DISCLAIMER: The opinions, point of views, and experiences in this post are mine (Belinda Sacco’s). They do not necessily reflect the views of others in Beloved Streets of America.
Her name was Fire. She had a laugh like a jazz song, a bass so sweet you almost missed the blues underneath. Her poetry and her friendship caught me like a moth in a flame, and I never enjoyed burning so much. We talked of love, poetry, and hate crimes. We’d seethe together about Mike Brown’s death and Dylann Roof’s rampage. Her, because she had to watch herself die again and again. Me, because I was tired of watching her die and because it was refreshing to be angry about something besides myself. There was something wrong with the world, and this time it wasn’t rooted in my loneliness.
Fire taught me about black on purpose, white privilege, and lived intertextuality . Because of her, I learned colorblindness is a band-aid on an infected leg America should have amputated a long time ago. I learned hatred is both taught and inherited. I learned ignorance and hatred are twins, and one is just as dangerous as the other.
Teaching me these things was never her job, but she did it. She said, “One day, you could make a great ally.”
I did not learn what being an ally meant until it was too late. I wasn’t always a perfect friend. There were times when I let myself forget her lessons, times I didn’t defend her when I should have, times I let my own mistrust and fear of betrayal cloud my vision. She was angry in these instances and called me out. I apologized and she acted time and again as if all were forgiven only to later scold me for it in front of mutual friends.
Her traumas had hardened her. I became over time just another symbol of an ease and fragility she would never have and she became another person whose expectations I wasn’t living up to. We hurt each other over and over until we could no longer call one another a friend.
However, without her friendship, I would still be blind. I would still meet every uprising against injustice with silence instead of support. So, for her, I give thanks. For all the brave people of color striving to redefine what black means in a world hinging on its negative stereotypes, I give thanks.
Because, no, the racism we live with today is not the same one that plagued Selma and got MLK shot, but it is a child of it, and it must not continue. Desegregating our schools and careers does nothing if people of color are only welcome in certain neighborhoods. Black children holding hands with white children doesn’t mean anything if the black children are scared for their lives every day. Martin Luther King’s work is not done. But all of us at Beloved Streets of America shall continue it.
Because, yes, it is a black thing, but it’s also the right thing.
Featured image by He Who Laughs Last