White women, we have to look deep into ourselves and acknowledge the evil that lives there

Written May 28, 2020

This morning found me heaving with tears of rage and despair while furiously scrubbing last night’s dinner dishes. America. White women. Amy Cooper calling the police to report “being threatened by an African American man” who had asked her to leash her dog is of a piece with the Minneapolis cop who knelt on a Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes, extinguishing his precious life as he begged and pleaded, as witnesses begged and pleaded.

Is of a piece with Minneapolis police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at mostly Black and brown protesters.

I can’t stop thinking of the white woman who gave George Zimmerman a hug after voting with other jurors to acquit him of murdering Trayvon Martin.

The point is not that Amy Cooper had racist thoughts. All white people do, even when we have worked hard to confront and eradicate them. We’ve been deeply and profoundly indoctrinated in racism our entire lives. White women, in particular, are fed a daily diet of fear of Black men.

The point is that Amy Cooper — and the white women who voted to acquit George Zimmerman and the white women who throughout history have been instigators of racist violence including so many who call police on Black people such as Christian Cooper living their regular lives — the point is that these women act on the racist thoughts that rear up inside them. They don’t check themselves. They don’t recognize that calling the cops on a Black man threatens that man’s very life.

They don’t recognize this fact despite the repeated instances of police killing Black men and getting away with it. Despite the very public displays of these murders on social media. Despite the anguish of those who loved these men. Despite the movements for accountability and change that have needed to state what should be humanly assumed, that Black Lives Matter.

If they do recognize the threat they represent and make the call anyway, then white women are perpetrators, plain and simple, active participants in a system that dehumanizes, degrades, and murders Black people.

White women, we have to look deep into ourselves and acknowledge the evil that lives there. It is not necessarily our fault that we’ve been spoon fed racist fear our entire lives. But it is our grave responsibility to acknowledge it, to recognize when it rears its murderously ugly head, and to tell it to fuck off.

There is much more to say — about entitlement and public space and history and America — but, for now, this: white women, let’s get down to it. We have so much work to do.

Sarah Browning’s National Poetry Month Recommendations – Pandemic Version

A list of recommended poetry books curated by Sarah Browning, cofounder, Split This Rock and MFA candidate, Rutgers University-Camden

I’m grateful to the good folks at The Head & The Hand bookstore in Philadelphia for inviting me to curate a list of poetry collections for National Poetry Month. I’ve chosen 15 books, many by poets from populations most grievously affected by the coronavirus pandemic and by the policies of our nation, and others’, that have rendered them so vulnerable: Native peoples, people with disabilities, the incarcerated, and immigrants, especially our undocumented kin. Each of these collections brings poetry’s power – as a challenge and a balm both, reminding us, with ferocity and tenderness, of our common humanity.

The list appears on Bookshop.org, a new site for buying books online, with a portion of proceeds benefiting independent bookstores!

Read the list — and shop for great books! — on Bookshop’s website.

About

Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry, 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Beloit Poetry Journal, Shenandoah, and many other journals and anthologies. She is co-founder and was Executive Director of Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness for 10 years. She is Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Browning is the recipient of artist fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, Mesa Refuge, and the Adirondack Center for Writing. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and three issues of POETRY magazine. From 2006 to 2019 Browning co-hosted the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. She has been nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize.

Browning is a columnist for the Other Words op ed service and her essays have appeared in small-town newspapers around the country, in Common Dreams, Utne Reader, Sojourners, The Writer’s Notebook, VIDA Review, and other venues. She previously worked supporting socially engaged women artists with WomenArts and developing creative writing workshops with low-income women and youth with Amherst Writers & Artists. She has been a community organizer in Boston public housing and a grassroots political organizer on a host of social and political issues. In the fall of 2019 she will begin the MFA program in poetry and creative non-fiction at Rutgers Camden.