The Love that Develops in a Foxhole by Aja Monet
At the edge of America’s revelation on police brutality a muted echo shivers in the bruises of our skin. I hear chimes of bystanders pointing fingers, washing their hands with our blood. We were born in the battlefield. We had no choice in the matter: America’s Racial War. We were never meant to speak of love. If this country loves Black people, we are drowning in an embrace; a chokehold, we are told, is an expression of complicated affection. I am done searching for our oppressor’s humanity while we neglect our own. I am writing about my need to write for survival because I believe emotional confusion is a tactic to distort the issues at hand. Here is a fraction of my internal world. What is not being discussed more actively is the root of this anger as a form of love. Love for our people, for our humanity, and for our sanity. When I meditate on Black resistance, I see revolt as a result of struggle and suffering, the fire that kindles cold hands beneath underpasses and in alleyways during this long and brutal Winter in America.
Some would argue the current uprising in Baltimore is a plea for white recognition or by nature of whiteness, State recognition. When I see brothers and sisters taking to the streets, I see a demand for Black voice and—dare I say, Black love. No matter how fiercely this system has tried to dehumanize Black people, we have found a way to continue to love this country, to love this nation more than it loves itself, more than we love ourselves. As many Blacks dream of ascension, I grab at the ankles. Come back to earth! Feel the ground. Here’s a shovel. Dig! There are bodies to bury.
A mother publicly beats her son “rioting” in the streets of Baltimore. The spectators weigh in on the subject. There are some things that are sacred. We ought to have the discussion around our sacredness. Mother is sacred. Children are where mother places dreams and visions not in some philosophical and ideological way but physically, very bodily. They are our offering and sacrifice. Our children are extensions of us, flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood. Who is loving our children if not us? Who is bearing them, protecting them, raising them? We cannot do this alone.
As a son tries to declare himself a man, to assert his right to express freedom and dignity, a mother aches with the conflict of wanting to protect him from this system. It is a system she knows is bent on beating him down and her down, too. It is upsetting because a Black mother knows what speaking up can result in for Black boys and girls. When we see any son or daughter die, it is our son and daughter that has died too. We do not want more casualties. Where is the depth in our rage? How do we expand the narrative verses simply shifting it?
In “The Evidence of Things Not Seen” (1985), James Baldwin speaks on an illness peculiar to the Black Community called, Sorriness:
“It is transmitted by Mama, whose instinct—and it is not hard to see why—is to protect the Black male from devastation that threatens him the moment he declares himself a man. All of our mothers, and all of our women, live with this small, doom-laden bell in the skull, silent, waiting, or resounding, every hour of every day. Mama lays this burden on Sister, from whom she expects (or indicates she expects) far more than she expects from Brother; but one of the results of this all too comprehensible dynamic is that Brother may never grow up—in which case, the community has become an accomplice to the Republic..”
Everything we do comes out of a need to assert our humanity in the midst of our trauma and lovelessness. They never loved us. White people talk a lot about romance and know very little of love. Love is a black thing. Romance is how the snake got Eve to eat the apple, love is what kept Eve from eating Adam. Love is the evidence of things not seen. It is what is beneath the rage and the anger, the hurt and the pain, the longing. It is challenging and difficult, enduring. Love is for the folks in the trenches. We are soldiers longing for shelter in each other. There are no atheists in foxholes because when it’s life and death, as we face extreme threat, as we resist, we love—and their eyes are watching God.
This moment in history is a moment where we have no choice but to destroy and to create. When we talk about Baltimore, let us also talk about the lack of resources in education, jobs, and community. I walked into a poetry workshop of teenagers yesterday afternoon and I want to believe that the work we do is how we pick up the pieces of what’s left, how we sweep the debris after the soot of our suffering settles. We unravel before each other reaching for words. Americans only reach for things that are already in their hands. We asked that we stretch and grab what wasn’t already there; handed to us. I pleaded with my students, leap, take, grab, fly, clench, fist, and fight—revolt. We left the room a little heavier, with more arsenal, a sense of more self than we had walked in with, calloused palms and swift blows. This is our birthright, not a land or object. It is our ability to communicate our humanity. It is our soul. It is our right to imagine a world where we create the language for our liberation not merely to become literati but inventors. If language is how we arrange the world, how has it been used to limit our worldviews? How has it been used to expand it?
In generation hash tag, we use catchphrases and slogans more than meaning. If we aren’t making liberation and love a part of our everyday lifestyle, I want no part in your rhetoric, constantly adhering to and navigating the white gaze.
We Must D I S R U P T it.