Hello all. It’s been quite the last couple of weeks. I started taking anti-depressants, the weather has officially changed to take-two-showers-a-day weather, and the world finally woke up to the injustices of Black people and People of Color. As you may have noticed, I skipped writing a post last week. Not because I didn’t have things I could write (note: I always have things I can write), but because it wasn’t my time or place. I used my social media this past week to #amplifymelanatedvoices. I posted blogs other than my own that were written by Black artists (thefriendineverwanted, sexwithashley, sassy_latte, Maya.esthetic) and only shared content from Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). I started with the voices that I already followed and then went on my own journey to find others. I recommend that you read these blogs and pay BIPOC artists if you have the means to! I went to protests and had some great conversations and some not-so-great conversations, both of which needed to be had. I read a lot and watched a lot and listened even more.
Through all of this I learned a lot about myself and even more about BIPOC experiences and even more about my role in relation to the injustices happening. I find myself wanting to note here, so badly, that I have done this work for a long time. That I have had these conversations with many people who deemed me “too sensitive” when I would beg people to look at the language they use. Why do I want to share this so badly? Why do I want people to recognize this? I think it’s because I have this desire to come off as the long time ally; as someone who has always tried to work through her own prejudices and inherent biases. I want to look like a “hero”, when in reality I am part of the system of racism. I have helped to uphold the pain of BIPOC. I have done and said things that were blatantly racist. I often stopped short when it came to being a good ally. When someone called me too sensitive, I didn’t push back, I usually just shut up. So, it doesn’t matter if I have done the work in the past because I didn’t do it hard enough. I sat in the comfort of my own privilege and allowed injustices to continue; it felt safer.
Though, my biggest takeaway from 2020 is my ability to do things regardless of how I am feeling. Is it nice to feel safe? Yes. The thing is, just because I don’t feel safe, doesn’t mean I am not safe. Let me say that again, just because I don’t feel safe, does not mean I. am. not. safe. When a white person crosses the street because there is a Black man walking towards them, they are not unsafe in that situation, but a part of them, a racist part of them believes that they are. When Amy Cooper threatened to call the police on a Black man in Central Park, she believed she was unsafe, and she knew the ways in which she held power and control over that person. She knew that a 911 call would get a police officer that would be on her side, that could potentially murder that Black man. What if these people took a deep breath though? What if instead of reacting they said to themselves why do I feel unsafe? What if they unpacked their internal racism and said ‘damn, that was a racist thought. I should really unpack that.’ (Don’t know how to unpack it? Might I recommend therapy??)
Over the last week I’ve said “I wish people were better at listening” A LOT. This is a sentiment I have always expressed, but is pertinent to the conversations we are having now. I am not just talking about the conversations with others, but those conversations we have with ourselves. When we feel uncomfortable, we try our hardest to be comfortable. So, having a thought like “that was racist of me” is really uncomfortable for someone who believes themselves to be “not racist”. What do they do then? They try to justify their actions, to themselves, because they are uncomfortable with themself. How do I know this? Because I know I have done it before. I have done things and pushed away feelings just to feel safer, to feel more comfortable. At the beginning of 2020 I started to pushback on this notion that things always have to feel right for them to be right.
One of the most thought provoking videos I watched this week was by Sonya Renee Taylor. If you have yet to see it, please take a moment to go watch it. Essentially, the video expresses that white bodies are much less in danger of being killed by police officers. I.e. if I as a white person see a Black person in front of an officer and a gun, the best way to help would be to put myself between that person and the danger. My palms sweat while I watched that video. Guns terrify me and the thought of purposefully putting myself in front of one sent my anxiety blasting. So, after watching it I processed those feelings. I thought about how Black people must feel everyday, not even being in front of police officer, but just knowing that one is near. I thought about the privilege I have to consider if this is something I could or couldn’t do. I decided that no matter how scared I am, no matter how terrified I am, Sonya is right. That evening I went to a protest and I put my body directly in front of an officer. I could feel my mouth get very dry thinking about the fact that this person had a gun, and, historically, had issues with rage.
Now, I am not saying that all the white people reading this need to go put themselves in front of a gun, but I am saying that looking at why you wouldn’t is really important. There is a lot happening in the world right now and I know we all feel it. I have sat with clients of all identities this past week that, for the first time in their life, have felt anxiety. I talked about collective trauma and collective healing, but most importantly I listened. I listened to the way the world is impacting their daily life. I heard the ways in which they have their own personal struggles on top of all the other things people are dealing with. I heard about confusion and pain and joy. I listened.
As a society we think we need the answer right now. Heck, we are living in the age of fast answers. I can call out to my robot, Alexa, and she’ll shoot me an answer to most all questions I ask in .01 seconds. I feel though, that at this moment in time, not having an answer or a rebuttal or a spewing of emotions in .01 seconds is good. People do not heal if they are not heard. We do not heal if we don’t start to listen to the people around us and to ourselves. Taking in information and giving ourselves time to understand that information is what is going to help us move forward. In fact, our bodies are great at giving us insight of when we need to take a break, we just don’t often listen to it. If, while reading this, you found your stomach hurting, or your palms get sweaty, or a desire to argue a point, that is your body telling you something is coming up and it needs to be explored further. For those of you that are white, try to sit in those feelings and understand what is coming up for you. For those of you that are not white, I am open to any and all feedback, but just know that you don’t not have to.
As sang in the amazing broadway show Hamilton “this is not a moment, it’s the movement.” Meaning, this is a long game and we don’t win a long game by jumping to conclusions. We win the long game by listening, by offering protection, by collectively healing all the pain and injustice that has been brought forth at the hands of white supremacy. What does winning look like? I guess I don’t know, but like I said, now is not the time to have quick answers. I am going to keep listening to BIPOC for what a win looks like. And I am going to continue to have conversations with myself and my white friends and family. I would also like to note that I am writing all of this as a cis-gender, straight, white, fat, women and there is a lot of privilege in that description of myself. Most of you reading this are white and have read this blog weekly and you have listened to me and I feel so grateful for that. I implore you to try and take that same skill into the work to be anti-racist. Listen to people that don’t look like me. Engage in their content. Pay them.
So, what is my call to action this week? If you’re white: F*cking listen. Okay? And do things that scare you, like shielding a Black body from violence or telling your family members that the words they use are racist. Because at the end of the day your white skin protects you from a lot and you should be using that to help amplify the voices that aren’t being heard. If you’re not white: do whatever you need to do right now. The world is listening to you, but it is not your job to speak if you don’t want to. However you want to exist right now is how you should exist.
**I would also like to just give a brief update on how my experience with anti-depressants has been going because a lot of people reached out after my last post with a lot of concern. That post though was not to worry people, although I do appreciate that people cared enough to check-in. That post was to let people know that I am not the same girl I was and that anti-depressants isn’t a scary thing. It’s a medicine that can be really helpful. In fact, I am happy to report that it has been really helpful for me. It’s only been 2 weeks, but I have noticed a significant change in my energy levels. I have been able to get through my day without feeling exhausted, I wake up feeling like I actually got rest. That slight change in energy levels has made a world of difference. The only small draw back I have noticed is I am a bit flightier, i.e. forgetting what I was talking about in the middle of a sentence. To be fair though, I’ve done that a lot before the medicine too, so who knows. I could just be a flighty person? Either way, I will continue to keep you updated on this journey.
**Also, also this blog is all about mental health and I’ve been encouraging people to donate to The Loveland Foundation an organization that works to “bring opportunity and healing to communities of color, and especially to Black women and girls.”**
as a white child
my ears grew weeds that drowned out the noise
of my BIPOC sisters and brothers
and i worked
to pluck each one out from their roots
so i can hear them better.
and now instead of growing weeds,
i grow understanding
and i work
to make sure i don’t plant weeds
in the ears of our future.
-how to win the long game