if i had my mind collected to answer your casual conversation about the news of the world and the news of the country neither of us have an official citzenship to (yet) but both consider home,
if i’d known how far into your experiences you’d lean, how proud you are of how far you’ve come, who’ve you brought and who you came back for,
if i realized that a person can so easily be shaped by what they consider right,
perhaps i wouldn’t have stayed silent as you explained why you believed systemic racism doesn’t exist.
perhaps, knowing that your mind would not be swayed from your belief that the plight of the people with the same skin as you and i was nothing more than an opportunity presented as a struggle,
that surely, because you came through your experiences successful, proud, and happy, that is every immigrant’s story, that is every person of color’s life if they would only put their minds to it,
that this couldn’t be true because it didn’t happen to you,
that it was merely a shift of blame from personal failure to the system’s,
that all you needed to cure this horrible plague called racism was to merely keep your head up and make friends of your enemies,
i would’ve been more factual, more precise, less sympathetic (because you in all your kind words are surprisingly not),
but that wouldn’t have changed anything, would it?
no, realistically, none of our talk affects what we were talking about,
it affects me.
you speak with pride of your past, of your thoughts, of your opinion. you came from soldier’s guts and the will of your last name. when old dad died in the states, everyone took the papers he didn’t sign and wrote them for themselves and they simply did. it was the family way. to stick together and to grab at any chance whatsoever together.
you were my age when old dad died. you were my age when old mom and your sister had chosen to move for themselves since there was nobody to move for them. you were the first of us to live in the projects, the first to fish around in the dumpsters, the first to try, the first to survive in this country. you helped bring most of the family here. you know this, you say, you know struggle, you have friends, they’ve struggled, that is how life is.
(and you call me the pessimist.)
“assimilation” you say, raising a glass of water, “is something everyone has to do. otherwise, why bother coming to the country?”
this from the person who fears losing the family history, always comments on the new kids being born with english names, insists on learning our native tongue, always prepares a mix of foreign dishes with a side of rice because otherwise that is not a meal, this is coming from a beautiful, kind, unknowing hypocrite. you have made yourself presentable to be treated regularly (and boom, who defines what’s regular? you just admitted it’s not us), but the culture that flows in you is the culture they do not want, and so you say assimilation is good.
i refrain from mentioning residential schools and the similar mentalities even now as you comment, “oh, and the docs said i was a monkey, but that’s just one bad doc, that’s all it is.”
see, you had me til “all” and “just”.
i’m quiet, but not by desire. i need to hear this, i need to know how you think, and it is… it is like every other human who has ever thought. they are strong thoughts, brave thoughts, misguided and sad thoughts, adaptable, survivalist, idealistic, and human thoughts. i have similar ones, and all of them just echo one repeating line:
beating the system doesn’t mean the system doesn’t exist. beating the system doesn’t mean the system doesn’t exist. you’re not supposed to push through an unforgiving system, that system is supposed to help you, not hold you back—
you deny this. at this point, it’s rather ironic. no, it’s just how you make the most of this opportunity, no, it’s what you choose to make of it. and you are right, of course you are. but you’re wrong when you say that it’s just. it’s not just. and it’s not just. both definitions.
are you so content with pushing to exist in this space that you find the cries of people just like you doing the same thing on a larger scale than you did meaningless? have you accepted that your experience has got to be every other immigrant, everyone other person of color, every other human’s experience, and therefore your outlook on life will be everyone else’s too; to just reach for the grapes that are enticingly dangled above you? to jump and jump and jump even as every time you get closer they’re whisked out of reach? that nobody can check to see who’s holding the grapes and can’t stop jumping and jumping and jumping?
perhaps you grew up to survive a life of striving. you and the hordes of older folk who think just like you, proud in their success, reluctant to see the struggles of others without giving them the same advice you gave yourself.
but i grew up without the same pride of our story, our culture, our skin. because in pursuing the “It” you boast of, we lost what the significance of who we are, and no amount of your mourning for our generation will bring it back. that’s assimilation baby, when you win, you lose.
i grew up aware of the cultural gap among my people, i grew up aware of the cultural ignorance of my people, i grew up aware that i didn’t have a people. i grew up in similar housing, similar dumpsters, not so similar struggles. it’s easier to see what’s wrong when you’re not basking in the glow of your rightness.
it makes conversations like this more painful.
like how can i tell you that our success, the filipino growth, is largely thanks to the brave Black americans whose slurs, insults, and limitations we once shared, and to feel like you have an opinion on whether lives matter is to be ignorant? that even now we have this privilege known as the model minority that hurts everyone involved, us included? that you are proud of something that shouldn’t have been as hard as it was? that we shouldn’t– and we can’t– just push for a right to exist?
i can’t tell you that. that’s something that you need to learn in as much as you have said you know.
“i’m like a puppy” you said. “you can hate me and push me away all you want but i’ll make you love me and annoy you into caring for me, and that’s how we can end racism, by making our enemies love us.”
you grinned and launched into how you started providing for old mom at 17, and i merely looked at you.
that’s not how you treat fellow people, fellow humans, like pets. you treat them like people, worthy of care and attention and human decency by existing.
and that’s what your optimism fails to cover. people are not being treated like people, people are being treated like pawns in a game, and what we’re saying is the game isn’t fair.
for someone who insists on seeing the good in people, surely you should see the bad as well.
but i didn’t have words. perhaps i still don’t.
when i do though, i hope you give my words the same weight i have given yours, because your thoughts are important.
i see you, all of you, splattering bright blue paint against the blazing yellow words that cover the same streets that have been washed of its blood red stains.
i see you, white and black and rainbow, walk the streets triumphantly insisting that all lives matter, all lives matter, all lives matter, NO, ALL LIVES MATTER. ALL OF THEM.
you yell this in the face of the very lives you have literally just declared matter. you shake your fist at children who are declaring themselves to be proud of their skin, who are raising their fists and demanding that justice be served. you rip banners, you scream, you shout, you applaud the “protectors, the good guys”, you cry for general importance and to make america normal.
can you not see yourself?
can you not see the anger and fear and hate that passes through the masks you don’t wear, the very visible disease that accompanies the invisible virus we have already lost lives to. apparently your insistence to be heard trumps the need to not be sick.
one of the more passionate of you did. not. stop. yelling.
“YEAH! WELL I HAVE A HUSBAND! WHAT DO YOU HAVE?” “EHH! WELL I HAVE A HUSBAND! WELL I HAVE A HUSBAND!”
you wave your phone, puff your chest with the words “gays for trump” printed across it, shape your face to personify total derision of the person behind the screen that is recording you, begging you to state your thoughts in peace.
sir, i ask you of all people, is it possible that despite who you are partnered with, that you do not understand what it is to love?
the whole lot of you walk away with blue hands, saluting the blue shirts, just now attributing yourself to colors. you walk in shooting view of the photographers who come to these displays of human confusion to capture it for history, and in this moment that will last for the ages,
when you are noticed, you smirk because you know that you will be seen.
when we’re noticed, we just make sure we are the best representation of who we are and where we come from in case that’s the last time anyone ever sees us.
can you not see?
you worship the ones who will not hesitate to pound people to the ground, to spray tear gas into kids who just happen to be there, who, if suddenly told by the powers that be that their next victims were the all lives matter people, would not hesitate to treat you with the same cruelty that you gleefully advocate for against the people who are trying to put it all to an end.
you choose to get your hands smeared in blue paint. you are not born in an unalterable dark pigment from head to toe, you do not walk out of the door knowing that you will forever be seen not for your mind or your heart, but how much or how little melanin is in your body. you can wash the paint off, you can take the uniform that is stained with the sweat and blood of another soul away to be cleaned. skin is not so easily maintained.
you put on the blue, you put on the power, you choose that, and in doing so, you let your humanness hide under your colors. we are laid raw and bare and brokenly human in ours.
i feel sorry for you.
i am sorry that i have to use words like “us” and “them, “you” and “we”, because it is undeniably certain that you do not want to seek justice, love mercy, or walk humbly with God, with your fellow humans, or even with yourself. and i pity that very much.
let me correct your sign for you.
you are currently saying that all lives matter. what you want to say is “I MATTER! I MATTER! I MATTER!”
that’s the root of it, isn’t it my dude? you are terrified of the idea of anyone else mattering except yourself.
how sad. how pathetic. of course you do.
but not solely you.
here is what all lives matter looks like:
arresting the cops that killed breonna taylor. addressing the very obvious inequalities in every aspect of our society. acknowledging the same heart problems that are in you are in me too. dancing in the streets with no fear of being pulled over or being shot at. holding hands with friends and unmaking enemies. no fear. no shouting. peace. joy. a coffee shop that won’t be vandalized or run out of business where people can learn to connect and thrive. smiles on people’s faces. growing bipoc businesses. to walk into a church and not be treated based on the corners of eyes or the color of skin. to know the same love and call to healing from Above is meant for us all.
can you see the possibilities? can’t you see it?
of course not. you can’t even see me. you don’t want to. you want yourself. what you know.
you chant for blue and blindly watch as black dissolves to red.
did you forget that last color runs through your veins too?
the house is quaking with thunder, and i feel numb inside.
“I was just going home.”
you could’ve gone so many places. you could’ve been going for a walk, or to a party, or to your friend’s house, or on a mini adventure, or travelling across the world, and now… well. you’ve gone.
and you just wanted to go home.
“I’m an introvert.”
hey, me too man. you know what, sometimes i sneak out of the house just to wander down the street and watch the waves for an hour. or on top of the roof to stare at the stars. because then there’s no people, and people are scary, and sometimes people pass dangerous things, like sickness and disease and hate. you get that. you got that.
“I’m just different. That’s all.”
you were a musician. you played violin for the cats at the pet shop. you worked as a massage therapist. you liked music and people and cats and you had a story, you were different and you were beautiful.
and you were black.
that’s the only different thing anyone saw.
“I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me?“
why did you apologize? you didn’t do anything wrong. and even if you did have a gun, why would that brand you as someone deserving of the treatment you received, when the very country you were living in has made such a big deal of its rights to tote around weapons? that shouldn’t have convicted you, none of this should’ve happened. they weren’t supposed to attack.
they. weren’t. supposed. to. attack.
“Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. “
i don’t understand. i don’t understand why you said that, i don’t understand why anyone has to say that, and why nobody listens to them. i don’t know why this hurts so much, and the not knowing hurts even more.
i’ve said the same words and suffered for years for it. i’ve tried to suppress and hide so many messy, dangerous, human aspects of myself to be accepted, but to beg for my life? nobody should have to do that. nobody.
“You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you.“
they forced you on the ground. they were choking you to death. they let their cameras slip. they were not listening. somehow, you gave grace that they would never have even considered for yourself. that’s astounding, in every way that hurts.
“”Try to forgive me. I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt.“
what was done to be forgiven or punished for? walking? wearing a mask? being black? what was right in this situation that let it go unnoticed for months, that it only got brought back up after yet another person’s death? i mean, what happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? what happened to kindness? why did you say such soft words?
“You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work.“
teamwork is for goals and dreams and futures, and collectively driving toward good. for sports and games and restaurants and the small gentle things of life. for nerf wars and water balloon fights, for games of tag and hide and seek and going places. teamwork shouldn’t be to attack a defenseless person for simply existing differently from you.
because what kind of twisted dream is it to hurt other people?
“Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly.”
every person that has ever existed was born crying for air. to apologize for that… to apologize for one of the first things that… that make us human?
i am so sorry.
i’m so sorry that it took ten months. ten. months. let your name be heard, for justice to be demanded. the world is a horrible place to exist sometimes, even when it knows.
they snuffed out a light, and now they’re mad because everyone’s trying to strike matches for a fire.
your name was elijah mcclain. i’m sorry we forgot.
and… and may the light you left with be picked up. soon.
because it feels so horribly dark.
~the dark comes crashing through, jo~
UPDATE: i forgot to leave sources so you can find out for yourself, and i think that’s especially important right now, so here you go:
welcome, welcome, hello, hi, greetings. *waves awkwardly and pushes stray furniture to make room for everyone*
i hereby declare this the meeting of the kids who somehow got caught in all the chaos known as the world. please, please take a seat. i stole some skittles from the fridge, help yourself. keep an eye on the younger kids– all sorts of scary stuff to discover, y’know.
it does not look good out there. not that it ever has.
some of us have actively expressed our desire for change, myself firmly included. some of us may have even been able to march alongside those fighting to stay alive. some of us may not feel it their place, or might not understand, or might be very confused, or might just want to be able to log onto instagram and be occupied by slime videos, not tear gas. i understand that.
but we all want one thing. we want peace. so it’s okay if you can’t bring yourself to scream right now.
*at this point i’m trying to find my words and you stare at me in sympathy*
d- do you remember the stories? the tales that filled our minds and have stayed in our hearts? the worlds we traveled to? the characters we grew up with and slayed dragons with and fell in love with and befriended when there was no one else?
like the story of a little hobbit who is forced to venture out into the world and see fantastical things and epic darkness and help some lost refugee dwarves find their way home? and the similarly grand tale of his nephew who must personally destroy the source of all the chaos with his closest friend and a fellowship united for the very same reason?
like a young girl in a dystopian world who incites rebellion against the casual-horror-turned-entertainment-driven overbearing government who’s just literally a teenager and now has to be the face of a whole bunch of angry people and an equally apathetic system?
like a boy who lived in a cupboard under some stairs and his far more adept friends who all have to deal with their own darknesses with and without the people who were supposed to protect them at their magic school?
like a society of odd children who must solve intricate problems and defend themselves against men (well, one or ten, more specifically) hungry for power and control?
like kids who are shunned for their powers and their weaknesses taken in and have to go defend the world that didn’t want them in the first place? like the guy from queens who saw his closest father figure die and chooses to make sure nobody else does the same? like that superhero mom who had to take all three of her kids and tell them straight up that the bad guys wouldn’t hesitate to be merciless and they couldn’t let them have that chance? like a bunch of people in space known as the resistance, ready to die to keep the dark side away for as much as possible, even if it’s as close as in their face, in their sons, in their own souls?
like the crowds of people who flocked the streets, chanting, protesting, fighting, singing the song of angry men, the cry of all the people who will not be slaves again, the aching in their hearts, the beating of the drums?
do you remember?
because… well. guess which story we’re in right now. and guess who’ll be left to start the next chapter when the ones before us have finished theirs. and guess how this book feels so far.
we are the reluctant protagonists and antagonists and comic relief and foils and sidekicks in a world that isn’t quiet, not here and not there, and possibly not anywhere. i… i have no answers as to why. or when. or how.
but i know that as much as we want to, we can’t go back to the first chapter. because then nothing will have changed and the bad stuff will still exist, and on top of all that we haven’t even finished the story. there’s a reason why our heroes are our heroes. they chose to take it on even when they were scared. and now we’re getting ready to do the same. whatever that looks like for each of us, we all play huge roles in this mysterious tale called life.
and well. i believe there *will* be a happy ending. i believe there is justice that is coming and the fires will be put out and the evil will be dealt with. i believe that there is light, whether that comes through stars or torches. because every single story since the biggest story of them all have always followed that narrative. because i’m naive. because it’s worth fighting for.
we have to know how it ends. we have to keep going.
i suppose that’s all i have to say.
i just hope that you leave this place somewhat encouraged. somewhat emboldened. somewhat in tears. somewhat smiling. somewhat ready to raise your voice. ready to fight in all the ways you know how. because the best story writer and all the characters we’ve grown up with are watching with pride in their eyes. and they’re fighting too.
so, dear kid, fill your head with storypower and keep going. i’ll be with you when you get to the last chapter. and there will be a last chapter.
don’t forget, okay? okay.
until next time, when we find out what happens.
thus ends the meeting of the kids who got caught in all the chaos. would anyone want some popsicles?
~i have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. small acts of kindness and love, jo~
does this really need an intro? aren’t the words enough?
thanks rose. ❤
You will forget the latest human being who was killed by the people who were supposed to protect them. The latest life to be turned into a mere hashtag. Lots of hashtags exist. #mondaymotivation exists. So does #acnh (Animal Crossing: New Horizons). But these are thoughts and video games and movies and songs. These are not living breathing people. People who had stories and lives and family and friends and hopes and dreams. But once their video goes viral, if they’re lucky enough to get a viral video, they will become a hashtag. They will no longer be a person, but a string of words. Something for people to reference. If they get lucky, people will use the hashtag for a day, a week, maybe even a month. But then society will move on. People will move on to the next big thing. The hashtag will become a mere memory.
And so will the person.
I assume that many of you forgot about Amaud Arbery. You were able to move on. His death did not affect your life. His death did not serve as a painful reminder about the state of America and its broken justice system. I’m not going to be, as my mom would say, “the pot calling the kettle black.” I will admit I forgot his name. I was lucky enough to move on.
That’s white privilege.
What about other things we forgot? The 2020 Election that was all anyone talked about for a year until COVID-19 happened? What Elon Musk named his baby, sparking Twitter discussions and outrage for days? The latest thing the Kardashian’s did? These were all things that happened. People took to social media to post and tweet and share memes. But then they forgot.
Another black American was shot.
And people took to social media to post and tweet and share memes.
And soon, they are going to forget.
All these occurrences are not the same. Anyone can see that.
But on social media, they can be.
It’s not fair, it will never be fair, to give the death of a human being the same amount of attention as a celebrity’s Instagram Live. To give a celebrity’s reaction to the death the same importance as the death itself. It’s not right. It’s not just.
This is not to say that some of the outrage that occurred this past month was in vain, there were numerous mistakes celebrities made and were called out on accordingly. But even their harmful words should not be placed on the same level as the harmful action that occurred, one of the worst things humans can do to one another.
And so we care. We post stories on Instagram. We sign a petition or two. We give twenty dollars one time. We put three books about racism on hold at the library to read in order to educate ourselves. And just like that, we did it. We stopped racism in America.
But that’s not how it works.
Of course we should take these actions. But not once. We should turn these actions into habits. We need to make sure we truly care and are doing everything we can. That we will still care in a few weeks when the books that we put on hold will finally be ready.
We can’t pretend we’re on our way to ending racism. We’re nowhere near that. Education and unlearning are long and difficult processes. But they’re ones we have to take. We have to look at our privilege (if applicable), face it, acknowledge it and what it’s done for us. Then we have to use it to make changes and to get things done.
And, above all, we can never, not ever, forget again.
the roof was quiet as i sprawled on its floor with floor cushions. the wind was blowing freely, and i was glad i was wearing a tank top and shorts. it felt like i was 3 again. maybe i was.
i saw my first shooting star. i didn’t think i’d see one and so i wasn’t looking for one, and there it came. it was one quick moment of glory.
my heart felt restless and empty, so i played ben platt’s concert from radio hall. ben platt is the patron saint of the lonely, the depressed, the anxious, the ones afraid of coming out of their shell, or their closet, or in so many cases both, and i will thank him for that until i can’t breathe.
the power shut out. misfortune.
i grabbed my ukulele and headed back to the roof to compose a sad song and send it to tess. it was cold, again, it was beautiful.
the song did not come into existence because the power miraculously kicked back in. i abandoned the roof and went flippety flop back into the kitchen.
the concert was possibly one of the most beautiful things i have ever seen in my life.
there was a giant crack of lightning outside. it started to rain. water pummeled the floor. instead of cleaning it up like a normal person, i recorded the sound and saved it to an instagram story. because it’s been horrible and hard so wouldn’t we all like to be washed away from this pain and suffering? but also asmr and rain? also rain?
i went back and played the next part where ben platt was talking about being jewish and stealing someone’s harry potter book so he could read it. it was still raining.
i wanted cookies.
my uncle made this huge batch during christmas break. i am single handedly saving them from freezer burn.
i went downstairs to grab a plate and shivered because oh m y g o o d n e s s it was so cold. it felt amazing. i went back upstairs and it felt muggy. did not like that.
something clara told me popped up in my head and i took off my headphones, ran back to the roof, and threw myself in the rain. this is also a ben platt reference because he wrote rain and i was belting it at the top of my lungs in the rain in the night and it just felt so right.
i kicked up puddles. and flew. and tipped my imaginary hat and swung my imaginary umbrella, climbed up to a pole, and drawled “i’m singing in the rain”.
“just singing in the rain” this song was written for tenors.
“what a glorious feeling” i am a mezzo-soprano.
“i’m happy again” i was.
i stepped onto the carpeted pieces of the floor and carefully wiped my flip flops and feet, and then i got the rest of the house dirty by singing “better” and invading the fridge for desserts.
i was waiting for my cookies to warm up and listening to the rest of the concert,
and suddenly i got it.
feeling hurt and grieved by the world and what’s happening, anger and injustice, fighting, war, had all been quelled by joy. by wonder. they were still there, but i was able to embrace them instead of letting them overwhelm me.
and in that moment, i think i felt a little bit of love.
from God? i don’t doubt it. from my friends? the words they sent confirm it. from my family? the one that has chosen to be.
but i also think i felt a little love for myself.
and that feels different.
like now i feel like this love is soaking me completely with determination, with dedication, with whatever it takes for this to infect the world.
hate is strong, yes. hate and insensitivity is terrifying and frightening and damaging and concerning. anger is a gas that smokes lives out, only caring to grow itself. apathy has killed more people than all the wars combined.
but have you *seen* love?
do you know what love is capable of?
love is so strong it’s the scariest thing to ever exist in the human heart.
it literally does not hesitate. it will stop at nothing to defend the ones it loves, it will fight, it will kick and scream and shout and protest and dance and in all of these violent, passionate, wise, calm, furious ways, flip off hate in all the ways hate wishes it could do, but hate can’t because hate cares about nothing but itself. love forgets itself and jumps into it, love fights and fights and doesn’t. stop.
love comes after you, and either you run away because you refuse to give it or you run toward because you’re desperate for it.
love is the protest, love is sticking up against the evil rulers, and love is dancing in the rain waiting for cookies to finish heating up singing ben platt songs realizing all of this and accepting it for what it is.
and i wish i could look every one of the killers, the murderers, the haters in the eye and laugh in their faces, dousing them with the thing they hate the most.
this will die. this will end. but what fuels us to kill the death before it begins… love? that’s its own force to be feared at all costs.
it’s still night, and i am so ready to go.
~but i believe that love will win, and hate will earn you nothing in the end, jo~