To be a person of color, to be black, to be queer, to be a woman: is to know what it means to not be defended.
We know what it means to not be defended, to have no other choice than to marshal our own defense in the midst of continual defenselessness.
I’m tired of people not defending us. I’m tired of looking to people for defense.
I’m tired of longing for defense that has not come, that is not coming, that, should it ever come, is already late.
I’m tired of being made to feel grateful to those who belatedly defend us, if and when they defend us at all.
And I’m tired of seeing people belatedly defend us, after the fact, after the bodies have been piled sky high — after they have already eaten my ancestors’ rotting corpses — and expect to be congratulated, thanked, made to feel good.
I’m tired of being disappointed.
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The main thing I know about intersectionality is that I am tired of living at the intersections of so much bullshit.
Women, people of color, queers and blacks must continually launch our own defense and defend ourselves for defending ourselves. We must not only defend against offenses – we must also explain both the offense and the defense.
These are fundamentally indecent things to have to do.
Anti-oppression work is an enterprise that is, by definition, beneath us. For it requires the saying and doing of things that shouldn’t have to be said or done.
It is very upsetting to be asked to explain why the on-going, everyday, routine suffocation of black and brown and queer and female (and..) life makes me sad and angry. It is beneath me to do this explanatory work, but I do it anyway. In part, I do it because I have chosen this line of work — but all people who experience oppression are required, in some way, to perform the critical exegesis of our pain. The demeaning shuffle and jive of our suffering.
It is beneath us to have to say that black and brown people deserve the breath in our lungs, the blood in our veins, the tongue and teeth in our mouths, the spaces we occupy. It is beneath us to say that our dead should be mourned. It is beneath us to say that colored knowledge is extraordinarily valuable and perpetually undervalued. It is beneath us to say that white supremacy exists, that the suffering it engenders is an immoral horror that should keep you up at night. It is beneath us to say that patriarchy and homophobia are moral wrongs. It is beneath us to assert the centrality of women’s work and women’s worth. It is beneath us to say that we are a wounded culture, a wounded society precisely because power renders the wounds of the less powerful invisible, unknowable and, then, when knowable, knowable only as the normal state of affairs, the way things should be, knowable not as a wrong, but rather as the evidence of the wounded’s unfortunate and indisputable inferiority.
It is beneath us to know that when people of color and blacks and women and queers do the work of defending ourselves, we will be appreciated less, embraced less, recognized less, paid less than whites and men who ‘enjoin’ the struggle. Even worse, we will undoubtedly be attacked, policed, shunned, shamed and punished.
All of this is beneath us.
All of this is beneath me.
Continue reading “Defenseless: On (Im)morality and Intersectional Pain”