“I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin.” ~ A Selection from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave 1845, Fredrick Douglas
As I am reading through journals from Fredrick Douglas (FD), I cannot help but think about my own abuse from those that would seek to break me. One of FD’s writings speaks of an owner beating his slave and not being moved by the cries and screams of the woman he is beating. This brings back memories of the cries by myself and others who just wanted freedom to BE. While reading his writing, I have thoughts about that woman. I wonder why she was being punished. Did it have to do anything with her being told to do something and she simply had enough and refused? In doing so, I can only imagine the anger that reared up in her master’s face. Perhaps it was the same look I saw as I wondered if death was my only escape. I had a voice and intended to use it many times, but then I would have to face the consequences of speaking up for myself or someone else. I had to learn how to speak up in ways that seemed non-offensive. I had to scrape as much sense of integrity as I could conjure up at that time, and speak in ways that seemed as though my sole purpose was to still please my pimp. I wonder if the woman being beaten was just tired of the crap and her own use of manipulation to find a place of peace for herself and those she cared about. I am connected to her childlike faith and dreams of the future for some reason. I think she believed in herself in a way that would give her a sense of hope to speak up and use her voice to change something; anything. She knew very well her master’s ways. She knew she was going to get a response…but maybe just maybe, this time he would HEAR her cries. Maybe he would succumb to his inner convictions taunting him at night and just maybe he would tire and grow weary of such practices of fear and punishment. Perhaps he would somehow connect with me and see that I am human deserving of dignity, value and love. As I sat in a chair, I tried to listen to my master (pimp) and stop my head from spinning as a result of his mighty blows. All I could do was agree with what he was telling me….
After all of that, I don’t think he heard my cries in the moment, though I do believe he heard me at some point. Maybe he heard me during his sleep, or through the voice of some other influencer in his life. I always noticed, how he would look at me the next day. When our eyes met, I made sure to search for an “I’m sorry” in his face. Or even an “I really do Love you”. At times, I just met a cold, empty, emotionless soul and then sometimes I would find a glimpse of “I am hurting too”. When I did, it gave me hope for another chance at his heart or that he would just let me go and cut our losses. At this point, I was completely broken and willing to take either option.
I so identified with the woman in the writing of FD’s journals. I am the woman and the woman is me. In finding my redemption, she too has been set free.
~ Identifiable Me
I am so in love with the me I get to BE 🙂