Take a walk in my shoes.
They are small and black.
They make invisble prints on the concrete floors.
Walking through paths I never would have chosen for myself. Wild places full of untamed things that claw and bite. Wet places full of moisture and tears.
These shoes collect mud; it sticks to the edges and inbetween the ridges. Sometimes small stones and persistent sticks lodge there too, finding their way into vulnerable spots.
I sit there with my knees resting against one another, beating my shoes against the hard cement, trying to dislodge the stuff that collects in them. Things fall out. Even from places I never fathomed.
Sometimes I want to be silent for days because the words can’t move past my throat. They get stuck in my chest, suffocating and freeing me at the same time. How can I explain something old with new words? Words that will mean something to you; you who look at me and define me by what you see.
“You are not superwoman,” she said.
“You are not any woman,” they say, “your skin is too dark, it leaves us looking away. We are not sure whether to gaze or gape. It is easier if you weren’t here so we don’t have to make that choice. And so invisbility is your cloak. It is what we choose for you.”
And so I take the cloak from your hands. I know what it means. It means I appear in the world on your terms. You don’t say it to my face but it is screaming loud in the reasons you give for staying away; for avoiding me. The fear of the unknown that sits between us like a thick heavy cloud.
I just want you to touch me. And feel my skin. It is not a wild thing. It breathes and kisses air. Just like yours.
Feel my heartbeat, strong and unrestrained. Much like yours.
And my brain weaves around things in ways that would surprise you, challenge you and tantalise you.
Yet these things you deny me. It is as though I am not because you say I am not.
So I hang my head and go back to dislodging things from my shoes. There are no more words left to speak. Every syllable has been taken up and sucked dry. There are no more words to speak of the pain, anger and frustration of being a less valued human being.
Let’s all be quiet. No more words, please.
Silence your mind. And just slip into my shoes. Let your feet spread out in all the parts. Occupy all the space, filling every nook and cranny of the shoes. Then feel my life pouring through your body. Stay with the discomfort and pain. Stay.
You will see the world through my eyes. And when you step away, you will see yourself looking back in the mirror. They call this empathy. I call it courage. For empathy is the greatest courage there is. It calls on us to suspend wanting only for the self. We take on other people’s fights and dreams and make them as important as our own. We put them right next to ours.
It is courage because the realisation that others are human too regardless of what they look like on the outside makes us say no to injustice. It makes us better shareres of the world as our home. It makes us do better.
What do each one of us have that we have not received?
Did we form ourselves?
Did we all not get carried in our mothers’ wombs?
Were we all not born without any say in the how and where of our birth?
Where then is boasting for colour, creed and race?
Here it is. Here is the answer to every question that has race in it:
“Our sole purpose here is to get over the illusion of our separateness”
**dedicated to Ferguson and the people who live in her**