So, here it goes, excerpt #1, toe in the water:
It was awkward, how well acquainted with violence I was—not the easy sort of street violence that would sometimes take place in the immigrant buildings in our neighborhood, the kind that carried over into the streets in the form of gunshots, shouting, and brawling, but a tougher, more real and everyday aggression. It’s one of those facts, those accepted “cultural norms,” that black children are “beaten.” I say “beaten” because I don’t think that there are any illusions about the nature of or reason behind such brutality. There is no sense of balance involved, no true cause and effect measure. Being “beaten” is purely an outlet for rage. Perhaps others think that there is some rage within black people that is different, and that is why they are quiet. But in my experience, the wrath that I suffered was born out of the same anger that we all possess. There are no cultural differences in emotion, only constraints on what we can acceptably express, and semantic and communicative barriers. Being “beaten” though, that seems a pretty universal conveyance.
It always baffled me that we could impose upon entire countries a sense of human decency, and yet within the boundaries of our own governance remain silent about this cruelty. I couldn’t understand how children in other countries were causes that were of the utmost importance, and yet I was standing in their direct line of sight, somehow unworthy of the same consideration. No, I wasn’t physically starving, but I needed in other ways, grave ways. Thoughts like this plagued me from the time that I was nine or so, and at night I would lay still, mouthing wretched screams into the air, tears streaming down my face, making no sound.
I often blamed slavery. I thought that, because we had so been questioned out of existence, and stripped of our humanness, others were now too afraid to touch us. The climate of political correctness that spread across the country in my early childhood, I believed, was at least partially responsible for the fact that my parents had complete license to tear at my skin whenever they saw fit. “What happens in this house, stays in this house,” my father would say sometimes. I think that’s the way everybody wanted it, because if they talked about one thing, they’d have to talk about the other. And nobody seemed to want to talk about it—this made up thing called “race” that had torn our country apart had indirectly resigned me to an upbringing fraught with slaps, punches, kicks, pushes, and lashes (yes lashes), that I was forced to bear in silence.
To others it seemed that I had choices, that all I had to do was speak. Some of my teachers, seeing the weighted pain beneath my eyes, begged me to speak. But that was not an option. I had heard stories about foster care, I had cousins who lived in the projects who were pregnant or had HIV. And so for me foster care and family services became my monster in the closet—a thing that I had never really seen, but was afraid enough of that I’d never peak my head out from under the covers in the night. And my siblings, what would happen to them? They were not so marred as I was. My mother loved them, cherished them each at different points. Their lives were not so bad. Who was I to strip them of the life they had so that I could have a little peace? I would get my peace; deep down I always knew that. I had been planning my escape since Matilda. Roald Dahl had all but promised me a clear exit. So I sat quietly in the dark, and continued to wait the requisite eighteen years for my morning to come.
I want this to be as unadulterated a process as possible, so I'll leave you to it. Thoughts? Does it speak to you? Do you understand it? Does it intrigue you? Anything, really.
Peace and Love and Bugs Named Doug,