Should I stay or should I Go?


 Jameria blain for ENG238 African American Literature Pre-1945 at Elon University (spring 2015) taught by Dr. Crystal Anderson. It is a conversation between two African American writers who discuss a contemporary issue.  This dialogue gives students an opportunity to engage in close reading and relate literary texts to contemporary ideas.  

Setting: At Marita Bonner’s house Bonner is sitting at her table knitting a scarf. Truth bursts into Marita’s front door with a picket sign that read “Say No to Domestic Abuse”. She notices what Marita is doing and speaks up.

Sojourner Truth: Marita, why are you still sitting here? We need to head to the rally so we stand up against all the men who think they can just toss us women around like we have no rights, like Ray Rice for instant. “I am women’s rights!!!” (pg.178) I have the right to be treated with respect on all levels of my life including my romantic levels how dare this man just sit here and abuse her like this!! We need to stand up to people like him. Does he honestly believe with treating us like…like we’re some kind of toy for his amusement! I think not we need to stand up to bullies like him and tell the world we are equal to men and deserve to not be treated less than human!! Now come on get dressed so we can to the rally.

Marita Bonner: I’m not going to the rally Sojourner. I see no point. Yes her rights were violated but what point can we as women possibly prove to men by walking down a highway with banners proclaiming to the world we’re victims? “As women we are supposed to go about things gently and quietly” (pg.1268) like the man suggests we should, even more so for us colored women who are always ostracized by society for being different. Nevertheless going out and causing a stir will not change the matters at hand all it will do is create another label and stigma for colored women.

Sojourner Truth:  How about this as a stigma, we as colored women can’t even stick together to help each other in times of need because we are too selfish?!!  We have to be there for one another Marita, it’s the only way that we can progress and strive forward to end such barbaric means of treatment such as domestic abuse! We’ll be proving how women deserve be to be seen and heard, not everything needs to be done in private Bonner. Today is the day we stand together and-

Marita Bonner: -And what Truth? Shall we all rally together for you to proclaim you’re little ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech again? That didn’t solve much before and it won’t solve anything now. Men don’t see us as equals. They will never, they see us, especially us as gross collection of desires, all uncontrolled and they believe it’ their birthright to control us!! I agree the idea of a man believing he has the right to control us is sickening but there are better ways to solve the problem. You claim the problem at hand is to prove how domestic abuse is wrong, well answer this: How do you expect we show people that they shouldn’t abuse women while going out in the world yelling, chanting ,marching and screaming like we need to be subdued they are better ways to solve this matter. Maybe we can go to his house and speak to him personally in a private manner.

Sojourner Truth:  So he can beat us senseless too I don’t think so you, saw that tape that women was out cold and he had to drag her away. I will not put myself in a position to get close to that man like that and neither should you. They don’t see us as equals because we allow them to treat us however they please without argument. Yet the minute we attack them and wildly and belligerent as they choose to attack us the minute they will listen. Who cares if it causes them to speak about us? Marita they will talk about us until the day they die, we might as well give them something worth talking about. If we don’t band together united, this matter will never go away. Only when we band together will Janay realize that she has to leave this awful man behind her, when she sees us, she’ll change her thinking.

Marita Bonner:  Now Sojourner, you know there’s little truth in that. In case you haven’t heard or just simply forgotten during that very moving speech of yours, Janay Rice already stated her position and if you ask me, there’s no need for us to fight on behalf of a woman who doesn’t feel the need to be rescued. Causing an outward cry on behalf of a women who clearly wants to put this moment behind her will not only make us look like fools but redundant fools who feel the need to bring us a history that should have been long buried in the ground.

Sojourner truth: This rally isn’t just about her, but rather the entire world that’s filled with women dealing with abuse with no way to speak out. This rally is for those women so they don’t stand behind men who devalue for the rest of their lives. After listening to Janay, who is obviously still confused and conflicted about her situation, other women will agree to stay with these lowlifes of men who might end up killing them in the long run, all because they believe they can change him like Janay does. Why on earth should we say silent when that’s a possibility in our world? Do you want to be responsible for another women losing her life to a man who viewed her as an object rather than a human being- an equal?

Marita Bonner:  Has it ever occurred to you Sojourner that some women stay because they believe that they really aren’t the victim in these circumstances?  People aren’t as easily influenced as you’re making them out to be just because one women stayed with an abuser doesn’t mean the rest will. If they do- just like Janay there’s nothing a silly rally will do that will change their minds. They are in these situations day and night and if they feel like they can handle the pain then who are we to judge them? There are other ways to getting the message out there though, through social media, self-help books, news programs that speak about such issues, you know any of those could work including friends and family that they could talk to. We don’t have to act every time we hear the word victim you know, some things can get fixed on its own. When a person gets tired of being sick and tired they’ll make the choice to change their life.

Sojourner Truth: Shouldn’t we at least try? You know try and help others who may be too afraid to help themselves. Even if a person is sick and tired of the same old routine if they are unsure of their next move they’ll remain in the same circumstances for their the rest of their lives, that situation could be the very same reasoning as to why they will have died in the first place.  Man is in a tough spot, confused about life and how to appreciate women as their equals it’s much easier to make her less than you by picking on her weakness, like her strength and using that to oppress her. If a woman is in that scenario no self-help book, or friend is going to make her life any better. Only we can do that, by being by her side in spirit as we march on for her cause. Marita the rally start soon and if you are coming we need to leave now otherwise we’ll miss the event.

Marita Bonner: I’m glad you stopped by, enjoy the rally. I won’t be attending it with you. I hear what you’re saying and as always you made a valid argument, expect if a friend can’t be much help to an abused woman who she sees all the time, what help can we be to her? No woman should have to go through such pain, like Janay but pain is a part of life and I don’t excuse it I just don’t want to take part in something so boisterous that can be solved in other ways with other means.  The idea that we should help is obvious but for me. My style would be speaking to Janay personally to see if I can get her to understand the situation better rather than walking down a busy street and making speeches. I hope the event goes well for you but I personally won’t be joining. Just know that while you’re walking and giving your speech I’ll be own you side in the matter