The other early evening I went for a run around Green Lake. I wore a DIY Black Lives Matter shirt (also for the record I had on shorts, socks, etc). Wearing this shirt in particular makes me feel a couple things. Green Lake is hella white and I often feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone or have you ever heard the saying one person’s unobstructed privilege is another person’s nightmare. I also feel a heightened sense of confrontation. Like I’m a slight glitch in the system of Whitey McWhiterson from Whiteville U.S. White. Which is a convoluted way to say, I felt self-righteous.
I couldn’t tell you what day it was because we don’t know each other like that but if my memory functions anywhere near to ‘good,’ then it was a day where elsewhere around the city/globe black and brown people were simultaneously being bombed, harassed, murdered, jailed and dehumanized. Obviously, naturally, black and brown people do an infinite amount of other things which keep the world turning but in this particular context, with me as a white passing poc (a poc poc) and having chose this particular shirt, this is the way I consumed the environment. Bitterly, ironically. With loads of sweat and traces of anxiety.
So I’m running my indignant ass around the lake. Breathing the fresh air and notice something I’m accustomed to noticing – several, like so several it feels like a majority, white dudes also running around the lake. With their god damn shirts off. There’s layers here to why this bothers me so. For this trip I’ll just hop off on the white male privilege stop tho. Bros, this is not as simple as put a shirt on or don’t but put a damn shirt on. I think about their lack of shirt in comparison to my purposeful shirt. And they don’t seem to different. What is a shirtless white dude running around Green Lake if not a proud declaration of All Lives Matter, White Lives Matter propaganda. The difference being the ease and presumptuousness the message embedded in their skin conveys. Normalcy, homogeneity, violence.
That’s a lot to put on some dude running around the lake. I guess. I also guess that I’m not completely putting all that onto those individual dudes. They didn’t choose that skin after all. But there is a choice in the matter. To illuminate the conditions which allow you be so care free about your wardrobe or lack thereof selections. The reality is there is a lot of body shaming (and general dehumanizing) that goes on in our culture. Down to every last inch of our bodies- weight, hair, size and most definitely color. Insert rape culture statistics. Images of white beauty standards. A black body lying on the ground in the middle of the street in the hot sun for over four hours. Rest in Power Mike Brown.
There’s a specific identity which permits you the sense of fresh air on your bare skin and the confidence to share that experience with all the strangers around you.
I finished up that run on that day free from any obstruction. I didn’t notice any dirty looks, no one yelled All Lives Matter at me, no cop Blue Lives Matter-ed me (actually not sure if cops exist around Green Lake). And so I took my Black Lives Matter shirt off, wringed out the sweat and tucked it into a plastic bag and drove home. It’s at this point that more difficult questions arise for myself to consider, what are the privileges of my own skin? That afforded me the path of grad school, of enjoying 36 years on earth. That allow me the option to choose when, where and how to wear my beliefs on my clothes. How much does my projecting of animosity towards whiteness (not white people) deflect my own exploration towards an honest conversation about the depths of anti-black racism within myself. And the non-black people of color communities I waver in and out of. How does the conflation between white skin, black skin and a t-shirt covering mixed asian skin function to decipher anti-black violence if at all…
Six Seattle creatives rap on the role of race in art, the challenges of working with a largely white audience, and the importance of raising more voices like their own.
What I’m saying is love yourself enough to be transformed, love others enough to believe in their ability to be transformed. Love is not like a liberal politic, even though liberals want to steal it. Love is an abolitionist politic and that’s so important.