Y’all Qaeda: Education and the Exit Out
“I can’t stay on your life support
There’s a shortage in the switch
I can’t stay on your morphine
’Cause it’s making me itch
I said I tried to call the nurse again
But she’s being a little bitch
I think I’ll get outta here, where I can Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you’re just like a pill
‘Stead of makin’ me better
You keep makin’ me ill
You keep makin’ me ill”
- Pink Just like a Pill
For years and years following my leaving the church and the absolutely radioactive environment that had been my family, I ran both literally and figuratively. I ran out of fear, out of necessity, out of desperation, and out of the desire to physically put distance between me and it, them, and us.
We all run in some way or another.
Some run to alcohol, to drugs, to sex, gambling, carbohydrates, you name it. And they run with all the baggage that they have thinking that they can out-run their problems only to find out that, in the still of the morning or the quietness of the middle of the night, their problems show up like phantom shadows along the wall.
I could recite my story a thousand times and it do nothing for me other than make me relive the events. People knew, I talked. I talked and talked and tried like hell to make this stuff leave me or I tried like to get people to understand just what was happening in between my ears.
I realize now that a part of me was banging on the door of my brain to be let out. I lacked something. Some key element was missing for me to deal with this stuff in a productive way.
I was a shit ass high school student. Out of 180 people graduating from Southwestern High School in Detroit, Michigan in 1999, I graduated 101st.
On paper, there was nothing special about me. Nothing unique, nothing to recommend me to anything beyond that institution. And looking back, I realized that I wasn’t engaging in studies not through some fault of the Public School System of Detroit. I wasn’t disenfranchised because I was a white kid who grew up and attended a predominately black high school where I was somehow bullied for being white or gay (although I wasn’t ready to admit it then) yada yada.
That’s all bullshit and just stupid racism people use to undermine Public Education. Period.
No. I couldn’t focus. Too much was happening in my life and around my life. I was a mess of a kid.
Hell, it was between my Sophomore and Junior years that I had been beaten so badly that I actually went to school and called Child Protective Services. I’d had enough. I had been beaten with a ‘paddle’ that was two inches thick and the length of my forearm and had holes drilled into it.
My dad had brought it home from work excited to use it on us and I pulled the short straw.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
I had bruises all up and down my back, my ass, my legs, but that morning, I chose to fight back.
I chose to resist.
I said, “No,” for the first time and tried to escape.
He’d had me drop my pants before the beating. 15 years old. The pain was excruciating. The nakedness below the waist, humiliating.
My mother stood in the doorway and encouraged him.
“Beat the hell out of him!” She said.
My crime? Refusing to dry my hair because I was late for school.
When people are used to having control over you, placing a boundary down to stop their abuse or control over you is often met with anger. It’s as if a right they never should have possessed is now being threatened.
When I think about situations like this, I think of the Black Lives Matter movement. Our brains and our bodies are designed with a self defense system. When alerted, our Amygdala sends a message to a pituitary gland, which sends a message to our adrenal gland that says “Give me Adrenaline! Give me Cortisol!”
We enter fight or flight mode. It is a desperate situation.
So when I see a person of color being beaten by cop, I think about my time under the hand of my father. His ‘absolute power’, or the absolute authority I was convinced that he had kept me in stasis. I could neither fight, nor could I flee. I had to deal with this biological impulse in the midst of dealing with the violence.
It’s tantamount to torture.
I pulled and yanked, and screamed, and cried to be let go. “Let me go!”
My father raised his fist, “You’ll take this or you’ll take the beating!”
Something in me had changed at that moment. Even though I couldn’t flee, because he held on to more, nor was I willing to get into a physical altercation with him (because I’m not a violent person) I knew I was done.
“If you take me to school today, it will be the last time you see me,” I said flatly. Emotionless. Matter-of-fact.
They called my bluff.
They shouldn’t have.
Child Protective Services were called and six months later I we stood in front of a judge and I told him what had happened. I attempted to gain emancipation but, unfortunately, it had been outlawed a year before and, despite my story, I was ordered home.
Although I failed in that regard, the judge asked my father a question.
“Did you hit him?”
“He was rebellious,” My father replied.
“That’s not what I asked you. Did you hit him?”
“He was being rebellious,” my father insisted.
Angrily, the judge responded, “Sir, that’s not what I asked you. Did. You. Hit. Him?”
“I’ll be making an note about that in your record.”
I lacked the education and knowledge of the legal system to mount a better case and the outcome wasn’t exactly what I wanted or needed, but the beatings had come to an end.
The only way I can talk about this, the only way I could begin the process of healing, the process of dealing, was through education. I was born speaking English, obviously, but education provides an ability to discern truth from lies. It gives you a language. Education isn’t conservative nor liberal, education liberates the mind of the individual from the comforting blissful darkness of ignorance and absolutism and brings the individual into the harsh light of day.
Education doesn’t teach someone what to think. It teaches them how to think and how to think critically.
We don’t know, what we don’t know. For me, I didn’t know that all the stuff I had been taught as a kid, all the insane fundi-babble that circulated around me, was just that. Fundi-babble. When I think about it and those that profess it from their pulpits, when I think of them, this line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth comes to me.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
It is nothingness that they espouse.
In her autobiography, Malala Yousafzais, the young Pakistani woman who stood up to the Taliban for her right to an education and who was shot in the head for her trouble, said this in her book, “They’re not afraid of bullets and bombs. The Taliban is afraid of little girls with books.”
Fundamentalism is nothing more than a Shakespearean power grab whether its done by the Fundamental Baptist Church or the Taliban. It’s all the same. It consists of nothing more than captive fools trembling in their darkened caves while their captors scare them with shadow puppets on the walls.
When you think of this, think of the war on education playing out across the country and remember, someone warned you. This isn’t a “Middle Eastern Phenomenon.” It’s happening here. Right here.
This isn’t religious. It’s political.
Originally published at http://deconstructingthedread.wordpress.com on March 29, 2021.