Years ago, I decided that I would change my name to ‘Imani’ meaning ‘Faith’. I thought the name was a good reflection of who I was. I worry about things a lot – much of which is beyond my control; but I’d never lost faith. Even during some very low points there was a tiny piece of me that believed things will be okay; maybe not great or fantastic but at the very least, okay.
The term ‘idealist’ gets thrown around a lot in relation to my personality type. I think this is true. From a very young age I’ve had a strong sense of wrong and right and this has never left me. As an adult I’ve learned that things are not as simple as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ but the idealist in me was still there. The last few years have felt heavy though.
I would say from around 2016 there seemed to be a shift. I started to feel a sense of impending doom about the way things are. I began to feel anxious about pretty much everything. I hide my worries very well, to the point where I’m not even aware when I’m doing it, but inwardly, in my quiet moments I worry more than usual and sometimes that worry takes the form of despair. I have to calm myself down, redirect my thoughts and breathe.
I sleep with earphones in, listening to a podcast otherwise my own thoughts keep me awake:
How far is wealth inequality going to do before something terrible happens? How have we come to be at a point where children are taken from their parents and put in cages? What will happen to the children? The poor children! Democracy doesn’t work, there is no democracy. Our ‘choices’ are limited and none of those ‘choices’ include anyone who will amass the strength, power and fortitude to do what’s right by the people. Why are we so superficial? I feel guilty, I can’t keep up with all of the wars and issues, there are so many issues, I can’t keep on top of them all – do I even care about some of them? Now I feel really guilty because I should care about everything. But should I? Can I? I’m not doing enough but there’s a limit to what I can do. Or is there?
Then Covid 19 hit us all. I watched like everyone else as the whole mess unfolded and worried even more. Then came the death of one of the best people I know, and my worry was exacerbated by grief. Then I worried about the almost certain recession that will follow this pandemic and there was more worry and then…
I stopped thinking and speaking about these things. I had to because if not then what? Mental breakdown?
Then George Floyd.
I didn’t watch the video in its entirety. I made the decision a long time ago, I think it was when Michael Brown was murdered, that I didn’t want to see these images. Not only are they terribly distressing and, I’m sure, very bad for the spirit, but watching feels too voyeuristic, an intrusion on someone’s suffering. It’s bad enough that they were murdered in public while people just stood around staring in shock, disbelief, fear or nonchalance.
I don’t want to see the life leave someone’s body.
I think a few days before this murder was the Oscar worthy performance from a white woman in the park telling police that she was being ‘threatened’ by an African American man while simultaneously choking the shit of out her dog. The ‘Threatening’ African American man had simply asked her to keep her dog on its leash as per the rules of the park. Before that was the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by some hillbilly rednecks, before that was Breona Taylor, shot and murdered in her own home by police. Before that and before that and before that…
So, I did what I never do. I closed my Twitter App. Put my phone away and watched an episode of South Park.
The heart can only take so much.
When I decided to return to the world via social media, there was, as there always is, mass outrage, protests, commentary and the like, but for the first time I felt nothing. I was sad of course, but that fire in my belly, that need to jump in and do or say or write something, that fighting spirit that bursts out during times like this wasn’t there. I watched everything unfold like a TV show or something. God forgive me but I wasn’t even angry, I felt nothing.
Actually, that’s wrong. I felt something.
This is it. This is the world we live in. Another public, state sponsored murder. Another public declaration of the distain for black lives that is rife throughout the world – if you think this is just an American problem, think again. Sure, not every country’s racism is so overt but it’s there.
Remember the film Groundhog Day where Bill Murray relives the same day over and over again? I feel like that, only, I think, if I remember rightly, he eventually came out of it. My problem is that I can’t see a way out of this. We’ve talked, we’ve voted, we’ve shouted, we’ve pleaded, we’ve marched, we’ve kneeled, Christ, there was even a Black President! Yet here we are again. So what’s next?
That little place inside of me that says ‘things will be okay eventually’ has fallen silent. The truth is, right now, in this moment I am not convinced of this. Sure, Americans can and should vote Trump out, but these executions happened before him and they’ll happen after him.
And what about Colombia, Brazil and all of the other countries around the world where black lives do not, and indeed have never mattered?
Maybe my pessimism is rooted in the fact that all of this is unfolding in the midst of a global pandemic, yet another worry that is out of our control. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of seeing the same thing happen over and over again. Maybe it’s because in my 35 years on this planet my generation has been exposed to about 6 generations worth of crap: wars, economic looting; poverty… seriously, if you have the time, make a list of all of the things that have happened within the last 30 years around the world – the wars, the pandemics, the corruption… do it. You’ll see that it adds up to an extraordinary amount of human suffering.
And of course, being black, it’s natural that I will feel the constant knee of oppression that my people have faced forever very deeply. Being black is like being in an abusive relationship. You were forced to marry Mr. White Supremacy and when you try to tell people how evil he is, no one believes you because he’s so charming and does so much for so many people – how could he possibly be an abuser? Instead, people say that you must be the problem; that you are the one causing unnecessary problems; that you created the bruises on your body. And on the occasions where someone actually witnesses Mr White Supremacy literally beating the life out of you, they either deny what they have seen or try to justify it by claiming that Mr White Supremacy only did what he did because of that one time you raised your voice at him.
Some people are able to leave abusive relationships. Some aren’t. Some die trying and some don’t try at all.
I don’t know how this abusive relationship between racism and white supremacy will end – if it ever ends – but what I do know is that I’m not ashamed to say that I feel broken at this point. Truly. Fucking. Broken.
Maybe this feeling will pass, and everything won’t seem so hopeless in time. Maybe I just need to practice some of that ‘self-care’ that everyone keeps talking about or maybe this is my new reality now. One where injustice is a way of life and feeling anything is futile. Maybe everything is not going to be okay after all.
I desperately hope I’m wrong.