It was only when I finally accepted the reality of my situation within the dominant paradigm that things started to really shift and rearrange themselves in my internal landscape. It occurred once I gave voice to the understanding that I would never be fully acceptable regardless of whether I followed every rule laid out before me or I ignored them, whether I shut up or spoke up, whether I was naughty or nice, whether I loved or hated. Sure, the language and particular brand of oppression and punishment varied, but the established and reinforced image of “unacceptability of everything associated with Robyn because she must make amends for the terrible misfortune of not being born white” was overwhelmingly persistent.
This is not an idea I picked up via fanciful and naive notions combined with a misunderstanding about society, rather it’s a perspective that was deliberately drummed (or beaten) into me by various people and circumstances throughout my life, such as the White Australia policy intended. The actuality of my being in this society, in this time, in this body, with this mind and animated by this spirit is considered to be some kind of offense to creation, or likened as such, by many a supreme white god during a brief moment of you’ve-got-a-chip-on-your-shoulder righteous indignation and hold-the-liniment-while-I-deliver a tongue-lashing clarity. And I’m talking about the non-racist supreme white gods, don’t get them confused with those other types(!).
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
—Audrey Lorde, A litany for survival
I’m not going to gloss this…it hurt. To fully accept the level of oppression you have been living under when you are not literally running for your life every day, will likely plunge a person into some kind of temporary depression or anger, grief, whatever. It hurt like I didn’t think I would survive it, and to be honest I am not so sure I did. Eventually, it did stop hurting so acutely, as anyone who’s been through anything can tell you. Once the shock and devastation subsided, after the tears and rage exhausted themselves, beyond all that pain and self-pity and many miles past the “why can’t it be different?” phase – I began to understand simple things.
If everything I do is already tainted because it is done by me, it follows that I am free to be and do as I please. Let that taint be my insignia.
It surprises me that there is no more worrying about avoiding potential consequences and no more wasting my energy on frivolous attempts to be understood, welcomed or appreciated. There are no more external masters to please as they have already proven that they cannot be pleased by the likes of me. My days are no longer populated with “Yessirs” unless I totally accept that behaviour in the moment as my choice and my honour. More importantly, I am now in a position to set my own standards and to judge, to draw boundaries and define borders, to erase and replace them at will, but never to be judged. No, I absolutely do not confer upon my oppressors the right to judge me.
It is inevitable in a divide and conquer approach to discrimination, that I would have no peers, so who would be left to judge me in any meaningful way? Of course, I am not oblivious, all manner of people will have a crack at passing judgement on their fellow humans, but these judgements are well below the standard and level of humanity to which I aspire, thus rendering them entirely irrelevant within the context of my life. Similarly, my judgements are irrelevant to rural families, sporting heroes and every single one of the political candidates in the recent election, to point out a few. We are each operating in entirely different reality frameworks.
The mental image I hold for this set of experiences is akin to climbing a mountain through all kinds of weather, until the moment you break through the cloud barrier into pure sunlight and clear air. At this point, we become invisible to those who remain at the base of the mountain.
I posit that there is no greater gift for freedom than to be considered utterly inconsequential and therefore to be consistently overlooked.
I ask you in all sincerity, is there a greater advantage to the cause for freedom than spectacularly failing to inspire people to want to use me or enslave me to serve their own agendas?
My measures and markers for success are no longer dependent on the persistence of white supremacy as a social norm, and in this manner the race war within has ended and the human journey has begun.