While these last few weeks have been hard on everyone, it’s been especially challenging for black people in America – Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Chris Cooper, George Floyd. Peaceful protests turned to violence after police (and government) utilized excessive, and often unnecessary, force; including the use of teargas, tazers, and rubber bullets to obtain control over protestors – while also violating their constitutional and civil rights. All while in the midst of a global pandemic that has disproportionately sickened and killed black people.
Amid all of this, it can be hard to continue to put your wellbeing at the forefront. But like the great black feminist and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde once said, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
If you are feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed right now, here are some things you can do that might aid in providing a bit of relief.
Make sure you’re meeting your basic needs
When you’re already feeling bad, skipping on basic self-care will only make you feel worse. Remember to eat. Stay hydrated. Get enough sleep. Create a tidy and clear environment. Care for your personal hygiene.
Let yourself feel your feelings.
Pushing negative feelings away doesn’t help you process them.
If you’re feeling angry – an emotion that is typically rooted in sadness or fear – know that that’s OK. Consider taking a day or half-day off to rest and recharge or sit with your grief without worry of being productive. If you don’t have that option right now, think about how to make time in your schedule to intentionally care for yourself.
Psychology Today therapist Ryan Howes said that moving your body in some way (like working out, dancing or painting furiously, stomping around while listening to angry music) can be a good way to process anger. Howes continues by saying it’s a good idea to think about why you’re so pissed while you’re moving. “Get that off your chest as you’re doing the physical stuff, and it will provide some relief. That helps your brain come back online to be able to think, OK, what do I really want to do about this?”
Find ways to connect with other black people
In times like these, it may help to join a Facebook or Slack group for black people who share some of your interests (like a community of black book lovers or black parents), or even just listening to a podcast with a black host – anything that helps you remember that you’re not alone in your experiences and your grief.
Alter your media exposure
A lot of black people feel obligated to bear witness to what is happening right now—to read the articles, to look at the photos and videos of protests, to consume every single Twitter thread.
While it is important to not look away or numb yourself to what is happening, there is a limit to the things we, as black people, can carry right now. (Also, a lot of what is being shared right now is intended to raise awareness among white people.) If possible, give yourself permission to only read the news twice a day, for no more than 30 minutes at a time. Remember that you can stay informed without being glued to news or commentary every waking minute.
Set firm boundaries around engaging with people
Having to manage other people’s feelings in this moment— whether those people are well-meaning, would-be allies, or bad faith actors— is just too much, and it’s not your job as a black person. Give yourself permission to opt-out of conversations of educating others and ignore those who may be trying to bait you into an argument or debate.
A lot of great information exists for those interested in learning – including this list of ways white people can take action in response to state-sanctioned violence.
Repeat a mantra or affirmation that helps you stay grounded
Now could be a good time to find a truth that feels right to you to remind yourself of in this moment. Activist-therapist Araya Baker put together a great list for The Mighty. Though it was written with COVID-19 mind, a lot of them are applicable to coping with general violence.
Remember to consume black art and celebrate black joy
Seeing photos of dead black people is traumatic. Finding positive, joyful, silly images and inspiring, moving, or just really good art can help in feeling rooted and connected to something bigger than yourself and your grief.
As writer Hannah Giorgis put it in her 2016 piece for Buzzfeed: “From every corner of the continent, of the world, Black people hold me. We hold each other. We carry our community with love, with a commitment to disregard every message that says we are unworthy.”
This kind of mutual support is possible when we try our best, in a terrible situation, to care for ourselves in any way that we can. Taking a break or a step away doesn’t mean that your fight is less meaningful, or your stance has quivered.
Looking out for black people includes looking out for you, too.
Whether it’s through raising awareness, donating, protesting, or other forms of support, we all have one long term mission – to fight against racism and injustice.
Below are links for information, education and places to donate:
- Twitter thread of black-owned businesses affected by protestors: https://twitter.com/theylovetraviee/status/1266826175290265601
- Google doc of bail funds organized by state: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/0/d/1ZlvDXpHqvNZk8dGFXVjfk-Wq0Y9FTG410NJbh_8K8M/htmlview
- Spilt donation to 70+ community bail funds: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bail_funds_george_floyd
- LGBTQ Freedom fund: lgbtqfund.org