Thursday, November 20, 2008

Discouraging Epiphany

Sometimes, I hate my intelligence…sometimes I wish I knew nothing about what I know now…that I was just as ignorant as the next person. I hate that every time I watch a music video or a T.V. show, my brain jumps into overdrive and analyzes the entire thing through feminist eyes. I can’t even listen to my family speak without hearing the sexism, racism, and homophobia in their speech. I HATE THIS! Sometimes, I wish I could go back to my freshman year, before I knew anything about feminism, and live my life in ignorance and bias. It seems so much easier. I feel like such an outsider…I cannot relate to the jokes or the commonality shared between friends and acquaintances. I can no longer relate to the “You’re a pussy” comments because to me, they are highly offensive to not only men, but women as well. I am no longer invited to social gatherings because I am the "outspoken and oversensitive one who tries to make everyone feel bad". I have lost friends over feminism, I have lost familial respect over feminism, I have lost a reputation over feminism...and yet, I still feel lost. My knowledge overpowers me in such a way that I feel immobilized. I can no longer explain the injustices of women or Black individuals, because Ignorance turns a closed ear and labels me as “oversensitive”, or as "looking for problems". How do I live in a world where I am objectified, ostracized, undermined, and dehumanized all at the same time? It is no wonder that I feel alone and without friends…who wants to be friends with a social outcast? I must say that I am not generally seen as a social outcast by the women with whom I share these feelings, but by the people I believed were friends; by those who I’d hoped would understand where I’m coming from. Tonight, Ignorance drove me out of the public sphere and back into my own place of comfort. I physically removed myself from an environment where I felt ostracized and unheard. My voice was not valued; nor was my experience as a marginalized person validated.
The very people I’d believed were my allies claimed that I was overreacting…as if they knew what it was like to be me…a Black Woman living in a White supremacist male society. To many, this fact is ignored and candy-coated as “normalcy”, but for me, it is the defining line between heaven and hell. I have experienced hell on earth in America, just as I have experienced heaven. In fact, most people have experienced both. But it is to what extent that matters. I MUST remember every day that I am a Black woman, while my peers believe they are simply human (aka White males). It is interesting to me that I often ignore the fact that I am Black in hopes of highlighting my humanness. But, as I have been reminded tonight, I cannot afford to ignore my Blackness. Because ignorance is consequence…and tonight, I experienced the consequences of selectively ignoring my race for so long with certain people. People try to see me as “one of them” or “just like us”…but I’m not just like White people…in fact, I’ve experienced things they’ll NEVER experience and they’ll experience things I’ll NEVER experience. I know this to be true, but tonight, this was not validated for me. So I removed myself in hopes of refraining from causing further damage to the now broken relationships.

3 comments:

Liam Rosen said...

One must learn to only speak their mind when it is most becoming to do so.

From my dealings with feminists, I have found them often devoid of humor, criticizing (for example) stand-up comedy rountines or trying to find sexism where none exists. If you cannot laugh at yourself, you're doing something wrong.

I do consider myself a feminist, by the Bell Hooks definition of feminism: "Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression." However I must say I am completely disappointed by the feminists who often get the most airtime or attention, because they represent a radical group which will never achieve progress because they will be ignored.

What was the situation exactly?

Dekk said...

I will never know the pain and isolation attached to your unique journey as a black woman. There is no amount of empathy that I can provide because it is simply impossible for me to be empathetic to the experiences of those who are forced to survive in America with certain institutional odds stacked against them. What I can say is that there is something to be said for your resilience. You mentioned in your post that sometimes you wish you could return to the bias and ignorance of your prior years. I had the privilege of knowing you in those times and I can say that even then you expressed feelings of isolation and pain in regards to race and gender. Back then your response to oppression was ignorance and bias. The difference now is that you use your information to combat oppression head on. I have seen this transition first hand and to say the least I a proud of who you are.

I have shared with you before similar feelings of isolation due to my awareness of certain social complexities. Of course my interpretation of these issues is from a privileged lens. However, I can say that college had a way of making me angry instead of powerful. Anger is not power. Information and compassion is. Sometimes liberal arts classes are extremely negative. This happens because, well, the world is fucked up and there really isn't an honest way to observe it otherwise (at least not sociologically).

Randa, I know that you've had a difficult night. If I could magically appear beside you I would wrap my arms around you and whisper "I love you" in your ears until you fall asleep. I anticipate a lifetime of fighting ignorance with you. Part of that life will include tears and heartbreak and pieces of you that I will never understand. However, I will always listen and I will always believe you. I love you with every beat left in my heart (no matter how corny that sounds!)...

*counting the seconds until tomorrow*

K. said...

Although I could never identify fully, I definitely feel how frustrating it can be to---be 'aware'. More specifically, the consequences of speaking out to friends and family-always being the one who has to 'bring up the issues/problems' or can't just 'lighten up'. I agree- it's discouraging at times; especially when people write you off before you even speak a word. Whether they doubt your credibility or just don't care. Regardless, most of the time I at least try to address the issue, but sometimes I'm TIRED- tired--you know- and just sit there 'mindlessly' staring. It doesn't last long before I start feeling guilty for not 'speaking up' and that's a mind battle that's tiring in itself. I don't know--it's challenging/exhausting---but perhaps anything worth doing is.