The unseen comes around a next time. All around is fire, cities lit up in flames. Washington DC is smoking. An American president retreats to a bunker under the Whitehouse – a bunker reinforced to withstand the impact of a passenger plane. There is no passenger plane, only the people outside chanting, demanding justice. In another city, a police chief is on TV expressing his contempt for the people breaking windows and lighting things up. ‘Just theft’ he says, and then he says that he can’t see how looting has anything to do with George Floyd’s death. I feel sad because there is something in his voice that hints at some truth in his words – a version of a truth anyway. He – this police chief – honestly doesn’t see how this thing and that thing are here in relation; the connection between this and that is somehow for him, obscured. The sadness I feel is not for him though, but for what I have to feel in the face of his unseeing; impatience, despair, rage. He has no business not seeing. He is not blind.
The unseen comes around again. As psychotherapists, we like to think of ourselves as the ones who see; as people alert to what has been obscured; as the helpers who will be ready, as the unseen comes around (again) to meet it with recognition. And to be these ones, we have to contend with our police chiefs, the ones we have internalised, the parts of us raised in a system so insistent with its definitions of rightness – appointing itself as sole arbiter of what connects to what – that we read other versions of being human only as chaos and mess; that we think our job is to straighten things (them) up. When the chief’s aim is to straighten – to make thin compliant lines of me – they miss the beauty of my curves. They fail to see or appreciate the way I bend and fail to recognise these queered trails as medicine; as solid routes of survival. And they cannot then see that people existing in a system that makes them poor – that requires their poverty, and denies them access, that requires that they be kept out, and kills them, that requires their death – must protest. And the chief cannot see that the routes of protest prescribed by the system – recourse to the law, letters to elected representatives – have for hundreds of years allowed perpetrators to not only walk free but also to prosper. And the chief cannot see (or hear) the message that this sends to the people about the system in which they have sweated and fought to live, and how it accords no value to their lives; inscribes their fungibility. And the chief cannot see that when the system-sanctioned avenues do not lead to justice – when justice is not available via these routes – that the people must find their own ways to protest. And the chief cannot see that when the people destroy what the system values – its property and riches – and watch the previously unmoved, uncaring system rise up, animated now and full of care, that this confirms what they already knew. The system cares not for the people, but for property. And the chief cannot see that whilst this is wounding and terrifying and suffocating for the people – and nothing like recognition – it is at least something made visible. And the chief cannot see that the people already know how the system, and the chief as its representative, will classify their actions – not as protest but as criminality; a definition that will be met with teargas, batons, and bullets. And the chief cannot see that this unseeing is itself an unseen come again; an unseen that cuts the people deep, and wounds them, and does not stop them from lighting things up; from burning things down. The connection that is unseen – the relation – knows the work is has to do. This is why it comes again. This is what the chief cannot see.
So, you take your chief – the internal one at least – to supervision, or therapy, or a place of sacred exchange. You sit them down, pat them down and confiscate their weapons (they will resist, but you know about resistance, don’t you?) Then, when the time comes that they have remembered they can still breathe – without the guns, without the shields, you can make your offering; today, a black feminist reading on the problematic core construct;
“the fundamental fallacy being (obvious now, obscured at the time) that there is no separation from the black simultaneity of the universe also known as everything. also known as the black feminist pragmatic intergenerational sphere. everything is everything”
Alexis Pauline Gumbs, M Archive
And then you sit. Sit with it all. Sit with the everything that is everything and breathe. Breathe until everything is everything; until you become the space in which everything being everything can – this time around – be seen.