I made the decision that I was going to leave the United States in 2016 after reading an article about a bill proposed by two male Republican representatives in the Illinois legislature. The bill stated that if an unwed mother does not provide the name of the father of her child, the child would not be issued a birth certificate. This was done in an effort to prevent the mother from applying for financial assistance, because you know, every single mother must get financial assistance.
The bill was an assault on women, mothers and yet another example of how much disdain resides in the souls of the White male patriarchy in the United States. At that moment, I had enough and I distinctly remember starting my official countdown to departure on Facebook—#700 and something days and counting.
Those 700 and something days went by quickly and now here I am across the Atlantic watching the daily drama in the United States unfold. Thankfully, I’ve been spared the 24-hour news cycle, but the articles and outrage evident in my friends’ Facebook feeds has been enough to make me mourn for our nation and for all of those who are so deeply impacted by Dr. Ford’s story, Kavanaugh’s privileged petulance and Collins’ lack of courage.
And three thousand, six hundred and twenty-five miles of ocean did nothing to prevent my own triggers from going off. Many stories have zoomed in on Dr. Ford’s memory of the boys laughing and that made me think about the movie, The Accused, which contains one of the most horrific and realistic rape scenes on film. Loosely based on a true story, I found myself googling the woman, Cheryl Araujo, about whom the movie was based and sadly discovered that four years after the incident, after she had been ostracized from her community, she died in a car accident as a result of drunk driving.
Then, I was reminded about a time when I was studying for finals with a friend in his fraternity house. One of his “brothers” caught sight of us and started goading him in the hallway, assuming that I was not within earshot, “Once you go Black, you never go back. Once you go Black, you never go back”, he chanted. Twenty-five years later and I can still hear his voice and feel my dignity just stripped away. One stupid, drunk White boy managed to sexualize and racialize one of my final academic endeavors at one of the best institutions in the country in a matter of seconds.
Sexual assault fundamentally changes who you are and who you were meant to be. I believe this. I know this. The smallest of indignities slowly eat away at your ability to trust. They make you question the perceptions you and others have of yourself. The more serious traumas short-circuit the brain, cause post-traumatic stress and worst of all, they completely sever one’s connection to their intuition. The healing process takes a lifetime.
Watching sexual assault take center stage in the context of a Supreme Court confirmation was almost surreal, as the experience for women is personal and lives in the deep shadows of her psyche. To watch the patriarchy be so dismissive and entitled in their unrelenting quest for power was disheartening at best and makes me once again question the very content and existence of their souls.
So from the outside looking in, the United States disappoints as the usual “masters” of the universe take what they believe they are entitled to without accountability or reflection. As children sit in cages and Black men are shot in their own homes, women are reminded of their place. But, we mustn’t forget that this was the intent of the forefathers’ design. The United States is working exactly as it was intended. All of the fights for equality and justice were not part of the blueprint, just pesky blips on the radar screen.
I really don’t think I can ever go back.