I watch my two daughters on the baby monitor, praying like hell that they’re finally ready to fall asleep. Reduced to grainy grayscale on the monitor’s screen, they are tiny, occasionally writhing little shapes whose blinking eyes reflect back white and glowing, like something from a low budget horror movie; it’s also, oddly enough, when I feel most profoundly tender towards them. With personalities way outsized to their little bodies during the day, I’m reminded of just how small they really are when they’re sleeping. They’ve been through so much already, survived so much trauma and difficulties, and they still, like all children, remain at the mercy of the world.
On June 1st of this year, someone drove into a crowd of BLM protesters in Medford, Oregon, hitting at least one woman.A few weeks later, multiple eyewitnesses came before the city council of Phoenix, Oregon, twelve miles from Medford, saying the driver of the vehicle was the fucking mayor of Phoenix. And there were two armed militiamen outside the council meeting attempting to intimidate people from speaking.
Listen, there's a lot to hate about this - abuse of power, institutionalized violence committed against peaceful protestors, etc. - but mostly I’m sick to death of the 2A being used as a blanket salve for political intimidation and what amounts to domestic terrorism. From Boogaloo Boys to hardcore anti-gov militiamen to your average dick-swinging shithead in an America, Love It Or Leave It shirt, it's not about freedom at all, really. It's about a bunch of men knowing that military hardware scares people, and using it to say, "I like things just the way they are, and fuck you for trying to change anything." It's not about freedom, or America at all. It’s about control and intimidation and maintaining, at all costs, white supremacy and the status quo.
We were given custody of these two girls about three or four weeks before the coronavirus really heated up in America. We live in a state that took the shelter-in-place order seriously, which means that the girls – aged 2 and 3 when we got them – had about a month to attempt to acclimate to their entire world being flipped upside down before they got locked down, and pretty much just had to hang out with my partner and I. A new city, new preschool for the older one, new friends, new customs and rituals at home, entirely new parents, not to mention the utter decimation that comes along with having your world upended as a foster kid. The older kid got about two weeks’ worth of preschool. And then, boom. Their world imploded once more.
Twenty-five years ago, I went to a party in Seattle and met a young Black kid, a self-described "redneck" named NigNog, if you can believe that shit. (I certainly couldn’t.) It was the name his white redneck friends had given him, and he swore by it. Guy wore a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, reportedly had a personalized license plate on his truck with the name on it. At twenty, twenty-one, you're going through so many identities, just trying to see what fits, you know? But he was committed to it.
We all got drunk at this party, his friends and my friends – I think one of his buddies with a brother of one of the house’s tenants – and at one point we tried to take him aside and say, "Dude. Friends don't call you shit like that. Those aren't good people you’re running with." And his only response, the defining aspect of his friendship with those guys, was "they would back him up in a fight." That was his chosen community. It blew my mind.
As I get older and try to dismantle or even recognize the dynamics of my own inherent racism, I'm drawn back to that guy again and again. On one hand, I understand the necessity of fitting in. Of just doing what you’ve got to do. To live. And I’m not going to pretend to understand anything about the man’s life. It couldn’t have been easy. But how do you combat a narrative like that? How do you offer allyship? Or men like Tiny Toese, an American Samoan who constantly does strong-arm shit for the Proud Boys, and often trucks with actual, straight-up Neo-Nazis. What do you do when peoples' chosen communities are made up of fucking dirtbags whose ideology literally despises them?
I mean, most people are kind of dumb at twenty, but white supremacy is so insidious. Over two decades later, I realize it would've been way more appropriate and impactful to talk to his white friends about the dogshit they were doing. But hell I think about that dude often, and truly wonder what his life is like now.
My wife and I talk to the girls about the police. About how the police hurt people sometimes when the people haven’t done anything wrong.
Our children are not white. We tell them that we will protect them.
We tell them to not be afraid.
Three cops in Aurora, Colorado took some selfies at the place where Elijah McClain was choked and injected with ketamine by police, all of which ultimately killed him. In one of the photos, a cop hooks his arm around another one’s neck, mocking the carotid chokehold that helped kill McClain. The cops are laughing in the pictures.
I can’t stand to repeat them here, but McClain’s last words to the officers who murdered him, they’ll haunt your fucking dreams, man.
I’m a new parent, and the past few months have been a whirlwind. I don’t know – I just find myself embroiled in the fact that there is no shortage of heartache in the world, and ruination, and loss. I’m terrified of the world these children are inheriting. I struggle with hopelessness, with the pointless of trying to resist a machine that is so powerful, resist a system that is so ingrained in its abuse and brutal hierarchies. There will never be a shortage of outrages and tragedies. These kids will face struggles – struggles of race, gender, environment – that I will never even be able to imagine, and yet I’m tasked with preparing them for the world. How does a parent prepare his children for those cops in Aurora? For the grand callousness of that? For the mass genocide of Native Americans? How do I navigate the world that has my children in it, and also has the fucking Boogaloo Boys in it? The Proud Boys? For a simpering fucknut like, say, Stephen Miller being given the power of crafting policies that will literally shape the world? That’s justice?
Rage feels like a responsibility at this point. It feels, also, like tilting at windmills. Foolish beyond words. But what else are you supposed to do?
What other choice is there but to fight the tide?
When white supremacy and violence are both institutional (cops, mayors, elected officials) and boots-on-the-ground (citizenry), what else are you supposed to do? When it’s coming from all sides, and when racism is even ingrained inside you, there’s really no choice but to fight against it all, to dismantle it bit by bit. To just keep trying.