Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

By M. Nicole Horsley, November 25, 2020
M. Nicole Horsley reflects on the intersectionality of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I can’t breathe.”

These were the last words of Eric Garner, said while he was being choked out by the NYPD on July 17, 2014.

Nearly six years later, on May 25, 2020, “I can’t breathe” was repeated when the Minneapolis police department choked out George Floyd.

Another phrase is evoked with these two deaths: “Me too.” We can imagine Floyd saying “me too” to Garner, owing to the similar ways in which they died. And this “me too” echoes throughout the voices of thousands of Black men, women, and children killed by police terrorism. It echoes throughout the stories of Black sexual violence survivors, through the Black trans women killed globally, through the disproportionately Black queer homeless youth, through the silencing of Sandra Bland and BreonnaTaylor, whose voices we cannot hear. To be clear, the problems Black people face are bigger than police terrorism; they are multifaceted and plentiful.

The cost for being Black globally means enduring the everyday terror and violence of being Black while walking to the store, standing outside, jogging in your neighborhood, and while sitting and sleeping in your home. Because of the ubiquity of this fear, it’s critical to shift the conversation away from positioning Black lives mattering as a moment in time to an everyday attitude, practice, and belief

"If we truly want Ithaca to be an antiracist institution and city committed to dismantling structures and logics of anti-Black racism, we must go beyond statements and antiracist training for white people.”

M. Nicole Horsley, Assistant Professor of African Diaspora Studies

Black Lives Matter is not a performative statement or protest; it’s understanding that anti-Black racism isa set of mechanisms and practices that reproduce white advantages and Black disadvantages by stripping Blackness of its humanity. The Black Liberation Collective describes anti-Blackness as the “depreciation of Black humanity, denial of Black pain, and the obstruction of Black agency” through “anti-Black racist patterns” to maintain the privileges of whiteness.

The struggle and movement for Black liberation is intersectional, as it disrupts binaries that extend boundaries of gender, sexuality, and Blackness. We need to ask questions that allow us to imagine alternative approaches to capitalism, patriarchy, policing, prisons, racism, sexism, and misogynoir to envision an ethic of love to shift from an ethic of domination, reconceptualizing structures of power.

On a campus-wide level, that means asking: How do we build infrastructures in Ithaca and at IC to transform the lived experiences for nonwhite community members, students, staff, and faculty that are inclusive of cisgender, transgender, queer, gender nonconforming/nonbinary, incarcerated and formally incarcerated, undocumented, disabled, and poor and working class? If we truly want Ithaca to be an antiracist institution and city committed to dismantling structures and logics of anti-Black racism, we must go beyond statements and antiracist training for white people.

Simply put, it’s not enough to employ an intersectional framework, to mobilize white people to acknowledge the exclusion practices that are continuous and issuing statements that all Black lives matter. Real change would center the healing and protection of nonwhite people and place them in decision-making positions and at the center of the discussion. Black people must have power to influence and be a part of changing the direction of IC. This will also involve stronger relationships withBlack people on the IC campus and in the community.

“For Ithaca College to truly commit to being an antiracist institution that does not perpetuate white supremacy, they will have to make bold and hard decisions. They will have to elevate the most vulnerable voices and make the necessary commitments and sacrifices to end up on the right side of history.”

M. Nicole Horsley

Throughout the history of the Black liberation movement, it has become evident that looking to and listening to those on the ground can provide some of the most meaningful and rich information. Those voices will help lay the groundwork for us to reimagine the possibilities around policing and state-sanctioned violence against Black and nonwhite people whose identities politics—queer, trans, heterosexual, nonbinary, and disabled people—perform in order to build coalitions and networks of care. These organizers and activists center the politics of self-care and healing through mutual aid, fundraising for bail, repelling evictions, and fighting food deserts.

The challenges faced by Black liberation movements working for antiviolence, anti-imperialist, and queer liberation, as well as racial, economic, reproductive, gender, and food justice has equipped them with the knowledge and skills to create a revolutionary vision for freedom.

For Ithaca College to truly commit to being an antiracist institution that does not perpetuate white supremacy, they will have to make bold and hard decisions. They will have to elevate the most vulnerable voices and make the necessary commitments and sacrifices to end up on the right side of history.

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