(Or: Notes from Inside America)
When truth is replaced with silence, the silence is a lie. (Yevgeny Yevtushenko)
A young black man “tweeted” and shared his feelings about hearing his sister’s name announced as one of the murdered in Dayton, Ohio.
Twitter removed his post, as it “contained sensitive material.”
My mother did not tell me about what happened to her uncles until she was 82 years old.
But, even at that age, she knew how to use Messenger, so she wrote it all down and sent it to me.
One of them was lynched.
The other was disemboweled and thrown onto his mother’s front porch.
Messenger removed what she wrote and sent me this explanation:
This content is no longer available.
Every time I send out query letters publishers write back and tell me:
You write well but your work is not suitable for our target audience.
In a writing workshop, a white man told me:
You write well but what you write does not speak to me.
One time a white woman told me:
You write well, but the characters in your writing are just not believable, for me.
Someone I know—a white man–a dear friend of mine—told me a story about how, when he was 12 or 13 years old, he had to perform the rite of passage that was standard in his community.
He was taken out to a field on a moonless night—in the summer—when the wheat stood tall—and handed a rifle–and told:
Go get the coon.
Somewhere in that corn field was a young black man about his own age.
My friend was meant to hunt him down.
He failed—on purpose—and took a mighty strong beating for it.
I tried to write about this incident.
But, in the end, I did not bother.
Because my friend’s story–and the stories of so many others–is:
Sensitive material, whose voice does not speak to everyone, it’s just not believable.
And it is—like the scars these stories have left on my soul–content no longer available.
And know this, dear reader:
This will piece may snatched from your view, before you finish reading it.
Yet, it will continue to whisper in your heart.
And, one day, that murmuring will break you into a million pieces of light.
Then, only then, will you believe the stories that some say are not believable, and the sensitive material—the content no longer available—will gain a voice that speaks to everyone, even you.
And you will suddenly, with tears in your eyes, understand that I am not the liar you thought I was.