dimanche, novembre 06, 2005

The Color Purple

When I was studying for my master's degree at NYU, I took a class entitled Black Women's Literature. The title's pretty much explanatory in that we read and discussed novels, short stories, and poems written by black women. One of those books was The Color Purple. During our discussion of the novel, my professor asked the class why we thought the book was called The Color Purple; what, in other words, was the significance of purple. Alice Walker is a writer whose politics infuse the essence of her works and those politics are definitively womanist as well as race and class conscious. In the end, I offered that The Color Purple may be a symbol for a bruise, an injury, a wound that not only represents the violence enacted upon the female characters of the novel by their male counterparts but the injuries incurred as a result of living in a racist, patriarchal atmosphere that encouraged such violence.

Its now been about three years since I first took that class and I have almost completed my first year as a Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence advocate for Manhattan Hospitals in the Harlem and Spanish Harlem areas. Early early this morning, I had a couple of pretty gritty cases. Of course I can't speak about these cases but the issue of violence against women is very haunting, especially if you're in the trenches of it, and not easily shaken off.

Many people ask me how I can do this work. How can I each month support children, women, and men who have been raped, beaten, or abused in some fashion. I usually tell them the general reason why --- that violence against women specifically has been a cause of mine since I was in high school and I wanted to be more aggressive and proactive in my involvement in doing something about it subsequently finding out about this opportunity.

It definitely takes a certain type of person to do this work. I've never been one to take on another's problems as my own so in a sense I have an innate ability to form some sort of coping mechanism in dealing with these stories. I can provide support, information and I can be a liasion between the survivor and the police, medical staff, etc. without being overwhelmed by the gravity and raw pain of the situation. Still, I think most people (save sociopaths, egomaniacs and the sort) can't walk away from something like that without some sort of residue shock and anguish. I think I'm sensitive in this way and I often feel very heavy after these cases. I can still function in every day life-- laugh smile, balance my checkbook-- but I feel heavy. I feel like a weight is weighing in on my soul. I feel like that now --heavy.

We definitely live in a rape culture, a culture that fosters the continual abuse of women. The frequency of it is incredible. I hope to mold my heaviness into further action and activism that incorporates a global perspective. The face of one of the survivors in particular is still on my mind...I can't rid myself of her heaviness in particular. I wonder if I'll see her in my dreams...

"I have only one solution: to rise above this absurd drama that others have staged around me"

----- Franz Fanon