*NOTE: For more information on the readings and prompt that inspired this essay, please click here.
The following essays contains my thoughts on the power of words and the process of circulating through different groups and establishing my identity. Motivated by the words of bell hooks and Cherrie Moraga, two social activists, I use some of their ideas to reflect on aspects of my life.
bell hooks — Remembered Rapture
“This tension between writing as an expression of my longing to emerge as autonomous creative thinker and the fear that such expression and any other manifestation of independence would mean madness, an end to life, created barriers between me and those written words. I was afraid of their power and yet I needed them.”
The power of words can go far or not at all. That was something I discovered a while back as I thought about my writing and the effects it had on my sense of self and how I process events around me. I find myself thinking about writing, specifically about the act and art of it, but at the same time, I find myself not writing enough. I do not devote the time, energy, or brain space to it. Sometimes, I think that I’m not being active in recording my thoughts in a mostly permanent form; other times, I fear the great effects my words can carry well into the unforseeable future. Like bell hooks, I want to “emerge as [an] autonomous creative thinker,” but I feel restricted by other forces and distractions. Even as I compose this piece and attempt to probe into the depths of my thought-filled mind, I try to let thoughts come to the surface. Despite all efforts, nothing comes. Forced reflection won’t work perfectly, so then the question becomes, when does the reflection feel natural?
Cherrie Moraga — Loving in the War Years
“I have heard comments like, ‘Well, we’re open to all women; why don’t they (women of color) come? You can only do so much…’ But there is seldom any analysis of how the very nature and structure of the group itself may be founded on racist or classist assumptions. More important, so often the women seem to feel no loss, no lack, no absence when women of color are not involved; therefore there is little desire to change the situation.”
In Cherrie Moraga’s piece “La Guera” in Loving in the War Years, she discusses growing up and aspiring towards Anglo society and her eventual shift in consciousness as a Chicana lesbian. In the above quotation, she discusses some of the reactions she has received when she’s entered various women’s groups. Just because a policy and an air of inclusiveness exists does not mean that the groups themselves continually reinforce those notions. When it comes to space and place, the aspect that matters the most are the people that converge at a specific point in time. Without those people, the space and the place would not be significantly notable. In my numerous travels around places in California, I have stumbled upon groups that consciously carried the rhetoric of inclusiveness while their practice demonstrated exclusivity. What draws me into these spaces are their ideals of inclusiveness — I am excited to attend. But when I get there, I instantly feel dismayed: reality is not congruent with the ideals. The people there just talk about ideas and seldom act upon the ideas being discussed. No matter where I go, I am a person of color, female, and of countless other identities. Stepping into some spaces geared towards females and people of color, I feel the need to be something else entirely as the dominant dialogue flows in and out of the heads of others. When will these feelings go away? When do I actually have the chance to not build a facade and instead just present me, myself, unaltered? More or less at the end of the day, I am fighting with oppressions Moraga considers, “for all of us, [it] begins under the skin.” If I am to present an unaltered version of myself, I first need to understand these oppressions I have been socialized in for so long. It is time for a new consciousness to arise, especially in terms of all the identities I hold: Cantonese speaking, cultural hybrid, product of the city, and more.
Post submitted by Courtney