“Without new visions we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless, and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics but a process that can and must transform us ” Robin D.G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
I have grown up in a country that seems intent on my destruction. Perhaps that feels like an exaggeration to some, but I have listened as others casually discuss the murder of Black folks as if it were a natural consequence of their skin my entire life.
When Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012, I remember expressing frustration and anger to a White friend. They coolly responded, “Zimmerman did what anyone would have done.” I was initially shocked and disgusted after they said this to me—a Black woman; however, after further reflection, I realized that this statement was disgusting, but true. The ability to take Black life is a right that has been granted to folks in this country since its inception—from slavery to Emmett Till to J. Thomas Shipp and Abraham Smith to Tamir Rice to Ahmaud Arbery to Breonna Taylor…
In that moment, I realized that this country was not built for me. In fact, this country thrives in its ability to constantly strip me of my humanity.
Perhaps after watching our country disastrously handle a pandemic, confronting the realities of anti-Black racism and police brutality, seeing children locked in cages, witnessing folks being criminalized for poverty, seeing folks go into monumental debt because they’re sick, and you know…growing hip to the shear callousness of the United States, you have also come to realize that this system was not built for you either.
We deserve more, those who came before us deserved more, and those who are yet to come deserve more. It is no longer acceptable to simply be in denial of the country we live in. I also do not believe that it is enough to only want to burn it down without any thought of the “after.” That, again, would be a disservice to myself, my ancestors, and those who will come after me.
What we need, I think, is a more loving fire– a term articulated by sister-scholar Allie Martin. A willingness to burn down the systems that are literally killing us, while also holding space for thinking about the world that might be. That should be.
This is not a new thought— Black folks have been radically imagining possible futures and making a way outta no way for generations. However, I do feel like some current revolutionary rhetoric is missing this imagination and a certain (as my sister-scholar Andrea Marie puts it) politic of love.
What is that world, free from anti-Blackness, misogyny, transphobia, sexism, imperialism, racism, and White supremacy, that we wish to create? How do we create that world by embodying it daily? As Allie Martin says, “Imagining/practicing the better world will both create the better world and burn down the old one.”
So I ask, how are we actively imagining, embodying, and thus, creating a world in which we’re all free? Because this world ain’t it.