I have had a sorrowful week. Yes, this week I have accepted myself as a wildly Sad Black Girl, as for me to be pretend to be anything else would take too much energy.
I have cried twice this week, and probably will again. I have lived in various iterations of pajamas, and have only left my bed to eat, bathe, and use the toilet.
Literally, everything feels like too much of an effort. Even in writing, in coming to the page, I want to close my laptop and lay down and sleep forever. I am tired. Past tired, I am weary and emotionally exhausted. My head hurts. My body feels the weight of itself, the weight of reckoning with the world we live in.
I had already accepted that I was a Sad Black Girl on Wednesday afternoon. After months and months of pretending my numbness was normal, I got tired of the façade. I admitted to myself that I was indeed depressed—as I’m quite familiar with my depression by now—and was coping through food, which only adds to my feelings of sadness and shame.
I wrote a long journal entry about it, laid down all my burdens. It was very much so cathartic, and a little bit healing. It was wholly necessary. And then when I was done, it was nighttime and I was ready to go to bed. But being the pseudo-cyborg Millennial that I am—always connected to the Matrix, always attached to a screen—I decided to check my social media. I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days. I love and hate Twitter, but that’s not the point.
And there it was. Stories and stories and tweets and tweets about a shooting in a Charleston church. And because this is the world we live in, one I’ve grown accustomed to, I didn’t really engage with the story. I scrolled, then I closed the Twitter app on my phone and went to sleep. When I woke up and logged back onto Twitter and began reading messages from my boss, I understood the weight of what had happened. I engaged with the details. A white man had gone into a Bible study group at a historically black church—Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church—in Charlotte, South Carolina and killed nine people, all of them black.
Beyond the normal, generalized aggression and hatred and violence that I’ve accepted as a hallmark of American culture and society, this was something else entirely. This was a racially motivated hate crime. This was homegrown terrorism. This was 1950s and 1960s Jim Crow flavored brutality, alive and thriving in 2015.
And since then, I haven’t been “right.” I’ve felt hurt and heavy and distant. I’ve felt a profound sadness for the world we live in, for the skin I live in. I have been traumatized, truly, in a way that I am still learning how to name. And then I feel guilty, because is it my right to feel this hurt, by people I don’t know, whose black experience differs so vastly from mine, who lived their lives thousands of miles away?
I am not religious. I didn’t grow up in the church, black or otherwise. I don’t pray much anymore. I view God as a distant friend more than a living presence in my life. I’ve spent my whole life being a progressive, liberal Californian, save for the few family visits to Texas and my college years in New York.
And yet still, beyond being “affected” by the shooting. Beyond being hurt by it. Beyond understanding how horrible and heinous it is, I also feel triggered by it.
The work I currently do, and The Work I feel called to do, mean I often have to be present with these stories. I work for a website that documents and shares the experiences of Black women in America and in the world. So when a white man walks into a church and kills nine Black churchgoers—six of them women—I have to know this story, and its details. I have to read the essays and op-eds and journalistic pieces written by others. I have to read pitches and submissions. I have to be submerged in the trauma, in the violence.
And this week, I was already a Sad Black Girl, wholly consumed by my own pain and emotional afflictions. I was already feeling some type of way about being a Black woman in America. I was already feeling some type of way about being alive, about my own mortality.
And then Charleston. And then the 24-hours news and social media cycle. And then all the times I’ve failed to heal myself completely of old traumas, of the way my body and heart holds onto pain in a very real way. And sometimes, I’m able to keep all these traumas, all this hurt, buried deep in the water. And then other times, it comes bubbling up to the surface. And the wounds open up.
And then I am a Sad Black Girl eating her feelings, who can’t get out of bed, who is barely functioning, who is so mad at the world we live in, and at herself for living in it.
This is where I am now. The wound is the place, but there is no light yet.