This may not be the experience of every woman of color, but it was mine:
As I scroll through all the #metoo posts, I realize how many years, my early adolescence all the way through college, I was harassed and violated and didn't realize it. It wasn't that it was covert, or subtle, but I didn't acknowledge it for the very simple reason that at the time, I was flattered.
Growing up in a white city, surrounded by white people, anti-blackness was so ingrained in me that I never liked myself much. I never once felt beautiful. I never felt desirable. I never thought anyone would find me even remotely attractive. It didn't matter that my mom always told me I was beautiful, I was sure she had to say so because she was my mom. Boys didn't like me, that much I knew. Boys didn't even notice me. And that meant she was lying. It meant I was ugly.
Boys told me that if I wasn't black I might be their type. Boys asked me why there weren't hot girls that were more like me. Boys called me halfrican and laughed about it. Boys I liked talked to me about how attractive my white friends were. Boys I liked said "gross" when they found out I liked them.
When I started getting catcalled, when I got groped on sidewalks, when a man asked my sister how much I cost per hour, more than anything else, I was relieved. At least, I thought, somebody sees me. At least I'm not completely invisible.
When my friends started to complain about getting called at in the street, I joined in. But secretly I was excited to finally be part of a conversation about boys. I was thrilled to finally feel equal to them in some small way. Random guys on the street wanna have sex with me too!! I'm not too gross to be left out this time!! We commiserated with each other about how much we hated it, but secretly I hoped it wouldn't end. When I left the house and didn't get hollered at, my self esteem sank.
This breaks my fucking heart as I think about it now. Because of course it was disgusting. Of course it was unforgivable. I think how incredibly fortunate I am that the harassment I faced wasn't more aggressive, because god knows how that would have ended. I wish I had known to stand up for myself. I wish I believed that I would've known to say no. I wish I had known this wasn't the only kind of desire I could hope for. I wish I'd been able to see myself as more. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to start dismantling the anti-black mentality that is so prevalent in this country.
But it did. And even now I'm not perfect. I still have to remind myself sometimes where the line is, especially when the harassment is coming from people I know, people I should be able to trust. And I'm lucky, that blackness is being more accepted in the mainstream than it once was. That I can see people who look like me on TV now, that I'm alive at the same time as Rihanna and Beyoncé. That the internet provides me with a black community that accepts and supports me and my fears, desires, dreams, and ambitions even when my immediate surroundings do not.
There's no happy ending here. No grain of wisdom or tidy moral. Just the truth that as we continue to talk about these issues, it's important to remember that our culture of daily assault and degradation is kept alive and afloat by oppression on a lot of levels, perpetuated by all kinds of people. To pretend it's isolated to any one group, to any one community, to any one person, is a grave mistake.
And being better, making change, moving forward, will require dismantling and rebuilding the entire system. It'll require examining all our own internalized sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, religious bias, and xenophobia. It'll require acknowledging and undermining the systems that reinforce white privilege, male privilege, Judeo-Christian privilege, America-first, heteronormative, able-bodied, cis-gendered privilege. It will require so much more work than feebly promising on social media to be more gallant within the bullshit circus we've already got.