Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Heroine

From the essay "We Are Not Your Weapons, We Are Women" by Amanda Kijera...

      Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I started to write what I thought was a very clever editorial about violence against women in Haiti. The case, I believed, was being overstated by women’s organizations in need of additional resources. Ever committed to preserving the dignity of Black men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages, I viewed this writing as yet one more opportunity to fight “the man” on behalf of my brothers. That night, before I could finish the piece, I was held on a rooftop in Haiti and raped repeatedly by one of the very men who I had spent the bulk of my life advocating for.

      It hurt. The experience was almost more than I could bear. I begged him to stop. Afraid he would kill me, I pleaded with him to honor my commitment to Haiti, to him as a brother in the mutual struggle for an end to our common oppression, but to no avail. He didn’t care that I was a Malcolm X scholar. He told me to shut up, and then slapped me in the face. Overpowered, I gave up fighting halfway through the night.
      Accepting the helplessness of my situation, I chucked aside the Haiti bracelet I had worn so proudly for over a year, along with it, my dreams of human liberation. Someone, I told myself, would always be bigger and stronger than me. As a woman, my place in life had been ascribed from birth. A Chinese proverb says that “women are like the grass, meant to be stepped on.” The thought comforted me at the same time that it made me cringe.
      A dangerous thought. Others like it have derailed movements, discouraged consciousness and retarded progress for centuries. To accept it as truth signals the beginning of the end of a person–or community’s–life and ability to self-love. Resignation means inertia, and for the past two weeks I have inhabited its innards. My neighbors here include women from all over the world, but it’s the women of African descent, and particularly Haitian women, who move me to write now.
      Truly, I have witnessed as a journalist and human rights advocate the many injustices inflicted upon Black men in this world. The pain, trauma and rage born of exploitation are terrors that I have grappled with every day of my life. They make one want to strike back, to fight rabidly for what is left of their personal dignity in the wake of such things. Black men have every right to the anger they feel in response to their position in the global hierarchy, but their anger is misdirected.
      Women are not the source of their oppression; oppressive policies and the as-yet unaddressed white patriarchy which still dominates the global stage are. Because women – and particularly women of color – are forced to bear the brunt of the Black male response to the Black male plight, the international community and those nations who have benefitted from the oppression of colonized peoples have a responsibility to provide women with the protection that they need.

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