Monday, July 6, 2015

"And should one live in such a body?" - Ta-Nehisi Coates

I have been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog for quite a while. To say that he has educated me would be an understatement. Today I'm going to reflect on this excerpt from his book Between the World and Me, bearing in mind that I come at this from the perspective of a white transgender person.

He starts off by invoking the American Dream:
I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree-houses and the Cub Scouts. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket.
That dream never meant anything to me. My white privilege insulated me from many things, but poverty was not one of them. I grew up in the country, now I live in the city, but I still don't know what any of those things he mentions are.

Then he addresses his son:
That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free. The men who had left his body in the street would never be punished. It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. But you were young and still believed. You stayed up till 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.
When I read that, I remember that many transgender people, mostly women of color, have also been killed in this country and their killers have never been punished. In many cases their deaths are not even investigated. And the question of whether or not it's okay to kill trans people has not yet been debated on the news. Of course, when it is debated the conclusion is much the same, whether it's a dead trans person or a dead cis black person: they were doing something wrong and their killers were justified.