Emotional Whiplash: When Your Resistance Is Intersectional
As a Black, gay immigrant woman, I have an interesting path in this here life. I have risen, I have rallied and I have turned the other cheek in an effort to just keep moving forward. I’m not going lie though, today, I’m feeling like I have emotional whiplash. I’m treading water, but I’m also swallowing a good bit of it as well. The struggle of the resistance is not easy and the blows seem to be coming from every direction and at every essence of my intersectional being.
My black identity has been under active attack since I arrived in this country. In little ways, every day, society has told me that it had its eye on me and that I have to prove my myself simply to exist. The feeling of being persecuted was heightened by the much-needed publicity that the Black Lives Matter movement brought to police brutality. Watching a modern-day lynching where a cop plays judge, jury, and executioner of one my brothers, with no repercussions, sends a message of my value in this world. I ingest the mindblowing facts in The New Jim Crow that continue to go unaddressed, even as America displays the book on their Goodreads profiles with”woke” superiority. But more than anything, my blackness aches as I attempt to raise two smart, dynamic, black daughters who are starting to understand some of the cruel jokes the world has in store for them. I weep for them and I weep for their loss of innocence.
So in the depths of this fear, I find my breath, feel the anxiety and I remind myself:
“In every crisis, there is a message. Crises are universe’s way of forcing change — breaking down old structures, shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.”
— Susan L. Taylor
My female identity has been curled up in the fetal position more often than not lately. Yes, women have always been under attack. I have lived it from the age of 10 if I had the audacity to so much as walk on the street alone. But as an adult, I have been navigating those treacherous waters by adopting a no-shit-taken approach to all sexist comments and primarily avoiding any meaningful interaction with men. As I began to speak out in support of all my sisters who came forward with courage and truth, I have encountered the scummy underbelly of male humanity. The byproduct of masculine impotence began to parade it’s ugly head, both in the headlines and behind anonymous social media profiles with vile comments attached. As women rise up, the backlash is ugly and will no doubt play out in hiring decisions for years to come. So I am clear that #Metoo didn’t start a battle, but it started a war, one that is worth the fight.
So in the depths of this frustration, I find my breath, feel the vulnerability, and I remind myself:
“It’s not about supplication, it’s about power. It’s not about asking, it’s about demanding. It’s not about convincing those who are currently in power, it’s about changing the very face of power itself.”
- Kimberle Williams Crenshaw
My immigrant identity has been shattered and scattered on the ground, it’s pieces repelled from each other like similar poles of a magnet. Having just gotten my citizenship a few months ago, I rejoiced for a few seconds because of the stability it meant for my family. But I realize that I have never been less excited by the idea of being an American. This thing that I fought for 20 years to attain is now a badge that I cannot wear with honor. Not when my country is lead by a racist, Islamophobic fascist. My heart breaks for my sisters and brothers from Haiti who have made their lives in the US since the devastation of their country in 2010, but who will be exiled in a year. I feel helpless for all the DACA candidates who came forward in good faith and who are now facing the end of all their dreams of a future in the only country they have ever called home. Refugee programs have been curtailed closing our doors and hearts to the most vulnerable of populations. And Trumps Muslim Ban just approved by SCOTUS is nothing more than the legalization of religious prejudice as the data shows that attacks by radical Islamist are by far not the most significant terror threat we face in America.
So in the depths of my despair for families torn apart, I find my breath, feel the sorrow, and I remind myself:
“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
– Wilma Rudolph
My Gay identity was doing okay. After rallying and protesting for over 15 years, my gay gene was basking in the afterglow of finally having equal rights. We no longer had to settle for civil unions or domestic partnership. We no longer needed extra special and expensive legal services to adopt our children. We didn’t need to get tied up in red tape to receive health, survivor or any other sort of benefit. No, my wife and I are just plain old married. We were chilling contently while pushing the lesbian agenda of getting the kids to do their homework without whining. We were just going to work, doing laundry and hoping that the stubbornness we saw in our girls today would indeed one day be perseverance. Gay life was good until they started in on my last bastion of wholeness.
The controversy arose in June when the Texas Supreme Court revived a lawsuit that sought to eliminate benefits offered to the same-sex spouses of the city of Houston’s employees. They ruled that the right to a marriage license did not automatically entitle same-sex couples to spousal insurance benefits. See here; this is some bullshit. They finally conceded to let gays get married; now they are trying to uncouple the trappings and benefits that have always gone along with being married, hence trying to deny us our rights none the less. They find a backdoor way to stand between us and the very benefits for which we fought. This is nothing new, just look at a couple of examples in American history:
1. Slavery was legally abolished which instantaneously crippled the economy of the American south. The Southern states ruled that prisoners could be used as slave labor in the fields. Suddenly new laws criminalizing not having a job or being homeless allowed for the incarceration of blacks who were struggling to make a consistent living in the years immediately following the abolition of slavery. This allowed plantation owners to somewhat maintain the status quo of almost free labor despite the abolition of slavery.
2. After Blacks were given the “right” to vote, states then implemented voting taxes and unfairly implemented literacy tests, ensuring that while blacks had the right to vote, that they still restricted the possibility of them actually voting.
But in spite of all of this, I know that my family is life itself, I find my breath, feel the anger and I remind myself:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
So now I feel like a vehicle with all four tires punctured. Stubbornly moving forward, but feeling the repeated abuse as the rims of my spirit are destroyed. And here you come, asking “Why are black people always so angry?” I shake my head at the privilege of your ignorance. I close my eyes and block back tears because I don’t know where to begin. I take a deep breath and walk away because, at this moment, I don’t have the grace to answer you with anything but a “F*ck You!”
But then I remind myself:
“If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so.”
— Lev Grossman
So I rolled up my selves and I wrote this piece. I wrote this piece because, while it is not my job to teach you about the pain and suffering that your privilege allows you to avoid, how else are you going to understand the treacherous path you will never have to walk.
So today, I stumbled and fell into a moment of despair, but I will allow some good to come from that fall. I share my intersectional struggle with others and I take heart in the fact that I am not alone. I keep moving forward in solidarity with all the powerful men and women who came before me and who rally with me. I persist to ensure that Blacks, Jews, Latinos, Women, Gays, Immigrants, and Muslims, not only have a seat at that lunch counter but that those seats are worth having. I persevere for a better America, one that I can be proud to call myself a citizen of.
“When I dare to be powerful — to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. ”
– Audre Lorde
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