It’s been a long time since I’ve felt comfortable writing. Computers used to be tools for work and entertainment, but now looking into a screen literally nauseates me, scrolling on my phone nauseates me. I feel it on the floor of my stomach, rolling around and roaring like hunger.
I went to the inaugural event for Inheritance, a project from The Atlantic Monthly with the aim of amplifying and honoring Black history and Black stories. We’ve lost so many stories, which is why the ultra conservative right can make up so many stories about what Black people want, what Black people experience, what Black people deserve.
I learned that Anna Deavere Smith attended a pwi (primarily White institution) college (Beaver College at the time, now Arcadia University) where she was one of very few Black students. Of what I learned in the presentation, that is what really stuck. She was there when MLK, Jr. was murdered, and it wasn’t until that time that that Black women there began to see themselves as a group, the self-named “Beaver College Blacks.” They got some stuff changed at that school. Learn more: Here’s the article.
I’m thinking about what allyship looks like when only the-one-to-be-allied-with feels pain. I’m thinking about what allyship looks like when everyone is feeling pain, but different kinds of pain about different things. I’m thinking about what it means to be alone in pain.
I think, and I think, and I think, and then nausea. I realize that the nausea is emotion: helplessness, loneliness, overwhelm, and I have to lie down for a bit. I realize that I’m alone, that I’m thinking too much instead of feeling and working through my emotions in community, and that THIS is the problem.
When I ignore my feelings and get stuck in my brain, I’m hiding myself from myself. I end up wearing “the mask” that Paul Lawrence Dunbar reminds us “grins and lies.” The mask can be protective when we wear it at work, as Jodi Ann Burey points out in her TEDx Talk: “Why You Should NOT Bring Your Authentic Self to Work,” but when we wear it at home, by ourselves, we risk our lives.
I must remember to take my mask off sometimes and just allow myself to hurt, to rage, to do nothing sometimes. I’m drawn to Saundra Dalton-Smith’s ideas about the 7 Types of Rest in her TEDx Talk: “The Real Reason Why We Are Tired and What to Do About It. Sometimes, I just need to turn off my brain, write in my journal, sit in silence or listen to my space heater. I need ALL of the types of rest right now.
According to what little I know of Internal Family Systems theory, we are each one of us a community of selves. All of those selves need a chance to speak with each other, need to listen to each other, need to support and learn from each other, and need to learn when to let each other go. I’m talking to my internal selves and realizing that The Answer To Racism does not need to and cannot come from just me alone. It’s to big a monster to tackle.
I need to occasionally take off the mask of systems-changer, of world disrupter, and spend some time just being Nkomo: teacher/college counselor/group therapist in training. One thing at a time!
Day by day, my stomach is feeling a little better. Time for lunch.