“...so how you feel, frustrated, irritated, sometimes I don’t know myself, I be too numb, to feel something sometimes...” - Goodie Mob, “Thought Process,” Soul Food (1995)
Like, I suppose many folks do, I have my phone set up to send me news alerts over the course of the day, and from all of the major news outlets. This means that today, when news broke about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being put on pause because some individuals experienced blood clots after vaccination, I got no less than seven alerts about it. This ensures that I know what’s happening in the world of import.
But I rarely, if ever, click on the links to read more. Lately, I’ve started to actively avoid most of the negative information, especially as it relates to the Black community. All I know about the trial of Derek Chauvin is what pops up on my phone alerts everyday. I’m not reading court transcripts or watching videos. I know what I saw and the world knows what we saw and yet this is an on-going trial to determine what happened. I have mentally prepared for the worst case scenario: Derek Chauvin being acquitted of all charges. It seems stupid to think of that as a possibility considering the evidence—which really should only have to be the video—but to be Black in America means your paranoia is justified.
When news broke of DMX overdosing and being admitted to a hospital, being in a coma and eventually dying, I avoided that news like the plague. I just didn’t want to hear about one of our hip-hop legends dying this way. I cared more than I realized, and the only way I could continue on with my days was by not digesting any and all information about it. Until I released a podcast episode about it, I didn’t even talk to anybody about it short of saying, “Yeah, it’s sad,” when somebody asked me my thoughts about DMX. Even now, I can’t believe he’s dead.
And now we have Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old who was murdered by a veteran police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn., who “accidentally discharged” her service weapon and killed him. He was stopped because of some damn air fresheners and the situation escalated because of outstanding misdemeanor warrants. My God. For a police chief to say it was an accident like that is unconscionable, you can’t say she deserves due process and then say she just made a mistake. She committed murder. I’ve tried to avoid the news about this, but it’s all up and down my social media feeds for good reason. We are all rightly outraged and pissed and sad and fuck anybody who tells hurt and angered people to be peaceful when that same isn’t being asked of the folks committing the murders. Some things should never happen. This is one of those things.
And I’m pissed about it and it’s enraging and I just don’t want to know more because it’s painful and my spirit can’t be okay when I’m inundated with so much Black pain and Black trauma porn. Which is why I won’t be watching Them. Probably ever. Nothing about that shit appealed to me from the beginning but every single person who has watched it has had the same reaction, “why does this even exist?” What is the purpose? I have yet to see a single person talk about it who hasn’t pointed out that Them just doesn’t get better for the Black people. The real world is out to get them and the supernatural world is out to get them. Why are Black creators making shit where Black people don’t win? Real question. I already didn’t want to see it, now I feel strongly about it’s existence sight unseen. So fuck it, I’m out on it.
And it’s been like this with a lot of stuff, but moreso lately. I remember when the conversations around films like 12 Years a Slave started and a number of people said they had no interest in watching more slave narratives. At the time, I was like, “it’s a movie and it’s history so I think these things are important, “ or something like that. At this point though, I get it. Real life can suck enough, why then spend your entertainment hours and time watching fantastical versions of the shit on television, too? I get it. I didn’t watch Antebellum for this reason. What I heard told me that it wasn’t meant to uplift my spirit.
The news. The movies. Life. The pursuit of happiness. All of it is riddled with so much attention to detail when it comes to Black pain that our unifying fiber in Black America is “the struggle.” And that sucks. I’m tired of seeing Black and Brown people killed by the state around the clock and I must say, the people who watch it all and report on it and share the information about it are really doing the Lord’s work because I do not know how everybody, including so many of my colleagues at The Root, don’t go insane. I applaud it, but I cannot do it right now.
I realize that avoiding shit doesn’t make anything better. Trying to live within the confines of Black excellence and Black joy is only a light in the darkness for so long. But I’m trying to find the thing that extends that light for as long as possible. Perhaps this is a phase I’m in right now, soon to pass as I dive headfirst back into being desensitized to Black pain in order to be among those doing the work for social justice. But it seems as of late, maybe even since seeing the video of George Floyd being killed last year, that my go to reflex when some new siege on the Black community happens, no matter how minimal, is avoidance in the name of peace of mind and self-care.
I don’t know how well it’s working, for the record; I still know about everything going on, and I’m still mad and upset and frustrated, but the extent with which I engage with it all seems to at least allow me some space to keep smiling amidst it all. It allows me to find victories even when we suffer losses.
And I guess that’s what self-care is really all about.