On Hegemonic Grief
I saw some trends I saw this weekend on my newsfeed. This is a conglomeration of dozens of different conversations I saw. Peep the difference.
A good number of Black people:
“Do not judge me for sharing in the grief of France. I also grieve with Lebanon and Palestine and the people of Syria, I grieved with Kenya and Charleston too. Surprise, I am a multidimensional person capable of holding numerous griefs simultaneously and grasping nuanced analysis. And also being excited about Patti Pies.”
Way too many white people:
“I mean, yeah. A lot of white people, and american/western people, and non-Muslim people openly grieve for attacks like the Paris attacks, but fail to publicly extend empathy when attacks like these happen in non-Western countries or to predominantly black brown or Muslim people. But my goodness.... they shouldn't be judged for their grief!!! Their posts (persistent recognition of only some people's humanity) should definitely not be shamed. I mean that's just low. And harsh. Pointing out white supremacist colonialist islamophobic mentalities is harsh. It is more important to not be harsh than it is to make someone aware of how painful it is to see their grief land on the privileged side of the die, and how fucked up their words and actions are, and how those words and actions hurt oppressed peoples.
And right now, when two connected attacks just happened in Paris and Beirut and received differential shows of solidarity, is not the time to discuss differential shows of solidarity. I don't know when the time would be other than when the differences in solidarity are most glaring, but this is not it! People are grieving!
I like peace. And unity. I like peace and unity.”
Do not confuse these sentiments to be the same. The first is an argument for humanity’s expansive capacity for empathy and solidarity. The seconds argues that words or actions should go unjudged if, at the same time they are displays of white supremacy and colonialist thought, they are also expressions of genuine and well intentioned grief. Never let that shit rock.
Never. In the midst of manhunts for missing white Canadians, scream out the names of #MMIW, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women who are forgotten. As huge crowds that were absent for black cis and trans women suddenly appear to march in the streets when the next black cis man is killed by police yell #SayHerName at the top of your lungs. When tears flow freely onto smiling pictures of assassinated American journalists but only graphic images of shorewashed Syrian infants can trigger tears for refugees, cry foul. CRY OUT CRY OUT for those at the intersections, for those at the margins of global and national societies, for those whose humanity is hard for those in power to wrap their minds around. CRY OUT, even if your cries come at the same time as collective mourning for those a little closer to the center, and even as you participate in that collective mourning.
If people tell you that you are shaming the aggrieved say sorry not sorry, I believe we can do better, be better, grieve better so yes, shame on white supremacist grief. Shame on colonialist grief. Shame on patriarchal grief. Shame on islamophobic grief. Shame on cisheteronormative grief. Shame shame shame, for our hegemonic grief is killing people. Our inability to see the other as worthy of our groans is killing people.
And if they tell you that your critiques are valid, but that you should say them more gently? That you should be less harsh when you express your disappointment (with others and with yourself too) at the seeming insignificance of some people’s pain? That we can get dominant people to see oppressed people as human by hugging them and saying please softly? That you should wrap your anger in sugar and spice to make it easier to swallow? Say fuck. that. noise. and keep pushing yourself and those around you to do better, because we can do better, even when are are at our most grief stricken, our most shocked, our most emotionally broken and vulnerable. Those might even be the times when it’s most important.
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