by Odetta A Fraser · 22 Jun 2020 · 11 min read
Since I was 12 years old, I have struggled with an eating disorder. For me, being a woman of color and having atypical anorexia was definitely uncommon. In my own personal experience, we never really spoke about anxiety or depression, so you can imagine the lack of conversation around having a healthy relationship with food. In the African American culture, the more curves you have the better, and if you don't have curves, you know you aren't the picture-perfect small waisted, ample-bottom stereotypical Black woman.
The heartbreaking deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are sadly nothing new for our country, but they have broken the straw on the proverbial camel's back. All of their stories are tragic in their own right, but the match that lit this fire around the world was the public lynching of George Floyd. I heard about the murder before I ever got a chance to see it, and when clips were being shown I could only stand to digest a good five seconds of what was being captured. Despite all this, the most discouraging part about George Floyd's death is the silence from those around me.
I was about one month into my dream job as a forensic psychologist in a remand facility for adolescent girls in Brooklyn, New York. Unlike my old job, this one did not offer a parking lot for employees, but I was issued a state parking plaque to use in front of the building when there was space. However, that employee-issued parking plaque was enough illicit the suspicion and disbelief of the NYPD leading to me getting wrongfully arrested and detained for two nights. This experience was not the only instance of racial discrimination in my life, and it certainly was not my last as an employee. I chose to tell this one as it was, sort of, my official introduction to life in America as an educated, African-American woman.
I'm writing this piece on a Thursday night, days after riots and protests erupted following the murder of George Floyd. Posting on social media didn't feel authentic to me. Protesting didn't feel enduring. For me, they both felt like actions that would temporarily make me feel good about myself without any real lasting impact.It took days to write this because I needed time for the words to catch up with my emotions. Since then, I've had a number of people reach out to me, some with genuine concern for my mental state and others who seemed to be offering a "check the box" gesture. They were mostly all the same in content: "What can I do?" or "If you need to talk or vent, I'm here." Some even expressed how sorry they were for what I must be going through. The problem is, no one should feel sorry for me. No one should feel sorry for Black people.
For days I've wanted to use a pen to get to the core of how I'm feeling. I've avoided the pen, but here I go with the contents of me.
In the the wake of Mr. George Floyd's brutal murder, the United States of America suddenly had something monumental at the forefront of its dissonant mind. The protests and the unrest that burgeoned across the country, and tellingly, across the world, simply said, "Enough, is enough."
Take it from someone who just graduated with their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater, when I tell you I know a good performance when I see one. Let's put my training to the test shall we? In my opinion a good actor consists of three things: A. An understanding of tactics and given circumstances, B. An ability to command an audience, and C. A believable performance of the material. It isn't a surprise that performative activism also encompasses all of these things, because it is just that, a performance. My only questions remaining, as a critic, what activism is true activism? Or are these simply just cover up performances to ensure that you do not get penalized for actually being ignorant and racist?
Someone jokingly tweeted that COVID-19 lost a 28-3 lead to racism in America. The analogy is based on the infamous Super Bowl 51 when the frontrunner, the Atlanta Falcons, lost a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots and, as a result, lost the Super Bowl in the last few minutes of the final quarter. This sentiment is still being stated after everything the African American community has endured in America. From 400 years of slavery to the Jim Crow system. From racial profiling leading to the New Jim Crow's mass incarceration of African Americans to the disproportionate cases of police brutality and murders of African Americans, with the most recent incident, no less, occurring in the midst of a global pandemic that is also disproportionately impacting the African American community. No, this is no joke at all and is even more evidence that racism still exists.
I've had a lot of time to think and process my perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement and the world finally waking up to the injustice that has caused many Black lives to be lost within the shadows of white supremacy. I'm still not sure who really cares about Black lives, but I've decided that doesn't matter any more. What's happening is a beautiful thing, though there's been a lot of pain and suffering to our community, the world can no longer pretend that they don't see what's going on. Our plight is gaining international attention. It's no longer just our problem.
In the past couple weeks there has been a surge of people asking what they can do to be better. Conversations are beginning to take place and guards are beginning to come down. While that's a good start, it is just the starting point and there's plenty of work to be done. Below are six ways you can begin playing a different role in a Black woman's life.