VACATION PLANS (REPOST – originally posted March 2017)
We walk through life privy to conversations that mean nothing to us as we pass along on sidewalks, sit in cafes, cue on bank and grocery lines, and generally go about the mundane activities that make up daily life. Occasionally though bits and parts of conversations stick to us and with us. This post is about one such conversation which took place on November 8, 2016.
In my post-voting haze of the early morning (I was at the voting poles at 6:30 am), I darted through the streets of Manhattan trying to keep my mind focused on the topic I was to discuss at an early morning meeting. The thick and toxic political environment of the political campaign had taken its toll on everyone in my circle of friends. And, though I had no illusion about it ending at any in the near future, I did have moments of dreaming that occasionally the edges would not feel so hard. In any case, it was a sunny day and I had done what I could.
As I moved to the streets, I overheard a short conversation between (what I imagined to be) a mother and her young daughter.
Daughter: Mom did you vote?
Mother: Yes, I did?
Daughter: How do you know who to vote for?
Mother: We sometimes its hard, but today I voted for the person who would allow the family to have nice summer vacations. This way we can see more of daddy.
Daughter: Uh… Are we going to have a nice vacation? Will we get to spend more time with daddy.
Mother: I hope so. If the right person wins we will get to to have a long vacation.
In my mind I frequently imagine the undertow of this exchange between mother and daughter. Who did mommy vote for? Are they having/planning a nice vacations? Has anything in the political moment inspired the daughter or mother to reflect on this voting conversation? What price are we willing to pay for a ‘nice’ vacation? What price are we comfortable in asking others to pay? What price are we (African Diaspora people and their allies) paying for the vacations of others? Is ‘Daddy’ home yet?
Below are posts from 2015. Maybe these are also payment for some family’s vacation, as well as the dismal COVID 19 Response, Black and Brown deaths from COVID 19, and (even in the time of worldwide BLM protests) the ongoing mass shootings of Black Bodies.
In less than 3 weeks, the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church that resulted in the loss of 9 lives, 8 African American churches burnt to the ground, and 20 African American women pastors receive daily death threats… And still I meet people on these torrid grounds who proclaim that “there is no racism, these are not racist acts, they are just coincidental occurrences”. One has to wonder… There are two book I plan to re-read together in the next few weeks, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. I think it will be an interesting conversation.
Having recently returned to reside in the U.S. after several years abroad I am taken aback by the sheer level of daily human carnage. This rising mass of dead black bodies is ritually accompanied by flimsy excuses that pass as ‘just causes’; and what’s more these excuses are actually hotly debated, giving them levels of validity that would otherwise be unthinkable. From my current vantage point post-racial U.S. looks like a field in which black bodies are dynamically vulnerable to the whims of those comforted by the institutionalized racial discourses that prop up identities of ‘claimed’ superiority and indignant righteousness.
In this atmosphere children of African descent are gunned down, thrown to the ground, arrested for being outraged and mourning the death of siblings, family members, friends; men of African descent are shot in the back, the head, basically shot dead (well… just because); women of African descent are sexually and physically assaulted by the loved ones and those who do not love them or the color of their skin, and they are killed/murdered (again, well just because). Just because it is the fashion, the morally reprehensible thing to do to prop up normative racial privilege, manhood, and ‘authority’. The acts of violent violations are regularly perpetuated by those envisage to protect U.S. citizens. The daily consumption of heinous forms of violence against the black body appears to outpace the hunger for sugar, salt, and coffee. At this current pace, what will this nation be in 5 years, 10 years, or generation?
Billie Holiday’s centennial birthday and the ‘celebratory’ invocation of her renowned Strange Fruit make this moment in U.S. history more poignant as yet another Black son/brother/nephew/friend is added to the ever-growing list of persons killed for living while Black. North, South, East, and West of the land Black blood and flesh are fertilizing yet another generation of trees from which Strange Fruit are set to bear by the gun or the noose. The killing has been rampant; and so too are the shame, excuses, disregard, denial, all in an effort to make sense of the killings. But, when can anyone make sense of addictive actions and responses?
What can U.S. southern trees tell about the life and histories of African Americans in the United States? What dangerous happenings took place in the whisper of darkness under these trees, on their branches, against their trunks? What made their leaves on shiver and shake as blood watered their roots? As U.S. Black History Month begins, I am compelled to reflect on the recent loss of lives, livelihood, and dreams at the altar of isms. If the trees could talk, would they too stand in silent protest against the atrocities perpetrated against the Black bodies? Or, would they violently uproot themselves unleashing the sanctified blood of Black ancestors?
Copyright © 2020 Carol Marie Webster, All Rights Reserved