In the moments of finally deciding to write this, I am also deciding whether to attend my regularly scheduled Zoom Spanish class. I adore the teacher, a cool Mexican guy who strongly dislikes Trump. The other students are cool too, I’m one of about 3-4 POC in that class.
I relish the fact that I’ve always been good at languages. This class is only a refresher course, to take my spanish from good to great. I’m used to being an A student, vocal, winning attention from the teacher. Being that version of myself every Saturday during the pandemic has been really grounding for me, especially since I get to flex my muscles in a room full of white students.
But today it’s different. Today I woke up feeling the weight of sadness in my body. Mental anguish was heavy enough to become physical. So I lay in bed and cried and tried really hard to pull myself away from the brink. It’s like I’m dangling from a cliff, only my arms are holding me up, and in my mind I’m battling the desire to fall. My arms are weary from grasping at the rocks. My mind is weary from willing my body to live. And that’s where I exist, at the edge of that cliff, stuck between the struggle of living and the terror of death.
Will I still show up to my Spanish class?
I have an hour and ten minutes to decide. I have an hour and ten minutes to get up, wash my face, try to look presentable, rush my homework, and completely change or conceal my current mood. I desperately want to do it for the sake of my pride.
Something about skipping the class to me means admitting defeat. Admitting that the chaos of this moment is killing me slowly. I must show them my face and show them that I am okay. Because I am resilient. I will die with dignity. I will not let them break me.
It’s the same concept when my supervisor or my workplace attempts to express concern for what we are going through right now. We don’t respond. It’s just so deeply personal and private. And we are still expected to show up to work, to deliver on our deadlines, to not cry during these interminable insufferable Zoom meetings. So why are they pretending like they care?
When every day they don’t care enough to break white solidarity. They don’t care enough to share power more equitably. They don’t care enough to stop abusing us in ways that aren’t as overt as being suffocated face down on the ground. So who needs their false sympathy now?
All their false sympathy does is add another layer of complexity to our emotional turmoil. Because now we have to pretend like we are grateful. Now we have to politely decline the reaching out. Managing the constant river of rage within us is hard enough, but in the midst of a storm when our river banks are overflowing, they then require of us the gentle acceptance of their sweet nothings. When all we want, all we need is space and time to heal. All we need is for them to show that they care by actually fixing the systemic racism that it is in their power to change, the problems we’ve been asking them about for months now.
Yet somehow this concept is rocket science. And we have to do unpaid labor again, of educating them, of pushing them, of being patient and kind with them throughout the process. All while the reservoirs within us are completely empty.
We must will ourselves to live. Will ourselves to show up at best capacity.
Because any sign of weakness could be detrimental to everything we have already built. The price of mourning is too high. So we mourn when we can, in private, with the ones we trust to hold us through that state, and we put on our usual brave face for the world. The world that still believes we are disposable, but now claims it wants to support us through our grief.
We must then prove that we are strong. We must then show up to our spanish class as though nothing is wrong, wait for someone to mention the chaos of the moment and practice maintaining the poker face and the emotion-less responses we have spent years perfecting.
We must remain determined to stay dangling from this cliff as though life is even worth living.