His blonde hair is buzz cut, a sun-ripened wheat-like yellow that frames his face. The hollows of his cheeks constantly flush a pinkish, orangey red, the color of some persimmons. He is so young. 20? Maybe 21.
These are all things that I notice as he turns to me with icy eyes that are a void and says, “You’re wrong.”
I am so shocked, so stunned, that I imagine I do nothing, although I’m sure my face begins to register the immediate hurt before I try to control it. I try to control my face as I try to control my shaking hands as I try to control my breathing to try to regain control of my heart.
The way that he argues his point, the way that he breezily tells me that I am wrong echos in my body through a ribcage that feels barren.
See, this is not a new experience.
This is also not an experience that is foreign to anyone. At some time or another we all must pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off after some noxious encounter with violence or in jest.
The reason I write about this is because this particular incident happened in a classroom with a peer nearly three weeks ago, and still, it rattles around in my skull treading on softer thoughts that threaten to grow. It changes experiences sharpening the bitter cold while blunting the beauty of falling snow.
Because, it takes a lot for me to talk in class anymore. It feels very difficult. Too hard. Every word must be coaxed out because all of the words must have meaning and that meaning must reflect me.
Although my nondisabled, young, white, male peer may not have known this, when he asserted that I was wrong to say that the juxtaposition of religion versus progressive thinking was a false dichotomy, he attempted to nullify my existence.
My track record with religion, Christianity to be specific, is what one might call “spotty.” Indeed, it is so spotty that it might even appear as a solid. But there is something in those holes of nothing. That something there is a someone, and she is me.
I battle, have battled, with Christianity, with people I thought were Christian authorities. People who had no time, no answers to help satiate my dogged questions. But always there was a hand outstretched for my money.
I battle, will never stop battling, with liberalism in the form of people who think that since they watched Roots or Amistad in class that they get to stop trying—because, these liberals have access to an endgame that some of us don’t have.
And when I fight so long and so hard that the fight begins to go out of me it’s the cross that I wear that reverberates secret whispers of love, of compassion, of the need to keep up the fight.
Make no mistake, I do not expect people to agree with all of my ideas. I am not so easily hurt nor am I so naïve that dissent coming from any “side” is something I see as a bad thing.
What I demand is respect paid back for the respect that I afford everyone else. In that respect I require an understanding of the different journeys—different in length, different in strength, different in fight needed to just be heard—people from different social locations must take in order to speak.
What I fight for is the righting of the wrong that is anyone who thinks he can nullify me.