Not Just A Woman

I don't have the luxury of being just a woman

LuxuryI went to see Kung Panda 3 this weekend. It is not like I go to see movies regularly. The whole movie thing was an accident of an ill-timed desire to bowl and being met with a 3 hour waiting time. Instead of going back home, my friend and I decided to go watch a movie. It just happened that the next starting movie was Kung Fu Panda 3.

The big theme of this movie was identity. It was simple enough for kids and complex enough for adults who chose to pay attention. What do you do when your identity is not as simple as white bread? What is Po to do as the adopted son of a goose and the biological son of a Panda? Where does he draw his strength? What makes him him?

These are complicated questions for an animated movie. These questions though are the ones I have to wrestle with as a voter. Who am I? What are my priorities? What will tip  my vote?

My identity is layered in both the physical and the psychological. I am woman. Born and raised as a Muslim in  Nigeria. Moved to America at 16. Became an American in 2009. Highly educated but struggling to achieve a solidly middle class status. Struggling to figure out the student loan game. Gaining a consciousness of my own blackness in American society. Worried about the lives of my future children in a society that does not value black lives.

All of these things and more influence the way I see the world. The layers of identity and world view color the ideal world I see. This ideal world inevitably colors the way I see myself casting my vote.

Any suggestions that my vote should be as simple as being a woman or being black or being Muslim is a shortcut to diminishing my experience as human being. One of the struggles I initially had before deciding of Bernie Sanders was the idea of the first female president. Am I traitor to womanhood if I choose a man over Hilary Clinton? Is this another case of betrayal of sisterhood and feminism of I feel that a man better represents my ideals that Hilary?

When Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem start “scolding” young women for not voting for Hilary Clinton because she is a woman, they do so from the position of white feminism. The much stated quote about going to hell for not supporting other women is one that is based on the assumption that other women are accepting of all women. No if, but or maybe. That assumption is a privilege. White Feminist have the privilege of being able to see challenges to their life from the position of their gender. The glass ceiling for them is one layer thick. As long as they can overcome the barrier of having a vagina instead of penis, then they are good to go.

The fact is I don’t have the luxury of being just a woman. The inability to understand that gender is not the only barrier that young women are dealing is perhaps why feminism and Hilary Clinton’s campaign don’t appeal to a lot of young women. I’m not saying that I don’t connect to any part of Hilary Clinton’s platform. I’m saying I connect more to Bernie Sanders’ platform. I have too many questions and concerns about the future of the country under Hilary’s leadership.

 And just in case there is a temptation to drag out Barack Obama’s implicit or explicit endorsement to boost Hilary’s campaign, I shall still be voting for Bernie.

To Resurrect

becoming blackMy sister pestered me all of the first week in January for a word of the year. I love my sister. My sister and I talk about feelings and everything else. And picking a word of the year fell under that umbrella that most people don’t touch because they are being cool. But my sister and I, we talked it over and we picked a word for me. The word is ‘Resurrect’.

To Resurrect. To bring back to life. To add new vigor. I feel like I need new vigor in my life. I have missed myself. I have missed my bravery. I have missed not thinking of failure as an option. I have missed not being black, being Muslim and being a woman.

I did not become black until I moved to Boston. I become a Muslim every time I come the US. Being a woman I learned about in my teenage years getting propositioned by men driving in luxury cars in Festac.  The intersection of all three finally arrived in this past year with an awakening that jolted me and stole away my confidence.

I remember talking to my father about how much I was trying to be more but I felt I could not be more because of these obstacles in front of me. I never saw those obstacles before. Most people who know  me can attest to the fact that I am a tad bit naive and a lot sheltered. Some of it comes from my upbringing and some of it is the choice I make not to overexpose myself.

Let me tell you that becoming black and truly beginning to understand what it means to be the ‘other’ knocked the wind out of me. It seems crazy that I say becoming black. After all, I was born with my skin. But I was raised in a community that looks like me. Class has always been more of a divisive issue than race. For me, I was never the ‘other’. I was the privileged.

To suddenly lose my privilege and find myself struggling to be seen the way I have always been seen has been a battle. I felt like the battle took my luster. I went from feeling golden to feeling inadequate. I developed social anxieties because suddenly it was hard to get anyone to have a normal intelligent conversation with me. No one ever explicitly tells you to your face that they feel you are inferior but they are many ways of speaking that don’t involve the mouth.

The hard part of being put down repeatedly was that I felt I was crazy. Certainly, I am getting the cues wrong. Maybe I don’t understand what is being said. Maybe I am overthinking things. Maybe it is me.

Maybe it is not me. And suddenly understanding that the battle is not just mine has made me begin to regain some of my luster. This is why I chose ‘resurrect’ as my word of the year. This year I want to be who I always thought I was; an intelligent young woman who would run the world. I have had enough of being timid and scared.