Corona Pt. 9

Georgia

I don’t want out of Georgia.
I’ve become quite a fan
Of grits and Southern hospitality.
Also, I have a man.

You’d have me run from racism
Take refuge–you demand,
Escape to where liberal elites make fun of Donald Trump
While the electoral college binds their hands.

I understand you’re scared for me
Because our governor lifted the bans.
But I’m scared for you,
You think you’re safe in a state that’s blue
When the US is one land.

Do you remember what happened post-Reconstruction
When Jim Crow took command?
He was a minstrel character. Don’t laugh!
There’s a noose dangling from his hands.

I don’t want out of Georgia.
I want you to understand.
Fleeing ignorance isn’t going to stop it.
I’ll stay here and do what I can.

Since David and I first announced we were moving to Atlanta, we’ve been sensitive to comments from friends who’ve said they could never live in the South. You don’t exactly have a lot of choice about where you find a position as an academic, and we feel lucky to have ended up in Atlanta, a major metropolitan area and the birthplace of the civil rights movement. Our area of town is a liberal enclave with farmers markets and local restaurants similar to what we experienced in Berkeley.

Still, I will admit the past couple weeks haven’t been the best for being a citizen of Georgia. Our governor lifted stay at home restrictions and suggested businesses with close contact like hair salons and massage parlors should reopen despite not seeing a steady decline in the number of new coronavirus cases. On top of that, we learned through social media about Ahmaud Arbery, a black unarmed jogger who was killed in Brunswick, Georgia, in February, and whose white assailants hadn’t yet been charged (they have now).

In the midst of these two news storms, a friend posted on Facebook saying she would help find a place for anyone who wanted to leave Georgia. I’m not sure whether her comments were regarding Georgia’s reopening, the Ahmaud Arbery case, or something else. I do know she was well intentioned, and I know I occupy a privileged position here in Atlanta. I’ve been able to stay sheltered in place, and I feel relatively safe jogging around my neighborhood.

But maybe it’s because I am in this position of privilege that I chafe at the suggestion that I should leave a city I’ve grown to love. What’s happening here in Georgia is scary and dangerous, but it doesn’t make me want to leave. Not yet anyway. It makes me want to figure out how now, even in this lockdown, I can be an advocate for the changes I want to see: the implementation of public health policies backed by science and the dismantling of systematic racism.

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