I remember watching Anita Hill testify about what Clarence Thomas did to her when I was a wee one in college years ago. It was painful watching a woman who looked like me being grilled in front of a nation. It was especially painful watching someone who looked like me talk about sexual harassment and not be believed or worse, be believed but dismissed because “boys will be boys.” At that point in my life, I’d already become accustomed to handsy, gropey fellows and street harassment. Just a few months after the Thomas debacle, I found myself as a young intern on Capitol Hill. The members were minding a few of their manners, but I still found myself the subject of lecherous looks and wildly inappropriate commentary—from actual Members of Congress who apparently thought that because they didn’t speak to me directly, they were probably in the clear. I was so young, and it was baffling. I thought then, as I do now, this is why we don’t tell people just how shitty some men can be when they think they are entitled to our time, attention and bodies just because we are present in “their” spaces.
I wanted to be an attorney before all that, but I skidded into a career in advocacy and eventually education, probably because my interests evolved, but also because I wanted to give voice and visibility to other brown and black girls who wanted to and could make a difference. Many years later, I have way more inappropriate experiences in my memory bank. Some of them way more intense and damaging than others. Some I shared with friends contemporaneously; others I never shared and probably still won’t. I don’t do this because I shy away from naming and shaming, but more because I have either had to reconcile and forgive so that I wasn’t consumed by things and or because I just don’t want to even go there. It’s just too much.
Now I’m a mom, and not just any mom, but mom to a kid who has seen and experienced worse than me in just about every aspect of life. I see how this has affected her. I see how she avoids anything that might be unsafe, anything that might make her physically vulnerable. I see her distrust. I see those moments when she lets the shields down, and I see the crumbling little girl who sobs because she was hurt, because no one protected her, because she feels that it’s all her fault. I feel overwhelming sadness, love for her and unmitigated rage. A few years ago when a case involving my daughter went to trial and sentencing I sent a 10 page victim statement and sobbed while I talked to the court representative ahead of sentencing. I know that I’m capable of murder; I learned that through that experience. I don’t say that lightly. I know I wouldn’t flinch to take that person’s life.
I think a lot about being triggered. I feel like the last few years has been a triggered life for me and Hope. Today, knowing that this hearing on Kavanaugh is about to take place, I am grateful to have back to back meetings all day. I am glad I can just avoid the shyt show. I’m glad Hope, who is increasingly interested in world affairs, is in a cloistered environment where she won’t be exposed to the news today unless she seeks it out. I’m glad about that.
So, what’s my point. It’s this: if you are having a hard time with all that’s going on right now, it’s ok to take a break and go binge watch something that makes you smile. It’s ok to go get a cupcake and sit on bench to eat it and watch folks on scooters roll by. It’s ok to watch animal videos on YouTube. It’s ok to check in with your therapist.
It’s ok to practice self-care. Don’t worry, the shyt show will be there tomorrow. Take care of yourself and take care of your kids. I know I will.
September 28th, 2018 at 5:50 pm
When we count the children we need to take of re the current nominee and 45 and trauma, remember to count your own self. Count the automatic consideration of how many people are where in any park, in any parking lot, on any bus or train or elevator. Mr. Obama thought women considered getting on elevators or crossing streets because of his skin….. actually it was his gender. Since before I hit 5th grade I understood if anything bad happened to me it was my fault for breathing while female … .How many credible accusers have to stand and speak before men will believe another man does such things?
Thank you for being rational and for writing and for …. well, being you. It is another bad day for memories here and you are holding my hand.
September 28th, 2018 at 6:07 pm
I will say in O's case I have to bring up the issue of intersectionality. It' not just color or gender; it's color AND gender. The stereotypes about and social treatment of men of color, and AfAm men in particular, are well documented. As a woman of color, it's always a multi-question thought bullet–is it because I'm a woman or because I'm black–in toss up order.
That said, the dumpster fire coverage of the last couple of weeks is hard to trudge through. It's incredibly triggering to see many behaviors I'd hoped folks had evolved beyond haven't evolved at all in 30 years.
I need men to do better, a lot better. Be well, friend.
September 30th, 2018 at 4:04 pm
Thank you for this. I had been following the news in great detail, but I almost haven’t been able to look since Kennedy announced his retirement. It’s just too much.
I’ve just read through your blog, and I wanted to say how much I appreciate your language, in addition to your perspective.
September 30th, 2018 at 4:40 pm
October 1st, 2018 at 6:39 pm
I looked at my hubby Friday morning and flat out told him look, you’re pretty perceptive so I’m just gonna come out and say yesterday was horrible and stressful and retraumatizing so if it seems like I’m triggered it’s because I am. Then I took a 3 day break from most everything online. I almost feel human again, but it amped back up today so I expect I’ll be itchy again by next weekend. Sigh…