What my grandmother taught me about battling white supremacy

I am a Black Woman that lives in the Copycat building where the statue of a black woman was defaced with racial slurs. I saw the statue the day it was defaced. The day after, I wrote a poetry series and put it up around the building. I saw myself in that statue. I saw the ancient vibration of my womanhood. I saw a Black Woman that survives, although there are people who live in opposition to her existence. I saw my grandmother in that statue.

When I was young, my sister and I frequented my grandmother's house. Her multi-colored ornate decorations, plastic-covered couches and warm, hearty Sunday breakfasts made us feel alive. My sister and I were always getting into something — whether it was the forbidden dusty crates in the basement or her shiny lavender perfume. One night, my sister snuck out of our room after bedtime to play in the kitchen. When she saw my grandmothers bedroom light come on, she frantically ran back upstairs and pretended to be asleep. My grandmother didn't know which one of us had disobeyed her.

I remember that night because my grandmother didn't discipline one of us, but both of us.

She made it clear that this incident of disrespect was not an isolated act. That night, we knew it was not just about heating up all the pizza bagels. The next day she set up an alarm system that would ring if we went downstairs after bedtime. People who fight against white supremacy have a lot to learn from my grandmother.

After the statue was defaced in the Copycat, a common commentary about the hate crime was that it had to be a specific individual that was full of hate, traumatized and most likely had an abused childhood. There were many social efforts to "other" this individual into a devilish shadow. Our only way to process hate crimes was to sympathize with the suspected individual and make them a victim of personal trauma. We isolated the act and the individual.

That wretched night of my childhood, my grandmother grounded us for a week. My sister and I knew that we were not just grounded for sneaking downstairs, but for the consistent lack of respect we had for my grandmother and the household. My grandmother never addressed us as individuals, but as a group. She worked not only to modify our psychology and provide a greater context as to why we couldn't watch television the next day, but she changed the institution we were participating in by establishing an alarm system.

If we only wish to see these acts as isolated events committed by "racists" we refuse to acknowledge the pattern of structural injustice. These are not singular acts performed by deranged individuals but institutional practices made physical. Individuals merely reflect the psychology of the institution they exist in. If these people are not us, than who are they? Do we wish to act as if those who write "nigger" on the womb of a black woman are not the same people we see at the bar?

There is no specific identity that a racist has. They will smile, hear our stories and call themselves "progressive." They will whisperracial slurs at loud parties and will not greet black people warmly. They are humans. When we decided to take away their humanity, we are saying that humans cannot be capable of such acts which is extremely flawed and dangerous. We are as capable of destruction as we are of creation.

The defaced statue is a symbolic representation of the historical and contemporary experience of Black Women in America. It is a reminder for those that can clock-in and clock-out of racial awareness, that even when you are riding your bike to work or cooking lunch, white supremacy is fully operational. It is vital, that you must hate racism more than you hate being called a racist. Combating white supremacy is not a racial duty, it is a human one.

I am an artist so I am aware that art is sacred, as a creation. I am a woman so I am also aware that woman is sacred, as the creator. It is through art that humanity heals itself. It is through the womb of woman that all of humanity passes. It is through the womb of the Black Woman that all of humanity began. We should learn to respect our mama. And our grandmothers.

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