It’s funny (and by that I mean absolutely not) that I’m writing to you. What with you not actually existing and all. You’re kinda like that Russell Crowe movie. Where he talks to all those people who aren’t really there. #spoiler. But in some weird twisted way, only *you* see you. And your visibility made possible by your own gaze is quite dangerous. Don’t ask me why I just started singing the MJ track by that name. I get silly when I’m sleepy, it’s after midnight and this is the second time 53% of your cousins and their husbands kept me awake this week. It’s only Monday. They basically said f*ck my sleep. And by extension my morning workout session. They don’t want my abs to be great. Can’t say “great again” because they were never great to begin with. See what I did there? I digress.
Anyway, Aly. Can I call you Aly? This has been quite a few months for you. I know you’ve been busy planning marches and coordinating your outfits to match your safety pins so I’ll make this quick (Baptist preacher quick so pull up a seat). See the reality is that none of that means anything. I know. I know. You put a lot of time and energy into those things. Because you care about the cause. Which brings me to my next point.
How 👏🏾you 👏🏾care 👏🏾about 👏🏾the 👏🏾 cause 👏🏾but 👏🏾 get 👏🏾 silent 👏🏾when 👏🏾 folks👏🏾 in 👏🏾 front 👏🏾 of👏🏾you 👏🏾 being 👏🏾 oppressed? Ok, I went in with the hand claps but I also had to make a point since I done told you I bet not catch you clapping ‘less you at church. Yup. Another thing that I can do and you can’t. And there actually should have been two claps each for the words “about” “silent” and “being” but you probably didn’t know that. Which is why you ain’t got no business punctuation clapping in the first place. I digressed again, didn’t I?
Back on track. So I’m awake. At 1am. And I’m not really thinking about the racist white woman on the train last week. Or the racist white men who called me racist for pointing out their racism this morning. I’m lying in my bed and I’m thinking about you, Aly. No, not like that. My love liberation is hella melanin infused. But with both those instances and the many things sandwiched between them, from microaggressions to the murder of Jordan Davis and the incarceration of Bresha Meadows, you stood idly by. Of course, there was that time you retweeted Jesse Williams but when it comes to everyday acts of violence and oppression, you be silent, Aly. (It’s ok, I’ll wait until you’re done asking the Google about Bresha. Be right here when you get back.) Ready?
Thing is Aly, I ain’t heard from you! And not in the Reba McEntire sense of you picking up the phone to call me but in the sense that you go quiet when it comes to issues that impact folks who look, live and love like me. I used to think that maybe you just didn’t have it in you to speak loudly and proudly about your antiracist stance. Thought perhaps you were a little shy about confronting homophobia head on. Figured you were nervous about discussing immigration policies you simply didn’t understand. But as you sat there on the metro train while that white woman treated me like I was not human, as you sat idly by while your Facebook Klan tag teamed calling me racist for calling out their privilege, I remembered something. Remembered all the times you told me (privately, of course) that discrimination was wrong. Remembered all the pics and videos of you at the women’s march. And it occurred to me that you do indeed have a voice. That you will use that voice to speak out when you believe your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is at stake. That you can be loud and proud about resisting sexism. Saw all your back teeth as you screamed for the protection of your right to choose. I saw that you had it in you. So imagine my surprise when the cat suddenly had your tongue in the face of my oppression. Picture my shock when I realized your outside voice would not be used for outsiders.
And I know some of this isn’t your fault. ‘Cept for the fact that all of this is. But you’ve been getting by with lip service intersectionality so you didn’t anticipate being called to actually protect Black, Brown, LGBTQ, immigrant, poor, and disabled bodies. You’ve gotten quite good at just saying the words because otherwise no one would come to your party. You’ve mastered surrounding yourself with marginalized folks when it suits your purpose but you’ll do a 180 on those same folks, start talking about symptoms and ignoring systemic disease. Get your Miley on. We won’t miss you.
But here’s the thing, Al. Can I call you Al? I’m tired. Exhausted. Drained. And I ain’t got it in me to be checking for your problematic behavior. Right now I need Aaron and Hur ‘nem type of allies. Folks who gon’ hold my arms up when the patriarchy got me worn out before 8am. You willing to go back to back with me, Al? You ready to square up on the patriarchy? Watch my back? Watch my front when my eyes are filled with tears and I can’t even see the ism in front of me but I feel it all the same? All rhetorical. Because time and time again, you’ve shown me that you are only interested in fighting with and for me when my oppression overlaps yours. I ain’t got time for your liberation leftovers.
Al, sometimes people in your life just have to go. Sometimes it’s a gradual growing apart and no one realizes it’s happening. And sometimes it’s a #DiddyCrop situation. I ain’t calling you a Kardashian Jenner but if the boxer braids fit, take them out your gaht damn head and stop appropriating culture. Ain’t you learned nothing?
It’s a little cliché but it works in this case. There is no space for lukewarm advocacy. No room for straddling the fence. You are either actively working against my oppression, actively being complicit in the same or actively oppressing me. Your failure to check your cousins’ privileged dialogue at the dinner table? Complicity. Same for the xenophobic Facebook threads you let continue on your page. Your continued centering of yourself? Active oppression. Getting to the table and negotiating my liberty in exchange for your own? Active oppression. Failing to name the violence that is racism when displayed in front of you? Active oppression. You thought that one was gonna be complicity, didn’t you? Because you think silence is anything less than violent. You would be wrong.
So yes, Al. This is a Dear John letter of sorts. It’s not me, it’s absolutely you. No, I don’t want to be friends. Ain’t gon’ be no equitable distribution of property neither. I get everything. Call it reparations. After all, you still get to walk away with all that privilege. Maybe sometime soon you’ll start using it for someone and something other than yourself. If you look up one day and think that you are, don’t bother tagging me in your Instagram pics because you’ll almost certainly still be doing it wrong. Especially if the picture includes you and Officer Smiley. And one or both of you is wearing a pink pussy hat.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired,
Moses (in need of Aaron and Hur ‘nem type allies)