I Cried Last Night...
Written May 28th, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa
Yes, it is heavy. My blackness. My womanhood. My Americanness. It is heavy.
It is an invisible heaviness, as much as it is a physical heaviness. It is an external heaviness, as it is an internal heaviness. It is a transnational, translingual, transcultural type of heaviness, which most will never understand. Most will never feel or see. So, unless you are one of those humans trapped within the intersectional oppressions that follow us around the world, this type of heavy may be foreign to you or hey, it may not even exist in your world of privilege.
From my experiences, Black American women are often looking for a comfortable, accepted place and community within societies that have continued to reduce their power and agency. As I travel, I hope that these opportunities will help me find a society that seeks to advocate my physical and rhetorical agency.
I travel, I search, I become disappointed.
I travel, I search, I become filled with dismal.
As I wake up on my eighth day in Cape Town, my experience is not new or foreign. I have to wipe my eyes clean from the left over residue from the tears I cried last night.
Last night in public, surrounded by people who will never know what it means to be a Black American woman, I cried. Similar to most societies that have been impacted by colonialism and white imperialism, men will often think they are entitled to a woman’s body. So, here in South Africa, men caressing my girlfriends and I was not anything new. Each evening we would go out with the intentions of having a good time, but the past few nights have been tainted by an incredible number of men trying to forcefully exert their agency on our black bodies.
Yes, I cried last night.
It is the continuation of man after man that demands my attention and asserts himself onto my body that pains me most. One man sees the one prior to him fail to get my attention, so he tries by bringing out all of his “new tricks”. I call them patriarchy, misogyny, and violence… he calls them flirting. Where is the confusion? Where is the misunderstanding? By the fifth trick in one night, I was tired of the tricks and games. I was tired of sharing the same response of agony and seeking for new examples and reasons each time to demonstrate how his presence two inches away from my face not just bothers me, it hurts me, it demeans me, it must STOP.
Ha, hell yeah, I cried last night.
Then, as most women do, we leave our struggle and then fight on the front lines against the oppressions directed to our race, our socioeconomic class, or our sexuality. Reality continuously shows that we can never leave the struggle for equal rights, representation, and acknowledgment for women. However, these complex identities are never recognized and our problems have historically always been secondary to male centered fights.
So, last night, I was reminded by this complexity of identities. I left the battle ground fighting for my own rights, to show up in the boxing ring prepared to remind a white man attending a Historically Black College and University of his white privilege. However, I quickly realized who surrounded me: a bunch of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao like-minded individuals. Men who may fight for the representation of minority men in society, yet who go home to face their realities as advocates of male dominance over a woman’s reproductive system. I move to the front of the ring ready to put up a fight unlike anything the guys surrounding me could have even attempted. I’m ready for this fight, until I realize that today, the fight is not for me. I know I am oppressed. I know I am at the cross section of intersectional oppressions that prevent my movement around the boxing ring of society. Most definitely, this reality caused tears.
I cried because I realized that it is not my job to enter the boxing ring to educate white men about how they oppresses me, just as much as it is not my job to enter into the club and educate every man about his misogyny. It is not my job, because one’s oppressor will not change by the oppressed calling them out on their active subjugation of another community. Rather, an oppressor changes when they are forced to alter their actions when the system that perpetuates and maintains their power changes. So, no matter how many breaths I take arguing with those individuals who seek to enslave me and not recognize my voice, I still believe my power lies in the energy that I always will have to break down systems of injustice.
So, I cried last night and wiped my tears with the future. A future none of us know, but all of us hope to one day see.