This Post Was Going to be Selfish

This post was going to be selfish. I was going to write a long story on how I got accepted to be a part of the Midwestern Marx Youth League of Writers. A story of mine got accepted into my school’s Creative Writing magazine. Next Wednesday, I get my second dose of the Covid vaccine. I don’t want to write about that right now. 

I woke up thinking about Ahmaud Arbery today. I ran a couple of races this year dedicated to “social justice.” We’re encouraged to run to “end gun violence”. We’re encouraged to be quiet besides the sound of $100 running shoes hitting pavement and breaths that will never be systematically murdered. That’s enough, that’s all we can do, run and post an infographic on your story. Check it off your to-do list and go back to watching MSNBC at 9:00. Forget Ahmaud’s face, and Daunte, and George. Sit there in your white body, with your black square, and close your eyes to the reality of an existence being attacked by your own apathy. 

This isn’t an eloquent piece of writing that The New York Times would publish. Systemic racism described to fit the right fonts and a peaceful aesthetic. There’s a resolution in this fantasy of course and it involves the white liberal continuing to be… well, a white liberal. 

I have a book about Fred Hampton just sitting on my bed staring at me. Every time I read it I stop because I know I am guilty. Which of course, only makes my guilt more dishonorable and bona fide right? I must admit it took me a whole summer to get through Malcolm X’s autobiography. Sorry, I didn’t mean the phrase “get through” I meant read through, suffered through, looked in a mirror, and saw my own violence through. 

No matter how much anti-capitalist theory I read. No matter what mutual aid I participate in. No matter how much I isolate myself from the white-liberal, I am after all, no different. Inevitably in a week from now, I’ll be posting about my own accomplishments in a society that only runs for me, until the next shooting. I should call it what it is: the next murder of a black child. 

Is this what a stream of consciousness is? Or is this just a confession of guilt? I haven’t been able to write for this blog for a little bit of time. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Ahmaud. And that’s the concerning part, I’ve started to forget about the rest. The rest that I can distance myself from, the rest that I can’t so easily identify with that they no longer become my problem. I’m starting to forget and I’m afraid. I am starting to forget about Michael, about Trayvon, about Emmett, because today, Adam took their places. 

When you’re sailing a ship you quickly learn that a problematic system won’t do. Unless every line is in the right place, every man ready to raise the mainsail, every halyard set, only then will a ship dance across the water. We don’t have a ship let me tell you. We have an inflatable toy bobbing in an ocean with a rescue boat ten meters ahead saying we’re gonna be okay while we know we’re drowning. A lifeguard with a fear of the water. A fish that doesn’t know how to swim. Unless we get rid of this system in favor of a boat capable of supporting our weight our future is dire. We cannot continue being a capitalistic society. The lifeguards will keep joking around and we’ll just keep sinking. 

I look to the left of me and see sharks grabbing feet. People are being drowned and now I think at least I am lucky that I have this little bit of plastic between me and the sea. Sharks will keep on grabbing and incapable “lifeguards” will keep on laughing until we get hardwood underneath.

John Masefield wrote

“And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”

And all I can do is work to dismantle this system. To get rid of the plastic and protect my friends from the sharks. To be rescued by a ship with strong lines and a sturdy deck beneath. 

Whatever this is, this is for Ahmaud, and George, and Daunte, and all the other black folks murdered by the police. I’m sorry.

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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