Willful ignorance. Aggressive derailing. Opportunistic racism.
Maybe it’s on your Facebook feed, posted by someone you used to think was cute. Maybe you see it on a classmate’s Twitter, someone you’ve known for years and used to think highly of. The days following polarizing incidents – usually tragedies involving race – may as well be called “Cleaning Day,’ because it allows you to find out who you’re connected with on social media that perhaps you shouldn’t be.
Ferguson is five minutes from my home in Spanish Lake, it is another tiny town in St. Louis that’s filled to the brim with racial tension. In the days following the murder of Michael Brown, it’s been disturbing to see how little those I considered friends and acquaintances, care about people like me and my family. Any Black person who lives here will tell you to be wary of the cops, but so many remain willfully ignorant of the racism here because it doesn’t affect them. They don’t get pulled over. They don’t get searched. It isn’t people who look like them that are getting gunned down in the street.
I look at the people I thought I knew and wonder: would you excuse my murder? What about that of my brothers? Or my son? Would you choose not to comment at all except if people reacted in a way you didn’t agree with?
If you don’t care about Mike Brown, you don’t care about any of us. Another innocent Black child has been murdered in cold blood and people trip over themselves to rationalize it. They handwave it away with status updates and tweets that manage to tell you everything you need to know about what they really think.
“We don’t even know the facts yet” means “Eyewitnesses don’t count if they’re Black.”
“Not all cops” means “I see nothing wrong with derailing the conversation surrounding ongoing police brutality to talk about something as trivial as protecting the reputation of law enforcement.”
“St. Louis is a cesspool,” said after the riots and following silence on the murder that provoked it, means “I’m ok with living in a city with racist cops who brutalize and murder but unruly Black people is where I draw the line.”
It gets tiresome. It gets to the point where I want to delete everyone from every social media account I have – everyone who jumps to make excuses, everyone who decides to play Respectability Police as if that will save any of us, everyone who chooses to pretend it isn’t happening and waits for this to fade into yesterday’s news like these murders always do.
If your stomach has been in knots all day and everything is starting to feel pointless, it might be time to log off.
If you go to sleep planning lengthy retorts and feel like crying because you know it won’t matter to the person you’re talking to, it might be time to log off.
If you feel the silence of those you thought you could trust and it feels like a heavy immovable object bearing down on your chest, it might be time to log off.
I understand why you care because I care too, but don’t forget to let yourself breathe.
When I felt my heartbeat literally speeding up in rage, I put down my phone, closed my tablet, and recognized that it was time to get my head together. For a black girl nerd like me, self-care involves, in addition to logging off, indulging in the geeky pursuits that make me the most happy. Now was the time to marathon new shows I’ve been meaning to check out, like The Strain and Extant. It was time to get comfortable and catch up on some reading. (If you’re looking for a recommendation, check out “Panther in the Hive” by Olivia A. Cole, a fresh take on apocalypse narratives with a WOC protagonist to boot).
When you’re feeling emotionally and spiritually fatigued, find solace in whatever it is that makes you happiest in the simplest of ways, whether that means spending time with family and people who do get it or hunkering down alone in your makeshift fortress of solitude. Write the fanfiction you’ve been planning in your head for weeks, or settle in with a glass of wine and read some. There is no shame in taking care of yourself, whatever that means for you.
It was a family member who first took me by the shoulders and said “Stop,” not because she had heard enough but because she could see that I was hurting. I’m saying it to you now because I didn’t always know. It’s ok to disengage for a while. It’s ok to get tired of defending the humanity of black folks. When you find yourself explaining the same basic concepts to people who don’t want to listen, take off the teacher hat and light it on fire.
It’s not up to you to fix the world on your own. Rest.
Featured image from Bossip.com
Sharon Lynn Pruitt is a writer who divides her time between Middle Earth and the Midwest. She blogs about black feminism and geek culture at thugnerdlife.wordress.com and struggles to complain in 140 characters or less on Twitter @SharonLynnSays.