To Examine Our White Shadow

I called a new lawyer a few weeks ago, about my sexual assault.  I asked around for some referrals, and got in touch with the firm that was part of representing survivors in the Larry Nassar case.

But the statute of limitations is 2 years in Indiana.  It’s been 3 years and I didn’t sue at all.  There’s nothing more that I can do legally.

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So as I followed the Kavanaugh hearings, I took care of myself.  I stayed informed, yet on my own time.  I didn’t really watch anything live.  When Kavanaugh was officially confirmed a few days ago, I stayed with Senator Collins’ speech for awhile.  I paid attention to my body while I was watching her talk.  The most prominent feeling was a deep ache in my chest.

I’ve known this feeling before.

Senator Collins’ chose to side with the status quo, and collectively speaking, this is white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy.  She chose against Dr. Ford, and all women who have ever faced sexual harassment and assault, which is all women.

Much has already been written about why this is true.  Valuing privilege and whiteness at all costs, even when the alternative could be solidarity.

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I was sexually assaulted by a white woman. By a white female doctor.

A white female lawyer would not take my case.  She thought that my assault could be considered a legitimate medical procedure.

I was not immediately believed by some family and some white women in my faith community.

And through processing these experiences of the past several years, I’ve come to feel in my body, the tiniest sliver, of what POC have always known: the system doesn’t serve me either.  But I thought it did; I thought it would.  Because being socialized as a white woman, this is what I was told.

Of course, not in these words, but I was told,

“Your whiteness will save you.”

“Your association to white men in authority will save you.”

“Your quietness will save you. Because not making white men upset is part of your job.”

My whiteness insulated me until it was punctured enough, that I could see through the tiny holes into a world I was caught up in–the charade of whiteness.

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Why did these white women stand behind their position of power and do violence to me?

Yes, the answer has to do with whiteness.  And yes, I believe they doubled-down on their own illusion of power, through the form of a title, (which the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal system gives more credence to), because they know their title is all they have.

Whiteness gives legal & economic power, and yet decimates emotional & pyschological power, spiritual power, collective power.

Whiteness hollows white people out.

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Healing from sexual violence for me has been about sharing as much as my body will allow, then retreating to rest.  Then sharing a little more when my body is ready.  And then resting.

While trauma is brutally painful–I’ve come to revere my body.

For all it does for me. For how it communicates to me, when I’m ready for the next step, ready to take a risk.

My body has held me, screamed with me, told me to quit things that weren’t serving me anymore, has loved me back to health.

And when I engage my own healing with chronic illness & as a sexual assault survivor, I begin to feel where my personal power lies in my body–in the gut–which ironically (or not so ironically!) is where autoimmune diseases originate.

I begin to be more in touch with my instincts again, my personal energy-rather than the energy of others.  I begin to take my gifts seriously, and see that my limits also reveal deep beauty, power, and restraint.

With deeper knowledge and respect for myself, I also knew that it was safe enough to look at my personal and collective shadow.

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Amongst white liberal women, there is deep hurt, rage, and sadness in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, and all the white GOP senators who supported the nomination.  There should be.

And yet–it’s easier to rage at the external, while ignoring any internal work.  The white female psyche is severely split.  This cognitive dissonance experienced in our ancestry and passed down generation to generation is revealing its shadow.

Resmaa Menakem, writes in My Grandmother’s Hands,

“Throughout the United States’s history as a nation, white bodies have colonized, oppressed, brutalitzed, and murdered Black and Native ones.  But well before the United States began, powerful white bodies colonized, oppressed, brutalized and murdered other less powerful white ones.  The carnage perpetuated on Blacks and Native Americans in the New World, began, on the same soil, as an adaptation of longstanding white-on-white practices. This brutalization created trauma that has yet to be healed among whites today.”

I feel this in my body.

I felt this when I didn’t receive the support from white women and wondered why.

I felt this when Senator Collins sided with the more powerful white Brett Kavanaugh rather than the less powerful white Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford.

What this case continues to reveal to me, as I let my body respond and feel its way into thoughts–is about white on white trauma.

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James Baldwin stated, “It is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a n—– in the first place…and the future of the country depends on that.”

This Kavanaugh moment is about sexual assault and patriarchy, yes.  But so much more.

When 46% of white women believe Dr. Ford, and 43% believe Kavanaugh, the split of the psyche is so incredibly clear.  Yes, these are “just statistics” and yet divide also speaks about so much oppression targeted at people of color–because we haven’t healed the trauma within ourselves.

83% of black voters believe Dr. Ford and 66% of Latinx voters believe her as well.

We must takes James Baldwin’s question seriously.  White pain is erupting–but will we learn to sit with it, work with it, move through it, even dare to do it collectively, and heal together?

I believe that we must.

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