In addition to moving through a society that makes you well aware that it doesn’t want you there, sometimes being a person with multiple marginalized identities can mean being perceived as a statue of your true self; being seen as strong, brave, etc for existing under conditions you would never choose, “but it’s ok because you can take it.” “So brave”.
Being actively engaged in resisting that marginalization or supporting others through some form of leadership can add further complication. Putting marginalized folks who fight for their own and others’ lives on a pedestal; expecting unwavering shows of “strength” and resolve further dehumanizes them in that it ignores imperfections, and invalidates any fears or feelings of uncertainty that exist.
In reality, it’s okay to be angry. It’s understandable to feel afraid. It’s okay to find ways to take care of yourself.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.
I was in a room with some trusted colleagues recently where, among other things we shared, was a sense of fear, uncertainty, fatigue; of questioning where to begin or what our next moves should be, and even wondering to what extent our efforts were making an impact. Each of us in that space are in many ways expected to be “out front”; to have answers in times of uncertainty, and to be examples of perseverance through struggle. Building community is so important, and having opportunities to be authentic and transparent serves to reaffirm our humanity and not diminish it.
This note isn’t about platitudes that while well intended, can feel empty, silencing, and invalidating to folks who are really having a hard time regardless of how they feel about themselves as individuals. This note isn’t about moving quickly to “solutions” without acknowledging legitimate feelings and concerns whatever they might be. This note is about acknowledging our need to sit with things for a time, and acknowledging a very human experience of feeling exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed.
“In addition to acknowledging that I feel immobilized, something else that I have found helpful in terms of making sure that I don’t stay there for too long is to remind myself that I am but one part of a larger continuum of folks who have come and gone; dedicating themselves to working toward progress, equity, and positive social change.
I get the whole “If not me then who” mindset, but in the case of needing to take a break for our own survival, being a part of a larger continuum means that we are not by ourselves; it means that we have to be confident that while we are resting, others are doing the work.”
–From the note: “I Will Try Again Tomorrow“
This is not about giving up. It’s about affirming our needs to call in, take a break, nurse our wounds and recharge with the help of trusted community, and about the importance of giving ourselves permission to do so.
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones