“I feel like she will be with us, in my heart, soon. I feel it. We will keep praying for that.”
My mothers voice is soft over the phone- it is one of my favorite things about her, this softness that comes through the middle of difficult situations, a dandelion through pavement. It is even more pronounced since I realized she was human; my mom, the person. It took me a good portion of my teens to see through the veil placed on my mother- perfect, unreachable and somehow disappointing.
She wasn’t other mothers; she didn’t always smile, she wasn’t always married, she didn’t always have endless supplies of energy, she worked a night job, she sat on sidewalks to avoid looking hungrily at food when there was only enough to feed my brother and myself, she lost her wallet (with cash in it!) more than once.
I have thought a lot on this because as part of a religious (and undocumented) community my mother was looked down for and divided because of these things, and I wonder how much of this has resulted in the things that have scarred her.
I look like my mother; our faces so similar that her friends will often times call me by her name first. Like our round faces, and wide smile, I see society slicing me with precision. I am not even a mother and the expectations are already so high.
A child went into a cage with a gorilla and people are out with the pitchforks, and I am scared for that mom and for that kid and I look at the legacy my mother has left me and see the places where said pitchforks have dragged against her soul, placed that have gone through me. This mother and child went through the traumattizing event at the zoo and now, the virtual flogging coming from the Internet.
I want to think that maybe in the depths of this there is goodness, but so far, here is the list I have compiled:
1. People are terrified.
Honestly, even though I am a country away and ignoring social media (for the most part), seeing the video of that small child being dragged by the gorilla is terrifying and a reminder that as a species (humans) we are pretty helpless. It is terrifying in the way that death, and nature are not our underlings and will not barter with us, it reminds us that we are small and that it really all could end, like a meteor crashing against the Atlantic. I imagine that it was a personal armageddon for that mother and her response is always up for consumption as a way to distance ourselves from our own dark nights of the soul, because if it can happen to her, and we somehow make it a formula, then we can avoid that fate.
The thing with personal armaggedon’s is that they respond to no one. We are at their mercy. This woman was in a public place when it happened. It’s painful to see the violence occurring to sever her from a community that needs her not only as a reminder of their own frailty but as a way to retain its own humanity.
2. The majority of people really are not in this for Harambe.
According to the World Wildlife Federation, the biggest threats to gorillas are destruction of habitat, hunting, war, disease. Now I don’t know where you are with this but my contribution involvement in those things is exactly the same as it was pre-Harambe’s death. Harambe is dead, and that is tragic, but it means next to nothing if I am not doing anything to alleviate the causes that contribute to the death of others who have not been given a special name because they do not reside in a zoo.
3. Mothers are unprotected, black motherhood might be the least protected motherhood in the whole damn world.
Now, this, this makes me angry. I have read a few articles that state that Harambe is one of a few so he must be protected and too bad, so sad if that child died because humans are stupid and it’s their fault if they fall in to a gorilla cage. It’s always an upsetting reminder that blackness in whatever field of life must be Jesus levels of good, because otherwise its extermination can be excused away. Just ask Syria Fulton or Lezly McSpadden- an animal will always receive more justification and apologies than your own child’s humanity or your ability to be human. It’s like the wage gap, ethereally mutated: black mothers and brown mothers will have the violence that comes from moving while burdened by societal expectations of motherhood and their children will be asked as a sacrifice to satiate the beast. If you think this, please ask Jesus for forgiveness because I have none to give you.
4. This is yet another way to temporarily make ourselves feel better, at least if you view the mother at fault.
Because if you can tell yourself “I am bad, but not that bad” in some way, shape and form, you are contributing to the pitchforks. You are inflicting violence on those who are so desperately needed, not just to provide the basis of society (shout out to mothers!) but essentially on yourself, because when we shrink the margin of error from those who have so little, we are taking it from everyone. I am not a mother, but I have a mother, and the legacy of scars I have gained from her punishment still haunt me.
And that is the thing. It’s not a solitary incident, this division. If she has daughters, make mistake, you are contributing to their wounds, because undoubtedly, a lot of women see themselves reflected in the panic of that mother’s voice on the phone and the subsequent flogging that has followed. They’ve dealt with it, in ways big or small, at one point or another because a society based on patriarchal values cannot allow women the liberty to choose, learn and be protected. We ask women to provide people to form our society and leave them unprotected at every turn- we are still debating whether women are allowed to feed their children in public (i.e. breastfeeding) because women who can lactate have been denied the opportunity to exist without being sexualized from here to high heaven.
I want to think we can become a society that doesn’t just give lip service to those who are contributing to humanity by actually providing them, but one that allows mother to peacefully be humans, whether they breast feed, or loose the baby weight, or don’t always speak in soft voices to their children- even if their children somehow end in a gorilla cage.
Still, I look at my mother and her scars, and see so many of them mirror mine, and I am terrified of someday having the eyes of a daughter who will look and see how she has acquired them. It makes me wonder- how far back do they go in my family? How long until they stop? And who else is walking wounded?