Imagine someone crying actual tears to you about “the struggle” that is known as your existence. “They’re so sorry that you’re oppressed, and they could never understand what a day in your shoes must be like.” At first, it’s flattering to think someone might “get it,” but after a couple of apologies on behalf of the entire white community, it gets awkward. This has happened on multiple occasions. I’ve learned to purse my lips, smile politely, nod my head, swallow my embarrassment and wonder when my existence as a black woman became an oppressive eulogy that others find appropriate to give at 3:00 pm in passing. Painting that picture for you when approaching this topic is essential; I wouldn’t want to be accused of being racist.
When I reflect on the concept of feminism and all the forms it comes in, conversations like these get lost in translation because, first, black women are recently getting a seat at the feminist table (Susan B. Anthony was clear about that). Second, rape and sexual assault does not discriminate against race, class, gender or sexual orientation. Finally, oppression is intersectional; therefore, these conversations are always a privilege.
So I stand there, and I watch the guilt of centuries manifest itself in a space where I pretend sometimes that I am not oppressed. This space is not disrupted by pity or sorrow—only defiance—and I encourage survivors of every ethnicity to speak out against sexual violence that they’ve been encouraged to be silent about by society.
Hold my hand, and don’t speak over me. Wipe your tears because sometimes I have to pick and choose when to spill mine.
Last but never least #ChangeRapeCulture.
-For Survivors and community organizers alike