Jessica Felicity, 18, Student (Ontario CN)
Permission to Protest
It’s a Sunday morning and I’m mindlessly scrolling through Instagram when I stumble upon a post made by writer/superhero style icon Tavi Gevinson. It’s a quote by Audre Lorde. It reads: “Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.”
In an article for CNN, antiracist essayist Tim Wise recalled a poll done by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation that revealed “that white Americans are far less likely than persons of colour to believe that racism remains a serious problem in the United States.” Wise uses the following example to expose the flaw in how we deal with racism today:
...I don't know calculus, because I never took it in school. But here's the thing: I know that I don't know calculus; and as such, I would never presume to know it, let alone to tell others for whom it had actually been their major that I knew it better than they did.
Although I am lucky enough to have a support system of loved ones, I cannot deny the fact that Wise’s analogy completely mirrors the issue I am facing in my own life. The world, as we all know, is rarely the most understanding. I think of the men sitting at a roundtable, making decisions about women’s bodies. I think of peers sitting before me, watering down my truths when I tell them how sad and confused I feel after hearing the news about Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott. I think of how painful it feels when everything I stand for is critiqued by those who do not stand in my shoes. I have had too many people come to me with fake and forced smiles trying to explain to me how the world works. It seems as if people would rather have their ears cut off then listen to how I feel. My feelings may not be eloquent and I apologize if I do not use academic language to describe the way my skin feels like a coat I sometimes want to unzip. My feelings may be chaotic and frightening at first, but they are mine and they are real.
I am tired of having to censor myself when discussing my experiences as a young black woman. I am tired of being told that I have no reason to complain because I’m part of a “new generation”. I cannot ignore how much of a slap in the face it is when I attempt to discuss the consequence of race with peers and they roll their eyes and talk about how a black president is this indicator that racism barely exists. I am tired of having to ignore the silent genocides occurring around me. I am tired of my voice being dismissed because to them, my oppression is baggage - it’s an inconvenience.
The list of black lives taken in America is growing. To those who have the audacity to deny or sugarcoat this, I am sorry to say that this is fact. It is fact that these lives were unrightfully taken and that many of the perpetrators are not facing consequence. Privilege has become a body bag, privilege has become shackles on my feet. I cannot be free because I am not free. The anger and the sadness within me is locked up and those who are much too fragile to face this reality have swallowed the key.
I am sorry to those around me because I can no longer mind my manners. I cannot use neutral and careful language when attempting to explain my discomfort. I will not settle for just being pretty for a black girl. I will not police my passions for your sake. Push a narrative on me and label me an archetype but my truths sit skin deep and it is time for them to come out. I am sorry to those around me because this is my last apology.
I am a young black woman. I am not just a young woman. Every part of that title matters. My experiences with sexism have been radicalised. For that, my feminism is intersectional. In 1989, American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in order to reintroduce the concept that “women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity.” Race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity are examples of what may intersect within feminism. These examples filter our experiences and make them different but all that aside, we still have to stand together in order to combat the issue as a whole. Do not promote compassion and equality if you associate these things with convenience. We all have to listen. Comfort one another, soften your heart and hold each other’s hands.
This is my narrative. This is where my ignorance ends and my empowerment begins. We all have our own stories and you should never feel afraid to share what is inside you. There is no expiration date for becoming who you are. I identify as an ally to anyone who feels that they are not worthy of stepping forward. Whatever your cause may be, just know that you do not need anyone’s permission to protest.