Over both of the last two nights Angelica and i have spent a couple of hours at Siesta Key Beach around midnight in Sarasota FL. Sarasota is a town of 60K which my guess brushes up closer to 100K over the Thanksgiving holiday, with kids and grand kids coming to visit their less mobile older relatives. Siesta Key is considered by many to be one of the most lovely beaches in the world, with fine white sands and good facilities. There are literally thousands of condo and housing units within a few hundred yards of the beach for a very long stretch. Unlike Virginia Beach, the water is warm enough to walk through it barefoot indefinitely during the night this time of year.
Both nights on the beach there was no one else there.
Siesta Key Beach
Sarasota does have an impressive array of shopping centers, malls and strip malls. These are busy when ever they are open. I find myself thankful i only visit here. At my big Thanksgiving meal today i sat across from someone who leads mountain climbing exhibitions around the world who said,
I like fracking, because it means I can take explosives through my airport security easily.
Apparently she uses explosives for avalanche control.
Apparently this is a thing, who knew?
This holiday i am thankful for Ferguson. Not the murder of Michael Brown or witness DeAndre Joshua, of course, nor the clearly contestable Grand Jury verdict. What i am instead appreciating is the explosion of media attention on the homicides by the police of unarmed people of color in the US. Murder is the largest cause of death of black males between 15 and 34 at 40%. White males of the same age range died at a 3.8% rate. And in response to the Grand Jury verdict there have been mixed race protests in at least 37 locations across the nation. And i am thankful for my inspirational allies, including Jeff Winder, who very nearly got arrested with us at the UVa anti-rape protest. Jeff does what no one else seems to be able to do at the Wayside Center where he works, which is to do organizing both from the secular community and the spiritually based one, on the same issues. And Wayside is able to build resistance movements with people of color and whites working together on the same issues. I had hoped to spend my couple of hours in jail last week talking with him. But i am confident there will be another chance to talk, likely when both of us are getting arrested at the same action or at a court hearing. Jeff’s rant below is not your classic holiday fluff. But i appreciate the he puts it out and want to repost it.
Jeff at Work
Ruminations of a white guy drinking alone on a fucked up excuse for a holiday Happy Thanksgiv . . . no! I won’t say it. Because now that I know the truth that just sounds like “Fuck You” to indigenous people, to descendants of enslaved peoples, to people forced to immigrate across lands that are ancestrally theirs. I can’t bring myself to celebrate a holiday that encourages us to gorge ourselves on more food than we need while we celebrate a lie – a lie that makes us forget our homes, our country, our lives, our jobs, everything that we have is built on genocide and slavery.
No shade on people who gather under another name, who do what they need to do to get through another celebration of this awful, depressing, soul-sucking lie. But I can’t do it this time.
This year I can’t sit comfortably and be grateful for the loved ones in my life, because I know the presence of these loved ones in my life is an unearned privilege. I will not insult the family of Sage Smith, the family of Michael Brown, the families of all the people gunned down by cops, locked up in private prisons or immigrant detention centers ripped apart from their families when this capitalist system could make more money by doing so than by exploiting their labor here by posting a facebook status about how grateful I am for my loved ones because that would not be a revolutionary subversion of this capitalist, revisionist, violent holiday but rather a celebration that I have by unearned privilege what should be a basic right for all.
This week I heard firsthand, up close and personal when the father of Sage Smith told a community gathered in support that the cville police department did a half-assed job on the search for his black transgender working class loved one while putting all resources and concern into the search for cis, white university students. This week I was almost arrested for shouting “burn it down” on the steps of a frat house that was exposed as the site of a pattern of gang rapes that the university covered up. Upper class “concerned” people tried to shut me down for saying it and had the gall to tell rape survivors to stuff their anger because “anger never solves anything.” This week, instead of joining trusted comrades in the streets to rage, to rise up, to stand in solidarity with people in Ferguson who have the courage to rebel when the system says it is ok for cops to gun down unarmed black men in their community . . . Instead, I stayed home and held my teenage son in my arms as he sobbed uncontrollably. . . his depression a byproduct of this fucked up culture that we are all supposed to celebrate.
So fuck thanksgiving and christmas and easter and any other holiday that is engineered to make me forget, to let it be ok just for one day . . . because we know better – deep down inside all of us do. And the things that we have to do to make ourselves believe the lies are the causes of most of the alcoholism and drug abuse and “mental illness” and domestic abuse that exists in white culture. I mean really, what kind of a fucked up person could be well-adjusted to a world like this?
I wonder what it was like to gather together for holidays and celebrations to mark the passing of the seasons when we actually had a culture . . .to console ourselves at the end of the warmth and the approach of winter by gathering with beloved community to share the abundance of the season we are shedding. What was it like to comfort ourselves as the days got shorter and greyer and colder by pulling close with loved ones around a fire to share warmth and music and stories that sustained us? What was it like before every holiday had been coopted, twisted, turned into an occasion to whitewash and sanitize the demented history and bloody current reality our livelihoods are built on? To make us forget, prop up the denial that we spend our precious life energy maintaining, to sugar coat the deal with the devil so that we can continue to believe that we have what we have because we worked hard and we deserve it?
When will we realize that this is no way to live? If basic compassion and human decency is not enough, when will we realize that to rise up and rebel is not an act of generosity but the only hope of survival for ourselves, too?
In the post above, where I talk about not joining trusted comrades to rage in the streets in the wake I Ferguson, that wasn’t the honest way to describe that. I should have said “instead of showing up to offer support to organized efforts by people of color who took to the streets locally to rage, to rise up, to stand in solidarity with people in Ferguson.’ Because that is the truth. And since we live in a white supremacist culture, for me to not explicitly acknowledge that is to make their organizing in defense of their own community invisible. I will post this everywhere that this status was re-posted in hopes that it will be seen. Probably too little too late. Unlearning white supremacy is an ongoing process for me and I still fuck up all the time. My apologies and much respect to Operation Social Equality, the UVA Black Student Association and the Anarchist People of Color Collective, the groups who quickly organized an incredibly powerful response to the verdict.