Despite Babylon, I am in love. I am in love with my children and with the father of my children, a man who could if he chose abuse and exploit and beat me but doesn’t. A man who could perpetrate the exploitation and beatings meted out to his ancestors by their Babylonian slave masters. A man who could buckle under the weight of his own post traumatic agonies and pass them onto me, or his children instead. Despite Babylon, he is gentle and kind. Despite Babylon, he is not that man.
Despite Babylon, my children believe in themselves and other good things, not all the time, but enough, I hope. Despite Babylon they are witty and intelligent and bold. They have refused to surrender the essence of themselves, though it doesn’t always make for the easiest path. Despite Babylon money is not their sole pursuit and injustice still makes them cry, sometimes. Despite the system’s best efforts to eviscerate them – to pat them down and close them off and lock them up – my children jog along. Stubbornly, grinding and griming they refuse to have their roots disinterred. Despite Babylon they are not so easily felled.
Despite Babylon I am in love with other people too, some of who know full well that their ancestors may have been Babylon’s most inhuman murderous agents. Despite Babylon’s smoke and mirrors and the understandable desire to prune their family trees in another direction – away from slave traders and overseers and towards an affiliation with the oppressed instead of the oppressor, these people stand firm. They know that the whiteness in which they live is a peculiar thing. It is Whiteness and not Blackness that is Babylon’s most monstrous creation because it’s wearers can choose to believe it’s invisible. Whiteness visible finds itself with no positive way to be. Maybe that’s tough to live with. Maybe it should be tough. Despite Babylon, I don’t want to be white.
Despite Babylon I am educated and well fed and oftentimes comfortable. Ditto my children. Despite Babylon, this fortress of meritocracy, we are not foolish enough to believe that any of this represents justice or equality. Despite Babylon, people risk death on unpredictable waters in boats not fit for purpose. Babylon can’t understand this – says, ‘we should bomb them, send them back’. Despite Babylon, it’s bombs and it’s sendings back, journeys continue.
Despite Babylon we have lived in our motherland – in the jungle of famine and war and disease that we were taught, so thoroughly, to fear. Despite Babylon we have not been eaten by snakes, neither have we eaten each other.
Despite Babylon we have not been shot. Not by law enforcement officers or by our brothers or sisters. Neither have we shot ourselves or medicated ourselves to death or accepted other dubious invitations to oblivion. Despite Babylon we do not apply bleach to our skins and torch ourselves in kilns of self-hatred. Despite Babylon, we are still people of Colour.
Despite Babylon and the world made in it’s own image, projected via flat screens onto flattened minds, despite the whizz and glitz of its media and the sex-addled but glorious portrait of eternal youth unfurled before us, we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Despite Babylon, we know that there is another portrait, hidden in an attic somewhere, rotting.
Despite Babylon, we continue to navigate this maze. The false trails, dead ends, honey traps, cabals and corrals, hinder us, but the music doesn’t stop. Despite Babylon we sing. Despite Babylon, we refuse to be lost.