Rebuilding hope as the sky falls | Tereneh Idia | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Rebuilding hope as the sky falls

click to enlarge Rebuilding hope as the sky falls
CP Illustration: Lucy Chen
I keep thinking back to an event in the “before” time. I was sitting in the gym of the Ace Hotel on a panel with fellow writers Damon Young and Kiese Laymon, when someone asked if we were hopeful for the future.

I said I was hopeful. I think Damon looked at me, like, “Sis, how is that even possible?!” Maybe he even said it out loud, “Sis, are you tripping? Do we live on the same planet? In the same galaxy?” OK, I do not think he actually said any of those things, but I am pretty sure he looked at me funny, which is no surprise.

Then, in 2020, we — even the most optimistic among us — were surprised, gobsmacked, scared. COVID came “out of the blue,” though, theoretically, we knew a global pandemic could come at any time. But, if we’re being honest, we never thought it would arrive in our lifetime and definitely not in America. We were smarter than those in the past, right? We scoffed at ancient plagues, knowing that would never happen here.

In 2021, there is less space and grace to forgive where we are now, especially policy-wise on the local, national, and global levels. There is no room for that bravado and false confidence.

In the light of another wave to end 2021, if I am still hopeful for the future, what evidence is it based on?

Let’s think about where we are now, including and beyond COVID. I am talking about the Climate Crisis we seem hellbent on not doing anything substantive about. Also, the mythology of white supremacy that is trying very hard to maintain its existence, thanks to the many social, cultural, political, and economic inequalities built into the fabric of our city, our nation, our world. It is looking like it is doing a very good job of becoming the foundation on which the world will operate and obliterate each other for the foreseeable future.

Even so-called white allies continue to focus on whiteness as the default, living in a bubble of white privilege and continuing to perpetuate white supremacy in a million different ways.

I am also talking about the continued attack on trans people, the violence of cis heterosexuality, and the dedication to a false binary of gender.

We also have consistent misogynoir that makes the act of seeing a beautiful photograph of a Black woman on the cover of a magazine a national day of rejoicing on social media for Black women and femmes, who all too often see ourselves represented in the distorted white lens, if at all.

Where a global pandemic could have provided an opportunity for us to check our ableism, it seems it only exacerbated the “who deserves to live and how” debate, which should not be a debate at all. Ditto ageism with “the elderly will happily die for their children and grandchildren” bullshit.

Wait, I said I was hopeful.

A quote I saw recently on social media made me pause. It was about how it is easier to lose hope in youth than as you get older because as you age, you understand how precious and short life is. You need hope to continue because your time is running out, there is less room for error and hopelessness, and you learn not to be so cavalier with “sky is falling” alarm bells.

But what if the sky is actually falling?

(Deep breath.)

I believe the answer must be that yes, the sky is falling, maybe only half, maybe more, but it is. But maybe the sky is falling because the mythologies of superiority — humanness, whiteness, maleness — are losing their power. Because so many of us know they’re not true and are fighting back. Now that sky is one I look forward to watching crumble.

But that process of whiteness losing power is going to be a tough one. Fear is at the center of it all, and just like a scared, wounded animal, whiteness is fighting back.

We could — and can — replace white privilege with life privilege, including species beyond the human family. Sustainable, regenerative, love, and justice-filled policies. That will allow for a more balanced future. More growing, cultivating, and less digging and extracting.

The good news is that many are building the ladders needed to place the healthy part of the sky back. Even more so, they’re creating a new kind of atmosphere — something better suited for all of us to breathe, love, and live within a justice-centered world. An ecosystem where we can thrive, in balance.

No one loses here. Life privilege means we all get the benefit of the doubt, knowing that we are here and we deserve to be here. No mistakes were made in our creation, in our time on this planet. No one who has built a false mythology of superiority gets to tell us our value and worth. From a plant to a planet, from a whale to a willow.

I have to believe we can do this now. If not, the sky will fall on all of us.