Because I am an addict of the printed word, I am getting around to reading some of my books whose spines I haven't yet cracked (incidentally, one absolute beauty of Nick Hornby's Believer magazine book columns is in the lists he maintains of books purchased and books read; all avid readers will nod at the very existence of both lists) and have picked up a few novels by Dara Horn, one of which contains the following passage on the "science" of some of the baser human actions, explored by a soon-to-be human in the time before birth:
One time, they had to plant microscopic cells of betrayal in petri dishes, inspecting their growth over the course of the class. Daniel stared at the dish and was astonished at how quickly the cells multiplied, by how a surface that was pristine moments before metamorphosed within minutes into a gangrenous plate of rot. A similar experiment was done involving a grudge, with identical results. Envy, on the other hand, proved itself not to be contagious at all; instead, it ate its carrier alive. Another lab result that intrigued Daniel was when the class measured the speed of gossip as it traveled through various media, determining how its speed was affected by whether it was transmitted through speech, writing, broadcast, or silence. To his surprise, the fastest means of travel was silence, which allowed the gossip to move faster simply by refusing to stop it, facilitated through listeners who should have created some kind of friction to slow it down but instead failed to rise to the subject's defense. Daniel was slightly repulsed by the lab involving the dissection of lies, a gory procedure in which he and a partner had to slice through layers of smooth skinlike surfaces and pin them back to reveal the innards, which mostly consisted of disgusting rotting guts of self-loathing and fear. (Some not-yets had asked for permission to sit out the dissections, claiming that it was against their religious beliefs. Permission was never granted.)It heartens me that Twitter is not silent about Ferguson, because that is the last thing that is needed right now, but Twitter is, ultimately, a human engine, displaying just as many fears and instances of loathing as it does hopes and truths. Get past the shiny surfaces of bright lies and one thing does remain: we treat those who look different as lesser beings. Long after the civil rights movement and Great Society legislation supposedly made that wrong, it still happens with insidious regularity.
I'm tired of turning on the news and seeing a story of some unarmed black person gunned down or otherwise killed, and being horrified, but even more horrifically, not all that surprised. I have never faced that sort of violent hostility in my life, and I would never intend to imply that anything I've ever experienced even comes close. But I've faced enough ... racial skepticism, I guess you could call it, so that these stories sadly never surprise me.
I'm tired of people telling me that "Karen, you just see these things because you live in the South. It's not like that anywhere else." I'm here to tell you, Ferguson isn't the south. Nor is Dayton, Ohio. Nor is Dearborn, Michigan. Nor, nor, nor.
I'm tired of worrying about my daughter and other black children of friends of mine, afraid that the world might be no different when they go out into it as teenagers and young adults -- because their teenage- and young-adult-years aren't that far away anymore. I'm tired of worrying that America might view our children as expendable.
I'm tired of every time my little girl doesn't try her best at school, my yelling at her invariably includes a lecture that people are looking for her to fail because she's black and she's a girl, and she's way too effing brilliant of a kid to let people write her off due to her blackness and her girlness. That she needs to make them work really, really hard before they write her off in any way. I'm just tired of the work-twice-as-hard-to-be-considered-half-as-good conversation that I believe is still a necessary concept for her to understand.
I'm tired of walking through the world constantly aware of how my blackness is being perceived, how my interracial marriage is being perceived. The fact is, whether it is being perceived positively or negatively, if I'm in the United States, I am always aware of it, and I'm tired."It's not like that anywhere else"? Yes, the South has had its Jenas, its Danziger Bridges, but New York City has had Amadou Diallo, Crown Heights, racial profiling out the wazoo. This is happening all over this country, exacerbated by the Section 1033 post-September 11 arsenals local police departments have been amassing.
We could indeed use far more scientific dissection of these matters and less pompously righteous religiosity.