A Black Woman Speaks

Of White Womanhood
Of White Supremacy
Of Peace

It is right that I a woman
black,
should speak of white womanhood.
My fathers
my brothers
my husbands
my sons
die for it; because of it.
And their blood chilled in electric chairs,
stopped by hangman’s noose,
cooked by lynch mobs’ fire,
spilled by white supremacist mad desire to kill for profit,
gives me that right.

I would that I could speak of white womanhood
as it will and should be
when it stands tall in full equality.
But then, womanhood will be womanhood
void of color and of class,
and all necessity for my speaking thus will be past.
Gladly past.

But now, since ’tis deemed a thing apart
supreme,
I must in searching honesty report
how it seems to me.
White womanhood stands in bloodied skirt
and willing slavery
reaching out adulterous hand
killing mine and crushing me.
What then is this superior thing
that in order to be sustained must needs feed upon my flesh?
How came this horror to be?
Let’s look to history.

They said, the white supremacist said
that you were better than me,
that your fair brow should never know the sweat of slavery.
They lied.
White womanhood too is enslaved,
the difference is degree.

They brought me here in chains.
They brought you here willing slaves to man.
You, shiploads of women each filled with hope
that she might win with ruby lip and saucy curl
and bright and flashing eye
him to wife who had the largest tender.
Remember?
And they sold you here even as they sold me.
My sisters, there is no room for mockery.
If they counted my teeth
they did appraise your thigh
and sold you to the highest bidder
the same as I.

And you did not fight for your right to choose
whom you would wed
but for whatever bartered price
that was the legal tender
you were sold to a stranger’s bed
in a stranger land
remember?
And you did not fight.
Mind you, I speak not mockingly
but I fought for freedom,
I’m fighting now for our unity.
We are women all,
and what wrongs you murders me
and eventually marks your grave
so we share a mutual death at the hand of tyranny.

They trapped me with the chain and gun.
They trapped you with lying tongue.
For, ‘less you see that fault—
that male villainy
that robbed you of name, voice and authority,
that murderous greed that wasted you and me,
he, the white supremacist, fixed your minds with poisonous thought:
“white skin is supreme.”
and therewith bought that monstrous change
exiling you to things.
Changed all that nature had ill you wrought of gentle usefulness,
abolishing your spring.
Tore out your heart,
set your good apart from all that you could say,
think,
feel,
know to be right.
And you did not fight,
but set your minds fast on my slavery
the better to endure your own.

‘Tis true
my pearls were beads of sweat
wrung from weary bodies’ pain,
instead of rings upon my hands
I wore swollen, bursting veins.
My ornaments were the wip-lash’s scar
my diamond, perhaps, a tear.
Instead of paint and powder on my face
I wore a solid mask of fear to see my blood so spilled.
And you, women seeing
spoke no protest
but cuddled down in your pink slavery
and thought somehow my wasted blood
confirmed your superiority.

Because your necklace was of gold
you did not notice that it throttled speech.
Because diamond rings bedecked your hands
you did not regret their dictated idleness.
Nor could you see that the platinum bracelets
which graced your wrists were chains
binding you fast to economic slavery.
And though you claimed your husband’s name
still could not command his fidelity.

You bore him sons.
I bore him sons.
No, not willingly.
He purchased you.
He raped me,
I fought!
But you fought neither for yourselves nor me.
Sat trapped in your superiority
and spoke no reproach.
Consoled your outrage with an added diamond brooch.
Oh, God, how great is a woman’s fear
who for a stone, a cold, cold stone
would not defend honor, love or dignity!

You bore the damning mockery of your marriage
and heaped your hate on me,
a woman too,
a slave more so.
And when your husband disowned his seed
that was my son
and sold him apart from me
you felt avenged.
Understand:
I was not your enemy in this,
I was not the source of your distress.
I was your friend, I fought.
But you would not help me fight
thinking you helped only me.
Your deceived eyes seeing only my slavery
aided your own decay.
Yes, they condemned me to death
and they condemned you to decay.
Your heart whisked away,
consumed in hate,
used up in idleness
playing yet the lady’s part
estranged to vanity.
It is justice to you to say your fear equalled your tyranny.

You were afraid to nurse your young
lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight
and he should flee to firmer loveliness.
And so you passed them, your children, on to me.
Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood
drank the sustenance of life from me.
And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy.
I could have lied,
told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger.
But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence.
For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content
and as for color knew no difference.
Yes, in that first while
I kept your sons and daughters alive.

But when they grew strong in blood and bone
that was of my milk
you
taught them to hate me.
Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips
so that strength that was of myself
turned and spat upon me,
despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons.
You know I speak true.
Though this is not true for all of you.

When I bestirred myself for freedom
and brave Harriet led the way
some of you found heart and played a part
in aiding my escape.
And when I made my big push for freedom
your sons fought at my sons’ side,
Your husbands and brothers too fell in that battle
when Crispus Attucks died.
It’s unfortunate that you acted not in the way of justice
but to preserve the Union
and for dear sweet pity’s sake;
Else how came it to be with me as it is today?
You abhorred slavery
yet loathed equality.

I would that the poor among you could have seen
through the scheme
and joined hands with me.
Then, we being the majority, could long ago have rescued
our wasted lives.
But no.
The rich, becoming richer, could be content
while yet the poor had only the pretense of superiority
and sought through murderous brutality
to convince themselves that what was false was true.

So with KKK and fiery cross
and bloodied appetites
set about to prove that “white is right”
forgetting their poverty.
Thus the white supremacist used your skins
to perpetuate slavery.
And woe to me.
Woe to Willie McGee.
Woe to the seven men of Martinsville.
And woe to you.
It was no mistake that your naked body on an Esquire calendar
announced the date, May Eighth.
This is your fate if you do not wake to fight.
They will use your naked bodies to sell their wares
though it be hate, Coca Cola or rape.

When a white mother disdained to teach her children
this doctrine of hate,
but taught them instead of peace
and respect for all men’s dignity
the courts of law did legislate
that they be taken from her
and sent to another state.
To make a Troy Hawkins of the little girl
and a killer of the little boy!

No, it was not for the womanhood of this mother
that Willie McGee died
but for a depraved, enslaved, adulterous woman
whose lustful demands denied,
lied and killed what she could not possess.
Only three months before another such woman lied
and seven black men shuddered and gave up their lives.
These women were upheld in these bloody deeds
by the president of this nation,
thus putting the official seal on the fate
of white womanhood within these United States.
This is what they plan for you.
This is the depravity they would reduce you to.
Death for me
and worse than death for you.

What will you do?
Will you fight with me?
White supremacy is your enemy and mine.
So be careful when you talk with me.
Remind me not of my slavery, I know it well
but rather tell me of your own.
Remember, you have never known me.
You’ve been busy seeing me
as white supremacist would have me be,
and I will be myself.
Free!
My aim is full equality.
I would usurp their plan!
Justice
peace
and plenty
for every man, woman and child
who walks the earth.
This is my fight!

If you will fight with me then take my hand
and the hand of Rosa Ingram, and Rosalee McGee,
and as we set about our plan
let our wholehearted fight be:
PEACE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE IS EQUALITY.

—Beulah Richardson
1951

Beulah Richardson

Collateral Damage Pt. 2

Collateral Damage Pt. 2

I am angry. I am angry with myself mostly.

There is a lot of responsibility that lies squarely at my own feet for how I allow people to treat me. I am not blameless, though truthfully I’ve never claimed to be.

Rather I am achingly aware of my shortcomings and I spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on them. I have low self-esteem and in incurable desire to care for people, to “love them whole”. Noble but not practical. It’s like having a neon sign above my head that reads “Free Heart Repairs Here While You Wait”. I unwittingly make myself available to the emotionally deficient and manipulative.

What is it about these people (men) that doesn’t stop me from getting drawn in? When it becomes clear that these people (men) are not suitable, why do I not turn and run?

I spend a lot of time processing the emotions of other people and I’m not very good at turning this off. It’s for this reason that I avoid social contact, unless it’s with a close knit group of people, because walking into a crowded room is like receiving the signal for hundreds of radio waves which all broadcast simultaneously.  I allow myself to be affected by each one of those radio waves as opposed to letting them simply move through or past me.

Sometimes I project these feelings without realising their origin (meaning they aren’t my emotions). This is bad, especially when I’m under stress and have the tendency to dissociate which  impairs my reaction to an emotionally charged situation. I will either shut down completely, try to run away or I will become defensive, agitated and shouty.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. On the positive side, my empathy makes me very good at helping others with their problems, talking through deeply emotional issues and providing comfort because I can feel their pain, sometimes on a visceral level. I can relate to others on a very intimate level and as a result of this the other person feels cared for, understood, appreciated, and I feel needed. This is the hook.

Co-dependency.

I am primarily focused on helping the other person but I do this at the expense of my own emotional well-being and welfare. Something that is apparent in a co-dependent relationship. This disorder was first identified around a decade ago while studying the interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics but the term has broadened to include any dysfunctional family or relationship.

Often co-dependency is called relationship addiction because people with co-dependency very often form and maintain relationships that are predominantly one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. Co-dependents have low self-esteem and will look outwards to make themselves feel better and may do so through alcohol, drugs, food and/or sensory pleasures like gambling or indiscriminate sexual activity.

This can also be true for the INFJ who when stressed is forced to process data using our extroverted sensing function with which we have very little experience and with which we have extreme difficulty managing.

It’s been said that there is no better way to deal with your own pain than by helping someone else with theirs. It seems this is something I have taken to heart as a method of ignoring my own pain and consistently not dealing with it. Noble but not wise.

Childhood bullying, emotional trauma suffered at the hands of my ex-husband’s family, the divorce of my parents and my father’s subsequent marriage to a woman who despised me and my siblings, my emotionally distant relationship with my father, as well as my own divorce have all had long term effects made worse because I didn’t adequately deal with them.

The more I have tried to dull, cover and numb these painful events, the more I’ve sought out a subject to nurture, take care of and “fix” without ever having afforded myself the space and time to sufficiently process my own traumas and heal sufficiently.

So where to from here?

It’s easy to feel uncared for when people cannot love you the way you need to be loved. It’s also difficult (for HSPs especially) not to internalise this as a reflection of your own self-worth.

The truth is, how people behave and operate has so much less to do with you than you think. It’s about their own insecurities, their own struggles, their own anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

This is not evidence of your failings and it doesn’t mean you are difficult to love. Nor does it mean you are unworthy of love.

The fact that you can empathise and are able and willing to share your love even if it means having your heart broken, is a strength. Loving someone else is a courageous act.

And so the work isn’t to fundamentally change who I am, the work is to deal with what happened and leave it behind in the past where it belongs and make better choices. To stop making a choice of people who only make an option of me.

I am not too much, I am not needy, I am not too sensitive.

I am thoughtful, I am empathetic, I am kind, I am vulnerable, I am generous of spirit and I am enough.

You are enough.

 

Image by Amarit Opassetthakul and licensed by CC