It’s 2 days into Yacht week, and I’ve already found myself in the familiar unsafe territory of multiple personal space violations. Within two days, three different white men have thought it their right, for the sake of their personal humor, to put their hands on me. One grabbed my hair. My bun specifically, in a tight fist and shook my head. Violently. One man, a stranger, slapped me with his shoe, then told me in his best English “but I love you”. One man picked me up in a club, after I repeatedly shouted to him, NO!
In the grand scheme of everything, I suppose these violations of space could be seen as “nothing”. Perhaps even as moments of boys being boys. There’s a possibility I could just have even checked my sensitivity at the door, because we’re all on vacation just having fun… right? But the reality is, I am coping with the reality that even with me being 4,281 miles away from home, with a 6 hour time difference, on another continent, my black woman body, is not safe from the hands of men… Especially the entitled white ones.
So I wonder, where exactly am I safe? Is there a country for black girls like me? Is there a place where we are welcomed, and protected? Where we are valued first and terrorized never? Is there a place where we don’t have to proactively think for men…black, white or other, and the consequences either of us may face when THEY disrespect OUR bodies? Is there a place where we can go to let our braids down and let loose without judgement, or unwarranted physical contact from anyone? I honestly can not think of one, and I’m sure it doesn’t exist.
I wrote this post on July 2nd, ironically while on a vacation of a lifetime. I had no intention of posting it, because I felt it may be too personal. The moments that led me to write the post were moments that made me feel humiliated and small. I don’t like to show that side of myself. I feel most weak when I admit to shame.
Then, recently I heard news of the murder of Nia Wilson. A girl who reminds me so much of the young women in my life, including myself. I realized that there are people who will read her story and make believe that her attack was a one off, or uncommon. I figured there would be people I know who won’t identify with the story of a Nia Wilson, because they will assume they know no one like her. However, I know girls who look like Nia and with aspirations aligned with those that Nia had. I even had the thought, that if this were 10 years ago, even I could have been Nia— a regular girl, taking the train, listening to music, attacked…for no reason.
All of this frustrates me because it only confirms that there’s no cocoon of protection, for black women. There is no social age limit nor cap for harassment, judgement or attacks on our bodies. From our time of birth our hair, skin and physique are poked, prodded and discussed by all.
There is no body of land in which we can find asylum from our enemies, because there are so many different aggressors for so many reasons, be it through shade, race or gender.
It doesn’t matter what we wear, or what our careers are, how much money we hold in our pocket, or what vacation we take. At any given moment, a black woman, can and will find herself in a position in which she is required to physically and figuratively defend her body, her intelligence, her worth and her dignity to a person, or institution, at any given time.
It reminds me of the title of the movie No Country for Old Men. Except in my real life, there’s really no country for Black Woman.
May you sleep in peace Nia Wilson.