“Hold up,” I say raising my hand awaiting acknowledgment and consent to continue. Keyword: consent. Given that consent was increasingly a hot topic in my time amongst women and that the philosophical practice of privacy stemmed heavily around the intersection of both of these subjects, I decide to forgo any judgments on any Orwellian-type telepathic monitoring—no matter the horror of such an invasive measure—until I’ve reviewed and analyzed the history and ethics of it currently being used. Still, the recognition of what I just did hits me like a hard wave.
Wynne and Lalita stop their telepathic one-on-one and look at me. Wynne appears patient; Lalita does not.
It took all of ten minutes of silent contemplation to realize that I was being that woman; that white woman I so loathe; that white woman that goes viral when she calls the cops on black folks for living their lives or that white woman that yells at people of color to speak English; it’s grotesque and intrusive and reeks of entitlement—it’s so ugly it warps time and space. I don’t like that woman—no one does. I certainly don’t wanna be her.
Yet, here I am. Fifteen hundred years later, I still had lots to learn about my whiteness and the damage it caused around me. Even now. It was an infection that continued to ooze.
Was I being too hard on myself? I dunno. It’s not really for me to judge, is it? Are the two invasions of privacy and freedoms linked? Most likely, depending on who is wielding the power.
I lower my hand tucking it under the other one folded on the table in front of me. “I realize what I did there. I like rose up and looked down and saw myself being that woman—” I stop talking when I recognize they don’t need a detailed explanation.
Or do they?
“Sorry.” I remind myself that wisdom begins with acknowledging and owning when I’m wrong. I sigh. “I get it. I do. White people are just the worse and so exhausting. I do seriously get it: talk less, listen more. My whataboutism and false equivalency of being disappeared is not like the literal physical disappearance of Black women and women of color throughout the centuries. I’m not totally obtuse. Just slow. I’m gonna shut up now and listen.”
The replies are blank. My need for validation is crippling and tiresome for us all. The socio-political conundrums of the past and present disorient me and I need to find a balance—a way to converge the two universes of then and now.
“I give little energy to the quibbles of your inadequacies,” Lalita states. “We are required elsewhere.” She rises to leave. Wynne follows.
I smile at her response—I WOULDN’T EITHER IF I WAS HER, I tell Q—and follow along quietly behind them. “Where are we going?” I ask.
“A group designate has interpretation needs of you,” Lalita says.
“Oh, lovely,” I grunt as we walk towards—what? “Is this like a trial?”
“No. Inquiry,” says Wynne.
“An interrogation then—I see.” The dread curdles in my stomach. An assembly to diagnose and judge me and my experiences. “Lovely,” I mumble. “You know, I’ve never in my life talked about myself as much as I have with y’all. It’s tedious. I seriously don’t get how narcissists do it all the time. My ego really isn’t that big. Never has been. This is…uncomfortable.”
The info dump proved…interesting. I had yet to get through it all. They can put information in my brain but I still needed to reflect on it or, likewise, interrogate it, if you will.
Was the information biased? In what perspective was the information given? Is this information opinion or fact? What was my emotional reaction to it all and on and on. How I interpret and what I do with all that info is up to me. Always—always philosophically examine the facts. I understood this, but the dread and shame of my past failures and the confrontation of them isn’t something I’m looking forward to. I should look at it as a learning experience and make the most of it, and while they are picking my brain, I can pick theirs.
Fun. I rub my hands together eagerly: “This is like college, eh? I mean I hope y’all ain’t gonna paint me as a white savior trope because I wholeheartedly march to the beat of Black feminists. All respect, I know who paved the way for my rights.” They stop in front of me. I almost plow into their backs as they turn, glance at each other, then me.
“Do you think we need a white savior?” Lalita quizzes me unsparingly. Her brutal honesty is refreshing.
I like it.
My eyes widen and I shake my head emphatically: “Nope. Absolutely not.” I point to Wynne. “She’s the champion. Not me.”
Lalita gives her a stern look: “Yes, but for whom,” and she turns and continues onward while Wynne stares after her.
I stand confused waiting for Wynne to say something—anything. “What’s up with that?”
She looks at me. I interpret melancholy? Anger? “I am not the champion. She is…gone,” and with that she turns and walks after Lalita.
“Using male dominance you exploited patriarchal violence against your fellow female classmates when you suggested you would tell your father and he would seek retribution against them. You perpetuated paternalistic violence against your fellow sisters.”
“Yes, I did. I own it. It’s embarrassing. I’m ashamed. I sounded like that chick from The View. The one that was always blabbing about her daddy. No one liked her. Well, perhaps a few. She occasionally used her privilege as a tool of compassion to benefit those who were less fortunate, but rarely. Using her daddy to claim privilege and victim is just an ugly look.”
“Were you ever complicit in the violence of others?”
“Well, yeah, probably. I’m an American and a white woman.” They appear perplexed so I elaborate. “Howard Zinn was the first to teach me about the atrocities committed by American, British, and European imperialism. I didn’t learn about it in school. Well, vague whitewashed interpretations from history books that glossed over the details that rarely did little to examine it all critically. As a whole, I can’t dismiss or minimize the impact my whiteness had on any in the marginalized communities, even my own as a woman. My ignorance was my complacency. I didn’t even know what white feminism was until my thirties. Some chick schooled me on Black Twitter. Seriously, if you wanna be educated, go read Black Twitter.”
They pause. I assume they’re looking up everything I just said. White feminism isn’t a big issue here apparently? Thankfully? I dunno where imperialism stands. Q flashes some history and I put it aside promising to examine it later. My ‘to read and view’ queue is the same as it always was—endless.
I continue: “I routinely deleted my Twitter history after that. One, I didn’t want the words to be exploited by toxic Twitter and used to harm marginalized; and two, there’s no room to breathe or evolve on the internet. You either are or are not. There is no in-between—no layers. People grab the worse things about you and use it as a tool to beat you with for the rest of your life. No redemption. Only harsh judgments.” MUCH LIKE MY FAMILY LIFE, I tell Q. “And I’m not talking about virulent racists or nazis or fascists. Those folks deserve to be beaten with more than just their own words. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Twitter and learned a lot from some fantastic people, but the online environment in general though could be brutally abusive especially for women—most especially for Black women.”
Wynne and Lalita had been silent while the rest drilled me with question after question; not aggressively—more curiosity than anything antagonistic. I answer as honestly and forthrightly as I can. I pretty much always had. As an old boyfriend’s mother once explained to me on why her son and I would never last: “There’s not anything mysterious about you, Peyton. You’re too—real.” I didn’t think she meant it as a compliment though and I didn’t quiz her on it. I remember being confused and replying with a “thanks?” She was British so perhaps she was culturally prone to charade and she believed genuineness was a defect or vulnerability to women—leverage given over freely that could be used against one (she could’ve been absolutely right). Maybe being a baby boomer woman and a British immigrant meant she straddled that divide precariously. She was a complex woman who claimed to be a liberal and feminist, but had a weakness for conservative American military men which I found odd (whatever; we all have our vices). Eventually I understood that she was pointing out that her son was an egotistical sexist ass with mommy issues and she was a narcissistic selfish mother that wasn’t ready to let go of him yet. At least not to someone like me, a train wreck and walking advertisement for mandatory government mental health benefits. Regardless, I thanked her for that education and was forever grateful that I didn’t have to deal with her as a mother-in-law. I wished much love and strength to the woman who eventually did and was much more up to the challenge than I was at that time.
Lost in those thoughts, I was unaware that they had stopped conversing and was currently staring at me. I understand what this means. “Please—please get out of my head. That’s rude.” Frowns and quizzical brows mar all that stoical indifference. “If I want you inside my head, I’ll invite you. Just because I’m an open book and your…experiment doesn’t mean you’re entitled to intrusively invade my mind. I would never do that to any of you. I expect the same courtesy. If you want inside my head, please ask.” This seems to confound them. “I understand that boundaries are elusive here. Except that big invisible one you have around…everything, but shouldn’t there be some boundaries you’re not willing to haphazardly cross without consent?”
I could write a thesis on the literal and metaphorical boundaries that no longer existed in their society. They seem to have morphed into that Orwellian-Brave New World culture that sci-fi writers had predicted long ago, but with a certain bent towards a sort of collective wellbeing and scientific knowledge structure. Their culture that I previously and carelessly thought flat is based not on prosperity and wealth of any capital, but on good health, contentment or peace of mind—and knowledge. I can’t deny their colonies are rich in industries of data and other various productions that seemed to thrive here on Titan and their surrounding colonies. Data could very well become their capital if they chose to delve with other human colonies into that economic system of rot again. Mostly though, natural resources seem to be what humans out here in space struggle over: water, air, food, land, biomatter, etc.
Actually, natural resources were at the heart of all struggle, especially since the 21st century when they became so precious and limited on Earth that humans had to devise a plan to seek them elsewhere. Unfortunately, most sought them out for greed and power—the indubitable and eternal core of corruption of the human psyche.
Not this culture though. They created and colonized a place where wellbeing was the foundation of their communities, not wealth or capital, and after a long hard fight with the environment, they succeeded. Now they seem to be diverging into another realm of…something else? I sense that Wynne recognizes this. Maybe Lalita too. Is this why I’m here? Wynne created me as a catalyst for change? Kinda like writing a book or creating a piece of art? She’s looking to provoke them into action and basically I’m her tool meant to do that? She’s playing chess and I’m a piece on her board? The question is am I a pawn or a queen? Or both?
I don’t even know how to play chess so…
I look at Wynne. She tilts her head and gives me a short brief nod.
© 2020 Pamela Gay Mullins