My body autonomy is a constant political debate–by men who have no clue what being a woman in 2015 means. Convincing people that transgender is, in fact, a gender, is something reminiscent of walking to the moon. Kim Davis thinks her beliefs trumps others’ Constitutional rights. And about two weeks ago Donald Trump stated plainly (and with his signature dollop of racism) that my people fighting for their rights were “thugs who are happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” This man, a legitimate candidate for the Republican nomination, said he knows nothing about the Black Lives Matter movement, yet had the audacity to call it a disgrace. And while the subject is present:
Dontre Hamilton (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Eric Garner (Staten Island, New York)
John Crawford III (Dayton, Ohio)
Michael Brown Jr. (Ferguson, Missouri)
Ezell Ford (Florence, California)
Dante Parker (Victorville, California)
Tanisha Anderson (Cleveland, Ohio)
Akai Gurley (Brooklyn, New York)
Rumain Brisbon (Phoenix, Arizona)
Jerame Reid (Bridgeton, New Jersey)
Tony Robinson (Madison, Wisconsin)
Phillip White (Vineland, New Jersey)
Eric Harris (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Walter Scott (North Charleston, South Carolina)
Freddie Gray (Baltimore, Maryland)
Natasha McKenna (Alexandria, Virginia)
Janisha Fonville (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Sandra Bland (Waller County, Texas)
Ralkina Jones (Cleveland Heights, Ohio)
Kindra Chapman (Homewood, Alabama)
India Clarke (Tampa, Florida)
Waking up to another name-turned-hashtag has become my coffee in the morning, so proposing that this list scratches the surface would be a laughable understatement. And precisely this is the issue. As the Tumblr blog posts, BuzzFeed reports, and endless news articles roll in, it appears that being a minority in America means to carry a plethora of burdens no one can see. It flashes on the television, lingers online, and walks with you on a screen in the palm of your hand. There is nothing wrong with being aware; in fact it’s arguably a necessity. But this endless stream of bad news can settle on any conscience so much so that the final bill for “staying woke” is more than even Trump’s bank account could handle.
In this endless quest of social consciousness the act of self-care becomes easily overlooked. So this is a PSA to all fellow activists, feminists, social justice warriors, and each individual who is pressing day by day to analyze the reality of injustice: Take a break. Log off. Let yourself relax, if even for a moment.
Bria Royal, a student at Northwestern University, summed up the issue. “There’s a lot of very bright, very woke people out here who are so impassioned with telling their brothers and sisters to breathe that they forget to inhale themselves. I think there’s this fear of letting ourselves become distracted.”
She brings us to step one: Relaxing is not a distraction. Make it a mantra if you please. Escape social media and the news, gather your thoughts and remove ramped social injustice from your mind if only for a moment. Another Northwestern student, Natalie Frazier, said while she doesn’t decompress well and reads “Twitter and the news incessantly,” she does take time to escape through movies and television. In fact, the actual act doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the stress is removed and that you may breathe. Being a part of the struggle is all too difficult when you’re too stressed to function.
“I do not see myself in all of the images society presents me with, ” said a Northwestern student who wished to remain anonymous. In other words, taking back the privilege of individualism is key. Women, people of the LGBT community and every racial minority are constantly asked to represent their entire population as some impromptu spokesperson. So if escaping isn’t possible, reserve for yourself the privilege of individualism. Take each incident or article in stride. As this student said, you can’t physically mourn each loss, but you can advocate for the greater fight.
It’s simply not said enough, and marginalized groups must know that it is possible to disengage for a moment to take care of their mental state. Staring at tragedy is taxing. So when you binge watch Netflix, listen to “Hell You Talmbout” by Janelle Monaé on repeat, or ignore social media for a day, it’s not negation of the cause but a ratification of self-care. To say we can’t multitask in this way is selling ourselves short. As for myself, I’ll be taking a page from Bria Royal’s book: “We gotta remember that our happiness is the embodiment of the revolution we seek…Our war cries are powerful, but our laughter is just as strong.”
(Title image via).