Tuesday, May 7, 2013

0 Terror in America: A Suite in Black and Brown

            On April 15, 2013, just after 3pm, getting home from a lazy day in the dining hall, I was 9 years old again and it was the second day of school. Early September of 2001, I had just moved out of my Los Angeles suburb and was commuting two hours to school every morning. California traffic satiated by colorful conversations over spelling word with my mommy. It was the terror in my mother’s face as her mother calls her before western sunrise. My mother turns on the radio, for the first time. The red Ford Explorer which had carried us from Baldwin Hills to Pasadena to the Valley to Church and beyond had never required the radio. Static turned to reggaeton to voices. Terse and cold and relating the news. Terror attacks in New York City and Washington DC. We knew nothing of safety. My aunt, who worked in the second tower. My uncle who lived less than 2 miles from the Pentagon.  I didn’t know what terror was or who it looked like. News radio, on repeat creating solutions, and images of terror. The radio stayed silent for the next 12 years and the news was an occasional torture. On April 15, 2013, just after 3pm, getting home from a lazy day in the dining hall, I was 8 days from turning 21, and trauma swallowed me back to prepubescent terror. Back to before I knew the terror that I carried on my back.
I learned how dangerous my body was in the formidable years when after terror convinced America to “unify”. My mom didn’t want me to live in fear of flying so I went to my Uncle’s in DC for winter break just months after terror was painted brown in my purview. Just months later, I was boarding an airplane. This biannual feat had become and easy routine but this time I carried more than my Lakers duffle with a week’s worth of winter clothes. I carried terror in child’s small purple and gold hoodie.
For the first time white hands examined my body. I learned the difference between touch and frisk, and that Brown bodies meant Black Bodies. I was 10 then and unaware of the terror I carried. In 2011, 684,000 Black and Brown men were stopped and frisked in New York City (this figure unfortunately erasing the thousands of Black and Brown women and queer person). Thousands of black and brown bodies carrying terror. Black and Brown bodies are the backdrop of media concentrated, politically moderated news. On April 15, 2013, just after 3pm, getting home from a lazy day in the dining hall, I saw white terror fade to black.
We have been living in a year of white terror. From Connecticut suburbia, to Wisconsin faith centers, to Mile-High City massacres. And for a moment white terror swept the nation. For a moment. It began as white faces, in loop, under baseball caps, on newsreels. Unknown were the terrors on their backs, sitting in the wings. White brothers became Russian, became Eastern European, and became Brown Bodies. Their names butchered and charred by local news and colored as terror, as brown. They interview Black and Brown bodies to classify and categorize this new problem with race and terror. When white bodies hold brown terror, what do we do? It fits so nicely on premature Black boys in Los Angeles Airports. On Brown families in Arizona for looking illegal. On countless colored bodies. Your terror fits on them.
I do not discredit the nationalism that swept America in 2001 and Boston in recent weeks. I love Boston; its complicated histories and present day problems. But Boston and this nation in times of terror will return to the bodies on which it fits. We live in a world where a Charles Ramsey, is genuinely dumbfounded when a terrorized white woman ran to him for help. Where Kiera Wilmot’s curiosity is criminalized and silenced. Where potentially exonerating DNA evidence is not used for Willie Jerome Manning on death row.  On April 15, 2013, just after 3pm, getting home from a lazy day in the dining hall, I was reminded how terror fits on my body. On my frame, in my hoodie, in my locs. At all moments, bodies of color, female bodies, queer bodies carry the terror.
How do we carry the terror? We nurture it in ways only we know how. We sip wine and listen to Erykah preach. We download Chance the Rapper and blog about it. We find girlfriends to watch a whole season of Basketball wives. We practice self-care both political and personal. We breathe in our own ways. We heal in our own ways. Consider the terrors you carry, the bodies you place terror on and the healing that your body may need.


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