“The teal eternity of the Atlantic Ocean had severed them so completely from what had once been their home that it was as if nothing had ever existed before, as if everything and everyone they cherished had simply vanished from the earth.”
That paragraph in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by author Nikole Hannah-Jones elicited a gasp from this reader, who touched finger to iPad screen to highlight it and read it a few more times. This is a book that — in some ways like Caste by Isabel Wilkerson — brings to life the atrocities inflicted by white people upon Black people in American history.
Perhaps ‘brings to life’ is too proper and bookish. What I mean is pounds, virtually pelts the reader with such stinging information that each hit doesn’t have time to recover when another comes and so the bruising endures. The cadence of the writing (from a variety of authors who contributed) has a battering effect in spots, appropriate and necessary given the weight of the material. If it is rough to read, what was it like to live? For centuries?
To where? To what?
Power grab, on.
And I’m only six chapters in.
It’s a seemingly average day, if one has those anymore in a pandemic. From my reading life to current world affairs I go. One minute consuming past American atrocities that set the tone for this nation divided, and the next, learning of Vladimir Putin’s atrocities at the ready as he prepares to invade neighboring Ukraine.
It’s all breathtaking. Too much. At one point I feel like my only shot at oxygen is a two-hour dose of a Hallmark movie about a veil with magic powers.
Who am I now?
We, global citizens, sit poised, waiting to see if twisted Putin is going to make good on his unhinged rant about stopping Nazis that don’t exist. And then the explosions begin and our wondering ceases.
Ukrainians begin to find shelter underground. Some flee in cars, some on foot.
I think of the aforementioned passage by Hannah-Jones about the enslaved people in chains en route from Africa to America…