I have been called sweetie, honey, boo thang, and big thighs, just to name a few, in this southern town I called home. All were hisses from unrecognizable misters. These unwanted catcalls or"holla at me girls went unnoticed by passersby. To tell the truth, I honestly shrugged off the embarrassment of being prey as I walked through the mall or on a noisy city street. When I was eight, I suffered a sprang arm after I averted attention from an older man who would have raped me. I learned how to run fast and lie about why I was running. I became numb to the advances of older men, shrugging them off as “that’s what those men do." All the while, I felt self-conscious and ashamed of my growing body.
This election season, the themes of race and rape have come heavily into play. Listening to an older candidate full of white privilege, power, and ego — three almost-incurable ailments — I have found myself thrust backward in time to that eight-year-old, kicking and running from her predator. Being referred to on a national debate stage as “the African Americans" to me implies that the African American race is a singular, not plural culture; dismisses the collaborative force of being black in America; and is disrespectful and lacks the consciousness of unification.
To be addressed properly as a viable group of individuals with important perspectives of intellectual identities is the appropriate approach towards cultural inclusiveness. If those running for the highest office in the land decidedly regulate a culture and a race to a definite article, then the push by groups to have white privilege in the White House has overtaken the sensibilities of the character that this country was built upon. When racism and sexism, spoken from the mouth of white and male privilege, goes viral, with shock and awe politics not giving the space to respectful dialogue, then we have a democracy of loose cannons that enter the inboxes of their categorical adversaries without permission or pretense.
I wish my experience as an eight-year-old girl who was nearly raped was the first and last time I ever experienced the misogyny and unlawful misdemeanor of a willful assailant, but it wasn’t. With the clash of social media and the ego-drained societal wooing, assailants have taken to shrouding themselves in broad daylight, on the coveted screens of unaware victims. One evening, upon turning my computer on and checking my Facebook status, I innocently clicked on my inbox. I found an obscene picture I hadn’t solicited. I hadn't checked the box that said, "genital pics here please."
After speaking to a variety of women, I was told this is the new way of flirting, and I was late to the game if this was the first genital pic I’d been private messaged. Shuddering from the audacity of this vileness, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This isn’t flirting or the way to approach a lady — this is criminal, degrading to women, and debasing to humanity and privacy.
Generations of my gene pool have fought with their feet and their speech for my rights as a Black woman registered voter.
This commentary on the state of being black and female in a time of change, with drama being played out from the seats of scornful crowds and video-mongers, in the grander scheme, furrows on the heels of human rights. Reading the stories of females as young as eight carrying the secrecy of their inward pain, and protecting the perpetrators who dared to take away the innocence of the innocent, is one reason I advocate for girls and women to heal their lives by using their voices.
Generations of my gene pool have fought with their feet and their speech for my rights as a Black woman registered voter. Seeing the past's black-and-white photos of white men with their young sons smiling at cameras and smoking cigars as a black man hangs from a noose on a tree are sad truths of evasive murder. Listening to audio in 2016, disregarding the indiscretions of indecency, smiling as exploitations of unassuming women who remain silent out of fear, signals the perceived privilege of power akin to the twosome of white privilege and male privilege.
My nieces, the girls who I create empowerment workshops for, and the entire female world shouldn’t have to shut off their inboxes, unfriending the pyrites that hide their invisible faces as their penises sit squarely in the faces of females who see no prize in these unfiltered pictures.
Women, including southern women — we must kick them in the genital area with legislative force, and wear the sling of no more shame, and lock out locker room talk at the polls. We must clear our inboxes of such pervasive uncomely and unwelcomed criminal behavior by singularly voting to write out assault and racism of all kinds. America, we must demand that race doesn’t divide itself from sexism, when in fact many females achingly experience both. Having a vagina doesn’t constitute the violation of unalienable rights. Having skin with melanin isn’t an attribute that requires immediate danger or death.
This country, I shed no tears for thee, now are you going to arrest me? Am I supposed to bare my breast while unwanted guests threaten to invade the predispositions of my eight-year-old self? Is this what really makes this country great? Yet, I still wonder, as some may accuse me of being un-American, will you remember I am unarmed? My pen is stained with the ink of change, my voice is the literary healing art tool I use to create sustainable reconciliation. So smile, smoke your cigar — you are on dash cam, as if that really mattered… you’ll probably make it home tonight, but my Black Lives Matter family has been made to worry, will they, or will I?
Top photo: Facebook/Donald Trump
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Salaam Green, M.S.: Poet, Author, Social Health Activist and Speaker. Founder of the Literary Healing Arts Foundation, promoting the healing power of words. 2016 Poet Laureate for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Contact Salaam and subscribe to book Salaam for speaking, community healing circles and workshops, or poetry showcases and readings at www.literaryhealingarts.com or email@example.com. Follow @beautifulblackpoetry on Instagram as Lit Healer; @salaamgreen1 on Twitter; Salaam Green on Facebook.