I have started and deleted this post several times. As a WOC I am deeply troubled by what happened to Esmin Green. Her death once again reminds us which bodies matter in our society. Ms.Green faced multiple areas of stigmatization, she was female, black and mentally ill. These issues combined are enough to create her as other, and less than in our society. In a culture that values money, masculinity, and whiteness such marginalization often results in death. In fact death has become so commonplace that often it is not extensively reported on.
Esmin Green was left to die alone, and uncared for on a hospital floor. As she writhed on the floor in obvious pain, it was all clearly observable from a video camera. At one point a security guard even entered the room, but did not take the time to investigate, or check on the clearly ill woman. She collapsed at 5:32am and it wasn’t until 6:35am, that an employee nudged her with her foot, and determined that she was in distress. Even on the tape on the investigation of her death, she was simply referred to as “the woman”. Clearly her social standing has attached itself to her now silent and cold body. What kind of world is this where someone can be observed to be ill, and in pain for more than hour, before help is called? She was not even considered worthy of a tap on the shoulder, no her status only earned her a nudge with a foot.
According to CNN, “The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which oversees the hospital, released a statement Tuesday saying it was “shocked and distressed by this situation. It is clear that some of our employees failed to act based on our compassionate standards of care.”
Yes they most certainly did…but this upset is only because there were caught in their negligence. Women akin to Esmin don’t matter, they never have, and I doubt that they ever will, in my lifetime. Really who cares about some mentally ill, poor black woman. If she cannot be exploited any longer, she might as well die and decrease the surplus population. It was with callousness, and disregard for the sanctity of life, that the hospital staff acted.
As I sit and type up yet another sad report on the death of a WOC, I must ask once again where is the outrage? Before typing this I roamed all over the feminist blogsphere looking for some mention on this horrible miscarriage of justice, only once again to find silence. At feministing you will find stories on Mortgentaler, Sexism in the media, and critique of a Kegels gym. At Shakesville you will find, a post on Ingrid Betancourt, the show Americas Got Talent, Destroying Hillary Clinton Part II, Obama expanding faith based education, images of dogs, What Would Mao Do, and finally a post entitled begone wanton trollops which appears to be a critique of Kathleen Parker. At Feministe you will find, Stocking a library with Feminist books, Fathers Owning Daughters, and I am not a coffee drinker. Three mainstream feminist blogs and not one mention of Esmin Green. The sad part about this, is that I am no longer surprised by the silence.
Earlier today I read a response by “The Flash” that she/he (not sure of gender preference) left on the thread Stealth, Marginalized Communities and the F Word at Feministe.
“Frankly, I’m constantly alienated away from feminism by the impulse to redefine feminism as needing to solve all problems. Why does feminism need to encompass anti-racism and anti-colonialism and anti-ableism and all these other anti-isms? why do feminists need to only identify as feminists and therefore make everything they believe into a feminist issue? It is possible to talk about power and privilege in many contexts, and trying to turn feminism into a one-stop-shop for progressive politics renders it meaningless. There are issues shared by feminists and other progressive activists, but that doesn’t mean that feminism needs to be redefined to include all of these things.”
I think that, that statement fully explains the silence when deaths like Esmin Green occur. There is a lot of lipservice to intersectionality, and caring about multiple sites of oppression but our deaths, our rapes, our violations really do not matter. The category ‘woman’ is subsumed by rich or middle class white women, and anything falling short of the ideal is someone else’s problem. The fact that we are all women is unimportant, when one considers the political agenda that has been set out by mainstream feminism. Race and class are not issues that are deemed viable for social action simply because they do not heavily impact upon the group, that has elected themselves as representatives of the feminist community.
When I was attacked for not showing remorse at Hillary’s loss of the Democratic nomination, I could not properly explain why, I could not feel the same sort of angst. The truth is, I am tired. I am so very tired of watching daily, helplessly as our bodies go abused and unrecognized. I am tired of being a filler when a representative black is needed, yet when my sisters cry out in real pain our calls for solidarity go unheard and unanswered. How can we call this a community, when daily the deaths of WOC go unremarked upon? I have seen more people have emotion over the death of a pet dog than when bodies of colour die.
Your silence convicts you. When you do not show rage, and when you cannot find the time to comment on a story like this, you are in collusion with every single person who is racist. Silence does not absolve you of the charge, rather it implies explicit agreement. I know whose bodies matter in this society and feminism has clearly chosen to align itself with whiteness and money, it is therefore foolish for women of colour to continue to direct our energies for your benefit. I am no longer fooled by the world ally. Maya Angelou once famously said, that people will always show you who they are, and I believe that mainstream feminism has made it clear, who belongs in the sandbox, and who is raking the sand.