Olga Bialostocka

Zebra woman

Olga Bialostocka
Olga Bialostocka

By Olga Bialostocka

Why are you whistling and hissing at me when you walk past? Why are you catcalling me from the window of your taxi? Is it my hair, my look, or just the fact that I’m a woman? I didn’t ask for your degrading “compliments” or your intrusive advances. I didn’t look at you to give you a green light. So stop leering at me.  And don’t wrap it all up in race relations. Your colour, my colour, our colour have nothing to do with who I am.

Squeezed in a taxi, I almost hear your thoughts. I know the rules, the signs, the code. Where are you going? Why are you alone? Aren’t you afraid? …. Should I? Can I pick you up? May I know your name? … Should you? Don’t judge me on account of your ignorance. Sho’t left driver!

Walking in the concrete jungle, I learn the lingo of the streets. “Jah lady” drags behind me like a shadow. If I pass you over, it is because I do not talk to strangers. It is because I do not have time and interest to stop at every male “hello”. For a mere “hello” returned is rarely enough to stop the exchange, is rarely taken as a token of greeting; more often it is considered a sign of consent, a signal that fuels an unsolicited conversation: too many questions from strangers who want to be acknowledged. Should this flatter me?

“Hello” means “Good day”. “Hello”, I want to be nice. “Hello”, I’m not disregarding you. Nothing more, nothing less. Hello stops there. So, don’t follow me with your stories and don’t try to force open the closed door with your guilty trips. “Hello” means the same in black, white and blue. Don’t dress it up according to your taste.

Silence has no colour, either. It tastes the same whether you’re tall, short, well dressed or a beggar. Does it make you feel like a real man when I turn around towards your shouting? Does it make you more powerful to call me a racist, because I didn’t smile at your nagging? Through the colour of your skin, I see your soul. Why can’t you see mine behind this female attire!

I wear dreadlocks because I like it that way. My hair can be blond and straight or black and curly, that’s my choice. Whatever it is, it will not make me a different person than I truly am. My pants, my skirts, my heels and my pumps are not my secret message. They are just the outer shell that tricks you into thinking you know who I am. De gustibus non est disputandum (in matters of taste there can be no disputes). Black and white is not a lifestyle. I have black friends who dance with me to kwaito. I have white friends who know that coconut is but a fruit. And I like coffee with milk, no sugar added.

In the black-and-white world, I see the monochromatic rainbow. I don’t want to play chess with you, for I choose not to choose, not to decide on either black or white “type of life”, not to follow the colour. I’ve never got inside the frame of your bias. So don’t try to lock me in the cage of xenophobic anxiety. For in fear hatred is born. Don’t accuse me of prejudice, when I refuse to “touch your blood”. Red or blue, it doesn’t wear a label.

Street harassment is your name, my gentleman. And I’ve no respect for you, just anger. Anger that kills my freedom. Freedom that waited at the end of a long walk. Don’t ruin it with just a small jump.


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