Updated: Mar 23
Ever hear the saying "not all heroes wear capes"? I believe that's 100% true, but all Heroes do wear Armor, because all people do. It isn't the same on everyone; some of us (like me) wear layers and layers, while others only have a few centimeters of their own skin. But we all have Armor. This is a Story about the Armor I wear.
Last summer, around mid-June, I wasn't quite myself. I wasn't sleeping well, I was stressed, I was writing too much for my own good, late into the night. One evening after Kyra had gone to bed, I went out onto my front porch to do some writing, as had been my habit for the past several nights. Instead of bringing my laptop with me, I brought only a journal and a pen. Screens had started to really bother me, so I thought it might be nice to have pen and paper for a change.
When I got onto the porch, I realized that without my laptop I wouldn't have enough light to write. I didn't want to go inside - the night air was too refreshing. My car was parked on the street in front of my house, illuminated by street lamps, so I decided to go down into the street to get a little bit more light. This seems like a good time to mention that all I was wearing at this point was a light bathrobe and, of course, my Armor. I hadn't been expecting to leave the porch, so I was a bit underdressed. I wasn't too worried though; my Armor has protected me all my life, so I didn't think twice about stepping into the midnight street with just a bathrobe over it.
As I leaned against my car, I wrote furiously. I remember the night well and still have the poem that I wrote, stuffed away in my underwear drawer. I remember pacing back and forth around my car as I wrote. I remember glancing up and down the street, looking for approaching headlights. I remember thinking that if a police car drove past, I might look a little bit conspicuous; after all, it's rare that someone is out in the middle of the street, pacing back and forth, muttering to themselves and scribbling on a piece of paper, wearing nothing but a bathrobe and their Armor. And I remember thinking that if a cop or anyone threatening drove past, I could always get into my car. I think of my car as a Safe Space. It's my property, the walls are thick, it's familiar and it's kept me safe in the past.
Here's what my car looked like at the time:
Kyra made this sheet in early June, as protests in DC were at their height. We hadn't joined any demonstrations in person (she works at a hospital and we decided that staying home was in the best interest of her patients), but one weekend we decided to drive downtown and show our support. Since we wouldn't be carrying signs or entering big crowds, I thought it would be nice to decorate the car. After that weekend, I left the sheet taped to my hood for a couple more weeks. It made me feel good about myself. It made me feel proud, like I was a part of a movement, like a Hero. I remember how I felt driving my car for those weeks. I felt Powerful, like my car had turned into the Batmobile. I felt like My Armor was stronger and thicker due to this paper-thin bedsheet. I was wrong. This sheet just exposed me for how much I still don’t understand my own Armor.
I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about Armor. It was hard not to as I watched an Armored mob overtake the seat of Our Democracy on live television. Some in the crowd carried weapons, but few were needed to breach the Capitol. For most, Armor was enough. Armor is what caused Capitol Police to step aside as the crowd approached. Armor is why the DC National Guard roamed the city unarmed and directing traffic, rather than forcefully controlling crowds in riot gear as they did last June. And Armor is what allowed so many rioters to walk out of the Capitol unscathed and escorted by law enforcement, rather than leaving in handcuffs or on a stretcher.
Can you imagine what would have happened had this been a crowd of Black faces instead of a crowd of white faces?
So many people have asked this question, and the answer is yes. I can imagine it because we saw it last summer, just like we've seen it over and over again throughout our nation's history. Had the mob at the Capitol not been predominantly white, there wouldn't have been only one person killed by law enforcement's response. There wouldn't have been police officers posing for photos with rioters, and there wouldn't have been a six-hour window during which the Capitol was unsecured. Capitol Police were woefully unprepared for the assault because the federal government did not consider this crowd to be a major threat. Rumblings of chaos and violence in the days ahead were ignored. Requests for the National Guard to be placed on standby were denied.
An estimated 14,000 people were arrested nationwide over the summer during racial justice protests in a period from late May to late June, according to the Washington Post. Some of those 14,000 vandalized or destroyed property; the overwhelming majority of them did not. In DC last Wednesday, during and in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, 52 people were arrested. Some of them vandalized or destroyed property, not just of ordinary businesses but of the United States Capitol. They endangered the lives of not only everyday citizens, but also those of the entire Congress and the Vice President. They engaged in an act of mayhem that has resulted in six deaths. Yes, there were many people in that crowd who did not knock down fences or invade the Capitol, just as there were many people over the summer protesting peacefully as a few broke windows and looted property. But again, 52 people were arrested on Wednesday following a domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol; 14,000 were arrested protesting the murders of George Floyd and others.
And by the way, if you’d argue that comparing a month of arrests across the country to a single day event is unfair, that’s fine. But consider this: on June 1st, the day peaceful protesters and journalists outside of the White House were assaulted and tear gassed by federal law enforcement, 289 people were arrested in DC. By my count, that’s more than 5x what happened following the sacking of our nation’s Capitol. So before you check my facts, take a moment to check your Armor.
How could this happen? This isn't Who We Are. This is America.
Exactly. This Is America. This happened because there is no thicker Armor in America than white skin. I wear so many layers that help me get a leg up on the rest of the world; I'm a man, I'm in my thirties, I'm straight, cisgender, married, tall. But nothing gives me more protection than my skin color, and we saw the extent of that protection on full display last Wednesday in a riotous crowd of white faces that look like mine. Friends and family across the country texted me that afternoon to make sure I was safe and ok. I didn't feel safe at the time, and I appreciated the concern. But the truth is, I was safe, or at least as safe as anyone in DC. As I drove toward the city Wednesday evening to pick up Kyra, the hood of my car was bare and plain. My Armor, thick as ever, protected me all the same.
Flashback to the night I'm writing in the street. A cop never did drive by. I never had to get into my car to protect myself against any real or perceived threat. I finished my poem, went inside, and had another sleepless night. But what if law enforcement had driven by, at midnight, and seen a sleep-deprived man in a bathrobe enter a vehicle? Would they have stopped? If I were a cop in that situation, I would have. Could I have explained myself? Yes, probably. I didn't break any laws that I'm aware of. Would they have believed me? I think they would have....but I don't know for sure, and I never will. I do know this, though; My Armor would have helped me make my case.
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