Racism, COVID-19, Conscious Living & Self-Care
On Tuesday, May 26th on our 2 month anniversary my wife and I went out for a walk just before 7 a.m. for our 5K walk before work as we usually do a couple days a week it has been a way we get out physical self-care and connection time that is important and a priority for us. COVID-19 has changed how this previous physical and mental self-care time has looked for us since our state started shutting things down on March 13th. It has required an increased level of consciousness with how we interacted with all the changes that came with the increasing cases and impacts of COVID-19. But, we kept navigating how to adjust during this time to practice our physical and mental self-care in a safe way because self-care for us individually and as a couple are a part of our intentional, conscious daily practice to ensure we are taking the steps we can for the best chance at wellness and our best lives. We are constantly adjusting and shifting. It’s nothing new to us, especially as we are a couple with differing abilities, navigating accessibility in addition to stereotypes surrounding disabilities is a part of our everyday living that we are conscious of and that we make intentional decisions in how we approach, manage, and deal.
Overt & Covert Racism
Overt and covert racism has been a part of our everyday lives, our parents and grandparents everyday lives, and each generation back into the days of slavery in this country. We were born into it, and for my wife and I, our families and other black and brown people in our country this is nothing new and we have never had an option to not engage with it, take a break, or separate from it. Even when engaging in self-care, we encounter it.
Just as when we were out for our walk on Tuesday, May 26th we were reminded once again of while we set out with our daily practice, our intentions to strive to live our best lives and be the best versions of ourselves that self-care, conscious living, basic living, access and so much more means and looks different without choice as a result of being black and brown in the United States navigating racism in all its forms. My wife and I are two different beautiful shades of brown, our families are filled with different beautiful shades of black and brown. We went for a walk where we were the only one of the people out walking being followed by a police car on our way home after we stopped to take a breath going up a hill in front of a house, and we came back to the news of George Floyd, another black man, who died within custody of the police. The emotion grew significantly and grew even heavier than it already was.
Processing Events of the Day With Art Therapy
Needing an outlet, I took to art therapy creating an expression of all the thoughts and emotions. Knowing as a service provider and from previous therapy how important it is to do this unfiltered I intentionally refrained from apologies for how I was feeling and my experience. I started out raw and when I finished I was more of a functional raw.
I sat watching the TV coverage of George Floyd using his voice telling them he couldn’t breathe. It didn’t matter. That cop kept his knee and the weight of his body full force dug into his neck until he died. His voice, his life, who he was to the wasn’t worth enough to stop and treat him with dignity, respect, compassion, humanely, the list goes on. It felt like to them his voice had no sound or worth hearing, listening, and responding to. If it did he wouldn’t have died handcuffed in a 9 minute video. It felt like to them his life didn’t matter. Like Amaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, and the millions of our lives you’ve taken and continue to take without hesitation and with intention across generations of our people didn’t matter. If it did none of them would have died in the heartless, cold ways that caused it to end. My body is heavy; heavy with anxiety, anger, powerlessness, fear, frustration, devastation, and more than I have the words to name.
This heaviness and emotion continue to grow like a wild fire the day my wife and I went for a morning walk. A walk like many of the white people in our and surrounding neighborhoods do during the week. This walk is a part of our physical self-care routine. It is something we have always done together in different ways, a chance to connect, talk, and engage in self-care by making it a priority. It seems simple. A walk. We should be able to walk. Me in my all-terrain wheelchair and my wife on her feet, with a bag of water, hand weights, and keys. During COVID-19 this time has been special for me. But, yesterday we went for our regular walk and took a different street back, Saddle.
Soon after a cop car with a white cop wearing black sunglasses drove slowly past us. Then that same cop car with the same cop drove by us again and went up another street. Feeling anxious and unsafe, with other feelings we decided we needed to get home quicker now before something goes wrong. Soon after we turned on the street, the cop car came slowly back around again. He was following us, baiting us, playing that game all because we stopped going up the hill of saddle to take a small breath and break as others were walking and jogging as well but the white woman came out of her house, stood, asked us a question, my wife said we were fine, but she just kept staring at us while standing on her lawn and my wife said she could go now. And then the cop car that started following us.
All my past trauma from police and navigating overt and covert racism came flooding back. The fear, the panic, the interrogation, the baiting, the knowing no matter what I say to them it won’t matter and the flood of feelings and thoughts wondering if I will see my family again. I hate this feeling. It is always in the background when I go out of my house, when my family goes out, when I turn on the TV, everywhere I go. Right now it is front and center. I hate how they are able to live their lives and how it is so different from the world and America we live in.
Our walk was ending short. Up another hill, we didn’t feel comfortable or safe stopping until we got to our neighborhood and out in the open public. Even still knowing that doesn’t make a difference especially if he comes back around a fourth time. I was anxious, my heart was pounding, how would I protect us if he came back. I don’t have any identification, but even that doesn’t match my gender which could cause more issues. I gotta speak clearly so my speech impairment does not cause further issues. I gotta protect my wife. We just got married 2 months ago on this day. Oh god, how am I gonna protect us. I feel so powerless and scared and angry. I hate this. I hate it. Why does my voice feel so powerless compared to them? Why can they use their voice and it puts us in danger when all we are doing is going for a walk?
The anger and hate I feel because of how the way they live and interact in the world has consequences and puts our lives at higher risk and in danger of dying all boils. The hate that it impacted our morning walk but everyone else’s morning walk, especially on that street was fine. I’m so angry and scared. The weight is heavy. They took something from me, from us. I hate them for it and I feel powerless to do anything about it.
So, as I hate them for it and as my body continues to feel heavy; heavy with anxiety, anger, powerlessness, fear, frustration, devastation, and more than I have the words to name. I will continue to write and create art, use my voice, and go on walks with my wife and no let them silence us when they try, not stop living even when they try, I will not go away or make it easier for them because living and being black in America should not be and should never have been a death sentence and a license to allow them to make us stop living or being proud of who we are.
As I finished writing and creating the picture, the heaviness was still there along with so many other emotions, thoughts, and fears. Filled with questions, I asked myself:
- How do I move forward?
- How do I take a deep breath?
- How do I continue to use my voice when I feel like it doesn’t matter or make a difference?
- How do I cope with the intense anger and anxiety pent up for decades, growing, internalized, full of microaggressions from my experience of growing up as black and biracial with brown skin?
- How do I keep interacting when my white friends seek education from me on racial justice?
- How do I believe in myself, my worth, my voice, my power, my story when messages say otherwise?
- How do I hope?
- How do I engage in self-care and living our best lives in the midst of deeply embedded racism within our country whose history shows it’s devalue for people like me, my wife, our child, our families, our friends, our communities across many generations?
The question of moving forward seems to be a large, heavy question for many around the world in response to COVID-19 and racism, especially in the United States as the death toll from COVID-19 rose above 100,000 people, and several news stories have broke out about black and brown men and women dying unjustly by others and the police, including the most recent of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Amaud Arbery. As protests have been filling the streets in major cities from the east to west coast, and in other countries in solidarity – the heavy weight of emotions and pain fill the air with growing flame. The perspectives, feelings, actions and experiences right now are collective, joined, different, conflicting, and vast.
People are in mourning, fearful, angry, and so much more. There are not enough words or expressions. In our household it is hard to believe, hard to hope in a different outcome. That things will change and accountability will be held. That the way we live in our communities and the world will not feel so different and so intertwined within racism. That we will not fear the maltreatment, violence, and death of our fathers, husbands, sons, daughters, mother’s, friends because of the color of their skin. That we will not have our experiences and voices silenced, rewritten, invalidated, and filtered.
So, for me moving forward as a biracial black man I will:
- Allow myself to feel all my feelings.
- Make emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual self-care a priority.
- Continue to use my voice, my gifts for change and fight against messages and the presence of hopelessness.
- Push for justice and accountability and an end to racial violence.
- Lift up space for the voices of minorities.
- Push for increased safety and wellness.
- Say their names, honor the lives lost, and remember & honor our black and brown ancestors.
- Be authentic and true to who I am without apology.
- Continue to exist in our world understanding what it means to be black and brown.
- Continue to pray for the protection of my family.
- Hope for the future and change.
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