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So… What's my Tapestry?

I just read an amazing article in my "The Reflective Woman" book. I'll admit, this class made me nervous at first because I was afraid it'd just be a bunch of women writing and talking about how men all suck because they're oppressing us and how we need to push ahead and do better at beating them or at least being equals. But this article-Weaving an Identity Tapestry-is not even close to that. It's written by Sonja D. Curry-Johnson who is a feminist, African American and Christian. She wrote a wonderful piece that talks about how sometimes our different parts of our identities seem to conflict. She talked about how she sometimes struggles with a faith that enslaved her ancestors, her desire to care for her children but not wanting to be pushed into it, her frustration with a faith that wants to put women in the backseat. I've shared similar frustrations.
I'm not African American, but I am blind. I've had to fight several internal battles and external battles relating to this. Everyday, I have to fight the battle to decide how to be most independent. I always used to think that independence was doing everything for my elf. But by the same token, some things are hard. Do I ask for help? If I do, I fear being ridiculed by some blind people. I fear being told that I'm a disgrace to other blind community members. But if I avoid asking for help, I can mess up even worse and be an even bigger disgrace. I have to daily fight that battle with myself.
I have to fight the battle of societal expectations. For the longest time, I hated even thinking about going into work in the blindness field because I knew people would think I could only do that since I can't see. It's probably similar to the experiences many blind musicians have. You know, the questions "What are you planning for your career?"
"I'd like to be a rehabilitation teacher."
"Oh, that's so nice. Yes, that's something you'll be good at." There are so many miss-conceptions, I always felt I had to fight the battle and do something different so that I could help tear those miss-conceptions down. But I really want to be a rehabilitation teacher or counselor. I want to at least help out in the blind community. Yes, my blindness has influenced my opinion, but not in the way people assume. I just know that I probably wouldn't have known about or cared about these issues if I was blind.
One of the areas I feel stretched is my faith. In a community of Christians, I can either be respected as a blind person or have people assume I'm wrong/an evil person/need to be healed. Many people automatically assume that if I had faith enough, God would heal me. I don't understand that very well. I believe God is choosing to let me be blind for a reason. As hard as it is to accept, He has a reason for my foot pain, too. I don't understand it. But I also have to be careful that I'm not so militant about this point that I won't accept prayers or allow for an opening should God choose to miraculously heal me. It's a fine line to walk and I'm not sure I walk it as well as I could.
An area where the author felt stretched by her faith was the area of feminism. It was actually mentioned in a previous article, too. How can we stay in a faith where women are oppressed. In some denominations, we're not allowed to be pastors. How can we reconcile that? What she concludes and I'd have to agree is that things will change. Someday, we'll go back to what God intended, and we won't be oppressed. But we can't just disown the faith until then. That's hard to put into words so it sounds right. But basically, it's like we're changing things from the inside. Again, a fine line to walk.
And finally, not being limited by feminism or the corrupted way it's become too militant. Feminism isn't always about burning bras or being unwilling to accept help from a man. But believing in ourselves is important, equality is important.
I guess what I'm taking away is that when we have things in us that can be considered weaknesses by others, we can't let them be weaknesses, we need to embrace them. If there are problems in how we're viewed, we can change things from the inside. That's what we're getting at. I'm going to try hard to embrace all of the pieces of my tapestry.


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Sep. 18th, 2005 08:32 pm (UTC)
You've got a wonderful way with words! That book sounds like quite an intresting read!
I feel the same way you do!
BTW, Have you considered placing this particular enttry up onto your web site in the writing section or something? I think other people may benofit from reading this!
Take care
God bless,
and Hugs

Sep. 18th, 2005 09:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow!
Hey Katie,
I haven't really thought of putting this piece on my site in the writing category, basically because I hardly touch the site anymore. But I think I will tag it with the "my writing" tag. I'm glad you liked the piece. I just felt I had to write about it when I read the article.
Sep. 18th, 2005 09:06 pm (UTC)
I know this is kind of random, becuase you don't exactly know me... I found your journal from the St Kate's community, and I'm the one who told you I had the door when you went into the CdC today around lunchtime, if you remember that.

Anyway... I wanted to comment because I remember reading that article last year, when I had TRW, and thinking things similar to what you wrote. I'm not African American either, and I'm not blind, but I am hard of hearing and have experienced a lot of the same types of conflicts you have, it seems. It's fascinating how people with such different backgrounds can have such similar experiences.

I'm curious - You talk about the blind community, which I'm assuming means all the blind people around here. Is there also a blind culture, like there is a deaf culture?

I hope you don't mind me reading your entry and replying!

Sep. 18th, 2005 09:35 pm (UTC)
Hi Emily!
I don't mind you reading my entry and replying at all. The definition of the blind community is kind of confusing. Basically, I just use the term to mean most blind people, or at least some of them. There can be a community feel, although I doubt it's to the extent of the deaf culuture. I don't necissarily think the two aren't similar in some ways, but they are different. Without knowing much about Deaf culture other than what little I remember from a paper I did onthe disability civil rights movement, it's hard to explain. It's hard to put a finger on what I'm trying to say...
I'm sorry this doesn't make much sense.
Sep. 19th, 2005 04:09 am (UTC)
Hmm... A lot of Deaf culture relates to ASL (American Sign Language). Deaf people like being with other Deaf people becuase they can talk in ASL, their own language, rather than deal with hearing people and English, so there are lots of deaf events - parties, classes, school functions, theater, Signing Santa's, etc. I guess what I mean is, do blind people have events for social reasons, to hang out with other people who are blind, or are your events more "academic", such as for advocacy, information, and that sort of thing. I don't know if that makes sense...I hope it does.
Sep. 19th, 2005 10:43 am (UTC)
There are definitely social events among blind people. I have friends who are blind and I hang out with them a lot. And there are conventions of the blind in two different consumer organizations. Those conventions usually have a lot about advocacy and resources, but at least at the one I go to, we have a lot of fun. We don't really have a common language; Braille isn't read by all blind people (only like 10% I think). There are the common challenges for us (transportation, technology, employment discrimination etc...) For those of us who use dog guides, there are other challenges and there are sometimes gatherings of dog guide users as well. But they don't usually come close to representing the entire population of blind people. And of course, there's the two organization which gets even more complicated.... I hope that makes more sense.
Sep. 19th, 2005 03:28 pm (UTC)
Just to add to what I wrote earlier: My Dad pointed out that there is a group of deaf blind individuals who meets in the 'cities. I'll look and see if I can contact you off the journal from your userinfo and try to send you the info.
Sep. 19th, 2005 06:58 pm (UTC)
Wow, thanks! :)
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