Healing While Black
-Haille Paige W
Well, this past week has been hell. I finally cried about it all last night. I attended a candlelight vigil in San Diego, CA for the recent murder of three black unarmed people – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Auhmaud Arbery. Of course the list of black people murdered at the hands of the police can go on and on and on. It’s tiring, it’s not fair, it’s fucked up, but I’m not surprised. This is what it’s like to be black in America. Let me be clear – this is what it’s like to be black in a system of white supremacy – which is what America is. Being black is amazing, its vibrant, it’s prideful, it’s lit, it’s lovely, it’s unique, it’s soulful, it’s love, it’s light, it’s courage, it’s community, it’s laughter’ it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I am so proud of my people, my culture, and our resilience. Our strength and resilience is like no other. My journey to being proud of myself as an individual has been a challenge however.
I believe my freshman year of college was the first time I was introduced to myself. I took a freshman year course called “Intro to Black Culture”. Ironic that I’m taking a course to learn about My culture, about ME. I was in shock; in a good way. I did not know who I was – I realized that in this class. All I was ever taught was that my people were slaves, although the correct term is “enslaved Africans” because language is everything. I was only taught about George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln, and George Bush and every other white person who has done nothing but serve white people in this country. In this class I was taught about systematic racism, institutionalized racism, police stop & frisk laws, the black man’s thought process; I was taught about how my people were Kings & Queens, about the true story of America’s discovery. Keep in mind, this was the FIRST black teacher I had ever had! He looked like me, he looked like my uncle. He had dreads, he had swag, and he spoke my language. By the middle of that semester, I had been obsessed with finding out who I was, as a black woman. Prior to this class, I thought I was “happy” with myself, I thought I knew myself – I wasn’t and I didn’t.
The following years in college were amazing but unknowingly brought plenty of self-doubt, self-hate, and resentment. I was put in numerous on-campus racist environments where roommates (assigned by the school) told me how “scary” they thought I’d be, how they were anxious about moving in with me - because I was black (yes I was told this exactly), how they figured I was from Compton, CA even though my FB clearly shows I’m from the suburbs, how dark women did not deserve a certain type of man (she was trying to compliment me, because my skin tone was not as dark as the woman they were talking about), to every other micro-aggression you can think of. I was attending class, playing soccer and going to parties, all while figuring out who I was. I was surrounded by non-black people of all ethnicities, so there was no one who could truly understand my story, my mindset, and my feelings. I couldn’t even really understand them. At that point, I knew I needed therapy – but had never known anyone in my family or even anyone who was black to take up therapy. I made that courageous step and it eventually changed my life. I chose to start that process of self-healing and self-education so that, in turn, I can find my purpose, help other black women do the same thing, and raise black children that do not need to heal from their childhood. However, that process is a privilege.
If it wasn’t for that class I took on MY culture and history, how would I even know who I was or where I came from? You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you come from. This quote is cliché but so fuckin true. How do you heal yourself if you don’t even know yourself? It is a privilege to know who you are, it’s a privilege to know where you’re from, it’s a privilege for your grandparents to be able to tell you their childhood stories without the trauma they experienced and still do; it’s a privilege to be able to find a therapist that looks like you; it’s a privilege to be able to sit in your home and not be worried about a police officer, who is off duty, coming into your home to kill you; it’s a privilege to be able to take a jog in your neighborhood without being harassed (or murdered of course); it’s called white privilege.
White privilege allows you to take that time and energy to actually focus on your healing. You are allowed to focus on your PAST trauma and only the past trauma. If you have the privilege to sit in your home and meditate, and clear your mind with all that’s going on in the world (even prior to the 2020 killings of innocent and unarmed black people), please realize that. I’m not saying that white people do not go through negative life-altering experiences, but those experiences have no correlation to your skin color. There is one less thing on your plate as a white person (well not one, but a ton of things). White people know their history; we have to buy our history. Literally, we have to pay $100 to find out what is in our DNA. Even then, there is a mistrust with any institution or organization (like ancestry.com) when it comes to the black community and our DNA. Do your research and look up the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. They do have the power to do that same thing today, and we as black people have to be wary at all times. We don’t want to live this way, we have to. To protect ourselves, our children, our friends and our community.
So how are we supposed to heal internally if our external circumstances do not allow us to be vulnerable? I’m working on this day by day. Working on healing my childhood trauma AND the historical trauma from enslavement, segregation, racism, and white supremacy that has been from each generation. The historical trauma experienced within the black community is in our DNA. And we are still experiencing this trauma. It doesn’t stop. We are literally being murdered on a daily basis by those who should be protecting us. We are being hunted, like prey. People truly have hate in their heart for us. It is wild.
As a black woman, I have been angry, scared, and anxious for the past two weeks. Although this is every day for us, these feelings have been amplified in the last few weeks. Today I had an intake therapy appointment through my insurance, because I felt I needed this especially right now. I am excited but little do people know is that it was a long process to find a therapist that looked like me (a black woman). I am located in San Diego, and the fact that I cannot find a black therapist through my insurance is fuckin frustrating. It is ridiculous and embarrassing that I even have to explain my needs and reasoning over the phone. Lately my therapy has been crying, venting, and praying. This is what self-care looks like right now for me. It may not look the same for all black people, but trust me when I say any form of self-care is a struggle for us right now. I am starting to get back to yoga and meditation this week, as the past weeks has been traumatic. But sometimes I wonder - is there any amount of therapy that can rid the fear of being killed outside your home, or the fear of your brother or father being murdered in broad daylight? As of now, I say no. All I can do is try my best to take care of my mental, so I do have the ability and capacity to fight for justice and fight for my BASIC rights.
My purpose in life, I feel, is to help young black people, specifically black women (as that is my lived experience) become their greatest and most authentic self so they are able to live their most purpose-filled life. I feel I have found my purpose, so I have recently created a space where black women and men can be their most authentic selves and hopefully can learn a few things through the exchange of our experiences. This space is only on IG right now - @thejunglesociety if you’d like to join. I’m small right now but will continue to grow. I’d love to speak and collaborate with other black women about the hurdles and success stories of self-care and healing within the black community; and show other black women how to be a success story. More black voices need to be heard and listened to. More black platforms need to be utilized so we do have equal access to self-care and healing that WE can relate to; that we can look up to. These black platforms will allow us to heal ourselves (as much as we possibly can) and will develop our most creative and powerful selves. It will allow us to believe in ourselves and our power to make change within the black community. Please, for the love of god, realize your privilege and do something about it.
-Haille Paige W