I didn’t believe my friend when she was raped.
The last few years in Tucson have been a struggle to survive. With the battles in our communities and legislation targeting brown people of color on indigenous land – we have nearly killed each other and the work and the fight and the fighting has made us all sick – susto. It deserves writing that will never end now that it has started. Through it all, I now reflect on two moments when I know I fucked up. I monumentally fucked up and hurt other women. When it first happened, she was and we all were sorting through statements and over ‘what does this mean to this movement’ shit. She may have at first said something(s) and later they changed which isn’t uncommon with sexual violence and doesn’t delegitimize what happened to her or her voice at any given moment. Sexual violence is haunting and what happened to me with a family member fifteen years ago took me almost a year to tell anyone about. My mom. She knew and never questioned me aloud, but my family raged in confusion. My grandparents led my smear campaign.
‘The divorce and custody battles were just really hard on her she has got to be making this up for attention. Her father, our son would never do this.’
But he did and I still can’t name it. I never filed a report, never told a counselor, I didn’t bring it up in custody hearings, and haven’t explained to my friends who insist that I masturbate but I DON’T FUCKING WANT TO because touching my naked body disgusts me (for a number of reasons) and I haven’t talked about it with anyone the way I go over it with myself. I’m sure it accounts for my inability to have physical intimacy, even hugs are uncomfortable when they’re unwanted and they’re usually unwanted.
After this past summer I even wondered if it’s why V couldn’t force a sexual connection or some shit with me. I questioned myself over and over.
The loneliness of something I can’t even verbalize that was happening in my subconscious made me suicidal about things I could verbalize and understand like break ups. So my moment of attempted overdose or short episode with antidepressants seem unusually common and associated with the moments they took place in but I’ve come to understand that I carry my trauma everyday regardless if I acknowledge it and it shapes my behavior and response.
When she said she was raped, she didn’t use that language, in those first days she didn’t say to me, “I was raped”. She told me and one of my best friends at the same time. I refuse to go over details of what was said and will limit my details because the space to go over this with all of us – belongs to her. Arguably some friends (a word that has become interchangeable to also include: community member, co-worker, social justice acquaintance) thought they probably just had sex, that some of what happened was consensual and she didn’t want to follow through with it and so it was date rape, which apparently isn’t rape-rape in our disgusting shaming language for those who drink alcohol or like to fuck. There is nothing wrong with liking to have sex. We were all friends, all us comadres, going through a lot of shit in Arizona – we deserved to get dressed super cute and go out for drinks. There were nights we drank A LOT. I was going through a break up and thought I was going to die, as usual. Reflecting on the time we had as comadres, a tight inseparable group, it forever transformed me. My home girls, mujeres, had my back and I mostly healed that break up and got through it because of them and jäger bombs. We always took care of each other, took cabs, three or more of us, had our usual spots, and didn’t fuck around with guys. We went together and left together and slept over at each other’s places. On “Chican@ prom night”, a huge night for our community, it was different. We didn’t carefully plan our night besides our outfits; we’d be with hundreds of our friends and community members. I suppose we assumed we’d be safe. That there was no way something could happen to any of us around movement men we worked with. We didn’t plan designated drivers or anything like that, the night was predictable except for the predatory behavior of one, who now, obviously had a plan for his night.
We all went to a film premiere and then to a local bar for drinks and dancing. He was a creep. He was drunk and sloppy and grabbing on women half his age, he wanted to dance; he wanted to celebrate and be the center of attention. Women’s attention. I left before they did. We asked around about rides and getting people home and left.
In the next two days I found out something went intolerably wrong, and I didn’t know what to think of it all. There were talking circles and whispers and meetings and time moved slowly but it also went quickly. Inescapably slow and quick, so I have a hard time remembering each day. I think for the most part there were young women who never believed her (and still don’t), young women who always have, and those of us who thought nothing at all — who wanted to be neutral.
Neutral on rape.
The privilege of not knowing what to do and checking out. Checking out was easy. There was so much work to do as usual. Subtlety, my best friend and I combined the work we had been doing with work that needed to be done along lines of gender and sexual violence. She was more on point than I was (usually) and I basked in her energy and kind of said “fuck off” to everything else.
A month later after some unnecessary drama, I chose to think what everyone else in Tucson seemingly thought and I pulled the same shit my grandparents had done to me and like my former male teachers and people I looked up to, my only concern was Ethnic Studies. What does this mean for our comunidad, our fight? In my eyes, she did something that allowed for me to minimize her almost instantly and we fought over email exchanges that were cc’d to other young folks and that was that. I was Team Ethnic Studies (how the fuck did that happen and why wasn’t I just team myself?).
Folks around the country would call me as a respectable mujer and ask if they could show the film to raise money, they heard there was controversy and wanted to hear it from me. I would call one of my teacher/mentor from the movement and let them know and usually my answer was “yes– Yes, if I were you I’d show the movie.” I’m really struggling now with how sick it all sounds because it was all sick. But I was willing to do anything for Ethnic Studies, ANYTHING. I would’ve then and I will do as much now as long as I’m not negotiating anyone’s dignity in the process.
I remember when he called me, from Save Ethnic Studies, in a panic. He knew then the power I held so he manipulated me and convinced me she was enemy #1.
I’m just a man and I have no say in this, but you’re trucha and if she gets this around, she has eighty some page report on our community. This will destroy us.
Of course he needed me to engineer a solution, a way to exploit young people in the name of social justice education. And I was a pawn in this modern nationalist epic novel. I could be the down ass trucha home girl who was loyal to her Raza, gets arrested, cooks comida, works with the young students and is never mentioned in a history book twenty years from now. This is all so romantic to a young organizer. And I loved everyone involved in this fucked up mess. I even sat down with two women I thought would jump me with words, one being the perpetrator’s partner (I realize I haven’t mentioned that yet, yes he had/s a partner which complicated the situation even further) and tried being – neutral. When we met, she gave me a gift, a fox and chocolates. My friends told me not to do it; she wanted me to be a bridge. I am a bridge in so many ways, I understand that. If I could make peace I would but only recently have I realized that I can’t now and I couldn’t then. Even if my education taught me that I could change the world, I can’t take on every task or every hit that comes my way.
But I still did. I tried to organize a meeting with everyone at the table – all the comadres at least. Like, ‘let’s sorts this out as women.’ I was still in this mentality like it was a women’s job, my job, to sort through shit, find what was good and exemplify behavior for our community. I do this now, but I also do shit that exemplifies anger and lust and human shit. And CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW it’s not just my job to give a shit because I’m identified as a woman? So in the end, this was all silenced. She went away, literally – she moved out-of-state and out of the country and slowly the whispers became softer and softer. Our community dragged itself forward but this became the norm for all of us. Everything that happened then and since deserves endless words and stories or lessons for future generations and this generation right now.
During Freedom Summer, organizing became mundane and everyday. There were moments of hope and of accomplishing what we once had but what happened and was silenced will also be told.
I had a long emotional affair that was overdue to become physical and at summer time it did. When I kissed V I thought of my friend. In feeling like a slut – it was the same friend who named us both sluts after all, I would think of her. I would also think of his girlfriend. My political analysis of what we owe one another shifted in moment’s time. When he tried to fuck me when we were drunk it was because over all of this that I was able to know anything at all about consent and that I can change my mind. I CAN CHANGE MY MIND. When I’m drunk or he’s drunk or I can change my mind whenever the fuck I want. Or I can say no or I can say yes to this and no to that and seriously HE JUST SHOULDN’T HAVE TRIED WHEN I WAS DRUNK to begin with.
L and C are now my friends. I think.
L and I had lunch, she poured over journals and emails and texts. We spent a day together too, she’s been around now. It makes me feel alive. It is because of her resilience and resistance that I gather the will to act. When I hug her I don’t understand how she even lets me touch her. Hug her, to be around her glowing smile or share words with me… words to share with any of us.
C, she came to an event recently, she donated ten dollars to malintZINE. She hugged me. I thought her text messages were strategy, to get me to have lunch with her, so she can rip me apart, deservingly, although that’s never been her style. If she wanted to give me a regañada, I would sit and answer whatever she needed me to for her healing. She said she respects me still. I don’t understand. I lent her a book. My copy of Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her.
“The half life of love is forever”
Maybe these things mean not much to anyone other than myself; possibly them. I have and will continue to reflect on these past few years and my own behavior. It is through my reflection that I need to account for what has happened and document. Accountability to me is speaking my truth. Acknowledging the ways in which I can and need to grow. Responsibility is challenging myself to behave in ways that will cause growth to happen. I have a responsibility to L and C to do work from here on that moves towards – NEVER AGAIN. It wasn’t through ethnic studies that I learned in lak ech, tu eres mi otro yo. But through two ethnic studies alumni, both younger than me, who offered me forgiveness and room to grow. Creating some Chicana girl code of accountability and responsibility. To taking care of each other and never assuming anyone else will. To loving other women and loving yourself.
How was the Chicano Pope chosen? Did I miss the anointment ceremony? The Chicano Pope proudly grinds the biggest axe to attack those who do not heed his mandates and demand for complicity. This is a call for the Chicano Pope to thoughtfully engage in the issue of accountability. After all, it was the Chicano Pope who wrote, “What is so frustrating about politics is that there is so little accountability. We can continually screw up as my students would say and are not accountable. Because we as a society are ahistorical, we are unable to sort out the lies that our leaders tell us or correct our own errors…The biggest obstacle to furthering a Chicano, Latino, or anything you want to call it agenda is a lack of accountability.” Wise words but is the Pope exempt from heeding them?
The Chicano Pope feigns objectivity and freely admits that “In times like these I have found myself trying too hard, and becoming a motivational speaker instead of a teacher, relying on what some may call hyperboles to make my point.” He also proclaims that he is “protective of the legacy of the sixties.” Is the Chicano Pope trying to suppress intellectual inquiry that does not fit into his hero making narratives? Are the accusations that Reies López Tijerina molested one of his children off limits? Or does this history not matter? A few months ago the Chicano Pope openly encouraged us to embrace another “martyr” by boasting, “Based on my reading of history the stock of Sean Arce will reach epic levels. If he were living in California or Texas there would have been at least a half dozen corridos (ballads) written about him.” The Chicano Pope has been silent on this issue, why?
Maybe the Pope “dreads” going to NACCS in San Antonio because for the last two years he has used the organization to peddle charlatan leaders who silenced and threatened those who disagreed in Tucson. Or does this history not matter? People donated to ethnic studies and defense funds because the Chicano Pope had blessed these fundraising efforts. Are these organizations going to offer yearly reports that detail where all the funds were spent? The Chicano Pope asked us to donate to these causes and held the collection basket in his hands as he blessed those who reached into their pockets. Where is the accountability?
The Chicano Pope has made it clear that, “If people would be held accountable, this would put people on notice.” Chicano Pope, this is your notice. You have sold Chican@s short and out. The paper trail you leave in this lifetime grows each time you lead the Chicano choir in nationalist hymns and engage in perverted reasoning aimed at silencing dissent in order to achieve a “Wonderful Life.” What you offer is delusion.
Stop using smoke and mirrors to encourage ignorance and to discourage deeper examinations into shameful, antifeminists and homophobic histories. Stop casting stones against your CSU Northridge colleagues, NACCS and anyone who disagrees with you. And, realize that you do not have the power to dictate where outrage should be directed. This message is also a call for the Chicano Pope to examine his conscience. Stop seeking conformity. Embrace new ways of thinking and listen to youth instead of preaching to them. This is hard to hear because your narcissism gets in the way, but Chican@ Studies will not crumble if you retire. New forms and people will step in and build on what it is and once was. And, yes, it might even be better. Don’t be a Chicano Pope who presses for the conservative and traditional.
It is time.
Channeling my destruction,
The interrogation of assumption Validating a world for most complacent The realities are tangible and often serene Mis suenos
Mi cuerpo A justification that is omniscient
Anzaldua You, I, reach an utopia
an epitome for gender deconstruction
A mestiza anatomy esto es todo lo quiero
suenos dream and I dream
an insurgence to intersections I will venture but never leave los mayas
los aztecas y los mexica todos los grita “Fuck you i won’t do what u tell me” por que? ya basta
ya tu sabes el mente machismo es el mente chiquito,
mi corazón, mi alma, mi cuerpo grito know your enemy imploding
i see visions VOY A CAMBIAR EL MUNDO NO ERES LOCA SOY MESTIZA Y estas mujeres son la razón de mi sonrisa I WILL take a path through my darkness channeling your spirit MI DOLOR awakening to the enlightenment of truth i bow to the knowledge of your couth la leyenda de mestiza vive en mí
This list is probably going to grow (ALOT)- please feel free to comment and add your ideas for recommended reading or send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities – Ching-In Chen (Editor), Jai Dulani (Editor), and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Editor); Andrea Smith (preface)
Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide – Andrea Smith
Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism – Daisy Hernandez
Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks
Loose Woman: Poems – Sandra Cisneros
Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities John D’Emilio
Crip Theory Robert McRuer
The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
Reading Chican@ Like a Queer – Sandra Soto
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color – Cherie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua
This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation – Gloria Anzaldúa and AnaLouise Keating.
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza – Gloria Anzaldua
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches – Audre Lorde
The Black Unicorn: Poems – Audre Lorde
¡Chicana Power!: Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement – Maylei Blackwell
A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000–2010 – Cherie Moraga
Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders – Alicia Gaspar de Alba
Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings – Alma M. Garcia
Chicana Falsa and How to be a Chicana Role Model – Michelle Serros
Women, Race and Class – Angela Davis
Living Chicana Theory Carla Trujillo
Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa Rigoberto Gonzalez
Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, Kay Whitlock
MARIPOSAS: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry Emanuel Xavier
For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly Yosimar Reyes
Before Night Falls: A Memoir Reinaldo Arenas
Tragic Bitches: An Experiment in Queer Performance Adelina Anthony and Lorenzo Herrera
Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue Leslie Feinburg
Virgins, Guerrillas, and Locas: Gay Latinos Writing about Love Jaime Cortez
Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About Carla Trujillo
Chulito: A Novel Charles Rice-Gonzalez
Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader Michael Hames-Garcia
Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation Sherry Wolf
Blues Legacies and Black Feminism – Angela Davis
Methodology of the Oppressed – Chela Sandoval
The Decolonial Imaginary – Emma Perez
Infinite Divisions: An Anthology of Chicana Literature – Tey Diana Rebolledo and Eliana S. Rivero
Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity – Chandra Mohanty
Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging – Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, and Nadine Naber.
A fat girl’s guide to life – Wendy Shanker
Pedagogies of Crossing: meditations on feminism, sexual politics, memory, and the sacred – Jacqui Alexander
Racial Formation in the United States – Michael Omi and Howard Winant
Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures – Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Mohanty
Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980 – Kimberly Springer
The Straight Mind – Monique Wittig
Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology – INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment – Patricia Hill Collins
Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought – Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border – Eithne Luibheid
Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law – Dean Spade
The Legacy of Conquest – Patricia Limerick
Race, Reform and Rebellion – Manning Marable
Autobiography of Angela Davis – Angela Davis
Why do (some) people keep complaining that those of us writing original work for this blog are choosing to remain anonymous? Why are you so uncomfortable? Is it a problem because we don’t need credit for our words? Are you disturbed because our egos don’t need stroking with pats on the back and high-fives? Does it bother you to not have a specific target to aim at when you disagree? Are you afraid that it’s your sister, your girlfriend, your mother who’s writing — and you don’t know?
We speak collectively because of our politics. We do not claim authorship for each individual piece because our experiences are shared by many women. We are creating safety for ourselves and our sisters by speaking our truth. We are unnamed because we are everywhere. You should assume that every single piece that has been published so far was written by a different woman. That’s a lot of voices rising in unity!
The other day, I heard someone call this “K’s blog.” Well, it’s not K’s blog, or A’s blog, or B’s blog. Dozens of women — an entire alphabet of mujeres — have already contributed, and a collective is staffing the submissions email addy, the Twitter feed, the FB page, and the Tumblr. This is not the work of one woman, no matter how awesome she may be. This is the work of many, and we are moving like wildfire, burning away patriarchal debris and illuminating a woman-centered landscape.
Just so you know — I’m not a member of the editorial collective, and my view on why anonymity is important may resonate with them, but it may not. You don’t know who I am, your assumptions are probably wrong, and you don’t have any say about what is going on here. You can’t bully us, and you can’t beat us. But you should definitely listen to us.
I’m not going to lie, life has hardened me.
I thought healing came with forgetting, but how can the vivid picture of seeing your own flesh and blood lying dead on the pavement floor be forgotten? How just is justice when pigs can gather around and separate us from him with a yellow piece of plastic caution? Then at the same time eat at the crime scene having a damn picnic as if to have no respect for the pain we all were going to face from then on. Don’t bother asking if I like cops, I much more than just dislike them. I don’t respect them. Fast forward to a year later, having heard the shots I ran out the apartment complex to a car pulling up aiming a gun at my face, looking at him dead in the eyes. If it weren’t for that retractable door between us who knows what my fate would have been. The cops question the homie while he’s on the floor bleeding.
“Where the fuck is the ambulance!” “He’s in shock how the fuck is he going to answer all those questions!” I yell, as she tells me to back up or she will have me detained.
Paying no attention to his wounds already deeming him a dead man. Trying to take justice into our own hands and not knowing how to heal… lead to more pain and losing the only person I could call my brother a few months later. Pointed fingers left me feeling guilty myself, I should have stopped him from leaving, why didn’t I? The stabbing feeling in my heart to know now I am alone. How can one heal when you live in a constant reminder of yesterdays?
How can I be soft and delicate in a world that’s so hard?