I am done with hiding.
You’ve not had the chance to read my writing lately. Or to debate my politics either—the latter for longer than the former. There are a lot of reasons: I’m tired. I’m scared of failing at school. I miss my family. I’ve lost friends to death and disseverment. There are a host more. None of them matter.
Because even though I’ve bent and not broken, I’ve also curled in on myself. Hidden away in a cave in the safety of my chosen scholarship. Left most of the mad, beautiful world to rage outside. Until tonight.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Lecia Brooks spoke at the med school. Listening to this plain-spoken, intelligent, compassionate woman talk unflinchingly of her convictions and questions and dismay stirred me: Recognition. Fear.
I used to do that, Recognition said. I used to say what I believed to be right. I used to protect those who were weaker than I. I used to speak for those who had no voice. And Fear said: Someday you will no longer recognize yourself in her. Keep hiding, it said, and one day not even she will be able to stir the memory of your strength from its tomb.
And then Fear said into the faces of Neo-Nazis and Imperial Klansmen and James Anderson’s murderer: I know you.
I sat next to you as a child riding the city bus home from school. Stopped you from screaming at a stranger. Comforted friends who’d been abraded by you. Argued against you on Legislative Plaza, in my high school, in churches and malls and diners.
I studied you for a decade. Majored in atrocity. When humanitarian law had shown me the worst excesses of hatred and fear, I turned to evolutionary biology because still I did not understand enough. I learned you beyond school, beyond academic disciplines, beyond any border of faith, to the very edge of hope. I know you, Fear murmured as Ms. Brooks showed us a man being murdered, deliberately and viciously, for the color of his skin.
When the newsclip was done I heard my friends crying for the brutality, the vileness, the terrible futile tragedy of what we’d seen. I sat dry-eyed, fists clenched, and Fear whispered at last: You are strong enough.
To face this. To bend medicine and psychiatry and law and politics and evolutionary biology to your purpose. To study, and stand against, violence and ignorance and hatred.
Strong enough to be the stone over which they break and ebb at last. Strong enough to find the ways in which those drowning in it might be revived.
My lack of published papers has always reflected my simple lack of an original take on a meaningful idea. But now—now I have one. My effort, my questions, have a form that matters. An anvil on which my knowledge and talents can be wrought to good purpose.
All it requires is that I immerse myself in a world containing those who relish hatred and harbor a wanton joy in destruction. All it requires is that I obey my Fear.
So I will. Because I live in that world already. Because my Fear is prompted primarily by knowledge of pain.
And because without my full attention, I cannot help that pain to heal.