Reading in the Shade

The case of the Missing Bedfellows

Bedfellow:

noun

an associate or collaborator, especially one who forms a temporary alliance for reasons of expediency:

Politics makes strange bedfellows.
I remember some WW2 propaganda that has always stuck with me. It was the image of a Russian soldier running and leaping into bed with Uncle Sam and a British soldier. I was still a child sneaking Time Life books, so I smirked at the unintended(?) homoeroticsm of Uncle Sam and big strapping masculine soldiers in bed together. Despite my initial juvenile sexual humor, the larger implication wasn’t lost on me.

Our new bedfellow!” the poster proclaimed, reminding Americans that the war had shifted. Russia was on our side. The Nazis were still evil, but the Russians had seen the light, come to Jesus, and suddenly loved American liberty. They were our friends and allies. Sort of. 

This image has always stayed with me, and even as an adult I recall it when I see groups at polar ends of the spectrum joining to together for a powerful- albeit usually brief- project. I’ve seen Radfems (descriptor not slur!) join with conservative patriarchal christians to chip away at sex worker rights. I’ve seen gay white men join hetero conservatives in racism. I’ve seen liberal white feminists ™ join up with republicans to complain about how #alllivesmatter #blacklivesmatter is racist. I’ve seen adults who make very strange bedfellows manage to tolerate each other long enough to take down the greater enemy- that enemy usually being non-white people and/or “bad” women.

Which leads to me note exactly how cold and empty my own bed is right now. I have no bedfellows. I speak as an afro-latinx. A sex worker. A person in poverty. A person with mental health issues. Physical health issues. I have many beds because of who I am, but right now, only one bed remains unoccupied. The bed that should have all the anti #holtzclaw organizers in it. The black males who fight white supremacy should be here. White feminists who fight patriarchal values should be here. Sex workers who fight to end stigma and queers who fight for legal rights should all be here. Anarchists who fight the police state should be here.

And yet, the bed where I plan on how to approach the #DanielHoltzlcaw case remains empty. Holtzclaw is a cop. He appears to be white. He raped 13 women, I believe all were black, and most were sex workers. I have no doubt more victims will come forward as time goes on. I am not certain what the verdict will be, but I know black women who do sex work have nothing to profit from lying, so I believe the man is a rapist. His trial proceedings begin this week, jury selection began yesterday, and I am watching.

But I am watching alone. I have no bedfellows. The black men who decry racism and white supremacy are strangely silent when the topic is black WOMEN brutalized and assaulted by police. There are no hashtags, no marches, no fiery speeches about white devils. The white feminists are silent as well. None of the resources created to end patriarchy and systemic misogyny are being applied to these black bodies that bear the ultimate price of being born a woman in this world. The anarchists, police watchers, and those fighting the system must be out fighting another system today, because I can’t seem to find them. Even fellow black women have turned their backs because the victims are only hoes, not respectable queens living a pure lifestyle.

Perhaps everyone is too busy coming to the aid of fake black woman Rachel Dolezal to care? Perhaps society has convinced itself that pretending to be a black woman and stealing resources from actual black women is the one true activism? Perhaps the white feminists and black men are too busy praising Ms. Dolezal to be concerned about actual black women? After all, there are only so many resources to go around and white women still outrank black women on the social ladder by several rungs. Perhaps black women should be forgotten in this moment because someone who has a higher rank and more social capital has requested backup?

And yet the people who have abandoned me today are the people I have marched for. The people I march with. The people I have fought for. I go to feminist events, try to provide comfort in black women’s spaces, try to heal wounds of racism in black spaces. But none of these people are here now. They’ve all gotten out of bed, and I find I have no bedfellows to help me plan a course of action.

This case should be “the thing”, the topic du jour, the hashtag on everyone’s lips. It has everything we as a collective fight against.

Racism.

Slut shaming.

Misogyny.

rape culture.

Militarized police state.

And yet I have no bedfellows. Could it be that our movements are dishonest at their core? Black men don’t really want black liberation, they want black male liberation? Certain Black women have bought the idea of respectability politics and queendom, hoes be (literally) damned. White women who fight to end patriarchy only mean to do it in such a way that protects white women, but not all women from harm?

Is that why there is so little outrage or support for the victims of this case? Is that why nobody cares?

So again I’m reminded that racism is bad- when men of color are the targets.

sexism is bad- when white women are the targets.

Rape is bad- if the victim isn’t a sex worker.

Police brutality is wrong- if the victim is respectable and has a great back story.

But for black women, black sex workers, non-respectable Negresses, police brutality and rape are just part of the risk of being alive. We have no bedfellows, but perhaps we can whisper our pain and fear to the pillows and bed sheets. It seems nobody else has the desire to listen.

In a roundabout way, it does remind me of my initial sexual thought of the term “bedfellows”. As a child, I’d thought the term was sexual by nature, even though I know now this isn’t the case. But perhaps in an metaphorical way it applies here-

black women are seen as so unfuckable and undesirable nobody will get into bed with us. We are destined to remain without allies or support systems. This is price of being black and female and living in a very hellish place where racism and misogyny meet.

Eternal solitude. And a lack of allies, co-conspirators, or even bedfellows.

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