I Was Able to be Hurt

I still havent recovered from the election, yall. Life keeps moving forward. I am going to work. Im cooking dinner and washing dishes when I run out of clean ones. There are lots of black movies coming out that Im excited to see. Im hanging out with friends and making new ones. Im still responsible for caring my little pup. But the truth is, I am still not over the election. I still feel lots of feelings. The grief process goes on for me. 

A friend of mine had someone close to her pass away a couple years ago. She used to describe momentarily forgetting, dialing the phone in a moment of excitement... then remembering. Her grief would come crashing down around her again- but differently. It didnt make her sob, But it made her deeply sad. It was like going through the shock of being told again, but not the desperation. She was doing something normal- making a phone call. But suddenly this moment wasnt normal at all. And she had to find her footing again. She had to swallow, breathe deeply, feel it all and then make a conscious game plan for what to do next. "Im just going to sit here for a moment." or "Im going to call my sister and tell her my news, but also tell her about a ringing phone that no one is going to answer." 

To be clear, it is not my desire to compare the pain of losing a loved one to this election. I do want to say that sometimes I forget, and when I remember everything stops for a moment. It all comes rushing back. I hear a speech or catch a headline, and I shake my head, wondering again how we got here. My reaction is still a little intense- pops of anger or shock or denial or sadness. But mostly anger when I remember again.  

Im not over it. And this makes me mad. 

I want to be over it. I want to have not felt anything to begin with. I want to say that I didnt feel grief, that I didnt possess enough expectations in America to be disappointed. I am supposed to know better. I am supposed to know how deeply racism and xenophobia runs in America. I am supposed to know how treacherous and poisonous white supremacy is. I am supposed to know and knowing is supposed to save me. 


Once a year I read "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff". I read it because I love it. I love the women. I love Shange's poetry. I havent experienced all (or even most) of the events described in its pages, and yet their thought process is familiar to me. In one section of this choreopoem Shange writes, "i've lost it / touch wit reality / i dont know who's doing it / i thot i waz but i waz so stupid i waz able to be hurt / & thats not real / not anymore / i shd be immune / if im still alive & thats what i waz discussin / how i am still alive & my dependency on other beins for love / i survive on intimacy and tomorrow" I cant believe America is still able to hurt me. But I survive on intimacy. And tomorrow. 

For this work, sometimes...oftentimes... I desire to be hard. Impenetrable. Unable to be rent, torn, cut, scarred. But Im not. 

And so I am paying attention to Trumps picks. I am paying attention to the reaction from white nationalists. I am watching news stories normalize white supremacy. I am noticing how uncomfortable white people are with that term- especially those who didnt vote for Trump. I am noticing the current interest in who is racist and who is not- this conversation is always more fun for folks than how do we uproot racism from our lives, communities and society. I am paying attention. Paying attention to the black folks still dying the streets, the native americans still fighting against the pipeline and flint residents who must avoid their drainpipes. 

Because though these are all theoretical choices right now. Soon these folks will be governing, suggesting policy decisions, changing funding priorities, making decisions that will impact all of us. And those decisions (and the rhetoric used to champion them) will embolden folks. 

I am writing, But also trying to follow the lead of my sister friend, Christena Cleveland, who has modeled for me what it looks like to embrace a contemplativeness that is culturally relevant to me (image that, white people dont own contemplativeness! Who knew!?) I am practicing joy when I can. I am devouring books. I am rethinking how I preach and what I am saying to the Church. I am taking it all in; I am letting a lot of it out. I am trying hard not to explode all the time, but without retreating, without choosing ignorance and avoidance. 

This is hard. But I am not. 

I was able to hurt, but my hurt wont define me. I will not become my hurt, and so I wont fear it. I wont fear being able to be hurt. I will recognize that sometimes this is the cost of hope.

Austin Brown