Women’s History Month

When approached to do this article for Women’s History Month, I pondered writing it solely from the perspective of a woman, which is my undeniable fact, but how can I write only from this vantage point, when I am also a BLACK WOMAN, and that too is an undeniable fact. My own personal intersectionality reads like the characters out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the literary knife and fork, like my duality, inseparable and interchangeable.

As I sit to write, I acknowledge to you my gender and my equity, my knife and my fork. Each day, every day, I live with the barriers and challenges of sexism and racism, for this too is my intersectionality; being black and being a woman are both of my identities. I cannot ever stop thinking about racism, it is not a choice, it is my reality.

I have been preoccupied with thoughts of injustices, heightened after the deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Breonna Taylor and of course, who could forget, the brutal and inhumane murder of George Floyd. I watched (as we all did), in horror as he gasped for air and begged for mercy, all 8 minutes and 46 seconds of “reality television”, one that could easily be my reality.

This year the theme for Women’s History Month is #becauseofyou, I have been mulling this over in my mind and wondering how this translates into my life, not only as a woman, but also as a black woman. Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) states, “This year’s theme… is inspired by those here in Canada and around the world who work to advance gender equality in their communities”. Somehow, this is not relatable to me and does not seem to include my lived experiences, not in the way I think it is intended. I work in my community, in my union, trying to always bring and utilize the lens of my equity as a woman while challenged by my equity of my race. Most times, I feel that I am failing my community, failing to do enough. Racism against blacks have cornered me into a reality that encompasses:

#becauseofyou I am fearful

#becauseofyou I feel silenced

#becauseofyou I feel powerless

#becauseofyou I feel hopeless

#becauseofyou It is unsafe to stand up for my rights

#becauseofyou I feel ignored

#becauseofyou I am invisible

#becauseofyou I am hyper-vigilant

#becauseofyou I am angry and hurt

In this climate of racial unrest, many women, mothers, nurturers are fighting the effects of emotional fatigue, having to face the new and revisit the old, as attempts are made to navigate the landscape of those now “woke” and demanding change. It is difficult to get people of privilege to care, care after the protests are over, the coalitions have disbanded, the hashtags are no longer trending on Twitter and the social media pages have shut down.

How do you get them to continue to care and remain invested when no one is looking and notoriety is nowhere in site?

As activists, the term ‘’safe spaces” is bandied about but it is those who have privilege that are positioned to create said safe spaces destined for those of us who find ourselves struggling for and demanding equality. It is in this way that they have the best of both worlds, with the choice to hang up their walking shoes, their activism apparel and retire into their own achievements. This simply does not exist for the Black woman.

The privileged amongst us are able to wield the baton of allyship, a privilege that can be used as an advantage or they can simply choose to walk away. For me, I am unable to leave my blackness at the door, just as much as I am unable to dismiss the very nature of my womanhood. Despite the inherent conflict that my intersectionality creates, it also enables the re-creation of one’s own perception of gender and race, my very own Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

#becauseofyou I will be strong

#becauseofyou I will not give up the fight/struggle

#becauseofyou I will be determined

#becauseofyou I will not silence my voice

#becauseofyou I will stand up for what is right

Hayley Millington
UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People