Intro from Pt 8 The Worth of Statements
I am not ashamed anymore for things I had no power in, had no experience for, had no voice. I continue to work through the life sentence my parents handed down to me while my father and his second wife walk away from a completed sentencing.
Final Pt 9 The Worth of Saying Something
It is part of my DNA, from birth, to defend those who can’t defend themselves. There were a few times when I was growing up and was away from my parents that I did say something. In defense of others, I totally lose myself. The shy apart girl persona drops away and the fierce warrior arises.
Crusader, Knight, and Rescue
Surprise was on my side, though I didn’t know it. Fierce words fight in a face-off of first-graders. This is Camelot. I am not the shy, quiet girl on the sidelines of the East Texas schoolyard. In Camelot, courage reigned king, heart loosened fervor, and brain decided crusade.
The fierce words crusaded with courage and fervor were mine. Yet moments before, I was the victim. An abusive home taught me to keep my head down and to contain myself. An abusive home taught me resistance is dangerous. An abusive home taught me I am on my own. For me there is no crusader, knight, or rescue. But being a victim doesn’t keep me from being crusader, knight, and rescue for others.
Victim now fights for victim.
I never knew her name, never knew her character, and never knew her friendship. I don’t know why these kids chose her or that time to brutalize with vicious words. I don’t know what this victim felt about her counterparts.
The battery of kids told me what they felt about her.
Until that moment, I, a first-grader of the 1980s, don’t know what I feel about her. The battery of white kids victimizes someone who is alone. The battery of white kids slings racial slurs against a black girl. Until that moment, I don’t know there is black, white, or any other label for people.
The battery of white kids incited in me a movement that I later learn has historical precedence and context. The battery of white kids incited in me a stand—a stand I later take at other times for other victims and eventually for myself.
There was no space between thought and action. Instantly red hot with rage, I launched, ready to take on the invaders. I was not the reticent victim or loner. As they pushed the girl backward, I surged forward, my words fueled by emotion and unconscious right. The kids stopped. They grew silent. They scattered as if never there. And I left Camelot and was the shy, quiet girl on the sidelines of an East Texas schoolyard. I don’t even remember my words to those kids. I finished my school day and returned to the abusive world that was home. But that day I experienced my own first knight, crusader, and rescue.
At home, the streets were the playground, and I played alone. Suddenly, down the street appeared a group of kids of various ages. They came toward me, straight down the middle of the street. They were all black. It could have meant danger, if I stood in their way. I was a victim, though, and I stood frozen and uncertain what it meant for me. Did I do something wrong? Did they know my name, know my character, or know my friendship?
The battery of white kids, slinging racial slurs, didn’t know they incited a movement. They incited a stand. Suddenly, the fellowship of black youth was with me, and the element of surprise was on their side. I had no idea that they would be so grateful. They took turns introducing themselves and hugging and thanking me. These were the family and friends of the girl attacked.
I stood alone, a victim of brutal parents, and I didn’t know hugs and appreciation and family. For the first time in my life someone raged against the attacks on my life. For the first time in my life, I felt safe and loved. It was Camelot, and there were no victims—only victors.
The Continued Worth of Saying Something
I only know this moment, as I write today, that my experiences defending others is a thread which I have running through me, under those lockboxes of silence. It has been so long since that part of me was needed. The key was in my past to not say anything, but the key was also in the past for me to say something.
As I write this today, I can feel a rising in me. I can feel the cries of other abused kids. I am angry for them. I feel the pain of them. So many who need someone to say something in their defense. In therapy, I am only a babe in the story of my own life, in understanding and overcoming my own trauma, but even a babe, such as my first-grade self, can say something. So now, fearless and fierce, I take the next step from my witness statement almost twenty years ago, not to imaginary face-offs with my father or my mother, but to face-offs that are real for this moment, for this time. In this statement, for myself and for others, I say something.