Our Mental Health is on the Reservation

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As I was waking up, my Facebook newsfeed showed a CNN story that shook me to my core: Anthony Bourdain was dead at 61 from suicide.

I was emotionally sunken. I am huge Anthony Bourdain fan. I was introduced to Bourdain by Jonathan and his mom when they told me about Kitchen Confidential. When Bourdain started appearing on Top Chef, I fell in love. His gritty honesty with his way with words was amazing. What I also find amazing about him was that he was a former drug addict that turned his struggles around.

This was over ten years ago. As a thirty-six-year-old Black woman turning thirty-seven in September, with a little more experience under my belt, no matter who you are, when you are struggling with mental illness, many of us are in the fight of our lives. I should know. I struggled with severe depression since I was a teenager and anxiety later.

Combing through online news about Kate Spade, and, now Anthony Bourdain, brings up my challenges with mental illness. It is not a trigger for me to fall into a depression; yet, what it does is to make me reflect on how much our mental health is vital to our growth as developing adults. That’s right. Developing adults. Despite what science may say that your brain fully develops at whatever age, I believe that our emotional state connected with our mental state is still developing. For many of us, we have deep traumas that we have to deal with that started with our childhoods. I haven’t delved deep into Kate Spade’s or Anthony Bourdain’s life, but what I do know is that there are experiences that happen to us in younger years that shape how we live our lives going forward. It can be very difficult to live your life when you have a difficult time dealing with your trauma and not getting help with your mental illness at the same time.

I grew up a poor Black girl from Cochran, Georgia in a welfare family. When you are a kid, you don’t understand structural racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. You do not understand how it affects you because no one identifies it and explains it to you. Of course, if you grow up in a certain era and in a certain part of the country, the accessibility of knowledge can be limited. All I knew was that I was racially discriminated against by White people. All I knew was that I was catcalled by men. All I knew was other Black kids didn’t like me because they thought that I was behaving as I was White. Yet, I did not have language to describe what I was experiencing. It was until I attended college that I began learning the type of lingual discourse to use to describe my experiences. Yes, I had a lot of epiphanies while receiving a college education.

We Black folks called it lived experiences. You live your experiences. You do not theorize them because when you examine history, Black folks did not have the opportunities during the 18th and part of the 19th century to have access to education. Remember, Black slaves in the United States could not read and write; if they were caught doing it before the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction, they were beaten and/or killed. We, Black folks, have a legacy of making nothing out of something…and continue to fight to be absolutely free over our own selves. We want self-power to control our own destinies without fearing harm.

What I am saying is that when bad experiences happen to you as a child, you have no language to vocalize them even if you are telling your secrets in your journal/diary. As Black children who have been abused in many ways (sexually, physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.), we are taught in our own communities to remain silent—“forever hold your peace.” That’s right. You snitch, and you are out. Isn’t it enough that White folks keep us down? You snitch on one of your own, you are just exposing and ruining the race. If you are a Black girl/woman who snitches, you aren’t worthy of anyone’s love anymore especially when you snitch on a Black male who has caused you harm.

What I am saying is that in my world growing up, the Black code was to uphold the race. Upholding the race means never talking about or getting help for any issues that you may have. So, you are Black and you are being oppressed for that. You are female, and you are being oppressed for that. You are poor, and you are being oppressed for that. Then, you have mental illness in your family, and you can’t get help for that because A) it is taboo to say you have a mental illness or possibly saying that something is wrong with your mentally and B) there are not many resources in your small country town that can aid you in helping to diagnosis you and receive treatment for you mental illness.

So, on top of you being Black, female, poor, living in a small town, having limited resources, having mental illness, you also have to worry about being an adolescent, a teenager, and a young adult. As you navigate throughout adulthood as a Black woman, the experiences you have always trail behind you. You can try to put your traumas in a closet, but like your mental illness, it is all tied together and will manifest itself and reveal itself in a time in your life where it catches you completely off guard.

Pretty much, I thought, when I began college after graduating in May 2000, I was free from my trauma. I enjoyed my college experience, especially my first two years at MGC. It was the best time ever. I was FREE, I thought. Yet, looking back on it, I felt free. What was coming years later…I would not have even guess.

Depression and anxiety do not go away; it especially does not go away when it hasn’t been identified and treated. The first time it was identified to me was by my aunts. I knew that I had it, but like many Black folks, you deal with it internally because you have been taught to fry bigger fish. I mean if you are a Black woman…whew wee, you are worried about being Black and woman. But later, I learned that it is all tied together when it comes to identity and how structural –isms play into getting the help you need and how others look at you.

So, I kept pushing on and riding the tide, but the tide grew bigger without me really paying attention until the tide threw me off.

When I entered my relationship, that was the breaking point. The happiest time in my life became one of the most challenging times in my life. I told my partner that something was wrong. At first, he did not believe me. He just said that I was going through a rough patch. Yet, I kept telling him that something was wrong. I knew it. I needed to seek help.

Yes, I did. At the time, I was in graduate school, and I was able to seek counseling services. I had seen a family therapist when I was a kid; she had visited my family and me; it really helped. This time, I was fortunate. I saw two therapists that really helped me with my concerns. I was very fortunate that they were good therapists.

I was diagnosis that I suffered from depression and anxiety. When big life changes come, I handle my business, but I suffer internally for it. You have no idea had relieved I felt. I got confirmation that I wasn’t a freak, but I suffered from mental illnesses that runs in my family. There is hope. You can receive help.

Since then, I know how to take care of myself when big life changes come. When racism and sexism rear its ugly head and/or life changes come, I go seek therapy now. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make me a freak. What it does is empowers me. It makes me realize that all of us who are talented, bright, glowing, effervescent stars…we have to continually seeking help even if we are in recovery or are recovered. There are times in our life where big moments happen to us, and many times, we are able to deal with them. Yet, sometimes, there are moments in our lives where we aren’t able to handle well, and we have to seek help for it.

No, it doesn’t excuse what other people have done to me. I’ve had, in the past, folks do some awful mess to me; for several months, I have suffered racism and sexism at the hands of people who were supposed to help me grow. That wasn’t my fault that they inflicted that type of pain on me. Now, I have to deal with what they done to me to make sure that I continue on a positive course in my life.

We keep saying…our mental health system is broken. Yes, we do not have even a good mental health system. We still have stigmas, and we still have people taking their lives. I know what darkness feels like. You are surrounded by it until you feel comfortable enough to take your life so you can end it. Yes, you hurt the people you left behind so much, but you are not thinking when you plan on doing it. I mean you are not really thinking about it, I believe. What I imagine is that when a person commits suicide, they are in such much pain…that they think that their loved ones are better off without them.

Although my one of my best childhood friends did not commit suicide, several years ago, he was murdered, and it left all the people that are left behind devastated. We are still recovering from it. Some of us doing better than others. I cannot imagine how family and friends deal with someone who has taken their lives because the question pops up for them…what could I have done more?

All I can say is that we have to make our mental health system better. We have to continue to keep fighting; we have to make an effort and ask about one another. I know it is hard for some of us with hermit type behavior. But we need to check on each other. We need to support each other. We need to learn about mental illness. It is a part of people’s lives. What the true stigma is…when we leave folks suffering in silence and do not provide enough resources from them to receive help, we are letting them down. A huge part of being a good neighbor, a good citizen is that we empathize with each other and take action in helping each other.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain changed the world…and so many other folks; they had success, and they took their lives. What about those of us who don’t have that, we are on the verge of taking our lives? I worry especially about my Black and Brown siblings in the world who feel so hopeless and despaired…having to deal with stereotypes about their identities like I did. I worry about Black and Brown folks who are successful like Spade and Bourdain, and they have the added on pressure of their race, gender, sexuality, etc. So much pressure in the mix of one having to deal with their mental illness can lead to fatal results as taking one’s life.

Don’t get it twisted when I say that I am very fortunate when I have received good mental health care over the years when I have sought it. Fortunate equals grace. There is a higher power that looks after me and makes sure that I am taken care of. Yet, my gut has also told me when I need help. In order for people to receive help, we have to destigmatize how we see mental illness.

Much love,
Sophia

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Introducting #sophiamurielflemmingreads

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The Importance of Reading Black Feminist Womanist Texts

Reading started and saved my life. Literally and figuratively. I grew up in poor parts of town in Cochran because I was from a poor Black welfare family. Many times, I felt very isolated because my mom did not want us to socialize with a lot of folks in Cochran. I understand why now. She was born and raised in Cochran. So, she knew everyone and how they operated in the community—Black and White. She did not want others to know our family business—not a lick of it—and she warned my sister and me not to associate with others in the community.

As a kid, I did not understand why she wanted things this way. I wanted people to like me, and I wanted friends. I especially wanted my Black peers to like me and have them as friends. Yet, some of them were resistant in being friendly towards me and being my friend. Reflecting on it, I can see why others didn’t want to be my friend; I believe that they perceived my family and me as acting better than everyone in the Black community even though we hardly had a cent to our names. I see it from their point of view…how dare them [my family] act like they are better than us when they are poor as dirt!

So, I retreated in reading and writing. I found great comfort a few years ago when I read Evelyn C. White’s Alice Walker: A Life with two White female advisor friends/acquaintances. I put forth the idea that we have a bookclub and read books that we were interested in. We decided to read Alice Walker: A Life and have a lunch book club meeting about it. Our book club did not last, but what I learned through the process is that Alice Walker and I are quite similar. Not identical…but downright eerily close to it. Alice grew up in Eatonton, Georgia, which is over one hundred miles away from Cochran. She grew up in a poor family as well. Yet, there are vast differences as well. One is that she grew up in a larger family; she had more siblings; I have two siblings. Her childhood, teenage years, and twenties are in the mid 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. My childhood is the early 1980s, teenager years in the 1990s, and twenties in the millennial (2000s). Although we are thirty-seven years apart in age, between us, we both have experienced the weight of sexism, racism, and classism. How can two Black women from different generations still experience the weight of these isms and more of them?

Well, it is because we are still under weight of the system of White Supremacist heteronormative cisgender capitalist patriarchy. It hasn’t been that long between us and Black folks who were granted freedom (Lincoln’s The Emancipation Proclamation) and having our civil rights/liberties enforced (The Civil Rights Movement)—and part of rights/liberties is having a solid education in school systems.

Walker’s mother pushed for her children to have an education. I am the child that results in the after effects of sharecropping and civil rights and civil liberties being enforced. My mom pushed me to attend school because it was the law; if we didn’t attend school, my mom would be jailed. Whether it was the law or our parents that pushed us to attend school, we learned the foundations of reading and writing, but we did not have the opportunity to learn about Black female writers, activists, and contributors to our movements, and if we did, it was limited. Of course, Alice is a part of the Civil Rights Movement; her young adulthood was developed while participating in the movement.

Right, thirty seven years later, I would be born and as I grew up, I would be introduced to the Civil Rights Movement in school, but there were not intricate details that further discussed how the movement came about. It would be thirty years later along my own self-educational journey of learning when I discovered that Black women were the vital parts of the Civil Rights Movement. That Black women have a long history of protest activism in wanting our rights/freedoms. We created women’s clubs. We asked could we marched in the front of the line in the Women’s March in the first wave of feminism and was thrown scrapes of marching in the back of line.

As an eighteen or nineteen year old, I would be exposed to The Color Purple. I finally decided to read the novel, and my breath was taken away. How could this not be taught in public school systems? Why wasn’t this taught in my school system? The answer is obvious. White male narratives are on the educational curriculum hierarchy. They are the primary text that is taught to all of us. If there is any time or if teachers are able to, White female texts or Black male texts are next…and depending on what school system you are in, maybe Black female texts are taught, but it is not usually The Color Purple and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye because they are on the banned books, especially, in rural communities like Cochran.

I’ve spent many years thinking about how books have changed my life. How they have created emotional intelligence—also known as empathy. How if it wasn’t for books I would not have the common sense and intelligence that you see before you. Alice Walker, in her biography, discusses that the pen and the paper is the only items that she had to express herself creatively because her family could not afford for her to pursue other arts. This is powerful because this is our connection: the same for me. All I had was the pen and the paper. These writing tools were accessible/affordable. You definitely had to have them when you were attending school. To escape some of my dark days as a developing adolescent and teenager, all I had was the pen and the paper. I started writing when was in elementary school. So, the pen, the paper, and I go way back. I put my stake and claim my spot: I wanted to be writer. After time, writing became a necessity.

This all had to do with reading. It is sad that I had to learn that there were Black female writers later on in my education, and a few of them were in plain sight. Although I could hold onto and become bitter about it, that’s not who I am. Instead of saying what I did not receive, I am grateful what I know now and the era that I am in. For, I can do something about this as well.

This is where the brainchild of #sophiamurielflemmingreads comes in. There are many Black, Brown, and White girls who don’t know much about Black women’s contributions at all. They know that there are autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, slave narratives, histories, and fictions about Black women. There is a wealth of writing about us. It may not be a lot compared to White men’s, Black men’s, and White women’s narratives, but we have our own body of work.

It would be an injustice for me not to use my talents/abilities to expose those works. I am passionate about Black girlhood and womanhood and how we are seen through the eyes of others. We are not just monolithic characterizations through others eyes from history; we are kaleidoscope of narratives in an anthology. It is important that many of us know about Black girls and women have done in America and a global scale.

#sophiamurielflemmingreads is an interactive, engaging series about reading texts primarily about Black and Brown women. It is my contribution to make sure that Black and Brown women are seen as visible to many individuals as we can. We are not merely here. We have never been. We are living breathing human beings who have, still are, and will forever contribute to the production of our own thoughts, ideas, intelligence, and spirituality. We have made significant contributions in the U.S. as well as abroad. Black and Brown women are not just a part of the U.S. We are all over. We maybe separated by geography around the world, but we are never far a part in our experiences. We all have different experiences but what connects us is that we experience many levels of interlocking oppressions because of our intersecting identities as Kimberle Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality tells us.

One way to eradicate a system that continues interlocking oppressions on individuals with intersecting identities is to make them more visible. Just like reading taught me to see others as a kid, I didn’t see enough of different types of characters—especially characters like me or similar to me. It is great when we learn from other people and read about other people. Yet, it is harmful when we don’t have enough choices expose to us to learn about different people—and to combat others’ views/perspectives of characters in books that might be wrong (like stereotypes of individuals’ race, gender, ethnicity, class, etc.)

My overall goal of #sophiamurielflemmingreads is to expose others to Black and Brown women folk who they may not know; this is not just limit to cisgender/heterosexual Black/Brown women. It is to read about all folks who identify as woman. To learn about their lives and how they fit into the American society and the global society as a whole.

There will be other texts that I will read that are by White male, White female, Black male, and Brown male authors as well, but these will be read through a power conscious lens. A power conscious lens is to read text in a critical way looking at how characters, their experiences, and situations are seen through the eyes of race, gender, class, age, etc. comparative to others experiences (i.e. reading F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby and looking at through a Black feminist reading…seeing how certain attributes in the text treat Black and Brown folks…etc.).

So, come along with me and check out #sophiamurielflemmingreads. I will provide updates on the books I choose to read. I would love it if you read along with me as well! Don’t feel pressure to get a book finished. Since this is my first time doing a series as such, please be patience with me as I figured out the best structure of this series/initiative. Everything is a learning process, but anything we begin cannot be perfect, and mistakes have to be made in order to make it amazing!

Thank you for reading,
Sophia

What Does It Mean When You Leave Your People Behind

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from Inter-American Dialogue 

 

I never really understood when Black folks said that other Black folks who left communities…never came back to where they came from to help. Now, I am understanding the gravity of this critique as it is fact backed up by narratives of what happens when folks do not return to their communities with the knowledge that they have learned to help make their communities better.

I am guilty of this crime. I grew up in Cochran, Georgia, which is in located in middle South Georgia. I disliked Cochran with a fierce determination. I was discriminated against by White people because I was not White in the community. I was ostracized by Black people because I was not Black enough in the community. Because my family was like the Breedloves in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, we were not looked upon favorably from many White and Black people. There were some Black people and White people in the community who liked us, and they helped us out when they could. Yet, my mom was very insular and did not want anyone in the town to know her business even though they saw us around town. Basically, from my younger perspective, we were treated like circus celebrities. We were the freaks of the town because we were poor and Black. Black people shunned us because they believe that we were stuck up and did not want anything to do with them.

So, once I got my ticket out of Cochran, at the age of twenty, I left the town and thought that I was free. Yet, little did I know, I wasn’t free. When you are young, you don’t see the entire picture. You only see pieces of the puzzle…and you see some of the areas of the puzzle completed. I saw one area completed where people did not like us because they thought that we acted White (my peers did). The other area that I saw was that folks were jealous of us because we were good looking people. Another area I saw was that people took advantage of us whenever they could.

What I didn’t see is the large picture. The large picture was…Cochran was like The Bottom in Sula where Black people dwell in this place that White folks look down on them on. My family was also like the Peaces. We did our own thing, but we were punished for it in some ways. Yet, in other ways, the Black community also didn’t completely disown us, either. Really looking at it, mostly, my mothers’ peers and my peers shunned us…and because of that, my mothers’ peers taught their kids to shun us as well. Again, not all of them were like this.

So, I went away, thinking that I could escape the pain Black folks caused me in Cochran. From my disdain, I thought that they hated me so bad that they left me behind because I was too different from them. Later on, when I took a Whiteness and White Privilege in America’s Education, I found out that Black folks had disdain and dislike for me because I showed White characteristics. These white characteristics, especially from my Black peers’ eyes, were to be despised because it “threw in their faces” that I didn’t want to be Black. I was shunning our Blackness because I showed White characteristics. For me to emulate White characteristics possibly made my peers felt like they were not good enough to be Black. And/Or it could have been that I was throwing Whiteness in their faces…and their thoughts were…how dare one of us take the side of those White folks who cause us oppression? Who limit our education opportunities? Who don’t see us as being competitiv? How dare that family act like they are better than us when they are poor as dirt—on welfare, nonetheless?

There is a huge miscommunication in the Black community because of this. The huge miscommunication is that we don’t get to know each other in intimate ways to understand why we act the way we do. How can Black folks do that when we still operate under a legacy of dividing and conquering our group under the system of White supremacist capitalist heteronormative patriarchy? Even reflecting on my life in Cochran, Black folks were divided because of our own branded standard of how all Black folks should act. Instead of being united in deconstructing the system of White supremacist capitalist heteronormative patriarchy…we are taught to create our own system of oppression to survey and police our own selves. We shut out Black members from our Black community because they don’t meet the qualifications of class, sexuality, and gender. In two pieces I read, “America’s Hidden H.I.V. Epidemic,” and “Dr. David Malebranche’s Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey,” these writings show how Black folks continue the divide and conquer within Black communities concerning sexuality. I believe the Black community uses standardized sexuality and gender to maintain the little power that the race group has. Yet, what this continues to do is to destroy our race and help White supremacist capitalist heteronormative patriarchy continue to be the supreme system that dominates all Americans. When we Black people play into Black people not following a standardized sexuality, we ultimately play into the system of Whiteness. We perpetuate White dominance by believing that the system of Whiteness will award us if we pledge allegiance to it. Yet, by becoming a member, we don’t benefit from the system because we are not allowed access to the full membership package.

What I am saying is that a lot of young Black males and females are contracting H.I.V., and they are contracting it in outstanding rates in poor rural areas. Yes, Linda Villarosa and Dr. Malebranche are showing us that young Black gay males, bisexuals, and transsexuals are the ones who are affected by it. Villarosa is showing us that many young Black males in the rural South are affected by lack of health care and education concerning H.I.V. and AIDS to where they are contracting and dying from the illness at fast rates. Malebranche is telling Oprah…the dialogue needs to be more balance in showing more of a diverse range of narration concerning Black male sexuality—to show a more complete narrative.

As for Black folks like me who leave home, I had to face what I did. Yes, I needed to get out of Cochran and see different spaces and places that are unlike Cochran…and to see more experiences to align with the stories that I read as a kid. However, I have come to realize that Cochran is my home, and the very Black people in Cochran…who ostracize me are still my people. They still need for me to love them. A huge part of love is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a part of unconditional love for myself and for you, too. Black folks can’t do better if we don’t know better. Once we know better, I pray that we find the strength to continue the process of becoming better people under a system that don’t want us to. Every day I am challenge to not judge. It’s hard, and I get it right on some days. I get it wrong on others days. Some days it is neutral…but all that matters is having the drive to do right by folks the best I know how and can. I hope that for you, too.
S

Let’s Not Attack the Mothers for Expressing their Authentic Experiences

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Dear Naomi Schaefer Riley (http://nypost.com/2017/02/18/having-a-baby-isnt-a-miracle-and-doesnt-make-you-a-goddess/)

For some women, yes, having their babies are miracles, and they are goddesses for doing it. Even I, a childless woman by circumstances and choice, know this. And why do I know this?

It is simple because I have experienced what it is like to find out that even though my decision was not to have children, the choice was sealed when I found out in summer 2016 that I had huge fibroids on my uterus. Yes, I was given two other options before I had my total hysterectomy. My gynecologist told me that I could choose from having: a uterine artery embolization, uterine myomectomy, or a total hysterectomy. A uterine artery embolization would shrink my fibroids; however, I could never get pregnant but still have my uterus intact. Even if I had a slipped and got pregnant, I would have a miscarriage. A uterine myomectomy would remove the fibroids, but my uterus would be sewn back up if I wanted to try and have children. Then, there was the total hysterectomy that would remove my fibroids, my uterus, and my fallopian tubes. My ovaries would be kept if they showed that they were healthy, and I made sure that the gynecologist promised, as she told me, to leave them in if I took that option. The reason why I did not seriously consider the first two options because the possibility of the fibroids coming back was a high risk. I didn’t want to have surgery again. Even though my uterus would be removed…which had been with me for thirty-five years of age, I decided to remove it because by instinct and education, I knew that the possibility of the fibroids returning was high. I also had the gut feeling that the fibroids were so big that doing the uterine myomectomy would not be worth the risk. The surgery would be more complicated because it would be longer, and my life would be in further jeopardy of something going wrong.

I opt for option three and how does this story relate to Beyoncé? The story relates because I relate to her. No, I didn’t want children, however, when Black women have been told by our culture that we are baby producing machines, and we think that we are healthy because we have a period every month…that doesn’t mean jack shit.

For most of my reproductive life, I had a period. There were a few instances where, when I attend graduate school the first time, I did not have a period for months. I contributed this to being overweight, stressed, and having anxiety issues. However, little did I know that all of this would be connected, and at thirty-five, I would find out that I had a fibroid so large that my gynecologist said that it was an equivalent to a twenty-four-week pregnancy.

How does this relate to Beyonce and her celebration of birthing babies and mothers being goddesses? Well, for a woman to even have a baby, her reproductive capabilities have to be highly functional in order for her to produce her child. For a woman who has had a miscarriage before and she is a Black woman, her chances of conceiving a healthy baby, that baby gestating for nine months, and that baby arriving in the world without any type of deficiencies is a miracle. If one looks back on slavery (look at Deborah Gray White’s A’r’nt I a Woman), the fact of Black female slaves reproducing regularly and abundantly is a myth. White male slave owners raped Black women expecting them to reproduce many children that would become automatic slaves to continue the Slavocracy. However, many Black female slaves had miscarriage after miscarriage. Many Black female slaves died from attempting to have fifteen, sixteen…even some, twenty slave children. Out of all of those slave children, some Black female slaves did not produce one live child. It was miraculous for Black female slaves, out of that many births, to have two or three children that survive and were functional individuals.

My point is this. You shame Beyoncé by trying to use Katherine Heigel’s story about pregnancy. Then, you try to use Adele and even shame her for mentioning that motherhood is difficult.

I have had MANY women tell me that they have LOST themselves after having children. Having to put their children before themselves…they lost a part of themselves. For you to have the audacity to talk about how woman have been having babies for thousands and thousands of years and using that as a sound logic to your argument about Beyoncé and Adele whining about conceiving, birthing, and taking care of children is a lack of empathy on your part.

I, as a childless woman, want to be treated with respect for the decision that I made. The same respect I treat with women who decide to have children. I do look at them as goddesses and their children as miracles. It is okay for Beyoncé to celebrate her pregnancy and her children as it is the same for Adele to tell us that she struggles with raising her son. It doesn’t make these women lesser, but it makes these women HONEST in an era where individuals like you write opinioned pieces to continue the cycle of hierarchal sexism.

That’s right. Hierarchal sexism. You believe that your opinion is valuable because you are appealing to individuals who you believe will applaud you for “calling out” how the celebration of how motherhood is being overdone by being mentioned in the media and other communicative forms.

However, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t work with me or other audience members because there are a lot more like me who do their homework. The lesson is this: the lesson is that Beyoncé and Adele took control over the speeches and express honestly how they really feel about being moms. Both of their narratives are perfectly acceptable like my narrative is. There is nothing wrong with women celebrating their motherhood. There is nothing wrong with women talking about their struggles of motherhood. There is nothing wrong with women who choose not to have biological or adoptive children or both. It is nothing wrong with those of us who can’t physically do it or have to make choices where they aren’t able to do it and decide it is okay. I will embrace the blessings that I do have. It is nothing wrong with those of us who long for it and cannot naturally reproduce, but say, hey, I will adopt and/or foster children…and even animals.

The point is that Beyoncé and Adele, as famous women, use their platforms to show us their HUMANITY as women. Black women have been demonized as being sexual deviants and sexually promiscuous throughout history that we are supposed to reproduce children at the drop of the hat. White women are shown that they are supposed to reproduce children and be so happy about it that even one thought about how hard it is being a mother makes the guilty. These dominant narratives do not ring true for the entire woman race, women of color race, and even White woman race. It is writers like you who need to take a long hard second look at…I am really giving these women a fair shake? Even if you didn’t express your view well, how can you go about expressing your opinion in a constructive way without ATTACKING OTHER WOMEN who are expressing their TRUTHS to being a mother.

Thanks,
from a childless mother woman who supports other mothers who have children
Sophia

Stanford, You Aren’t Doing Enough

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I knew what rape was when I was about four years old from watching television and my mother pointing it out. By age eight or nine, I knew what rape was because my mother was raped. I would not understand the entity of the full effects of rape until I was a teenager, and my mom applied for disability. At that time, in the late nineties, the government agencies didn’t advocate for rape victims to receive disability. I remember sitting in the room when the DFCAS worker interviewed my mom to see if she would be able to apply for disability. I don’t remember how the question was asked, but my mom responded by telling the case worker about her rape. My mom expressed that her rape continued to affect her even at the time. She told the caseworker that she couldn’t sleep, and when she would be out at night, she always thought that someone was following her even when they weren’t. It was until that moment that I realized that many rape victims have the experiences that my mom had.

My mom being raped took away her security, her confidence, and her direct agency over her decisions and herself. My mother is a prideful woman, and I cannot even imagine how many times she has beaten herself up and blamed herself for her rape. My mom’s rape happened in the late eighties when sexual assault, sexual violence, domestic violence, and feminist issues began being more examined. While I was looking at second wave feminists continuing the good fight and the emergence of third wave feminists would sound arrive in the 1990s and early 2000s, I thought that we had a chance to eliminate sexual assault, sexual violence, and domestic violence. Now, we have done a good job in bringing more awareness with these issues, but in the 21st century, the issues of sexual violence is a worsening issue. What is shameful about this is not the victims who experience it, but it is our very government and institutions who continue to make laws and policies where the perpetrator is protected. As it has been for centuries, the laws and policies that are established protect the accused and not the accuser.

As I woke up early this morning, I noticed on my device a New York Times article about a young female college student being raped by a football player who got off with raping her because of how the Sanford’s judicial process within the school protects the rapists and not the rape victim.

Sexual assault on college campuses has been going on since females have been able to attend collegiate institutions. The first studies of sexual assault on campus happening was in 1957:

“Male sex aggression on a university campus” was the title of one of the first studies published about a topic now very much in the news. Way back in 1957, sociologist Eugene Kanin posited a model where men used secrecy and stigma to pressure and exploit women.” (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/11/30/366348383/the-history-of-campus-sexual-assault).

The NPR articles brings up one of the foremothers of wanting to examine and investigate college rape in depth. “Mary Koss coined the term “date rape” back in the 1980s” (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/11/30/366348383/the-history-of-campus-sexual-assault). Koss has researched and written many articles about sexual assault and rape during her over thirty year career. A most important article to read, even though it was published in 1993, is “Detecting the Scope of Rape: A Review of Prevalence Research Methods” (http://www.avoiceformalestudents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Koss-1993-Detecting-the-Scope-of-Rape-a-review-of-prevalence-research-methods-see-p.-206-last-paragraph.pdf). This is article is important even though it is over twenty years old. Koss discusses how rape victims are treated especially in the line of questioning them when they are interviewed by the rape. Over twenty years ago, Koss writes about briefly the troublesome nature of collegiate institutions dealing with college rape among females because of Title IX. Koss doesn’t directly say it, but the way that many collegiate institutions deal with rape cases is not sending their female collegiate students to the police to report the rape.

The New York Times article “A Majority Agreed She Was Raped by a Stanford Football Player. That Wasn’t Enough” by Joe Drape and Marc Tracy illustrates that history is not repetitive to me but a continued experience that either benefits individuals or cause individuals harm that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives if they are able to survive from that harm. Twenty, thirty years ago, Mary Koss’s work still resonates with us because we haven’t come very far when it comes to collegiate rape on campus. However, what we are seeing, from Drape’s and Tracy’s reporting is that collegiate institutions’ upper level administration create policy or rules that majority benefits the rapist. These policies/rules actually protected the accused and not the accuser. However, it is not shocking that this is new because it isn’t. Rape on college campuses have been going on for several decades. What also has been going on for several decades is the protection of the rapists and humiliation of the rape victim if she or he is found out about.

Stanford illustrates the epitome of rape culture and how collegiate male students are prized more than the female students—and how certain male students are prized more than the average male student as well.

From what we know about Stanford protecting rape culture, the huge case this year was Brock Turner. Brock Turner, with NO SHAME while it was still LIGHT OUT raped a fellow female student who was under the influenced of alcohol. During the on-going months, Turner wasn’t thrown in jail. He wasn’t condemned for his crime. When the dust settled, Turner was indicted on five charges:

  • Rape of an intoxicated person
  • Rape of an unconscious person
  • Assault with the intent to rape an intoxicated person with a foreign object
  • Sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object
  • Sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object

Yet, Turner was sentenced on three charges: assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

HOWEVER, Turner’s punishment was six months in Santa Clara County jail followed by three years of probabtion. However, after three months of serving his sentence, he was released from jail.

Although Stanford “punished” him, I believe that they were forced to because the case was a nationwide case. The extent of what Turner did couldn’t be ignored, BUT the institution still wants to protect its accused rapists.

In “A Majority Agreed,” the football player in question is not suspended from school or playing football because he is under “investigation.” His football coach shared that he was never told by Stanford officials that his football player was involved in a rape. The accuser decided not to go to police because she didn’t want to handle the trauma of how the police would investigate the rape (Koss discusses this in her “Detecting the Scope of Rape” how rape accusers have a difficult time in wanting to report to the police because of how they are questioned differently than the accused—and this is why Koss discusses the need of how police interview accusers because the way that they use language in questioning about the rape can disarm rape victims in how they answer their questions). Instead, this is what happened:

“Seeking to avoid the trauma of a police investigation, the accuser turned to the university’s in-house disciplinary board, one of many college campuses that adjudicate sexual assault cases, and it would decide whom to believe. If the panel had found that sexual assault had taken place, the man could have been expelled.

Both times, three of the five panelists—drawn from a pool of administrators, faculty members and students—concluded that the man, who remained on the football team through the case and is on the roster for a bowl game Friday, committed sexual assault.

At many schools, this simple majority vote would have been enough to find the accused responsible. But Stanford had set an uncommonly high bar, requiring at least a 4-1 decision.

This year, amid growing dissent over how it handles these kinds of cases, Stanford changed its procedure in a way that victims’ rights advocates say favors the accused. It now requires a unanimous verdict from a three-member board, making it an outlier among prestigious universities. Only one other school (Duke) in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the country top 20 colleges that use such panels has such a stringent requirement (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/sports/football/stanford-football-rape-accusation.html).

As Koss says briefly, collegiate institutions policies are there to protect the rapists not the accuser and let me remind you that she said this over twenty years ago.

Not much has changed over twenty years has it?

My reasons for focusing on the timespan is for readers out there who may think that we have made significant strides in rape culture. That perpetrators are being held to the highest punishment standards. They aren’t. Rape culture is acceptable because, historically, perpetrators haven’t been punished largely. When Koss started her research in the 1980s, she had college rapists flat out admit that they were having sex with their female counterparts without consent, but they did not think of it as a crime. They also normalized it and said that it is acceptable to have sex with their female peers without having their consent.

All collegiate institutions in America need to continue evaluating why they are protecting sexual predators/male rapists. Maybe it is because upper administration, some faculty, and undergraduate students, and graduate students don’t see that one single act can deem an individual as a sexual predator or rapists. Let me tell you about having to live with someone else who has been raped. It is HEARTBREAKING. The rape victim, the rape victor, the rape accuser is the one who has to live with what happened to him or her, and it is usually women this happens to. And that’s not all. By alarming rates, Black women are more liked to be raped on a college campus than white women. White males are usually the perpetrators that get away with raping their female counterparts. Any man of color who commits in collegiate crime is more likely to be named in the newspaper, BUT White male perpetrators identities are SHIELDED from any crimes. If anything, their future aspirations and their identities are protected on campus like they were the ones who were raped.

My mother’s rapists got off scot-free. Her rapists were Black men. Rape in the Black community runs mostly prevalent within the community itself. Black women are told to protect Black men because Black people in general have been exploited many atortrious ways in this country. We can’t tell on our fathers, brothers, uncles, male cousins, male friends, male acquitnances, and even male strangers because look at what the BLACK MEN has been through. What about what we Black women have been through?

Academia should be a place where students don’t have to worry about getting harm because of their race, gender, class, or disability. Yet, when the minority is harm, the majority are the ones who benefit from the system as if they were harm.

It also doesn’t help the accuser’s case of accusing the football player of rape when no one gave her a fair shake in the collegiate judicial process:

The woman who agreed to talk about her case described an arduous process that took nearly nine months and, she said, was plagued by several lapses.

On the afternoon of June 25, 2015, the woman, along with her lawyer, took their places at a crowded table inside the Tresidder Memorial Union at Stanford.

Her lawyer was there only for support and was prohibited, under the rules of the proceeding, from guiding her testimony. In the middle of the table was a telephone for the young man to listen to the proceeding. She had about 30 minutes to give her account of what had happened four months earlier.

Afterward, the football player was allowed to email follow-up questions to the panel that they could decide to ask or not.

She began the hearing feeling that the deck was stacked against her. She said that only the night before did she see the accused’s statement for the first time, and that it included new statements from two of his football teammates. She said she had exchanged emails with an administrator in May and June 2015 and “not once” did that administrator “indicate that any other files had been added to the investigation file, nor did she respond to my previous questions regarding the investigation file,” according to her appeal, which included the email exchange with an assistant dean coordinating the process.

When she asked to postpone the hearing so she could ask for redactions of statements that she deemed prejudicial as well as suggest follow-up questions for an investigator to ask the witnesses, she said she was denied without an explanation.

“I was told to stick to the facts on my statement, and I did,” she said. “He was allowed to speculate on why I ‘targeted’ him. His teammates, who were not even involved in that night, basically said he was a great guy and was being punished for consensual sex.”

After listening to his version, she said that she offered follow-up questions to the panel. She said that they did not ask them. The next day she was notified that a majority of the panel agreed with her that a sexual assault had occurred, but the football player would not be given a finding of responsibility.

By then, she said, she had already missed one quarter of school and would eventually miss two. She was, and remains, in therapy and on anxiety medications.

Within days, with the help of a lawyer, she appealed the decision on the grounds that the “investigation process was so inequitable and unfair” that it violated her rights as a victim of sexual assault under Title IX. Along with numerous procedural errors, she said, she was bothered that the man’s status as a football player was injected into the proceedings by him and his teammates.

Mr. Etchemendy, the provost, insisted there was no special treatment for athletes or anyone else. Despite two 3-2 rulings that the football player had committed sexual assault, Mr. Etchemendy said, the coach of the football team would not have been notified because the player had not been found responsible. The player apparently received no punishment.

It is important for me to include the accuser’s narrative because of her struggle to gain justice in her situation. Her narrative is a clear example of what I’ve been fleshing out—Stanford’s policies do not work in fair favor for the accuser. They work more for the accused. Within the process, there was favoritism provide for him and not her. We see in her narrative that she is already put on the firing squad without even having a fair chance to narrative her experience, but the accused is able to narrative his experience and even have two of his football team member vouched for his character. Stanford administration told her to stick to the facts and didn’t provide her a chance to postpone the hearing to ask for redactions of statement and to question the accused statements. Instead, Stanford administration told her to “stick with the facts.” The Provost also said that wasn’t any special treatment for athletes. Well, Dr. Etchemendy, what do you call the accuser not being able to have the same agency when she wanted to question her accused statements, but the accused was allowed to do it?

And what kind of impact these policies and procedures have on the accuser? You will find below:

After the second five-member panel came back 3-2, the accuser appealed again. She asked that Stanford’s Office of Community Standards “issue a no-contact order to protect me” from the accused. One had been in place throughout the months of proceedings. On at least two occasions, the football player had to be asked to leave parties by a resident dean — and on another, by campus security — because of his apparently violating that order, both the accuser and the accused acknowledged in statements.

“The past nine months of my life have been the worst of my life,” she wrote to Greg Boardman, Stanford’s vice provost for student affairs, on Oct. 20, 2015, as part of her appeal. “I’ve experienced fear, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and hatred in ways I never imagined during the first 20 years of my life. An introduction to someone new in early February turned into my worst nightmare — every woman’s worst nightmare.”

Her appeal for a third hearing and a no-contact order was denied, without explanation.

Stanford said that it accommodates accusers even after their cases come up short. They can secure special housing arrangements or even escorts to certain parts of campus. But officials said that they could not impose anything that looked like penalties, even for safety reasons, on those who are found not responsible — even if the vote found by 3-2 or, now, 2-1 that sexual assault had occurred.

“I think you would face legal liability to that person if after that process he was told, ‘You can’t be in this part of the campus,’” said Ms. Karlan, the law professor who is chairwoman of the sexual assault advisory committee.

The woman is trying to decide whether to return to campus or pursue her degree elsewhere. She said that she loved the school and that she was never happier than in her time there. She is worried about encountering the football player if she returns to campus.

“But do I have to leave Stanford to feel safe?” she said. “I’m certain that this isn’t the way the Title IX process was meant to work.”

 

This is what I know is true. Academia is not doing enough to make sure that those who been harm are vindicated. This young woman is on anxiety medications to help her function daily. This young woman is trying to learn how to live with what has happened to her. For her rapists to get off and have to deal with him prowling around campus, it is an insult and horrendous punishment for her.

Sanford, it is not enough that you accommodate accusers after their cases come up short. Stanford, it is not enough that a young woman who was raped can secure special housing on certain parts of the campus to avoid her perpetuator.

Sanford University upper level administrators, I would deem you at the perpetrators. You continue to perpetuate rape culture by protecting and celebrating toxic masculinity by creating and implementing policies that protect this very said culture. Young women on your campus who raped, and young women who raped all over college campuses, their lives are changed forever. Their confidence, their awareness of their space, and their agency has been negatively modified by individuals who believe that heteronormative masculinity that women not consenting is not rape. In you not punishing this young man, it gives him further fuel that he may do this again and get away with it. Worse yet, he believes that he can step over any group of people who aren’t White, male, and heterosexual and get away with it.

Thanks for not changing but keeping the good old boy’s rape club alive.

SMF

 

Dear Sandra Bland,

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Dear Sandra Bland,

Now, I understand you like I did not before. Now, I know what you were up against.

Shamefully, I have been fighting the same system as you have, and I was colorblinded by Whiteness to believe that I could overcome racism. That if I showed White people how good and how smart that I was, I would break the barriers and gain the same opportunities as them. In my experience of proving myself, I lost touch with my Blackness and began forgetting that Whiteness was affecting me in ways that I fully realized has never went away.

At 10:15 p.m. after having fun at a hockey game with my boyfriend, I was stopped by the local police. We saw flashing blue lights behind us, and we realized that it was my car that he wanted to stop. I slowed down and decided to pull into a KFC parking lot. At the time, I did not know that it would be a safe point. Or maybe a point where there could be witnesses. I never thought of it that way, but it chills me to the bone to think about it now.

I rolled down my window. The police officer asks me…”Do you know why I stopped you?” I responded back in curious shock, “No, officer, I do not know why.” Reason being: I wasn’t speeding through town. If anything, I was going the exact speed limit and being very careful because it was a busy section in this part of town, and it is at night. There are a lot of folks who walk and bike in our town, and I don’t want to be the one responsible for an accident and it on my conscience. I’ve been living in this town for three years consecutively, and I know what the walking and biking population are like. Drivers aren’t usually fond with them sometimes, and I know that it is not always drivers’ fault. Yet, I have started remembering my roots about walking and biking because I was a poor Black kid from a rural country town, and it is hard to track and ride when there are more cars than you in the same area you occupy.

Anyway, the officer continues asking me, “Who car is this?” I said, “Mines.” He asked, “What is your name?” I said in a pleasant voice, “Sophia Flemming.” “When did you get this car registered?” I answered him that I bought the car two months ago, and I had my tag put on there then. And then he asked me for my driver’s license. When he looked, he said, “Your birthday passed. You were supposed to renew your license on your birthday.” I told him that I thought that my registration was good for next year. For those who know me, I don’t play with the law. I file my taxes on time and pay my taxes. I make sure that my registration is renewed on time. In our country, this is what is expected for us to inhabit it.

But what last night taught me is that…it doesn’t matter, does it, to a certain extent when it comes to police authority, and I finally understood Sandra Bland and how her death came about. You see, there are some ways, as a Black woman, I am fortunate. Somehow, that poor Welfare Black girl from a small rural racist and segregated town fought her way to go to college and obtained her BA degree. Somehow that poor Welfare Black girl entered into graduate school and started taking graduate courses. Somehow that poor Welfare Black girl got a job at a well-known university and got a full time job with benefits and is taking doctoral courses now to help her finish her graduate work with her MA degree and to start a PhD program.

However, last night, it didn’t matter. Why? It didn’t matter because as a Black woman I viewed my life at risk. A White police officer stops me. He stops me because he is able to RUN license plate numbers. Police officers even have technology where they can scan people’s tags and get an alert when registration expires (http://www.clatl.com/news/article/13071731/what-is-your-license-plate-telling-police). And what is my point of this?

My point is that there are parts of me that are you, Sandy Bland. You can see our stories are similar in many ways. We both attended college. We both graduated from college. We both are similar in age. We both believed in justice for all people.

Yet, the huge difference is. I am starting to see it. Being fortunate. I am more fortunate than you as a Black woman. I don’t have a record of misdemeanors. I am able to pay for my citation, so I can stay out of jail. Somehow, I have navigated my life in a way that I’ve been fortunate not to be jailed, to be label as a pariah by White people, and to be able to still breathe.

Yet, you and I are still similar in the same. I, too, when I finished my BA degree and attended graduate school, I had a rough time finding a full time job. I struggled, and I was depressed. It was difficult to navigate the waters. If you examine my resume, I have consistently worked since 2000—part time. Some Black folk even haven’t had the consistency as I have. I’ve also had a significant other to help out, but it has come with many prices. Those prices were losing a lot of my self-worth as a proud Flemming. What it really was as a proud Black woman, I discovered that I am not invincible. I am not a Black wonder super woman. I am vulnerable and not immune to the cruelties of Whiteness. Those same White characteristics I’ve adapted: the way I carry myself, the way I talk, the way I walk, and the way I act…doesn’t matter when a White male police officer pulls me over for a traffic violation. I want people to know this is not about me COMPLAINING ABOUT a traffic violation. I get it. I violated the law unintentionally by not seeing in time that I need to renew my registration. Yes, I will pay my fine because it is the law, and Monday morning, I will get my registration and pay for it.

What this is about is bigger than me and is about me. What this is about is that I finally understand that none of us people of color are immune to the dangerous of Whiteness when it comes to its authority. White people have more authority than us. They matter MORE THAN US. They have mattered in this country and even other countries for centuries. Aryan races have nearly decimated cultures (Hitler and the Holocaust) because they know that they have a superiority card. Superiority in human beings is an evil practice because it causes people to commit harmful and even horrendous acts.

The very laws that are supposed to protect all of us only protect and benefit some of us. I was in your place last night. What if I was a little sassy with that cop? What if I began questioning why he was pulling me over? What if I didn’t say good evening office, how you doing?” What if I didn’t comply the way that was expected to not cause harm? I got a little taste of the bigger bitterness you experience on a consistent basis.

I don’t want to keep having this fear…and this stress of being afraid of officers, but I know that if I don’t compile as much as possible, I may be put in a jail cell. Or my life a threat to where I may get a bullet in me. That’s is horrifying. I can’t imagine what you final moments were in that jail cell. I am sure that you were scared, and you felt so alone. Tears are pouring down my face because it hurts. It hurts to know that you died with all kinds of thoughts circling your head. Maybe feeling like no one loved you. In my pain, I understand your struggles because there are parts of me that am you. All Black women are you. We struggle every day to continue to prove over and over again that we exist. That we matter. We have always mattered. Your life didn’t mattered that day, and it was taken. It is sad that you are gone, and I can see you now.

I want to live over a hundred years old and look back at these times as being an agent of change. And I will get there. I claim it, and I will make it. But, I struggle with what happened to me yesterday. A routine stop to give me a ticket so the system can keep making money off my Black body. You were continually stopped and continually had fines on your Black head that you could not pay because you did not have steady income. You struggled with your Black self-esteem because our system continues to take and take until…what…we are tired. Folks are trying to claim us one way or the other: get our bodies and/or destroy our souls. The psychological warfare is deadlier than physical violent one.

Lesson learned: I will keep breathing because it is a part of the destiny that I have determined for myself. Other lesson learned: I have to keep breathing for you, Sandy. You and other thousands of Black women and their lives…I have to be accounted for while I am still breathing. The veil has been lifted from my eyes. I have to do my part and not hide. I have to show that our lives matter. Our stories matter so we can live in a country where we don’t need to hold our breath. That we can inhale and exhale for ourselves, our children, and our country. That Black women are not a threat. We have been exploited for so long, but we belong in this country as well. We are valuable to this country. Our contributions of valuable. I am a storyteller first and foremost. Our stories are important. My story is important and yours is. Our peace is important as well. We want to co-exist with everyone peacefully and live our lives to the fullest. A part of that is recognizing that system of Whiteness harms all of us. Not just Black women. White folks. Black folks. All people of color. How are supposed to become a stronger nation when we continued to be racially divided and certain folks are looked upon as their lives not being as valuable as theirs?

The one that will continue to keep breathing and make it to over a hundred,
Sophia

A Biological Fatherless Black Girl

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Little black girls who never met their biological black fathers is a sludge puddle to always step in when you are a thirty four year old black woman who has never met her biological father.

As I see all the pictures of black women who know their fathers, it is bittersweet. I am happy for black women who know their fathers—especially the black daughters who have great relationships with their fathers. However, I am one of those black women that story goes into I never met my father. I am one of those black women whose mother despised my father and took her pain out on me because he wasn’t there to bear it. I am one of those black women who is reminded with the question: Father, why didn’t you try harder to meet me?

My backstory is that my father did come around to visit everyone else in Cochran. I found this out from a custodian working at MGC when I was in my second year. She told me that she knew who I was and knew who my dad was. She encouraged me to go and see him. Yet, I didn’t have any interest because I didn’t know what I would say to my father. All I know is that he is the imaginary father. What is ironic is that he was physically absent in my life but was presently there through the negative stories my mother told about him. When my mom would get angry, upset, or frustrated at me, she would always project her feelings of hatred on me because I look like my father. Now, you ask, “Wow, Sophia, I am surprised that you function as well as you.”

I function as well as I do because I have come to some understandings about myself. Yes, if my dad wanted it, a relationship with my father would have been phenomenal in the fact that it would have helped me with some of the life challenges that I had to face as a youngster. However, that Catch-22 is always there, right? If I had a relationship with my father, it might not have been a positive one and could have caused further damage to me. There are men out there who have made children, but they are not father material. They aren’t parent material. I am not saying that my father is incapable of being a good father. However, my mother had hostile feelings towards him. When he did return and ask her to marry him, she turned him down. To be fair to my mom, it might not have been solely the hurt he caused her (She approached his car to tell him she was pregnant with me, and he rolled up the window in her face before she spotted him with another woman in his car). She could have turn him down so he wouldn’t hurt her farther. Whatever her reasons where, her decisions transpired and had to grow up with my father being the bad guy. If he was the bad guy, then, there was a part of me that was bad, right, because he gave me 23 of his chromosomes, correct?

However, there are historical implications to this. A lot of us black women who have never met our black fathers feel a deep lost because American slavery broke a part black families. Black family members would be sold off for profit, or some American white slaver owners would sell off slave family members as punishment if that slave member went against the order of the slave owners’ rules. How can black men in the later generations be fathers—and be presently there for their daughters, when they come from black family lineages where their families were broken up during that time in history? Then, this matter is more complicated as well when white male slave owners raped black female slaves, and they birth children of color that was enslaved. Usually, your mother did not tell you who your father was because of the shame and guilt that resulted from the slave owner being able to rape you whenever he wanted, and you bore his children resulting from that trauma. Many black children did not have a chance to have relationships with their biological fathers. If their fathers were white, they were white slave owners who raped their mothers. If their fathers were black, their black fathers were sold off to another plantation. Or their black fathers died from being killed white masters when they escaped. Of course, when slaves were free, if you had a black father during Jim Crow and he died, he was lynched. If you had a black father during the Civil Rights Movement, he was slaughtered. If you had a father during the 1990s, you lost him because he murdered your mother.

Of course, there are many black fathers who abandoned their daughters or who were forced to not see their daughters for whatever reasons…and those daughter went through all kinds of hell. The hell of not knowing what does twenty-three chromosomes are like. Not knowing the other side of your family. Not knowing which characteristics you have inherited. I am a mystery, you all. I’ve discovered some pieces of the puzzles, and I have been able to fit them into the appropriate places in the puzzle. Yet, there are other pieces I am missing. The pieces that I have are good. I mean because I know how the overall puzzle looks. However, the puzzle would look much more rich…much more detailed…and most of all, I could completely analyze my entire identity and say…hey, that’s is where I get that quality from.

For little black girls like me when we were younger, it was hell because you are searching from who you look like in the mirror. Who you are starts off with your people. I’ve always been amazed by white friends and family who have taken advantage of their family lineage. They can trace back their family history and understand why they are who they are. However, many I’ve known…shrug their shoulders and don’t think it is a big deal. Why shouldn’t it? It is a privilege that they have. It is always there at their disposable when they question why they are who they are…they don’t even go to the answers that are right under their noses. Everything they possibly need to know is in that family lineage.

You know why Black folks make a HUGE FUCKING DEAL about their roots? We make a huge deal about our roots because there are pieces of us that are missing that we would like to know to have a much richer identity. Our family lines have been broken by white supremacist, white privilege, and Whiteness. Some of us are scrambling like I am. I am scrambling and scraping to find out MORE ABOUT WHO I AM. Don’t get it twisted. I am proud of who I am. What I do know about myself and the experiences I’ve been through have made me who I am today. Yet, black folks who find those pieces of their family history that makes them identify with their characteristics that drive them to make choices to strengthen who they are…they are appreciative of it because it was never a luxury for us. It is a birth right that has been STOLEN from us. Your family history is not a privilege it is a right. It is a right to know who you are and where you come from. That was taken from us. My people and I…some of us try so hard to find those pieces.

I can’t say Happy Father’s Day to my father because I don’t know him. I am one of those black girls who have never met him.

S