Since the murder of Trayvon Martin, I have been struggling. I have been struggling to put into words exactly what I am feeling. That struggle has become even worse with the continued slaughter of people of color by America’s police forces. Words are usually my fail safe. When everything else fails me, I write. But not this time. I have not been able to find the words. Feelings are something I have always failed to articulate. Sometimes I think it might be because growing up in a household of those battling depression, it was my job to always be happy. Not any more. Now it’s my turn.
I am angry. I am hurt. I am scared.
The list of names and hashtags I am supposed to learn and remember hasn’t stopped growing in over a year. Those names are my brothers, my cousins, my uncles, my aunties. Those names are me. Every day it seems that list grows longer and my heart breaks a little more. My chest feels like an actual weight is sitting on it. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.
I feel so helpless. While many of my friends are out there actively participating in protests, eloquently writing posts and articles about everything that is going on, and engaging in dialogue in an attempt to help others understand or process what is happening to us, I am in South Dakota. I am the only person of color in my office. I don’t work in a space conducive to discussions surrounding race, class, gender, or privilege. I work among the privileged. Those who carry on in their daily existance like they live in a separate universe. In reality, they probably do. Their universe is so different than mine. Even those I have come to consider friends. I have nobody to simply talk to about what is going on and how it is effecting me. Bringing it up would only mean that I would have to go into educator mode, and that is not what I want or what I need right now. I just want somebody to listen and to get it without my having to first provide a lesson on privilege.
I have to be honest. Had I decided to stay in South Dakota for college, it is quite likely that none of this would effect me as much as it does if at all. Somebody once told me that when they first met me, they were not sure I would be able to handle the transition from my naive little bubble in South Dakota to life “on the outside.” They were wrong. I could handle life on the outside. What I am struggling to handle is the transition to life back in the bubble. Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. For everybody else, it’s torture and death.
They say hindsight is 20/20. If I had known the events that would occur in my time since leaving graduate school, I can say with a certainty that I would never have moved back to South Dakota. As much as I love my job and the professional opportunities it has provided me, I don’t know how much longer I take it. Geographic isolation is entirely too real. I miss black people, my people. I miss having spaces to have these conversations even if just over drinks with friends.
I feel guilty. Living in South Dakota makes me feel like I’m hiding. Moving up here essentially makes me an ostrich with my head stuck in the sand. I don’t watch the news any more. I shy away from reading the comment section on any article. I have even limited the amount of posts I make on Facebook because honestly it terrifies me that somebody I have known for most of my life will make comment that will make me question every interaction I have had with them. The response of course would always be, “Oh. I’m not talking about you. That’s not you. You’re different.”
But I’m not. Outside the little bubble that is my hometown where everybody knows who my parents are, I am no different. I am a woman of color. The way I talk and the way I dress will not change the melanin in my skin or the curl in my hair, and at the end of the day that is all they see.
Even after all these words, there are still things left unsaid. More thoughts than I can imagine or ever hope to jot down, but I guess it’s a start.