“I’m black on the Inside!”
This is what my husband and I, humorously, tell ourselves any time we find ourselves in a position providing a sympathetic and compassionate point of view towards a “black” persons struggle in Life or when disciplining our children. 😉
However, as much as we joke about the issue the reality for us is true. We are Egyptian and Egypt is on the African continent. So we are by definition and blood; African. But, our Skin in not black. And, we also don’t have a box to check on the US Census even though we are “Not Quite White”.
But our thinking rings true with that of the ancients that had a non-racial self-perception and worldview. After all, race is a relatively new concept. Ancient civilizations, though they encountered and included people from many different parts of the world, did not make social distinctions based on physical appearance. They distinguished people according to customs and religion; not race.
But, issues of race and identity are certainly dominant factors in American social history. The dual legacies of slavery and massive immigration – and how they have intersected over time – deeply conditioned the ways in which the we as citizens relates to race, and how the government intercedes to classify the population.
That’s why I think Beyonce’s debut of her song I WAS HERE is so meaningful and symbolic.
Commonly known as Double Jeopardy being both black and a woman exposes a person to racism, sexism and cross-racial sexism. But, we live now in an era of people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and we are sometimes forced to make decisions not based on race or sex, but on what we actually believe in.
Up until today, America has defined the roles to which each individual should subscribe. It has defined “manhood” in terms of its own interests and “femininity” likewise. Therefore, an individual who has a good job, makes a lot of money and drives a Cadillac is a real “man,” and conversely, an individual who is lacking in these “qualities” is less of a man.
The ideal model that is projected for a woman is to be surrounded by hypocritical homage and estranged from all real work, spending idle hours primping and preening, obsessed with conspicuous consumption, and limiting life’s functions to simply a sex role.
We can see proof of this by focusing our attention on the debate of Women’s Health Care in this years debate. If you haven’t noticed the presidential campaign suddenly has turned into a fight for women’s votes, as the front pages of nearly every national newspaper. (See this WSJ story.)
Our life choices regarding our fertility and reproductive capabilities are made within, and often determined by the contexts of our life. We must reclaim women as whole persons who struggle not only for access to reproductive health, but as people who fight for economic, political and social rights. As advocate’s for women’s rights, we have a responsibility to re-define and broaden the discourse that dismembers women.
This journey toward women’s personhood is a long and arduous one. Taking it together can lead us to a place where we begin to recognize women as whole, living persons.
Focusing only on a person’s reproductive organs is a preposterous notion. Shifting the discourse to allow for a more complex discussion of women as whole people will begin to change the way we all think about respecting and protecting the sanctity of life.
By recognizing women as fully alive, and wholly human, our bodies will cease to be public property. This journey is worth taking, and one we must embark on together.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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