Gabija: Learning to Breathe in 2020 – A Digestion on Race and Habits
8:42am any day/month, 2020: Anxiety…How do I use my time to balance myself today?
Remember we are taking this a day at a time.
Breathe, just breathe.
Having barely lived under the same roof as my parents from the age of 11 my personal understanding of what my pigmentation infers across the world began at a very early stage in life. Making friends and living with children of similar ages from many different races and cultures away from our parents was my very privileged introduction to diversity as a global community. I’m a third culture kid who has spent 10 years of her life living in America, Boston for College and then moving to NYC. Before that I was educated in Switzerland and my family home is in the Grenadines. My heritage is mixed and I am registered by American birth as Black.
Growing up in a diverse community teaches to appreciate that which makes us unique, giving us a broad knowledge of culture and a sense of global responsibility. I write this out of passion for repair that isn’t solely founded upon the melanin that graces my body. An injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. I’m prompting a conversation with you my international brethren as I too am still digesting how to deal with my own hurt and bias on the matter and I’m becoming more aware of the importance of creating a safe place to discuss our realities. We each have a unique role to play in creating a better, more conscious global community.
Same skin – different borders.
The difference in perspective based upon my skin varies in every corner of the world and when I moved to Boston for college I began to witness first hand the effects of the inherited hurt and hate specific to the American society. It was a whole new layer of disparity that I hadn’t known before. A kind of shadow my melanin casted first hand for the first time.
The Caribbean has its own form of systemic racism shaped by colonial rule and similar to that of India, an inherited caste system where a lighter skin tone infers superiority. In the US such disparities can be seen as the trickle down effect of redlining. A process for reimaging growth in America that outlined the boundaries of opportunity and mentality by neighbourhood. I see it’s effects daily and as I work through my ignorance I am beginning to have a firmer grasp of what role my particular voice has the opportunity of bridging the gap.
Food for thought:
Tone, language and red lines
We are unknowingly taught to see a person or factor of life differently by the use of different words, phrases or suggestions repeated over time. I’m not referencing the conditioning of the “N” word, that goes without saying. Instead the focus here is the inference through tone and language that subtly shapes our outlook on life.
Social science will teach you that human nature’s greatest desire is to find a community in which to belong. A place to feel equal amongst peers and like minded individuals. In the US the predominant physical community for black families is known as “the hood” or to understand the disparity through use of language, the ghetto. The word used to describe the dwelling is also used in the English language to infer shame or to imply one barely scrapes through life.
The suburbs are personified by white picket fences and humbly bodacious family dwellings imagined as the markers of success under the widely disputed American Dream. Unfortunately this “achievement” is harder to come by if you hail from a less affluent neighbourhood or low-income household as loans and other such grants are more likely to be denied.
The American dream was a propaganda-like vision for national influence where hard work leads to success manifesting in a two parent home equipped with washing machines, television sets and spritely young children playing football in a lush field near home or in their front yard. It’s a marketing strategy deeply wrought in error as the ideals for the dream itself are inflated. Nobody is perfect.
It is unhealthy to place pressure on a people to achieve the same kind of success when our stories are all so different.
One of the unfortunate trickle down effects redlining has had on African American communities in 2020 is the high susceptibility rate for contracting Covid-19. Minorities make up a larger percentage of essential workers yet they live in poorer equipped neighbourhoods and have less access to affordable healthcare. Breonna Taylor was an EMT catching her breath in the comfort of her home after a day spent risking her life on the front lines of the pandemic. Somewhere out there the people that took her life so violently are still allowed to sleep peacefully in their own beds. Where is the justice in any of this?
A shift in that mentality is what we need to outline for change to happen. The US needs to unite under a new dream. If the redlines were drawn when this was America’s vision, how do we act now to reimagine them both? Who do we turn to? It’s not just the politicians. We need to hear from artists.
Taking it back to our international efforts, what is similar to redlining in your community? How does your community measure success? What are the markers and are they achievable for all?
It’s all about you
Yes, I, the individual – because this is where we start. Taking the responsibility upon ourselves to do the mental work of unlearning the acceptance of turning a blind eye to the plague that is black plight. Being a white liberal or posting a black tile on instagram does not mean you have done your homework. Neither does being black exempt you from being racist. Introspection into what taboos we uphold and why is where we as an individual begin to unlearn the inherited habits of our forefathers construct for societal norms.
We are each born with a Purpose that carries a responsibility to protect our community. A cause bigger than us that we must contribute to or fail in our journey for peace. If the reason for which we are created is first fueled by our ability to breathe then it is a challenge there that will prompt us to structure the vital change.
What is your Purpose? What goals can you achieve everyday with your Purpose in mind?
Introspection: feel it until you are free of it
I’ve had to learn what it means to persevere under scrutiny as a black female the world over. I’ve smiled and not fussed over certain behavior as I would anyone being ignorant and taking up my time (I’m a Leo). Instead I pledge to donate more time and thought into being bold enough to educate my peers responsibly. This is only going to happen if I continue to spend quality time within to digest the way I process my thoughts on race and habits.
I have been taught that it is in poor taste to discuss race in certain company- “time and place”. To look at this from a conscious level, this norm implies that we’re supposed to overlook injustices within our community for sake of polite conversation. There-in lies the problem. Society forwent the step further into consciousness that would more harmoniously link the norms for being polite and being our brother’s keeper.
Steps were made in racial equality, yes, however the reparations are not yet fully realized and it’s detrimental to omit this in conversation. Being polite has actually stagnated us and we’ve made it policy.
So now we protest for that change in our mentality; for a discussion on race to be cathartic for all.
Yes, all lives do matter
I understand the desire to consider it the more appropriate stance- all lives do matter in this day and age, right? It goes without saying. The statement “black lives matter” cannot be interpreted as a threat/ dismissal of the importance of white or *insert race here* lives. Neither should black LGBTQ+ lives be neglected as part of #blacklivesmatter. We cannot take a stance for all lives if we do not understand what that statement means. Ending racism should be considered motivational, not controversial.
I too was raised under that same “peaceful” notion that we live in a society where all lives matter – yet we look past injustices “beyond our control” in order to keep ourselves afloat. To think that privilege or location provides “distance’ means that this is an issue removed from us is where our conditioning goes wrong. We are our brother’s keeper. If there is one thing this virus has shown us it’s how far one person’s actions could affect the health and livelihood of hundreds and snowball and so forth.
We are all under siege based upon our first instinct- to breathe.
Protest begins within
We must discuss the ideals for a norm within our society that support an anti-racist agenda and practice. We start by protesting the shade within us and our community that does not stand for equal rights and justice for all. We fight for the ability to breathe, collectively. We are living in the perfect time to protest the common courtesy that divides us. Covid has left us all with nothing better to do than focus our light. Let’s keep that same energy.
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism where ever you find it – including in yourself and that’s the only way forward.”
– Ojeoma Oluo
Anti- racism is a necessary look in the mirror. A self- analysis. Some of you may read this and think “ I know race doesn’t matter-” I ask you this, what is “it” about race that does not matter? See what thoughts arise and do not ignore those that make you question further. I urge you to take time to analyze the thought processes within you. This practice does not exclude black people. I myself am struggling through unlearning many subconscious practices influenced by my thoughts and habits.
Mind to Muscle
Sometimes in a work out you realize there was a muscle you’ve never felt in your life. How fascinating is it to know that there is greater depth to you! That revelation can be likened to introspection upon our attitude on race and the shape of solidarity as a human race. Work that anti- racist muscle till it’s an integral part of your lung capacity – strengthening you to the core. It will be painful at first, leaving you sore for days – the point of growth is to make you uncomfortable enough to make a real change. Change is attained through perseverance as over time the pain will begin to reward by making way for the strength we need to raise future generations. Inhale with light and exhale the darkness. Breathe, just breathe.
Change must be sustained
I can help make that difference.
Affirm something daily that keeps you on track. Allow the practice to remind you of what a key role you play in structure an anti-racist community. Appeal to the greater power within you and ask for guidance as you continue on through all of life’s other problems. Remember you are magic.
How do we influence?
There’s a Fine line between helping and hurting
#BlackOutTuesday highlighted the importance of gauging the algorithms in place to channel our voices. Millions were able to share an act of solidarity around the world without spending a dime. Obama touched on this kind of outreach in his town hall meeting. Our generation has tools for greater processing and organizing than those who began these protests. It’s on us to ensure we are using them to highlight our visions clearly instead of falling victim to the peer pressure behind a trend.
I’m not sure however that the black tile did much more than provide an opportunity for some to consider their solidarity complete. Many posts were counterproductive as adding the #BlackLivesMatter resulted in pertinent information on the topic being drowned out even beyond the type change.
It’s the little things you see. Influencing this kind of change is not something we can be fearful of losing time or face/likes over, neither will the need to keep acting in solidarity be easy. This square was a promise to continue to hold yourself accountable for dismantling societal blocks on the matter of racial disparity- even when it means you have to check yourself.
Ending racism is a motivational practice – not a controversial desire.
Your voice matters:
We must consider that the work we do as individuals pools to better serve our community. Be proud of the conversations you are having. Be grateful that we are re-interpreting what’s right and wrong together. We are assessing the ideals for the world we wish to live in and that’s the perspective we need to put this inherited strife into hindsight.
Summer is here and fear of contracting Covid has been outweighed by the desire for taking a stand against any form of oppression – systemic racism is the most pressing matter in the US and a factor we need to address the world over. If we are risking our lives it better be to get the right people in place to revise the dream for America’s future – the breath of fresh air the country so desperately needs.
This is an election year – do not wait till November. Please remember that an election is a question of numbers, a majority wins an election. We have all been granted the ability to use our voice to vote regardless of our colour or gender. This was a battle fought long and hard so our diverse generations can have a better chance at crafting norms. Let pride of working through your biases be what informs your decision to register yourself. Be sure to vote local.
Vote to dismantle the ranks that shun the goals of minorities and impose an immediate threat to a UNITED ANTI-RACIST STATE IN AMERICA. Most importantly let’s understand that we each play a part in getting the current president out of the office that is meant to unite the states of America. The country needs a new narrative and it’s up to us to help envision it. Remember you are magic and you are connected.
Covid-19 and 2020
If there’s any grace COVID- 19 has given us it’s the time for introspection and empty streets to protest systemic racism on the world over. Mother Nature sent us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done and how we must do better as one race. I truly believe that this is the phenomenal energy that surrounds mankind this year. Covid brought society to its knees in a way we never imagined possible. Before we can stand again we must agree upon what foundations we construct collectively to support the human race and keep that same energy. This is what 2020 wants out of you- no stone left unturned in its progress. To keep afloat we must begin the protest within.
Timing and circumstance are the conditions under which change is possible. 2020 is giving us the harshest circumstances to learn and make changes from. Black America is gasping for air, we are choking Mother Nature, the human race walks around with masks and gloves in fear of a deadly virus that’s halted the global economy and to top it all off Trump faces re-election – what a dark year 2020 has been thus far. Let us remember that it takes a certain kind of darkness to see the light. These unfortunate circumstances are leading us to protest the common practices that divide the human race like never was possible before. The path towards getting us out of these dark times is clearer than ever before. Let us reimagine the world we live in by continuing to compare our realities and highlighting what we can do personally to influence sustainable change. Allow yourself the brain capacity to understand your voice on the matter and see what light you can generate.
There is no “normal” to “go back to” if injustice is being cast on a people due to colour or who they love and the status quo deems it the norm. It is crucial that these conversations keep happening as we continue this universal racist exorcism. The world will never be the same as it was pre-pandemic and that’s just what we need. If hindsight is indeed 2020 this must be the year we begin to collectively unlearn ignorance. We must let these harsh lessons inform a more peaceful future for generations to come. We must actively work to rid the world of its pollutants.
Each of us has purpose in it. The ability for Mother Nature and the human race to breathe is relying on it.
Thank you for beginning to question yourself more.