In every struggle for justice, our focus on the external work of resistance, must always be equally matched by an awareness of how the battle is impacting us internally. It means that we realize that in fighting against oppression, some of its violence may have gotten on us, and seeped inside to become an unconscious part of how we see ourselves and treat our loved ones.
This week I introduce a series featuring the voices of women and men who raise questions about the internal state of African America as we do the work of resisting racism. In this series we’re talking about what happens when we get tired (and in this state of emergency), if being tired is even allowed? We write about accessing the spiritual and communal power that is in our hands, and we break the silence over hurts that have been forced underground for far too long. The essence of our work in the words we share is to offer something that helps us do the ongoing work of healing…even as we fight.
There are some forms of violence that are really good at teaching lessons. They’re so egregious that you don’t even have to be the one in trouble, for you to learn the lesson. The amount of force demonstrated against Black bodies reminds me of this.
Every time a new video shows up detailing a police related incident in which a Black person is blatantly disrespected, severely harmed or killed; it reminds me of the spectacular ways that disfigured, lynched Black bodies taught the lesson.
Whenever we hear of another Black person losing their life as a consequence of an encounter with the police, the news is made real by the release of a cell phone, dash or vestcam video capturing their last moments alive.
These violent and traumatic deaths are immortalized and held up for all to see in public space, in much the same way that lynched bodies were held up in public gatherings for all to observe that this is what happens when you step out of line, resist, or dare to assume your right to simply ‘be.’
The interweaving of race and police force is nothing new, but social media’s capacity to broadcast it widely adds another dimension to its ability to traumatize communities.
We are responding to this trauma (for better or worse) through marches, vigils, riots, prayer, strategizing, organized advocacy, counter-cultural social media campaigns and education reform.
Even still there’s one front (perhaps the most important one) that I notice going unattended: home.
What are we doing to take care of the minds and souls that step up to the challenge every time we activate resistance day in and day out?
Where do we hurt and how is that hurt manifesting itself in-house in the African American community?
Ain’t nobody got time to think about that…
But, if we win the battle what do we really have to celebrate when we return home to find our relationships, families and institutions empty and devoid of love?
Have we asked if close contact with the evils of racism has affected our ability to provide safe spaces with one another? In the fight to resist, have we taken on the tactics of those who oppress us?
We cannot afford to allow this moment in history to only be about the changes we demand of others. In a time when we have to speak up about police brutality, we have to be equally vigilant about intimate partner violence, family violence, sexism, homo/transphobia, child abuse, neglect, good/bad hair, light and dark skin, (temporary) haves and (disproportionate) have nots.
In the middle of #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName is a powerful reminder that traumas like what we’ve been facing for generations blur the line between our inside selves and the outside tactics we practice for survival.
We have to re-establish the threshold that separates our here, from the world out there.
Re-drawing that line allows us to remember that love does not make us weak, nor does it make us naïve. It keeps us accountable, during times like now when the impact of racialized oppression threatens to divide and deplete us. Love is resistance.
If we don’t learn this lesson, we will allow racism to distract us from the very thing that we fight against it so hard for – the right to live in a way that reflects our self-worth, dignity and God’s positive regard for all of humanity (including Black humanity).