For the past few days I've been struggling with figuring out how I wanted to process and express my emotions around the recent police shooting of #JacobBlake. After the murder of #GeorgeFloyd, I was enraged. We had just found out about #AhmaudArbery and #BreonnaTaylor, and it felt as if George Floyd's murder was the straw that broke the camel's back. My first thought was that I needed to provide my community with tips on how to cope with these racially traumatic events. But here we are, in the same situation, just three months later. Not to mention, there have been numerous numbers of Black men, women, trans, and non-gender conforming lives harmed by the police in the past three months as well. So when Jacob Blake's name popped up on my phone as a CNN Alert, my first emotion was exhaustion. I realized I didn't have any additional tips to offer, because it's the same thing that continues to happen over and over again. I couldn't find the words to articulate how to deal with these situations and make another post, because our community shouldn't have to continue to go through this over and over again.
So I've decided to make use of my blog as a journaling session for myself, as well as a piece of validation for my readers. The rage, fear, exhaustion, sadness, anger, and whatever other emotions you may be feeling at the moment, are all normal and valid emotions to feel. And if you can't put your finger on what emotions you're feeling, that's okay too.
Jacob Blake is a 29 year old Black man, father, son, and brother who was shot at in the back by police officers SEVEN times, in front of his three young sons and is now paralyzed from the waist down. That's all I knew about the circumstances to be honest, and that's enough to know the entire situation is horrible and should not have happened. It never ceases to amaze me that police officers are capable of de-escalating, detaining, and arresting plenty of people without any casualties. But when it comes to Black lives, guns are drawn and lives are lost. Thank God that this man is still alive, but the fact remains that he is now paralyzed and three young children have had to witness their parent shot at seven times. The psychological damage those babies must be experiencing right now is heartbreaking to even think of. I think that is what is hurting me so much about this situation. The blatant disregard, not only for Black lives, but for young innocent Black children's lives, mental health, and well-being as well. I mean the murder of #TamirRice and #AiyanaStanleyJones are just a few examples that already showed that. But the reminder is never easy to handle.
As a Black woman who wants children, I am terrified to bring beautiful Black babies into this world. As if the Black maternal mortality rate isn't alarming enough, I find myself fearful of what they may experience or witness as they grow up in this country. As a Black woman, I worry about what could happen to those that I love. It is so common for me to end my conversations with "I love you" or "Get home safe". Most importantly, as a Black woman I often worry that something could happen to me at the blink of an eye, and by no fault of my own. I feel safe in my home, but then I think of #BreonnaTaylor and how she was just sleeping in bed, and now no longer here with us. I feel safe at church, but then I think of how Dylan Roof took nine innocent lives at Emanuel AME, for no reason at all. The list of examples can go on and on, but I'll leave that for another blog post.
My point is, the shooting of Jacob Blake hit me in a way I didn't really know how to express. I don't even think I realized I was being impacted until a few days later. On the day that I became aware of the story, I don't recall any feelings of shock or surprise. I just felt all the energy I had, leave my body. I remember immediate anger and being fed up with being in a country that doesn't value my life or those that look like me. Frustration that the system which swears to "protect and serve" has been doing the complete opposite. Now this is not a post to bash every single police officer that exists. I can recognize that there are individual police officers who do aim to proect and serve, and are just as outraged by these events as I am. But while there may be many individuals with good intentions, the system is flawed and continues to fail the Black community. And the fact is that failure has more of a substantial effect on our psyches than we may realize. Not only did this event impact who I am as a person, but it impacted what I do for a living.
As a Black therapist who is adamant about creating safe spaces for healing and growth in our community, I saw how the current event influenced my clients' thoughts and emotions. I had a couple share how the shooting impacted their relationship. It made one partner feel sad to live in this country, and fearful of something happening to her or her partner. She expressed the anxiety she feels when her partner isn't home by a certain time. Not out of distrust, but out of concern that something could have happened to him. When I spoke to her partner, I heard the pain he experiences with each shooting because he grew up with people whose lives have been diminished to hashtags. He expressed the guilt he feels that his friends didn't make it to where he is today, and that pain drives him to being consumed with social justice and making a difference. So consumed that he sometimes finds it difficult to be present in his relationship.
The next day, I see a client who shares feeling weighed down by the shooting, and the events that have followed since then. What bothers him the most is how often Black people have to hold back their emotions, to be strong and speak on our experiences. As I hear these stories, and see the same pain I feel manifest in my clients in different ways, I feel helpless. I mean I validate their emotions, and remind them that they are not alone in feeling this way. But what else can I tell them when I don't even know what to tell myself?
So it's taken me all week to figure out how I could release, while also being helpful. While I don't have all the answers, I hope my vulnerability is able to comfort at least one person. I urge whoever is reading this to do whatever you feel is needed to restore. Take a break from social media, participate in a protest, meditate, talk to a therapist, donate, whatever helps you with processing, is up to you. There is not any one particular way to practice self care. But whatever way you decide to take care of yourself, I hope that you remember you are valuable, worthy, and loved. This world may try to tell you otherwise, but never forget that you matter.