I know you might get triggered. That talking about the pain that you’ve survived might bring it all back, like that sick kind of headache that only goes away for a little while when you take the medicine, but still comes crashing back in. I know that talking about racism, about the ways people try to control your body and mind to diminish you might cause you to remember all the other times, nested like Russian dolls, that this has happened to you. I definitely want to give you the choice of whether to listen to my story about that guy in the grocery store and the disgusting thing he said to me.
(CW: talk of rape, depression, mentions thoughts of suicide)
And if we talk about rape, well, of course, I want to give you a choice to opt out of my words. It turns out that if you’re a Black woman, you have a 40% chance of being raped by the time you are 18, meaning that, if you are reading this, it is really likely that you have experienced rape in your lifetime. For that, I am sorry. I am not sure that a warning can help all that much. But I will try. I will talk about that thing that people don’t understand unless they’ve been there. They think it’s funny to talk about being raped by gas prices. They have no idea what it means to fear for your life. (This is not a drill. This is not television. There will be no word from our sponsors.) They don’t know how hard you fought for your life. They don’t know how many showers you took trying to scrub the violence and feelings of worthlessness off of you. They don’t know that you almost died anyway, by suicide, your ability to be safe and happy collateral damage to this event.
(CW: talk of racism)
Still, you journey forward. People ask the things that they think are so clever. (What are you? Where are you from? Where are you really from?) They feel entitled to ferret out your ethnicity. They reduce your culture to one or two things that they don’t even actually understand. They assume that being white is best and find ways to completely overlook the sacred people and places from which you come.
I know you fight the reduction of your color and culture every day. You perfect a hard stare. You blurt interruptions so smooth that they almost seem like part of the lecture, part of the workflow. And still, you rise. You hold your tongue, eyes narrowed, while you read Jack Halberstam, who tells you that you that someone, certainly not him, accuses feminists of being humorless. Only I’m confident in this: allowing women of color choices about the content with which they engage is not too much to ask.
People can talk about whatever they want, write what they see fit. With a few words, a couple of lines, they make a simple accommodation. Let the Halberstams of the world complain that they could be so much freer and have so much more fun. I warn you of content as a political act; affirming that your identity, the way it connects you in the white supremacist system to sources of suffering, matters to me. Your own judgment to care for your own heart matters to me. Assata Shakur says that, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.” In this way, I fight for your freedom. I fight for your healing moment and for you to have a chance to engage in the struggle one more day. Your trauma is real. I fight for you not to have to visit it, bathed in sweat, hunger, and terror every day. You have that right. I want to warn you about this content.