Note: Ask Cody is a regular opinion feature that Cody Keith Charles writes for The Lawrence Times. Community Voices pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.
Read previous editions of Ask Cody here.
Dear (white) Lawrence youth:
We have to talk about your parents and guardians and their clinging to the grand delusions whiteness creates.
They refuse to set themselves free. Therefore, refuse to help set you free.
They were taught that they are the center of the universe, and that your problems and challenges are the only problems and challenges that are worthy of being heard, discussed and solved. They learned that power defines y’alls existence. That power is the foundation of your respect, grace, accountability, love and humanity. Leveraging power is your approach to everything in this life. You live in a delusion where actual humanity doesn’t exist — not even your own. And Black folks are only pawns in this system that are moved around for your pleasure.
This delusion aims to kill us all.
They (and you) are lost in a delusion —
A delusion that has been traditioned to you, and generations before you.
A delusion that has created a cycle of nightmares.
A delusion that allows you to believe that if you ever confront it, you will lose all that you have accumulated and all that you want to accumulate in the future.
A delusion that knows no political affiliation, as all whiteness is treacherous and murderous.
A delusion that allows you to live a life of violence with zero reckoning, which allows you to saunter around using your guilt, shame and fragility as weapons. This is your attempt to exorcise these feelings. To never truly deal with them. To never make sense of your history. To never relinquish the center. To actively choose to allow humans to die instead of making sense of your very own trauma from this twisted system. However, these feelings can’t be exorcised as they are etched in stone with blood and lost futures and unknown trajectories.
A delusion that seeks to never grant you the truth(s) of who you are and what you are without your creation of your nigger.
A delusion that will be shattered soon.
We must remember the words of James Baldwin: “If I am starving, you are in danger.”
When white people (and whiteness) feel threatened by the marginalized and experience overwhelming fear, you respond cowardly. You find ways to whip the deviant back into conformity. You fire them with a made-up cause. You make up inhumane laws that actively hunt us down. You take away healthcare. You support the police’s mission, which is to kill Black people. All the while smiling in our faces and performing insignificant niceties — looking and pointing at us at the bottom of the well.
It is important that you understand that, yes, I am reading your elders. And I am reading you.
We are in a crisis. And I, a Black fat disabled trans human, need your help in addressing some of the community issues that intend to paint Lawrence even whiter and straighter than it already is — which is to say, your elders within our community are content with performing helpful, instead of actually being helpful. They have proven to be intimately defensive and defiantly unchanging in confronting their whiteness.
As a generation, you all have the ability to unlearn like no other. You all are claiming your identities, not leaning on labels. You’re allowing your imaginations to run rampant as we talk gender and sexuality. You’re having “aha” moments and epiphanies that will change the world.
I want you to know …
- We get to choose if we want to live in a community that steps on, chews up and eventually disappears Black trans poor disabled undocumented women.
- We get to choose if we want to live in a community that hoards all of the resources and allows the deeply marginalized to die off.
- We get to choose if we want to be remembered as risk-takers, truth-tellers and as human beings who treated other human beings with the utmost humanity.
- We get to choose to honor our Indigenous family and their lands — and speak up on and tell the truth about the massacre of Native people in this country, instead of allowing shame to dictate our responsibility and accountability.
- And we get to choose if we want to live as colonists or as a community that spotlights creation and building together with the most marginalized in the center.
Help us all by having a conversation with your parents and guardians around what is our responsibility right now. Here are a few questions I want you to ask:
- How much money or wealth have we accumulated as a family?
- How much money do we need to live?
- Do I have an inheritance? (Ask yourself if you need all of this money traditioned to you)
- In what ways do you care for Black trans people within this community?
- When was the last time you were anti-Black? Transphobic? (that you were conscious of)
- How do you know you’re not the aforementioned if you don’t know their intimate meaning?
- Are we OK with letting humans die? Will this be our legacy?
- What stops us from telling the truth?
- What are we willing to do?
- If Lawrence is the caring community it says it is, why doesn’t a queer and trans community center already exist?
Please share and converse with other youth. Remember, this is not the burden of your queer and trans friends and family members, This is a moment where you can actually convince more people like you to live humanly. And a moment to make your community more equitable, more justice-focused and less empathetic and cowardly.
Help me, help us.
We need the youth to feel empowered to overcome such community (and global) harm.
– Cody Keith Charles (all pronouns) is the Founder and Executive Director of Haus of McCoy, a queer and trans community center in Lawrence, Kansas. Moreover, Cody is a writer, facilitator, cultural critic and dreamer who critiques pop culture at the intersection of liberation. Cody enjoys trash TV, spending time with beautiful queer people and loving on their dog, Monét.