It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. Audre Lorde
If you were disappointed in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pointing out that that are differences between transwomen and natal women when it comes to feminism, you will be very sad about what I say next. When it comes to the examination of oppression, pain, and violence; it often does become very necessary to evaluate the differences around a unique individual person’s lived experiences with trauma. In other words, in an examination of social and individual problems, looking at unique risk factors, obstacles, and triggers is essential to progress.
In my 27 years of I’ve encountered scorn and disappointment from non-black women when it became necessary to evaluate how sexual violence & domestic violence has a different origin, history, and dynamic within the Black community than with women of other communities.
As a Black woman born in America, who grew up in both the north and the south, non-Black women may not have my same experience with violence, abuse, sexism, and racism. Of course there is some overlap but there are also some gaps.
When a white woman founder of a grassroots organization asked me to team up with her, naturally I wanted to know about the history and intended future of outreach and work with the Black community.
She told me in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t understand “why Black women won’t leave Black men alone because they are nothing but violent murderers.”
- I asked about the Black community.
- All of them?
- Upon further investigation, this woman lost her daughters to domestic violence. But, not at the hands of a Black man. It was a white man, so….
- Here’s where I would have been confused but for the fact that I had heard this racist rhetoric from white women before. I was just grateful I saw it before we were had more time in with our connection. I blocked her. Pocketed the lesson. Carried on with life.
All Black women from around the world don’t have the same lived experiences, socioeconomic status, career opportunities, education privileges, freedom of religion.
Even African-American women don’t often have a similar lived experience with women directly from the continent of Africa,
or Black women of Brazil, or the Dominican Republic etc….
This is one of the reasons that my advocacy and activism continues to be global. I
teach and therefore, I must remain teachable. Everyone’s blues ain’t like mine even if we’re both Black.
As a Black woman born in America, this work has shown me that my experience with violence, abuse, sexism, and racism is often different than the women who immigrated to this country.
Not always better. Not always worse. But different.
As a woman my experiences with violence, abuse, and sexism are different from male Survivors.
Not always better. Not always worse. But different to be sure.
Remaining a humble teacher and remaining teachable is helpful here.
Men may share what pains them they find someone to listen.
As a Black woman, my experiences with violence, abuse, sexism, and racism are different from Black males in the community.
And as such, Black men have sometimes been way less than kind about me having the audacity to speak up for my rights and rights of other women and girls.
That’s what makes it even more important for me to make seeking males who support the de-silencing, empowerment, and safety of Black women and girls a life priority, even more important. It helps to give me information and provide alliances where I might otherwise assume there are none.
As a woman in her late 40’s my experiences with violence, abuse, sexism, and racism are different that women older than I am; and that includes Black women.
Many an older woman has told me that it was “impolite” to talk about such things. In their day, it wasn’t done. It used to shut me down or bother me. Now I respect boundaries and remind myself that it’s a generational difference.
As a mother of a Black son, my experiences with violence, abuse, sexism, and racism are different than mothers who don’t have to include the discussion around racism and police in their discussions around consent, body safety, secret passwords, “safe words” “icky feelings” etc…
As a woman who has experienced the trauma of violence, abuse, sexism, and racism as well as being a veteran professional in the work, I’ve encountered many women who think all of this is doomsaying and scare tactics because nothing like that has ever nor could ever happen to them.
The sad thing about doing this work for so long, being blessed to live this long, you get to become a living witness to seeing a few of them face a new life trying to live with what they told you “rarely” happens.
It happened to them. or an elderly mom…..their daughter. Their granddaughter. Their friend. There is absolutely no reward in that. I was more content with the gap between knowing something like this happens somewhere every minute and …..being unable to imagine violence and abuse happening anywhere.
As the great Audre Lorde wrote, it is NOT our differences that divide us. But, when we can’t fathom that there are differences. When we can’t speak about these differences. When we can’t have open dialogue around our differences and all of our many, many, many different needs within the frame of being unique individuals…..then, we come to this place. History teaches that it can get a whole lot worse from here.
“No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”… No woman has ever written enough.”- bell hooks