the right to breathe

I’ve been stalked for almost two and a half years.

I wrote about being stalked in “Far from alone” last August.

If I understood I was far from alone before reading attorney Carrie Goldberg’s magnificent Nobody’s Victim last year, I was even clearer afterward. I was both comforted and disheartened to know how very, very many people endure stalking

that few who have not experienced it can begin to fathom.

In Nobody’s Victim, many of the perpetrators are men. They’re part of what Goldberg describes as “the manosphere”:

These tech-savvy degenerates consider themselves porn aficionados. But I think they are best understood as part of the “manosphere,” a rapidly growing online brotherhood of loosely affiliated misogyny forums and male supremacist hate groups. The manosphere encompasses a sprawling array of women haters, from incels and Men Going Their Own Way (male separatists who eschew relationships with women, who they think can’t be trusted) to red pillers (who believe women want to be physically and mentally dominated, even raped) and pickup artists (who shun the idea of consent and share tips for manipulating women into sex by degrading them).

What’s not explicitly clear from the passage above is that women can be–are–part of the manosphere.

I know because my being stalked followed my trying to say “no” to a woman who felt entitled to my time, energy, and assent.

At first, I tried to say “no” gently. I wrote in an email that I wanted to be part of what MLK, Jr. called “positive justice,” or working to change things for the better instead of gossiping and maligning.

That didn’t work. With grim resolve, she demanded an explanation, so that I felt even more exhausted trying to extract myself from that conversation than the ones about how most everyone else was out to get her.

(Were the red flags there well before this? You betcha. I was just so exhausted and so determined to keep my family afloat, I tried silver-lining myself out of fully acknowledging them: “Oh, I’m sure it’s not that bad!”)

For two weeks, I tried multiple times to extract myself gently. Each effort to extract myself yielded her intensified efforts to keep me in the conversation, so that I finally, shaking and afraid after so. much. trauma from lifelong violence, said a hard and solid “no.”

Unfortunately, I’d waited far too long to heed the red flags;

I began to be stalked that very same week

(although I didn’t know to call it that

until much later).

I tried reporting being stalked to the police.

Twice, officers came to my rental house; twice, different pairs of officers said there was nothing they could do without property damage–you know, real damage.

It didn’t matter that the stalker had been inside my home, including–before we got wise to how inadequate are alarm systems–while we were at home, sleeping. It simply. didn’t. matter.

The police, they informed me, could only respond to property damage.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days: how U.S. police officers routinely steal Black men, women, and children’s lives,

but how that’s invisible to people who, not fearing for their own family members’ lives,

are much more concerned about maybe being “looting” victims.

In the contest between people and property,

their property concerns win.

This comes into crystal clarity for me when I think of the woman who’s stalked me for two and a half years.

She’s a liberal, Hillary-voting, Trump-loathing mom. She knows how to write the right life-affirming messages about how Black lives matter, and yet …

In one of the stalking incidents I documented before finally giving up, because my entire life felt overrun just documenting what someone else was doing to me, a particular book of mine was flipped upside-down and half-pulled from my bookshelf while my family was out:

The Hate U Give.

Knowing that I grew up in trauma, and that
I have a Black husband and two beautiful Black sons,
a white woman had entered my home and implicated my “hate”
by invoking the actual, lived hate shattering real human lives every day
in the United States.

In her mind, my “no” to her was apparently equivalent to
young Black men and women fearing U.S. systems
for the casualness with which those systems steal their lives;
to the fear of their parents, and grandparents,
having to release them into the world
every day, that they might
live in the course of
earning a living.

This epitomizes the systemic blindness
of those most deeply privileged by U.S. injustice systems;
of entitlement that runs so deep, for some people, that
in a country so deeply, enduringly unequal,
a privileged liberal white woman
could genuinely confuse her
struggle with the struggle
of millions simply to live,
simply to be afforded the
right to breathe,
in the U.S.

When I wrote about “Karens” in “safer,”
it was the woman who stalks me that I pictured:

Like Amy Cooper, who called the cops and said lied that a Black man was threatening her life,
some part of her has to be aware that the U.S. justice system
exists to uphold her property-holding rights.

Like Amy Cooper, she acts as if she believes
she has the right to hear “yes” every single time she wants to hear it, and:
Hasn’t the justice system affirmed she, an educated, propertied white woman, is uniquely deserving?
Isn’t it her rights the system is here to uphold?!

It doesn’t matter what she actually believes in her heart.
It’s actions, not in-heart beliefs, that both kill people and
ensure that their killers will be kept safe
from ever knowing justice.

As with Amy Cooper, it’s the acts she takes that reflect the truth:
She is entitled, and she is entitled, at the expense of Black and other unpropertied lives,
to have reality conform to her wants.

I will not write about her again, because she does not deserve it;

but, more so,
much more so,

because my life is full and rich, and because I have much to offer
when I dedicate my time and energy to being part of systemic change
for people whose suffering is genuine, and deep, and built into sick systems;

keeping solidarity, not supremacy disguised as liberalism,
with people who could die simply because they step
outside with dark skin (and because
white women’s fear must
always be heeded, even if
others the other dies
as a result).

But it was important to write about here, because:
I understand, now, why Martin Luther King, Jr. decried the white “moderate”
(who, today, posts the right words on Facebook while, in act, punishing less privileged others
for daring so “no”):

their privilege
was built on the destruction
of others’ lives,

but to hear them tell it,
they’re the ones who suffer
because others the other
won’t let them have
everything.

2 thoughts on “the right to breathe

  1. Deborah, I’m so sorry you have had to endure this, along with all that came before it. I think your approach is a healthy one, and one that lets you live your life without being a prisoner to it. we are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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