I am a brown woman on a planet that places me beneath all other humans. There has never been a time when I didn’t feel unsafe. My days and nights are spent in the company of unsafe. The most valued man on Earth is the white man, then the white woman, then the black man (if you want to call his position valued), then me, the brown woman, the thing to be abused the most. Even some feminists don’t value me, the brown woman. If they are racists, then they no longer see my plight as a woman, because to them I am not woman, I am something other, something brown and not worthy of a movement or a safe home.
My life is spent wondering when the planet will show me respect. Some say, I need to demand respect. But white men don’t need to demand it. The world gives it. White women must make a few demands, but at least at times they are heard. As a brown woman, when I am heard, it is merely luck, good fortune, right place at the right time, an accident of proximity meeting preparedness. It wouldn’t matter much if I had wealth, then I would use it to chain and bolt and alarm my home, because the unsafe feeling would increase, because there are those who would envy my wealth. Brown women don’t deserve wealth some believe. Wealth does not shield the brown woman from oppressions and bias. If a woman like Oprah Winfrey can be treated substandard when attempting to enter a top tier clothing store, then what chance do I have of being seen? They did not see Winfrey, the millionaire, the celebrity, the powerhouse, they saw a brown woman standing at their door who couldn’t possibly afford anything they had. No, she couldn’t go in. I certainly wouldn’t have been allowed in just to look, just to enjoy a day of window shopping and dreaming, because I would have been too brown; Winfrey was too brown.
The unsafe feelings don’t paralyze me and cause me to withdraw from interacting in the world. But they live inside and poke at me, stab at me with each interaction, haunting me and reminding me that I am brown and brown is not appreciated on Earth. Even other brown people have been brainwashed into hating their own brown skin, and my brown skin. So I am trapped on a planet, an insane asylum with high walls and doors and windows too high to reach. The windows and what beauty I imagine is on the other side is what I ache for. I can’t look through them to see the safety I dream of on the other side, that place where brown women are treated with the same reverence as white men, and are appreciated because of the beauty of their mind. I want to look out that window and see my brown skin being as loved as all others. But this is not the case. Because I am not only woman, I am brown. And those brown women lucky enough to attain wealth don’t escape feeling unsafe, they merely have the means to build stronger locks and louder alarms, and hope that if the police come, it won’t be to take them in the back of a squad car for a ride they can’t refuse. The Holtzclaw outcome doesn’t magically materialize before me a little safety talisman. If anything, it makes me feel even more unsafe, that a man of the law could get away with hurting my brown sisters for so long; and to know that I’ve read other stories of police officers raping brown women on duty. Where was their moment of safety? Who, after the fact, made them feel safe? And assured them that this would not happen again? At least not without punishment. Who? No one. Holtzclaw’s verdict is the reason why I feel unsafe. Because there were dozens before him, and only now do they see our pain (or is this a pacifier?) even though we’ve cried many times before, over centuries of being raped by slave masters and interlopers on our lands. Brown women have left oceans of tears upon the land, yet we are told that the teaspoon full of success stories should give us hope, make us feel worthy…and safe. Even now, even still, tribes of brown women are being sexually exploited.
I wish like many that I could write of only a time—one time. Maybe two or three times. Maybe even a hundred times when I felt unsafe. But I don’t have the luxury of a number, a single number that would allow me to realize that things aren’t that bad. My unsafe lives and breathes with a life even I at times cannot comprehend. Sometimes I want to run away from it all, but can’t. Where would I go? The whole planet sees my brown skin as less than, the way they’ve been taught throughout the centuries to see it, and that teaching sticks. If it didn’t, brown women wouldn’t be in the position they are. From America to Europe to South America to the Middle East and beyond, the brown woman is not honored and is made to feel as though she does not deserve to feel safe and loved. Most white men believe it and act on it. Many white women believe it and act on it. Many black men believe it and act on it. And then, ahh, then, even the black woman, the final bastion of supposed safety and protection, her image of self is slowly being worn away by cultural images that teach us to fight against each other, to not love each other like sisters, to compete for men, all men, white and black. It’s a shame really. A true shame.
To read my words one might think that I am an old biddy alone at home with her five stray cats. But I have a beautiful brown man who cares for me and loves me deeply and treats me better than I could have ever imagined. Had this prompt asked me for a time I felt safe, the conversation would have gone another way. The counting is in the safe moments with him that are trapped inside an unsafe life—my moments of feeling safe are unsafe. It’s a strange thing.
This world is odd to me. Many speak of freedom, as they enslave others either physically, economically, emotionally, mentally or intellectually. Many speak of equality as they continue to disenfranchise millions across the globe. Many talk of love, yet the majority of what we are shown are the unloving moments in our existence. Many talk of safety, as we disallow others from feeling safe in their homes, in their states, in their countries, on their continents—in their skin. So many talk and talk and talk. No action, just talk that we are subtly told (often indirectly) is a good substitute for action. So many are talking themselves to death and taking others with them. I don’t have the luxury of talk. I am a brown woman. I’m tired of talk. I want to be treated equally on this planet. Period. No more talking about it, just doing it. I want to be truly free, not this quasi freedom (subtle enslavement) being touted as freedom and truth. I want my brown skin to have value, all the time, everywhere, so I can feel safe on a planet that is as much mine as anyone else’s.
I want to feel safe, with only moments of feeling unsafe.