The State of the Union – Raven Oak

The State of the Union

Allowables by Nikki Giovanni

Allowables by Nikki Giovanni

Look at those last lines in this poem by Nikki Giovanni.

I don’t think / I’m allowed / to kill something / because I am / frightened.” 

Powerful.

I’ve started, stopped, erased, rewritten, and pondered on this post many times over the last week, including at 3 AM when images painted my dreams red. At least for me, they were only dreams—something I could wake up from with ease—but for so many in this country, violence and racism is a part of life that must be faced daily. People of color can’t walk away from social media to “escape all the negativity,” nor can they take a “mental health day” from the violence surrounding them.

Many media consumers would prefer that authors, game developers, actors and actresses, artists, and musicians not engage in politics. After all, consumers “just wanna read a good story,” not “hear about author’s politics,” but the truth of the matter is that HUMAN RIGHTS have always had a home in the arts.

Science fiction has long been the genre that studied the past with a long look toward the future, a genre that used the past to warn of possible futures to come, and a genre that raised deeper questions and forced readers to think beyond themselves. Reading sci-fi teaches empathy for the other. It always has. (Just look at the themes in Star Trek for evidence of this.)

Because of this, It’s my job as a white writer to use my voice for good.

I spent my childhood being ordered into silence while my family’s dark words spilled forth like the hate they were. Biracial children were not to be friended. They were “evil” and “destined for hell.” If that wasn’t bad enough, I vividly recall being taught to openly make fun of the lips, butts, and hair of people of color. I was too young to understand what it was I was doing, but when I look back through the memories, I’m horrified. I was lectured on the evils of affirmative action and what it would do to my chances of getting into college. If it “wasn’t white,” it “wasn’t right,” as the family said. Worst part is, it isn’t like I was born during Jim Crow or the Civil Rights Movement—I grew up a child of the 1980s.

Growing up in a world and family of hate, adult me often wonders, how did I end up being an activist and ally for equity? An agender, demi-sexual geek and firm believer that #BlackLivesMatter?

The answer? Science Fiction.

Reading about alien worlds with different species taught me not to fear those that were different than myself. Reading about a variety of relationships, genders (and lack thereof), and sexes, taught me that love is love is love is love. Reading books that questioned stereotypes and assumptions helped me question the hate speech of those around me—and question I did! Despite the changes I made to myself throughout middle and high school, our society is steeped in white privilege and racism. I benefitted from my privilege whether I wanted to or not. That’s not to say I haven’t had my fair share of struggles—I have—but I have benefited from a system that seeks to silence those of color. Just because I don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Therefore, it is my responsibility to stand up and use my privilege as I can. But how? My disability prevents me from marching with my brothers and sisters of color during a time when they need me most. The how is with my words. As an author, I have a duty to speak out and speak out LOUDLY, no matter what the cost. If it costs me some readers, so be it.

I’ve heard many arguments in the last few days on this topic, but two stand out as arguments that I wanted to address in case some of my readers haven’t thought about this topic too much.

  1. “All Lives Matter.”

This is usually the most vocal argument I hear when someone says Black Lives Matter. You know what? All lives do matter, but saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean we’re saying Black Lives Matter ONLY. It’s not an only. It’s a TOO, meaning also. It means black lives matter in addition to other lives. We say this because the racism in this country makes it clear that many don’t believe black lives matter at all.

When people march in pink for breast cancer, no one starts shouting about how ALL CANCERS MATTER. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s because we already know that all cancers matter. We already know that breast cancer awareness is not exclusionary. Same thing for BLM. It is not exclusionary.

  1. Murder is bad, but so is looting/rioting. That needs to stop.

You’re focusing on the wrong thing. Yes, looting/rioting is bad. (It’s also being done mostly by white supremacy groups and NOT the BLM protestors.) So yes, it’s bad, but saying it this way places property over lives. We should be more upset by the murdering of citizens than we are about the destruction of property. After all, property can be replaced.

NOTHING will replace a dead person.

You should be saying: looting/rioting is bad, but so is murder. Murder needs to stop.

civil rights movement

Assuming you’ve made it this far, thank you. Thank you for being the type of person who questions and thinks and verifies before coming to a conclusion. Thank you for being a science fiction reader.

So how am I using my voice to help?

  • I am writing politicians and demanding equity.
  • I donated to Black Lives Matter, to varies organizations raising bail money for protestors, and to the NAACP and Southern Poverty Law Center. I will also donate to anywhere else that fights for equity.
  • I will fight the prejudice inside myself and acknowledge the privilege that allows me opportunities forbidden to others.
  • I will call out prejudice when I see it, and I will do so LOUDLY.
  • I will write diverse fiction and speak my mind, like I’m doing here.

I hope you will join us.

Raven Oak and Erik

My husband and I in our backyard during quarantine.


WAYS YOU CAN HELP

ACTION ITEMS
  • Register to VOTE
  • Check in on your black friends, family, partners, and colleagues
  • Educate yourself and read up on what it means to be anti-racist. (This is a great article on that: Detour Spotting)
  • If you can protest, do so. Don’t forget to wear a mask! There’s still a pandemic going on
  • Screenshot, share, and report resources to educate those around you
  • Read the news and pay attention to social media
  • Don’t center the narrative around you. Identify privilege and condemn it
  • Stop supporting organizations that promote hate
  • Be an ally and advocate after the outrage ends
  • Continue to donate to fund and support initiatives you care about if you have the means
  • If you can, protest! If white, be a shield between POC and police. (Remember to wear a mask as we are still in a pandemic.)
CALL
  • DA Mike Freeman in Minnesota (612-348-5550) and demand prosecution to:
    • Derek Chauvin (Badge #1087)
    • Tou Thoa (Badge #7162)
  • Text FLOYD to 55-156
  • Text JUSTICE to 66-8336
  • Text ENOUGH to 55-165
  • Leave a message for Louisville Mayor and demand justice for Breonna Taylor, 502-574-2003
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
  • What can you do to support POC in your community?
  • What are your local politicians’ policy on ending police brutality?
  • When were you taught about race and culture?
  • How do you plan on helping the fight to end racial discrimination and systemic oppression?
  • How can you use anti-racist knowledge to change and progress conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and peers?
  • How can you be actively anti-racist instead of simply “not racist”?
  • What do you want to learn more about?
PETITIONS TO SIGN
ORGANIZATIONS TO DONATE TO

The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes Black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.

So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

–Scott Woods


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