My mother thinks I love her.
During one of our long rambling conversations about who died in our hometown and her trying to make me remember Miss Cora (who, I am apparently supposed to recall when she bought me a lollipop in the Piggly Wiggly when I was 3 years old...you know, she drove that blue car and was on Mt. Zion’s usher board) I must have mentioned that I had a sewing machine that I don’t use. My mother’s sewing machine is broken and I almost forgot that I promised to send her my old one.
But instead of going into the basement closet, finding a box, packing it, going to the post office, standing next to a white man who believes that masks are a hoax and deciding between First Class or Priority Mail, I went on Amazon and clicked the “Buy Now” button. When she opened the box containing that brand new sewing machine, you would’ve thought I sent her a care package with a billion dollars and a ticket for the VIP entrance to heaven. To me, it was just easier to send a new machine, but for her, it was a tangible symbol of my love.
Sometimes, between her 73 jobs, straightening my sisters’ hair, creating lists of vocabulary words for us to study, warning us not to stomp while her pound cake was in the oven, cutting patterns for church dresses, telling us to wash the dishes, mopping the kitchen floor and taking me to the art store because I needed a tube of burnt umber for my oil painting class on Thursday, she would interrupt a screaming match between me and my sisters—usually, after we broke something or made each other cry. She would burst into the room, glare silently, as if she needed that 2.7 seconds of rest and exhale an exasperated sigh.
“I’m tired of killing myself to come home to this. Are y’all?” she’d say in the intervening silence of the fight’s freeze-frame, to no response.
“Sean, Mikey, Comelita, Robin...” she would ask again, holding on to the mop...Or the spoon...Or to God’s unflinching hands. “Y’all tired yet??”
“Yes ma’am,” we would reflexively respond.
“Good,” she would say before closing the door. “Because I am, too.”
I bet Black people in Georgia are tired.
According to exit polling data from CNN, 71 percent of white voters voted for the Republican candidates, while 92 percent of Georgia’s Black voters cast ballots for Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Since Black voters are 30 percent of Georgia’s electorate and were 30 percent of Tuesday’s voters, this means that the majority of votes that shifted the balance of the entire United States most powerful legislative body came from Black people.
To defeat a corrupt billionaire with no electoral, political or public service experience, all Stacey Abrams had to do was to come up with a plan to turn around 300 years of electoral history. LaTosha Brown of Black Voters Matter had to defeat voter suppression, misinformation, purges, corruption and original recipe racism if she wanted to oust a regular shmegular white man who just happens to have a cousin who was governor. To carry Ossoff and Warnock to a runoff, all it took was for Black people in Georgia to turn out in higher numbers than any election in the history of the state. Then, they had to do it all over again.
Y’all tired yet?
As the citizens of Georgia participated in the peaceful protest known as “democracy,” Wisconsin’s Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley decided it was the perfect time to slap Black people in the face and remind them that their lives were inconsequential and meaningless as Kelly Loeffler’s legislative experience. Graveley announced that Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey would get away with shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back at point-blank range because, according to establish legal precedent, white people get to do that to Black people.
They knew Black people would be mad. So, before the announcement, the city of Kenosha announced how they would abrogate the unavoidable influx of negro thugs who were mad just because another police officer got away with trying to allegedly murder a Black man. The changes included:
- Stopping city transportation routes
- Designating a “demonstration area”
- Closing roads
- Enclosing protesters in fencing
- Calling up a literal army
I said: “Are y’all tired yet?”
Meanwhile, during a raging pandemic, Republicans began their plan to invalidate Black people exercising their Constitutional right to vote. But as it happened, the new millennium lynch mob took their revenge the way only white people can. Using their privilege as a shield, a brigade of white supremacist terrorists (because what else were they there to do?) stormed the U.S. Capitol Building and showed you nigger voters who’s in charge.
Of course, there’s a president who could’ve calmed it down. Let’s see how he responded:
Now, everyone is feigning outrage about the things Black America repeatedly told you would happen. White people are storming the Bastille! What are we going to do?
I kinda don’t give a fuck.
When I started writing this piece, my mother was supposed to be a metaphor for Black people who keep saving this country. But, as the events of Wednesday unfolded, I changed my mind.
Now, I’d like to thank all the castle-stormers, politicians and the pundits who are gobsmacked by the sheer audacity of whiteness. Your interminable ability to motivate Black people to press forward is perhaps your most admirable trait. You are an inspiration to us all.
You know what else is a metaphor for America?
This country is unceasing in its disrespect for Black people. There isn’t an event or movement in American history that benefited most of America that Black people haven’t played a significant part in.
America doesn’t ever get tired.
They became one of the strongest economies in the world because of our free labor and repaid us with a terrorist campaign called Reconstruction and Jim Crow. White women got the right to vote partly because of Black women but said “fuck y’all.” Black men fought in the first World War and got the lynching epidemic of Red Summer as a lovely parting gift. After World War II, they stole Black veterans’ GI benefits.
My mother is not a metaphor for Black people.
Black people are a metaphor for Black people.
Even when the police, the beloved “troops” or common fucking decency abandon their posts and leave this country in peril, we are the ones who keep this country from disintegrating into a pile of rubble and smoke. In the breach between the interminable whiteness of America and this fragile thing we call democracy stands us...alone.
Aside from exercising their Twitter fingers, most white people have never moved a muscle to do something about Black lives. Most white people have never supported a Black presidential candidate, vice presidential candidate, or even one who had a platform focused on Black issues. Most white people—even the ones who hate Donald Trump—have never confronted their friends, relatives and neighbors who do. We have participated in every battle for liberty this country has ever fought. Yet, our struggles are ours alone.
When we seek reparations, civil rights or some of that old equality stuffed in the back of America’s garage, we are not seeking a reward. When we protest, we aren’t even asking this country for anything. We are just reminding white people who gave them the lollipop privilege that whiteness and time have allowed them to forget. They truly believe they made this country but we are the ones who made it a democracy.
If not for our fighting prowess, the world might be saluting the Third Reich. If not for our free labor, America might be a “shithole country.” If not for the sheer determination of the unkillable Black soul, this country would be under the control of an incompetent, white nationalist riot inciter for four more years.
You should look at the wilting bitch-assness you built to protect your beloved institutions and thank God, Allah and Babalú Ayé that you cannot kill us and we won’t die. All the things you have created—laws, traditions, constitutions, electoral colleges—pale in comparison to the protective layer provided by Black America. Praise us, from whom America’s blessings flow.
The dictates of poetry and prose would say that I should end this piece by saying how tired we are. But, because I’m Black, I know no one else is going to do a thing for Black people. Even if we save this whole country, white people will say “good job” and keep on doing the same things they always have.
They don’t ever get tired.
And there is your goddamned metaphor.
America thinks we love her.
And we’re just trying not to die.