All things being equal, I am mightily confused by America, but also greatly enamored with Her. She has fooled around and redeemed herself to a great many of Her people.
She is turning ever more humane.
For 50 years I had grown accustomed to Her face, to Her frowning “no” face that foretold of major disappointments like unequal pay for women, substandard health insurance for the poor and working poor, civil-rights-by-lynching for blacks, segregated neighborhoods, Klan-like white leadership in the name of God, miscegenation still on the books in some states, gays and lesbians relegated to freak status and all of it and us wilting beneath the questionable shadows cast by the Confederate flag.
It was as if She liked Her old, antiquated, separatist self, the one who kept human rights at bay, let Her children go homeless and hungry and illiterate and the races to fight it out in an endless loop of battle royales. I was beginning to think She liked Her cops rogue, Her unarmed black men face down in Her streets, Her neighborhoods burning.
A two-term black president be damned, America actually took 10 steps backward, and all the sheets came off and all the racists, bigots and deeply fear-filled white people took the presence of Negroes in the White House as a Go! sign for blatant hatred.
They objectified the First Lady like she was Pam Grier topless in a blaxploitation flick, and they shouted rude interruptions during the president’s speeches like he was just a colored boy, a nobody.
To make matters and us worse, public mass executions reached all-time highs, and I was certain that guns locked and loaded with the ammunition of hatred would surely finish us off. Why, it had gotten so that as of June 17 in Charleston, South Carolina, black folks could neither safely seek refuge nor the face of God in the sanctuary of a church without being under attack.
Who among us knows what it really feels like to be hunted in your own country? An allegedly civilized country, at that.
The murder of those nine good souls reminded me of reading stories about when slaves would try to have their own church or teach one another to read, only to be beaten, sold or worked to death.
How prophetic, then, that this slaying could sound an alarm as loud as the nine church bells that rang in remembrance to telegraph to the rest of us that America must make changes.
It is time for Her to strike a balance.
Where one area is singed beyond recognition, maybe another can be made to flourish, and while it flourishes we can find rest and go back to retrieve the people scrounging in the scorched Earth so they can walk in lockstep with us.
Racism will dog us until we die because it remains the one realm in greatest need of repair, so when gays and lesbians are made whole by American law then we can set about doing the race work because some of us — black and brown gays and lesbians — fight multiple battles on multiple fronts on any given day.
It’s been past time for us to get real and to be human and to start today. My old friend, Shelle, used to say to me of her haters that they weren’t beating her down.
“They’re beating me up,” she’d say.
And that is what this fool, this evil church shooter, has done to Her.
He has beaten Her up.
And from where we stand now we can all see that we need equality on every single front where equality can fit — among the sexes, among the uninsured, among the working poor.
Among those heretofore disallowed from legally joining in matrimony because they — we — happen to be of the same sex.
And this is what America had done to me: America had made me so skeptical, so hard-hearted in a way that I never ever thought I would be “allowed” — in the privacy of my own home — to look my woman in the eyes and say: “We are legal.”
It never mattered to me, because I had steeled my heart from any forms of heterosexist guidelines and accomplishments, telling myself all along the way that what works for them does not always work for them, so why should I be so aspirational?
Why is marriage a thing I should want?
This is what skeptics do.
We talk ourselves out of happiness because we have grown so used to it being denied us. But, now, in a sort of daze, she and I have been randomly looking at one another and saying, “We are legal.” And talks and plans of the “fake wedding” we abandoned long ago because we both knew in our hearts it wouldn’t be real and it wouldn’t count have resumed.
I have started a list of guests and songs because there are people who have taken care of us, asked her about me and me about her, and we met on an empty dance floor to music each of us assumed no one else listened to but us.
I became a licensed officiant two years ago because Victor asked me to so I could marry him and his girlfriend; not long ago, two women came to me and asked me to marry them in August, and I said yes knowing it was going to be in many ways an act.
But now it is so real and meaningful, and my first same-sex ceremony makes it personally as historical as Justice Anthony Kennedy splitting ways with his conservatives on the bench to write monumental law that touches all 50 states.
In all this wonderment I am trying my hardest to ignore the fact that people like me remain wholly dependent on the whims, emotions, opinions and perhaps even the sleep deprivation of white men in power.
What if Justice Kennedy was surly or distracted and decided not to break ranks with his fellow conservatives? What if, instead, he toed the party line and kept us separate, separated and unequal and flapping in the wind of second-class citizenry?
I would get to live out my life performing marriages that weren’t real. I’d be trash-talking heterosexuals who live to keep the full armor of human rights from the rest of us. Most importantly, my girl and I would never, not once, breathe that big sigh of relief, stare at one another and get giddy thinking about the day we get to stand before our families, our friends and our God.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]