Self-Care When Shots Are Fired
Black Woman Protester” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Johnny Silvercloud

Diamond Raymond, Program Assistant

This piece was originally written in response to police brutality on black and brown bodies in the Fall of 2016. We share these words, again, now because they still matter, and they are relevant to the discussion of continued violence on black and brown folks, as well as recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

As we reflect, discuss, and mobilize around the events in Charlottesville – the unspeakable violence and hate speech carried out by white nationalists hiding behind the guise of an alt-right political identity – we must be cognizant of if and how we are centering black folks. Before we reach out with hopeful hearts and willing hands to promote care and love for self, we must make room for the ever expansive world of emotions black folks are feeling now. We must accept, respect, and bear witness to the inevitable rage and sadness that comes leaping out in response to a society of clumsy allies, irresponsible media, and complacent neighbors and peers. 

Ordinarily, a friendly reminder to slow down and check in with myself or dedicate regular time to cater to my needs is welcome in my life. However, when yet another black person has been shot by the police and had their death plastered all over social media in what can only be described as carnage theater, your “please take care of yourself” feels like more shots fired. I am NOT the problem. My life and the lives of my family near and far are not in danger because we failed to find worthiness within ourselves. While I have no doubt that these thoughts of promoting self-care come with the best intentions, they not only fall flat but sit on my chest like the final crushing stone.

With every “please remember to take care of yourself” and “don’t forget to make time for self-care” I find myself picturing those I call friends as members of a lynch mob, their silent tears evaporating on the hot breath of the hangman and his comrades. Please don’t ask me to do my best to hold myself up, stop requiring me to slip bony fingers between neck and rope and feel vindicated in your action. Cut the noose, and hobble the hangmen! Fix it.

If I have lost you in metaphor, then let me be clear with instruction. It is time to do something! If you’ve heard things like “white privilege” and “systemic oppression” and you’re not sure what people are talking about, or you’re skeptical, educate yourself. If you understand these things, educate others. If people on your social media feeds are sharing videos of black and brown people dying in an attempt to educate others, tell them to stop! Don’t force black and brown people to watch the strategic assassination of their communities in your social media arena. Call for action! Not everyone has to go to a protest, but everyone has a role to play. Write letters, write a blog, call elected officials, peer educate, fundraise, and donate. Whatever it is that you do, do it with purpose and get uncomfortable. Our communities are dying: if not in the streets, then in our homes of a slow death, our bodies ravaged by PTSD and heartbreak. We don’t have time for you to do what feels safe and good.

Most importantly, before you ask another person of color to take care of themselves and do self-care, please take care of yourself and divest from the systems that are killing us.