Dissent Is Clearly Anti American

America is a polarizing place.

Maybe you don’t share my opinion on that.  That’s the beauty of the United States of America.  We can disagree.

To say that I’ve been feeling a little down lately is the grandest of understatements.  This year in black death has left me troubled to the very core of my being.  I notice subtle changes in myself.  Things that aren’t apparent to the outside world.  First my appetite changes, I’m almost never hungry and sometimes eating feels like a chore.  This appetite change is strange for winter, which is a time when I usually busy myself eating bread and potatoes like it’s my job.  Things which normally bring me joy feel like chores as well.  I haven’t felt the desire to dance ballet in a month.  And then there’s Christmas.  I asked my family early on if we could skip presents.  To quote a friend

“Healthy countries deserve healthy economies and this one is sick”.

A wise old fool once said “women be shopping” and while that statement is totally faulted, I laugh because I would normally include myself on the count.  Not right now though.  Too heartbroken to think about those little things.  The worst part was that people whom I had formally felt close to, seemed to live in blissful bubbles of unawareness.

Not knowing quite how to deal with this mixture of sadness and annoyance I felt, I turned to black twitter.  Because if I believe in anything right now, I believe that black twitter is a humongous source of power.  We can spread messages quickly, effectively and frankly … there’s safety in numbers.  Not much, but some.  What I wanted to know most was, did this year in our home country leave other black twitter users else feeling as down trodden as I currently felt?  And I wanted it to be short.  #AmericaInFiveWords was born.  I started a few tweets myself.   My personal favorite:

Because frankly it’s one of the most beautiful and poignant images of 2014.  In America, one can be both dedicated to throwing a tear gas canister and clutching tasty snacks.

I knew with my mere five hundred some followers, I couldn’t do this alone, so I decided to ask some friends.

We were off and running!  It happened so quickly, I went to bed and woke up to find my phone aglow of twitter notifications.   My brief moment of excitement was QUICKLY replaced with a sinking feeling of utter dread.  I know what happens to mouthy little suffragettes like me when we speak out of turn.  Let’s start with the fact that Imani Gandy has twitter trolls who make up screennames after getting blocked by her every week, just to call her the n-word (and various combinations on said word).  That is some serious dedication to racist trolling and that’s just one story of many.  I sat back and enjoyed some of the beautiful and heartbreaking five word combinations which came my way, but knew that my time in the sun was limited because the troll party would show up shortly.

I even had wonderful friends who had never really gotten into twitter, signing on to join in.  They recognized how exciting it was to watch something trend and I could not have been more proud of them for jumping in!

It was all getting too good.  Soon a certain political pundit jumped on board calling us all “grievance mongers”.  Yup.  That’s right.  Asking for justice for lives stolen is simply impermissible, isn’t it?  Like clockwork her troll posse rolled up in my mentions calling me a “bitch” and “fuck u” and what not.  That sort of stuff rolls off me like water on a duck’s back.  My “block” hand did start to tire after a few hours though.  I knew if I let my mentions get filled up, the hate would be overwhelming, so I stayed glued to my phone in this unfortunate way.  Awful words can be easier to digest in small doses.  Eventually the hatred directed towards me died down.  But not before one friend who was new to twitter told me,

“I had NO IDEA how much racism was on here.”

The amount of abuse minorities and women encounter on twitter for simply speaking their minds is simply intolerable.  People would tag me in arguments they were having with trolls and it made me realize I wasn’t the only one under attack.  One friend called me in the middle of the night because someone I had blocked was saying “horrible things” about me.  I just felt lucky there were no death threats or rape threats involved.

I felt more concrete in some of the things I already knew.

1.  Dissent is often seen as “unpatriotic” to those who find the system works perfectly fine for them.

2.  Trolls love calling people who are unhappy with the current state of things “lazy”.  But is there anything quite as lazy than knowing that your country is broken, it’s citizens are hurting and you’re name calling because it works for you?

3.  Trolls also love to tell you that “if you don’t like it, you should leave”.  That makes zero sense.  If someone didn’t like their house, should they walk away from it one day never to return?  No.  We make repairs.  We replace the kitchen.  But also, when saying that to a large group of black people, please try and remember that our ancestors did a fair amount of the leg work for this nation and there’s NO WAY we would walk away and leave it for you.  We’re not going anywhere.

The trolls did not disappoint.  But neither did black twitter.  Black twitter never does.

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Apologies

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I know we promised all sorts of fun things.  I know I still need to do a drawing for a pair of jeans which are waiting anxiously for new ownership.  We just haven’t felt up to snuff.  Agathe and I often find that our lives run in complete parallel.  When one of us is feeling on the up and up, we’re both so high the energy radiates through the screen like electricity.  But when we’re down oh boy do we get down.  And sometimes the blows just come one after another.  Right now we don’t even speak every day like we did during the summer.  Sometimes it’s hard for two people who are down to cheer each other.  My Mum pointed out today that my appetite is dwindling, which is something she pointed out when my Grammy was ill. Suddenly it all made sense.  I also currently have this inability to get anything done besides finishing books (even the simplest tasks become this extraordinary thing in my mind).  There’s a restlessness where I toss and turn every night (thank goodness I don’t work normal hours, otherwise I’d be screwed).  Looks like in the new year I will be treating myself … to a good shrink.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’m not feeling the Christmas spirit at all this year.  My family decided that there would finally be no presents for adults (which takes a lot of stress off of everyone).  My niece and nephew aren’t really getting a whole lot either, which is fine … they are too young to notice or care.

I think what we all want most for Christmas is peace and safety to all people.  But especially those who look like us and are currently bearing the weight of a country who simply doesn’t value our lives.

–  Aja

(Image by Carson Ellis).

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More On Forgiveness

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I’ve noticed something about myself which is funny in a tragic sort of way.

I can only forgive like one person a week. 

Anything more than that feels like I’m being pushed way over my quota and I immediately push back like the dog when she still has to poo and I’m dragging her towards the house.  (She digs her paws in the ground in such protest despite having dilly dallied around like it’s not 30 degrees outside.)  I give my forgiveness out in such a sparingly manner as if being forced into the act will make me compromise myself in this weird way.  Not just that, but I loathe when the forgiveness isn’t an outward two way street.  Some people always flounce around like their shit don’t stink and it begins to feel like you’re always the one who has to come around first and forgive again and again.  I’m not good about letting shit go.

“Didn’t you get the memo?  I ALREADY forgave someone this week!”

–  Aja

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On Forgiveness

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I’ve been thinking about this in particular, a lot lately.  My mother always says “I forgive but I don’t forget”. For me, the two things have always seemed mutually exclusive.  If you’re always on guard with someone for fear that they will hurt you again, how can you have possibly forgiven them?  I’ve been thinking about it because Agathe and myself have both had people treat us poorly in life, sometimes in ways which are completely unforgiveable.  That’s one of the things we’ve bonded over.  And I am constantly learning from her because she is a way more forgiving person than I am, but when is enough enough?  When do you aweigh your anchor and sail away??

One thing I know for sure, is that forgiveness is essential.  Not for them.  But for you.

–  Aja

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Friday I’m In Love

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I arrived in Italy wanting nothing.

The beginning of 2013 had taken it out of me to the point where I was entirely numb.

But I left Italy with everything.  If “everything” is a good pair of shoes and the affections of a man worthy of everything but one who is happy for the tiny part of yourself that you feel willing and comfortable giving him for the time being.  To me, those things felt like everything.  Or just what I needed at the moment en route to feeling whole again.

I wasn’t shopping for shoes.  I never do.  I don’t look for shoes.  Shoes find me.  An unmarked store off of Via Veneto boasted beautiful, label free shoes at very agreeable prices.  After standing with my nose in the window, (as I had done previously at Max Mara and Hermès) I finally went in to just try on a single pair of sensible ankle boots.  The boots were of course terribly perfect but I was still punishing myself.  (For what?  Everything.  It’s what I do when I am sad.)

I left in a hurry before I could pull out my wallet and allow myself to feel the refreshing breeze of satisfaction that only a new purchase can bring.  After all, happiness wasn’t allowed.

I got halfway down the street with my sister and my mother before I realized I couldn’t go on this way forever.  I quickly turned on my heels and shouted “I’ll be right back!”

When I arrived at the store for the second time, the very wise sales assistant had bagged up my shoes and placed them on the counter smiling at me expectantly.

“I knew you’d be back.  We have the best shoes on the street.  And …”, she smiled happily.

“… you have good taste.”

Damn those Italians are good!

–  Aja

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