Once White in America
Nation of Change
Jane Lazarre provides a very intimate post-Ferguson view of what it means to her to raise her two black sons in the “afterlife of such a world.” Are we living in a world of American barbarism?
For Adam and Khary
strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
It was 1969 and 1973, both times in early fall, when I first saw your small bodies, rose and tan, and fell in love for the second and third time with a black body, as it is named, for my first love was for your father. Always a word lover, I loved his words, trustworthy, often not expansive, sometimes even sparse, but always reliable and clear. How I — a first-generation Russian-Jewish girl — loved clarity! Reliable words — true words, measured words, filled with fascinating new life stories, drawing me down and in. The second and third times I fell in love with black bodies I became a black body, not Black, but black in a way I’d say without shame and some humor, for mine is dark tan called white. But I am the carrier, I am the body who carried them, released on a river of blood.
Am I black in a cop’s hands when he is pushing, pressing hard for dope or a gun or a rope or a knife or a fist? I am not a black body, yet my body is somehow, somewhere, theirs — Trayvon’s, Emmett’s, thousands more at the end of a rope’s tight murderous swing, black as a night stick splits my head, shatters my chest, black as a boy not yet a man walking toward a man with a gun, suddenly shot dead, a just-become man walking down the stairs toward a gun, black as a tall man, a big man, looking strong but pleading for his breath, killed by choking arms and bodies piled on top of his head.
Walking the sidewalks of my city in the morning, I dodge white dads’ bikes daily, their little toddlers strapped into a back seat, and I don’t mind as riding in the street or wide, traffic-filled avenues does seem a dangerous way to get to nursery school. Later in the morning, when I am still walking, the white fathers or mothers bike by me again, now with the back seats empty. I look around for police, wondering if there will be a ticketing for riding on the sidewalk, since no child’s safety is at stake. No cops in sight. My great-nephew, young and black and not fully grown, was stopped and handcuffed by police a month ago for riding his bike on the sidewalk, his often glazed eyes glazing more deeply now…
Read the entire article here.