I just read this blog entry. Warning of graphic descriptions of male violence against women, in both the quoted exerpts and the link.
This afternoon, I decided to do a few loads of laundry. After throwing a few lighter necessities into my laundry bag, I headed to my elevator bank, stopping for a moment to be grateful that I live in a building with three elevators. (This is something anybody who has ever lived in a New York City walk-up does after they move into a building with an elevator, by the way, especially when doing errands.) I pressed the call button and waited for the middle elevator to descend from the floors above. When the doors opened, I was pleasantly startled to see one of my neighbors standing there.
"Oh! Hello, how are you?" I chirped, a smile of greeting on my face. My neighbor, a stunning older Latina woman with pale golden skin, high cheekbones and a riot of sandy curls, nodded curtly to me. I was taken aback: typically, my neighbor greets me with her own dazzling smile in return, warmly, with sustained eye contact. She's usually TOO nice with her hello, in the overly-solicitous manner that lighter-skinned women of color greet darker-skinned ones, in that way that says, "Please don't hate me on sight. I'm not a stuck-up bitch. I'm not looking down on you. I'm your sister, too." (I think this is part of why I like her; having been on the giving and receiving end of this dynamic at different points in my life, I understand. It's hard to explain to anyone who isn't a Black woman.) Slightly put-out, I settled slightly behind her into the opposite corner of the elevator, wondering what had crawled up HER butt and died.
That's when I saw it. A puffy lump of crescent-shaped malevolence, a horrible visual cacophony of purples, reds and smudgy black. It peeked out from under the Chanel aviators she wore, razzing any onlookers, marring her beauty. My eyes widened as I looked at the rest of her face: her bottom lip, slightly split, appeared mostly-healed. It tightened as she drew herself up to her full height, stiffened her spine, and patently ignored me, exhaling loudly, as if I had asked the question that resounded so loudly in that tiny space. "What the FUCK are YOU lookin' at, bitch?!" her posture screamed. My eyes, dazed, floated to her shoulders, rounding in towards her chest, protecting her heart. "I know what you see," they whispered. I looked away, focused on the door until we reached the lobby. She got out first, high heels clipping a sassy echo in the hallway that defied judgments levied against the walker. I remained, dazed and frozen: I had forgotten why I had come downstairs. The door closed, while I stood there, trying to remember where I was going. On my back, my bag slipped a little, nudging me back to reality. I pressed the "Door Open" button and stepped out, heading towards the cool quiet of the empty laundry room.
My neighbor’s partner is a tall, broad, gorgeous dark-skinned Black man. They have been together for a while. If he is indeed responsible, I doubt this is the first time. I know that I will not report this to the police. I know that so many elements of this situation fit neatly into a racist narrative. I know that I alone cannot save my neighbor. I know that my neighbor would fiercely reject any attempts I made to discuss this directly. I know that more than a little vitriol would be thrown my way (i.e., “Do you even HAVE a man? Then don’t tell me how to deal with mine!”). I meant it when I said that I didn’t want to write about this. There has been so much buzz about this lately because of recent pop star events (I’m not recounting them here). I really don’t want to add to the huge body of online work that is discussing this right now. Everything I have to say, anything I have to say, has been said. And better. Scroll down a little and take a look at my Elizabeth Mendez Berry links. SHE did this brilliantly. I cannot. Frankly, it’s too close.
My clothes are clean, and now, so is my conscience. I have compiled a list in a document of hotlines, orgs and associations for victims of domestic violence. I’m going to print them and post them in the lobby and on the bulletin board. I may even make copies of “Love Hurts” and leave a stack downstairs by the mailboxes. I’m not sure how effective any of this will be. I’m not even sure the building management will let me do any of it. But I have to try. Because Doing Nothing in the face of this kind of evil amounts to collusion.