No body is policed more than the black woman body. The black woman body is all wrong: too loud, too black, too big, too impenetrable, but too often penetrated, too coveted, too assumed, too bought, bartered, and re-purposed. The world has developed a taste for the black woman body and we are in danger of never recovering it. We teach our daughters to hide the body, disguise it, refuse it, give it over to the gods of men, and when that fails us, and it always will, we teach them to wrap it in shame and– if they are good girls– to apologize for it until the end of their days.
What happens to the black woman body under the constant impact of misogyny and racism? We have helmets and bracing garments to protect against assaults to the head, joint, and muscle, but what about the silent injuries? What about the impact of fear or social isolation? Constant worry and trepidation? Where do all the choked-back sobs go? In which part of the female body does a sleepless night and fight response accumulate?
When the doctor told me I was sick, I squared off with him. I told him he was wrong. I didn’t have a malignant tumor. What I had was the memory of a childhood assault and living through a parent’s 20-year addiction; the guilt of not protecting my own daughter from childhood assault; the work of escaping a marriage to a sociopath who stalked, terrorized, and drove me into poverty and paranoia. What I had was bone-deep trauma masquerading as a cluster of bad cells.
I’ve gone out looking for my body, gathered up that which is broken like delicate and dark shells scattered along the shore. I have un-braided a skin stained with fingerprints that do not belong to me. I will not carry these crimes. These crimes are not my own.