After Thursday

by Tamuira Reid

It is almost midnight here in New York City, and I’ve been sitting at my dining room table for the past eight hours with my finger on the “send” button. Each time, I freeze, regroup, take another sip of coffee, sneak a cigarette out on the fire escape where my son won’t see me. Because I know I have to scrap the essay I wrote for this week. The one I wrote before Thursday. The one that I can’t stand to look at now. “Dating During Covid”.

Every single thing I do feels like a betrayal. A privilege. Everything I do feels white.

Writing about anything other than the Capitol feels wrong. Writing about the Capitol as the events process and take shape in my white mind feels wrong. Writing is a kind of performance, here, in this intellectualized virtual space. What gives me access to this stage? What the hell do I know? What makes my voice so special?

I cannot write my way out of this.

There are voices that need to be heard right now, listened to, learned from. I am not one of them. Not now. Not yet. I have not done the work. I know I am full of feelings; big ones, shameful ones, stupid ones. Feelings that have ignited after a long, slow burn. But feelings, my feelings, are not relevant here. I am a white woman holding space for no one but myself.

I don’t want to hear my voice. I don’t want to hear any white voices. Just for five minutes, an hour, a day, a week. I want us to stop filling the pages that do not belong to us and give them back to their rightful owners. To stop acting like dutiful interpreters of a language we aren’t fluent in. To shut-up and bear witness. To take responsibility. To realize that being a nice white liberal with black and brown friends does not make you an anti-racist.

I can’t say I hurt for you. I can’t say seeing a confederate flag inside our Capitol building and a noose erected out front made me cry for you. I can’t say if the protestors were black they would have been shot long before their bodies were even close enough to cast a shadow on a building they would never have been able to reach in the first place.

I can’t say these things because I don’t get to. I can’t say these things because I have no right to. Because my pain is, and should remain, irrelevant. My pain should not be another white burden for you to shoulder. My pain is not useful because it is self-serving.

I cannot write my way out of this. Only into it. 

Nice White America: we have to be willing to make sacrifices that hurt.

We can’t say we are horrified by city-wide housing evictions during the pandemic, from the comfort of our living rooms, in the buildings we have now gentrified. We can’t tell our black feminist friends, we are with you, while we pick our kids up from a school theirs cannot go to. We can’t watch white supremacists posing as constitutionalists and think that we are any better simply because we didn’t vote for Trump. We can’t say Black Lives Matter if we aren’t willing to put them before our own.