“Then the voice in your head silently tells you to take your foot off your throat because just getting along shouldn’t be an ambition.”
Claudia Rankine ~ Citizen: An American Lyric

I have spent most of my life being angry. Angry that I could never say what I felt without someone immediately dismissing it with a “don’t be silly” or a “you’re being too sensitive.”

Angry that I was the wrong kind of woman born in the wrong time.

Angry because men in my country thought they could touch me at will, say lewd and lascivious things to me at any moment, show me their junk, do any number of disgusting things–spitting, cursing, threatening me for dressing this way or walking that way, and all I could do was wait. Wait for the moment to pass, wait for the bile to subside and be re-absorbed into my bones, only to lay there and rot me from inside out.

Angry that those who came before me couldn’t protect me from their inevitability.

So I yelled and I screamed and I pointed out that the emperor had no clothes. Until one day, soon enough, the fog rolled in and blanketed the noise. Domesticity, motherhood, professionalism, all taught me that there was a “right way” to say something, a small way, a way that didn’t offend, or upset the applecart. And I, quick study that I am, soon learned to soften and smoothen, equivocate. I learned to “let it go” but carried it with me, nonetheless, stones in my belly.

Thirty years I have lived this way. Well, almost lived this way. I cannot pretend that I have lain silent and submissive. I cannot pretend that I have not protested. Daily. But I can tell you this much: For thirty years, it has been my “ambition” to “get along.”

Then this.

Rankine’s reminder that my ambition is no ambition at all.

And this from one who came before her.

“When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcome. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak . . . your silence will not protect you.”
~ Audre Lorde


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Categories: Reflections

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