Monday, September 19, 2016

Intersectionality Through The Lens Of A Queer Black Woman - Karisha Shaw Speaks

Intersectionality Through The Lens Of A Queer Black Woman

Karisha Shaw Speaks


I am lying here again, unable to sleep because my mind is reeling over the condition of the world I live in. I have been trying to resolve things in my mind that I still feel traumatized by from last year. Hell, really, from my whole 41 years of life as a Black woman....as a Queer Black woman, at that.

When I evaluate what seems to be constantly causing my unrest, it is this. We as Black and brown people must unite. I don't mean that in a generic sense of unity. I believe we can all look at the current world and see we are being targeted for brutality and disproportionately are filling up jails and graveyards. I am talking more from a place of real community that is steeped from a realization of just how much we need each other at this very moment in history.

I believe the catalyst of what brought me to my current thought was a year ago. I was sitting in a room full of women. I was there, supposedly, to represent the beauty that we women possess in our diversity of black and brownness. I sat there and felt like I needed to defend my sister's who were not there. Or maybe I was defending myself.

I have traveled all over the world. I have seen things that many will never have the opportunity to see except in a history book or travel magazine. I know how to read Russian and mostly taught myself how to speak and read some Bulgarian. I know how to cook authentic Korean, Japanese and Thai dishes. I have used my college degree to help produce two albums on two different continents (in two different languages) and been able to be a guest musician on both. I have been approached by a music legend and told that I was the only woman he had ever seen play drums with the gusto that I do. I have stood in front of thousands and sang my heart out with some of the most talented gospel artists in the world. But I am also poor. I was raised in the projects. We were on welfare for a large portion of my childhood. I didn't get anything but a two year degree that 14 years later, I still haven't been able to pay off. I have found myself again unemployed and after 8 years in my so-called career, having absolutely nothing to show for it but high blood pressure and ulcers. I am struggling to attend events to stand up for social justice because we just don't have the money to buy extra gas for our cars right now.


Why do I say these very contrasting things about my life? Why is my life so contradictory of itself? I have come to realize that within our Black and brown community, that we leave many of us out.

In that room of women that I spoke of earlier, I heard someone refer to some Black women as, "welfare queens." My mother could have fit that description, but she was just an uneducated Black woman whose husband left her and had to figure out how to raise us in a very oppressed economy. Did she not deserve to be in that room with us? If the one who spoke those words knew that I was queer and struggling to pay my bills at the time, would I have been unwelcome at the table too? Who are we really pushing away when we don't see all of us as part of the solution in the dangerous world we live in? Who are we writing off as not being smart enough to join our conversations about social justice? Who are we leaving to be devoured in the streets?

My partner was recently part of a dialogue on social media about our need to build community and join as one to protect and educate ourselves to preserve Black and brown life. My partner is a beautiful and intelligent, plus sized queen that I am honored to be with. A Black male in the conversation, responded to her comment by saying that she was of "no use" to the Black Lives Matter movement because she needed to lose weight. While I realize that he was not the kind of brother I want next to me if the shit hits the fan, he is still my brother who needs to clearly understand that all of us have something to contribute to the movement.

Fat shaming has absolutely no place in the movement and nor does any of the other internalized hatred that we have for one another and ourselves. And there is the part of me that wants to protect my partner from him, but why should I have to in that space from someone who coined himself a BLM activist? 

I keep asking myself lately, if they arrest me, who will bail my well traveled, poor, queer, Black undereducated ass out? I keep wondering who is protecting me? I may be a masculine of center woman, but I still feel a need to be protected from the current threat of being Black in America. When they come for me, who will stand up for me?

These are the concerns I am trying to sort out as a woman who loves my people, but realize that we have to save ourselves and to do so, we have to rid ourselves from internalized oppression and really start loving each other. If we don't, we will be just like the machine who wants us all dead.