By Acasia O.
I now live in another country, a place where my most persistent reality includes getting acclimated to a new culture, meeting new people and finding a job. I also happen to live in the Middle East, a region of the world that is most often depicted as war-torn, unstable, and connotes terrorism to those who aren’t from here. The local news stations don’t reflect the modern events of my homeland, not the way I know they do on American news networks. Before moving, I was aware of the local protests and riots that took place throughout various neighborhoods and seasons in my new home. Fueled by the frustrations from the Arab Spring of 2011, there are tire fires and road blocks not too far from where I live. The weary find ways to express their frustration, and to be honest, I don’t feel threatened, worried or as if their actions are a cause for concern but a natural progression of what happens in most situations when marginalized people get fed up. In fact, the reality of the unrest in my new home didn’t phase me, because I left a land where unrest and frustration with the ways of life are bubbling over like a pot of water over a high fire. I went from one area with an underlying problem to another area with an underlying problem. And, as far as I know, very few countries have little to no social maladies. Before moving abroad, I used to worry and wonder if I or my husband would become one more statistic or hashtag in the Russian Roulette of America where we might encounter that one officer who doesn’t think twice about pulling the trigger and blaming us for resisting arrest while in a chokehold, wearing our seat belt or already impaled by the bullets lodged in our weeping backs. Because we are in the Middle East, and my prior knowledge of this area was informed by reports of non-natives, I also had to combat this notion that I would be living a catch-22 where residing in America while black was a daily risk but living abroad as an American was also an invitation for assault and hostility, especially given the most recent threats and historic sentiments against the ‘Leader of the Free World”. Not only would we have to remain vigilant in the U.S. but now, there’s another layer of awareness and protection we have to assume because we’re not from here and, contrary to what we want to believe, everyone doesn’t like the U.S.
I don’t know what’s going on back home in the the land of my birth. I’m somewhat removed, not by choice but because when you live eight hours ahead of Eastern time and your daily routine doesn’t include watching TV or skimming online news sources, you tend to miss out on the latest happenings both in and out of country. But thanks be to God for pouring out the spirit of innovation which brought about social media. It’s not a muted source of information. To be honest, there is a level of respite to be found in the distance and space between me and that cruel, cold and carcinogenic reality of racial terrorism and white fragility that threatens the progress of our nation. There’s a lot of brokenness and sometimes I wonder if it’s better to just win the lottery, purchase an island and go about life in my own little corner of the world. But then I think about the indigenous people who, once upon a time, lived on their land masses and went about life in their own little hemisphere of the world, before someone invaded, killed, kidnapped and all but exterminated them. And that’s when I realize, as much as I want to escape, ignore and detach myself from it all, even if I press mute, the scenes, emotions and reality will still be there. If a cop shoots a person in the back and no one is there to hear it, the bullets still make sounds. If a cop cuffs a corpse, it’s still crazy and absurd. And if we choose not to return to America to raise our family, the system still exists. So, do I turn off the TV all together and go about life detached from a world I may eventually return to, a world that my family, friends and community still swim in? Do I press mute, silencing the sounds but not the images? Or do I leave the volume on, knowing that for each story, each replayed scene, each report and post on social media, I risk becoming numb and unfazed by an appalling new norm? These are the questions I ask myself while living in a region of the world that, according to multiple “news” sources, is unstable and full of hate. Yet, I watch, from afar, the hate of those living in my unstable nation, metastasize into psychological disorders, amnesia, apathy and a social paralysis that will eventually turn the infirm into the walking dead.