(tw: rape, sexual abuse, violence against women)
From roughly 3 am to 5 am on Tuesday morning, June 16th, there was a steady stream of fireworks that felt deeply frightening to wake up to, and then hear, like a deep sonic stab, consistently, in the early hours of the morning. With every loud, resonating bang, my nerves were left loose and triggered, my whole body felt like it was under attack. Historically, I do not respond well to loud sounds. So I held myself close, lulling myself back to sleep, only to have another firework go by and assault the whole neighborhood again and again until it just ended at 5 am.
When I tweeted about it, at 4.44 am the first person who liked it was a MAGA supporter. My friend Muna tweeted a few hours later, “I want proof that the fireworks aren't somehow a coordinated action.” I don’t trust that the state isn’t out here orchestrating harm. Because in no universe do fireworks at 3 am, that last for two hours, feel like any kind of celebration.
Instead, to me, it felt Pavlovian, orchestrated like a war tactic. My close friend and neighbor, Hawa, and I have been feeling the anxiety of the moment. But, this is what many of us have been reckoning with since the protests started. As we commit ourselves to liberation in ways we never have before, there is a sense of paranoia. Which is not unfounded. Every time I face a cop, I can sniff their disassociation, stuffed in white supremacy. I can see their idiocy and their disdain. If cops aren’t harmful to society then why with all the pre-emptive armor?
Since the protests, I’ve wanted to stare at every cop in the eye, knowing that they want us scared. The state wants that, too. It wants us on our knees, so we’re more easily pliable. I’ve been thinking how little the state cares about all of us, any of us, that don’t fall back. I wonder if that’s why for so long anti-Blackness proliferated in Asian communities. It was out of fear of non-compliance, but now there’s a sense of collective power, the resistance feels strong, capable, and ready. Fear tactics, however, are common, and that’s something we have to speak to, the violence of the patriarchy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the militarization of America, and how that relies on strongarming the people, but also, at the same time, feeding an idea of nationalism by creating a mythology around moral superiority. Disregarding its entire real history, throughout the 20th Century (as well as forgetting to mention we live on stolen land) America has sustained an image of itself being a world power, built on concepts of justice, and its own righteousness. It has done this like every other empire that has told a story about itself, only to eventually one day collapse.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the masculinity of pre-emptive war, and how this country since its conception has murdered anything it has seen as a threat, justifying it through its own apparent morality. It’s done this by sustaining the patriarchy, therefore sustaining another lie of superiority. White supremacy, much like patriarchal violence, is built on weakness. We rely on the falsehood that men are superior when they keep failing us. The patriarchy is a disease.
The death of Oluwatoyin Salau really fucked me up. It hurt to read about the details, knowing how it could’ve been prevented. It hurt how she had talked about her abuse, publically. How she had warned people about it on Twitter. It hurt to remember how often Black women keep telling us they don’t feel safe, anywhere. The facts say it, the data says it too. And yet we do nothing about it.
On June 14th, 2020, I went to a silent march that was organized for Black trans lives on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum. The day felt so monumental. It felt both spirited and spiritual, like prayer. Raquel Willis chanting “Black Trans Lives Matter,” and asking us to repeat made the sound ricochet through miles; Layleen Polanco’s sister criticizing the DA for dead-naming her sister felt like a form of justice; Seeing Ianne Fields Stewart, the Founder of the Okra Project, say: “Y’all see that helicopter, Y’all see that drone? Let’s tell the militarized police state know exactly how the fuck we feel about them!” gave me chills. I felt alive, I felt purposeful being there.
Recently, my friend, a white man, texted me saying he was willing to die for this, for justice, for Black liberation. As I read it, I felt truly scared. Because I could feel his truth, and I could feel mine, too. But there’s been an unsaleable part of me that wrestles with it too, wrestles what real allyship to Black liberation mean as non-Black people… Doesn’t it mean literal bodies on the lines for Black people? Isn’t that what we owe Oluwatoyin?
I’ve not always been the best ally, I know I always could’ve done more, but I didn’t. Not even out of laziness, maybe because I thought I was doing as much as I could. But right now, isn’t this the biggest thing we’ve ever had to fight? There’s no turning back. At a protest, I feel it. The purpose. And I’m trying to harness that while I still fear the cops because I fear what they can do to me. What men can do to me, as a femme person in this world. Every time I walk past a cop, what I feel is the weakness of my body against their guns. But that’s the thing about the no turning back part. What I’m trying to say is, I’m realizing that we all need to be brave. Braver than we’ve ever been before to really fight this.
My friend Prinita was recently in the Flatbush protesting when a cop told her to shave her armpits; at 11 pm they brought in their riot police to disperse the peaceful protestors. As they were using force to scare them away, one cop picked Prinita up and threw her against the wall.
I keep thinking about war. How in so many ways I feel primed for it. How my parents survived a Civil War; and how my grandparents survived Partition. So, there’s blood inside of me that is pumping so hard, because I feel energized to fight. Most of my life I have felt I had a hand on my back pushing me towards the ground. This is I assume because I am a woman, a South Asian woman, a South Asian Muslim woman. My body has been used as a weapon against me my whole life. Now, at the age of thirty, I’m realizing that I need to learn how to use my body for myself. But there is an energetic code inside of me that is fighting that fear. The fear of being a woman.
Since I was a child I’ve felt as if I had a muzzle across my face. I was told I laughed too loud, talked like that, as well. My mother was obsessed with telling me to be more composed, to be less sensitive, to be modest but gentle, to be soft, to keep my eyes down, to lose weight, to be thin so I would be accepted and liked, to be smart and sober and beautiful. This was all the while as she attempted to burn the house down, called my father on the police and lied, accusing him of domestic abuse (my dad did not fight back); and tried to stab my sister and me with a kitchen knife. And this is just not even the beginning.
So, maybe I’ve forced myself into becoming the opposite of her. Stifling my necessary rage, silencing it, for years. I had only begun to access my rage, barely understanding that I had any, until recently. Now I’m learning how to channel it for justice. And I feel full of rage. Though this rage isn’t new, and even though I’ve been feeling this way for so long, I didn’t know how to talk about it, or how to be the best ally, but learning that this work is an everyday work, and committing to that, has given me a new context.
We all use “the patriarchy” like some Starbucks order that I feel like the word has lost its meaning. Like what do we mean when we say the patriarchy? Do we think of war-mongering? Do we think of the nation-state? Do we think of capital? Do we think of money? Do we think of guns, germs and steel? Do you think of pre-emptive strikes? Do we think of globalism? Do we think of violence? Do we think of Prisons?
I think of the anti-Blackness of the Enlightenment period. I think of all the white men that history has glorified who were truly evil. We talk as if Trump happened in a vacuum, ignoring the literal iteration of white supremacy in the presidents of yore. Frankly, nothing is redeemable about white history, which is why white people have spent years being their own PR. We know science is racist, in Carceral Capitalism, Jackie Wang explains data is also racist.
But, what I’m trying to say, is that similarly, like white people, men refuse to capitulate their self-importance, their power, their ego to tearing down systems because, they must know, as most white people who think must know, it’s a deeply problematic system we’ve found ourselves. So it doesn’t just need reform, it needs an entire collapse. Patriarchy is weakness, and we need more men to give up their power. We need more men to understand women are not objects of their desire or pain. We need more men to accept that they navigate this world with inherent privilege, and that it’s their duty to the impending matriarchy, to facilitate giving up power for the sake of evolution. We need more men to understand that they have a responsibility to heal for the betterment of society.
It’s an epic fight to collapse patriarchal standards. It means unlearning so much, and I can see it in some of your eyes when you look like the meme of that white kid with a throbbing vein. I keep thinking of a story Robin Wall Kimmerer shares in Braiding Sweetgrass of the windingo being a sign of a colonizer. A windingo, a folkloric creature, is a ghoulish, wolflike animal, which takes and keeps taking, thinking only of its own hunger or thirst. It’s a parable, but when we look into the world, you see those risen with greed. Capitalism does that to you. White supremacy does that to you. The Patriarchy does that to you.
A few days ago I finished reading Bhanu Kapil’s “The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers.” In a grueling scene, she describes “the Serbs have made a practice of cutting out the wombs of women they rape, then hanging these wombs on the poles.”
We are up against something major. But it has to be done.
The matriarchy is utopic in many ways, but what I love about abolition is that it relies on hope. It relies on the betterment of us as a species. Every abolitionist from Ruth Wilson Gilmore, to Angela Davis, to Mariame Kaba has said so. We need to rely on dreaming. Pessimism is so often masked in the language of rationale, nihilism too. But I know everyone who thinks of the future, relies on hope. It’s as Arundhati Roy says, “Another world is not only possible she's on the way and on a quiet day if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”
Collapsing the braided violence of capitalism, patriarchy and anti-Blackness/white supremacy is contingent for the future of our livelihood, of our healing, of our true evolution. Every sign points that way. We know astrologically it’s time to evolve, we know if we don’t, humans will most likely go extinct. So it’s imperative that you all begin to put your bodies on the line, but men, start with yourselves. Please. Begin to heal your traumas so that you can better help us move forward.
Because without a doubt, we are moving towards matriarchy, but this means learning qualities of the matriarchy and embodying them. Healing of oneself is a good way to start (obviously you can consistently donate, protest, and be of service in whatever way you see fit, consistently). Community care as you heal is paramount. And a big component of that begins with protecting Black women. All Black women. Let’s start there. I’ll leave you with Noname’s track that she released today in response to J.Cole’s latest song. Look it up, then go watch her talk to Boots Riley for Haymarket’s Books.
I’ve been listening to the song all day, and I still have chills. It’s a new vanguard.