Updated: Jun 3, 2020
"...And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
During the pandemic, I've written about how when we feel unsafe or threatened, it's natural for us to go into fight, flight, or freeze modes. And as this week progressed I, and I imagine many of us, found a home in freeze mode as we process the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as reactions to the protests and uprisings occurring all over the country and the world.
What we're seeing right now, and what we've seen for centuries, is a lot to process. It's a lot to hold and make sense of. It's hard not to feel hopeless or hard to know how we, as humans, can help each other.
I found myself being confused, and confused about the confusion. Why would a human be kneeling on another human's neck, is the thought that kept swimming around my head. Why would humans be kneeling on another human's back?
As tears keep flowing down my face.
And of course. We know why. White supremacy has told us why centuries ago. These violent and oppressive systems that we live in don't see Black folks as humans. We're told Black folks are free, and yet these systems continue to enslave us. It's inhumane to put handcuffs on us. It's inhumane to put us in cages. It's inhumane to put knees on our neck and take away our breath. And if we know the history of how cops came to be, we know that it's inhumane to put on a cop uniform. Putting on that uniform means that we're choosing to continue to support the enslavement of Black humans.
But, what are we to do while living in these oppressive systems? While living in a violent, capitalist, imperialist, racist country and world, what are we to do?
We may attempt to notice that we're in freeze mode -- a mode which makes us feel disconnected, hopeless, alone, depressed, empty, and just so so so tired.
Upon noticing, we may try to move to other states. We may attempt to find safety again. We know that our bodies can find some sense of safety and peace if we breathe. Practicing mindfulness and meditating teach us that we must come back to our breath so that we can come back and be present in our bodies.
But, COVID-19 has been taking away our breath. Police take away our breath. White supremacy. Patriarchy. Xenophobia. We can't breathe.
How else do we find safety? Connection. Engagement. This can also prove to be difficult for some of us, as we continue to practice physical distancing. As we feel helpless when we see that our communities continue to experience racial violence. As we feel alone, not seen, and not heard when those around us don't seem to understand the depravity of white supremacy.
To my Black family, I just want to say that I see you. And, I feel you. I feel the pain, the sadness, the grief, the fear, the anger. I love you. I love that we keep fighting, in any way that we can. I also love us when we admit that we can't fight anymore, and we need a break. And, I try to understand us when we align with white supremacy (e.g., Black cops).
I get that we all do what we do to try to survive and thrive in this world. I also get how we may align with or go into the pool of white supremacy to try to help and change these oppressive systems. Some of us attempt to dive and swim in this deadly pool, trying to save others who can’t swim and who may not have the tools to stay afloat and/or we try to help ourselves stay afloat.
I love that we can stay hopeful and continue to dream. Dream about a world in which we feel safe, secure, seen, and held. Sometimes when I meditate, I see that community. All of our ancestors are there. We're surrounded by trees and mangoes. So many mangoes. And, pineapple! The sun is shining on us. We're laughing. We're dancing. There are unending hugs. There's unending joy.
The violence has stopped.
We're finally free.
We're finally home.
My hope is that we can practice making and/or finding this home currently while living in this world. While living in this country. Yes, there’s pain. Yes, there’s suffering. But, my goodness, I hope we can also find belonging, compassion, safety, and joy here, as we fight. As we freeze. As we flee. I hope we can find love. Loving and accepting ourselves, while also finding others who love us.
In the process of finding ways for suffering and healing and joy to co-exist or not co-exist— what we do know for sure is that Black people need reparations.
In a perfect world, White employers, who have the means, would give Black folks months of PTO, free access to physical and mental health care, and an extra million everyday. But, as we wait and hope for reparations, here are some ways that folks, particularly White folks, can help. Here are some other ways to learn how to practice anti-racism and help.
If you’re able to support, this particular organization helps fund therapy for girls and women of color. If you're Black and a person of color, you can find a group therapy option to process racial trauma here. And, here are some other therapy options for Black men and women.
Educate yourself. Educate your loved ones. Protest, if you can. Donate, if you can. If you believe in voting, vote for folks who are humane.
And please, if you can, check in on your fellow humans. Checking in could just be a nod, a smile, an empathic gaze, or a "Hey. Shit has been real traumatic lately. I'm thinking of you. Let me know if I can help in any way" text. "Also, I can help in these ways (e.g., offering you this amount of money, sending you food, coming to visit and going on a physical distance walk with you, being a listening and empathic ear, etc.). Feel free to pick any and all of these choices."
We are only able to move from freeze and into healing and wholeness if we take care of ourselves and others also take care of us.
I love the Zulu tribe's greeting Sawubona. It's been described as I see you. Also, "All my attention is with you. I see you and I allow myself to discover your needs, to see your fears, to identify your mistakes and accept them. I accept you for what you are and you are part of me."
If nothing else, SEE. US.