When The Rage & Grief Are Hard to Bear: Self-Care in Times of #BlackPain #BlackTrauma #BlackDeath
Within the past week, many Black folx have been faced with those in their lives who are not melanated or have less melanin, come into their space and make comments of disbelief regarding “how we got here” as a country. Let’s be clear, it is not how we got here. This is where we have always been. There has just existed privilege for some in not having to acknowledge it or experiencing the negative impact of racism on your own life.
In this moment of the 24-hour news cycle coupled with Black folx having cellphones that allow us to document our own brutalization/trauma, there is no escaping it. The comfort of being able to dismiss your viewing Black skin as threatening, while at the same time stating that it is “not their skin, it was something else”---with that “something else” never named.
It was beneficial to relieve their cognitive dissonance around seeing those who were hired to Serve and Protect, roll up on a young black boy in a park with a toy gun (because CHILDREN play with toy guns), and open fire before the car even stops---and tell themselves the child must have done something, while also adultifying him by giving him the title of man.
For you, my black folx, I send my love.
I share your exhaustion.
I am also enveloped in your grief and rage.
It is also abundantly clear that in all of these, there is this difficulty in finding the space to address our own emotional wellness. To understand that our daily trauma has brought us to this place where it is amplified for the moment because of #BreonnaTaylor, #TonyMcDade, #GeorgeFloyd and so many others that the hashtag key on our keyboards has begin to fade.
We cannot neglect our own mental health if we hope to survive. If we expect to carry not only the generational trauma that is housed in our very DNA, but also that which is our lived experience as we continue to push for long overdue, sustained, systemic change, we have to take care of ourselves.
Tips on self-care
1. Tell them to Google It-it is not your responsibility to provide a whole damn dissertation on anti-racism work, white supremacy, etc. to those in your life who have now decided that they need to learn something. There is likely this part of you that feels it is your burden to do so because if not, then you are faced with the guilt statements of “I tried, and you refused to teach me.” The work of educating is emotional labor. It is work. In this moment of your grief, and even when you are not grieving, your job is not to educate non-Black folx on being anti-racist, because you are not the people who caused white supremacist beliefs in the first place. Refer them to google. Give them a couple of articles. Point them to books such as White Fragility that were written for them. Do not feel like you HAVE to be the one that walks them through the painful world in which you live.
2. Everybody is not worth your time---some will come to you in this moment simply to argue with you. To continue to push the narrative that “All Lives Matter” in the midst of clear indications that such a statement does not include and seeks to dismiss Black Lives. Such people are not your friends. Their goal is not to learn. Instead, they are seeking to sap your energy, to further weaponize your trauma against you---and when you tell them you have had enough, they continue to bait you---stating your failure to engage is a sign that you are capitulating to their thought process, or at the very least, do not think creating allies is that important. You can delete them. You can choose to not engage. You can minimize contact. Everyone is not entitled to your emotional labor, your life, or your space
3. Seek Black Spaces and Be Unapologetic About It—You deserve to be in a space where you do not have to explain your trauma. You deserve to be in a space where you can rage, grieve, and also be rejuvenated by those to whom you do not have to explain or justify your lived experiences. Do not feel obligated to let anyone in those sacred spaces as true allies will want you to have them, will honor them, and will do whatever they can to protect them for you
4. Do Not Feel Guilty About How You Resist, or Guilt Other Black Folx in the Way They Do So---resistance looks different for all of us. How we need to show our righteous/justified rage at a system that sanctions our deaths (COVID, death by cop, the slow death of mass incarceration and disproportionate sentencing, etc) , is our own. For some, resistance is being in the classroom educating the next generation of Black folx and letting them know they matter and deserve to be here. For others, resistance is holding political office so they can fight against their counterparts who continue to try to enact laws that will further disenfranchise and marginalize us. For others, it is being in the boardroom and pushing for the hiring and promotion of other Black folx so that decisions that are made will positively impact us. For others, it is taking to the streets---letting the world know that it needs to Stop Killing Us. All forms of resistance deserve to be respected
5. Take a Break---others will question why you are stepping away. Not thinking that you are never fully away because you LIVE in Black skin and the societal oppression towards you never ends. It is okay to turn off the television. It is okay to not engage in discussions on social media (see items 1 & 2). It is okay to not participate in that protest because your mind and soul are weary. You cannot continue to fight a battle if you are not mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually well
6. Go to Therapy---Therapy IS for us. There should never be this expectation that you should “push-through” pain. There should never be this stigma about you accessing supports that can help you figure out how to navigate in a world that devalues you. Natural resilience should not negate professional support. Find that therapist who supports your coping and who also does not expect you to explain/justify your pain
7. Find Joy---in these moments, we think that joy is not allowed. But there is joy in our Blackness---from our music, to our culture, to our written word, to how we engage in community. In a world that daily seeks to devalue us, we deserve to revel in moments of Black Folx Joy. Find it. Celebrate it. Embrace it.
Dr. Dent is a licensed psychologist. Her hardest job is being a Black Woman who centers the experiences of Black women and girls. She is angry. She is grieving. She has been banning people from her social media platforms, protesting, taking breaks, and spending time with her family within sacred Black spaces which bring her joy.