Who would you be without your oppression? If you can't answer, then you are defined by your oppression.
This made me laugh out loud...this is an in-joke for those of us who have survived depression and lived to tell the tale...
When I posted it on Facebook, not only did this woman try to call me out for making fun of depressed people, she then went on to write a dissertation quoting statistics about how hard it is being black and that we're diagnosed incorrectly with depression because of our oppression.
Really...??? You can always go to a black doctor and get the a non-racial diagnosis of your condition. But this woman didn't even entertain that idea. She was so focused on what the world of whiteness was doing to black people, that she had totally abdicated all of her power to choose. There are tons of black psychologists who work on a sliding scale or even volunteer in black neighborhoods. When I went looking for a black shrink, all I had to do was ask people, google and look so I wouldnt get a shitty doctor. Oppression never stopped me from getting help, but if you believe your oppression will always stop you, then you won't ever act with any agency on your own behalf. You will allow what you believe (which is false or only sometimes true) to keep you trapped in this thing called "I will never get a fair shake." Which is total bullshit.
Let's give oppression a day off from work...just for a minute...ok...
Who would you be without your oppression.
If your answer is that's a moot point, because there is oppression, you know that that tells me: You're copping out. You don't want the limited beliefs you hold for yourself to be challenged. You don't want acknowlegde that a part of you actually believes the stories your oppressors tell you about you. You are defined by the limits the world has placed on you and you're so busy occupying your time and energy focusing on what's being done to you, that you cannot create a new story for yourself. You are defined by and have become your oppression. If you're unable to answer that question, it means all you have to offer is to complain which is really rage in a fancy dress. And you know what rage is, depression turned in on itself. And you always have the choice to be defined by it, or take steps to create a new story for yourself. When you choose the later, you choose to step into your power. When you choose the former, it's a slow death.
This woman on FB was wrapped up in her logic. She couldn't even see me. She was so attached to be right because it was a quick formula for her that blamed everything and everyone without her ever having to step out of her comfort zone and do something about or even to admit that we might actually have some power of our own to move up and out of our predicament. She tried to argue me down even after I shared my battle with depression because she thought that because I was black like her that I must also be a statistic and better yet, I must also be processing my life through the lense of her powerless rage.
And that's a huge fucking problem...that's a bigger problem that being black in a white world, than racism, than sexism...that's a problem of self-contempt, shame hidden behind irrational rage and a sense that complaining and raging is all you can do, because you're so trapped by the statistics that you can't seem to find a way to take your power back and turn the numbers around. So you can only discuss defeat. And better yet, the ire and arrogant tone she assumed as she was 'schooling' me was even more crae crae.
Really? Bitch, please....I've lived with and beaten depression and it took me 25 years...you just read a book...the level of arrogance she came with (which I'm sure she was completely unaware of ) was also nasty. She was doing to me what she was claiming white people were doing to her and all black people.
"I'm going to tell you what's really wrong with you and how it's not your fault, it's the fault of racism and rage is your only recourse."
When black folks try to tell me who I am based on a set of statistics that they researched or because it happened to them, that is some ignorant shit that works my last fucking nerve. No, I don't believe I'm better than her, but I do believe I'm better than I was. And that is because, I began to look for answers and finding solutions to my pain by trying to answer the question: "Who would I be without my "isms'?
Now a days, I find myself in conversations where the list of complaint is the major focus on every topic. When I pose the question, "yes, who would you be without your problems?" and I get back excuses...I now realize, it's time for me to leave. I realize that people who are lodged in complaint leave a residual energy on me of sadness and defeat. They dont' feed my spirit because they can't feed their own. I realize this now, because I spent decades doing the same exact thing, so I'm sensitive to it...I always reach for the light...I'm always looking for solutions that make me feel powerful and accomplished and I define what those two words mean. Not the outside world. Working through my sense of rage and powerlessness helped me find my life's work, joy, a sense of purpose. And I feel this resonating when I meet new friends who fuel me. Who challenge me to solve problems in a way I've never heard before.
When I turn on black radio or go to the Harlem gym or search my social media threads and I hear endless complaints, it makes me depressed. If the complaints were new, that would be different. But I'm hearing the same complaints I heard after the 3rd race riot in my city. I'm hearing the same complaints that my activists parents were talking about in the 70's. That's fucking depressing that folks have not come up with anything new. I realized the single most powerful thing I learned from my father and my time as a community organizer is that when you take full responsibility for your destiny, no matter what happens, you feel powerful, joyful and happy. Whether that means stop doing business with people who treat you unfairly and start working for yourself, even if it means you make half the money; the freedom and joy that comes from answering to no one and not asking anything of someone who treats you poorly is extraordinary.
Working for yourself also means, taking on the responsibility of making money. Making your business profitable and that's the ugly, hard side that people run from. Its much easier to complain about how someone is not paying you what you're worth or honoring, than it is to look at a spreadsheet and figure out how you're going to make your business pay you a salary, pay it's bills and keep the doors open. We're not interested in running the plantation, but most people are very interested in being paid very well by the plantation. So if that's the case, you got to take whatever treatment the plantation has decided you deserve or they can afford or go out, raise the money and run your own. That's called the American way, you have the right to freedom, prosperity, but only if you earn it...sucks...but there it is...and if you want to change that, you can only do that by having real power.
I'm so much more than numbers on a page...and I am so down for the cause of Black Lives mattering...but the fucked up shit in the world does not define me...if it did, I could not have done everything I've done...I would still be sitting around complaining and raging at the world which is essentially operating from a place of weakness.
And as 3rd generation Capricorn woman, weakness is not our strong suit. I may be broken, but I'm always going to find a way to come back stronger and in charge. And see, being in charge is the key to all of this bullshit...
I own my personal journey and while there's tons of racism/sexism going in the world, I deal w/that directly .5% of the time, the other 99.5%, I'm self-defining and readjusting the rules so I operate from a place of power...which is really what needs to change.
Power, real power. Not black men on football fields and rapping. Black investment companies and corporations with wall street leverage. That's what's always worked...because it's an attempt at wielding power. Not begging to be given power. There's a whole lot of strategizing about getting your power back that you can get done in that 99.5% of the time other than trying to fix the care crae bullshit happening .5% of the time...No one is experiencing their "isms" all day everyday, it's a small, but powerful percentage of the time, but we orient our conversations and focus and energy to it and never pay attention to the shit that is actually working out for us. The shit that is working is what we should be building upon
Never ever tell me who I am based on your fear...
I had to tell my mother and my grandmother this. And I don't give a fuck if you get mad, post that shit on your blog...or better yet, email me and I'll send you a list of amazing black psychologists and psychiatrists who'll tell you the same goddamn thing I'm telling you which is this: I understand unfair shit is going on in the world. Terrible, unjust hideous things, but you can't solve any of that until you can imagine a place, a space in which those things don't exist. That is the birthplace of change, of transformation. Without the ability to remove the lens of your problems, you cannot see any real solutions.
Fortunately for you these black psychologists won't be cursing. I'm cussing because that's my poetry and the shit is funnier when I cuss and folks listen when I cuss.
Meanwhile, back on the farm. If I can tell my mother and my nana to bring that harsh bullshit down several notches or you won't be seeing me anytime soon because my spirit cannot breathe under the harshness of your fear and rage and defeatism; I can certainly tell other black pwomen.
All that 'you gotta be hard because the world is hard on black people' bullshit....
I'm not just a black woman...I'm a lot a shit that don't have nothing to do with the color of my skin.
So now I'm telling other black women:
Black women: Stop being so goddamned hard on each other...
Get in therapy and get happy...
When you're happy, you are not a statistic...
When you're not a statistic, you find ways to reframe a problem and take back your power...
Yep, i went there....
p.s. And I'm not the first person to say this. Read Bell Hooks' Sister of the Yam. She talks about black women confusing truth-telling with tearing each other to pieces....
April Yvette Thompson is a Tony-winning producer, actor, writer, thinker, dreamer in search of beauty, truth, love & flights of serendipitous grace.