Situating Myself in Myself -- Ever Evolving
In my previous blog post, I briefly mentioned how my study abroad experience has helped me put my identity into perspective. I became a sexual violence activist after my first year at Spelman College and I embraced this role by planning events and peer-counseling my Spelman sisters. However, I lost touch with myself throughout this process. I shared my story of sexual violence so often that it began to feel like I was sharing the story of someone I had never met. As I started taking on the identity of an activist and advocate, I also started molding myself to fit into a uniform archetype of the civically engaged Spelman woman. I lost touch with my own emotions and spirituality. I was growing empty, losing touch with who I was after each protest or meeting. The time had come to adhere to my Morehouse brother, Gregory Barber’s, advice to “drink as I pour.”
In contrast, my experience abroad has allowed me to find peace in stillness. I now have time to reflect on my day-to-day experiences, propelling me to evolve into a better Synclaire Butler. I am now comfortable enough to recognize that I have more to offer the world beyond my platform as a sexual assault activist. For example, I love to write poems and theorize about other universes. My study abroad experience has also highlighted how much I enjoy learning and demonstrating that knowledge. When on a tour with professors from American universities, one asked about the biggest challenge facing the black community in the Netherlands. I was able to respond in such a way that even surprised me -- there was such a distinguished thoughtfulness in my answer. Amsterdam is known for being one of the most “tolerant” cities, where people do not make judgments based on that race or sexuality. However, this is not the case. In dealing with the racism that exists here, and witnessing the mobilization amongst people of color to dismantle racism, I have learned me the importance of my voice.
I’ve always dreamt about my future beyond Spelman’s gate, and how my experiences would manifest back into a white dominant society. Traveling to five countries within a year has given me the opportunity to experience new places and experience myself in new contexts including gender, sexuality, class, and religion. Experiencing my blackness abroad has been particularly revealing. At first I struggled with self-affirmation, especially when a white student in my program made a micro aggressive racist comment. After telling her how hurtful the comment was, I faced the stigma of the ostracized black scholar who made white students uncomfortable. I became so isolated from my peers, and I questioned myself to no end. Eventually I came to realize that as black women, we must recognize that we will always be seen as too dominant, too strong, and too bold for some of our white counterparts when voicing our opinion. But it is not that we must question our identity, it is that we must create solidarity in a society where our identity is at question.
Through the support systems of my family, friends, boyfriend, Spelman sisters, and faith in God and the universe, I have been able to work towards constructing Synclaire. Identifying the intersections of my identity in an unfamiliar place has given me a newfound perspective on my strength. I have become a more confident black woman; I am more assertive in the way in which I construct and navigate my own space. I am being patient with myself, and thankful every day for the challenges and blessings that help me better understand and love myself.