TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Violence, Survivor Story
The intersections of race, education, gender, and faith are not always pretty, pink, or glamorous. Sometimes race & gender are a delicate sprint. There is some cheering but mostly staring, taunts, violence, and sometimes death!
I remember 3rd grade and a boy - we'll call him "Day-Day" used to pick on me, pick at me, and then one day he went too far and I whacked him over the head with my tin lunch box. I used violence to call him to attention because his violence toward me had gotten to be #teamtoomuch. It wasn't right. But he wasn't right. Ok but the violence I ensued wasn't ok. I digress. What I remember the most was he left me alone. I didn't appreciate him harassing me day after day. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin - and you are right most 3rd graders don't. But there was something about the way "Day-Day" spoke to me, looked at me and engaged me that did not feel safe or fun at all!
I remember 6th grade. I experienced a boy's hand on my bottom. Not too sure what he was looking to get out of that encounter. I hated it. I felt yucky. I felt like I had done something wrong. I don't remember telling my friends. I do remember walking home from school as quickly as possible. I rang the doorbell. My mother greeted me. The tears fell. Mommy hugged me. She told me that I was beautiful and he was wrong. She told me it wasn't my fault. She listened to me. Mommy believed me!
In my senior year of high school, I started working at Sears in the men's department. I worked with a boy I went to school with. He would look at me weird sometimes. Then, it happened. He held up his two fingers and motioned to lick the center of them. On another occasion he said "I like your 'V'" and made other comments about my breasts. I hated how he spoke to me. I felt extremely uncomfortable around him. I did not feel safe. I came home that evening. I told my parents. Daddy, said I could tell the human resources manager the next time I go to work. He was fired. I didn't want him to be fired - just to learn a lesson and to never behave so offensively and violently again. A few days after he was fired he approached me at school while I was with two friends. He said "Whaddup now B*$@!" and he swung at me - with his fist! My friends pushed him down and there was a fight. I was shaken. My day was disrupted. I'm not sure I retained much in school that day. My friends listened to me. They believed me.
Each of these incidents took place with former classmates. Each of these incidents took place after Title IX was created. Although these incidents took place before I began college, It makes me think about the number of Women Of Color that are experiencing the intersections of sexism, violence, and racism and do not feel protected under the law.
We have to do a better job to challenge institutionalized oppression. We must stand up for Women Of Color. We must make space for Women Of Color on campuses. We must listen to Women Of Color on our campuses. We must learn to advocate for and with Women Of Color on college campuses.
How many Women of Color know about Title IX but would never feel safe enough or supported enough to come forward to report let alone get support from counselors because of institutionalized oppression?
How can we make space for Women Of Color on our campuses and our houses of worship that have been assaulted?
How can we show Women of Color that their voices, stories, and their health matters to the colleges and universities they are investing in?
It is important to have spaces in education and churches where folks who've been sexually assaulted in any particular way can come forward, be their authentic self, be heard, offered resources, support and have the option to report. The truth is that those spaces do exist on many if not all campuses. The problem is that institutionalized oppression makes it difficult for Women Of Color to take full advantage of those spaces. This conversation on this blog is not complete, stay tuned for more on this.