Brown Girl in the World

I worry for my daughters. I suppose that’s odd, as I don’t have children, but I worry nonetheless. I worry for those little brown girls in my future and I wish, how I wish, that I could change everything now. The memory of my brown girlhood is still fresh in my mind and I know I won’t be able to save my children from all of it. I can’t even save the little brown girls out there now, asking their mommas why they had to be born so ugly, so wrong. Little brown girls wishing for the bluest eye and that fairytale hair, like those Disney princesses and all the real princesses you’ve ever heard talked about have. Little girls dreaming of being a real girl.

When I see these girls, the one’s living that girlhood, I wonder about them. I wonder, do they hate themselves as I did? Are things better? Becuase, in the name of all I hold holy, I hope it is better. I’m told it is, at least marginally better, in some areas, but I worry. Who is there to tell the brown girl she is of worth? I hope that she has parents to remind her, that she has friends, aunts and uncles to remind her, but that wall of love has a sea of hate to hold up against. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times your mother told your are a lovely pretty girl, when even when browsing products for your hair, you come across products named things like Fair and Lovely. It chips at that wall, constantly.

I don’t know why I worry about this now, so far from any possibility of children. I only know it took me years to rebuild myself and my walls are still ragged and worn. I want to write books, with brown girls are the heroes, as the lovely, smart, resourceful, bad ass leads. I want to rewrite ads, shows, books and so much more, so they don’t tell brown girls exactly what is wrong with them, how they’ll never have intense eyes, never be that soccer star,  that brilliant scientist, a spy, or fight aliens, dragons, or vampires. I want them to know their stories are real too and worth being told.

I can’t and it pains me. I can’t force the world to take whiteness off its pedestal. I have only this blog and a novel brewing in my mind. I can only do this, only support artists, writers, directors who seem to be headed to the right place. Teaspoons, to build back up innumerable walls. I can only hope that someday, those walls won’t be needed at all.

We also have a right to be in public.

(originally posted at ONTD_F)

I’m disabled. I do weird things that bother other people sometimes. I have trouble controlling the volume of my voice. I use a service dog. I’m easily distracted and have tendency to become very intensely focused on one thing. I hate certain buildings and noises, they make me want to crawl out of my skin or scream until it stops. Sometimes, fear sinks its claws into me.

These things bother abled people quite a bit. Ever since childhood, I’ve been judged for not preforming humanity correctly. Reading at table to avoid a freakout is disrespectful. Refusing to look people in the eye must mean I’m hiding something. Making my mom order for me because I couldn’t stand to talk to strangers was freaky and just not right. It can not be allowed stand and thus, I had to be molded, to become more normal.

I preform better now. Most people can’t tell I’m not neurotypical anymore unless I’m having a panic attack or am manic. I haven’t had a screaming fit in public in years. Yet, I’m still off. Even the things I do to cope, so I won’t behave in a manner that will end with me being locked back up, are judged far too often.

This is ableism.

Knitting through stressful situations, or to keep focused seems to really bother abled people and non-knitters. Out of courtesy to other people with attention problems, I even try to use quiet needles and keep my knitting under a desk if I’m sitting at one. Yet, every time I’ve been scolded for not paying attention, I’m simply told I’m being distracting, without any understanding that I’d be willing to work around other people’s needs. Often I’m pretty sure I’m not being scolded for being distracting, but for the possibility of it. Because what I need to do to get by is weird, so of course it’s my fault when people gawk.

I have a service dog, in training. His name is Figaro and he’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. The general public is not so sold on him. Every time we go out, snarky comments start up and I live in area that’s pretty service dog friendly, thanks to the efforts of our program and other handlers. This behavior isn’t even coming from gatekeepers, but from people who seem generally angry if they see Figaro. Admittedly, he’s not prefect, but his worst behavior is slipping out of a heel or popping up from a down. The act of him simply lying under a table while I eat seems to be an affront to the proper way of doing things.

These are just stories from my life. Other people with disabilities deal with other situations, some much, much worse than mine. Policing of behavior is a chronic thing for many PWD, regardless of the actual effect of their behavior of other people. The community has its standards to uphold and some girl having her dog lay on her to calm her down is too  weird to let stand. People end up locked up because of these standards. People end up dead.

One would think feminists, who I hear aren’t too keen on the policing of womens’ behavior, would see the parallels in policing the behavior of other marginalized people. Really, truth be told, the feminist movement has never been very good at being inclusive, at understanding intersecting oppressions. Therefore, I’m not very surprised, just further disappointed.

All people, have the right to public spaces, even people who annoy you. Sometimes, because of conflicting access needs, compromises need to be made, but shunning people who don’t preform correctly isn’t compromise. It’s just more of the same bigotry. We no longer have ugly laws, but people still attempt to enforce the spirit of them. Ableism isn’t feminism, so if you’re abled, actually listening to PWDs? It’s a capital idea.