When your day job is running the longest continuously running anti-racism organization in the country (we are a scrappy ‘lil org that gets by on passion and sweat) and you just so happen to inhabit a Black body while living in a very white state while the country is imploding racially…matters of race are never far from your mind.
The truth is, I am tired. The weight of the past week combined with the weight of the past several years hit me full force on Sunday night. Tears and rage, deep sorrow and fear…fear for my own safety, fear for my son and his wife, fear for my daughter, fear for other loved ones. Fear that we may have reached the point of no return on matters of race. Fear that we may destroy ourselves.
In the past several days, many in my sphere have reached out to remind me to take care of myself, to unplug, to be gentle with myself. I have been mulling over what it means to unplug from the chaos while living as a Black woman in these racially charged times. A dear friend and colleague who is white regularly takes time to unplug and recharge. I envy her not because I can’t take a few days off but because when I think back, there are very few times when matters of race don’t come up, thus interfering in the ability to just check out when the pressures get too great.
I was thinking back to last year, when my family’s day was deeply disturbed by a random carload of white boys calling us niggers as we walked to get gelato. On a day that was about family and telling the kids that our marriage was ending, race popped up. That is the cruelty of how lopsided life is racially in this country. At any moment, your serenity can be destroyed by those who will never forget that you wear the skin of the “other” and that in their small minds, you will always be different and (as far as they’re concerned) lesser, damaged and/or savage. If you are lucky, your serenity is just disturbed; if you are unlucky, you end up dead. Or your child, partner or loved one ends up dead. That thought is never far from you no matter how much you try not to think about it when you see the lights in the rear-view mirror.
I know that I am not alone in my thoughts but, like many, we try not hold these thoughts high in our minds. Yet, after a week like last week it becomes harder to do. To be honest, it’s damn hard. In these moments, the very act of leaving the house feels like going to war, especially after the events in Dallas. Will I encounter friendly faces or hostile faces? Will someone see my Black Lives Matter pin and decide to say something inflammatory? I never know.
What I do know though is that in these moments, there are many with opinions about what Black people should do. One being former New York mayor, Rudy Guliani, who on “Face the Nation” issued his thoughts on what Black people should do. Apparently we should teach our children to respect the police. These words were bold and laughable given that there are very few Black people who at some point don’t have “the talk” with their kids about how to stay safe around cops and, the last time I checked, being pleasant and deferential to the cops is pretty much the standard theme of the talk or rules of survival when living while Black. Last night a reader left a comment and, well, it put the onus on Black people to do an awful lot of the work. (And let’s not forget that plenty of Black people have been killed by police while either complying with them or innocently going about their day and getting ambushed)
Look, we don’t ask crime victims to solve their own cases. Yet we ask people of color to help “solve” racism and frankly, it’s not fair nor just. We all inherited a world with racial disparities and no matter how we feel, it’s a group effort to move ahead and create a racially just and equitable world. Given that they created, benefit from and largely control the unjust systems, white people have to bear the brunt of the burden of fixing this mess. A hard and uncomfortable truth, but one that is real.
Despite the “data” that conflates and often puts Black people in a less-than-favorable light, the reality is that just like in any other community, there are people who will run amok. Yet unlike in other communities, Black people bear the burden of 400 years systematic oppression and dehumanization that we must contend with while attempting to live in the world today. We live, work and love and attempt to find joy while being saddled with this weight that we did not ask for and we must bear. At a certain point, to have our concerns belittled and dismissed by people who willingly choose to ignore what does not impact them tears at our souls and sometimes the soft spots become hard and calloused. Somehow, though, most of us find the strength to get up and try it all again because the shared human experience keeps us all going even when we just don’t feel like it (but we shouldn’t have to go through all of that and we shouldn’t be expected to keep doing it).
In the past decade-plus, I have written endlessly about race and racism. I have given talks, facilitated discussions, and tried to move the needle on race in my sphere to the best of my ability. Often as a labor of love because I want change. This week, though, I am tired. So very tired. This week, I just want to be a woman who lives without a constant weight tied around my soul and my being.
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