I feel wrung out. This happens every so often.
I sometimes feel that people ask too much. When I exploded some weeks ago when class was still in session—when I told those two white men they are privileged by their social location—what I didn’t write about were the three students who came up to me after class to thank me for saying what I did. What I didn’t write was that when the thanks toppled out of their mouths I spontaneously, surprisingly burst into tears. I was so gratefulfrustratedsad at/for them.
The majority of us, perhaps all of us, yearn to feel connected. That’s why some of us join white supremacist groups—to feel united (by fear), like we belong (in juxtaposition to those who don’t), within a cause (that is contorted so that it is believed to be just). I will not make that false parallel here, between white supremacy and antiracist activism, because my short, active consciousness of social justice issues has, in many ways, felt very isolating. I feel more alone now than I have since high school—the differences being that in high school I was much more self-centered (and so, in a way, that feeling of isolation was self-imposed), and that I have now discovered that I am more resilient than I had ever imagined.
See, that’s one of the lies that women are told: that we are weak. We are told that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. We are told that men can protect us.
This is a rude lie.
This is a complete untruth that keeps us subservient, in the home, and in heterosexual relationships. This myth keeps us focused on individuals so that we don’t look at structural inequality and begin to see the trends—the toll that inequality exacts. Simply, to insert the obligatorily Public Enemy quote, “Don’t believe the hype.”
Anyway, you can imagine that I am grateful whenever anyone reaches out to me in confirmation of what I am saying and doing and thinking around social justice issues, but that doesn’t mean that I still am not
Because, why didn’t you say anything in class when I was having to defend myself to tell, not just my truth, but yours too?
Maybe I seem strong, but there are days that I just cry thinking about all the injustice and all the work that needs to be done. And, the words that seem to flow out of my mouth about the detrimental health effects of patriarchy on women (toxic cosmetics, high heels and hand bags that mess up our backs, eating disorders or lack of sustenance due to poverty that weakens our bone density, just to name some of the most obvious) or racial hierarchy (disproportionally higher rates of morbidity, mortality, infant mortality for Black Americans than for any other group, and on and on) come from practice.
I do not feel especially gifted with words. I have worked. I have read, listened, talked to, argued against people who were trying to tell me what my reality is, what my friends’ realities are. I have failed—have felt the searing shame of saying nothing. I remember that feeling whenever I think I have a choice between saying something and keeping silent.
That’s why I also felt
Because, I can’t make any difference alone. And, hopefully those three people who came up to me will be interested in doing their own research. Hopefully they will find their own voices and have the courage to stand by their convictions, out loud and in front of everybody.
Being an invisible ally or activist is like not being an activist at all, and doing nothing is doing something. Doing nothing is agreeing that the status quo is fine. Doing nothing disconnects you from the divinity within that is our shared humanity that cries for an equitable existence for all.
I know it seems difficult and scary, but I hope that next time, we do something. Together.