Shanita Jackson is an accomplished poet and performer hailing from Asheville, North Carolina. She currently attends Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. Jackson is one of the many Black women who assembled to protest Presidential candidate Donald Trump in Louisville, this Labor Day. She is one of a few to participate in live disruptions between the walls of Louisville’s International Convention Center. Several reports of racially-motivated assault at the hands of Trump supporters are emerging. Some have gone viral, such as the case of Shiya Nwanguma, who was violently accosted by members of a known hate group. We’re interested in Shanita’s health and her reflections on the demonstration.
“I’ve sorted out a few emotions. I know I’m scared. Still. Currently. Scared. And I know I shouldn’t have to carry this fear. I’m so angry it makes me tired. I used to be cautious about saying that. People only want to hear me in Mythical-Black-Woman stereotypes. But I’m angry and I’m proud to say that. I have every right to be angry.
This idea that we showed up to provoke violence against us—I don’t think ANYONE walks into a situation with the intent of being harassed, or shoved, spat at. I went in because my momma raised me to speak up for myself. I spoke up for myself and for the people I love and care about. All I heard from Trump and the people in that room was hatred—and my momma raised me not to hate. She raised me to love. Love is supposed to be the cure for everything. That’s what I walked into that room with—I had all of this love in me. I wanted to spread it. I tried to share it in my look, I thought maybe they’d get some of the love I had. Nope. Not then and not now. Today I’m hearing ‘You wanted this [assault]! You brought this on yourself!’ I believe that anybody who thinks this way is a coward. I feel like these people only want [Black women] silent. The people who used the ‘All Lives Matter’ rhetoric—they wanted to silence us. But I was raised to speak my mind. No matter who you are in this world. No matter what authority you think you own. No. ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’ Remaining silent was committing violence against myself and so many others who don’t have platforms to speak on.
We didn’t walk in there with this attitude like ‘We’re just going to mess with Trump and hate on all these people…’ No! I don’t scratch my head unless it itches. We made sacrifices to get there! All of us made sacrifices! To insult that and say we were only there to incite hate is ridiculous…I say [Trump supporters] need to take more responsibility! I did not put a gun to anyone’s head and force them to call me a Nigger. I did not ask for that hatred. No. How dare you?
Can you speak more to what you were protesting? What is it about Donald Trump that you disagree with?
The way he’s able to dress his racism in politics. He is clearly against Mexicans, Hispanics and the LatinX community. He wants to build a wall between people and their right to life. His Islamophobia is dangerous. These are our sisters and brothers! They are people that I know and that I love and even if I didn’t it would still be unjust! His popularity is giving so many people permission to be bigots. I’m scared. I was frightened to learn how real this is.
Even though I saw at least three other Black women in the room, I felt alone in there… Even with my Bereans around me. I felt alone. Queer Black Women are at the bottom of this social ladder. I think that’s why I was so afraid of getting stepped on. I was really afraid of being pushed to the ground and stomped to death! When I found out that Talia and Alicia were thrown to the ground—that scared the shit out of me. All you need is one leg, one foot, one cowardly foot to the head and it’s over.
At one point I started to feel that I was doing something wrong—but I know I wasn’t doing anything wrong! If you have that many people in a room, yelling at you! And cursing at you! JUST FOR BEING WHO YOU ARE. FOR BEING BLACK, OR BROWN, OR AN ALLY… You don’t feel like you have any rights. You don’t even feel like they know you’re alive with a heart that beats. We weren’t treated like we were human at all. My right to protest? Not on my mind. I was worried about not being killed in the middle of a Trump Rally.
And outside wasn’t much better. Standing in the street, across from all those officers was hard. There were several times that I closed my eyes because I couldn’t continue to look at them. They looked angry. It’s like ‘I didn’t do SHIT to y’all.’ The man standing across from me, I didn’t get his name—I wasn’t looking at his badge, I was looking at his eyes. Having to do that, and affirm that ‘Black Lives Matter’ to someone who could have taken my life was the most terrifying thing I have done. It makes my stomach turn just thinking about it. I sent a message to my momma on the way to Louisville, telling her that I was going to this rally, where Trump supporters were known to get violent and where peaceful protesters risk arrest in just showing up…
I had to promise that if they say I killed myself, it wasn’t true. I shouldn’t have to say that to my mom. Or anybody. Ever. But that is what [Black women] live on a daily basis here. See, this is what I’m trying to get people to understand. My life isn’t a theoretical discussion!
Oh, it’s exhausting. Having to constantly explain and defend yourself? I AM ALWAYS ON EDGE. It’s like anxiety flows in the blood of Black women. We shouldn’t have to live this way…Always worried about our children, and our brothers, and our sisters, our mommas—that is not all we were created to do. But I have this legitimate, intense fear that my brother may not be alive in five years. Because of this country. It’s fucked up. This is something that everyone in my family feels, too. But we don’t want to talk about. Because if we say it out loud then it’s going to happen. Because if we say it out loud then it’s spoken to the universe and we caused it happen. So we just stay silent about it.
But I’m tired of being silent. I’m tired of Black people telling other Black people to be silent. I’m tired of White people telling me to be silent and trying to put me in my place. Just the other day, a White person sent me a link to Morgan Freeman talking about ‘There shouldn’t be a Black History Month!’ And she did it just to silence me. She did it because she thought it was the proper response to racism. I don’t understand how people can be so hell-bent on silencing others… It’s exhausting. I was so tired when I went into my room yesterday. It wasn’t even from the protest, it was knowing that wouldn’t be the only time I would have to fight for my life. I tried to get a good night’s rest. I took a shower to wash all the hatred off of me. I drank tea. I did affirmations and I still climbed into bed and cried myself to sleep. Real tears. I shouldn’t have to do that. I’m tired of screaming in soundproof rooms.”