To all the Black men who tell the exact same story about white women clutching their purses
I know why the white woman clutches her purse, and I know she knows why, too. Everything inside of it is owed to my ancestors.
Niggas be lyin.
I’m not saying you’re lying when you claim to be greeted by white women clutching their purses when you walk down streets. I’m just saying that, as a filmmaker, I know what “rehearsed” looks like. I’m just saying that when thousands of people tell the exact same story to the exact same audience, I know it is generally indicative of a show. And I don’t like this play you are putting on.
When Trayvon Martin was murdered, Obama was cast in your role, too. Before becoming a Senator, he said, he would walk across the street to the sound of car locks clicking. He argued that this ubiquitous script informs the two separate experiences of white and Black America, them who use fear to lock us out and us who know this fear to be irrational. But there is another experience that is never addressed in your theater.
You claim that yours is the universal Black experience, but your story is not my story. Which isn’t to say white women don’t fear me, they do. But unlike you, I am not interested in alleviating their fear. I am not interested in reinforcing their safety when their safety relies upon my death. I am not interested in their comfortable gentrification, their still hearts as another state agent kidnaps another one of us from our home. I am not interested in their exhales as the neighborhood that isn’t theirs in the first place gets rid of whom they call just another “bad guy,” but we call them father, brother, sister. I am not interested in reducing centuries of genocide to purposeless irrationality.
I know why the white woman clutches her purse, and I know she knows why, too. As my colleague Preston Anderson always reminds me, everything inside of it, everything and more, is owed to my ancestors who were killed so that she could have it. Everything.
If they must fear me—and until white supremacy has been obliterated, they must—then I will make it worth it. If they must use their fear to kill me, and they must, then I will die fighting back. If they must plunder our communities, raid our Black Wall Streets, redline our homes, and lock us out of their economies, then I insist on breaking through their locks. So they damn sure better attempt to make their cars impenetrable.
When your cast-mate Barack Obama called Baltimore protesters “criminals and thugs who tore up the place” and distracted from the “real issues” in the wake of Freddie Gray, I knew I needed to tell a different story. I knew I needed a story in which the reasons we criminals and thugs tear up the same place that is committed to killing us is the real issue.
When ideas of violence and criminality are always used to punish us for demanding what is owed, including our very lives, they cannot work.
What you never say, in your transparent attempt to “find some understanding” between the only two sides you acknowledge—to find some understanding between your disdain of dangerous Black criminals and theirs—is that you are completely fine with exploiting a fear of Black people for protection. You would simply prefer this fear be used to lock the rest of us up rather than you out. You think if us criminal/dangerous/angry/radical Black folks were gone, maybe the white lady clutching her purse might love you instead. But you can never escape us. The woman you so badly want to love you made sure of that.
But our love is enough, bruh. And I still love you, even when I must fight you for choosing their side.
And to the white woman who clutches her purse, I rarely write to you, so understand this as a special moment. Fear me. Fear that I will take everything you have made on my mother’s back, because if I ever get the chance, I will.
To her husband who lives on the Harlem block that isn’t Black anymore, that has a Whole Foods now, the man who tried to scrap with me when I said his dog was ugly: It’s still true. I want to kick that ugly thing of yours. And ain’t that just like a white man, to incite a desire to hurt the innocent when it’s you who are the problem?
To the white neighbor in my Bedstuy apartment who called the police to complain about the noise that loving Black people in community makes, hold your breath. One night, I will blast music so loud it will split your ears in three to make up for each of my unborn children. And even though I will be by the dial, my own ears will be fine, for they have already withstood the fated screams of my offspring, both not yet here and already dead.
To the store security guard, keep watching me closely. So closely that you forget to watch your back. I will always be coming for you.