The Reality of “Silence Breaking” in Communities of Color
The year 2017 started out and often times remained bleak especially if you were a person of color or a woman. If you belonged to both groups things were especially difficult for you due to proposed policies that target and terrorized your very existence and a commander–in-chief who has openly disrespected both communities. Despite the hardships presented women from all backgrounds have prevailed and ended the year with a ferocious and daring feat, taking on sexual harassment and assault.
With everything from the Women’s Marches in January to the #MeToo Movement that swept the nation and is continuing to shed light on and bring down high profile predators, women’s motions for advocacy on rights and reforming social norms was undeniably a major historic component of the year. Although these national movements are created by and including women from all backgrounds such as race, class, and even age the attitudes and reactions in certain communities are not as receptive, in particular communities of color.
I decided to partake in the MeToo hashtag via Facebook. My first post was simply just the hashtag because I was not ready to go into the details of my experience due to the shame and blame I placed on myself. It was not until I began to read the stories my friends from High School wrote and saw the same fear that gray area interactions led them to have a shared sense of humiliation. The majority of these friends were white women and I oddly felt that them sharing their experiences in detail was more normal and acceptable than me, a black woman, sharing mine. I quickly realized that logic was severely flawed and even low key problematic, but it was substantially supported by the reactions I got from close and even estranged relatives after reading the details of my assaults and instances of harassment once I made them public. I was bombarded with questions such as “Why didn’t you say anything?” and even “concerned” text messages reminding me that it is my responsibility to protect myself in this oh so dangerous world without any acknowledgement of the fact that I was the one who was violated. In addition to this the origin of my feelings of reluctance and belief that I had no place to speak on my experience became clearer when I heard other Black and Brown women in my familial circle who are known victims of sexual abuse question the importance of even coming forward to confront these wrongdoings, or even claim that the groundbreaking work of addressing our misogynistic culture is frustrating and upsetting because it is turning the world as they know it upside down.
It was upsetting and heartbreaking to hear these things especially after having done so much work within myself to rid the feelings of disgrace I thought belonged to me, but then I realized these attitudes were conditioned. For a lot of older women of color due to patriarchal and misogynoiristic systems they have not had the opportunity, space, or were not afforded the right to come to terms with their abuse. Many fear causing trouble for airing out the family’s dirty laundry or even an uproar from their community for detailing fighting off advances from powerful men in the spotlight. A culture of silence is all too familiar for many Black women in particular and they cannot be blamed because sexual misconduct and abuse is a theme in our music, movies, and even day-to-day relationships. It is unfortunately better to be seen as one who has suffered in silence without any regard for the fact that not acknowledging the instances of abuse only perpetuates this harmful culture and continues the cycle. For some older women this new wave of empowerment is frightening for them because like for many of us young women they are having to face the fact that they too have fallen victim to practices of abuse and subjugation and sometimes even without their knowledge. Just as we the new generations are understanding and supporting each other through these times of realization and search for change it is also up to us to provide care and equip older generations with the knowledge and awareness to end cultures of abuse and promote safe as well as healthy lifestyles and relationships. •