- Photo: Stepanie Alinsug
In the last five years, over 1,200 Black people have died as a result of police shootings.
I have a budget of 1,000 words for this essay. I considered listing all of the names of these victims in lieu of taking up space with my voice. I decided otherwise, but I want you to imagine each of these words as someone's first name—the name of a living, breathing, loving, hurting human engaged in the same struggle for dignity as you and me. Take in the sight of these words on this paper—look at the words in physical space. Imagine them as names, as people. Watch them inevitably blur as the eye adjusts its focus. Imagine them.
This is the Futures issue, aptly titled The Future is Now: Toward a Better New Normal. Before we prioritize our future, we must take a moment to honor all of the Black lives (men, women, trans, and non-binary) in our collective history, from today stretching back to 1619, when the first ship arrived from Africa carrying people stolen from their land—Black people enslaved for the sake of the white man's capitalist pursuit. Honor all of the Black individuals who are not granted a future. Honor the Black community who is not actively afforded the possibility of envisioning a future—a better new normal—because every day is survival, and even still it is likely to include disenfranchisement, incarceration, and death.
This is on us.
There is no single radical policy platform that white people can support to heal the traumas that centuries of white supremacy have perpetrated on Black and non-Black people of color. There is no set of electeds you can call to "pass racial justice" in this country. There are no books you can check off your list that absolve previous and future complacency. There are no meetings you can attend, no organizations you can donate to that will bring the struggle for Black liberation to a grand denouement.
Don't misunderstand me: These are all good things to do, and you should do them. Yet they are not enough.
My writing contains nothing new. adrienne maree brown reminds us that within structural and systemic supremacy, the Black community has been engaged in Black futures for all of eternity. In her essay "Afrofuturism and #BlackSpring," from her book Emergent Strategy, brown writes: "To focus on afrofuturists in the Black social-justice tradition, I would note that: Africans leaping off of slaver ships were afrofuturists. Slave-era parents teaching their babies a foreign alphabet in the candlelit dirt were afrofuturists."
brown's essay contains so much wisdom. I read it like a prayer—a celebration of and commitment to Black liberation. Deep gratitude to adrienne maree brown for bringing her wisdom into this world and gifting it to us.
As a non-Black person of color, every day requires great effort to be seen and held as a full person within my dignity and my vulnerability, within my perfections and my imperfections. I have no choice but to fight for my physical and metaphysical safety, for my intellectual and emotional validity. This struggle manifests somatically within my body—mental health and the traumas of supremacy are deeply interconnected.
Black and non-Black people of color don't have the option to opt in or opt out of the violence, of the somatic manifestations of supremacist trauma. Acknowledging and listening to the sensations within our bodies is our survival. This knowing is held within our intergenerational trauma, and our intergenerational wisdom.
I was not invited to have my voice in this magazine. I had to ask. (Again, the struggle to be seen.) This is not the first time I've asked—I've been asking for months, years. I pursued the traditional channels of the sacred editorial process—I sent clips to editors and decision makers and specifically called on the magazine to create a social justice vertical. Nothing came of my persistence.
- Photo: Stephanie Alinsug
- Black Lives Matter March on June 3 in Kingston
Now that I'm finally here, I'm tasked with articulating the uplifting opportunities that this moment of societal upheaval offers for change.
Spoiler alert: This moment of societal upheaval presents nothing new.
White people are waking up to this struggle. The opportunities of this moment are within their bodies. White people must look deeply within themselves and acknowledge their bodies. They must face the shame and sit within the discomfort. It's what Black and non-Black people of color do every day. It's our survival.
The opportunity lies within white people to embrace this somatic awareness as their survival, as if their lives depend on it—because Black lives depend on it.
Kazu Haga in Healing Resistance—a book that is part activist memoir, part philosophical exploration of Kingian nonviolence, and part practical guide to living nonviolence—writes this of the lifelong commitment to nonviolence, which we can easily substitute with the work of antiracism: "To change our defaults, we need to reprogram our responses to conflict, and that takes a while. It takes consistent training to change old habits and conditioning. It takes consistent training for something to become muscle memory."
- Stephanie Alinsug
Within the context of antiracism, engaging in conflict is a radical investment in ourselves, in our allies, in our community, and in the movement. Conflict is our antiracist practice, it's our antiracist training. White people must turn toward shame, must listen to the pleas of Black and non-Black people of color. White people must engage in the conflict of antiracism. Again, adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategy, quoting Octavia Butler: "We are touching the future, reaching out across boundaries and post-apocalyptic conditions to touch each other, to call each other out as family, as beloveds. 'All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.' We are making ourselves vulnerable enough to be changed, which will of course change what Black existence means."
How do white people join the antiracist future in the Hudson Valley? By making themselves vulnerable to change. Let the voices of Black and non-Black people of color reach into your boundaries and hold you in conflict, in your accountability as family engaged in the struggle for Black futures.
Stephanie Alinsug (she/they/siya) is a writer, organizer, and facilitator, and centers BIPOC healing in their work for liberation. Stephaniealinsug.com