someone calls it into question. Black girls, like Micheline, cannot. “I was born black and so I was born a monster. My blackness is so abhorrent, so evidently dangerous to whiteness that it has been linguistically aligned with evil — ‘black magic,’ ‘the dark arts.'” She says this in a collection of essays not written largely by, but definitely written largely at, white girls performing dangerousness for, it’s true, their own self-empowerment, but often at the cost of, or at the very least the distracted disregard, for the empowerment of others.
She says a lot. It should feel like salt in a wound and it does — though not and never enough. “Still, it is also worth noting that these (hollow) patriarchal protections are not extended to black women in the same way in which they are extended to white women. White women have protested loudly–and justly–about their infantilization, about their depiction as damsels in distress. Meanwhile, black women–and many other women of colour–have never been afforded the privilege of childhood or the role of a damsel. Take it back to The Birth of a Nation; the fear of black sexuality and the depiction of black people of any gender as hypersexualized has persisted to this day. This, too, has been a justification for violence against us, sexual or otherwise. Our children are never allowed to be just children; our twelve-year-old victims are suddenly adults. Our women will never be rescued from the tower; they have never been worth saving.”
When I was nine the military moved my family and I took it rather badly. I filled a notebook with dire threats of bombs and “payback,” not against specific individuals but against the entire service, all for dragging me away from the sea and the people I knew and loved there, towards some landlocked, exceedingly classist suburb populated largely by rich kids who’d been enrolled in extracurricular “get ahead of the game on college applications” prep programs since preschool. Granted, this was before Columbine, but do you think all my manic, all-caps prose, my childish fury at this new place and people, would have gone unpunished if I had been anyone but a mopey little white girl? Do you think a notebook discovered, first full of threats and then, in a poorly-thought-out burst of poetic furor, a ten-year-old’s suicide note, would have been passed by or treated as anything other than a marker of danger; a series of bright orange cones past which one should detour at all costs?
I don’t know, honestly. But you’re helping to create a world where fear is best handled with orange cones and detours. Because it’s everywhere. And you’re making it worse.
Other people explained why we shouldn’t leave the Iran deal, and still others have set themselves the task of determining why you did it anyway. Fine. But I’m not a political analyst or power player. I have only my pedestrian experiences and those of whoever else will write theirs down to shape my worldview. And I can say, both from the perspective of one whose cousin very reasonably expected to die in a nuclear attack before he reached 20, and as someone who only slightly less reasonably expected to be riddled by bullets either by a classmate or a terrorist before she reached 20–fear does not a competent, steady electorate make.
I mean, obviously. That’s how you got where you are. We all know that. But the kind of fear that animated voters to go for you isn’t the kind of fear you want to bank on. It’s racism. It’s just racism. And as you undoubtedly have noticed–or if not, your simpering attaches have informed you before various rallies packed with pale and pasty attendees–white people are on the way out. As a dwindling majority, their racist fear isn’t a bottomless well from which you can quaff the acrid oil of spiteful victory forever. White people are falling away, in numbers here and abroad. That isn’t going to change.
So consider what kind of seeds you sow, when you seek to nurture fear in your country. Consider how you choose to display, and engage, your dangerousness. Because eventually, the people you fear most will, themselves, become animated by more than a need to “attempt, constantly, to perform dignity despite being afforded none.” They will wrench that dignity back and, fueled by a very real fear of being unable to die of innumerable horrible natural causes but by, instead, the insidious creep of radiation from a dirty bomb or by being in the wrong place and the wrong time during a plutonium-assisted assassination, perhaps of an Israeli agent by an Iranian one (because really, your pal Russia is just so inspiring, wading out there and murdering people in broad daylight, no?) they will attempt to balance the world from a place of fearful imbalance, perhaps (and justly so) widely over-correcting for a planet’s worth of wrongs.
And all the reparations in the world will not save you. Or me. And while neither of us would particularly deserve saving, plunging kids now and those yet unborn, of whatever parentage, into that cycle of fear is a pretty shitty thing to do.
So please. Stop inviting discord nationally, internationally. You think it’s just about numbers and ratings and your own ego, but your actions in diplomatic conference rooms translate into headlines, into dinner table conversations, into secret late-night googling about half-lives and if duct tape over the windows will really help. Your brazenness translates into the miserable fear of ten-year-olds everywhere. And miserable, scared kids grow into miserable, dangerous adults. These days they don’t even wait, sometimes, to become adults–no matter what label the court applies, in its clearly biased vicissitudes. You’re trying to build a world where such people only get mended, are only deemed worthy of mending or care, if they look like you. Sound like you. Vote for you. But in removing what fragile safety mechanisms the world had in place–mechanisms like the Iran Deal, for example–you make it that much more likely that those most in need of mending will come back to haunt you, and everyone under you.
Most of us are plenty haunted already.