THERE’S A REVOLUTION OUTSIDE, MY LOVE should be essential reading for all Americans. Edited by Tracy Smith and John Freeman, the anthology gives us a glimpse into the beating heart of some of our most esteemed writers during a time of great unrest. Tracy Smith likens the Summer of 2020 to the Freedom Summer of 1964. In 2021, there is still a battle to ensure the voting rights of black Americans. Though the murder of George Floyd caused many white Americans to acknowledge that the reign of white supremacy must end, many are floundering with what action to take. Others, zealously holding onto their power will do anything, it seems, to continue disenfranchising people of color.
The stories, poems, essays, and letters in this collection are a battle cry — beaten down by a pandemic, police brutality, political divisiveness, and an armed insurrection – the writers question whether America has the stuff it takes to make the changes required. “As long as socio-racial segregation and discrimination persist, and as long as the presence of the state is limited to the increasingly armed police force, then neither the biggest smile nor the use of any hollow expressions of “American Nice” is going to remedy what for a very long time most people of color have lived as a daily experience of injustice in this country,” writes Sofian Merabet.
Drawing its title from a letter to her son by journalist Kirsten West Savali, the book includes writing by Edwidge Danticat, Layli Long Soldier, Julia Alvarez, and Minnesota’s own Su Hwang and Michael Kleber Diggs.
It’s been a year since George Floyd’s murder, and Michael Kleber Diggs laments:
“I wonder if I can love my white friends without being candid with them. I wonder if they can love me if I hold them at a distance, if race and racism function as a veneer, a layer between us obscuring any substance underneath. When I don’t answer fully, am I not saying I don’t trust you to do anything about it? What I wanted to say and didn’t say was this: “I’m fine today, the hard part will begin soon. The hard part for me starts when things get comfortable for you again. The hard part begins the day you return to your normal routines.”
As Su Hwang points out in her essay in the anthology:
“Many are claiming this an ‘inflection point’ in American history, myself included, but the more I think about it, the less this sentiment holds water. Inflection implies singularity, of one musculature or a single stream of consciousness, when there have been multiple inflections since the looting of this land from Native Americans to the founding of the country on the backs of Black lives. I believe we are at a point of convergence. Convergence denotes multiplicity and cumulativeness – a cacophony of voices and perspectives. In this semantic distinction, we honor the lingering ghosts of all our ancestors. We can no longer afford to pivot from one point to another and call it progress or justice; the weight of our collective histories can no longer support these blatant disparities between what is deemed progress and justice versus the lived realities of marginalized peoples. What we’re seeing and experiencing is a cavalcade of centuries of protest, of deaths and rebirths, the final heave for human decency for all.”
A revolution implies a sudden and complete change in something, but it also can be defined as a cycling of events. The murders of Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and on and on – are a seemingly endless cycle of violence against people of color in this country.
“If there is unrest in America today,” Tracy Smith writes in the preface, “It is not because we cannot agree upon a definition of racism, as many who have argued against antiracist policies have suggested, but rather because power – especially contested power – will go to nearly any lengths to confuse, distort and render muddily abstract terms that, when power is not called into question, remain as legible and distinct as black and white.”
I recommend There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love for all Americans. This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews.