Is anchoring down correct sailor terminology? I can’t even swim so I know nothing of sailing. It’ll pass though. I’ve realized that my mind has become a very chaotic place lately. Between quadratic formulas, travel bans, and the like, the space behind my forehead has become a pool of muddied waters. And really it can be greatly overwhelming and has proved to be such. One of the first few posts I did on here was about different things that anchor me whenever I begin drifting into no man’s land. Usually these anchors are effective and help me to settle back into the soft hands of sanity. But as of late, my anchors are failing to provide me with assured stability. I imagine that it gets that way for everyone from time to time thus I’m sure many can relate. The best way I can describe the feeling is the constant need of a Xanax and sleep because we are constantly being bombarded with often discouraging news and thought provoking work (darn you algebraaaa) which leaves us drained and listless. It seems that when I am not doing homework, I’m on Yahoo reading about our corn husk in chief and his committee. With that comes the opinions of his little kernel followers who do their best to peg every opposing party as delusion or demonic. And politics have become so ingrained in my every day life that it feels like it is controlling every fiber of my existence. I would rather not three to four posts straight relate to Trump or my disdain, but I’m quite consumed by the need to voice my opposition to him so…well….you get it.
I usually branch out on some general statement which will shortly follow. I think when you have certain ascribed statuses you are unable to fully break away from social and political issues. When your status is included in the minority group then you are more keen than if you are the majority. For one, minority history begs that we be more vigilant than our majority counterparts lest we fall victim to the repetition of history. So when we are often told that we “don’t understand” (specifically “blacks don’t understand.” Don’t do that. It’s black people. People of color. But don’t use blacks. It’s just not right) then I most often think that it is actually the other way around. We understand more than our counterparts because the realities of the injustice and unfairness of our world are exposed to us at young ages.
I remember when I was in the third grade. We had a pool party at our teacher’s house as a reward for good grades and behavior. Two weeks prior I went to the Wal-Mart in Senatobia with my mom to pick out a swim suit. I don’t remember the style of the suit, but I do remember it being a blue and sea foam green one piece, since blue was my favorite color. My mom didn’t have the funds to splurge on the suit at the moment so she put it in layaway for me. The plan was to come back and get the suit before the party. Well, the plan fell through after she completely forgot, and we ended up at our town’s Wal-Mart the night before instead. There I found a two piece swimsuit. To best describe it would be to say that I was channeling my inner Lava Boy. It was a fiery orange and yellow; the top was a tank and the bottom were shorts. Nothing too scandalous other than the fact that I was suddenly The Flash. When I went to school the next day, as we would ride home with our teacher Mrs. Hawkins later, I took out my swimsuit for my friend Alaina to see. The look of excitement beamed in her eyes through the thick lens of her glasses. “I’ve got the exact same one!” she exclaimed, reaching in her bag and pulling her lava suit out. All we needed was someone with a blue and gray suit to be our Sharkboy at that point. While we both chattered in glee another classmate, who was white, came over and stopped dead in front of me. Apparently she was less excited about the quaintness of our local Wal-Mart as it turned out that she had the exact same suit. “Why didn’t you get swimsuit for black people, Amber?” she spat venomously before she walked back to her group of friends. Mind you that Alaina who is also white shared the same suit, but she was immune from chastisement. It was only me who had breached some unspoken rule. Following my return home from the party I spoke with my cousins about the matter. And well….if you think that I’m bad on here they’re a thousand time worse in real life. The girl’s name was as good as mud by the time they finished spitting and stamping on it, her parents, and her ancestors. At the time the moment stuck with me and my dislike for her grew to unknown depths. It was only later, when I was much older, that I thought to myself, “I wonder what her parents said at home if she, a third grader, thought that I didn’t deserve to wear the same bathing suit as she did.”
It is much the same when young women report on the ages that they were first sexualized. Many stated their teenage years when breasts are beginning to blossom and hips begin to spread. And a surprising many revealed that they were 4 or 7 or 9 when their bodies were commented on sexually. This was especially common in young black girls, who often develop younger than their white peers. Some stated that they were deemed fast tailed for wearing the same shorts that their skinnier, less curvy friends wore to beat the summer heat. Or that people made comments about their sexual activity, of which many were not engaged in, being evident due to their thick hips and lips. And curves aren’t necessary to warrant lewd comments. You can be straight as a board and thin as a pencil and still have your grandmother tell you to put some longer pants on because your uncle is coming for dinner. Childhood is often short lived for us. My first encounter was while I was standing in the line at Kroger at the age of thirteen. I had on denim capri pants with brown, suede criss-cross stitching up the outer leg and an old red band t-shirt I’d borrowed (stolen) from my sister. As I waited in line, I could hear two firemen behind me making comments about my legs and quite obviously eyeing me. And when I looked back at them, to ensure that it wasn’t my imagination, this did not cause them to cease. I quickly paid for my items, probably junk food, and shuffled outside to the car where my stepdad sat waiting. I never mentioned it to anyone.
There are two things that you constantly made aware of: your gender and your race. These two characteristics will dictate your pay, your chances of getting a job/loan, your likelihood to get arrested, etc. They are not things that you can strip out of after a hard day of bearing the weight of the world. Now, the lines of gender are further blurring so that’s a whole other thing. Not to mention the disproportionate assault/murder of transgender people so that really is a whole topic within itself. But generally if you are a woman and you are a person of color, the cushions of being a child are often snatched away well before our male and white counterparts are made to part with theirs. Of course this is not always the case, but it is most often the case. Each day while Ma helped me bathe (I couldn’t be trusted to be in the tub without being monitored. I played with bath toys and got out smelling like dirty water….) she would point at my flat chest, my behind, and basically circle my entire pelvis with an imaginary laser while she rubbed me dry with the towel with the vigor of sanding wood and remind me, “Don’t let anyone touch you there. If it’s not me or I’m not there don’t let them touch you!” Only for me to go to school second grade year and have to go to the office with a group of female classmates and report a boy to the principal for grabbing our butts everyday. Like soldiers we lined up in front of the principal’s desk, but holding our heads down, ashamed that we were even knowledgeable about butts much less speaking about them being grabbed. And I remember Ma sitting my brother down and talking to him about how to act if ever the police stopped him. He was no older than thirteen. For us there tends to be no shield, no blinder that stays in tact until we graduate from high-school and branch into “the real world.” Our real world starts when we are much younger.
So I really don’t want to have post after post after post about politics, crime, racism, sexism, etc. I generally don’t like to be serious. But now a days, I’m just tired. I told my friend while we were discussing the opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement that I was exhausted. Can you win for losing? It’s difficult to break away from reality because it rules our timelines, our new stations, and ultimately our conversations and thoughts. And the more I read my recent posts (this one included) I realize that it’s almost impossible to break away. It follows us. And I believe it follows minorities more so because we suffer more in its wake and must always be prepared to stand for something. Even when Rosa Parks stayed in her seat she was standing for something. I can’t think of a time when we don’t have to reply, debate, protest, defend, answer to, fight. Is there ever really a break? I used to think that I was grasping onto the discrimination of yesteryear. That division was non-existent. Then life delivered a reminder, certified and signature required, while walking on my uncle’s land with my aunt for exercise in the heat of June. I had on shorts, because who in their right mind wears long pants or tights in Mississippi during the summer? My aunt and I chattered away, mostly about her hate for exercise, as we walked within the safety of the fenced in acre. Across the street a pick up truck occupied by two older white men and some kids pulled to the end of their driveway. The truck was rusty and red, with mud splattered on the grill. The kids were sandwiched between the men, barely able to peep over the dashboard. The man driving looked at me and called out of the rolled down window, “that nigger’s got some nice legs,” waiting a minute, likely for my reaction, and then sped away. And I was the one embarrassed about the encounter, as though I had caused it. It was my mark, my blotch. And that’s what life is like. So yea, I probably will get on here and continually rant and rave. And when you think to yourself, “they don’t understand” what you really need to ask yourself is do you?