by Odetta A Fraser · 16 Jun 2020 · 18 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.
A few months after I left my corporate job as the Head of Merchandising for Old Navy Online, I walked into the Everlane concept store in preparation for an upcoming meeting at their corporate office. As I looked around trying to find an outfit, a feeling of alienation came over me. From the perky twenty-something sales associate that looked at me askance when I walked in, to the array of androgynous, box-llooking, nondescript apparel, it was clear that I didn't belong. I finally landed on a streamlined navy dress that was seemingly appropriate for my meeting — a nothing special, medium quality, basic dress that felt like a millennial uniform. I never wore that dress again.
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."
As a psychologist — i.e. one who studies the mind and human motivations — my mind periodically returns to Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist who is lovingly known as the father of psychoanalysis, which is the foundation of psychology and the basis of many of the psychological treatments that we use today.As part of his theory explains, the Oedipus complex is a childhood psychosexual stage, wherein young people harbor unconscious sexual desires that fuel their anxiety and/or frustrations that may, or may not, appear negatively in life — depending upon the successful resolution of this puzzling, internal conflict.I have periodically come back to this tenet of psychoanalysis, always with the nagging inclination that this somehow explains America's issues with racism
We know that all of these things, from illness to job loss to systemic racism, hit the Black community harder, making it even more essential to develop a self-care routine that centers our own physical and mental well-being in ways that are practical yet effective.
I don't know what my race is. I mean, I know I don't identify as one race. And to feel forced to choose is a specific cruelty that I would like to uproot. My skin is brown, so I knew the road of least resistance would be to identify as Black. Any hints at suggesting otherwise would accost me as one who is trying to deny my "race." I was born in the beautiful land of Guyana, known as "the land of six peoples." I grew up there until age 12, and I think it is for this reason that I never saw myself as any one thing. Indeed, it was even strange to me to have to identify my race in America, as I found it such an odd and useless construct —useless that is, other than for racism.
Like most people, I am often asked, "What do you do for a living?" As a therapist of color, I think about what it is like to walk into my office. The walls are covered with my photography and beautiful illustrations from former patients of anxiety, depression, and recovery. "Thank You" cards are strung up, and the bulletin-board shows messages of allyship. On closer inspection, you might notice a carefully curated bookcase with titles on trauma, body image, and culture. Everything in the office is done consciously and intentionally; my space is not only a reflection of me but an invitation to others: an invitation offering my office as a safe space to do the work necessary for recovery.
I was one of the entrepreneurs lucky enough to enter the cannabis industry at the start of the green rush. From the beginning, I was often one of the only women in the room, whether the meeting was about everyday business practices or government policies. The disparity was even more pronounced at industry conferences where I was one of only a few female executives in a sea of male entrepreneurs. Female leaders are still widely underrepresented in many mainstream industries, and I believe it is time to challenge this archaic precedent within the cannabis space.
After I exchanged enough information with the Uber driver to confirm that neither one of us was likely a serial killer, the spotless sedan was quickly filled with enough small talk to occupy the brief ride. "What do you do?" "I'm a writer." "Ah, what do you write?" At the time, I was deep in writing my debut non-fiction book, Raising the Resistance: A Mother's Guide to Practical Activism, and had been busy typing away about feminism, reproductive justice, antiracism, and other topics that don't normally come up during a short Uber ride with a stranger but had consumed my work and much of my life. "I'm writing a book," I responded. "Oh! About what?" "Motherhood and political activism."