Friday, September 11, 2009

An email from Vanessa

via raven's eye


On Monday a new friend and I went to the doctor together. At the end of both of our appointments, we ventured to the gas station that neighbored the clinic in search of an ATM as the clinic did not accept cards.

As we walked in I noticed, to our left, a white woman and a Latino man standing very close to each other. With intense eyes, they acted like cats readying to pounce on each other. I couldn’t tell if their glare, their dance almost, was playful or serious. Either way, I noted it and we continued inside. Once we had retrieved our money and a bottle of water we left the gas station.

By the time we got outside the woman and the man were fighting. Screaming. Hitting each other. The man, most importantly, was beating this woman. Beating her. In public. At 12 pm on a Monday. In a gas station parking lot.

Fifteen men, all clumped together at the periphery of the parking lot, just watched. Like it was a television show. They did nothing. They watched him beat her. We panicked, looked at each and immediately decided not to call the police. We also noted that we were the only other women there and ran inside to tell the people working the store. Even though we didn’t call the police, we still told an “authority” aka someone we thought could intervene. Their response was a non-response. They peered outside from behind the counter and decided to do nothing. I was stunned, unsure what to do but also really terrified to put myself in the middle of this man beating this woman. We then ran next door and told the people at the clinic and one woman
ran outside. By that time it was “over” and she was in a big red truck, with this white man, trembling, holding back tears, with blood and red marks on her face and neck.

But her person, this white guy, the one who she drove off with, didn’t do a god damn thing. Watched her get beat, like the rest of those men. Once it was “over” we asked her if she was ok, gave her some water, squeezed her hand, asked her if she needed to go to the clinic. After
she drove off, we both sat in the car not really knowing what to say to each other. I shook my head vigorously. Almost trying to shake it out. Shake out the noise of him beating her. The noise. Shake it out of my ears. My mouth. Wherever. It gushed out of my eyes, in the–form
of tears–later in the day. Among many other questions one or both of us asked “How could we have better responded?” Did we react as best we could?” “How can we be better prepared for situations like these in the future?”

(When I retold this story to my parents, holding back tears of my own, my father said, “if this had happened in Iraq they would have killed him right there in the street.” I do not know how accurate his statement is and of course murdering the man is not the only alternative but to me this is a far more acceptable response than just watching a woman get beat.)

The aforemtioned story brings me to this:

I have noticed a marked difference in how I move throughout the world ever since Kate and I got held up and ever since I went to Palestine. I’m more scared at night. I haven’t gone back to EAV at night since then. I’m more jumpy. I just feel more vulnerable (which for me means more scared)—as a woman, as a queer, as an Arab. I never felt vulnerable in Atlanta. For me, not feeling vulnerable meant not falling for the racist myth that I am always in danger of sexually
voracious, inherently violent Black men. I still refuse to believe this deeply racist, White Supremacist lie. However, I now realize it was also because my own lived experiences (not my family’s but of course trauma gets passed down in the blood and bones) and my reality as a middle class person with a certain extent of white passing privilege hadn’t warranted that much fear. (Am I making sense?) But between seeing a shot gun pointed at my love and me, witnessing and hearing story after story after story of omnipresent Israeli state violence and the threat of said violence in Palestine, and then seeing this woman get beat I feel different.

More anxious. And just plain scared.

But what is to be done? ;) Yes I could go to therapy and work on this as an individual but rather, how do we, together, work toward living in a world where we don’t always feel unsafe but also don’t always have to call the police if something does happen? I don’t have any answers. I just know that I’m committed to creating a world (shit, a city!) I want to live in that doesn’t ignore how insidious state violence is but that also recognizes our individual and collective vulnerability (as differently-abled people, as queers, as trans people, as women, as people of color, as allies, as poor people, as immigrants, as survivors) and most importantly our incredible power in looking out for each other while not further criminalizing entire groups of people. And I know there are some amazing people doing work in Atlanta around safety, how to respond to violence and
transformative justice. But what do we do in the meantime, like now? Like tomorrow? When we are in dangerous situations, when we witness others in dangerous situations or when people we love and/or are in community in have their safety jeopordized.

What do y’all feel about this? How do y’all feel about your own safety? Other people’s safety? What do you need to feel safe? What does safety even mean for each of us and how can we compile our needs and formulate something. What exactly I have no fucking clue. Maybe safety plans? Shit, what in the hell is a safety plan?

Are there models in other cities we can work from that anyone knows of? Or are there models in this city that other people are already working on?

If others would be open to having a conversation around this and so much more sometime within the next several months, I would be so so so into it. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

In Community,

PS– Of course, if you’d like, pass this on to whomever.