Not a Way of Life

“But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture’s views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reaching against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority–outer as well as inner–it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination. Bt it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. Or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off altogether as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and separate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.”

–Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)


I’ve been in a reflective, angry, disappointed, and sad mood since the news of the verdict. Here’s a few things I want to get down:

There is a difference in being “shocked” as in you could not have envisioned the outcome before it happened, versus “shocked” as in you knew it could happen but had every hope and confidence it would not. I am the latter.

The hope and confidence I felt a day ago comes from a pretty empty place right now. It is, I think, a place that needs to be filled in order to go about a life that builds greater human justice. Without it there is only revolution without a vision of the other side.

The poise and restraint of the Martin family says so much to me, especially in these past hours. What a testament to the values that raised this young boy into the young man he was becoming.

How telling is it that many self-described conservatives find themselves celebrating the verdict without any expression of the complexity, the history, or the contradiction that frames their thinking. How telling and revelatory about the power and position of race.

I am emboldened by the expressions of confusion, shock, and anger by so many (seemingly) unpoliticized, white folks. My social media has been a window into the experience of those who are new to certain realities and analyses. Every single time one more person is open to the truth that is the beginning of progress in the long run.

The justice we must really seek is the justice that would have made George Zimmerman question his own motivations, prejudices, and judgments before ever picking up a gun and pursuing the young Trayvon Martin. The justice we must seek is, ultimately, the one that results in the humane protection of all young, black, male lives.