For much of my life, I have known struggle and survive. And for the most part, while I’ve been scathed, I’ve never been scared like this before. I remember in my adolescence believing that my adulting would be so epic, that I’d be the adultiest adult to ever be- and then it happened. Adulting. Managing bills. Planning for the future. Dealing with emotions. Raising a kid. Starting over. Breaking up. Starting over again. Rebuilding. It never ends. Then this pandemic occurred. And I’ll admit, I was not unhappy with it. I welcomed the reprieve. The stillness. The break from hustle and bustle was a thing I craved. Of course I was riddled with thoughts of how to be most productive during this time. I think I even vowed to be a proficient flautist who speaks Swedish for fun and knows how to use my arms for flying. None of that happened. I was confronted by all the pain I’d been carrying and storing. I was still responsible for the little human and figuring out how to fall apart without hiding. So much has been taken. Has been lost. Has been stripped away. My personhood is wrapped up in doing for the outside world and the outside world has been shut down. I have been grieving for so long that lately all I have strength to do is cry. Cry for what the year should’ve been. Cry for what it’s not. Cry for the fact I’m crying so much. Cry for the people I miss. Cry for the fact that even in a pandemic I am not safe. Cry for a future I don’t know what awaits.
As we are in phases of reopening, I ventured out to get my eyebrows done. As she threaded away the hairs, I could feel some of the weight that had been sitting on me erode away. She asked about my daughter. I smiled underneath the mask at the thought of her remembering who I am. She even made remarks on how my eyebrows are a thickness she wasn’t aware of because I maintained them (let’s all laugh at that bit of shade she threw). In this brief exchange, I began to really understand the reality of what has been taken or rather it hit me differently. In this world, very little happy comes my way as a black woman who has recently “come out” to her mom. I have been navigating all this loss, shouldering the blame for being brown and gay. Brown and divorced. Brown and woman. Brown and existing. I am literally terrified to even exercise outside but what alternative do I have?
So much has been pilfered from us. And in the midst of what happens to be one of the greatest tragedies in our lives, there’s still time to hunt and kill black people. Where are we safe? Safe to dream? Safe to laugh? Safe to just be? I’m beyond angry. I’m mortified that my sense of happy lies in the small victories and having access to that seems more like privilege instead of a basic human right. It’s never been lost on me how little my life is valued but being in a place where all you have is the noise in your head, the incessant barrage of uncertainty taking up space, is beyond exhausting.
I’ve seen the posts and live recordings of what people are doing. Let me be clear: this isn’t just from one incident. This is a culmination of wrongful death after wrongful death with no justice. This is rage against a system that refuses to acknowledge us as human. That refuses to evolve from the racist paradigm. That would rather dredge up reasons for murdering a person of color than address the shit that’s got to change. We carry this worry everyday; having to be cognizant of our blackness. Don’t be too intimidating. Don’t be too proud. Don’t be too loud. There are all these don’ts attached to us with no accountability to the people who will still exercise whatever they feel they need to do in that moment all in the name of their own safety.
The pandemic gave us stillness. And in that, we have sat with all this grief, all this loss, all this injustice. And we are at unrest. There are several roles in this movement and I hope as you are reading this, you know it is your responsibility to contribute. If protests aren’t your thing, there are several other ways to support; donate, call your local congressman, writing a letter, posting appropriate and correct information, etc.
This grief is a result of all the shitty things that happens to us personally but also how it affects us collectively. To white people who wish to be allies, being silent isn’t helpful. Saying you’re sorry to my face but not being active is not helpful. Telling me you have a black friend or date a black person or whatever you tell yourself in hopes to pacify yourself is not helpful. Falsely equivocating is not helpful. Being derisive and asserting your half baked idea on how a person of color should feel or be is not helpful. Cognitive dissonance is not helpful. Gaslighting is not helpful. Being helpful means doing the work with us. And keeping that same energy when we aren’t around.
In this moment, let those of us who are in a position of privilege extend understanding, grace, and compassion. And those of us who aren’t; you are seen, you are valued, and this work is necessary.