I am a white Christian woman from a middle-class family. I feel like I should be honest about that for anyone reading this before you hear anymore that I have to say. This is what some people see the second that they meet me: that and my two white children, who appear to also be from middle class backgrounds. You might hear me not yell, but holler, for my daughter in a way that reflects the amount of time I’ve spent as an adult in Northwest Arkansas, where she was born. If you come into our home, you’d probably get a very similar impression other than the fact that my directions include “it’s across from the bar…yes..right down the street from that bike club.”.
What people don’t often see at the surface is that I grew up in primarily African American schools, that I’ve been a victim of rape and domestic violence, that I spent my years of 14-18 off and on in Nicaragua—including two important birthdays, my 15th and 18th, and there’s no where in the world that I’d rather be. You wouldn’t know I’ve worked hard to raise my children primarily alone, having to constantly protect them from threats—every adult at their schools having pictures of who might possibly come to pick them up with an attempt of their dad to kidnap them because after 5 years, the threats--and even drive bys my house at the time the bus is supposed to drop them off--don’t stop. You wouldn’t see the autism they’ve worked their asses off to cope with anymore, because we moved here where we could get better early intervention. You wouldn’t see my undergrad in women and gender studies, or my masters in coaching that I’ve worked throughout, while being this single mom and boxing full time, as well as homeschooling my son with PTSD from his father’s choices. You wouldn’t know who I am or the fire in my heart and eyes for justice that has no end.
I did not vote until two years ago in the presidential elections. Even with my undergrad women and gender studies, knowing all that I know about how hard everyone had to fight for me to have that vote, I still never voted. I felt like it didn’t make a difference if I did or not. Who would even care? It’s a rigged system and I’m never going to make a difference because the problem is with society, not our government, right? I'm worried about fixing domestic violence, women's rights, and sexual harassment and rape, and with having half women in the country who are all allowed to vote--and often vote against themselves for some reason--why would it even matter? But...it's a whole lot bigger than "my" issues.
See, I got fed up. I looked around and couldn't help anyone--not just people with "my" issues, but absolutely no one. I got to a point where I thought about my greatest mentor, one of only two people who have truly seen me and honestly believed in me with all of their hearts--and the fear that he must feel for his family. See, he’s from Mexico. I always thought about him as my mentor, not about the him that has to go home where no matter what his or his kids “status”, he has fear. And outside of our gym, so do most of my friends and those I consider family in the rest of life. Because my boxing family will always be my family at least as much as my blood family—and I know the truth: you feel that way too if you’re reading this.
Together, we always have each other’s backs. There’s no way to replace the love and respect that comes from leaving every. Single. Thing. That you have on those mats every. Single. Day. There’s no way to repay the brother that comes over at 9 pm after working two shifts to drill with you because you have important sparring—not even a fight—to make sure you’re ready. There’s no way to repay the sister that meets you in a park to spar for your fight because you guys now go to different gyms and can’t meet at either place but she’ll be damned if you’re not ready on her watch.
I got fed up because there was nothing I could do them. I watched them get pulled over for no reason. I watched them face ridiculous statements and questions. I listened as they made back up plans with their wives about if any of them or their children got deported or taken from their homes while the other one was at work. And I was utterly helpless to help. I found myself just saying over and over again “I’m sorry”. But no action to help.
While I am working hard to refresh my Spanish, and I do everything I can to make my gym a safe place for anyone at all: race or gender aside that want to work, there was nothing real I could do and nothing I still can do. But I can vote. I have that right that others had to sacrifice their lives for because it actually matters—because people wanted to keep us from being able to do that because it matters. Tomorrow morning, I can step inside that voting booth and I can scream for myself and for all of those in my life that I love so much because we actually matter.