The last few weeks have been some of the most complicated of my Black life. In just a two-week period, we had a front-row seat to two murders and one situation that had the potential to escalate to another one (Central Park-Amy Cooper birdwatcher incident). As I was watching these things unfold, I never imagined that a new passion project of mine “Being the Dot in White Spaces Podcast” (Available on iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher) would take the national stage and how the camera phone would be the tool of the Revolution.
This last week, I quickly experienced my “invisible” status become hyper-visible, and I knew that something important was about to happen. Personally, I was trying to manage my own turmoil because America was literally on fire and I had a visceral fear that I was going to wake up to a report on the morning news that 20 protesters had been massacred. At the same time, my friends and colleagues requested that I use my expertise to say something or do something to help people cope with Being the Dot in White-Space America. I answered the call through a series of videos, but I also started interviewing people to get their perspective on what was happening. The stories I heard resonated with my own experience and were saturated with the classic signs and symptoms of race-based stress. Like myself, my participants were experiencing sleepless nights, chest pain, anxiety, and some nebulous fear coupled with extreme anger. Talking to these 20+ people illuminated how magnificent and tough it can be to be Brown, Black, Red or Yellow in this White Space of America. It also highlighted how important it is to recognize that Race-Based Stress is real and it is important to take steps to not be eaten alive by ferocious-animal racism.
If you are experiencing Race-Based Stress, I would offer these actions to help you through it:
- Remember the DEER basics in the middle of the Global Pandemic Civil Rights Movement: Drink Water, Eat, Exercise and Rest. These are times of extreme loss and trauma. Go easy on yourself.
- Limit your intake of the news. Stay woke and informed, but the news you watch on TV is structured like an entertainment program designed to keep you tuned in to a particular station as long as possible. Print news media might be a good substitute.
- Make a conscious decision about whether watching “murder porn” is good for you. I decided about two years ago to stop watching videos that show actual killings. It is important to make that decision now, because it is only a matter of time before another unarmed Black person is killed and their death is recorded on a cell phone and transmitted all over the world.
- Do not forget to practice whatever contemplative practice works for you, whether that is breathing, prayer, mediation, dance, painting, writing, or running.
- Be discerning about who you engage with about these issues and abandon the idea of educating folks if you don’t have the capacity right now. I’ve heard it said that before you argue with someone, ask yourself, Is this person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of a different perspective? Because if not, there’s no point.
- Lastly, find ways to engage the movement in a way that works for you. What will be the one or two things you can do to disrupt the impact of Being the Dot in White Spaces and not be swallowed up by those White Spaces?
I don’t know about you, but I am encouraged about some of the things that are already starting to shift in policing; how White Allies are stepping up and how people are being held accountable for blatant racism caught on film. As we embark on this new season, what I know for sure is that we as a people will continue to rise, to push back, preserve and do to more than survive—we will thrive!