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Saturday, January 16, 2021


by Donna Katzin

The violence was barely visible to law-makers                                                 
when police squeezed out George Floyd’s last breath
with a knee to his neck, shot their way
into Breonna Taylor’s home,
left her dead on her floor, clicked off
the too-short lives of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin
with flicks of a trigger.                                        
They scarcely discerned it in the eyes of children     
ripped from fathers’, mothers’ arms,
caged at the border, never to see
their parents again.
It was not obvious to them when 350,000 souls—       
disproportionately black and brown, immigrant, indigenous—
were extinguished by the virus
the president heralded as a “hoax,”                      
as ICU’s, hearses, morgues choked on bodies
and ambulances were ordered not to stop
for “low-probability” passengers.                                    
It took broken glass and guns at the Capitol,
ghost-faced rioters in MAGA hats, banners, swastikas,
sporting toxic slogans spawned and spewed
by the Commander-in-Chief.
It took hordes single-minded as Atilla the Hun
or shock-troops of the Third Reich storming
up the marble stairs beneath idyllic landscapes,
portraits of iconic heads of state,
pushing past police who never imagined 
the possibility of a white mob
forcing their way into chambers constructed,
polished to protect the rule of law,
wielding shotguns and rifles,
wrapped in bullet-proof vests.
It took the legislators in lockdown
little time to detect the pattern,
crouching behind their chairs, calling
loved ones, clutching gas-masks,
as they were herded to hidden locations
while the president’s minions lounged
in their offices, read their mail,       
trashed their papers, took selfies.
In the fray below five people died.
It took them only hours to declare a breach,
recalibrate the rules, call for silencing,
impeaching the author of the action
to pluck out the bad seed.
But still, in the white wilderness of our minds,
tiptoe home-grown terrorists nurtured                  
with our blindness, lethal legacies,
assumptions of supremacy—             
the hate so deeply sown                                     
in our own hearts.

Donna Katzin is the founding executive director of Shared Interest, a fund that mobilizes the human and financial resources of low-income communities of color in South and Southern Africa.  A board member of Community Change in the U.S., and co-coordinator of Tipitapa Partners working in Nicaragua, she has written extensively about South Africa, community development and impact investing.  Published in journals and sites including The New Verse News and The Mom Egg, she is the author of With the Hands, a book of poems and photographs about post-apartheid South Africa’s process of giving birth to itself.