Hey and welcome back. This new journey! Whew!
If you live anywhere on planet earth, hopefully, you are are aware of what’s going on in the world. While this seems to be normal to some, for some reason, these events hit me differently. I seemed to have a new awareness or connection to them that I had never had before. My heart breaks whenever someone dies senselessly or is involved in an exchange that becomes racially motivated unnecessarily but recent events have just felt different.
Fortunately, I had therapy in this midst of this meltdown so I think that I got a handle on this thing. For the last few years, I have been working on finding my voice in therapy. I have been learning to speak up for myself and defend myself in every area of my life. This journey has been scary yet fulfilling but recent events made me aware of an area untouched by this growth journey. My blackness.
I am blessed that I was able to process with my therapist in real-time while I had this crisis. I talked about feeling overwhelmed and confused. I talked about feeling fed up with feeling like I have to perform a certain way when I am around white people. I talked about feeling like I had to edit myself and my conversations. I talked about not feeling like I could be 100% me in most situations that involve someone who does not look like me. During therapy, I couldn’t figure it out.
Fortunately, I usually journal after a tough session and what I discovered was that my growth was at odds with this area of my life. Stick with me. My blackness is the only place where I did not have a boundary. I could no longer understand the reason that I didn’t speak up for myself in this area of my life. My blackness is the only place in my life where I chose to be different to make someone else feel comfortable. My blackness is the only place where I still cowered rather than stand tall. All of those things are in direct opposition to what I was learning about and how I was growing as a result of therapy.
The ending result was my crisis and in the moment I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. My default response of shutting down or running away or quitting was unacceptable but I also didn’t know what to do. Crisis. Then I realized that the work that I was doing in therapy was working and this was THE biggest challenge to date. I had to make the choice to no longer self-edit or censor my conversation or my feelings around someone who is white to make them feel comfortable. I had to make the choice to no longer censor my life so that they would perceive me in a certain way. If I was learning to do this in every other area of my life, I had to honor myself and do the same as it relates to my blackness.
I didn’t realize just how much I did it until recent events. A dog walker weaponizing a birdwatcher’s blackness for calling her out on not having her dog on a leash in an area that would have affected his ability to watch the birds. A man murdered while running on the planet Earth by regular citizens. And a popular celebrity having to leave a commercial rental because one of his neighbors and the landlord assumed that he was doing something illegal in his leased space. Each of these events are things that I enjoy or take for granted. I walk/run in a predominantly white neighborhood. I am a rule follower and want to enjoy whatever I am supposed to enjoy without rule breakers destroying my ability to do that and I try to make sure that I don’t look suspicious so that I won’t be seen as a threat as a Black woman. (yes, it happens) I am tired and I am no longer willing to edit or censor myself for the few who have already made up in their minds that I am something that I am not without so much as a “hello” to begin a conversation.
My stories are valid. My truth is valid. And I don’t have to prove that to anyone. Experience me right where I am — warts and all. I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room or most well-traveled. I don’t’ have to be the most experienced or the most upwardly mobile. I don’t have to be the happiest or most unbothered. And I certainly don’t have to be the most well behaved by someone else’s standards. These things have nothing to do with my blackness. I have been wearing this burden for so long that I didn’t realize that it was one. My husband put it this way. I was “burdened by my burden and didn’t even know it.” Today, I choose to be unburdened. I choose to not wear the bigotry of someone else who does not respect or care about my boundaries. Boundary — drawn. That’s YOUR stuff AND I refuse to wear it. Unshackled. Unburdened. Uncensored.
May your journey be as unshackled, unburdened, and uncensored as you need it to be for you. Peace.