5 min read

There is no "them."

Now, lissen...

Let’s start with the wisdom legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks:

(Author’s Note: to make sure I relay these ideas as honestly as possible, this is written in a combination of my home languages: standard English and Black Vernacular English. If you think my grammar/spelling is wrong, it’s cz you don’t know my language… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

I am a cultural worker. Raised by artists, I been known I was an artist my whole life.

Community organizing was like church - I was raised around it, strayed away from it when I got older and eventually found my way back to it.

Now I’m a parent trying to figure out how to transmit the culture of struggles for justice to free Black children.

I am a queer, neurodivergent woman, navigating intersections and resisting oppression.

You have to understand, though: before I knew any of that about myself, I knew I was Black.

I’m Black, y’all.

I am a dark skinned Black woman, with all the rights and privileges therein. All that disregard and invisibility, all the microaggressions and overt insults, the colorism and masculinization, and all the underestimation and inexplicable hostility… I’m Blackity-Black and I’m Black, y’all.

So when I talk about the injustice of apartheid that the nation of Israel forces upon the people of Palestine, and when I acknowledge the white supremacy that drives it, it’s WILD to me that people (who usually happen to be white) seriously think they can correct my thinking about this. Like, what? Y’all got too much nerve. How many of y’all of European origin just got the memo that microaggressions are real? And yet here y’all are, telling me not to believe the MACROaggressions that I can see with my own eyes. Please. My parents taught me about apartheid in South Africa when I was in 3rd grade. I’m not new to this.

The first time I actually had an argument with a Zionist about the injustice of Palestinian occupation was years ago with a liberally-minded woman of European ancestry. Forcing people from their homes and lands and then claiming their property didn’t seem complicated to me; that’s wrong and unjust and I said so. Her response? She told me that if that was true, I am guilty as well, because I occupy land in the United States and occupation makes my life possible. Biiiiiiiiiiiitch, what?

“Do not ever presume to tell me that I am responsible for what white colonizers did to the Indigenous people of this land. Your ancestors and my ancestors did NOT arrive here in the same way, or for the same reasons.”

Cz I’m Black, y’all. Forreal, tho.

Have I been to Palestine? No. I been to the west and south sides of Chicago, and seen how police officers endanger, threaten and end Black lives with impunity. I’ve lived life as a second class citizen, and my second class citizenship has been written into laws for generations. I am a mother of Black children who has intervened to prevent the arrests of Black children of other Black parents because I don’t trust police (many trained in Israel) with Black babies’ lives (and yes, I call them babies, because in every one of those circumstances they were already being treated like adults). I don’t need to be Palestinian to be in solidarity with Palestinians. Neither empathy or care require sameness.

In the months after my older child was born there was an attack on Palestine, I did not know about the Balfour Declaration or the Nakba, or the blue and green cards people carry to make segregation easier - I learned about those things later. That year, I learned that the world would watch hell rain down on unarmed people and act as though nothing was happening. New mamahood had me flush with oxytocin, with pure protection running through my veins and the idea of new moms hiding in basements or running through the streets with their babies in their arms while bombs fell around them created a crisis in my nervous system. Eight years later, when Mike Brown was killed in Ferguson and his killer saw no accountability, that nervous system crisis reemerged with the same potency of desperation that I felt in 2006: The vertigo of realizing the starkness of my vulnerability: however comfortable I felt, I was still prey. That we are all prey, legal to hunt, and that we’ve been inches from the mouth of the predator this whole time, ignorant of the danger.

The thing that stalks Gazans on the sidewalks of their own neighborhoods shares a hunger with the thing that watches me from inside police force SUVs. The creature that calls the police on groups of Black children to get them detained is the same kind that points drones at children branded as threats to Israel’s existence. It is the same kind of beast, and when its growls unfurl such similar worst-case scenarios into our imaginations, there is no “them.” It’s ‘us’ and ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘together.’

I believe in our solidarity. Gaslighting cannot remove the lessons Blackness has taught us. Talking points full of misinformation cannot change our muscle memory or inherited learning. I will not be bullied out of my empathy or solidarity with threats of being called names; people have been calling me out my name for my entire natural life. I know who I am and I know that my care for humanity is fierce and non-negotiable.

I want you to know that I believe in you, too. I believe in your courage and your ability to show up. I believe in our power and that we can find ways to keep each other safe.

To close, I offer these words that I shared at a recent protest where we collectively demanded that our local legislators join the call for a ceasefire in Gaza:

“Solidarity to my Palestinian siblings. I live in this town, pay property taxes and do what I can to be a good neighbor. I am proud to raise my voice against injustice, apartheid and genocide. A government that approves of those harms does not represent me and cannot pretend to protect me. I reject any white supremacist suggestion that I do not have a stake or a voice in this.

I know that people are in the crosshairs of annihilation in this country. Our oppression is a matter of policy, too.

I already know that acknowledgement of my humanity as a Black, queer woman was not offered, but wrestled from cruel, greedy, power-hungry hands.

I am well aware that any movements that have resulted in laws that offer me the slightest bit of protection were branded in the past as terrorist, unpatriotic, dangerous, and violent. Those movements were unpopular with legislators and leaders who thought of themselves as reasonable or “forward thinking.”

I see that the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ has been derided as hate speech and threats, like the call, ‘From the river to the sea…’

I know that the poem ‘Enemy of the Sun’ written by Samith al-Qasim was found in Black Panther George Jackson’s prison cell, and the suppression of Black liberation resonates so closely with the long struggle in Palestine that the poem was misattributed to the Black Panther.

I am very much informed by my own history. My own ancestors. The lessons of my own parents and community. By what my people have been through. The idea that someone could gaslight me about what oppression and racism look, sound, and smell like is laughable. Zionists believe they can use Jedi mind tricks and tell me what I see with my own eyes is not real. You are not Jedi, Zionists! You are Sith! You are Empire!

Gaza, West Bank, Palestine: You have my love and solidarity.”

(Photo courtesy of Love + Struggle Photos, Sarah-Ji Rhee)