Stay Safe

We say these words with a sense of hope, believing that, like the magic waters supposed to protect resistant blacks from bullets during anti-colonial struggles, they will, somehow, ward off the intending harm. We say them with a sense of ongoing, persistent, unrelenting desperation, as we watch those we love walk to school, to the grocery story, outside to get the paper. Or, as we leave them at home, as we get off the phone.

Stay safe.
Stay alive.
Stay with us.

We say these words as rituals. But never casually. For to be disposable means we can never be casual about our ongoing vulnerability. We can never be casual about our disposability. About the ease with which a killing world hunts for killable bodies and relishes the killing.

A jury in Florida has, like many juries before it, found a young, black man’s death unremarkable. And even justified. The same jury has deemed a black family’s grief unimportant. A courtroom inside and outside of the court found a young black woman’s testimony suspect, unbelievable. And, racism will veil itself in procedure and insist that the law worked as it should.

What is feeling in the face of the law?
What is black loss in the face of the law?
What is black disposability in the face of the law?

I wondered, recently if Trayvon Martin was our Emmett Till. Yet, we are post-sentimental. We are post-irony. And the internet demonstrates that Trayvon’s death is an occasion for blackface jokes. We are not past the days of smiling lynchers. We are still within the affect of the lynch mob: hungry, rapacious, happy. Whiteness consolidates around the lynched bodies of blacks.

And today and tomorrow and the following days, black mothers will tell their sons, “stay safe,” with a sense of hopelessness. They will mean, “try not to encounter those who want to kill you.” They will mean, “you are loved and killable.” They will mean, “you are disposable.” They will mean: “I love you.”

Stay safe.

I love you.

Stay alive.

You are loved. You are lovable.

Stay safe.

5 thoughts on “Stay Safe

    1. Even as we mourn.

      My friend keeps asking: what is Trayvon’s mother to say, to do, to feel? How is she to act, to imagine, to believe?

      I’m stuck at this question. What do we say to the mothers whose children keep being killed? What can we say?

  1. As always, so grateful to read your writing… When I first came to Kenya, my equivalent phrase on parting was often “take care”. I realized that this often had a double meaning in Kenyan English, not a statement of love (take my care with you) but of an admonishing authority (be careful not to cross this line, I’m warning you). I have honestly never really understood the roots of the cautionary “take care” in Kenya (and elsewhere?) but “stay safe” has a good ring to it even as it assumes one has the safety in the first place… go with peace (maa salama, kwa heri)… and please do stay safe, mothers, children, fathers, nations

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