On Color Theory sans Goethe, Schopenhauer, or Wittgenstein

A Meditation on the AME Terrorist Attack, Race, and Grace

1. You close your eyes.

2. You breathe in. You breathe out.

3. You open your eyes.

4. You are male. You are white. You walk under greening trees. You walk under flags. You live in a house. Your household is violent. You drive a black car. You feel a nation was stolen from you. You do not feel the world is on your side. In a novel with the word blood in its name, you could be said as already having a taste for mindless violence.

5. However, this is not a work of fiction or a screenplay. You are not a hero with boots onstage. You are not a knight in shining armor, not even a dark knight, the gladiator, a warrior-avenger, or a crusader. You are not a revolutionary, a star, or a prophet.

6. You own a gun. You take it to a black church. You sit in a small group and introduce yourself. You may express a desire to know Jesus. You shoot nine people.

7. You say you want to start a race war.

8. This is not poetry. At most, only broken lyrics today.

9. Yet the words flame out, a mystery.

10. Despite what you hear on the news, God has not abandoned us.

11. What proof is there, you ask?

12. Another mystery: desire to save every single soul, to draw everyone: the most depraved, the most corrupt, even ourselves: the inherently lost.

13. What prayer yields us: in weakness, the sufficiency of grace, as the apostle says, quoting God.

14. Confession: this very moment, I struggle with forgiveness.

15. We go about routine tasks in a daze, our hearts shot at point-blank range. Even the word, daze, looks useless on this list while God sees only what God knows in dazzling miles over the sea: the final horizon of this savagery and everything in it.

16. Even the sea, in all its beautiful wreckage, cannot save us.

17. Rage, rage, against the mythologies of our so-called post-racial age.

18. Or rather, a post-religious age where pseudo-rationalism, moralistic therapeutic deism, and epistemological skepticism prevail, or at the other pole, willingness to believe anything, even trusting in _________, i.e. crystals, extra-terrestrials, and a giant ball of nuclear fusion called the sun.

19. A gun show travels to the fairgrounds every summer: we observe only white men driving to this event. We prefer the vintage cars going to the vintage car show, although white men drive those cars, too. The south where we live is neither the South nor the New South: yet southern California is southbound in its own way, shunning the word terror, never mind terrorist and white in a breath.

20. I sit in a room of white women. The women speak out against sexual harassment, against date rape, against trafficking. I agree. Then, a statement is uttered once, passed around the room. It ricochets. The nation’s conversation has turned to race, but it is not just about race. Not just about race. Not about race. Not race. Race.

21. This world is no sanctuary: no wonder, dear agoraphobics.

22. Engineers drill under our nation and discover the world’s largest fuel reserve. Ugly enough, this particular reserve also fuels racial hatred. The government makes a decision to make the drilling site an educational one, a historic landmark with a museum, so children in the future can understand, through diagrams of geophysicists, petroleum engineers, and sociologists, how our nation refused to fuel its economy through racism, so everyone lived happily ever after.

23. On color theory sans Goethe, Schopenhauer, or Wittgenstein.

24. Our skin is a racial matrix, a social text, a code for human conduct towards us depending on how our skin is read in various contexts. The interpretations are often paradoxical. We are read as invisible or highly visible, as objects of desire or repulsion, as killing machines or butterflies. I am speaking of brown-skinned women, black women of color, Asian women, indigenous women.

25. On wrestling with angels. Earth-bound, the only angel I wrestle is forgiveness personified at night. I toss and turn, flexing a bruised tendon this angel will dislocate inside me soon.

26. In a dream of wish fulfillment, our nation heals itself of violence through a bodily physiological process of autolytic debridement, sloughing its necrotic tissue by enzymatic fluids. This body politic is designed to heal. Other nations ask, what is going on in your country? What they are not saying: __________.

27. Who lurks in our borders, other flags hiding in the white stars within the flag?

28. Of course, sick souls are the ones who need to go the hospital most. As for dead souls, theologically speaking, the soul never dies: it only feels dead, potentially forever.

29. I can’t breathe.

30. When I was sixteen, I read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God for the first time, the pear tree blossoming within me, a thousand sister-calyxes. Janie was sixteen, too. That year, I heard the observation, we are no freer than the least free among us. The key words in this statement are freer and free, we and us. In my notes, the word freer resembles fever.

31. A shot of elephant tranquilizer used to immobilize racist impulses would fail to anesthetize a racist organ because racism is not a nerve. Simultaneously cancer, a toxin, a learned behavior: if only we could locate racism on or inside the body, as racism locates our race on the body: a profane, racist spleen, a racist liver, a racist colon: racists would call this reverse racism.

32. The racist complains he is tired of reflecting before he speaks, of seeking the right phrase that won’t offend. A racist embraces another racist, who embraces the misogynist, who is himself: is this rehabilitation or sympathetic complicity, or their delusions.

33. And how is this psychopathology, not racist hatred?

34. Yet another mystery: out of grace, God chooses to dwell with us in our moral depravity and suffering instead of annihilating our malevolence, or vaporizing our souls along with xenophobic violence. Instead of total evisceration, we receive grace.

35. We already do the work of annihilating one another.

36. The grand design, which we see only in part, is a verb.

Introducing Insight

It became clear that, from the intersections at which The Offing had located itself, it would be necessary for us to talk about these issues, and offer a platform for others to talk about them.

Post-Magical Thinking America

My friend said people are afraid of saying the wrong thing around me. “Good,” I said. “I don’t want them to say the wrong thing around me.”