Remain Silent

Remain Silent
By N.A. Patin
C&P 2014

and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
-Audre Lorde

When it is the police,
We remain silent

When it is rape,
We remain silent

When it is someone famous
someone popular
someone powerful
We remain silent

Of all rape victims,
We have the right to require silence
Because we think no one is innocent
Not even the innocent

Not ever the victims
We make them complicit

We are told when we are young
Who we can go to
To feel safe

Tell the police
Tell your teacher
Tell your preacher

Who do you tell when those charged with your protection
Those tasked to give you service
Slide their badges over your body
Shove their chalk down your throat
Get you drunk on the blood of Jesus

Then tell you that your silence will protect you

The numbers tell me that nothing will protect me or you

Like how
since 1976, 1,394 people have been executed on Death Row but over 14,000 have been murdered by police
Like how sexual misconduct is the second highest form of police brutality
Like how you’re more likely to get raped by a cop than someone on the street
Like how Oklahoma City cop, Daniel Holtzlcaw, can face over 32 charges of first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and sexual battery and still get freed on bail and still get thousands in donations because him getting punished for raping Black women is seen as the real injustice
Like how 51% of all sexual violence committed by police is against minors
Like how 60% of Black women get raped before they turn 18
Like how every woman I know has either been raped or her sister or her mama or her daughter or her friend or her cousin or her coworker has been raped
Like how men get raped but no one ever wants to talk about that because we don’t even like to talk about women getting raped
Like how children get raped but no one ever wants talk about that because we don’t ever want to talk about anyone getting raped
Like how sex is the weapon when it comes to rape
not the actual point because rapists hardly ever come

And hardly ever close to justice
With thousands of untested rape kits languishing
in basements of police stations nationwide

Why am I talking about rape when I am supposed to be talking about how we can’t breathe?

This PTSD takes my breath away
Takes my days
turns them into tears
Takes my joys
turns them into terrors
Takes and takes and takes and takes my light
Until I swallow darkness of silence
To keep the kind of sanity that makes everyone else more comfortable than I will ever be

I have never been able to breathe
I hold my stomach in unintentionally
Have held it in for decades trying to hold myself together
Held it in so long that it hurts to pee
To sing to sleep to speak

Everyone tells me that my silence will protect me
Just like the police are supposed to protect me
Just like the church should be my sanctuary
Just like schools and workshops and poetry were supposed to liberate me

But I still can’t breathe
Because the movement ain’t trying to get me free
When rape is so pervasive
That those trying to uplift the masses
Do their best to try to uplift some asses
Then press fingers into screams
saying “just move with me
Not against me”

Saying “keep this our secret
No one will believe you anyway”

Gluttons for power
Will always gorge themselves
On those they perceive as weak

What is most terrifying to the powerful
Is the weak realizing their strength

There is no keeping of secrets
When the dead are resurrected
Through the anger of the living

There is no keeping of secrets
When the raped find their justice
In the telling of what happened

There is no keeping of the secret
That the system of America
Was built between the thighs of captured dark women
Built inside the grooves of bloodied Black backs
Built on top of bones red and feathered with colonizing cruelty

When the desecrated begin to assess the damage
Demand what was stolen be returned
Demand what was broken be repaired
Demand what was destroyed be restored
Demand what was betrayed be reconciled by the awful searing truth

Then the breath will demand its rightful place
The breath will command its rightful space

To matter
To shatter this silence
That will never protect us

We matter. Black lives matter.

And so
We must breathe.


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