Friday, December 5, 2014

I Can Breathe Pt. 2

Yesterday in creative non-fiction class, we were given the prompt of 'I can breathe' and told to write for 10 minutes. Afterward when it was time to read our work aloud, students began talking about nature, the mountains, personifying air. I sat there, listened respectfully, nodded. When I was asked to share what I wrote for "I can breathe" I looked at my paper and thought 'hmmm...this isn't going to go over well. But okay,'

I launched into my essay about white, privileged artists willfully ignoring the struggle right in front of them; creating apolitical disconnected aesthetically comfortable, intellectually smarmy, quirky, safe, escapist work in the midst of the privileged evil that supports them.

I read about the 1000 yard stare me and other artists of color invoke when we're sitting through another story about neurotic, neutered, and privileged dilemmas; that 1000 yard stare into space that tries to hold in the violent worm thrashing in our throats; that 1000 yard stare and sigh.

I read aloud about the black and brown kids who pass by Juilliard every day on their way to Martin Luther King High School who are met with police officers who tell them to 'move along.' Entire fleets of armed cops who suddenly appear on the street, whose singular mission is to make sure black feet don't gather on the corner; black voices don't talk too loudly around Lincoln Center, modern jazz, ballet, and opera; blacks bodies move immediately from the high school holding pen and directly to the subway to return to whatever holding pen society has devised for them, being carried from shipping container to storage facilities, moving past the tall citadels that are within reaching grasp but they will never enter. Black, brown, and beige kids under the coercive watch of police.

I read about the pernicious virus in our blood: the default comfort and fear of inconvenience. The disease that poisons, blinds, chokes. But 'I can breathe.'

Afterward there was a LONG silence.  I exhaled. 

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