Growing up I’ve always been highly aware of my race. The culmination of racism, colourism and texturism made me aware that I was Black from a young age. Due to racism, I was constantly fed the idea that Blackness was undesirable, unworthy and unwanted by those around me. By age five I already started being told that I needed to have thick skin and to be strong simply because I exist as a Black person.
Countless experiences with racism in predominantly white spaces and glaring stares in public places were the main reminders of my Blackness growing up and even up until now. As a Black woman, I can say that these racist encounters occur almost every day, not a day passes without the reminder of my melanated skin.
Imagine this, being reminded of your race so frequently, in a demeaning and dehumanising way, it eventually gets tiring. It is incredibly exhausting, to say the least. In one of my classes where I was the only Black person, I felt like my body was in constant flight or fight mode as I braced myself for the racist comments I knew I would walk into and have to endure.
This is known as Racial Battle Fatigue, which is described as the cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distressing mental and emotional conditions. These conditions emerged from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals.
Microaggressions are like mosquitos, they can pop up anywhere, at any given time; so much so that their pestering nature is exasperating. Some people get bitten by mosquitos more than others just because of their ethnicity, religion or gender. The mosquitos can strike in the workplace, at the grocery store and at school, at any given moment.
Given my experiences attending predominantly white schools, microaggressions have been a frequent form of racism for me. I’ve heard a fair share of racist and ignorant questions and statements countless times. Microaggressions may seem minor and minuscule on paper, but their effects are much larger.
Microaggressions are perceived as more subtle and implicit ways of expressing outright prejudice, colourism and discrimination. But their consistent and offensive nature shows how harmful they are to one’s mental wellbeing.
”Can I touch your hair?”
”You aren’t like other Black people.”
”You’re pretty for a Black girl.”
These statements build up, become heavy on the mind, and can lead an individual to feel tired to answer them because they’d have to explain their race and cultural identity over and over again. It’s not as simple as brushing them off as annoying remarks– it eventually becomes a burden to carry that you’re forced to encounter ever so frequently.
The debate over the existence of racism
Up until now people still debate over whether something is racist or not. They continue to question whether it was rooted in race and look for something else to blame the incident on. The issue with this is that it prevents us from sharing our experiences with racism and as a result silences our voices that are longing to be heard.
It’s draining to hear that people still don’t believe that hate crimes and denial of opportunities can be due to the colour of my skin. Because it stops us from recognising that racism is prevalent today, some people are still under the impression that racism was an issue of yesterday. For me as a Black woman, I do not feel that– I am black 24/7.
It takes a toll on me since it feels like we are going backwards. It feels like people who aren’t BIPOC think I am being ”too sensitive” or that I am ”overreacting” when they are only able to say this because they are white. It’s disheartening to hear these defensive rebuttals as they truly emphasize some of the racial bubbles some of my white counterparts are living in.
Racial burnout is real and having to recount trauma’s and sitting down having to explain that something was racist is painful and mentally draining for the ones who actually experience the racism.
As a Black woman, racism is everywhere for me no matter where I am, that’s how deeply rooted it is. As a result, having to encounter it and learning how to deal with it from a young age has taken a toll on my mind, in the way I present myself and navigate life as a person with melanated skin.
We deserve to rest and peace, and white supremacy is stopping us from getting to that. We deserve to be heard, seen and amplified.