Taking Out the Trash

After reading 50–11 articles on what racism is and how racism works, your head starts to spin. The viewpoints of so many smart folk weighing in on hundreds of years of structural bias toward groups of people can be … heavy.

Then once you’ve learned a ton of information you have to go back to see if it’s deep enough, if it’s factual and how is it relevant to your life.

Next you have to use all of that to fuel and direct actions to drive meaningful change.

That’s a lot. For some folks it’s a full time job. They use the expression ‘the work’ because it is work.

So, if you’re new to this work I encourage you to pace yourself. Four protests in a week is a lot. Three books and six Zoom calls will strain you to the core. Yelling at Karens on Twitter may feel good in the moment but it adds up. Nonstop MSNBC is too much.

Take a break.

Go for a hike.

Bake some bread.

Watch the Bachelor.

Unfortunately, once you’ve started doing the work, you’ll realize you can’t do any of those things without seeing something triggering. And if you don’t, you have more reading to do.

Black people internalize the racism they face to the point where they normalize the everyday acts against them. So do women. Indigenous peoples. People with disabilities.

You get the idea. Others.

People get tired of hearing about it and you get tired of talking about it.

But it’s still there.

It’s trash.

The racism trash has been piling up for years and only the offended were expected to take it out — even when they weren’t making it. Of course there are a countless folks helping, but the expectations of individualism and boot straps says it must be the problem of those affected. Our trash.

In the Spring of 2020 a lot of white folks discovered this pile of garbage and they were disgusted. They jumped in with both feet with a bucket and a shovel.

They soon discovered that the heap would require more than just a bucket. They would learn that a lot of the trash were of their own making. Some would learn that even their assistance came with a bit of garbage.

To make matters worse, the people were helping were getting frustrated with all of the questions about how to help and why they should help and could they help them explain to others about how they could help and could they tell the world how much of a help they were being.

That’s a lot. I get it.

You just wanted to help. With this thing that wasn’t really affecting you.

But you realize that it’s not our trash that we’re cleaning up. It’s your trash. And you realize that folks have been thanking you for taking out your trash, collectively speaking.

So you want to jump back in but you feel like it’s not helping. And you’re tired.

We get it.

Take a break. Rest. We get just as tired of talking about racism as you do. We can only watch so many movies and documentaries about enslaved people or Jim Crow or police brutality. We can only take so much Hotep in a day.

So take a break. We do. We have to. The garbage pile of racism is deep. It smells. It’s ugly.

Rest.

Just not too long. Okay?

See we both take breaks but there’s one big difference. Some people take their breaks in the middle of this shit.

Good things.

Photo: Karen Smull

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