I feel as though I’ve been through an emotional ringer the past two weeks, and I know I’m not alone. I, and others like me, have been assaulted with headlines, videos and links to bleeding, dying black bodies. I have watched young men and women, bold enough to cry out in front of cameras, critics and cops, suddenly silenced. I have watched murderers walk away from dead black men and women with little consequence and proactive protection. I am tired.
I have taken efforts to avoid harmful conversations that leave me dejected and disappointed in friends and acquaintances. The force that impulses the world to justify and excuse the abuse of dark bodies feels like a toxic gas only the most affected can (sometimes) see. I find myself making strenuous effort to remind myself that we are not powerless. I know that powerlessness may be the most dangerous emotion of all
We cannot ignore the psychological damage in witnessing violence against people who look like us, solely because they look like us, over and over and over again. We are strong, but as Jesse Williams told us, “just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not human.” We need therapy, we need safe spaces, and we need protection, even if that means we must provide it ourselves.
In a new act of self-preservation, I have decided I will no longer explain why our black lives matter. I understand that white supremacy has brainwashed all of us, and those blind to its effects are not always hateful people. I know that racists are not the villains we see in The Help and Quentin Tarantino movies; they are regular people; teachers, nurses, police officers- with families. I have watched non-POC attitudes towards race and race issues evolve, and have seen their eyes open to experiences outside of their own. I know that change is possible, and I believe I’ve had a hand in this type of change before.
I can no longer make myself personally responsible for this change in people I share spaces with. I cannot put myself through the trauma of arguing my humanity with well-intentioned white-people, struggling to remain calm while face-to-face with the very cause of my oppression. I will not discuss our righteous anger with those who are willing to tell me, in all their unfelt authority, that my experience as a black woman in this country is an illusion because it is foreign to them. I no longer have room for the burden of others’ ignorance. At a very minimum, I can ensure those in my closest circles understand that my life, safety, and mental health matter, and that there is need to emphasize this in a world where it seems I matter less than everyone else.
I don’t have space and time to pause my work and explain its necessity. There are too many little black girls and boys with uncertain esteem and uncertain futures. I will not go backwards and engage in dialogue to change the hearts and minds of sometimes kind, racist white people. That is not my calling. If you’re looking for that, MTV Decoded is a great option. Francescha Ramsey does a great job kindly breaking down the ABCs of America’s romance with slavery, racism and genocide, and the effect that has on our thoughts and actions today. An older blog, My Black Friend Says, is another great source that focuses on breaking down racism (and race-ishm) for those who don’t have a black experience.
My focus is elsewhere. I have empathy and respect for those in my life that I know will never understand our plight, and my patience to explain what I face to them is probably much more than that I would have for a stranger. Still, I can only explain so much. I have to save my explanations for little black boys and girls who live in a world that conditions them blind to their own humanity. I have to work on us and telling our stories. I have to work on me and my story. To do this well, I must operate in a space made safe for (and by) me.