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this is not about the hoax

This is not about the hoax. My body won’t let me read about it. It knows dismissal and disdain, and is humourless to its supposed play.


I am reminded of the time, back in 2013, when Oberlin was hit with a string of hate acts: students waking up to n****r, f****t, and swastikas scrawled on their dorm room doors; hate speech plastered onto walls along which students walked to class; “whites only” signs above water fountains. Weeks of activity orchestrated, as it turns out, by two white male students at the college, in it for a bit of a laugh. ‘A joke’, they claimed, ‘to see the college overreact’. ‘Progressive pranksters’ committing a ‘hate-crime hoax’.


The morning after I first came to know of the latest ‘grievance studies’ hoax, a friend sends me an essay. I read the abstract – beauty in every word – and my stomach churns. I see it now, sullied by pink or yellow marker, the object of mockery on a certain twitter page. I read on and encounter this:

As an enthusiastic walker, this pedestrian activity of me putting my body into the rhythm of my environment, feeling the physics of my surroundings, saturated, in Christina Sharpe’s words, in the “atmospheric density” of “the weather,” which she identifies as “the total climate; and that climate is antiblack” (104), attuning myself to people passing me on foot, feeling the wind caress my face: all of these sensations open up spaces (of conversations) in myself.

I hear more mocking laughter and my body won’t let me go on. Not yet.

I am thinking now of words I have recently written:

Despite this confluence, it is remarkably rare for academic, social and economic structures to allow space for the intimacies between us.

I think about words I have written before: about many elsewheres and horizons of liberation; and words I am about to write: about body and flesh, about historical and psychic hauntings.

It is easy to read myself into the object of mockery.

I think about words that I have sat with for so long, they have made me cry:

After all, culture was the one thing they had ascribed to these suddenly speaking others, the peoples formerly described as lacking reason and placed outside history (Silva, xxi).

My body won’t let me read about the hoax. This is not a grievance. This is grief.

A hoax it not just a hoax. Trolling in never just that. Dress it any way you want, there is, at best, a willingness and, at worst, an intent, to cause damage, to do harm.

And I know myself as its object.

Representation of the goddess Kali

I know your efforts to break the bones and spirits of those that have come before. This knowledge sits in every word I find impossible to write and impossible not to. Whatever truths (you think) you might have revealed, none smell fouler than your hackneyed hate.

My body won’t let me read about the hoax. It is still grieving. So I close my eyes and let my breath build a fence around me – not white but the deepest brown. And, slowly, I invite in those I know are grieving too.

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