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Posted Monday August, 3rd 2020

The Shadows You Won’t Face

Screen Shot 2020 08 03 at 8 24 48 AM

Content warning: this essay contains racist language and instances of racialized trauma that may be triggering for some people.

I haven’t watched any of the recent videos of the killings of Black folx. I am afraid. I am afraid of what I might not be able to unsee. I am afraid of vicarious trauma. I am afraid it will feel all too familiar in my life. I haven’t watched the videos, yet they have found a way into my dreams.

I am on the frontlines protesting. It is night-time. The sky is red-orange, reflecting hues from the street lights. I am locked arms with the people around me; come what may, I will stand. Shots are fired. People around me are being killed. There is no reason to kill them. I wake up to find another Black man killed by a National Guard rifle in Kentucky. RIP David McAtee.

My mom waved to a little child in a store down the street from the Kentucky home where I grew up. The child asked her, “are you a n****r?”

I am holding this and other stories of embodied racialized trauma. How do I hold these stories and still work effectively as a clinician?

At some point in the past week, it became too much. “It” is the pressure of what it means to be a young Black therapist in this cultural climate. For me it means listening to Black folx talk about their racialized trauma in a clinical setting, then hearing my family and friends share their trauma when I go home. It means hearing about the murder of Breonna Taylor, waiting for justice to come, angry that another black woman’s life was senselessly taken. I know I need to process my trauma too, but when? My schedule says there is no time. My body forces me to make time. It grieves in the background like white noise, between therapy sessions, between email threads of well-meaning white people wanting to “join the fight,” still asking me to give a little more of myself away.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,”

-Audre Lorde

I am tired. I am tired of pretending. Pretending that it doesn’t hurt when it does. Pretending that I can use words to sanitize the pain. To make it more palatable, more pretty. I’m tired of my calculations paying off, the way I’ve learned to present myself, and how well that is received. How many times must I soften to make white people feel comfortable enough so I can be listened to and not seen as a threat?

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