Author: Tabitha Barbour
As I start the first semester of my junior year, I am called to moments of reflection. Reflection of who I am, who I was, and the woman I want to become. While my professors throw out large topics, I find that the weight of my self scrutiny plus the weight of the troubled world just might crush me.
I pick up the phone and dial home. My mother answers and beckons me to explain my unhappiness. I am tired of explaining, but I humor her. Most mothers are naturally doctors. Mine is of the pharmaceutical sorts. She is a psychologist today. Her diagnosis: you are of serious disposition. “You need to stop and smell the roses, “ she says. “Where is mommy’s good little girl?” Those words other me and put me in line in the strangest way. “Good little girl.” My mind processes “Good little black girl.” What do those words even mean? I understand my mother does not intend to but her words cut me like a cold blade.
Stop and smell the roses. I have seen them in Holcomb Gardens. But that does not mean that I will not expose the excess manure of this place. That is not nourishing, but is making a spetic of these grounds. It does not mean that I will not make note of the hedges that are depriving the small plants of sunlight. This does not mean that I will not stand up for squelched flowers speaking in soft whispers, because the gutter collects all the rain.
Through my classes I am reminded that history matters. It shapes ideology, thought, and deed. Who has access to history and who controls what records are kept is a power struggle all on its own. In my history matters with Dr. Deno, she tells the class that no one comes into a situation untainted; everyone has history. Our class did an ice breaker with Dr. Jett’s section of the history seminar. We introduced ourselves to one person then have to take their name and introduced ourselves with that name. Dr. Deno explained to us that even our names carry weight. This is struck a chord within me. The origin and purpose of my name carries so much expectation for me.
My parents named me Tabitha. It is the english version of the Hebrew name Dorcas. Dorcas is a woman in the Bible who’s story is told in the book of Acts. Tabitha means woman of GOOD works. She went around the city of Joppa doing works for others. When she died an untimely death, the whole city mourned until Peter, an apostle, raised her from the dead. With this religious narrative, how in so much did my parents set the framework for me to be a “good” girl.
This good that I am supposed to embody is respect to my family, their expectation, and what those before me made. I am sorry mom, dad, but I cannot live up to this. I cannot be good, because I know that being good gets you nowhere. Good or not you may still wind up dead. But how much in this label of “good” reinforces oppression? How much in this label say that a woman is suppose to be at peace? How much does it reinforce that black anger is unacceptable? But I am angry and rightfully so.
I am angry that I don’t feel included in a space that uses me to sell diversity and inclusion.
I am angry that some of peers of color just don’t get it. If they do, they just don’t care to move toward change.
I am angry that this Community of Care does not care about me.
I am angry that I am discouraged to pursue change by members of the Butler Community.
I am angry that I had to sit through a diversity training that did not discuss Black Lives Matter.
I am angry that people use kindness and respect as solutions to structural inequality.
I am angry that I am told to not worry about the things I cannot change. For being told I cannot change people. For all the times others told me to feel powerless.
I am angry that I am constantly told to be thankful. Thankful for being othered by my peers. Thankful for being disrespected for expressing my feelings. Thankful for being called radical for wanting fair treatment for myself and other marginalized people. Yeah, no thanks.
I am angry that I am told asking my peers to care, is too much to ask.
I am angry for all the time I spent blaming myself.
I am angry that I have to be constantly angry, because change is slow and to fall asleep is to die to one’s self.
Call it an ego, but I feel endowed by the leaders that came before to respect their legacy and charge forward. To pick my ‘fro neatly with respect to them and hold the pick in the back of its round sphere. I feel I owe everything to those who will enter this space after me and those who yet to exist. I feel endowed by the founder of this university, Ovid Butler, who believed that higher education should be available people. But I say to Butler, it is not enough to just educate the blacks. For your education has enraged us. You now must be held accountable to your own standard of educating all people. For my demand is simple, if you are going to use me to sell diversity and inclusion, if you say you want diversity and inclusivity, then stand in solidarity with me in making Butler the inclusive and diverse place it can be.