Racism & Radical Self Care: A Critical Race Counterstory
“Counterstory telling within CRT is used to demonstrate that color blindness, from a Critical Race Theory perspective, serves principally to obscure the ways in which African Americans and other people of color are being disadvantaged”
(Closson, R.B., 2010, p. 176).
I grew up in a home where my mom wore her best outfits all the time: to the grocery store, to the laundry room, to random and orchestrated family events and of course, to work. My mother always used fancy soaps from L’Occitane and enjoyed a good sale at Bergdorf Goodman. As a result, I have always had this permanent fixture of Black women caring for themselves in the face of anything in my mind. See, my mom also worked for a major jewelry corporation on the corporate side. What I did not know as a young child, I learned quickly as a teenager: my mom experienced consistent racism and xenophobia at the workplace. She endured it for one reason and for one reason alone: to help her and her family survive.
The brutality of capitalism forces us to endure intersectional racism: at the housing level, at the healthcare level, at the education level and in any workplace. When I learned about the racism my mom experienced, it was because it had taken a toll on her emotional well-being. With targeted care, my mom overcame that battle and so much more, eventually removing herself from the corporate sector entirely when I left for college in Vermont. And that is when it hit me: my mom held on to a toxic, racist workplace environment, so that she could see her youngest child and only daughter through high school and eventually college.
Now, in my late 30s, I have learned all too well what it means to be Black, woman, bold and smart in spaces that are committed to misunderstanding you, to breaking you into tiny pieces of human capital only meant to serve without being respected. I often reflect on my mom and the path she carved for me to exist and now to thrive in a system that is not concerned with my radical self care or my survival for that matter. As I ponder on this knowledge, I know that it only takes one person to break a generational cycle of trauma. But it is not that easy when you are dealing with capitalism. Because the way capitalism is designed, systems are meant specifically to operate in conjunction with one another: major companies = healthcare and independent healthcare purchases are expensive AF! So when you are someone like me, who thrives off of creativity, entrepreneurship and radical scholarship and the spaces you dwell in feel too small for your big ideas, what exactly do you do?
Here is what I have learned about racism and radical self care: both are antonyms, two ships sailing in opposite directions. My ability to fully love myself is in direct opposition to a capitalist model of “work until you die.” As I reconceptualize my understanding of labor and time, the ability to care for myself, to love myself, to make time to read and to paint, to learn more about who my children are, a capitalist framework does not quite fit in. But here I am, living and pushing to assert my freedom of thought, of style and just fucking being within a damn hole the size of the smallest needle eye.
Here are my top 5 strategies for radical self care in the face of racism:
1) Daily gratitude journal: every day, write down one thing you are grateful for. Try to identify something about you specifically that is not tied to your job or your merit-based achievements.
2) Find one thing you love and commit to doing it at least once per week.
3) Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be authentically you. You never have to shrink in spaces of deep love.
4) Have weekly meetings with yourself where you identify at least 2 self care goals you want to accomplish that week: planning a massage, taking a walk, talking to someone you have not heard from in a while, etc.
5) Be patient with yourself. Self care is a journey. Some days are harder to manage than others, but the best is yet to come with consistency and care.