"Though my grandmother worked from the time she was seven years old, our nation forbade her from registering to vote until she was deep into her thirties. She has lived under American apartheid longer than she’s been technically “free.”…
Last month, after burying her brother Rudy, Grandma bent her knees and reckoned with burying her son, her sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her father, and all four of her best friends. She asked her God to spare her the responsibility of burying any more of her children or grandchildren. A few weeks later, an irresponsible American aspiring to be the leader of our nation, who got a majority of the vote from the worst of white folks, called her a “victim” who feels entitled to health care, food, and housing.
Catherine Coleman, along with my Grandma Pudding, and David Rozier’s grandmother, have never been allowed to just be victims. They’re rarely even allowed to be Americans. They don’t get invited to panel discussions. They aren’t talked to by the DNC or RNC. No one asks them what to do about national violence, debt, or defense. They have too many scars and frightening memories to be American super-women, but they are the best of Americans. They have remained responsible, critical, imaginative and loving in the face of servitude, sexual assault, segregation, poverty, and psychological violence. They have done this hard, messy work of committing to life, organizing and justice, so we might live more responsibly tomorrow.
There is a price to pay for ducking responsibility, for clinging to the worst of us, for harboring a warped innocence. There is an even greater price to pay for ignoring, incarcerating, demeaning, and unfairly burdening those black and brown Americans who have disproportionately borne the weight of American irresponsibility for so long. Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers have paid more than their fair share, and our nation owes them and their children, and their children’s children honesty, a life time of healthy choices and second chances.
That would be responsible.”
- The Worst of White Folks