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*”Collective Voice of the Voiceless”: Campus Violence, Resistance, and Strategies for Survival Forum Contribution*
The spatial organization of the conference room suggests that a witnessing is about to take place. We all face one another, ready for engagement but the tension is strong. We are women, some women of color, deep class chasms, and positioned against one another within the hierarchy of the academic industrial complex. We feel especially alone.
We range from graduate student to full professor to artists
all embedded within the West
Why are there only women here, seemingly interested in this conversation?
Why is the self-proclaimed-patriarch speaking and everyone else following her lead?
Where is the breaking down of hierarchies that we talk so much about in the literature?
We watch as she decays from the inside out.
We are hesitant to do this work.
Tensions deaden the ability to speak—how to crack through it?
The first topic of the day? Hair.
What is it about feminists and hair?
Perhaps what needs to be said is that feminists of color have had to learn to do “hair talk”
as a way to put white feminists at ease.
Or is it a reminder that if nothing else, we have this commonality?
Or is it the desire to be “just as beautiful”
or is it to reassure that not all our sentences begin with the Revolution
for our brothers and sisters that are living
under the cement walls and wires of imperialism
in New York City’s prisons or Baghdad’s streets—
conversations too threatening
and fall flat on cool eyes flickering with death.
of this game of hair-connectivity?
Hair as social death;
that it is the segregating force of how to know difference, to reassert that
are not the same.
Some people’s hair
carry histories of violence, of regulation, of death, and inner turmoil— of resistance, liberation, and refusal to be contained
other people’s hair carry forces of colonization so strong that it is easier to say
“did you just get it cut?”
Who did the cutting? (my mom, my colonizer, my sister who never went to college
but still believes in utopia)
It is easier to just say how great your hair looks today as a way to defend the self against bad news…
Scanning the room, unable to move past a young woman of color graduate student who had to come to this place…
Is that pain and suspension on her face?
Is it a warning sign that an all-out battle, in one form or another, is about to take place in this room?
She is here to bear witness…to whose pain?
Graduate school teaches us through affective exchange that it is best to avoid these exposures and possibilities for clarity because it sucks too much out of us.
Be professional and summarize instead.
Why do we allow the siphoning of our souls in these moments of smiling faces and nodding heads?
To accumulate knowledge?
To become better people?
To learn the game and use it against new generations, like the older ones continue to do to us?
How many eco-friendly shoes of feminists who recant their politics for institutional profit will step on our faces before we begin to set their feet on fire and watch them dance through the pain of their lost souls…
It is too difficult to hold honest discussions about political violence in the “post-colonial world” with feminists, with (too many) white women, with those who chose to align with whiteness—decades of struggles that fall on deaf ears, yet make the body and all this “academic success” possible.
“We” talk of war and violence and the bodies of woman “over there,” while the students we work with and some of us “right here” negotiate the daily, intergenerational assaults of sexual, racial, and gender violence that so many faculty experts dare not name…for fear of retaliation from the institution that feeds them…
A historical practice for people who owed debts: fast at the doorstep of the moneylenders in order to gain more time;
A political call for attention to injustice and inhumanity—
Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, Gitmo, IRA, Mahatma Gandhi, “Iron-Jawed Angels,” United Farm Workers, Palestine… a very small naming of hundreds of years and millions of emotions;
The pain in the abdomen, the mind, the finger tips, the soul…
But we have already said this…
These exchanges have to move us—people, the field, world politics—somewhere, anywhere but here.
We start screaming.
Floating on the surface is an appreciation of this moment. It allows us the space to struggle with mis/translations of our soul…
the loss of words
for the knowledge acquired from still-birthed conversations,
the loss of words
for experience becoming wisdom while he serves 70 years in my
Eight years later,
the loss of words
when a face that looks just like his young, black, and beautiful is
shot three times,
five bullets in total though
his shoulder once
and hand once too
(he was trying to save himself)
With genocide and homicide unsolved historically
reality and fantasy intertwine,
But the mirror does not lie,
all of this happened to us.
The loss of words
as single poor mothers support one another to raise the nation,
we worship through their unconditional connectivities.
The loss of words
from intergenerational struggle carried deep in our bones,
connections made between blood and memory,
as we witness now in these misplaced bodies—
the life we’ve led is more sensual than you could ever imagine and we could ever explain.
But our countries, our landscapes, are ignored here.
Some participants begin to narrate emotions as a way to say they are important without confronting how these emotions dictate power within global politics and academic knowledge formation. We rely on the distancing of emotion—of each other—to tell their story.
The story of white supremacy and all its axes of power
Why is there an unwillingness to delve into our own feelings about how we engage with the pains of creating?
SHOULD WE NOT BE ASKING HOW TO DIVEST IN THESE FRAMEWORKS OF PRIVILEGE RATHER THAN REINSITUTIONALIZING (Y)OUR PRIVILEGE?
Must we keep reminding ourselves that not everyone is a poet (or are they?) yearning for engagement with emotions and the inarticulate-able? What is the utility of studying the emotions, or seemingly lack of, of those encountered
in the field…..
how do those feelings reflect pain and distress onto our fields
A crop duster flies over-head releasing tons of pesticides on Monsanto’s genetically modified crops, which seeps into the fields of land stolen from communities who are written into history as the needy ones—
USAF A1s Skyraider
F100 Super Sabre
F-4G Wild Weasel
F-16 Fighting Falcon
It never ends.
TELL US what emotion comes out of a Tomahawk Cruise Missile?
This space configures us through spectacle, we are all serving as witness to the discomfort with the Other’s feelings…do they despise us…how many times do we tell ourselves we are doing good things, dangerous, but good…we’re needed to do this work…
Can we refuse our spectacular positions? Can we
get through this trauma of colonized feminist knowledge exchange?
IT IS necessitated
for social transformation.
Shall we just hold each other’s hand and
Knowing the ocean devours so many bodies?
Keep the process of segregation intact.
Don’t engage, don’t make eye contact
—where is the honesty, the trust, the commitment, the politics?
We are all witness to our ping-pong debates, our struggles of “affective exchange”
And they always end in full-blown interrogation of each one of us by
Each question seems to strike a painful cord,
resulting in hot comments back, ignoring the person’s presence.
THE GAME HAS ALWAYS BEEN SURVIVAL THROUGH ERADICATION:
the brutality of colonial feminist mothers and their privileged young deathlings.
We have nothing left to talk about, and yet—
There’s too much going on here.
Fear surfaces, the strongest will survive, and labor recenters itself.
Our feelings of rage, instability, and survival result in….
Shither: co-anonymous, collective writing. Old English, to “shiver” from the coldness of colonial feminists. Decolonial, to feel the “shivers” generated from the heat of feminist decolonizations. A divesting strategy that refuses incorporation into the feminist industrial complex. A truth telling framework amidst universal deceit, and in the face of retaliation. An embracing of the shit that is her, that is us– contradictions, survivors, and love. A continuation…