My Trauma is Not Your Thought Experiment: On Oppressive Empathy

A thought-provoking read that opens my eyes and heart. Thank you for sharing your experiences with others. Your honest and open voice is more of what’s needed.

At The Intersection

When it comes to anti-oppression work, I have a problem with empathy. Or rather, I have problem with the ways in which people with privilege and power enact so-called empathy. The ways in which it always seems to demand a centering of their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences in a narrative that otherwise should be about the trauma they enact, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, on the oppressed.

Here’s what I mean.

A couple months ago Zoé, a beautiful Black woman with a lot of powerful things to share, tweeted a story about having a conversation with another Black woman about racism in different national contexts. It was a life-giving session of shared truths and traumas, as often happens when women of color are blessed to be in honest communion with one another. After their trauma-baring and sharing talk, a white man sitting nearby turned to them to…

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Poetry Tuesday – Frozen Lady in Black and White

Every day as I walk

Down the hall at work,

I glance at the wall.

There it still hangs,

A reminder of yesterday.

One lone young lady

Appearing to be trapped,

Surrounded by the eyes

Of a dozen men

As she scurries, though frozen,

Down the sidewalk.

Her delicate hand

Clutches firmly on the strap

Of her purse draped

Over her wispy shoulder.

Determined, she fixes her stare

Straight ahead, eyes front.

Unable to change,

Her face remains unmoved,

Her mouth forever open

For a short intake of breath,

And they, the men,

Youthful and old alike,

Gawk and gape at her fickle form,

The unheard jests and jeers

And disgusting wolf whistles,

The obscene hand gestures.

Doesn’t matter where they are:

Seated at the cafe

With their afternoon coffee,

Plastered to the steps

Smoking cigars,

Perched on a motocycle

Stopped by the curb,

Or ever right in front of her.

She is surrounded,

And no matter

Which way she would turn

(If she could),

They, too, are frozen,

Forever trapped in that moment

Fifty years ago.

And I, frozen for a second,

Stand there,

And of my own free will,

I choose to move again,

My thoughts whirling,

Thinking how that black and white photograph

Clashes with the colorful world

I live in…

Or does it?

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My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

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Writer’s block #amwriting #writerslife #writing

Good advice. Once you finish your first draft, however, it is time to improve it and share it to improve it more. If you are a writer, you have stories to share with others. Don’t keep that in.

Good advice. Once you finish your first draft, however, it is time to improve it and share it to improve it more. If you are a writer, you have stories to share with others. Don’t keep that in.

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What does one word matter? Doctoral women on twitter.

It continues to astound me that women are still treated as inferior to men in the 21st century. I share this as a reminder and to bring awareness.

Jeanne de Montbaston

A few days ago Dr Fern Riddell, a historian (who, like me, works on sex and gender), was involved in a nasty twitter conversation with a man who poured scorn on her expertise and – gasp! – what he considered to be her arrogance in defending her qualifications. In response to her refusal to be patronised, storms of women academics have been changing their twitter handles to include ‘Dr’. The negative responses are predictable. What does one word matter? What do these women think they’re proving to anyone? Who cares how you talk about yourself? And so on.

For a lot of women academics I know, Riddell’s is a familiar story. Outside academia, ‘Dr’ is a man. Despite the fact that increasing numbers of women are going into medicine, ‘Dr’ is also a medic. Academic woman come in for a double dose of slapdown for advertising their qualifications as a…

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Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (Opening Scenes – WIP)

“Mr. Williams, please take your medicine, and we won’t have a problem,” said the middle-aged nurse with the poofy hair. The hair he hated. It drove him crazy.

“How many times do I have to tell you, Poodle, that I’m not Mr. Williams?”

The nurse sighed. “Please call me Nurse Stephens, Mr. Williams.” Her tone almost sounded bored.

Behind him in line, another man nudged his shoulder. “C’mon, Jimmy, just take them. You’re not doin’ yourself any favors here.”

The old man called Mr. Williams frowned, snatched the tiny paper cup from the nurse, and downed the pills. He shoved it back at her. “Here, you happy?” He stepped out of line and returned to the common area and took a seat.

His friend from the line joined him a moment later. “Jimmy, why do you gotta be so difficult?”

The old man stared at his friend. “Fine, call me Jimmy, just like you always do. It doesn’t seem to matter what I say. No one believes me, Charles.”

Charles clapped his hands and ran them over his buzz cut. His young face broke into a grin. “Right. ‘Cause you’re completely sane, bro. That’s what everyone in here believes.”

Jimmy shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand. How could you possibly? Look, I know you mean well and all, but if you don’t believe me, maybe it’d be best if you just left me alone.”

Charles chuckled. “Aw, leavin’ you alone’s the dangerous thing, Jimmy-boy.” He stood and walked away, twitching his neck every so often.

Jimmy watched the younger man go. Charles was younger, true, but according to Jimmy’s calculation, he was only sixteen years his junior, not forty.

The old man called Jimmy sighed. Of course everyone thinks I’m crazy. I’m in a damn nuthouse. He gazed toward the barred window at the sunshine beyond his world. The more time that passed in here, life passing him by, the crazier he got, he supposed. He hated that.

He also hated the side effects of his meds. Drowsiness. A great way to keep from thinking too much about his predicament. Jimmy stood and returned to his room like a good patient and fell asleep.

Later that day, he sat in his psychiatrist’s office. Dr. Winslow leaned back in his swivel chair, his bulk spilling over either side. He kept an ashtray on his desk from days gone by. The good doctor surveyed Jimmy over his half-moon glasses perched on the end of his bulbous nose. The grease from his lunch hung on his chin as much as oil clung to what remained of his greying hair.

“So, tell me how you’ve been, James.”

James. It was worse than Jimmy or even Mr. Williams. The doctor chose somewhere between familiar and formal. Jimmy didn’t know how to read him.

Jimmy shrugged. “You tell me, Doc. Aren’t I supposed to be up for my board review to tell me if I’m reformed enough to return to civilized society?”

Dr. Winslow leaned back further in his chair. Jimmy wondered how the hell that was possible. The doctor rested his beefy forearms on his ample belly and steepled his fingers. He had all the appearance of a sage contemplating the meaning of life. “Yes, that’s true, but one step at a time, James. If you are, in fact, determined to not be a danger, your next move would be to a fully supervised facility. What will you tell them at the time of your hearing?”

“The truth.”

“Ah, the truth or your truth, James?”

“My names isn’t James Williams. I’m Randall Davis, and I’m–”

“Yes, you’re a millionaire, successful CEO of Randall P. Davis Innovations, making a better future for us all. James, have you seen the news recently?”

Jimmy nodded. “Yeah, I’ve seen it, too many times.”

The doctor smiled. “Then you’ll know and understand that Mr. Davis isn’t a guy you’d wanna be even if there were possible. His name isn’t so hot in the industry these days, and I’m afraid his company’s image isn’t the empire he built, either.”

The old man shifted, something dropping in him. “You think I haven’t seen those damn biased news stories? They just love any sort of gossip that’ll ruin a man’s life. There’s no proof it’s true that he’s anything but faithful to my wife.”

“You mean his wife?”

“No, my wife. I love Danielle. We’ve been married for over ten years and–”

Dr. Winslow held up his hand. “That’ll be enough, James. I’m done entertaining your delusions. Besides, why do you care about a man’s life who has nothing to do with you own? Now, let’s get back to discussing you. If you were one day deemed successfully rehabilitated, what would you like to do with yourself?”

“I’d like to find myself.”

“Well, that’s all very enlightening and all, but I’m afraid I’ll need you to be more specific. How would you contribute to society? If you do will in a group home setting, the board may one day deem you ready to be set up with some sort of work and living independently. You would be monitored regularly. Some sort of meaningful hobby or way to give back would show that you’ve made a good recovery.”

“You mean, reflect well on the institution’s part for not just putting another nutcase out on the streets?” Jimmy gripped the handles of his chair. A vein throbbed in his forehead. His face heated.

“Now, James, there’s not need to refer to yourself as–”

“I don’t care!” Jimmy stood, the chair clattering to the floor. He came at the stupid doctor who thought he was so smart. I’ll strangle you, I swear it. You and your ugly mug and your wrong perceptions.

The doctor momentarily panicked, but pressed a button on his wearable alarm. Jimmy screamed and lunged at the doctor, his arthritic, knobby hands clutching at the guy’s thick neck. Seconds later, two big men entered and grabbed Jimmy.

“I’m not Jimmy Williams! I’m not!” he cried as the orderlies hauled him out of the psychiatrist’s office.

Dr. Winslow righted himself in his chair and averted his eyes from the old man. The door closed on Jimmy’s raving. The doctor scrawled on his paper: “For the consideration of the review board, my recommendation is further rehabilitation.”

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post an excerpt every Saturday.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

A laconic epistle

Worth remembering that you are worthy. ❤👍😄

Ragazza Triste

Dear Heart,

Stop hurting yourself, you don’t need to self-destruct just so he could see you bleed, you don’t need to pretend that you’re sedulous, it’s alright to be vulnerable, it’s acceptable to act human and feel burned out. It’s okay to cry, to weep, to break down but never ever implore attention, love or concernment.

Never settle for less than you deserve or decide out of desperation. Do not let anybody use you like an expendable credit, or an arbitrary cipher. You are worth more than those restless nights of despair, you are worth more than you can fathom. Get up, you are a sublime creation.

Love,

Brokenhearted shipwreck

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Review of The Beat on Ruby’s Street by Jenna Zark

rubySynopsis: The last thing eleven-year-old Ruby Tabeata expected to happen on her way to a Jack Kerouac reading was to be hauled to the police station.

It’s 1958 and Ruby is the opposite of a 1950s stereotype: fierce, funny and strong willed, she is only just starting to chart her course in a family of Beat Generation artists in Greenwich Village. Ruby dreams of meeting famous poets while becoming one herself; instead, she’s accused of trying to steal fruit from a local vendor and is forced to live in a children’s home.

As Ruby struggles to return to family and friends, she learns her only choice is to follow her heart.

Join Ruby’s journey as she finds unexpected friendships, the courage to rebel against unjust authority and the healing power of art in this inspiring middle-grade novel by Jenna Zark.

Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Beat on Ruby’s Street is a novel intended for middle-grade students, as the protagonist is an 11-year-old girl named Ruby, and the story is told from first-person point-of-view. Ruby’s voice is realistic for a girl her age, and I think this book reads appropriately for kids around the same age.

The details of New York in the late 1950s and the Beat Generation of the time are also fleshed out well in the backdrop. There’s a certain freedom to being a kid 60 years ago that I feel no longer applies nowadays. A girl like Ruby can wander the streets with her friends for hours at a time and be safe. I am reminded of stories my mom told me about how far she’d ride her bike or how she’d ride on public transportation when she was about Ruby’s age and be gone all day, yet her parents didn’t have to worry.

Ruby is also an aspiring poet. She wants badly to meet famous poets like Jack Kerouac and is on her way to one of his readings when…

The freedom Ruby experiences is threatened when she is accused of stealing fruit, however. A social worker steps in and begins to question Ruby’s home life. The reader discovers that Ruby’s parents aren’t married. Their apartment isn’t kept up. Her dad, Gary Daddy-o, is a musician who is on the road for weeks at a times. Her mom, Nell-Mom, is an artist is is oblivious to the comings and goings of Ruby and her brother, Ray. Ruby and some of her friends attend “school” at a store called Blue Sky, where they learn some stuff from the owners, Sky and Blu, but they aren’t being properly educated.

Everything Ruby thought was true and normal about her life is suddenly threatened. She spends some time in a children’s home. Her childhood innocence is ripped away from her. To see the shortcomings of adults through a child’s eyes is a unique perspective. I remember when I was a kid thinking my parents knew everything and that I would understand everything about life once I was grown up. To have that worldview shattered, to realize your parents are far from perfect and that your home isn’t the nice place you thought is scary and also realistic, a part of growing up.

This is a quick read. Being much older than the intended audience, I found the novel had its charms and was good for middle-grade readers, and yes, it reminded me of what it was like for me when I was 11 or 12, but I didn’t get much else out of this novel. It’s a good story, but not great. It doesn’t necessarily stand out from much else I’ve read, but it was enjoyable enough.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG!

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.