Thursday, August 14, 2014

4 AM Prayers for Ferguson

Vigil at the spot where Michael Brown was killed,
Sunday evening, in Ferguson, Mo.
The Associated Press

The following reflection was written by: Neha Rayamajhi

I was woken up too early today with thoughts of people in Ferguson, Missouri. With a heavy heart I reached out to the closest person I had for comfort. That failed miserably and with a heavier heart I logged on to my social sites I guess looking for some sense of solidarity.

Ice bucket challenge. Few news on Palestine. A lot of grief for a Hollywood actor. And couple of other national and international, both relevant and not so much news.

Whatever I could find on Ferguson was far too few and seemed to be a non-issue for the majority of my non-black folks on social media.

Don’t get me wrong.

My heart still hurts for Gaza. For the Nigerian girls who are still missing. For victims of recent landslides in my own country Nepal. For the maybe “legal” but definitely unfair deportations. For Robin Williams and the society that triggers mental and social illnesses...

This morning though, I also hurt a little too hard for Mike Brown from Missouri, and the Mike Browns from all across America who were made to leave too early.

No I am not saying that this is a pick and choose issue. In the words of brilliant Katina Parker,
“People dying unnecessarily, under any circumstances is worthy of compassion- and- ACTION.”
What I am disheartened about is the lack of compassion and action against atrocities committed by the police against people of color, and especially black folks in this country.

To me this apathy is more than just hypocritical. First because in most instances of injustice, I have seen African-Americans stand in solidarity with the oppressed peoples. Second, I have always seen organizers and activists, across races, borrowing strategies and styles of resistance from the said community. Liberal, radical, progressive- no matter what label, most academics outside the political right fill our book shelves and arguments with the likes of Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and more whenever convenient. And among the younger generation I find myself and many others being educated and inspired every day by thinkers and doers like Kim Katrin Milan and Janet Mock, or my very own Cherrell Brown and Ed Whitfield, and so many others in other many spaces.

Most of the time our fights against oppressions are fueled by aspects and examples of African American resilience and revolutionaries yet when it comes to being in solidarity with the African-American struggles, the majority of the world stays silent.

In fact, generally, when it comes to issues of race people remain silent.

Peace corps returns who travel all the way to over-exploited nations to “help” black women and children rarely make trips to the next city to help communities who lose their children to racist institutions. Missionaries who send money and services to countries like mine to “save” brown savages rarely send support down couple of streets across their churches to communities infested by racist cops. Liberal white activists who want to wear Keffiyeh as a symbol of unity with the Palestinians (even if it is bought from institutions that sponsor Zionist propaganda) rarely want to reflect on the skin they wear that could possibly also perpetuate white supremacy and privileges responsible for genocides. Students in liberal arts colleges who write thesis and “think pieces” on refugee struggles and dictatorship in foreign lands rarely think about instances like Ferguson and the breach of democracy taking place right now right here. Or so it seems.

And I wonder if this lack of concern apart from racism is also a result of guilt. The topic of race is controversial because it requires the dominant group, even in progressive spaces, to reflect on their own actions and maybe even take responsibility. It is easier instead, to focus on battles away from homes. It is more comfortable to wage a war against Kony in Uganda, to sustain and be part of narratives that make you feel heroic without having to address the villain in you and/or your loved ones.

Or maybe people are still waiting for “credible” news reports. As if people on the ground in Ferguson with tweets and videos of lived experiences that come along tear gases and men in uniform are somehow less credible than corporations who come to us with selective news.

Reports on destruction caused by racism, no matter how frequent, do not get covered by American institutions as much as they should. Yet the same institutions love reminding the people here and around the world, how we as brown and black people of the “third world” are responsible for each other’s murders. Both of these representation trends are rooted in values of white supremacy that refuse to value any lives other than their own because their very survival is based on making profits off these deaths. Racism and imperialism are not separate, or extinct like many love to claim.

On the other hand for us, people of color, and specially immigrants, anti-blackness is a real issue and the most relevant reason for this disengagement. But there is also the socialization of silence and fear. We are taught from our early years in the new country that we as the “others” do not have the right to complain about the U.S. That critiquing is a luxury reserved for the “real Americans” only- and I am not talking about the indigenous people of this land. You see, with our accents, addressing the weaknesses of this country gets translated to hate and comes with consequences. But it is important for us as a community to remember and remind each other that resisting is also a form of love. What often gets dismissed as rants and redundant complaints are sometimes honest concerns for the country that has given us a lot in its own ways.

Yes I agree that some injustices are more urgent and closer to us than others. That there are similar news I should be aware of but I am not. That not everybody can be equally invested in all these issues and in the same way.

But, explain to me why some people are incapable of mourning over dead bodies in their own backyards. Why is it that some news of deaths are national losses yet others are just expected to be lost?

Honestly, I don’t know where I am going with all this. It is 4 am. My heart is heavy, and I am looking for some comfort.

This reflection was written by Neha Rayamajhi you can follow her on twitter @NehaRaySays
Find a list of her contributions in the "About Us" section

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