Thursday, August 05, 2010

No Place Safe

(Wrote this a month ago. Forgot that I didn't publish it here. Will give you some idea of my summer before I start writing more)

Today, I am on the bright side of the sickest period, physically, of my life. And days ago, while I lay on my bed, thinking I might be slowly dying, my darling father actually did. To say that I am not well is an understatement. My family and friends banded together to bring me back to the city to better care and I am feeling the effects.

The nausea no longer turns me inside out.

I no longer have to close my eyes while my best friend or my mom or my sister bathes me.

I can actually make tears and jokes and dear God, words.

But just now in this hospital, the sickness has rebounded in away. I feel assaulted, so shaken, so fucking tired that I can only do the one thing I feel that I know how sometimes--write.

The other day, long dark hours ago, when I couldn't speak and my mother was telling one of the aditting doctors that I was a professor, and of history no less, I should've felt the warning come of him, but Lord I was so ill. He said something like, "A-ha! Is she ready?"

He came back today. I was not ready. He pulled his chair up in the middle of this room where my mother and I sit now and began with the questions. What did I teach? Surely I realized the broad scope of my fall classes? Had there been black films made in a protest tradition? Could I find copies of them?

Did I get the Amazon suggestions he left at my bedside table the other night while I was vomiting--books I should read as a historian, he assured me. My mom asked had he been a history major. "No," he said imperiously, "I just read."

Because of course she doesn't.

And then came the heart of his argument. Could I understand the position of white people like him who respected black people who had seen real racism in the 1940s and 50s but now had to deal with the anger of black people for whom racism was rare, and mostly a memory?

A memory of resentment, I think he said. No black person born after 1970 has really encountered racism--well, maybe me from Louisiana, but here? Oh no. No, we want to preserve our racial preferences without acknowledging our racism. We too often assume racism.

As an example, he'd grown weary of his black friend who often wondered if poor service was a result of her race. Anyone could be served badly in a Texas city by the end of the 20th century.

And yes, he understood the feelings of (black) nurses' aids who cared for (white) patients who were subjected to racist abuse. BUT alzheimer's... delirium... old memories... and couldn't I understand that one of the greatet fears of old white women was thata black man would come do something to them into the night?

Also, when would I teach about the Palestinian-Israeli comflict? Wasn't Israel as guilty as South Africa? Step outside my comfort zone--it was as easy to teach about others as ourselves.

Finally, he prepared to leave after telling me I didn't talk enough for him. Me with the nausea and the phlegm and the cracked lips.

He doesn't see racism (or sexism I'm sure)

but he

came into my room

turned down the TV my mama was listening to

disregarded my recently delivered dinner

ignored my signs of discomfort and final outright silence

advised me on what to teach--though he never asked my specialties

gave me homework

had a history of dismissing black women's opinions and experiences

planned to challenge me and my authority from the moment he knew my title.

Before he re-situated his chair and left,

He said, "I feel better now."

My blood pressure when they just checked it?


and all I can do

is write.

Will this be my life?


I don't want it right now.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oy, Elle. I started reading this post thinking {{{{elle}}}} about finding out you were sick, your dad passing, and fucking had *this*? This. Yes, it does give me an idea of the summer you've had so far.

Except then I remember that it says you wrote it a month ago.

It makes me wish I was grandmotherly age so I could call you baby and hold you. If you wanted, not, you know, otherwise.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...