Christina Thomas Dhanaraj
"The oppressor is solidary with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor -- when he stops making pious, sentimental, and individualistic gestures and risks an act of love. True solidarity is found only in the plenitude of this act of love, in its existentiality, in its praxis. To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce."
~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
I have come to believe that intersection is a beautiful thing. Not necessarily from the lens of the onlooker, but from within myself, for myself. The fact that I'm Dalit, Tamizh, Christian, Woman, and everything else could only mean there are layers to the person that I am, with every layer attributing me with experiences that make me complex and unique. So as a contemporary Dalit woman living in urban India, I recognize the path my ancestors and I have travelled to reach this place in history. Like many of my peers, I grew up listening to the stories of how our grandfathers and grandmothers moved from place to place; how they found jobs before they found a career; how they found a religion that promised the dignity Hinduism denied; how they navigated social, academic, and political spaces rife with discrimination; how they married and loved and had children amidst hate;and how they survived, and sometimes thrived, in a country that refused to recognize their humanity. I grew up seeing my parents carryon this legacy of assertion, at their workplace, at the church, in the community, and in our so-called social circles. Needless to say, this was no easy feat.
Who am I? Why am I a Dalit woman?
I grew up in a lower middle class family in a town on the outskirts of Chennai. And unlike many of my Christian friends, I came to know which caste I belonged to much earlier in life. I was probably 5 years of age when my mother sat me down, and almost in whispers, explained what our ancestors were made to do for a living. "They disposed of the dead", she said. That those we saw dancing and playing the parai during a funeral, could in fact be our brothers. That they, and therefore we, were supposedly untouchable. I remember being very upset, refusing to believe what she told me. I may have even cried a little.