I explained to the group that it has been years of bottled up anger and rage at the hands of experiencing all kinds of privilege… the privileges that connect with racism, that connect with being a girl in a Dominican family where boys are revered, that connect to the mistreatment of people of color by white people who are the superiors.
I shared with the group a story of an encounter I had with a white man on Riverside Drive in NYC while I was driving with my daughter. He was pulling out of his parking spot, almost crashing into us because he expected me to stop, while he just pulled out blindly and quickly. He expected me to let him go before me. When I didn’t and kept driving he was forced to slam on his breaks and wait his turn.
I stopped, looked at him knowing that I had the right of way, yet found him cursing me out calling me a “stupid bitch!!!” He was leaning on his horn like a lunatic and even gestured, in a threatening way that he was about to get out of his car to assault me. I just looked at him having my own choice words and said, “I’M NOT SCARED OF YOU!!!! BRING IT!”
At that point I was irrational… I wasn’t thinking straight… in that moment I wished my girlfriend had kept her softball bats in the car because there was no way I was going to allow for this man to put his hands on me.
This is the interesting thing… you automatically go into survival mode, defensive mode, fight mode. I found myself returning to a way too familiar place. And when you have had the kind of upbringing and history I have had this is a dark place. A place where you were forced to fight to be respected, and you fought to protect yourself and your own! I am not proud of this fact, but I’m not ashamed either.
I shared that that experience is just one in a series of what may seem like minor incidents like a traffic altercation but could have the potential for the HUGE repeat offenses at the hands of men and some women who have violated me or tried to strip me of my power. These are the moments that have shaped me. These incidents are the very foundation of my anger issues. “Because I am a woman I need to know my place… because I am a woman of color I need to know my place… because I am not white I need to know my place.”
These are things I was very aware of as a teenager and well into my 20s. In so many conversations with my daughter, and even watching TV or walking in the street I would look for these examples to point out to her why I was so mad, to justify my hatred for the oppressor because I constantly felt oppressed.
In my thirties it was about letting go of what was perceived as a chip on my shoulder, releasing my rage and bottling up my anger…
“Mommy, not everything is a race issue,” Courtney would say.
I guess it was easy to say this when your life experience hasn’t been met with rejection because of your gender, sexual orientation, religious/political beliefs, nationality, economic status or race. Disliked oftentimes just because you were born.
Now that I am in my mid-forties I am seeing that there still are things that have kept me silent, that I have kept bottled up. I have been fighting for peace, acceptance, recognition, and tolerance, to be seen and respected for a long time. Yet those two words FIGHTING and PEACE seem to counter one another. I have prayed for peace… praying that I can pray the pain away. Praying sometimes doesn’t work! Prayer alone doesn’t work. In our closing circle today I apologized to all of the women for my attitude and temper over the past few days. For some reason I believed that getting to the top of the mountain meant that I would leave it all there at the top and on my way down be ready to face my life. I guess returning to my life has me a little anxious and wanting to fight! I am holding onto my peace for dear life.
On this mountain I am reconciling my anger and peace and learning and discovering that is OK for me to be angry and spiritual at the same time.
And so it is. Namaste. Aché
With all my love,
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