What did I learn from reading about race for the past 4 weeks? It’s exhausting. It’s disgusting. It’s belittling. But most alarmingly, it’s distracting. As humans we have a negativity bias; negative events tend to register higher and longer than positive ones. This is why it’s difficult to overcome traumas and to brush off offhand comments. Earlier in human history, paying attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world was a matter of life and death. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive.
The Ills of racism are so abundant — incorrect dates of birth of IDs, the spacial racism that’s left most of our families living and dying in township slums and the English middle names some of us still carry — that focusing on them for an extended amount of time can quickly warp your reality. Transporting you to a haunting and draining reality. A reality of distrust and hate.
For far too long blackness has been synonymous with struggle, but being Black means more than having to carry a history of oppression. It also means having a rich history to celebrate. Our music, our art, our food, our culture and our limitless amounts of resilience are things to point to with pride. Every time we were confronted with an obstacle, like water, we made it the way. As a people, we’ve adapted and evolved into more than beings made up of pain. We grew up walking streets with no street names and now the highways bear our names. Ours is a tale of triumph.
I’m not going to abandon educating myself on race, but I am going to slow down. Although race may colour my life experiences, it’s not the sole element influencing my existence. Saving my energy for when it matters most is more important than continuously depleting myself. The time will always come when I must fight or educate, but that time isn’t always. I am as accountable for shaping life as I am responsible for showing myself kindness. Picking your battles is not cowardice, it is the most difficult form of bravery.
When the need for activism strikes, a productive and energising way to exercise this is by showing support to Black creatives and entrepreneurs. Buy food, clothes and art made by Black people. Support your local businesses and seek out Black service people. Ultimately the most important vote we cast is with our money.
Where we spend our hard-earned money serves to show what we truly support. Race, like most isms, was invented to justify the oppression of one kind in the service of enriching the other. In changing your spending habits you undercut the systems that perpetuate the mistreatment of people who look like us. The best way to predict the future is to create it and every new day is an opportunity to do just that.