Lessons Learned

(title inspired by an Alicia Keys song)

In college, I learned about my people. I learned that we are strong women that have carried our race forward in the face of hell on earth. We are protectors, activists, teachers, and down right queens of the throne…and yet, even though I recognize my heritage, I have been afraid to look at myself in the mirror because I cannot appreciate my own beauty. I have been hiding from the world because I do not wish to explain my actions, or lack thereof.

“They” have always assured me that God never gives me any more than I can handle. If that is the case, I feel the Lord must be preparing me to rule the world. I need to begin by sharing what I have learned during my journey:

If you didn’t report it to the police immediately, then it may not have happened.
If there is any delay in reporting it, then it probably didn’t happen.
If you didn’t go to the hospital, it may not have happened.
If you don’t have any torn clothing or bruises (or photos), it may not have happened.
If you didn’t have any semen or vaginal tearing, it probably didn’t happen.
If your doctor didn’t notice or report anything, it probably didn’t happen.
If you didn’t scream or the neighbors didn’t hear anything, it’s likely that it didn’t happen.
If you didn’t seek a restraining order, it probably didn’t happen.
If you’ve been in court on another issue, and you didn’t mention it then, it couldn’t have happened.
If you married him, it definitely didn’t happen.
The military stands by its active duty member and will support him to no avail.
When you finally do report it, its probably retaliatory in nature.

How can I uphold a positive self-image in the face of these lessons learned? Sometimes I feel like Tupac, it’s just me against the world! Although I am still standing, I continue to be abused by the system that is supposed to protect me. (Deep down, every minority knows that the system does not protect, but we have this false hope that the next time will be different.)

I have heard the same bullsh** theme from judges, attorneys, social workers, and even some advocates: “Get over it!” But which part do I try to get over first: the fact that I am Black, that I am a woman, that I am poor, that I am a single mother, or that I have been abused? Or it is that you think I am a liar, or that I deserved it? Too bad for you that I have learned that this is a bad reflection upon you, not me; but I am forced to deal with your ignorance.

I am tired and worn from the battles. During the few glimpses that I sneak in the mirror, I can see my warrior wounds. I may have been damaged physically and mentally, but I can feel my spirit regenerating and my own power frightens me. Harriet Tubman must have felt the same way.  

And so I must reclaim myself by embracing the history of my ancestors and letting that strength guide me. The only explanation I have to provide is that I am beautiful as the result of lessons learned.

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on. "~ Robert Frost

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