I don’t have much to add to the discourse about the protests. Many people have done a phenomenal job sharing tips for protesting safely, offering mutual aid & assistance, and rightly shouting down the anti-Black propaganda coming in from all sides. One thing I have been thinking a lot about, though, is space.
In the middle of all of this civil unrest, the United States, in partnership with SpaceX, still managed to launch its first rocket in nearly a decade into outer space. As of this morning, its crew (all-white and all-male, of course) docked at the International Space Station, where they’ll stay for one to three months.
The story has been offered by some as a curative to the “ugliness” that is happening on the streets in cities all across the country, but I’m dubious. Was it not enough that the United States sent two white men into space from land they stole with wealth they plundered from people they enslaved or eradicated? Did they also have to partner with a man who bought his rocket company (albeit indirectly) with a fortune he inherited from apartheid? I ask, but we all know the answer.
It makes me consider the promise space travel holds for many people, one it held for me as a child reading science-fiction alone in a library. The promise of a better world someday, free from what made this one ugly and corrupt. Then, I think about the streets and the banks and the monuments and the states named after some slave owners we were taught to believe wanted the same thing, laundered through whiteness into the fabric of our history. Whose names will line the streets of Mars? And who will pave them? Space is no escape for me. There is no escape for me.
So, I’m back again, watching and donating and consoling and lying down unable to move due to the weight of it all, in this world. I have read, and I have paid, and I have protested, and I will do them all again in their time. I believe a better world is possible, but I’m not holding my breath. No one has forced me to yet.
All the while, I am beset on all sides by the white, well-meaning checkers of my state of mind. I find myself irrationally angry with them in my heart and uncharacteristically curt in my correspondence and conversation. I understand you have been told by a slideshow on Facebook, or perhaps some whiteness studies book you picked up that you are supposed to check if I am okay. Ask yourself what you would do if I said no. Are you prepared for that? I didn’t think so. Don’t open your messenger apps, open your wallets, and do something for someone else’s peace of mind, not just your own.
Upon careful reflection, I am forced to recollect every microaggression. I recall every moderate belief that has since turned to ash. I remember how quickly you decided it was over it last time. You are tourists. I live here. You dropping by and noticing the state of things does not tell me you care, it only tells me you don’t frequent the area. I’ve seen this before; you’ll go back to your lives in one to three months, like none of this ever happened. You are the astronauts after all.
You are the same people who tell me race is a function of class; who argue with me about the dangers of Joe Rogan and Chapo Trap House just before they scapegoat or mock me for the umpteenth time; who never wonder why our relationships with landlords and employers and doctors might be so different. I’m glad you showed up for the rocket launch, but where were you when I was logging hours in the simulator?
Your government, (because it is surely not mine) acts much the same. It succeeds in terror and mayhem in every way that it failed at support and healing. It throws money at the military who kick it down to the police and shoot it into the stratosphere, or our bodies, when what we need, mostly, is to be be left alone. You don’t really care about us, and that’s fine. We’ve made peace with it a long time ago, but the least you could do now is give us some space.