Thursday, July 17, 2008

NO. You Do Not Have The Right To Grab My Ass

I am fucking tired of walking through the streets of Oakland and being judged as racist for avoiding groups of black men*. I'm avoiding men of all races throughout the day. Every fucking time I have to walk anywhere, there's always got to be a creepy guy who gives me one of those looks that just forces me to either skip a bus stop or walk on the curb of the street next to the cars whizzing by. I have even taken out of the way detours walking to some of my destinations because I am afraid of being cornered by a man.

So I come out of work today and then I see a group of three black men, at least six feet tall, loitering in a *four foot wide* space between a building and the bus stop bench. If I walk through, I would be forced to squeeze my way through three men. So when I decide instead to make a really obvious detour in front of the bus stop, walking like a damn ballerina on the cub of the street, I hear:

"HEY. Why you walkin' all the way over there?" It was accusatory. It was me being light skinned and supposedly *afraid* of black people. It was obvious by the way he said it, and I get it a lot. I was thinking, fuck, are you kidding me?

Man, fuck you. Fuck you so much because of that. What, being black is the only possible element in my decision? Man screw you. You act like you don't know what you are doing. Three fucking penises in a four foot wide space. I don't care about the color of your penises, I care that you *have* them!

This is something I've gone through, not something I just imagined in my supposedly racist mind. I was talking on my damn cell phone outside...during lunch, mind you. Pure daylight, but distracted. And then all of a sudden...boom. Full on ass grabbing. His hand slowly sliding back off. eeehhhhh. I was frozen. The guy, yes he was black, but he was a man. A man who was more than six feet tall and took advantage of me. "Ohh I just had to grab that." NO YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO GRAB MY ASS. No, you do not have the right to come closer to me right now. Get the fuck away, I am calling the police. God.

It took me two months to get over that shit (and I know that it was nothing compared to what too many other women go through). Nevertheless, I went through two months of complete self disgust. It took me half a year to ever wear those jeans again. Now I panic if I forget my pepper spray at pepper spray was the only consolation I could find after that.

I work at a place where I hear the most intense stories of criminal acts of violence against immigrant women. Rape. Sexual assault. Child abuse. Abusive men who use rape to *prove* that the woman hasn't been with another man. Or who take advantage of undocumented teenage children because the mother is busy working two jobs. No matter how long the staff have been working there, we all have the same disgusted reactions when we get new clients. "How can anyone abuse a child like that?" "How could anyone even think of doing something like that to a woman?" Etc.

So this is my final two cents:

All men need to be conscious of their sex 24/7. Just as much as white men need to realize that they are both racialized and sexualized men need to realize they are not just racialized. They are also sexualized. Hey, I'm not saying some don't, but from what I keep experiencing, many don't even realize it. Guys, have you ever heard of that little dating tip about never taking a girl on a first date in an isolate/desolate/closed space? The translation of that tip is: "Realize that you have the penis and that a girl doesn't want to fear being raped. She doesn't know you, so how does she know if you're gonna keep it in your damn pants or not?"

It's not fair. We women are under constant awareness of our sex and our environment. I had to learn to no longer talk on my cell phone or be distracted in any other way when walking in the city. I also learned to take detours. I have even walked right past my own home when there is any man behind me. In fact just yesterday I did this and it was some white guy in a suit and a briefcase. I trust no strange men.


*[EDIT: I removed "because they are black," since it came out of my incoherent ranting at the time of writing the piece. On a side note, if my rant was not clear, this should sum it up--I am not avoiding black men more than white or any other race when I feel that I suspect an unsafe situation]


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