Visible because Invisible and Invisible because Visible

 

The races tend not to look at each other in public places full frontally in the United States, certainly in large coastal cities.

In the small towns and villages surrounding Philadelphia, everyone looks at everyone, it seems to me.  

 

 

Njideka Akunyili Crosby 04 Bomb 137

I Refuse to Be Invisible, 2011, acrylic, charcoal, and xerox transfer on paper,  Njideka Akynyili Crosby, American born Nigeria 1983.

 

 

My own colleagues of long standing have passed by me on the street without looking at me or greeting me.  The only thing they noted was the colour of my skin (‘black’) and my position relative to theirs on the pavement.

 

Some of my neighbours, likewise.  Except those who were not born in the United States:  they greet me. 

I am not speaking of friends.  Friendship, I suppose, has the exact same characteristics everywhere in the world.   

 

This is not to say that the races in north America do not see each other.  In a public place, everyone notes exactly where everyone is with special attention to race. Just in case something untoward happens…..

 

 

Attentive human presence being the most vivifying of Sapiens’ gifts,  the negative consequences of this seeing-not-looking can be imagined for those too young, too angry to know that this is not to be taken personally.

It speaks to a history not fully acknowledged in present conduct.

 

 

Visible because invisible and vice versa.

 

 

Sometimes when I am tired of all this,  I wear a burqa and go out. 

I become both anonymous and visible.

 

So enjoyable. Sensuous to be enveloped in that soft silkiness. 

A grill over the eyes, heavily kohled, of course, to see and not be seen: like a secret power.

But then, of course, the enjoyment is also because I don’t have to wear a burqa.

 Burqa April 2009-1

The proprietor of this blog in an Afghani burqa

 

There has been a change in the generations of the Millenials and Generation Y.  Many of them both see and look and often greet. 

Change. We shall see.

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Visible because Invisible and Invisible because Visible

  1. I’m wondering if this is the blog of the Sarah Abraham who helped preserve my sanity around 1983-86 in Philadelphia. I happened on this blog, looked, read, and thought “yes, it must be.” That is the sensibility I remember, the unique tone, the deadly serious playfulness. The Sarah I knew too briefly characterized herself and me as “marginal people”…referring, I thought, to the truth that the only way either would ever survive the loony corporate corset would be to refuse to put it on.
    I can see the Sarah I knew gliding around in an Afghani burqa. Putain de merde, plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose. …If not the same Sarah, you have a spiritual twin.
    Carolyn Ryan, now in Marblehead, Ma

    1. I’m sure same Sarah. Were you not a geographer who found yourself in the corporate madness? Which I survived a further 22 years after you, safely fled north?

      If yes, please drop me an email so that I can tell you how fondly I remember your injunctions to me against wearing the stilettoes which I wore to kick the hierarchy more effectively, But did not dare tell you a out for shame!

      How are you? As awful as was and is my memory, I remember your name for the solace of your presence in those long ago years!

      Sarah

    2. Needless to say, it is out of Kafka to ask the Invisible Ones to ‘leave the US and go back to wherever they came from’ and to have made them visible only to deliver so ludicrous a message!

      Sarah

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