Where Has All the Empathy Gone?

I read an Instagram post earlier today about white people’s complicity in white supremacy and inherent racism. Below is an excerpt of one of the comments.

[The post has since been removed by IG because it “doesn’t follow their Community Guidelines on hate speech or symbols,” a common experience for People of Color posting on IG about white supremacy or their lived experiences of racism]:

“Black and POC folks will spend the majority of their fucking lives unlearning self-hatred, assimilation habits, and the like. And we will have to continue to work to deal with the issues we face every fucking day! Do not think for a second that you will unlearn white supremecy in a less amount of time!”

It occurred to me after the part about “unlearning self-hatred…” that there must be some common ground here, right? Like, I spent the better part of my life hating myself for being dark, hating my eyes for not being light, hating my hair for being so frizzy and fluffy and not “sun-kissed.”

I spent much of my life hating my culture (for making me so not white), hating that I wasn’t articulate enough for white people at work to pay attention/listen to me (which I worked really hard to rectify), fearing the judgment that would come from eating something “too ethic” or saying something “obviously ignorant” when both were simply expressions of my cultural identity.

I have to imagine these experiences are not completely foreign to white people.

Yes, I’m listing extreme experiences and yes our experiences will have been different, and yes a white person’s experiences in the Western world are made easier by the White Gaze ever resting upon them to remind them they are still and always most important in this world … but aren’t there similarities, too?

The feelings of not being good enough/good looking enough/beautiful enough? Not being heard or understood and feeling like it’s your fault? Feeling the anxiety and apprehension of being the different one in a group of people, for any reason?

Yes, the demeaning, belittling, spirit-fracturing experiences of people of color in a white supremacist world are magnified and multiplied, but, if you are a white person reading this, can’t you at least imagine? Empathize? If given only a drop, can you not at least taste the ocean?

So it gives me such great pause when I’m forced to consider how deep the blindness and brainwashing must go in someone’s mind to render People of Color as subhuman. Less. Than. Human. And, as such, unworthy/undeserving of the most basic care and respect. Living lives so devoid of feeling or significance that, compared to a white person’s life, ours matter not at all. Our voices matter not at all. Our experiences matter not at all. Our bodies, our families, matter not at all.

Clearly, people of color have struggles. But also, white people – you have yours. I don’t know how deep your racism runs, but if it’s rendered entire groups of people, entire cultures that have been around for thousands of years, entire continents of people of color as SUBHUMAN…if you’ve lost that much of your humanity, you’ve got your own struggles and you have a whole lot of work to do.


Put On Your Wings

Put on your wings.
Lighter than you remember.
Heavier than before.

Put on your wings.
Not so snug now,
but they will hold,
they will hold,
let them hold
you close
to their healing
battle scars.

Put on your wings.
They will fly for you, just
open your eyes, open,
let your tears dry
in the wind.

Sunburns never felt so sweet.

A Moon-Time Mourning

We have been wounded,

We have been stolen
from ourselves.

We bear the signs of torment
on our brows,
sweating out our laborious works
under the watchful eyes of
misogyny and a
cruel patriarchy.

We see the signs of heartbreak
on our breasts,
once splendid in their purity,
once honored for their life-giving nourishment,
now covered
and cut
and muzzled
and pressed
to appease
a male sexuality
that has forgotten
we were once a union.

We hide from the newfound shame
of our vulvas,
our vaginas,
our mighty clitorii.
We can hardly speak their names, now,
except in mockery and disdain.
Once doorways to Heaven,
gateways to the Divine,
they are now taunted and insulted,
cleansed and shaved,
our womanhood tossed away
for the obsession of prepubescence,
too often sold for lascivious profit,
too often mutilated and manipulated,
or openly grabbed at leisure
by the spiritless and the vulgar.

We weep for the wounds
in our wombs,
our sacred place,
our holy place,
where life begins,
where all of life has always begun.
(Do you know your uterus’ name? Do you nurture it,
care for it, like your lips, your hair, your eyelashes?).
Now desecrated and violated,
policed and regulated
by those who will never know
the great joys and pains
of having one, or losing one,
or using one.

We carry millennia of trauma
in our blood,
a blood that has flowed for generations
building and growing new people and new nations.
Our blood is now inconvenient, unbearable,
unspeakable except in pictures of Woman
frolicking on the beach
finding ways to pretend
the Moon does not move her blood
as her ancestors’ were moved.
As all we women are moved.
Our moon-blood is now the-blood-of-man.
This, too, has been taken;
this story no longer our own.

How I mourn, dear sisters.

How I grieve every moon time
in my womb,
in my blood,
in my breasts,
in my heart.

I mourn for who we once were,
who we could’ve been.

I mourn that we no longer stand naked in the sun,
wild as the wolves and the hawks,
secure in our womanhood,
rooted to the feminine Earth
to whose womb we will all return.
(We will ALL return.)

But in the bright light of the full moon
I also remember.

There was a time we were adored.

There was a time we were worshipped,
valued beyond the brightest gold,
cherished beyond the most precious gems.

We were honored for our ways.

We were exalted gatekeepers
of the Divine secrets and bearers
of the womanly mysteries.

There was a time we were
led by our wise women,
tutored by our sisters and aunties
with compassion and cooperation,
nourished by our mothers with bounteous breasts
in the daylight,

I remember.
My heart remembers.
My blood and womb and all of me remembers.

There was a time.

And so I hold that time in my heart,
in love,
in light,
in prayer,
so one day it may come again.

Mothering a Goddess

I will not tell her stories
of women’s evil manipulations
and devious deceptions upon the world.

I will not police her body or clothing
and teach her to needlessly manage
the behaviors of “helpless, unassuming” men.

I will not tell her she
should be a lawyer
should be a doctor
should be a housewife
should be a mother.

I will not teach her to
should her life away.

My voice is only to
encourage her
to use her own.

My guidance is only
meant to help her
hear her own.

My strong opinions will
challenge her to
forge her own.

My love will
llght the way
to her own.

To the One heart. To her deepest truths.

This is mothering a Goddess.

This is raising a Priestess of Divine Love
in this world.

This is my mothering.

In My Skin

My skin
has not been my home
since I toddled
on pudgy legs
and tumbled
through strawberry plants
all rosy and sweet.

Like a doll
I have been undressed,
and left bare and barren
on a mound
of airy pleasantries.

Like a puppet
I have been pierced,
and split,
and strung,
fingered and crumpled
by the careless
will of others.

But my womanhood
reclaims me.

My body
remembers home,
remembers its conception song.

In my skin again
I move like the tiger,
secure in my stripes.

In my skin again,
I breathe like the dragon,
burning away
the dead and the dying
falseness of me.

Let the doll lay down to rest
and bless her weary spirit.

Let the strings fray and fall
and bless them for their reign.

I am in my skin now.

I am a Sister of the Sun and the Sky now.

Stardust ripples on my skin.

My feet leave drops of moonlight for the wind to kiss.

I speak my own name.

I rest in the wombplace of my own love.

I am home.

Near to You

I say to you

My star
My heart
My guiding light
My pulse of life

If I ever go
I am still so near

Always near to you.

With every blink of your eyes,
every smile on your lips,
in your walk, in your cries,
in the strength of your hips
I walk beside you.

You are life.

I am love.

Always, I am near to you.

I run in your blood.
I dance in your braids.
I sing on your skin.
I bathe in your name.

I am always near,
in the joy,
in the fear.

My sweet love.

Forever, I am near to you.

You Do Not Belong Here

I’ve worn your shame
a long,
loooong time.

It cut into my shoulders,
stretched tight across my back,
and caved imy chest
so my breaths came in and out
as tiny puffs
of wretchedness.

Your criticism colored my face
a darker shade of brown
so you could hate it more,
blame it more,
see me as a monster of the night
instead of
a child of the light.

The lash of your tongue
and the beat of your
pious and
punishing drum
became the soundtrack of my
off track life.

Until I realized,
this is my life.

And you do not belong here.

Years I’ve spent
the mangled mess
of your twisted mind,
myself from
your parasitic

And as I’ve stripped myself
of all you want to think I am
or ought to be…

I found freedom.

I found breath.

I found a new home.

And you do not belong here.

I Don’t Know

I don’t know
upon what ground
your feet will fall
when I no longer walk by your side.

Fertile soil?
Shifting sands?
The crumbling concrete of a dying world trapped by its own misconceptions?

I don’t know
where the wind
will carry you
when I no longer hold your hand.

Gentle skies?
Blooming clouds?
Thunderous storms of lightning dancing to the sky-splitting clap clap clapping sounds?

This world,
my child,
this world
I cannot know,
not for sure.

I have no control
over the sand,
over the wind,
over the cruelty that will mark your soul, or
over the awe that will shake your bones.

I don’t know
what life you will live.

But I know you
were born to live it.

And I know how deeply
you are loved.

Falling Apart / In Love

Falling in love with you
has left me falling apart.

Pieces of me, old pieces, worn pieces
distorted and degraded pieces

keep falling away.

Parts of me that don’t know how to love, that
don’t know how to listen, how to be patient,
how to reach for kindness through fury and
blinding frustration; those parts of me

keep falling away.

Like a tree in the winter, I shed my withered leaves,
as my foliage

falls away.

Like a snake growing, molting, renewing and healing,
my outer shell

falls away.

Like a young butterfly searching, pushing, forcing
my way out of the darkness,
my cocoon

falls away.

And out of the fallen, discarded pieces and parts of me
steps a being
born of love
born of faith
born of the will to keep, forever,

falling in love

with you.

Birth of a Woman

When I was young
and a boy
broke my heart
for the very first time
I called my older brother
and begged him to come save me.

“Hurt him,” I said.

“Yell at him.”

“Beat him up.”

“Make him suffer the way I’m suffering now.”

My brother held my hands,
hugged me,
kissed my head,
wrapped me in his love
and said,

“You can handle this.”

“Whatever you need done,
you can do for yourself.”

“You don’t need me to save you.”

“You are strong.”

“You’re gonna be okay.”

“You’ll always be okay,
even if I’m not here.”

He was right.