I guess one shared human experience is the desire to be loved. Surely there must be exceptions and I am not implying every person ever has desired this (I am wary of universal axioms) but it does seem that humans, throughout history, have sought associations and forms of organization that hinted at this shared need: we form communities, familial ties (either by blood or affinity or sometimes both), friendships, partnerships, etc. Even the Nation-State is funded on some lose idea of shared love (the love of the land, the love we are supposed to feel for those who share the borders of the Nation-State by virtue of being in the same space and supposedly similar culture). I quite believe that most people do crave some form of experience involving love (not to mention the love one feels for one’s partner or children).
I live in a place where it has been made obviously clear that some of us are not deserving of love. The love that the Nation-State reserves for its subjects is spared to some of us. We are told we are Other. The law codifies our Otherness in no uncertain terms. We are to comply with these marks of Otherness by following specific declarations and pathways. Our children, even if they are born here, will bear this mark of Otherness (they call us “allochtoon”, which means exactly that, “one who is not of the land” and it is not reserved for immigrants, you can be coded “allochtoon” for generations and if you are Black or Muslim, it’ll be for ever). We are not actively hated. There aren’t calls for hunting or open aggression. It’s not that we have to actively fear for our safety on a permanent basis (though that happens sometimes but it’d be disingenuous to claim it’s a matter of policy encouraging it). We are simply unloved. The unloved share a space of “not hate” but “not love” either. It’s this active exclusion that implies we are not worthy of the shared love but it stops right before it actively turns to hatred. It’s the indifference sitting on the shoulders of our Otherness. Most of us also look the part. We can be singled out by visual queues (you are Black; you wear a veil; your hair is “ethnic”; you dress differently; you speak with an accent; your outward markers are culturally alien).
“Sos una desamorada”, my mother used to hurl it like a weapon against me when I acted in an uncaring fashion. “Desamor”, there is no word in the English language that can express this sentiment accurately. Unloving comes close, though. To be unloving is to be careless, to be indifferent, to not acknowledge the bond that should unite us. I didn’t accurately understand the meaning of it until I experienced it. Until, that is, I saw it become the basis of political systems. Unloving, I contend, is the basis of the institutionalized racism, the basis of the exclusion, the root cause of “not being allowed to belong”. “You are unworthy of love; you are unloved”.
You see, I don’t think people around me hate me. Sure, I know for a fact some people who know me most likely harbor some hatred. But I don’t think people hate a priori unless they have a reason to (real or perceived). Of course there are raging racists that are full of hate and will act upon such emotion (I’ve mentioned this before many times, I’ve been physically attacked by such specimens). But there is a spectrum of racism. There is the active hateful white supremacist and then there are those who simply unlove me and those like me. It’s an active indifference, it’s quite a different emotion that allows them to say “you are not one of us”. They can go on with their lives mostly ignoring people like me exist until they are somewhat presented with us in which case, they simply unlove. El desamor.
One of the experiences of knowing I am unloved is the fear. I already know I am not wanted so I constantly have to wonder how much I can say to prevent the unloving from turning into hate. I have established my reputation as a feminist killjoy already which renders me further far from the spectrum of those deserving of love. So I constantly have to ask myself “how much will I push?”. I crave the recognition and the love just like every other person. Yet, being Other means I know the recognition is absent unless I prove myself. I started writing online because I hoped I could talk about the things I couldn’t say in my immediate surroundings. If I write, I thought, others might find value in it, perhaps I won’t be alone anymore. And yet, what I found was that online was every bit as unloving as my immediate surrounding. Every instance of speaking out pushes me further away. Now, I don’t just fear alienating my fellow inhabitants of this country, now I know I have the entirety of feminism to estrange as well. Do I talk about this? Do I alienate more people? Do I speak out? Can I say this without closing more doors? This and a dozen more questions come out every time I am about to write something, every time I seethe with anger about something I have read. You are already unloved, Flavia, I tell myself, do you really want to be hated now? And that, which I don’t say becomes the burden of the unloved. We spend our lives fighting against an environment that doesn’t want us while pointing out every instance in which we are not wanted becomes further proof of our unloveability. Online, offline, wherever… you are Other no matter where you go.