‘Intersections’

BELOW is the second piece I wrote then “performed” at ‘Fifty Shades of Blak: Performance Night’, inside Blak Dot Gallery last night. It was an intimate, energising evening of performances from a beautiful, powerful and diverse group of women of colour, and I am really lucky to have been invited to be amongst them. You can read about the Fifty Shades of Blak Exhibition, and the first piece I wrote then performed last night, right HERE.

A brief intro for context: There is an American scholar named Kimberlé Crenshaw who coined the term ‘intersectionality’ to describe the study of how different forms of systemic oppression can intersect and overlap. This is concept that I think about frequently in terms of the world at large, but also in terms of my own lived experience – because I’m not just Black, I’m a Black WOMAN, and a Black DISABLED Woman, so I have and do experience both racism, the specific kinds of misogyny and sexism that Black Women face, and Ableism. This piece is about what it feels like to move through the world in a body that, even though I love it, and the people who love me love it, comes up against multiple kinds of marginalisation on a fairly regular basis.

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INTERSECTIONS

(© 2016 Pauline Vetuna, All Rights Reserved.)

Living in a body that is marginalized for three different reasons feels like this: like constantly watching the traffic lights rapidly change from joyful green to halting red, and feeling the joy wane inside you every time.

GREEN light:

Black friend sends out an invite. “We’re having a party, at this place, all welcome!”

AMBER light:

Black friend says, “oh, I  forgot to ask if there’s access… I think there’s only one step…”

RED light:

Black friend says, “sorry it’s not accessible! The venue is already booked and paid for. But we’ll make sure you can be included in the next event.”

The next event is not accessible either.

This scenario repeats itself five hundred times.

I convince myself I have better things to do than be included in society.

I drive on.

NEXT GREEN light:

White feminist friend sends out an invite. “We’re having a discussion, at this place, all welcome!”

AMBER light:

White feminist friend says, “no, none of the panelists are women of colour, but we’re talking about universal topics like breaking the glass ceiling, leaning in, and women on boards.”

RED light:

White feminist friend says, “yeah I hear what you’re saying but we want to stick to topics that affect all women; you can stage another forum that discusses issues affecting Black women and Disabled women another time.”

All women means white and able bodied women, too often. It does not mean me. It probably doesn’t mean queer or gender non conforming people either.

This scenario repeats itself five hundred times.

I stay home and read Angela Davis books.

NEXT GREEN light:

Black male friend says, “I’m pro Black… I love my Black mother and my Black sister and Black women in general.”

AMBER light:

Black male friend says, “I just think you can be pro-Black and still have a preference for lighter skinned women”.

RED light:

Black male friend says, “I’m just saying that darker women can be a little masculine sometimes, and that isn’t attractive.”

Beware of the white supremacist who lives within Black skin.

This scenario repeats itself five hundred times.

I have to remind myself each time, “yes but not ALL Black men…”

NEXT GREEN light:

White male colleague says, “just so you know I am a huge champion of women of colour.”

AMBER light:

White male colleague says, “I’m just saying that being against someone’s culture and someone’s skin colour are two different things.”

RED light:

White male colleague says, “I think our military should airlift every woman out of that third world hellhole so that those men can’t reproduce.”

This sentiment is echoed by western supremacists five thousand times across the media landscape.

I remind myself of who I am, of my cultural roots, of the beautiful Black men who loved me into existence, and draw strength from them. I send love to all the innocent Black and Brown men in the world who are deemed guilty before the trial they will never have.

Then, I drive on.

NEXT GREEN light:

Former white male boyfriend says, “racism is stupid. You and I are basically the same person. And you’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”

AMBER light:

Former white male boyfriend says, tears in his eyes, after the illness that would lead to me becoming disabled, “I love you so much, but… I don’t think I can handle this, handle your condition.”

RED light:

Every institutional structure says: “Whites rule. Lights rule. Males rule. Able Bodies ONLY.”

I build up an armour, train myself to spot and avoid the supremacists around me and work hard every day not to internalize any of it, whilst staving off the aloneness that marginalization often forces upon you.

This scenario repeats itself five hundred times.

I drive on anyway.

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One Comment on “‘Intersections’”

  1. […] I have to emphasise here that it’s a process I myself have had to go through. I also straight up read a previously published piece on intersectional marginalisation. I’m sick today, not feeling […]


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