When your Senator fears you

processing fear and power

Good morning friends!

Happy #GratiTuesday to you. I’m grateful for every single person who reads this newsletter. This community of people who care deeply about real bread and real justice is a source of light for me.

Being black in America, I find it is a very useful skill to be able to find and acknowledge various sources of joy throughout the week. Thinking about you all made me smile this past week as I was reflecting on what happens when powerful people fear you inexplicably.

It is a strange feeling to live in a state where your United States Senator expresses that he fears you. Last week, Ron Johnson (the senior Senator from Wisconsin) was on a conservative radio program and expressed that he never felt threatened on Jan 6th, but would have if the protest was a Black Lives Matter protest. Audio here:

I almost titled today’s email, “When your Senator hates you”. I thought better of that because I realized two things. First, I don’t ultimately know if he hates black people or not, but more importantly - the greater concern is that he physically fears black people and has power over them.

In his remarks here he is giving voice to the idea that black and brown bodies are to be feared. There are many who feel this way. Some of the folks who fear black people also hate us, despise us, or resent us. These feelings mark their interactions in public and in private.

Twitter seemed a buzz this weekend after a broadcaster at a girl’s high school basketball game in Oaklahoma expressed his racism and resentment regarding one team kneeling during the national anthem. As abhorrent as these remarks were, the good news is that this person has no true power over these girls in this situation. His choice to harbor hatred in his heart is his own problem.

I bring this basketball game up to illustrate the difference between these two situations. The announcer has no power, and Ron Johnson does. And to be clear… I don’t mean to suggest that he has power because he’s wealthy or influential… I mean literally. Given his seat of power in our government, Ron Johnson has power over us. Therefore his fear becomes my problem because he has the power to impact my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in this country.

Similarly, I’ve never been afraid of associates or family members who harbor resentment, hatred, or ill feelings towards me because of the color of my skin. They have never had any real power over me.

But since I was a teenager, the reason why my heart races when a police officer is driving slowly behind me… and the reason why I will go out of my way to turn as soon as possible (preferably into a parking lot) is that I know this police officer has a unique position of power in our governmental system.

I’m not afraid that this random police officer might use racist language in public or private. I’m afraid that if we interact they may see my body as a unique threat to them. I’m afraid because they have the unique power to end my liberty or my life - fueled by this fear that they have of my skin.

I don’t want to live under the weight of knowing that people in positions of systemic power fear me and see my body as a threat to them.

So this weekend when I was thinking about how Ron Johnson is up for reelection in 2022 I felt grateful to you all. Because this community reminds me that there are people all over who care deeply about justice and are trying to find ways to take action to chip away at opportunities to make our society less racist and more just. And I believe that we will continue to make progress in this pursuit.

Thank you all.
Mo Cheeks

P.S. It occurred to me as I finished writing today’s email that it might get some people thinking that I’m hinting at considering getting back into politics. Don’t worry. That is definitely not what this is. This email is just a personal reflection about how we need Ron Johnson to not be a senator anymore. And… this email is a reminder for you to go buy some bread :)