Rounding Black

I’ve been trying to figure out whether to keep writing here. To a very large extent, I’ve said most of what I want to say about fat bodies, about bodies in general, even about skinny bodies. And while this blog has been up, there has been a slight shift in the direction of not viewing all fat bodies as one large blob of underused, overfed, gelatinous mindlessness. For crying out loud, the magazine Women’s Running just featured a fat woman on its cover. Not that the twitterverse didn’t erupt in offended savagery. Of course it did. But part of me just doesn’t give a shit about the twittertrolls. At any given point, people’s demons–now that they have such an accessible and inexpensive outlet, will erupt and splat bile over every surface and interface possible.

Because everyone has them, and demons are all trolls. And it’s very easy for me to ignore them by not being on twitter at all. But the fact is that social media have made it possible for us to be confronted/beleaguered by the often-terrifying and frequently repugnant ids of all sorts of folks, including, via dash and body cameras, cops. It’s not stuff one necessarily wants a front row seat for, but it’s stuff that needs air and light, which I idealistically remain certain will eventually help all of us simply because it’s out there for us to witness and witness to, both of which, be you atheist, doubter, or believer, are sacred and crucial acts.

So the “living while fat” conversation is happening. There’s still a ton of work and mind-changing and doctor-changing to be done, and I don’t intend to shut up, but I do feel as if my particular voice is not as crucial as I did when I started this blog. Nor do I feel as imprisoned by my own knowledge and experience as I did then.

What I do feel urgent and frustrated and furious and anguished by is the nauseating combination of a police force that is, increasingly, acting out of a place of power and fear, and the continued poisoning of human relations in this, my country, by racism. I have known, pretty much since I started paying attention to the world around me (in my she-lives-inside-her-noisy-head case, around 9) that racism exists and is unacceptable. My southern parents did the best they could with teaching me that it was not okay, even as I watched their own racism play out. I did an independent study in high school English on black lit. I was riven and wounded by the deaths of Emmett Till, Malcolm X, and Dr. King. I had what few black friends my overwhelmingly white existence put in my way. Blah, blah, blah. I had big feelings that I thought were all the right feelings, and I told myself that my feelings were sufficient. I suspect lots of us did/have/do.

As TaNehisi Coates and Roxanne Grey have told me (via their work, not personal acquaintance) of late, my correct feelings don’t amount to much. They haven’t changed the life of a single black person in this country. They haven’t faced history, the soul-killing heritage of being a privileged white woman in a country whose economic birth happened on the backs of kidnapped, raped, murdered human beings, and whose country has yet to truly face and confess, let alone atone for that enormous sin.

My Marshall/Nelson family tree undoubtedly includes slave owners. I’m not sure about the Pennsylvania farmers on the other side. I don’t actually go in much for geneological research. The church I attend, nearing its 150th anniversary, was founded by slave owners and remains overwhelmingly white (though we’re making a little progress there). I don’t, in truth, have the slightest idea of what to do about any of that. Not a fucking clue. Except in the classroom, though I’m pretty sure I am guilty of ham-handed mistakes there, too. And I don’t have enough non-white students to constitute a critical mass of “doing” to make me feel anything other than gratitude for the ones I manage not to inadvertantly wound. I believe Mr. Coates is right (he usually is) that the work is for white people, not for black people (who have more than enough work to do just getting through the day among us)–just as it was for the people of Germany to deal with and confess and make reparations for the Holocaust, not the Jews, Gypsies, queer folk, Russian POWs’ descendants, or Seventh Day Adventists to fix. And I have seen first hand the results of that process–Germany is, for all that neo-Nazism has reared its ugly, ugly head again all over Europe, a different place than when I lived there for a while in the late 70s when it had still not begun to confront its still-recent past. It is possible for a nation to move itself forward. But we haven’t. And I don’t know how to. It’s not Mr. Coates’s job to give me/us a to-do list, either. We need to come up with it all by our privileged-by-virtue-of-the-color-of-our-skin selves.

At church this morning (I’m a Reader), I ended up reading the story of King David raping Bathsheba and murdering her husband. It’s a profoundly repulsive story. Even the words hurt my mouth.

David was an ancestor of Christ, if you believe the Bible. He was a lot of other things, but, like Thomas Jefferson, his heroism was stained by his humanness and his crimes. But he was an ancestor of one of the greatest revolutionaries and preachers-of-peace who ever lived. Heritage is what it is–just there no matter what you want to bury, but it does not have to be destiny. And that last bit is in our hands. We OWE ourselves and the rest of humanity the work involved, especially the black people who are here because our ancestors captured them, savaged them, and taught us not to see them as fully, sacredly human in body and soul. Quite a debt.

There’ve been lots of memes floating around social media of late that remind us that “We are all just walking each other home” or that everyone we see has some wound or struggle we cannot see. It’s good stuff, and remembering it is real and truly good work. But the piece I don’t see is the piece that reminds us that each of those people also bears some gift, some ability, some wonder that we also cannot see. The first meme/work reminds us that each human is both victim and survivor. But the second, I think sometimes, may be the more important. Even though there are blessedly few (though still too many) who manage to extinguish their own lights, the overwhelming majority of humans are pieces of the divine, and can do some lovely, useful, amazing, useful thing that I can’t. That means that, along with being wounded and burden-bearing, every one of them is a blessing. Sandra Bland was a blessing. Eric Garner was a blessing. The four Marines were blessings.. All sorts and conditions of humans are blessings, at the same time that they are also idiots, fear-ridden, clumsy, ungrateful, and a whole bunch of other human-nesses–they all have gifts. All. All.

Maybe I’ll write about race for a while. Maybe I’ll figure out how to write less and do more. Meanwhile, I leave you with this bit of loveliness: 897988601512/?fref=nf

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