Yesterday I left the house armed with a ventilated mask and blue rubber gloves and two neon signs that I made with my daughter to march for Black lives and protest police brutality. It was my first time gathering with people outside my household since mid-March and there were a few thousand more than the ten of us now permitted to gather under Illinois’ phased reopening plan. The event was peaceful, family-friendly even, though I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel dangerous to be gathered en masse while the coronavirus is still ravaging the country, if I didn’t admit that I wrestled with whether or not to go after abiding by the stay at home order so strictly for so long, that I figured I’d leave if there were too many people to remain socially distanced throughout.
I went because the fight for black lives is the first truly essential thing I’ve had to do since this started.
I stayed, even though it was immediately clear that I could not stay six feet clear in any direction, because every time I felt a jolt of fear–when somebody bumped up against me or cleared a throat after chanting–I knew that my fear was nothing compared to what Black people feel living under the threat of white supremacy on any given day in America, nothing to the constant fear Black moms carry every single day they have to send their kids out into a racist world.
I stayed because the odds are higher I have the virus today than yesterday, but the odds of my family’s survival are higher than the odds of my Black neighbors with or without the virus.
When I got home I stripped my mask off and scrubbed my hands and threw my clothes in the laundry. My scientist neighbor says coronavirus is easy to kill (“just some RNA, proteins, and lipids that fall apart in soapy water”), so I went back to my family confident I’d done all I could to keep them safe. Have I done everything I can to wash off the blood on my white hands, the racism baked into my beliefs, the after effects of breathing in and benefitting from white supremacy all my life? Have I done everything I can to keep my Black friends safe? My neighbors? My community? Not even close, but I’m going to do better.