Published on July 24th, 2020 | by Candace Simpson0
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Naming the Hard Times
If you would’ve told me eight months ago that Brooklyn would look like this today, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I wouldn’t have believed that thousands of people would die from a virus, and that somehow the world would keep turning (kinda). We already know that Black people are more susceptible to this disease and are disproportionately represented in the death tolls because the U.S. healthcare system (like every other institution that touches our lives) is actively racist. It finds ways to refuse Black people the medical care we deserve. It’s dehumanizing.
But that’s only the first wave of grief, the most violent one that deals with immediate disruption. The current returns every time I get a message that someone is in the hospital. And it crashes against me every time I hear, “they didn’t make it.” And it crashes again when we try to make arrangements, but I remember there will not be a repast and there will not be a communal in-person lament.
Then come the smaller ripples.
I wouldn’t have believed people figured out ways to do communion online—en masse.
I wouldn’t have believed so many professional and community gatherings shifted online.
I wouldn’t have believed that loved ones found creative ways to celebrate weddings and graduations.
I didn’t think we’d be here. And yet, here we are.
I name these events —festivals, religious rituals, milestones— because these are some of the things that make life worth living for me. I love Prom Season in Bed Stuy because nobody outdoes Black people. Even if you’re taking the C train to prom, nobody beats our prom send-offs. We do these sorts of events well because we are a fleshly people. We touch. We hug. We tell stories. We share food. We braid. We help a sister’s bun when it’s falling apart. We dance. We hold hands. We snuggle. Even if you are not interested in touching and hugging everybody, there is still something spiritual about sharing an intimate space like someone’s living room, backyard, porch, or stoop.
And because we cannot touch and heal each other as we do, the other blows from the System land just that much harder.
I wish that we could say to all our other bullies, “Go home. Let Coronavirus do its thing, and we’ll call you when we’ve recovered from this.”
But racism continues. Fatphobia continues. Misogyny continues. Homophobia continues. Transphobia continues. Ableism continues. And that’s a lot. Too much for any one person to hold.
Iyanna Dior, a Black trans woman from Minnesota, was beaten in public and on camera. She physically survived the attack, but all the trauma will stay with her for a lifetime. I pray for continued support and safety over her. And this was not the end of violence against our sisters. Riah Milton was shot and killed in Liberty (of all names) Township, Ohio. And Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was brutally dismembered and murdered in Philadelphia. Both Riah and Dominique were Black trans women who deserved to see gray hair and sagging skin. They deserved to retire in their old age, reciting stories of the days when transphobia was once a thing.
But they can’t. Because even in a pandemic, this world hates women. This world hates Black trans women especially. The rest of us are not free, safe, or liberated until each of our sisters is.
This moment feels cruel because the assaults on our collective humanity do not stop. In times like these, we need to be fortified. We need to be reminded who and what we’re fighting for. But whereas we would usually host kickbacks, cookouts and grill-n-chill sessions to remind us of our humanity, we are forced to replace those offerings with zooms and facetime. With the current constraints on gathering, we may feel stuck.
How do you nourish the soul if you can’t have folks over? How do you check in on your homegirl if you’re afraid to hug her? How do you put money on people’s goFundMe when your own coin has been drastically cut? How do you keep balance on your timeline when mainstream news refuses to humanely report on the issues impacting our own lives? How can we breathe through alladis?
Those of us who have been critical of the Empire and the U.S. interest in Black lives have known the adage to be true: When White folk sneeze, the rest of us get the flu. This is sadly part of our inheritance, but it is not our birthright. We are owed more than what this world can give us. We all get to demand justice, decency, kindness, compassion, ease, beauty, safety—however we can.
I have allowed myself to feel the depth of my feelings offline, and I have felt selfish for not being “out there” in the flesh. But I remind myself of what some of my closest trans, undocumented, disabled and/or chronically ill comrades have taught me: There is more than one way to be in service of the movement. If you cannot physically be part of the protest, you can tell the story of others who are. You can make it clear whose side you’re on. And there is always more than one way to do so. All of us have a lane, a community, or a sphere of influence.
I am vulnerable to the virus, yes, because of my personal body’s existing story. But I am also vulnerable because this body is racialized. In other words, these are the thoughts that haunt me: If the State doesn’t get me, the virus sho’ nuff will. And if I get the virus, who is likely to care for me and serve me? What kind of care will I receive? What sort of medical debt will be placed upon my head? And, as a queer Black woman, what pressures will I endure to continue to work and pay off that medical debt when I simply should be resting?
The movement has a need for all of us. It needs writers like Nikki Giovanni. Philosophers and activists like Angela Davis. Filmmakers like Tourmaline. Abolitionists like CeCe McDonald. Clergy like Pastor Tabatha Holley. Librarians and educators like Erica Caines and Ola Ronke. Mental health advocates like Khadijah and Zakiyya Abdul-Mateen. Circle practitioners like Ashley Ellis and Quandisha German. Chaplains like Quanita Hailey.
This is the Love that sustains us. And the good news is, there are more people than I have named here. The power doesn’t stop here.
I don’t have 5 steps to healing. I don’t have a magic antidote. All I have is empathy and space. I just came here to say, “I feel you, family.” You’re not by yourself. You’re not imagining the nightmares that visit you at all hours. If all you have right now is tears, let them fall. You cannot be of any use to any movement if you are dancing on broken glass.
But I can promise you this– we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We must take care of us because no one else will.
Candace Simpson is an educator, minister and writer. She believes that Heaven is a Revolution that can happen right here on Earth. She invites others into that philosophy at www.fishsandwichheaven.com