A Letter to My Conservative Relatives & Acquaintances (I Have No Conservative Friends.)
Originally published here on Medium.
When I studied writing in grad school, nuance was often discussed. Good writing, I learned, makes scalpels of language. Good writers excise the truth — their sentences precise, stitching meaning from the wounds. A “heavy handed” draft is a brutal critique. I learned to tread softly as I walked on this earth. I viewed good art as a gossamer thing — delicate and careful, devastating and quiet. Too much force, too much insisting is Bad Writing. To be predictable is Bad Writing. I crafted ravishing, unpredictable metaphors. I wrote about nothing. And I was heaped with praise. Meanwhile, the truth bled out on the sidewalk, again and again and again and again. And predictably again. A Black man was shot and killed by the police. A Black woman was shot and killed by the police. A Black man was shot and killed by the police. A Black woman was shot and killed by the police. A Black person was shot and killed by the police. An unarmed Black child was shot and killed by the police. This is Bad Writing, and this is the only writing that matters to me now.
Fuck nuance. You killed George Floyd. You killed Ahmaud Arbery. You killed Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, and Alton Sterling and Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile and Elijah McClain. You killed them all, and more than I can name. It is barely an oversimplification to say this. You killed them when you decided that some people’s lives are worth more than others, with your belief in bad apples. You killed them when you told your children the town beyond the railroad tracks is the wrong side of town. You killed them when you called the police on the harmless Black children in your cul-de-sacs and gave the cops military gear. You killed them when you voted for tax cuts to social services and education and every public good. You killed them with your ignorance, and your unwillingness to examine your own biases, your unquestioning admiration for the police and the prisons that have always served to help people like You and kill people like Them. You killed them, and you should be happy that it is only the AutoZones that have been set ablaze.
I am tired of gently leading you down sloping paths toward reason. I am tired of appealing to your blunted empathy. It is about time someone screamed at you — the civil discourse you call for has never been civil. Your ideology is violence. You are violent. Voting to defund homeless shelters and forcing people onto the street is violent. Voting against free school lunches is violent. Looking away from the Black men bleeding out on the sidewalk before you, stepping over them on your way to your two-story home and your comfortable life — is violent. Arguing that the elderly should sacrifice themselves to disease for the economy is violent. You do not deserve my respect.
I reject your hatred. I reject you entirely. The future is not yours, the tide has turned. Your institutions are on fire, and they will burn to the ground if that is what it takes. You did not listen when others were polite. You did not listen when Kaepernick took a knee. You stepped over bodies, you kept yourself out of politics and called it politeness. It is easy to be nice when you define niceness as smiling at cashiers. It is easy to feel morally correct when the world has always lied to you by saying you are better than the men who live across the ocean from you, or across the tracks. It is easy to feel good when you do not think at all, do not change, do not listen to the people like me who are yelling at you, on account of our yelling, and instead find a channel where people are yelling the things you want to believe.
You killed George Floyd, and I welcome your hatred — I am glad to be hated by bigots, you on the wrong side of history, you who care more about burnt buildings than murder, who grieve the toppled statues of slavers. You deserve all of the good things that George deserved, but you didn’t believe he deserved them. I will spend all my years carving your influence from the halls and chambers of heart. I will build new rooms to house whoever needs a shelter. All are welcome but those who seek to drive others out.
So. Fling your words, spew your bile. We’ll stage a protest for every prayer you offer for our souls. Pray for your own souls. I will not sit at your table again. An old world is ending and a new one begins. Print your hateful words. Let us see who you are. Let the AutoZone burn. Tie yourself to the statue that we will tip into the water and let yourself sink, there will be new monuments and they will not last — but they will belong to us. The future is already here, you are looking up at it from the bottom of the river.