PART 1: Opening Up
I have been having serious writer’s block. This is not the same kind of writer’s block I’ve previously experienced. This is intentional blocking. I know that if I open up my mind to explore a topic, I will open up my heart to the pain I’ve been struggling against. So I have been blocking myself. I think it’s past time to confront it.
Black lives matter.
We are living in an important time in history, a time that I hope will bring about lasting change for the better. The only way this change occurs, however, is with reflection and action. At the start of June, when protests in the United States over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and Ahmaud Arbery by (white) police officers (and former police officer in Arbery’s case), it was all I could think about. I signed petitions for police accountability, sent emails to my local politicians calling for changes in police funding and accountability, donated to Black Lives Matter, and checked in on my Black friends to offer what support I could—and I cried every day and woke up every morning (after very little sleep) with an ache in my heart and tension in my stomach.
And then I checked out.
I deactivated my facebook, stayed off instagram and news sites, and ceased watching my favourite YouTubers, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Rachel Maddow. I couldn’t take the toll on my body and mind from my constant emotional distress. I feel shame in admitting this, because I know that so many can’t take a break, from the pain, from the work. Still, it was the right decision for me. I needed to take care of myself.
My move to avoid social media was not just about me needing a break from the saturation of pain, but also about needing to get space from the alienating responses from friends. My feed became full of anger and virtue signalling and I needed time to process it. Anger is a necessary and inevitable force in this movement for racial justice, specifically where Black lives are concerned, but it can be difficult to respond positively when faced with anger, even with the best intentions.
I studied Women and Gender Studies (and Political Science) in my Bachelor’s Degree. I learned about intersectionality and systemic racism there. I learned about the power of anger from Black feminists like Audre Lorde. I unpacked my knapsack of white privilege and have tried to live my life as an ally, but I fell out of practice.
When I was confronted with my Black friends’ anger, I realized I hadn’t been doing enough to support them, and that was hard to swallow. But swallow it I must, and I must do better for them. I learned years ago that sometimes the responsibility of privilege is to remain silent to give others a voice, but I also recognize that “silence is violence” and in not saying anything, I am complicit in racism. So, I must write.