A friend of mine recently asked me to close my eyes and imagine what Black liberation looked/smelled/tasted/sounded like to me.
I told her:
It smells floral; because I want Black folks to have flower gardens.
It tastes like home cook meals; because I want Black people to have the time to cook if that’s what they into.
It sounds like babies laughing; because I want Black parents and children to be thriving and joyous and carefree.
I want Black folk off their feet. I want them on couches. I want Black people taking daytime naps.
My liberation dreams for Black folk gather around leisure and pleasure. They gather around the things one is able to do and experience when all their emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual needs are met.
Black people don’t get enough rest. That’s not anecdotal. Black people literally don’t get enough rest. Studies have shown that “fewer black people are able to sleep for the recommended six to nine nightly hours than any other ethnic group in the United States.”
This ‘sleep gap’ has a long (racist) history in this country, reaching all the way back to slavery. Even Thomas Jefferson asserted that Black people simply “require less sleep” than white people.
White supremacy asserts again and again that Black folk aren’t deserving of rest. We have to claim it for ourselves. And that often takes so much work.
Both my parents have multiple jobs. Neither of them gets enough sleep. They work seven days a week and indirectly shame me for only having one and a half job. Not because I’m can’t support myself, but just because they truly believe you should work as much as you can. Working is fine if that’s what you’re into. However, Black people having to overwork, or feeling compelled to overwork even when they don’t necessarily have to? That’s infused with white supremacy.
In the midst of all this, when it comes to taking care of my Black body in this white supremacist and capitalist society, here are a few things I have to constantly remind myself of (and you should too).
1. If you can, take time off from work.
If you take time off and you can, do nothing. If you take time off and do nothing, don’t feel guilty about doing nothing.
Spending stretches of time doing nothing (not just happening to do nothing because of procrastination or depression, but as an intentional venture) is so deeply valuable.
2. Communal healing and restoration is deeply intertwined with individual healing and restoration.
If you’re able to help someone else in your community have some time to do nothing, do it. Offer up childcare for an hour, make them dinner, or do a couple of chores.
3. If you see someone (especially a Black person) feeling guilty about doing nothing, resting, or taking time for themselves, please challenge that nonsense.
Capitalism and all its other ‘ism’ siblings will truly have us out here thinking ‘productivity’ is the only measure of worth of these lives we got.
4. If you feel yourself, or those around you slipping, remind yourself, you are so worthy.
You deserve rest, pleasure, leisure, naps, deep sleep. Those things do not make you lazy. How else you going to dream?
5. You do not have to know every detail of every racist terrible thing that happens in this world.
You do not have to watch every awful video. You do not have to read every op-ed. You do not have to pay attention to every single move this administration makes if it messes you up each time.
I was recently sitting at a breakfast table with a bunch of Black folks. The conversation turned to a recent murder of a Black person. Someone at the table didn’t know what we were talking about. Folks were in disbelief. There was subtle shame directed towards them for not being up to date on the latest horrific racial incident. They pushed back and told us, they just try and avoid the news as much as possible nowadays. That’s how they have chosen to safeguard their heartspace.
6. In that same vein, if you do not want to, you do not have to post on social media about every racist, terrible thing that happens in this world.
If it is cathartic and resonates with your bones, great. Keep doing that work, fam. However, if your Facebook profile is full of silly cat videos and reality television recaps, that is also valid. Do you.
Sometimes it feels like Black people not only have to live and bear witness to all manner of injustice and inequality in this world, but we’re also expected to provide nuanced commentary about all things current affairs and racially charged and traumatic.
Sometimes it’s way late into the night and I reflect on what’s happened to all my timeline. I’ve stayed up entirely too long engaging with/in social media, instead of getting that rest I so need.
You do not have to post that post. You do not have to react and respond to that racist profile if you do not want to. You can just bypass all that mess and go straight to Netflix if you need to.
You also have one hundred percent permission to block folks and curate your social media feeds so as not to have to engage with content that bombards you with reminders of the white supremacy you already know exists.
Maybe you can’t take time off from work. However, if you’re able to cut some time away from the internet and direct it towards your rest, that too is so valuable.
7. You also don’t have to do this work in ‘real life.’
If you don’t have the energy or resources to check your resident racist … don’t. Yes, that work is important. No, you don’t have to be the one to do it every single time.
8. If going to therapy to process all the things is an option, please do it.
If going to any type of doctor is an option, please do it. Black people are less likely to go to health care professionals. Preventative care is important.
9. You have the right to ‘indulge’ in the escapes from this cumulative stress Black people face.
Be they videogames, crappy soap operas, Twitter, basketball, vacations, music, et cetera. Escapism from racial trauma is valid.
10. You have to take time to find out how to care for yourself.
Black bodies are at risk for so much harm and neglect within a white supremacist society.
We have to protect them as much as we can.
We have to nurture them as much as we can.
We have to nourish them as much as we can.
We have to care for them as best as we can.
How can you infuse your daily life with acts of care? What does that look/smell/taste/sound like to you?
[Featured Image: A Black couple smile and laugh underneath a bedsheet. The person on the left has long, curly dark hair. The person on the right has short dark hair, facial hair, and is wearing a red shirt. They have their arm around the person on the left in a tender embrace.]