I’m Tired Of Arguing That I Matter

There’s something demoralizing about having to make the case that you matter.

Yet somehow, it’s all I’ve been doing since Friday night when the events in Charlottesville began.

It leaves little time to process my own hurt and fear as a black person in a profoundly racist moment. Instead, I must go on the offensive. How can I convince the skeptics and equivocators, my friends and neighbors, that yes, the concerns of Americans with darker skin or Jewish surnames are as important as their own? But someone has to do it, or this will happen again.

There is the patient arguing of facts that should be indisputable: no, the Klan members and neo-Nazis marching with torches and shields are not equivalent to the clergy, ordinary citizens, activists and even “anti-fascists” who protested 100_1708_thumb[1]against them. No, there weren’t “many sides” that were equally violent. In fact, violence—the belief that people of color are inferior and should be removed to create a white ethnic state—is the animating philosophy of the white supremacists marching in front of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue. Opposing that violence is in no way comparable to the violence itself, and it is disgraceful of the president to say so.

Then there are the analogies, the individual stories, all the more painful for being constantly retold: no—I can’t just “get over it,” because I can’t just take off my dark skin, which permanently marks me as the other. No, they aren’t “just statues”: They bring up personal, painful memories of current racism and marginalization—shall I recount those for you, again? Yes, the fact that Charlottesville’s marchers were willing to mow down protesters and kill an innocent person feels existentially threatening to me, a black woman, the sort of person who is their real target.

The more I explain, the more depressing it becomes. Because there is little so disheartening as having to argue for why your friends, neighbors and countrymen should care about your life. To ask politely why you aren’t valued and propose that they reconsider.

Because that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? Does our nation care about its blacks, its Jews, its people of color? How much are their comfort and their safety worth? Are they worth more than the satisfaction that comes with being able to make a dig at “identity politics” and your left-leaning movement of choice? More than a flag or statue that you have some pleasant association with, if any at all? More than your unwarranted commitment to defending an obviously incompetent president? More than the minuscule possibility that hiding out in a pack of Nazis might have been one “very fine” person who shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush?

Each time I allow myself to argue with an obdurate, defensive person about what happened in Charlottesville, or about what Confederate statues mean and why they should go, my own question becomes more obvious. Why would so many Americans rather undergo one million mental contortions than admit that someone else’s safety matters? Why is it so hard for you to care?

The answer, I think, is not one that I’ll like. But perhaps you can take up the burden of explaining that to me.

Christine Emba

5 Responses to “I’m Tired Of Arguing That I Matter”

  1. 1 janis August 19, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Yeah, Why? It’s a Crying Shame.

    • 2 bluenred August 20, 2017 at 9:59 am

      The decision of many leftists to maintain an equal distance is inexcusable. The imperative to oppose racism trumps opposition to neoliberal policies.

      A more confident left used to understand that our humanism compelled us to stop the xenophobes from getting their hands on the levers of state power, particularly the police and security forces. Just like in the 1940s, we have a duty to ensure that the state’s monopoly over the legitimate use of violence is not controlled by those who harbour violent sentiments toward the foreigner, the cultural or sexual minority member, the “other.”

      The belief in the state’s checks and balances, and in the idea that the rule of law would prevent turning state power against the vulnerable, is not one that the left can risk entertaining. Trump confirms this.

      Yanis Varoufakis

  2. 3 santera hoochie September 12, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    It’s really very disturbing to think of it in the very stark terms framed by the author. Of course we don’t matter to a great many whites and have never mattered except for the value of our forced labor, slavery, and the many ways we have helped them, involuntarily, build the nation we live in today.

    My feeling on this, honestly, is that we’re perceived as disposable people because they can’t force us to their wills, not by their means and by their ends to work until we drop to make them money, and also supply them with our blood, bones, violence, fear. All of these and more have been stolen, but we cannot give back to them the fear they controlled us with until well into the Civil Rights Movement.

    We’re good enough for each other and the woke white. Always have been. It may seem like a cold comfort until you consider that whites aren’t generally all-accepting of one another and divide by socioeconomics. Some blacks (high echelon Uncle Ben comes to mind) are allowed to do this as well.

    But I’ll stick with my Nana’s advice from when I was about 4 years old and teary-eyed over being excluded from some party the other church girls were invited to. “What they do isn’t for you. But you got the biggest family in the world, child. Dry them tears on your face now.” She was right. Until we are fully prepared to force the issue and demand that this nation honors the long-default promissory note Dr. King spoke of in the Dream speech, or until “all the colors bleed into one,” this is the way it is for many of us, if not most of us.

    • 4 bluenred September 19, 2017 at 6:57 am

      American white people have no idea how small their little party really is. There are more Han Chinese on the planet, than there are white people. White people are, like, a freckle, on the world human body.

  3. 5 santera hoochie September 12, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    In a sense, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

    This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

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When I Worked

August 2017

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