Every Wednesday, we, at The Body is Not an Apology, will be exploring some of the current stories in the media through the lenses of radical self love and body terrorism.
Giving Poisoned Water to the Poor
Two years ago, the government of Flint, MI switched its tap water source to the corrosive Flint River, in order to save money. That water is filled with chemical byproducts, E. coli, Legionnaires’ disease and lead.
Since that change,there has been a significant spike in cases of Legionnaire’s disease in Flint and ten people have died from the disease in the past few months. Children have been found with elevated levels of lead in their blood, which can cause lifetime developmental damage.
Flint is a predominantly Black small city, and 40 percent of the residents living under the poverty line.
The government of Flint exposed the city residents to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins for years, while refusing to acknowledge or act on the residents’ demands that the water be changed. Instead it required that people continue to pay for the tap water, the average bill costing 140 dollars a month.
There is mounting evidence that the government knew how dangerous the water was and rather than saving lives, it attempted to cover up the information.
Patrisse Cullors of #BlackLivesMatter has said about the water crisis in Flint, “…when our communities don’t have access to clean water that is also state violence. You know, we’ve talked a lot about police and vigilante violence but it’s a matter we have to take up as a movement.”
Water is supposed to be life-giving. The Flint government refused to listen or care for to their poor and Black constituents and served them poisoned water for a profit.
#SayHerName: A World Where Women Can’t Say No
Janese Talton-Jackson was killed by a man after she refused to talk with him at a bar in Pittsburgh, PA. The man followed her outside to her car, still trying to engage her, and when she turned him down again, he fatally shot her. She was 29 years old and the mother of two children.
There are still so many people, especially men, who do not recognize what a danger it is to walk through the world as a woman. The killing of this Black woman is not an isolated incident. It is part of a larger pattern of men acting entitled to women’s time, space, energy, body, and ultimately their lives, simply because the man wants her attention.
Every woman I know can tell multiple stories of being afraid of strange men engaging her as she tries to make her way in the world. Whether it is being approached in the streets on her way home from work, or like Janese, just trying to relax at a bar, women’s lives are constantly interrupted by men who insist that that women put their own autonomy aside in order to placate a strange man’s desire for a woman’s attention.
Janese was approached twice by this man. She said no. And now she is dead, shot in the chest, because she said she wasn’t interested in his advances.
This is the body terrorism that women face consistently. A world in which when Black women say “no,” they cannot know what the man’s response will be, whether he will respect her wishes, or whether he will end her life. A world in which women cannot know which men are the ‘good’ ones, and if a woman is nice to the wrong man, she could end up dead. And if she doesn’t give a man a chance, she could still end up dead.
Black women matter. Black women deserve to live in a world, in which they’re bodies are free and safe. In which they can say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ to men as they please, without fear. That is not the world we live in now. That is not the world that Janese lived in, and she paid the ultimate price for saying “no.”
Aboriginal Survival Day is Radical Self Love
January 26th marks the day that the first British colony landed in Australia in 1788. Indigenous communities in Australia have called the day, “Survival Day” or “Invasion Day,” because it commemorates the beginning of the British and Australian genocide against the Aboriginal peoples on the continent. While many Australians, mostly white, and the Australian government celebrate the national holiday, “Australia Day,” with barbecues and alcohol, Aboriginals and their allies have for more than a century been fighting against “Australia Day.” For them it is a day of mourning, not celebration. It is the day that begins their ancestors’ being slaughtered and their ancestors’ lands and children being stolen by whites.
To this day, Aboriginals live as second and third class citizens in Australia. Aboriginals are imprisoned 15 times more than non-Aboriginals in Australia; they die 10 years earlier and their unemployment rates are twice as high as the national average.
Creating a national holiday that marks the mass slaughter of another people is a common form of body terrorism. The dominant society, white Australia, considers Aboriginal people’s embodiment of their culture and history to be of less importance, than the whites’ desire to feel pride in their own history, no matter the violence that history contains.
In the US, there are two national holidays that enact this terroristic ritual, Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. In Israel, another settler colonial state, there is the yearly celebration of Israeli Independence Day, which the Palestinians refer to as ‘al-Nakba,’ the ‘Destruction.’
In each of these states, the Indigenous people mourn the loss of their families and communities to unwarranted settler violence, while the dominant settler societies celebrate the founding of their settlements and nation-states with little to no acknowledgement of the horror and violence that ancestors’ past actions caused, or the continuing terror the celebration enacts on the survivors.
Many Aboriginals have reclaimed and re-contextualized the national holiday from “Australia Day” into “Survival Day” or “Invasion Day,” as an act of radical self and community love. This reclamation and re-naming places the Indigenous’ story at the center of the holiday. For them, this is a day in which the Indigenous peoples commemorate their continuing survival in the face of British and Australian attempts at wholesale genocide.[Feature Image: Plastic bottles of water, with black caps.]