I don’t know what it feels like to be black. But I do know what it feels like to be under the subjugation of a white man. No, I have not encountered it my entire life in the most mundane of activities, generation after generation. However, I have encountered misogyny in every corner of my life, as has every woman. I have experienced the corrosive effects of oppression while in a marriage that spanned decades. White supremacy and partner violence operate on the same principle, maintaining power and control by any means necessary and without conscience.
I was moved to tears recently as I drove down Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, its Civil War statues by the now nationally known edifices of an ideology which fails to acknowledge basic human rights. Bronze reminders of a refusal to accept the outcome of a war lost. Under the 130-year-old monument of Robert E Lee, black, white, young and old, gathered together to take in the enormity of what had occurred in the previous week. Protests that changed the landscape, both literally and figuratively, came to rest in this space.
Seeing the monument, now finally relevant with spray-painted sentiments of a collective soul battered and reclaimed, I was suddenly freed from the heavy weight of my late husband’s closeted racism. Always, there with no apologies. He was raised in a South that embraced a separate set of rules for white men and he himself believed that status quo suited him.
Watching the peaceful gathering around the statue, I experienced an enormous sense of freedom as well. I felt released and instantly restored from another layer of identity theft. Choosing to stop trying to reason with him at the wrongness of his horrifyingly unacceptable racism, battles I didn’t have the energy to fight, I eventually accepted that was the way it was. It was another sacrifice of my beliefs to accommodate him and in that, another betrayal of who I was. That silence felt complicit. I have to continually deprogram that and reorient my thinking even now, years after he is gone.
Like in my own life, the chaos is over, leaving somber remnants of the fight but also leaving peace. Though the trauma will remain, there is finally a glimmer of light after so much darkness. Yet truly, the work has only just begun. And I know this; it gets harder before it gets easier.
Now is the endurance test. The test that weeds out the dreamers from the determined. Can we go the distance without wearying? It will take relentless effort yet I believe together we can create a society where oppressors are not only held accountable but will also not be tolerated and looked away from as they perpetuate their agendas. I believe each of us must play a part in success. If it is to be, it is up to me.
My first abuser, who was also my first ex-husband, would always say “they’re only a [racial slur] when they act like it.” My second ex-husband would often say “I’m an equal opportunity racist.” Both of them were from the South and both were white men. Both also very much ignored that I’m not white and from a major Mexican border city. The second went so far as to write on a maliciously motivated restraining order that I’m white. After almost 14 years he still had not acknowledged my heritage. I’m an olive-skinned Latina and Native American woman.
I definitely, in my own way, understand what it’s like to not have the energy to fight against a racist husband (or two).
It’s so freeing to be away from that. It was a form of psychological abuse and probably even gaslighting to a degree.
I’m glad that you’ve been freed from your late husband and can now work on healing. I’m definitely still trying to heal from the first one and it has been 14 years. Healing from this most recent one is fresh. My first moved on to very openly abuse someone else. The second… it’s like he died a week before he was actually out of my home. I had watched his decline over several years like a hospice patient. And then suddenly his character, his self, died. And he was removed shortly after.
I mourned for an incredibly short time. Then I tore down his statue and began to build *myself* up again.
Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you reclaimed yourself. It is an ongoing process and clearly one of the battles won as the war rages on.
What is consistent among abusers is their desire to destroy your identity, who you are, where you came from. I’m white so mine chose to degrade me/my family for being blue collar, poor white trash as he loved to say when he wasn’t going on about me being a Nazi because I’m of German descent. I’m grateful it was not treatment I’d encountered to that degree before or after him.
Still a larger patriarchal system with a death grip on their desire to keep women and POC “in their place” continues.