Repeat After Me

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Boleman Herring Banner 2019

Repeat after me—with radical empathy: I am a poor, old, disabled, Queer (or Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, neurodivergent, undocumented, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America. Repeat after me, until your empathy is truly radical; until you inhabit each of these identities down to the marrow of your bones; until these women take up residence in your souls: I am a poor, old, disabled, Queer (Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, neurodivergent, undocumented, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.”—Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Weekly Hubris

By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

“Stylite’s Dream,” by Frank Forrestall.

Stylite’s Dream,” by Frank Forrestall.

“One-down: At a disadvantage in a game or a competitive situation; The classic example is ‘men don’t ask for directions’; to do so frames them as one-down, a person needing help, and the direction-giver as one-up, a person with superior knowledge.”―lexico.com

“Radical empathy . . . means putting in the work to educate oneself and to listen with a humble heart to understand another’s experience from their perspective, not as we imagine we would feel. Radical empathy is not about you and what you think you would do in a situation you have never been in and perhaps never will. It is the kindred connection from a place of deep knowing that opens your spirit to the pain of another as they perceive it.”―Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

2019 Boleman-Herring Weekly Hubris

PENDLETON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2021—Since we last heard from WeeklyHubris.com’s Publishing-Editor, in September of 2020, she has been doing endless loads of laundry, biting her nails to the quick (a habit begun in nursery school which took a hiatus during Obama’s presidency), apprenticing as a siege-cook, communing with her two step-dogs (despite allergies), reading (Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson; Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America & Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own , by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.; The School of Life: An Emotional Education, Intro. by Alain de Botton, etc.), listening to Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Steve Schmidt, Jason Johnson, and Michael Beschloss on MSNBC, watching films (“Portrait of A Lady on Fire”), and venturing out only to walk (masked and distant), go to the Post Office (after hours, gloved and masked), and pick up prescriptions from the CVS drive-through (masked and one-gloved, like Michael Jackson). The eccentric little essay that follows (concerning some of the concentric levels of one-down-ness in America) comprises one of her responses to reading Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste.

Whoever You Are, But Especially If You Are a White American Man, Repeat After Me:

Voice One: I am a woman, living in America.
Voice Two: As an American woman, you earn just 79 cents for every dollar earned by men of all races, and you were not granted the right to vote until the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1920.

Voice One: I am a Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: Black men in America were granted the right to vote 50 years before Black women.

Voice One: I am a Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: Recent data indicate that the attitudes of most Americans toward Jews have not changed significantly in the past 25 years—about 11 percent hold “intensely” anti-Semitic views, according to a new Anti-Defamation League poll. What has changed, according to the ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, is that “more of the millions of Americans holding anti-Semitic views are feeling emboldened to act on their hate.” In Western countries, anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia have grown substantially since the beginning of the 21st century. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes has been noted particularly in the United States. Further, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported a rise in religion-related complaints by Muslims since 2001, which suggests that Muslims feel increasingly discriminated against in employment matters. Negative stereotypes depict Muslims as “religious fanatics, terrorists, hostile, evil, barbaric, wild, backward, disorganized people who mistreat and oppress women.”

Voice One: I am a poor, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: Seventy percent of the America’s poor are women and children. Women in America are still 35 percent more likely than men to be poor, with single mothers facing the highest risk. Currently, 35 percent of single women with children live and raise their families in poverty.

Voice One: I am an uneducated, poor, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: The obstacles that women face are largely societal and cultural, and act against women from the time they enter kindergarten, instilling in very young girls a belief they are less innately talented than their male peers.

Voice One: I am a Queer (or Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, poor, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: 2020 saw at least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means, the majority of whom were Black and Latinx transgender women.

Voice One: I am a disabled, Queer (or Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, poor, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: Women with disabilities experience distinct forms of gender-based violence due to their disabilities. These can include sexual abuse by a caregiver; withholding of medication or an assistive device; purposefully substandard care; denial of necessities like food, toileting, or grooming; control of sensory devices; financial control; restriction of communication devices; “virgin rape”; violence in long-term care institutions; and enforced isolation. Women with disabilities who belong to, or are perceived as belonging to, other groups that face heightened vulnerability to discrimination and violence—such as women with disabilities who are also immigrants, racial or ethnic minorities, indigenous, LGBTI, older women, or adolescents—may experience compounded forms of gender-based violence.

Voice One: I am a neurodivergent, disabled, Queer (or Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, poor, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: One of worst ways we shame neurodivergence is in treating it as inherent brokenness. Medically disability and divergence is often treated as a hindrance, an obstacle, something to be cured or fixed. This translates to how we socially tend to treat most disabilities in our culture; the disabled, and neurodivergent become an individual fault that needs to be fixed. This creates a false equivalent that, that when a body does not fit neatly into a norm: it is broken; it needs to be fixed.

Voice One: I am an old, neurodivergent, disabled, Queer (or Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, poor, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: Sixty-one percent of US workers at or over the age of 45 reported witnessing or experiencing ageism in the workplace. In the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports a 15 percent increase in the number of Age Discrimination in Employment Act charges by women at or over the age of 40 from 1990 to 2017. In the same period, charges by men within the same age bracket decreased by 18 percent.

Voice One: I am an undocumented, old, neurodivergent, disabled, Queer (or Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, poor, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America.
Voice Two: Athough undocumented immigrants account for less than 3 percent of the total adult LGBT population in the United States, they represent nearly 8 percent of LGBT hate violence survivors. Violence against LGBT and HIV-affected undocumented people rose by almost 50 percent between 2012 and 2013, though this increase may be attributed to better reporting and local organizations’ increased outreach to this community. LGBT and HIV-affected undocumented people were 3.4 times more likely to experience sexual violence and 3.5 times more likely to experience physical violence compared to the general LGBT community. Not only are LGBT undocumented people more likely to experience violence, but the forms of violence they faced were also more likely to be severe. They were twice as likely to experience injury as a result of the violence and 1.7 times more likely to require medical attention for their injuries. These injuries are particularly dangerous for undocumented immigrants, since this group is prohibited from accessing Medicaid or buying insurance in the state health insurance exchanges. LGBT and HIV-affected undocumented survivors of violence were 1.7 times more likely than the general LGBT community to report incidents to the police; however, they were also 1.4 times more likely to experience police violence.

Voice One: Repeat after me—with radical empathy: I am a poor, old, disabled, Queer (or Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, neurodivergent, undocumented, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America. Repeat after me, until your empathy is truly radical; until you inhabit each of these identities down to the marrow; until these women take up residence in your souls: I am a poor, old, disabled, Queer (Lesbian, or Trans), uneducated, neurodivergent, undocumented, Muslim (or Jewish), Black woman, living in America. Feel what it is, in this country, to inhabit ghetto within ghetto within ghetto within ghetto, in an infinity of marginalized and dispensable nesting dolls, one within the other. Repeat after me.

Author’s Note: Interestingly, how one lists serial adjectives in a sentence in English (The Royal Order of Adjectives) is often a clue to how degrees of one-down-ness in the culture are communicated and stratified. The readings bluelined in my short essay are merely a jumping-off place for interested readers.

To order Elizabeth Boleman-Herring’s memoir and/or her erotic novel, click on the book covers below:

Elizabeth Boleman, Greek Unorthdox: Bande a Part & a Farewell to Ikaros

Elizabeth Boleman Herring, The Visitors’ Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

About Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, Publishing-Editor of “Weekly Hubris,” considers herself an Outsider Artist (of Ink). The most recent of her 15-odd books is The Visitors’ Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable, now available in a third edition on Kindle. Thirty years an academic, she has also worked steadily as a founding-editor of journals, magazines, and newspapers in her two homelands, Greece, and America. Three other hats Boleman-Herring has at times worn are those of a Traditional Usui Reiki Master, an Iyengar-Style Yoga teacher, a HuffPost columnist and, as “Bebe Herring,” a jazz lyricist for the likes of Thelonious Monk, Kenny Dorham, and Bill Evans. (Her online Greek travel guide is still accessible at www.GreeceTraveler.com, and her memoir, Greek Unorthodox: Bande a Part & A Farewell To Ikaros, is available through www.GreeceInPrint.com.) Boleman-Herring makes her home with the Rev. Robin White; jazz trumpeter Dean Pratt (leader of the eponymous Dean Pratt Big Band); Calliope; and Scout . . . in her beloved Up-Country South Carolina, the state James Louis Petigru opined was “too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” (Author Photos by Robin White.)
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