Ceres Magazine Issue 4 - Fall 2016 - Page 45

I got into a car accident recently. The first thing I did, after pulling to the side of the road, was to pick up my phone to dial 911. The second thing I did, as I waited for an operator to answer, was to say a silent prayer that the officer who arrives at the scene isn’t a racist or a homophobe. The third thing I did was to remind myself that it was imperative that I keep my composure so that I wasn’t perceived as a threat. It is my experience that simply being a large Black person who reads as male often makes people feel threatened.

As a Queer, Black, Trans person living in Los Angeles, I do my very best to avoid breaking any laws. It is terrifying to me to think about a night (or longer) in jail. Because my performance of gender is what I like to call “gender noncompliant,” or trans, there is a good chance any jail or prison time would be spent in solitary confinement. It is horrifying to think that someone whose job is to protect and serve might kill me with impunity, and without consequence because I am Black or my gender/sexuality is confusing. My past experience interacting with police officers has been mostly positive, but it only takes one racist or homophobic/transphobic and unscrupulous cop to end my life. I don’t have a reasonable expectation of safety any more. I just have to have faith that my time on this Earth won’t end with a hate crime.

The “Black Lives Matter” movement is incredibly important, given the White Nationalism that has been festering since President Obama first hit the campaign trails. I remember thinking, after seeing his DNC speech in 2004, that Senator Obama was a force to be reckoned with. He had all of the polished grace that every Black parent in this country has ever wanted for their children. Since the day African slaves set foot upon this continent, it has been the Black person’s charge to make White people feel comfortable in exchange for relative safety. The minute Senator Obama made a break for the White House, the racists started getting uncomfortable. The voters who were on Team Obama clearly found him incredibly safe and comforting. Now that we’ve had a few years of watching him make incredible strides (against formidable odds) toward making this country a better place for disenfranchised folks, the White Nationalism has come to a head. Honestly, racism never died in the US. It was, however, much better hidden in microaggresions and clandestine nighttime meetings of hooded men and women.

The value of the 24-hour news cycle, and a much wider dissemination of information online, is that there can be no doubt about just how often Black people are beaten or killed without provocation or railroaded into jail and prison cells. I have faith that this awareness and the Black Lives Matter movement will bring about a unity, not just among Black people, but among all disenfranchised people and their allies. Uniting to lead with loving kindness and a genuine regard for life, in all its many incarnations, is the only way to set a precedent for change.

Photo: Cael Marcus Edwards.

45 | Ceres Magazine | Fall 2016