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She Whispers Now

Rage, She Whispers Now, Queer, Black, Women

Madyson Crawford discusses the whisper of rage into the ears of queer, Black folk, how it has evolved within herself, and the stances it has caused her to take.

I reel back as the long white finger wags in my face. The smells of sweat and plastic that fill the gym where I am currently registering voters is almost as overwhelming as the thin white women with the wrinkly skin standing over me in a tennis skirt. Her hysterical face is contorted to show her disgust at my affiliation with an organization that promotes abortion. “Especially considering it is the number one killer in the black community,” she tells me. The fuck? She fusses and cusses, only at me, despite the fact that I have a registration partner next to me — a white woman closer to her age. Her thin body towers over me and at first felt disarming; but now it is threatening. So I do what society has taught me when in confrontation with anyone white: I de-escalate to the best of my ability. I nod, my voice low and calm; I explain when I can, but do not push. When she speaks I go silent — “listening” to her. Soon, I fade out until her words are background noise. She can’t reach me. She notices and she moves on to bother the “manager”.

My “ally” sits beside me with a look of confusion. She asks me questions afterwards, never stepping in, never taking a moment to let me sit with the violence I just experienced. So I explain to her, to the best of my ability, rhetoric towards violence against black folks has been co-opted by the white anti-abortion regime. She emails me later, but that is a conversation all on its own.

When I share with friends and family, they are angry at me for not reacting, for not fighting back or getting angry. Where is your rage? they demand. Where is the anger you so adamantly claim to have? I’m annoyed that none of them saw it in the story — quick to jump to the conclusion that rage only exists in terms of the defensive — never the offensive. Rage isn’t just a reaction, at least not for me in this moment; it is also a form of protection and a constant presence in my life. My rage was everywhere in that story.

Could you see it?

As of late, my relationship — as well as those of others — with the concept of rage has shifted. What was once my own fear of losing my rage, to my rage towards white women’s ahistorical discussion of rage, has now shifted to a desire to expand upon the way we express and understand rage, specifically as black queer women. My rage has changed and looks different now than it did in the past. It is no longer loud and aggressive. It is not silencing of those around me. It is not a tear-filled response. Now it is silence. It is my immediate concern with self-preservation in a way that is both harmful and helpful. And as those around me find ways to think of rage — whether it be Serena Williams on tennis courts or , the white women calling police officers on black folks, or the rage white women claimed as they watched the Kavanaugh hearing — it is clear we are at a point of concern. How are women dealing with rage?

Are we all yelling and crying? Are we banding together to burn things to the grounds? Are we standing firm in ourselves? Maybe some of us are melting under the weight of it all. Tired of responding and finding comfort in silence and separation?

My own rage used to feel as though someone injected adrenaline into my veins. I was pumped and motivated. It was a warmth that crept up my neck and into my cheeks and forehead. It would sit there for moments as I ranted and raved until I was completely wrapped in the heat of this powerful feeling. The heat felt like tiny beads moving and humming throughout my body. A constant vibration. Something alive.

Currently, rage for me is silent. It doesn’t yell, nor does it desire to. Before the warmth can swaddle me like a newborn infant, it is replaced with an exhaustion. I slowly sink into myself, avoid eye contact, and allow my breathing to become slow and calculated.

My rage whispers. In. One, two, three.

Out. Four, five, six.

My reaction is no longer to fight. My reaction is to take flight — to find a way to hide away and gain strength.

Their Rage

The past year has given us a series of funny memes and stories of white women calling cops on black folks across the country. When I say funny, I mean terrifying given the violence we experience at the hands of police officers. Recently a woman accused a young black boy of touching her inappropriately. Both humiliating him as well as feeding into a rhetoric that see black men as predators. We, and by we I mean black people, saw their rage, others saw fear or a “misunderstanding”.

“Black lives matter!”

The white woman leans over the counter and yells in my face. Her face is twisted and red with spittle flying from her mouth. I remain stoic behind the counter. My resolve is calm and clear, the customer service smile plastered on my face. It is the “shield” I use whenever white women engage with me. If I’m silent and I nod, maybe they will leave me alone. Often they do. I’m not sure how we got there. In one moment she is donating books, the next she is screaming, “I am not a Nasty Woman,” into the abyss; and here we are moments later — a white woman screaming these words into my face. For weeks as I share the story, no one believes that a person would have the audacity to yell those words in a young black woman’s face, but she did. They also cannot believe I did not respond. “I work in customer service. At a feminist bookstore. Of course angry white women are there.” That solves it.

She had nowhere to take her rage. And my body seemed to be a receptacle. In this moment her rage was not towards me; it was, in a way, for me. Her rage, like most of our rage, was messy and uncontrollable. And I was, in that moment, in a space she felt she could unleash it. The only issue is that no matter how her rage manifested it was still traumatic. It was still a rage that forced me to bend my body in protection — to smile and nod in the hopes that it would end.

She partially apologized and promised to return with more books.

God, no. Please. We have enough. I have had enough.

Rage is a privilege for some. For many it is something we must claim and stand in without protection of any kind.

My Rage

When I think of my own rage I imagine an absence. A ghost of something that was. It is not that it is not there. On the contrary, it is my entire being. It is in everything that I do and is inescapable. But what once was a large vitriol reaction to violence and injustice, is now a feeling of exhaustion and the reflex to protect.

The first time I did not want to get out of bed, I was in high school. I knew I would soon have to spend hours defending my humanity to those who recognized the power they had over it. I knew none of them would understand my fear and pain. My rage. And when pieces of that rage would expose themselves, those around me were clear to point to it in fear and claim it to be aggression.

Years later, I didn’t want to get out of bed, again. Only this time I was at an all-women’s historically black college. None of us wanted to get out of bed. So instead we gathered around televisions in rooms and communal areas. We held hands. We cried. We yelled at the television. For weeks my rage was a force as I stood alongside my friends and fought to the best of our ability. It wasn’t always effective, but it always felt damn good.

Later on, my fight died and my rage was suppressed. I was so tired and had no way of engaging with my rage in a way that did not drain me. If I could hide the rage I could avoid the feeling I got when my family said something homophobic, or when non-black folks around me claimed knowledge over my sense of self, or all the other micro and macro aggressions that those of us sitting on the margins often experience. But my loss of fight and the suppression of my rage did not mean it had been erased.

In fact, it was the warmth that began to creep up my neck and to my cheeks and forehead that made me realize my rage had never left. Once to my head it moved to the rest of my body and wrapped me in its warmth. The heat, or the tiny beads moving and humming throughout. Like something coming alive. Something that had been dormant for a while. My exhaustion is not an absence of rage, it is the realization that the rage is constant. Day-to-day.

I am angry. I am overwhelmed. I am scared. All of these feelings gather together as I immerse myself in every article, tweet, and post about the man shot and killed in his own home. Mistaken apartment. New. Creative state violence. On top of that, articles and blog posts circulate where queer academics and theorists find ways to apologize and bury abuse through jargon. We are not safe anywhere. I’m angry at myself for believing in the possibility of safety anyway.

Our Rage

“You owe me an apology” looked like I felt. We all watched or learned of Serena demanding justice and respect from someone offended that a black woman could believe she deserved as much. She was filled with rage. A beautiful and limitless rage that she earned. That she had every right to. Many of us knew that rage, knew what it meant to release that rage.

Brittney Cooper speaks of rage as a superpower that she has discovered, not only in herself, but in Black women. “Eloquent Rage” is a rage that she learns to employ in order to express her anger, utilize it in her day to day life. It is how she teaches and shares her knowledge, rather than erasing the rage or anger, she uses it as a filter.

As history has shown, black women’s rage and anger is often used against us. It is positioned as a weakness, the thing that keeps us behind. Thus creating a tension around an emotion that is natural. But as Cooper and our foremother Audre Lorde has taught us, it is impossible to exist in this world in a Black woman’s body without feeling anger. And that anger is a right. Rage is a right. One that Black women have every right to feel.

Finding Self in Rage

As the rage settles and hums throughout my body and I am forced to return over and over again to the events of the month in a new way.

Killed in apartment.

Tased in grocery store.

Four trans women murdered.

National news.

Returning to rage means returning to the self. An emotion that Black folks, queer folks, women, and those of us who are all and more are not strangers to. The presence of violence and misuse of our bodies and selves in the media is overwhelming. It, in itself, is a violence. Reliving trauma over-and-over again does something to the body and the spirit. It kills it slowly over time. Some of us lean into the rage expressing it whenever and however we feel it, some of us bury it, and others run from it. My therapist once told me that my feelings were always valid, but reaction to those feelings were where self-awareness and responsibility had to be accounted for.

A re-education of rage brought clarity and a new kind of freedom. I did not lose my rage, my rage just looks different. And it feels good even when it feels like everything is falling in on itself. My rage is in my writing. My rage is in my love. When my world is ending it whispers in my ear to stand firm. Rage will forever be a part of me.

Beto, Valdez Lose Midterm Elections to Cruz, Abbott but Democrats Gain House

Ted Cruz Greg Abbott Lupe Valdez Beto O’Rourke Election

In a tremendous let-down to Texas Democrats, the two nominees everyone was watching — Beto O’Rourke and Lupe Valdez — have lost their seats to Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott.

(DEVELOPING) – On Election Night 2018, Texas Democrats were hopeful to unseat two of their most despised adversaries from the governorship — Greg Abbott — and the Texas Senate — Ted Cruz. While many were convinced that Beto O’Rourke would take the the Senate seat from Ted Cruz — less so believed Lupe Valdez could win the governorship as a Latina lesbian — it seemed as though he might early in the evening. However, as the 9 o’clock hour passed, Cruz was called the winner, garnering just over 200,000 (nearly 2%) more votes than O’Rourke at the time of this article. An hour earlier, Greg Abbott — the incumbent governor of Texas whose staunch positions on immigration/sanctuary cities, LGBTQ rights, women’s healthcare, and more have left him quite unpopular with Democrats — was announced as the returning governor. Valdez lost by a much greater margin than Cruz, with her numbers currently showing that she is nearly one million votes behind and nearly 13%.

Though Texas has been historically a red state over the years, there was a great wave of hope from Democrats that the midterms would be an excellent turning point for Texans following the result of the 2016 elections. O’Rourke, in particular, had gained national attention from countless celebrities, including Jake Gyllenhaal and Ellen Degeneres, who even had O’Rourke appear on her daytime talk show a few weeks prior to the election. That being said, voter turnout in Texas was higher by the end of early voting than at the time of the 2014 midterms. The Houston Chronicle reported that nearly 150,000 more voters turned out during early voting than in 2014, with 40% of eligible voters having voted before Election Day.

Had Valdez won the governorship, she would have been the first Latina, LGBTQ governor of Texas in recorded history. Valdez — who appeared this summer on About Magazine’s web series, Wineding Down with Anthony — served as the sheriff of the Dallas County Police Department from 2005 to 2017. She was the first openly gay sheriff of Dallas County, as well as the first Latina.

In news to warm the heart, however, Texas Democrats gained control of the House with a gain of 15 seats at 50% of the vote, while Republicans lost 17 seats, receiving only 48.4% of the vote. Additionally, Texas elected Sylvia Garcia as the first Latina woman to Congress.

This is a developing story. 

Election Day and People Like Brett Kavanaugh

About Feminism Feminism Feminist Equality Women

About Feminism, No. 2

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court may have happened weeks ago, but it is still relevant today — especially so on Election Day. Let’s talk about what that means, why we should be upset about it, and what we can do by getting out today and voting.

One night in 1982, Brett Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, locked Dr. Blasey Ford into a bedroom at a party and attempted to rape her. Regardless of what victim-deniers would like for you to believe, there is no question as to whether or not this happened. This is not a false accusation, no matter how many people (read: old, white men) try to say make you believe. They’ll tell you it’s too late, it’s been too many years. Do not listen to them.

In the United States, sexual assault survivors have two options:

  1. Go to the doctor directly after the occurrence. You can go to the police. But, chances are, your rape kit is going to be thrown out and the police aren’t going to take you seriously. Rape kits are thrown out for two reasons. The evidence is either sent to the crime lab where it is not tested, or it was just never sent to the crime lab. This could be because these tests are not requested in court, and thus they are just tossed aside. Sometimes, this is also because there are simply too many rape kits, and the staff gets behind, which is also a very terrifying thought. So on top of being physically and mentally wounded, you’re now being mocked by people in power who you, for some reason, believed would take you seriously.
  2. You bottle it up. You push the memories down so far in your head because you don’t want to believe it and you don’t want to have to deal with it — because you know what happens when people come forward. You know how this country treats sexual assault cases. You don’t want to have to deal with that. So you don’t tell anyone. Some thirty years later, your assailant is nominated to the Supreme Court. A job where he would be able to rule on future sexual assault cases. Understandably, this pisses you off. Why wouldn’t it? So you come forward. For the next month your story is picked and pulled completely apart. You have to recount memories you never wanted to think about again. And after all of this, after this entire struggle, your assailant is instead confirmed to the Supreme Court, and you, having your life dissected and destroyed, wish you never said anything to begin with.

Which choice is better? In all honesty, both of these are horrible options. The way that our country treats sexual assault victims is terrible. We are silenced and ignored. And even with significant evidence, our cases can be thrown out the window for countless reasons. The people of our country have questioned frequently why it matters now. Why did Dr. Blasey Ford come forward now? Why do people step forward so late in life when the event happened so long ago? The answer is so easy to grasp and I’m honestly shocked that more people don’t understand.

Think about it: if you had been sexually assaulted, and then you saw that your assailant was about to be appointed into some position of great power — power that could potentially equip him with the flexibility to do this to countless others — wouldn’t you step forward and say something? Or maybe one other person was brave enough to step forward; wouldn’t that encourage you to come out and say something as well? To support them and legitimize their story and your own? We see this so often: one person will admit their truth, and many will follow. It’s hard. It’s hard to talk about the events that plague our pasts. But when one person comes forward, when one person shows that it’s okay to talk about these things, it has an avalanche effect. Sexual assault survivors feel alone and isolated long after their attacks. We hide in our shells because we think no one else knows what this feels like. We fall into depression because we are silenced, and we don’t think it’s even okay to open our mouths and talk about these topics because of the way our patriarchal judicial system has historically handled them and because of the way assailants have for so long been able to silence women. But the more people who step forward, the more people who are brave enough to face the system, to come out and say something, the more people will be willing to come forward sooner.

When the country treats Dr. Blasey Ford the way they did through and have since this entire ordeal, the chances that other people are going to step forward only decreases. What Dr. Blasey Ford went through, none of us want to have to deal with. Because these trials, these hearings, they pick apart details and doubt the things we know to be true. They make the survivor recount and remember one of the most terrible moments of their life— if not the most terrible. Why would anyone want to do that? Especially after seeing how Dr. Blasey Ford was treated.

So, back to Brett Kavanaugh. Sorry, Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh (gag me). As a country, we have placed a sexual assailant into a position of high power. The Supreme Court has ruled over many sexual assault cases, and will rule on many more in the future, unfortunately. With Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court — someone who yelled at Dr. Blasey Ford and dismissed her valid claims — a sexual assailant will take part in the final say on huge sexual assault cases that could come out in the future. During his hearing, the senators listened to Dr. Blasey Ford tell her story. They knew that she was telling the truth. They had to have known. They just didn’t care. Knowing what Kavanaugh had done, they confirmed him anyway.

This is not only a problem of just Brett Kavanaugh, but of the people who confirmed him in to the Supreme Court. And we all know (hopefully) that voting is important. There are thirty-three senate seats up for vote today, November 6th. If there’s a change you want to make, if you are unhappy with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, you need to get out and vote today. Because, yes, Kavanaugh is a terrible human being who never should have been nominated to the Supreme Court in the first place. But our Senators, people we elected, are the ones responsible for confirming him. And, if we want to change something, removing those people is the place to start.

In November of this year, thirty three senate seats are up for vote. Ted Cruz is one of those seats. He has been a strong supporter of Kavanaugh through all of this and has even gone as far to say, “By any measure, Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most respected federal judges in the country.” Is this really the kind of person you want representing your state? Someone who supports a sexual assailant?

I have been told not to get angry. I have been told to make my Facebook profile picture black in silent respect of all the women who have had to deal with sexual assault. And to that I say, “No fucking way.” I will get angry, and I will remain angry until something is done about the way this country views sexual assault. I will write and I will vote and I will convince my friends to vote. If you don’t get out there and vote for what you think is right, you don’t care about your fellow people in your country.

Being from Maine, I’m familiar with Susan Collins. I’ve actually met her a countless number of times. Back when I didn’t know much about politics and I didn’t know what ‘Republican’ even meant, I looked up to her. Maybe this was because I was happy to see a woman senator in my own state. It is only now that I realize she is not one to look up to. Now, she is not alone solely responsible for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. She was one of the important votes that could have swung it to the other side. But she chose to vote yes. And in doing this, she devastated not only the women in Maine, but throughout the entire country. That little girl that looked up to her all those years ago is gone. Now there is only me, a woman who is nothing but disappointed. I will forever be disappointed in any woman who refuses to stand up for her gender. So, to Susan Collins, I must say that I can’t believe you did this. And to all the other women who voted yes for Kavanaugh, how could you? And to the men, I say the same. You have daughters and wives and friends, and we are more than just someone’s wife or someone’s daughter — we are someone. How could you do this to us?

In nominating Brett Kavanaugh and in confirming Brett Kavanaugh the Supreme Court has said to this entire country that women don’t matter. It doesn’t matter if that wasn’t what their intention was. In confirming a sexual assailant to the Supreme Court, they have effectively let all women know that we do not matter.

At least now we know for sure what kind of people lead us; and at least now — today — we can get inside a voting booth and take a stand to get these people the fuck out of office.

Book Review: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

Gallery of Unfinished Girls Lauren Karcz Book Review Bisexual

REVIEW: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz: the magical realism story of a bisexual artist struggling to deal with her life – 3/5 Stars

In The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, Lauren Karcz has laid out a beautiful narrative revolving around the character Mercedes “Mercy” Moreno, who can barely finish an art piece for a county contest and also happens to be in love with her best friend, Victoria. On top of this, Mercy and her sister, Angela, are both coming to terms with the fact that their mother has left for Puerto Rico in order to take care of their comatose Abuela. We see into the heart and soul of Latina character Mercy and watch as she struggles to handle all the problems life throws at her.

LAUREN-KARCZ Book Review: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz
Author Lauren Karcz.

While the prose of this book is stunningly simple to read, the story itself fell flat for me. I found myself wanting more from the characters; I wanted more feelings, more actions — just more. I wanted everything to be turned up a notch or two without flaring out histrionics. The characters weren’t as distinct as I would have liked, and it was often hard to determine between who was speaking. That isn’t to say I didn’t love the characters — I did. I loved the way Mercy blindly cares about her sister yet finds herself also wanting to sabotage her success. Each and every one of them are so heart-wrenchingly relatable, as is the story. But it’s nothing new, and it’s nothing I haven’t read before.

Mercy is a bisexual (the most common of the LGBTQ+ characters in novels these days — can I get some lesbians, please?) and she’s utterly in love with her best friend. Like … longing-stares-and-pathetic-gag-me-thoughts in love. At one point she even mentions wanting to run down the halls screaming her love for Victoria. But, of course, Mercy doesn’t want her best friend to know about this love, because … well … why would she? In these books, that’s always the worst case scenario — another real-world parallel that’s also not anything new to read. The lovestruck character never wants the love interest to actually find out that they’re the love interest. While this definitely mirrors the real life fear of telling someone your feelings, it doesn’t lead well to an exciting narrative. I wanted to grab Mercy by the shoulder and shake her. I wanted to yell at her that she was being obvious anyway and that Victoria already knew.

Victoria is also supposed to be this supporting best friend type, but I kind of hated her. She wasn’t there for Mercy in a way that I thought a supporting friend would be. She was always talking about her own dreams and goals and wasn’t a good listener. We all have a character that we love to hate, but I just hated to hate her. Mercy, however, I was in love with. I loved the way she struggled with her art, the way she tore apart things that were once special to her, because that is true to life and that is honest to a person’s inexplicable feelings and that is exciting. It’s something all artists have to go through and I loved reading that on the page.

Another character, Lilia, was one I was intrigued by. At first she enters under a veil of mystery, only around for certain moments and there to help the characters at random. I fell in love with her instantly. Maybe it was that veil of mystery that drew me to her; while in other instances the characters were marked immediately — this is my personality exactly — it took a little while to figure out Lilia as a character; and I enjoyed that.

While some of the characters felt similar and two dimensional, I did love the ones that stood out. If all of the characters had been like this, the book would have received a higher rating from me. That, coupled with the slow-dragging narrative, didn’t get me invested right away and I actually had a hard time making it to the end of the book. I also enjoyed the lack of romance that this book employed. It was more based on Mercedes coming to terms with her life and her art. It was magical realism and dealing with all the inspiration-less moments in our lives. The parts where Mercedes was painting were the most beautifully written parts of this story and if I could read only those chapters strewn together without all the bits and pieces in between, I would.

“The Gallery of Unfinished Girls”, being mostly plotless and instead driven by characters, left me feeling a little empty when I finally reached the end. I think that this book is (and will be) loved by the kind of people that enjoy more character-forward stories. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

Were-About-It-2 Book Review: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz