WOW’s friend, author Kevin Sessums’ thoughts on the violence in America in the wake of the George Floyd murder is some food for thought this Sunday…
“We all study the Boston Tea Party in school but what we seem to fail to learn is that it was about the destruction of property in the fight against injustice. That is the most basic of historical lessons about this country which we compartmentalize and redefine by the romance of historical distance.
As a gay man of a certain age, I know that Stonewall has been characterized as a riot although I like to think of it as an uprising. But it too was about destruction of property as we finally fought the fuck back.
The White Night riots in San Francisco are also part of my history of liberation as a gay man.
This is the lens – limited alas in its way as others are limited in seeing the historical struggle of gay people- through which I view what is taking place in our country right now even as I stand in solidarity with my African American fellow citizens. I do not stand in solidarity with the white anarchists and white nationalist accelerators who have infiltrated the streets to serve their own selfish purposes in a perversion of the rightful ‘fighting the fuck back’ of African American citizens.
I can only see this through that limiting lens in this moment of a white gay man who was taught about the Boston Tea Party as a white child in my segregated all-white Mississippi elementary school located in a state where such violence was visited historically upon African Americans.
The murder of civil rights workers.
Indeed, the firebombing of churches and crosses burned in front yards were where the public fires of my youth took place so often. That is the context in which I also view so much of what I am seeing on the news as I wake up this morning. Such fires in my past were just folded into my white childhood existence along with church services and George Wallace bumper stickers and country music radio stations and black maids making sandwiches for my friends and me in friends’ households as those maids silently longed for their own children, I presume now, as they carefully, oh so carefully within certain bounds, presided over the white children of their employers.
I would see so often the spark of rebellion – the very fire in the eyes of those maids – when the news on those country radio stations broadcast the reports of the latest ‘riot’ or police violence perpetrated against a peaceful civil rights march.
That too was the fire I witnessed in my childhood: the moment that spark in the eyes of a maid met the spark in my own from seeing hers and there was a moment of recognition that this little Mississippi sissy understood the subsumed anger “kitchened” within her before me. But that anger was not captured, not caged. The silent fires remembered in the eyes of Mississippi maids have set my memories aflame this morning.
All our lenses need to refocus in America and see what is really being shown us.”