I Am Not OK

I’m not OK. I haven’t been OK for a long time. In the wake of the George Floyd protests, many of my dearest white friends have asked if I’m doing OK. With some of you, I’ve said yes, I’m OK. Honestly, I feel I have no choice but to tell you this. It’s not a lie, but it’s also not the truth.

I’m not alone. According to new data from the Census Bureau, anxiety and depression among African Americans soared after Floyd’s death became public. No other racial or ethnic group recorded such a spike.

Over a decade ago, the critical race theorist William Smith coined the term “Racial Battle Fatigue” (RBF).

He defines it as the “cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distressing mental and emotional conditions. These conditions emerged from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals.”

I’ve been here before. I feel unseen, misunderstood, angry and tired as hell. RBF is real. I’m tired of trying to convince white folks in my life that this is not new. That it happens every day. I’m sick of the continued microaggressions and the looks my “friends” give me. You have no idea.

So, to answer your question, no, I’m not doing OK.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see so many folks standing up, protesting and posting on social media for change. And change is happening. But, I’m continually disheartened when I have to block someone because they insist on posting their ignorant white privilege all over social media.

You don’t get it? Fine.

You feel attacked? Fine.

You feel guilty? Good.

You think all lives matter?

You have no idea …

… how many times I’ve been called the N-word.

… how many times I’ve been in the car when my family or black friends are pulled over by the police because they were “driving a nice car”.

… how many times I was stopped by the police walking home in my all white neighborhood.

… how many nightmares I’ve had.

I’m still angry as hell when I see yet another Black man killed by the cops. Another trans person of color. Another minority further marginalized, killed or ignored.

Centuries of oppression and inequality protested against has put us here yet again in 2020. During a pandemic, people are marching. Enough is enough. I’m tired of feeling this way, but I know I likely will my entire life.

This sense of inevitability is what is keeping me angry. It’s why I’m frustrated and depressed every time I look at the news. When I see yet another Black death and more voices going unheard. This is why Black mental health is still so fragile.

The only thing I ask of you is that you continue to protest. Continue to challenge yourself and your friends when you realize you have privilege. Use that privilege to make our community and this world a better place.

Thanks again for asking how I’m doing, but right now, I am not OK, and I’m not sure I ever will be.

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Nathan Odige