Ta-Nehisi writes about the embodiment of racism. How racism was and is FELT very primally in one’s body, in his body. Ta-Nehisi’s book: Between the World and Me, written as a letter to his 15 year old son, talks about his abject fear growing up as a Black young man in Baltimore. A fear which he felt viscerally, deep in his body.
“Racism dislodges brains, blocks airways, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must NEVER look away from this.” And: “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage.”
Mr. Coates also rightly notes that whites “presume” their “whiteness”. How easily white society forgets that we are ALL AFRICAN. We ALL originated from one Black people.
We are ALL multi-colored skin. “Whiteness” is a myth, as is the concept of “race.” But it has, and repeatedly continues to use the “just-ice” system to destroy lives with skin which happens to be darker. Racism IS America’s heritage.
The Black Lives Movement’s representatives Daunasia Yancy and Julius Jones tussled with Hillary Clinton this summer, asking her to account for her role in the mass incarceration of young Black men. She and Bill advocated harsh penalties for non-violent crimes. Hillary pushed back, asking the Black Lives Matter spokespeople what specific legislative changes are they asking for.
Of course, I could not read Ta-Nehisi’s work, nor could I hear interviews with the Black Lives Matter representatives without thinking: “Yes. Of course. Everything that they are saying is exactly how it feels to inhabit a woman’s body.” And Black women experience BOTH racism and sexism. Thank you to my dear friend Demita Frazier, and to Barbara and Beverly Smith and the other pioneering Black women of the Combahee River Collective. You can google their Collective’s manifesto which clearly identified the multi-layered forces of oppression they experience as Black women: race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Today, the term for this multi-layered consciousness of oppression is: “intersections” which I don’t think truly conveys the intensity, sometimes horror, of what it means to live in a Black and “non-white” female body.
Society would not consider me Black, despite my being of African origin (as we ALL are), but I am female and have experienced firsthand how Sexism primally, viscerally is felt in my body. How often did I experience abject fear, cold visceral fear while walking home as a young girl, young woman on the streets of New York City. My near rape in the hallway of our Manhattan apartment building when I was 8 years old created a firm knowledge that I was not safe. After this near rape, I carried a small pocket knife for “protection”. Of course it wouldn’t have protected me from another assault, but my body felt safer. The men sitting opposite me in the subway jerking off (yes, in public). The cat calls and lewd remarks made while minding my own business just walking on the street. The calculations I made when entering my apartment building: if I enter via the basement and quickly run up the stairs to wait for the elevator on the first floor, I’ll be able to hear if someone is following me. Always afraid, always looking over my shoulder, my young being, ready to avert the next attacker.
Yes, fear, bone crushing fear inhabits women’s bodies and minds, just as it does the bodies and minds of Black and multi-colored people. This is America’s heritage. Sadly, the WORLD’s heritage. My 67 year old mind and body are tired of BOTH the racist and sexist stereotypes, the violence against Blacks, against women, the sexist and racist HERITAGE which destroys us. Enough already.