Pretending not to think takes a lot out of a person.
I wake up in the morning with a head full of noise, ideas, and perceptions.
I am always mapping out plans on how to execute even the most minutiae of things.
I normally would have written a lot of stuff by now, but because of this, I’ve taken a break. Back soon.
Sickness gives me time to think about how I’m feeling about… things. For some reason, the idea of broken trust came about. I don’t exactly know why, but with all the #FergusonOctober and South Grand protests over the last few months, I think my brain has ousted itself on divulging… or rather gorging… on the mere fact of racism being a prevalent factor in the decisions made by everyday Midwesterns.
Black people are no stranger to racism. It’s grown from being overt to now being a kind of diet variety. White people may not totally understand this, and that’s fine. There’s no need for them to really be taught this especially when subtle things like the popularity of Thug Kitchen become topics to consider of whether they fit the definition of being racist (spoiler alert: the couple who invented it are a late 20-something white couple in LA). Racism is something that white people aren’t really taught about. So, I guess, I feel like they can’t really know what they’re doing. Although, like anything else, that doesn’t excuse it from being wrong.
“I chose to do the opposite given the fact that my good-guy-wanna-be nature really doesn’t crave to go out and shout to the heavens what I want.”
Take for instance my vegan lifestyle. I take more of the live and let live approach to it. Yes, I have my own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to come storming in your kitchen, call you a murderer, and then start splatting red paint on any and everything. I have limits. Some others want to express theirs a lot more violently. I chose to do the opposite given the fact that my good-guy-wanna-be nature really doesn’t crave to go out and shout to the heavens what I want. So, when I’m eating dinner at your place, I’m not asking what kind of cookware you baked my tofu in… as long as it was clean before you started, I’m good.
I know the limits of what to impose on others. I understand that sometimes people don’t always get their way. If that was the case, I would have never had to go through the last 5 months of hell to only come out somewhat physically unscathed but mentally abused and punished by those who think “Oops, I did a no-no!” But I digress on my anger, and I’ll divert back to the fact that white people don’t know any better, sometimes. That “Oops, no-no”, it was taught to them by their father, neighborhood, and whoever or whatever else was within their reach. The hard part is remembering that, sometimes.
The most heartbreaking thing about this whole diatribe is that when I’ve experienced a white person get enlightened, they tend to go back, easily swayed by the threat of “not having”. I, too, know this pain. Take for instance, again, when I came out of the closet oh-so-many years ago. I was threatened with losing folks. Folks that I respected or even looked up to. But the real thing is: those folks really didn’t “know” me. Those folks were the ones who had this mythical view of me that they put up in their minds, and then when I hit them with a reality that was different than what they imagined me to be, their minds were simply “blown”. But here’s the real kicker: they were ALL people who “thought” they knew me. All of them. Every single one that I think of, they seemed to have me down pat in their mind. There were times I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, even when times were good. They’d just shut me up with a “Girl, I know you!” kind of look or saying or way of being and I’d just sit down and say “Well… okay…”
“They just kept on being who they were being and thinking what they were thinking and saying to me that I must be making a huge error seeing that I don’t match up with the mirror image of me that they had grown to expect me to be. It was too much for them, and I became the bad person.”
I don’t really see a fault here. It’s more of a misunderstanding in my opinion. But the trust that I had in those people was certainly broken. They weren’t advanced enough to see that they had mistaken me for someone that they completely made up in their brain. They were never corrected, or they never listened. They just kept on being who they were being and thinking what they were thinking and saying to me that I must be making a huge error seeing that I don’t match up with the mirror image of me that they had grown to expect me to be. It was too much for them, and I became the bad person.
It’s emotionally damaging to see people tear you down, especially when they spent so many hours building you up. It’s a wonderment of how and why they even sought the need to do so in the first place. I never asked for it, but yet and still, they spent hours… months even… trying to prove that I was this horrible, manipulative person. I asked myself “How could they even have time for doing that? Why did it matter to them so much?”
And now, in the hours when I am sick and supposed to be laying in the bed, I’m thinking about these things. And the only conclusion I can come to, now, is that these times… when I’m sick, destitute, vulnerable, and easily irritable… are the times when you see the trust of people really come out in one way or another. It’s the time when you see that people either really love you, like you, or hate you. Everything is clear(er). Everything is brave(r). Everything just makes more sense.
“Yes, at first, I was a raving mad beotch that thought that there must be something wrong with the world especially if they are doing things that I perceive as obviously, clearly bad that they cannot, in any way, refute it. But then I started to learn that it’s not that much thinking involved.”
I talked about things being cursed, recently. Rooms, positions, people, sense of being… and I wonder if people can see and feel it the way I do. I can look at a person and see that they’ve been doomed, but believe that there is no way out. I can walk into a room and feel the energy within it. I know that when I never meet up with someone or something never really quite seems to be right about a situation, that there’s something “wrong” with it. Maybe it’s not the thing, place, time, or event that’s bad… but the energy surround it or the aura or origin of it is off and it needs to be recognized and rectified. I see it within myself, when I am being a bad omen for someone else. I take myself from it, though, as I know there’s something broken inside of me that needs to heal before things are “right” again.
However, I found out recently that people aren’t as proactive by nature as I seem to be. I tend to think on the other side of the fence, and not want for its contents solely because I glean that the other side must obviously not be experiencing the same trial and tribulations that I must be going through. I’ve tended to stop thinking that, at all. I’m more sensitive to people. Yes, at first, I was a raving mad beotch that thought that there must be something wrong with the world especially if they are doing things that I perceive as obviously, clearly bad that they cannot, in any way, refute it. But then I started to learn that it’s not that much thinking involved. Take this naval woman, for instance. What she’s saying is real. There is no grand conspiracy. People don’t think that much. Maybe one person, but not a whole village full of people.
I’ve come to realize, then, with all that’s been going on that it’s really about a few, key people who have taken themselves out of the limelight. They’re hella persuasive, and can convince even the most steadfast believer, even people who have known me and worked side-by-side with me for years, that I must be some cruel brute. I get it now. I just don’t understand their motives other than they are doing it as some sort of sick revenge on someone within their own past/present life. I guess I must remind people of something… maybe themselves… and they think that surely I must need to be punished like they were in their own lives, because I’m too darn happy and accepting to really be living a real one, myself.
My morning started off calm. I didn’t feel good, a little dehydrated, and I didn’t know what I wanted to drink or if I should chew ice (I’m an incessant ice-chewer, although I know its health risks and I still do it). I started thinking about how my last few months have been. It all started with a bigoted person (for clarification, let’s use the Oxford English definition). It’s not the kind of person that you would expect to be a bigot. Even I had a hard time trying to see it. I obviously ignored it and its glaring warning signs until the bigotry got so pervasive, my being couldn’t ingest it anymore.
I know a lot of us tend to have that one bigoted family member that, no matter what, they’ll keep saying the wrong, hurtful swear words, ad infinitum. I had one. And I had schoolmates that also did nothing but make my life a living hell that I still suffer through until this day. Most people call it “dwelling on the past” when in actuality I’ve been emotionally and mentally damaged from it. It’s like asking an old war vet to stop complaining about the pain he suffered due to a combat injury because it occurred in the past. You wouldn’t. You’d understand that just because an injury occurred in the past doesn’t mean that it still won’t affect a person in the present. You’d know better. Mental illness is just that, in combination with a chemical predisposition for it. Think of it as a person who has heart disease or diabetes run through their family. They’ll most likely have a chance of getting it more than most, so it’s best to try to utilize preventative methods since you’re more likely to get it than others. Now, there is a test for mental illness (well, some at least) through blood analyzation that can tell you these things. I hope they shake up the world of mental health and turn the medical industry upside down.
Back to me.
I think there’s nothing as frustrating as having to deal with the fact that no one sees the bigotry but me, or that they didn’t want to because of… personal… reasons. When a person has that much anger cooped up in them, you have to see that it is toxifying their personality and the personalities of those around them. It’s a wonder that they could blind people so much that they sheepishly follow along with whatever the person says… maybe their disguise is good. I learned a very important lesson about empaths the other day. It literally came to me the day that I had to revisit all the horrible, nasty things that had ensued because I didn’t let a bigot get their way. Rather, I had refused to put up with it anymore and, in essence, cut off their supply.
Of course, the lies, extreme exaggerations, and outstretched accusations occurred. And that lesson that I learned helped me to cope with what was inevitably a borderline psychotic situation that I had gotten myself into due to being “nice”. I understand, now, that people can’t see the forest for the trees some days. However, that didn’t keep me from feeling extremely depressed that day and days afterwards. I had an opportunity to grow, however, that kept me focused in the light of realization: that I wasn’t alone. I watched an episode of Extant (SPOILER ALERT, AHEAD) where the main character played by Halle Berry experienced a delusional moment where many people made her believe that she was never pregnant eventhough she was quite sure that she was. People pretended that she made it up so good that even I as an audience member was beginning to wonder. That HAS to be based in some sort of reality because it was too real-feeling to be completely made up out of the air.
After my encounters, I hung in close to the only few people that believed me; the only few that knew truly what happened to me and why the bigotry happened to me and others in the first place. I know from many years of dealing with bigots how to spot one. And, there are several that I’ve dealt with that try the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” approach with me. But when I’m staring them right in their eyes across the table, they know that I know. And I smile.
I think one of the best things about being poor is learning how cruel life is at an early age… especially if you live within driving distance of a more affluent society. That way, you get the full effect of what it’s like to see someone else eat things that you only thought were possible for famous TV characters or super rich people.
I never grew up in the service industry, but I did see my grandmother working the back kitchen. She’d cook all the time there and then at home, as well. I remember sitting in the kitchen and just watching her and my mom cook and being amazed at the chemistry involved with putting in “just the right amount of ingredients” to make something taste fantastic that came out of a can.
However, I can imagine that the service industry is full of self-entitled customers: those that think they are there for servants that should treat them a specific way, hand and foot. I saw a documentary once where a teacher gave all the students on one end unlimited funds, and the students on the other had to fight and work their way to pay even the simplest bills. At the end, they found that the students with all the money were rude, succinct, and demanding. The other students were very docile and responded with kindness towards each other, especially if they were in the same monetary range. When switched, both sets started the exhibit all the characteristics of the other one… often feeling regret when they’re coming from the “rich side” to the “poor one”.
But in the real world, do we have the opportunity to switch? Given the circumstances and 80s movies where the rich are humorously switched with their poorer counterparts, do they even really learn a lesson or are they just relieved to not feel sad for 24 hours a day? I ask myself these questions because I am not sheltered. Neither my mom, dad, and family – nor did my environment – have kept me from learning the lessons that are present when only one side of society is allowed to show me anything about life.
No one really thought that poor people, where I lived at the time, were victims of circumstance brought on by institutional nuances to create “poor people”. They thought they were all due to their self-doing. Even more, they thought that poor people only wanted to be ignorant, dull, and uninformed. That their only interest was to learn a skill that was a trade, and then move on to buying that big screen TV and having beer nights and producing more offspring to start over the process, again.
However, this is a lie perpetuated by the sheltered: the ones that won’t come out of their two-story dwellings to see anything else but what was carefully put in front of them. And then told lies upon lies while still remaining in their households and fake realities.
Sounds conspiracy theorist, doesn’t it? Sounds laden with jargon about how the “man’s trying to keep us down”? Well, it’s that and it’s not.
Sure, there was an institution setup to create this kind of havoc. That is absolutely true. However, what isn’t true is how pervasive it might be. For instance, yes… there are schools that will only accept people based off their race or, moreso, socioeconomic status (a nicer cover). However, there are places where this actually doesn’t exist and since people of a lower income status are so used to being segregated against, they usually go about with just complaining that they’d never actually “go anywhere” within that system nor even come close to being accepted without a great deal of angst and resentment while they’re trying to get the help, encouragement, and knowledge that they need.
I’m more of the latter half. I’ve used “institutionalized segregation” as an excuse more than once and on more than one occasion. It doesn’t help to be surrounded by people who think, act, and believe the same. I’ve tried taking myself off that race and onto the other side, only to discover that just as much as those other people I left believed in the institutionality of it all, the other side was so deftly blind against it.
So, if it isn’t one side, it’s the complete opposite.
What is one to do in this matter? Do you just sit in the middle, carefully avoiding both sides without making them angry at you? Or do you expose the truth to both and flash it in front of their faces without even a care?
I’ve seen people do the latter and all it got them was people hating them. Yes, they saw the truth, but the EXECUTION OF THE TRUTH is what mattered. No one wants to be told that their butt looks fat in jeans… but they do want to be told that those jeans aren’t flattering and to have help with finding another pair that are.
What’s in it for most people who are not in either side, but somewhere in the middle? Peace. Sure, resounding, pleasant peace.
I know there are stories about the angels or entities that lie in the middle when there is a conflict going on, and that those who are non-action are as guilty as those that take undesirable action. But the key to fighting is: Know WHEN to fight. Sometimes sitting on the sidelines and watching what’s going on is the best strategy that money cannot buy.
I’ve waited on the sidelines. I’ve watched as battle after battle has been fought and won… or loss. I’ve seen people cry, yell, scream, rejoice, dance, and antagonize over every little detail. But the best thing I’ve ever seen or done for myself is to wait. Wait it out, see what happens, and calculate my next move.
Reality is about skill and structure. Carefully analyzing your steps are most important. That’s where the harshness comes from.
I get mistaken for an angry black woman… a lot. Mostly because I’m an introvert… like a good portion introverted. And when I have my glasses off, I tend to look piercingly at people… because I can’t see. Or maybe it’s a stereotype.
I also have depression, as you may know by reading my blog (which is filled with stories about how much it gets on my nerves). As a result of the depression, I tend to look somber. I’m in a funk most days if I’m not feeling well. And sometimes being depressed in itself makes me not feel well and thus I’m in a funk and feel even more depressed. See, that’s why I don’t like it… depression is its own spiral.
But more than these things, I hate the stereotype that I am forced to live out in people’s mind that I’m an angry black person looking to blame someone for the way I feel. Actually, I don’t. Most people don’t even know me, or they see me one time and think these things because of a single blog post or a picture they saw me post or like once on Facebook. I’m a varied individual, but you’d think otherwise with the way people portray folks of color on the stage and screen.
If I were, per se, to look at gay white men and say “Oh, they must all be flamboyant and love pink and feather boas” I’d get boo-hoo’d to kingdom come. I’d be quickly pointed to the nearest Log Cabin Republican and told to study up more and stop being such a dumbass. And if I did do that, they’d be absolutely right. So why can’t America get with the program about black women?
I think most still see black women as the domestic head of household. The mammy. The one to take care of me. The one that brings me to her bosom and tells me that she’ll secretly take care of me and has a smooth way about the method she uses to do it. I learn a life lesson and its on to commercial break.
When mammy is sick, everyone cries and they put her away in a home. The majority of Americans think this, and they go about their way of doing exactly that. If ol’ mammy isn’t up to snuff, they put her out to pasture. I’ve even been told that that is my role in several jobs that I’ve had, eventhough it was never my intention.
I’ve been through illness of a parent, illness of a sibling, poverty wars, and highfalutin expectations. I’m expected to be black, be a woman, be strong, be gentle, be nice, be assertive (but not too assertive), be bold, be loving, be understanding, and to be caring. All. At. The. Same. Time.
I have no life… I spend it trying to fulfill these expectations that society has placed on me and it’s quite tiring. I’m up awake at 5am… sometimes from dreams of my teeth falling out, horrible emails from my work place, and emotional rejection from people I care and have cared about. My mind tells me that I am doing the best job that I can, but my emotions never match up to that… they feel like I’ve let everyone down, including myself.
And then, I go through another funk. And then I feel like dying is the only option. And then I feel like I can’t talk, that I’m suffering, that I’m struggling through moment by moment.
But then, I write.
I write away my feelings. I think away the way that I feel and I put it on paper or, in this case, blog. And then I hope to share with others who also feel this way, who are also black, who are also feeling separated and segregated from a world of love and pure acceptance. But black people aren’t supposed to feel this way. We’re too disenfranchised to really have any feelings that are considered “white people problems” like depression.
But wouldn’t you expect that from an oppressed race of people that are still underneath the systematic oppression of a nation built on the backs of their very own ancestors. Why aren’t we regaled? Why didn’t white people say, “We did bad, and now we need to do everything we can to make up for all the stupid stuff we did”? Why instead do white people marginalize us as though our ancestors came here of their own free will and stole everything from them?
I’m not white. I can never be white, but I can just guess. My guess is that white people played the victim. They played the victim because they were saying to themselves “Well, it’s not my fault I feel this way about blacks.” I mean, from the very, very beginning. Like from the first days of slavery.
If I were white, I’d probably think:
There’s surely some reason why we’re using these Africans to do our work. I mean, there’s got to be a reason why they want to do this work. They were probably criminals in their own land, stealing from their own people, so I really am doing them a favor by bringing them to a new land to work hard and gain an honest living. They should thank me. I mean, if they continue to do well, they’ll probably get what they deserve in life… I did.
If I thought that way, then I’d pass those same thoughts on to my children, and them to their children, until the 1950s and 60s. And then, my descendants would think: These are the people of criminals. They were begat by criminals and, no doubt, they would probably be criminals, themselves. Why would I give them rights? Why would they even deserve to vote? Only to get their own criminalistic people into office? We’ve got enough of our own corrupt people to work with… why would I even let someone else into our government?
Of course, I could never say it to my children that way. They would say, “Well, Papa… how do you even know that they’ve stolen something? I’ve known Timmy Brown for most of my life and he’s a good, honest black person.” My poor son wouldn’t know a rock if it hit him in the head, so I’d have to pull out the facts and statistics that show that people like Timmy commit more crimes against our kind than even our own kind do. I’d have to pull out all the regulations that Timmy’s folks clearly see printed out in plain English and how they’ve still refused to follow the rules. That should put my son back in the right mindset.
After years of slight indoctrination, I’d have myself surrounded by family members who have passed on this legacy of criminality in association with skin color. Not directly, I might add. Nothing would be so poignant as to point out the specificity of my actions, but only the subtlety to suggest that people of a certain background happen to share the same characteristics, just like associating a certain animal breed with a particular behavior.
Again, all this diatribe and I’m in no way near white in either skin color or (completely) in culture. I think that the only way we can get to a consensus is to finally address everything the way that it is… whether it be my origin story above or some other genesis topic of racism. The fact that people still associate racism with a person distinctly not liking another person because of the color of their skin is old hat. No one comes up to me and touches my arm and says “Ewww!” (well, unless I’ve been in the St. Louis summer humid heat). No one really hates a person because of the color of their skin, it’s what they think that person’s culture – and more particularly, that person – represents.
Some white police officers are afraid of black men because they think that they’re strong and wanting to overpower them. It has nothing to do with the actual pigment of the skin that the officers dislike. They dislike what the association of it means to them. But how can we have an open discussion about this in order to open up these wounds and address them with these officers? How do we sit them down and say:
“Really, really… don’t give me bs. Just tell me what you’re actually thinking when you see this black, male figure with a southern drawl, hat cocked to the side, and pants sagging? And don’t tell me gangster. Don’t tell me that you think he’s a criminal. Tell me what you think his personality will be and how it will conflict with yours, because that’s what you really have the problem with. It wouldn’t matter if he looked like that everyday, as long as you knew that you could talk to him and that he would understand that you’re out for his best, then you would have never drawn your gun, would you?”
I wished that we could do this. But we live in such a cloak and dagger society that everyone works on hiding themselves, from everyone. How do we ever get to know each other? Facebook? Half the people on there don’t even use their real name or pictures of themselves. As one person said to me, “All I see is a chihuahua or a tree.” My point is that we hide ourselves too much. We don’t talk and we certainly don’t know each other and we always feel in competition with one another.
Some days I wish that I could go back to living in an environment where everyone was good at their own individual thing. No two people were trying to compete to be the best cook, medicinal person, or anything. Everyone had their strength, and that was the only thing that people in the area would exercise to them. I want people to see me as what I’m naturally good at… I’m exhausted with competing and trying to be the best at something I have no innate talent for. It feels like a tremendous waste of time, energy, and resources. I’m not angry about it, just tired.
Look for these signs/occurrences:
- Conversations about suicide or homicide
- Sleep problems
- Bulimia and Anorexia
- (Excessive) alcohol and drug use
- Expectable life stresses (including but not limited to): loneliness, financial stress, and even graduation
These may sound like typical issues for anyone, and many students in colleges each and every year experience a mental illness for the first time, and often alone, while exhibiting these signals. I was one of them. And I’ve meet many who were just like me.
Of the five bullet points above, I encountered a person who fit four of them. And unfortunately, that person never sought further help for the very reason that many of us don’t: we don’t want to be judged. This is one of the biggest blockers to accepting mental health assistance for students who desperately need it.
Helpful solutions are often echoed in the same voices throughout campus by academic counselors and resident assistants: seek help (there’s often an onsite counseling service), offer helpful websites, and above all – approach the person needing the help with concern and NOT judgement. I can’t even express how much the latter happened to me and how crushing it was to my ability to get help. Usually, I was being judged by a person who obviously did not have a mental illness or a person in their life that suffered with a mental illness.
On the other end, countless reasons are given as to why students never get help. I’ve heard everything from “I don’t trust the counselors on campus” to “I don’t want my parent(s) to know”. As a result, I end up helping out those that refuse counseling, but I continually insist that they must seek help on their own as I cannot be around all the time. I, myself, have my own counseling and therapeutic methods to execute so I, sadly, cannot always be there to help out others.
This often falls on deaf ears. Sometimes the inability to get these students to seek help becomes so pervasive, that they will do anything to avoid having any issues addressed. I’ve seen students flat-out lie about their conditions, and refuse to acknowledge that they are in such a deep depressive state, that it has affected their schooling, work ethic, and decision-making processes. Combine this with a non-supportive or limited-supportive environment, and you have a recipe for emotional and mental sabotage.
I know this all too well. My own past has been laden with times where I didn’t seek help because I didn’t think my problems were “all that serious”. I took my mental health for granted. I thought that if I tried hard enough, for long enough, that I would pull through. But often, that is not ever, ever the case. Sitting alone in the darkness is what got one person I know in a mental institution. It got me sent home from school (despite having a full scholarship).
I want to make a plea out to universities to please, please consider taking serious action on mental health issues with college students. Whether you’re a staff member and see it in a work-study student, or a faculty member that suspects that a student in their course is showing all the warning signs, do something. Even if it turns out to be nothing extremely serious, it’s at least an awakening to the student that they are seen and someone does care.
The bullet-pointed list above and more information on the various symptoms that college students may exhibit (and what to do to help) are available in the document Mental Illness on Campus – What You Can Do To Help from the NAMI website.
Become a Mental Health Expert on your campus by knowing the signs for common mental illnesses like those described above, and learn some wellness tips at NAMI’s Mental Health Conditions in College Students website.