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People’s Lives Were at Stake

I know everyone was talking about it and after the fact; you’d hear the reports on the news about the damage done, and you’d think that we were in a war zone and that all of this was done for religious purposes and people’s lives were at stake...and maybe they were and I just don’t know it. I don’t know. I know what it’s like to have a cause but I never tried to close people out to it, I tried to include them, to open them up to it, but I remember deciding once to walk to a woman’s parade called “take back the night”, so that people knew that women should feel safe walking alone in the streets at night without worrying about being mugged or raped or killed because they were female. Well anyway, I was walking to the parade to take photographs because I’m a photographer, and a group of women were walking in a group to the parade, so I walked down the street and started walking with them, and they were chanting and singing and I thought, wow, this is unity, people together for a cause.

and one of the women told me while we were walking that someone women there didn’t like me walking with them because I was white and they were African American. and I looked around and noticed that there wasn’t a racial mix, and I said, well, we’re all going to the same place, and the woman replied, well, some people don’t like you walking with us anyway. so I turned my head and let them walk and I crossed the street and took another block and got there before them.

and this is how we define how we should be separated, I suppose, though I still don’t understand it.

and during that parade I heard about a trial case where a black man was convicted of a police brutality crime, and the black community was outraged, saying that the white man was holding them down, and maybe in a way they are right and I just don’t understand it. a large group of people started their own rally that night which seemed to take center stage from women’s rights, i mean, they’re just women, what are they going to do, bitch a little louder, or complain a little more, but then again, maybe it is just a matter of deciding who has the loudest voice, or who has the most recent problem to complain about, I don’t know.

we went out that night, and I heard the next day that in light of the trial 23 fires were started on school property, and most of them were of books in libraries and I thought, this isn’t nonresistent violence, this is out and out violent and what they’re destroying are opportunities for learning and not ideas.

“yeah, but do these books hold what the white man wants you to learn? if this how he alters our preceptions?” i don’t know, but this doesn’t solve anything and this isn’t the answer... then I heard about one of my best friends, a white man, hit once by a black man in the street while they were out that night, and the doctor said that they had to have a roll of quarters in their hand or brass knuckles because this was a clean break of their jaw and for six weeks his jaw was wired shut and he had to throw pizza or meat loaf in the blender so he could eat something instead of ice cream while he tried to recover. and I thought, is this all getting anything done?

are we coming any closer to racial harmony? what are we learning from this?




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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
on all art and all writings on this site completed
before 6/6/04. All rights reserved. No material
may be reprinted without express permission.

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