by Donald Vincent
You are on mute, nestled in front of the computer screen, filled with boxes of blank, ivory faces. This is the usual though. You present on alternative assessments for students during a pandemic.
Nonchalantly, you say; I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but traditional grading is a form of colonization and white supremacy.
She privately messages you that she is not offended, but how is the grading system related to white supremacy?
You tell yourself, you knew you shouldn’t have said anything, that people don’t want the truth, but prefer to live in a phantasy world of disillusionment.
Either way, you email her links on pedagogy and approaches to teaching English composition to international and multicultural students. And because you’re always the lone token, representative for blackness, you’re scheduled to fight the power and discuss those equity inclusion essays and articles, constantly doing the work for whiteness.
The pandemic is killing black people, the police are still at it too. So you say fuck it, and break the stay-at-home orders to visit a friend to disappear from the madness. Her love language is food and it is so comforting you forget about the burden that blackness carries in the world. At least for a second, luckily, maybe a minute or more.
At 7:05 PM a wireless emergency alert blares from the cell phone— The City of Los Angeles is declaring a curfew at 8:00 PM because of protests. Your friend says, you can stay the night at her home, she wants you to be safe.
For a second you think about it, but you remember you have work to prepare for even though it’s a Saturday. However, you consider staying and your non-black partner is less frightened.
As dinner is being plated, you hear a familiar chirp-chirp. The neighbors above peak over the balcony and quickly dip away. Your blackness reminds them to lock their doors, even in a secured and gated complex.
He calls you to check-in and make sure you’re safe. Thanks you for watching the Hidden Figures movies with his kids because their mother and step-dad blind them to the color and obstacles blackness faces.
You say no problem, but are hesitant to hang up the phone. But you’re tired of these calls at this point.
Bet you’re happy you aren’t working for the man anymore, he says. You concur.
When he asks how you’re holding up, you say you’re grateful to be employed and still teaching. He asks where? When you tell him, he says, you’re so articulate.
And you can’t help but to feel helpless, so you hang up.
You are driving down the highway and cop cars are in single-file at the exit. It is your birthday. Your grandmother calls you to check-in, the precedence of the news made her forget it is your birthday. But she’s your grandmother so you shoot the shit.
She says, did you see that white woman calling the police on the black man watching birds? She got what was coming to her, you can’t be caught on camera caucasian-ing and being racist.
You giggle and say, yeah. But that situation could’ve went left, like you’ve seen so many times that it… that the sensation is desensitized.
She says, thank God that he stepped in and helped that man.
And you say, but where was God when a cop killed a man by kneeling on his neck?
She asks, well, what did he do? And you said nothing, but take it back because he did do something. You tell her it was an incident of BWB (breathing while black). Ask her again, where was God?
She says, I don’t know, I have the faintest idea. I’ll have to look up what the scripture says.
You’re sitting in your home, alone. No computer, no social media, and another wireless alert goes off. Another curfew is in place for 8:00 PM tonight. You throw a fist in the air for the virtual revolution.
Another blare from the phone tells you that the curfew has been moved to 6:00 PM. You throw two fists in the air because the settlement is burning and liberation is around the corner.
Your previous student emails you that she donated money on behalf of your class and thanks you for providing a space to learn and talk about the ills of hate towards blackness. You cry a bit because retrospective justice isn’t as useless as you previously believed.
You check-in with your friend. Mostly because he doesn’t believe in violent protest.
He gloats, tells you he went to protest in his small, local town. His family wouldn’t let him to go the one in Boston. You’re kind of glad he didn’t go to the one in Boston.
He tells you if he’s asked how many black friends he has, he already has his response ready. He’ll say, let me know if you want to see my ghetto resume.
And you want to drown. Maybe pinch yourself, are you dreaming? This doesn’t seem real. But the future, equity is on the horizon. If they stop killing you, will job discrimination stop too? Housing discrimination? Access to resources make become available?
BREAKING: Another black body dies at the hands of the people who make an oath and swear to protect.
Donald Vincent is the author of Convenient Amnesia (Broadstone Books). He is also Mr. Hip, a recording artist and lover of all things art. He currently teaches English Composition at UCLA and African-American Literature at Emerson College – Los Angeles. When he is not teaching, he can be found in the kitchen tinkering with plant-based recipes. Originally from Southeast, DC, he currently resides in Los Angeles and at https://www.hidonaldvincent.com.