Essay: Return to Kenowhere

Photo: Meredith M. Goldberg I had no idea when I wrote about Kenosha just a few weeks ago we’d be where we are today. I had no idea I’d be trolling Twitter and see a man get shot seven times in the back in broad daylight by the police force in that town. When I saw the video, albeit unintentionally, it sickened me, like it should when someone’s life is either taken, as I thought must be the case as the news broke, or so irrevocably altered.  The privilege I have was laid bare in broad daylight, as was the privilege Jacob Blake did not - to be able to walk away from an encounter with police peacefully.The sanitized headlines reading “officer involved shooting” that stem from police press releases were just one more sign that nothing is as ever as far away as you think.  Our phones have rung with civil alerts multiple times a night since then, even though we’re over the border a decent drive away. But in all reality, it’s not very far away and it never has been. What Kenosha should teach everyone is that it’s never as far away as you think--it’s always been there, and until we all treat the problem of extreme police violence against people of color and LGBTQIA+ like it’s at our back doors and do something to combat it this will only continue. It’s at our back doors today, but it’ll be at yours tomorrow.  When that time comes our job is to be the ones who stand up for justice, equality and actual change to legislation, the elected and the culture we’ve created that’s sustained racism and discrimination this long. As the situation escalated and someone from “just over the border,” who was raised in the same places I was, shot into a crowd and murdered two people out of deeply ingrained racism and xenophobia, and people in the towns I grew up in, people I knew, hailed him as a modern day hero, it was clear.  We simply cannot pretend it’s not so bad here.  We have to look at the world around us and acknowledge that yes, there is a real pandemic, and no, the world can’t simply just go on ignoring it or it will get worse. The pandemic has killed so many so quickly, but racism has killed far more for far longer and just like with the pandemic we’re being told to ignore what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears because no one wants the discomfort of meaningful change if their lives are okay.  There’s a current pulling everything into an undertow and it is the mollification of the masses. That everything is okay, and is normal. That there is no police brutality or corruption in America That we’re not a racist country, all are equal and free here. The virus isn’t that bad, it’s only going to hurt people already at a disadvantage, or that it doesn’t affect the young and healthy.   You may not be wearing the hat but you can be complicit anyways, and we all are whether we like to think about it or not. Now isn’t the time to stay quiet or put the economy first and though more are waking up to it it’s still costing lives and it still isn’t enough. Black lives matter and black trans lives matter and racism is real and alive and right at our backdoor. It’s not coming, it’s here, and it’s been here for far too long. Even in our hometowns, and the towns we loved to go to to escape and stand by the lakefront.  No place is an escape for people like Jacob Blake, and so we must acknowledge racism's presence until our towns and cities can be a safe haven for all. 
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Marielle Bokor