This is a very graphic post.
That song, which I love, has come up twice recently, in posts by bloggers I love. You know it, the one from The Color Purple that Shug sings to Celie at the juke joint, the one that gives Celie the courage to poke out her tongue at women who made fun at her. Nubian wrote about why she loves the movie and the song, what she sees of herself in them. And BfP included it in a beautiful tribute to Black Amazon.
I had mentioned to nubian, in another place, that I loved the song, that my sister and I sing it to each other quite often. Since then, I've wanted to write about what it means to me. I've balked at the idea--despite all the things I share with y'all, there's lots I don't say. What would people think? I wonder. Is it appropriate--it's not as if my pseudonymity is unbreachable or even particularly well protected. How personal should an aspiring academic get online?
But I can't shake it, the desire to write about it. And so I will.
I no longer watch The Color Purple from the beginning. I can't take it--Mister's abuse of Celie, the separation from Nettie, the attack on Sophia, and all the other pain is too much. I have to pick it up deep into the film. Usually when Celie's about to cut Mister at the dinner table.
I can't take Miss Celie's pain because it mirrors my own. I know her too well, it feels like. The childhood sexual abuse by a man you should've been able to trust. That first unexpected slap just for speaking your mind. That moment when you touch that newly-inflicted injury with your hand, feeling the blood and still not believing that he could do that, that he would do that. Scrambling to have everything just so, only to be told that it's not right. It's never right. Lying still and squeezing your eyes shut, because it's just easier to go along with it--it can't really be rape if you're in a relationship. Because that would mean you'd been raped more than once. And no one will believe you've been raped more than once.
And I know why she hid her smile behind her hand, too. Oh, yes, part of it is because you don't deserve to be happy. Hell, if you did, all those things wouldn't keep happening to you. But another part is, don't-look-at-me, I-don't-want-the-attention. Because, you reason, after you're abused repeatedly, there must be something about you, something that attracts the attention of abusers, something you're doing wrong. So you struggle to make yourself as small, as invisible as possible.
I did that. And in the back of my mind, I nurtured a love for another song, His Eye Is on the Sparrow. Because I believed those words--that if God cared about a plain, little bird, then surely I, as small as I tried to be, meant something.
But, of course, there's another part to The Color Purple, the part I can watch, the part with which I am beginning to identify. When Celie makes it out. My journey out didn't begin as beautifully as hers did--with letters from her beloved sister (or, perhaps, from the moment she met Shug) or as satisfyingly--when she told Mister off, fearlessly, at that family dinner.
It began in three places, I believe. In my home--I woke up one night from a dream, crying, thinking, what would I be if all those things hadn't happened to me? That was a catalyst, in a sense, because I'd fooled myself into believing that I wasn't really affected anymore, that I was in control of my life, that I wasn't like other women because I'd only been hit three or four times, and I could get out at any point because I had the education and the income, and on and on.
In my mind--because I had a child. And I did not want him growing up seeing me abused or learning to be abusive.
In a doctor's office--after the last sexual assault, when I'd decided to call the police. I spent my 28th birthday in a police car and an examining room. I refused the rape exam--he hadn't been able to penetrate because, tired of lying there and closing my eyes, I'd fought his ass back. And I still couldn't wrap my mind around the idea of my being raped. What I did let them do was swab my face. I suppose he'd considered that consolation humiliation.
But something else happened too. I had to talk to a rape counselor and best friend Texas was in the room. At one point, the counselor asked me something like, "You don't think very much of yourself, do you?" I said no. And best friend Texas started crying. It dawned on me that, for some reason, she thought much of me. And I used that, her love and the love of my other friends and family, who were outraged when I didn't feel I had a right to be, who thought much of me-old, fat, not much more than a little brown sparrow, me. I used it to edify me while I was trying to develop some self love. I can never explain what my best friends, my sister, and my closest cousins have been to me. Never.
So like, Miss Celie, I made it out, too, in a way. I don't think I am as triumphant as she was, not yet. But I do know, for certain, that when I shimmy for my sister and laugh and sing that part, "I'm something, I hope you think that you're something, too," I know that coming from nothing, from sparrowness, I mean it with everything in me.
borrowed from nubian.