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The Fundamentals Of Self-Care When You’re Young, Black & Woke

I feel too deeply and too empathetically to expose myself to day-to-day news, so I stopped cold turkey.

Her Voice

About a year or two ago when there seemed to be an influx in the very public murdering of black men and women on social media, I became very intentional about distinguishing what needs to be seen and known to advance justice for those innocent people versus what is necessary for me to maintain a certain level of self-care.

As James Baldwin said, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." But as an empathetic person who internalizes all pain, I wasn't just enraged, I was sad and discouraged. I was tired.

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And when you're that "relatively woke" friend, there's a good chance that your friends are sending you a heavy rotation of content on the daily in their own blinding outrage...and rage rage.

Do I want the government censoring the senseless murders of their doing? Yeeea--No. Maybe? That's a thought I constantly straddle when asking myself what I want from the media I consume, being well-aware that trauma can occur when taking in all the violence against black people. Whichever side of the fence I fall on, I had to become intentional about what I was allowing my mind to take in and the frequency at which I was doing so.

I'll be the first to ring the alarm on outrageous bullshit hot on the streets, but I also try to respect my zen ass subconscious when it says enough is enough and then try to extend that respect to others.

I feel too deeply and too empathetically to expose myself to day-to-day news, so I stopped cold turkey.

To watch the news is to be informed, allegedly, but it is also a life sentence to the therapist that I'm currently out paying of my pocket. However, because people have come to know me as the "rah, rah" friend, they shoot me texts and direct messages of the most current traumatic news and what we're all guilty of, myself included, is sending that message without avail or shooting our fellow sis a "trigger warning" text, first.

This is something I'm navigating in my awareness of what these types of news stories can do to our mental health, and while I have not gotten it down pact completely, I've learned a thing or two and I would like to share it with you.

Know Your Triggers

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I learned that not all social media is created equally long ago, personally, this has also come to mean that not every platform requires so much of my energy. Since discovering this, I sometimes have to pause and find the social media source of my angst. I surveyed my emotion when getting on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram right after the R. Kelly documentary. The act of logging into Facebook would tie my stomach up in all type of knots, so I deleted the app for a while. No need to make a dramatic announcement, just sign the hell out.

Bottom line is this: Be aware of your triggers! If you can't pinpoint them, how will you expect friends to do so and create proper boundaries?

Protect Your Boundaries At All Costs

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I've seen black people insist that we expose ourselves to every bit of violence against black bodies so we don't forget the cause. Let's be clear, our bodies and souls have not forgotten centuries of trauma and as it stands, there is not much we can do to shake that sh*t. Transgenerational trauma is a real thing, and I promise - like the walls of an ancient cave - the trauma is branded on every part of our being.

You do not have to subject yourself to violence against to work towards justice. It is your prerogative to tell your friends, family or whoever to kindly stop sending you footage of events that trigger you in any shape or form. It feels weird at first, but you can't prop anyone else up until you're mentally there. That includes helping friends dissect their own feelings in these dialogues or fighting for justice against these tragic events.

Yes, I understand the ever present fear of complacency, but living in a constant state of fear and trauma while waiting for the justice we will likely never see? That ain't it.

Be Mindful Of What You Share & Repost

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I saw a video on my timeline of a young woman being raped in a club and with good intention, many people continued to post the video in order to find her assailant. Thing is, we must be mindful in what we're circulating on the internet, as this content can potentially trigger others who have been sexually assaulted, and sharing this could be further traumatizing the current victim. We walk a fine line, social media can help to produce results while also being responsible for regression and we must be mindful of this.

But also, hold space for others who may not want to share your outrage in that moment. Ask questions like "have you seen…?" before sending over full videos, which can be tempting in a technologically advanced world. However, a video is harder to filter out especially when sent with zero context. So minimally, do that for your friends to avoid accidentally triggering them.

Maybe you know all of this, maybe you don't. Either way, I felt someone needed to hear this and release themselves from being exposed to the mistreatment of our people in addition to the everyday tragedies impacting the general public (racial identity aside). In the words of Audre Lorde, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation. And that is an act of political warfare."

Be reminded of how the fight starts within and move accordingly. I truly believe self-care is critical to our survival as a people in all regards. Lay the cape down and take care of yourself. There is nothing more urgent than your mental health.

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Originally published March 8, 2019

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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