What a tangled web we weave. Humanity. Perspective. Priorities. Politics.
Before you came to my house to watch the results roll in, I made dinner by myself in the kitchen. I stood over the stove stirring a pot and realized that this could be a real thing — a thing that actually happens. It was a moment of disbelief, knowing, knowing in my bones, but simultaneously not knowing at all how it had come to this.
Among the very many things occurring to me in that moment, my thoughts turned to you. I thought back to seeing you — protest after protest — and cycling through anxiety, energy, conviction, despair. I thought back to our discussions about being able to distinguish toxic whiteness from white people. I thought back to my own feelings, rooted but unsettled, face-to-face with Klan members at arally earlier this year — to the haunting connectedness I felt driving past a cotton field in Mississippi on my way to New Orleans for the first time.
I thought about my grandmother. I’m always thinking about Grama Gloria. I called her just before she went to bed for the evening and asked for her thoughts on the election. She called him a “joker,” which brought a smile to my face. That is a term reserved for the people who disappoint her most. I asked her how she felt about maybe seeing a woman president. She matter-of-factly reminded me that there are female world leaders but wasn’t too sure we’d do that here and now.
I thought about privilege — how it is a funny and layered thing that comes to some by birth, that we are all seeking but also denying that we have when it suits us. I thought about the space between culture and being. About who others see us as in contrast with who be perceive ourselves to be. About identity. Pride. Compartmentalization. About West Indian American friends who feel unaffected by the things that light your Southern bones afire. About how to have these sorts of conversations with you — how to help you understand how I can still love them — and with them: how to bridge that gap compassionately.
I called my oldest and dearest friend knowing she would take my words, chaff and grain, and truly hear what I was trying to say. And I didn’t feel alone in that moment.
When you were preparing to leave later that evening, after I’d had enough and decided to just go to sleep, I felt at a loss for words. This didn’t surprise you. We are different in that way. But don’t mistake that for indifference. I felt angry and dazed. I felt suffocated by the reality of intolerance and hate. I thought about an old friend in DC who asked me once if I felt like a woman or a black person first. At the time I felt like I had to choose. Today, my older and less angsty self recognizes that those two things are inextricably linked for me. (We aren’t friends anymore.)
I cried and then had striking, crazy dreams that night. I woke up confused about whether they were real or not. Then I checked my phone.
I have only gone on Facebook a handful of times since then. And honestly? I am healthier for unplugging. Taking this space has allowed me to actually process instead of remaining steeped in my newsfeed and annoyed by other people’s stupidity.
I have found that several friends who were seemingly apolitical before are really interested in talking now. It’s brought a new dynamic to those relationships, which feels really good. I have also found lightheartedness and humor in other friends with whom I have storied pasts.
I have also decided to spend more time being creative. I know you know how it feels to be torn between your left and right brain in work and life. I have been pursuing more gigs and listening to a lot of music. I pulled out my art supplies to start collaging again. And I have discovered that cooking is my form of meditation. The goal is really just to take care of myself. I think you should too …
Spend some time creating a sanctuary in your new home.
Reach out to people. You are not alone. And don’t reply that you have me. I’m cool and all, but I am not enough. Reach out in order to build relationships — a support system. There are plenty of folks around us who will embrace you if only you are open to them.
Write. And not just about politics and race. Write about your feelings. Dig in. Don’t be afraid to let that loose. You’ll feel exposed at first but vulnerability is the essence of self — self-disclosure, self-discovery, self-determination.
Ask questions. You may find that you don’t have all the answers after all. Remember that disagreement doesn’t preclude dialogue. Sometimes people will surprise you. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself.
If you find yourself getting annoyed, take a deep breath. Remember that you don’t have to be the teacher, the official voice of all things Black at all times. Choose not to be because you are opting to care for yourself and not because you are deciding to rebuff others.
Be intentional about recognizing that just because some of us aren’t on the front line with you doesn’t mean we aren’t present. There is space for all of us in this. What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said here is resonating for me in this moment: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
And when you feel moments of sadness or anger creeping in (and, let’s be honest, they will), allow yourself to pause. Chin up. Regroup and then keep fighting. Keep sharing your passions with the world. Know that the people who love you hear your screams for justice and see the ways you suffer in silence. Just don’t forget to always let love in.
Anyway, I made you a mixtape. I hope it conveys some of what I have said here. I hope it is a reflection of both you and me and the range of emotions that we have all gone through in the past weeks. I hope it displays where we are, professes where we have been, and reminds us how to proceed in the months and years to come. I hope you like it.