On Living & Mourning
My first memory is from around 1998—I would have been two—and it is of a neighbor screaming at my father for parking in front of her house. Something in me says it was because he is Black. Something in me says she screamed the N word. I do not know if those are hard facts or truths I learned of the world as I got older. Perhaps she was merely protective of her so-called property. But it is still in me. And when I tell this story to others, I do so with no allowances for what may or may not have happened, because even if some details were impressed upon me by time, they have shaped me and my understanding of my father, my family, and myself. There is truth in that.
My second memory is of 9/11, watching the second plane hit the second tower on the news. I understood where that was; I’m from Queens and visited my grandmother in the Smith projects on the Lower East Side frequently. I understood it was real. The rest of it—the deaths, war, islamophobia—I understood less. My mother packed me into the car that day and drove me to school for registration. They said go home, didn’t she hear there was a terrorist attack? She said, but this is the last day I was told we could register. They said, there was a terrorist attack. It will be fine. Come back later. My mother had taken the day off work for registration. She would have otherwise been next door to the World Trade Center.
Fall of 2013, senior year of high school, I took African American Literature. We watched Marlon Riggs’ Ethnic Notions and I realized that there is intent and strategy behind hatred. That it can be theorized, studied, and even, in one way or another, understood. And I decided I would do so.
These last four years at Tufts have been some of my hardest. Mike Brown was murdered the month before I began, Darren Wilson was acquitted that November, Tamir Rice was shot on November 22nd and died on the 23rd. On the 24th I posted on Facebook “to my family, to my friends, to mike brown, to tamir rice, to countless others: i love you, i love you, i love you, i carry you with me always, i love you.” I remember spending that night crying on my bedroom floor in Harleston and calling my family while hearing people laughing just outside my doorway. I remember flyers bearing Mike Brown’s face being put up on campus, but more strikingly, littering the streets, being trampled on and driven over. I remember only one of my professors taking the time to acknowledge that anything had happened at all. I remember being devastated, and angry, and deeply, deeply, frightened. But I was no longer confused.
Majoring in American Studies has done a lot for me. But there is only so much that theory and intellectualization can do. And what I haven’t been able to do for the last four years, or even before then, is process my sorrow and resentment and fear.
The past few weeks have been both unbearable and ceaseless. Trump’s gender policy and plans to end birthright citizenship. An activist’s son was lynched on October 17th. Two Black people were murdered in a Kroger in Kentucky on October 24th. Eleven Jews were murdered in their place of worship during a time of blessing on October 27th. A high schooler was murdered in North Carolina on the morning of October 29th. The loss in the air is palpable and I do not have the time, between classes, work, extracurriculars, eating, and sleeping, to breathe it in.
The morning of October 28th, I had a few hours to myself for the first time in a week. I read the names of the victims of the Tree of Life shooting and wept bitterly. I have spent a lot of time crying since.
There is nothing about this that is apolitical, but for once, I am looking to give myself time to feel rather than politicize. I can—and will—do both, but I want to do them separately, because only in doing them separately can I truly do them right and do right by myself. I have spent the last twenty years of my life steeped in constant terror and a vigilance that lives in me like an instinct, studying and analyzing my trauma, while shutting myself off to it in order to proceed. I refuse to do so any longer.
I have, even when it seemed impossible, found hope in my life. I am going to plan for a future for the world, and a future for myself. I am going to care for and love my family and friends deeply and endlessly. I am going to vote to protect myself and communities as best as I can within the system. I am going to organize and I am going to fight to do the same outside of the system. And I am going to feel. I can no longer afford not to.
Thank you to anyone who has held me, made space for me, cried with me over the past weeks. There are no limits to my gratitude. I owe my future to what you have given to me. For those of you whose lives and existences, like mine, are implicated in a hundred different ways by every headline and executive policy: we are not alone in our fear, rage, or tears. And we are not alone in the joy and hope that we build, against all odds, into our lives. We contain these multitudes and so, so much more.
just found out that there was a shooting this morning at a conservative synagogue in pittsburgh. at least 8 people are dead. i just called poppa [my grandfather] and i’m crying a lot. “they may kill us but they will never defeat us,” he said. he told me to tell my friends to stand tall. i feel really overwhelmed by this news and by the love he has and is sharing with me. i’m thinking about the pulse shooting and that feeling where i could be killed for going to the club for being queer (though obviously that was targeted at latinx queers). but I know that in the US, people have been killed for being queer forever. i guess i’ve been taught that in the US, even structural antisemitism is not life-threatening. but 8 people just died because they went to services this morning. so i think… antisemitism is clearly and fully life-threatening. poppa said it too– we’ve survived. we have survived this for thousands of years and we will keep surviving. It’s just so scary. and so upsetting. and terrifyingly affirming that antisemitism is structural, real, NEEDS TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
trump also tweeted the worst thing about it and its like… we’re already watching such CLASSIC and HORRIBLE things that are PART OF ANTISEMITISM where they are encouraging synagogues to hire more cops and right wing jews are like “this is why we need israel” and i’m like– NO!! this is why we need solidarity! stop putting us in this position where jews dying! DYING!!!! places us in opposition to other marginalized people. UGH.
being jewish and genderqueer this week is so hard. it’s scary how much we are being asked to hold. and how many types of people are holding this in different ways all the time. i don’t feel like i’m using my potential to fight. i’m not sure i feel confident about how to fight. and i need to.
“I WAS MADE OUT OF ALL THAT IS, THEREFORE, I MUST HAVE BEEN IN THE WORLD BEFORE”- MICAH BAZANT
i feel sad. and having to go to work and interact with so many non-jews and try to seem even kind of okay. so hard. my chest actually hurts with the sadness and anxiety. i can’t stop burping. i just want to scream. do you know how many centuries of pain we are feeling right now? how many thousands of years? i feel like i could cry forever and i can’t cry at all all at once. i’m stuck in this sadness. it’s aching. i’m as scared that it will go away as i am that it won’t.
MY TEARS ARE THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF TEARS IN MY EYES RIGHT NOW
how could i possibly capture the ways that i’ve felt seen and held and also destroyed and alone this week? i feel like i’m grieving something so much that I don’t even know how to feel it anymore. except i keep crying and it’s like i’m not even in my body.
i went to services last night and this morning, a week after 11 jews were murdered at tree of life and 2 black people murdered at a kroger in kentucky. and then i learned that there were fires in 7 different synagogues and jewish centers in brooklyn the other day. and that also this week in cambridge, a 66 year old woman was assaulted, with her attacker yelling antisemitic slurs and threats at her. so any delusions that antisemitism isn’t real or that it’s not here are truly delusions. i’m obviously scared of white nationalists. but i’m also scared that jews will keep believing that this system is here to save us when its clearly not. and i’m scared that my gentile leftists don’t understand how antisemitism works, how its used as a tool to divide us and scapegoat jews as the cause of capitalism (and also the cause of communism? confusing af but they believe it). if the left doesn’t fight antisemitism as part of collective liberation then we are never gonna win. and if jews don’t see ourselves as part of the left, don’t align ourselves with marginalized people everywhere and fight for them just as hard as ourselves, we’re never gonna win. i’ve been taught to be so distrustful and it makes me sad. i already feel like we’ve lost. but we can’t. we won’t. poppa knows. so many jews across so many generations knew and know. gotta stay grounded in all the people that came before me and have fought so hard.
just a reminder how much i love jews and my community.