author – activist – faculty – mom
this is a raw, unedited rant from the middle of the night. i’m still furious…
I am heartbroken to learn that my beloved friend Shailja Patel was sexually assaulted shortly after her return home to Kenya. Patel, in her brilliant book Migritude speaks of the post-colonial migrant who is always relocating and never quite at home.
Of course she will be away from many of those whom she loves in this time of crisis. I am not the first friend/lover/mother/father/daughter/son to ache for the chance to hold a loved one in my arms and comfort them in a time of need, this is as old as colonization as migration. I know she has friends/family in Kenya, but in this moment, she deserves to have every single person in the whole world who loves her holding her in their arms. Everyone close at hand at once. I wish I could write myself arms long enough to reach from Berkeley, California USA to Nairobi, Kenya. These words seem so insufficient, and this is the lot of the migrating, perpetually displaced person.
My words feel insufficient to comfort her because, as a friend, I would offer my body–my woman’s body for her to embrace, my flesh to absorb her tears, my shoulder howl into and hold tight. This is how we as women offer our bodies to each other to comfort and to heal.
Let me be clear where I do not offer my body, where we as women do not offer our bodies: as sexual sacrifice. To men. To men of color. To African or Afro-Diasporan men to “feel better” from the horrors of colonization. We—women and men—have endured them together, and we fight them together, but we women will not be your soft landings, your buffer zones, your intimate tissues where you reach into us and let us absorb the tears you are too cowardly or discouraged or numb to shed. Grieve, dammit! We cannot win against colonization if you are constantly betraying us and our movements by accepting the blood money of patriarchal entitlement to our bodies.
Our bodies are not soft couches for you to lounge on but hard desk chairs for you to learn from: learn the lessons from our bodies. Women know how to grieve. Women know how to hold each other in sorrow. Men need to learn these lessons—how to turn to each other in sorrow, how to reveal their broken, brown hearts to each other—or you will keep turning to us, to our women’s bodies, with a glint in your eye, a groping arm in your sleeve, your too-close breath smelling of the colonizer’s rotting humanity. Stop betraying us, yourselves, our movements, and our people with your misogyny and cowardice. Heal.
Journalists for Justice has released a statement in support of Shailja Patel