by: Melissa Hunter Gurney
Power or empowerment? A youth removed from a world of love because of the blinding powers of those trained in the invisibility of white privilege…
Virgin ears and virgin holes….what exactly is that? Virgin like Mary? Virginity, purity, innocence, all standards I put my beliefs in as a young girl. Like a houseplant – they sat there waiting to be watered. But real life, the life worth living, has made me reconsider whether those words are meant to be empowering or meant to disempower. I tend to contemplate the latter over the former, now-a-days.
A fern that’s half alive says otherwise – its brown branches contaminated like the skin of our people. Contaminated with ideas of hate from the white mask of purity, innocence, and virginity. Contaminated by polluted airs, misinformed breath, and corrupted ideology. A fern is wild. Its whiskers run beyond its pot, leaving scraps of green in the form of leaves. A man falls to the ground, his shaking turned to convulsions and they beat him still. Is a uniform in power to do a job well or a uniform in power? I tend to contemplate the latter over the former, now-a-days. Swedish ivy falls over the sides of an eroded stone planter that belongs in a greek colosseum somewhere with a man’s blood-ridden head centered in its largeness. A man in costume comes to mist it every hour on the hour and other than his spray the colosseum is silent – keeping skin wet – a part of the whole. Is the man in costume empowered to fulfill his duties at all costs or in power, therefore choosing to fulfill his duties? Him against a head, life against death – the power of doing what you are told whether it is right or wrong merely so you won’t be powerless. I tend to contemplate the latter over the former, now-a-days.
Decorate your house and make it pretty so the demons don’t come. Nine to five or die. Promotions, expensive dinners out and a new pair of sunglasses. Empowerment or power. I tend to contemplate the latter over the former, now-a-days. A grandmother as a young girl dances under a weeping willow tree with a group of other young-locked faces. Curls fall over white chiffon dresses, arms out and the smell of Queen Anne’s lace and lilacs lingers like a note from their flowered crowns. Everything is white but the trees and the grass, a vision of “purity.” Their skin, their dresses, their flowered crowns. The girls didn’t make the choice to wear all white, an elder did. Was the purpose to empower them, to embrace their purity, their innocence and their virginity or was it to remind them of the power that rises with colorlessness? The power of white on white on white on white. I tend to contemplate the latter over the former, now-a-days.
In and out of whiteness all day long. In and out of privilege. In and out of power versus empowerment. As a young girl I missed out on an entire world of love because those trained in the invisibility of white privilege trained me not to see. They didn’t know what they were doing and neither did I. People are people, they said. People are equal, they said. People are racist, they said. People don’t have to be racist, they said. People don’t have to oppress, they said. We are privileged, they said. Privileged because we aren’t poor. Privileged because we aren’t living in a broken home. Privileged because our parents love us. Privileged because nature surrounds us. They never said privileged because we are white. They never said privileged because he was a boy. They never said privilege came with skin and genitals. But privilege does. They said privilege came with work. So I worked – harder than the rest – captain of three teams – only virgin on the block come graduation.
My grandmother told me I had too much brown in me to stay out of the sun. She also said I had too much muscle, so stop playing sports she said. We are not racist. People are people. People are equal. My brother got more food – he was a growing boy – and I wasn’t allowed seconds. Empowering the beauty in me or forcing the power of “beauty” on me. I tend to contemplate the latter over the former, now-a-days.
But, I get stuck. People don’t want to contemplate the latter or the former – they just want to leave life as if we didn’t create it, as if it was created for us as if we weren’t connected to what happened in the past. They say, leave the past in the past. Are we empowered to move forward or a reminder of the power and privilege allotted to those who don’t feel the effects of engraved hate, violence and death? I tend to contemplate both because I am a mind willing to do the work, willing to believe in slow change like slow sex and slow orgasms and slow love. You’re not going to be able to give me an orgasm on the first try – because I don’t know who you are yet. You might be one of many who contemplate the former over the latter, or you might be one of many who do not want to contemplate at all. I’m not interested in being mislead by a man in costume, being placed atop a stone column and kept moist. The mind and the body are connected. If our minds don’t connect our bodies won’t either – so stop looking at me like I’m pure, innocent and virgin when I say I don’t have sex with many people. I’m just as wild as you are but my wildness is only seen by those who are willing to go back to the forest and start again. Is this a way of life engrained in empowerment or power? This time I tend to contemplate the former over the latter. In order to be free we must disintegrate power and embody empowerment. The empowerment of the plants, the people, the mind and the body. None can be left untouched. So you can touch me when I see you’ve touched them – power or empowerment? Probably a little bit of both.
Melissa Hunter Gurney is a Brooklyn based independent writer as well as the founder of GAMBA Magazine and GAMBA Z’s Artist Residency. She is connected to the artist life as seen throughout South America and writes for La Gente Descalza (The Barefoot People). Her work can be seen in various independent magazines including – The Opiate, Those That This and Post (Blank).