December 20, 2017

Reflections on a Ruthless 2017

Hey, Bonita…

This was a tough year to be me or anyone like me.

I’d never cried so publicly in the workplace like I did on Nov. 8, 2016. On Inauguration Day, I actually ran, ears covered, eyes shut and mouth screaming, out of a local barbecue joint when I looked up to see the sorriest presidential inauguration in American history playing on every television. I felt personally attacked. It was only Jan. 20, and here I was having public meltdowns. Hoo boy, if only I had known that the party was just getting started.

I’ve never felt less liked, loved or appreciated for my blackness or my womanhood than I have this year. Whenever someone shared what they found disagreeable about me, it directly related to physical attributes I did not choose.

“Being a black girl is replying to someone as politely as possible and them still thinking [you’ve] got an attitude,” said Twitter user @naejasme, summing up my year in less than 180 characters. Maybe I really do just have chronic foot-in-mouth disease, but certain people seemed very, very empowered to be hateful as hell in 2017—and you know what I mean by “certain.”

I won’t go into lots of details, because I’m not in the business of reliving my trauma for this column, but “we” know when it’s our otherness that is keeping someone from understanding our position. We know when people don’t agree because they just don’t understand or respect our lived experience of America.

We know the difference between ignorance and isms, but we also know the line gets very blurry the closer you get to it. We know that racism and sexism are often perpetrated by privileged persons who have been taught such social dynamics their entire lives, and therefore they won’t see it in the moment or in hindsight. We know that just as often as these transgressions are unintentional, others exploit good faith to cut deeply without repercussions.

Repeatedly this year, my forgiveness and acquiescence were demanded by people—mostly male ones, but always white ones—who sought no atonement and offered no restitution for blatantly sexist and racist transgressions upon my body and spirit. They felt appropriate demanding this because the marginalized are expected to take the high road, and because I and mine have always forgiven them and theirs.

I don’t negotiate with terrorists, so you can guess how well that went. Racism is so American that people will accuse you of hating America when you protest racism, and I’ve lost my fear of losing friends over this shit. I’m too tired to fight for people who would never do that for me.

Being a black woman is exhausting. There are plenty of scholarly articles addressing our collective trauma, such as the fact that being black in America predisposes us to a PTSD diagnosis. UConn’s Monnica Williams describes this in a few articles for Psychology Today—a citation I make sure to include because white people never want to believe a harsh truth about racism unless it comes with the stamp of the status quo. Yes, “race-based trauma” is actually a clinical term used by mental health professionals.

But I love my blackness, and I love my womanhood, tiring and traumatic and under-appreciated as they may be. We are more resilient than the status quo has ever wanted us to be, and by extension, I am more resilient.

So are you, marginalized persons and our allies. We made it to the end of the year, and we didn’t have to move to Canada or go underground to escape a fascist uprising. I didn’t have to compromise my identity for safety or security, and I hope you didn’t either. If you did, I hope you walked away and made a better life for yourself. I hope you feel beautiful and safe in your skin, and I hope you are surrounded by people who believe you and support you.

Never negotiate with terrorists, and never drive drunk. See you on New Year’s Eve, Athens. Let’s kiss!

Need advice? Email, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.