I feel so hurt and I feel so scared.
I feel hurt because in my professional life I have encountered awful experiences of racism as of late. I feel scared because if I share these experiences, people may hurt me further. They may gaslight me and say I exaggerate. They may stereotype me as the angry queer academic of color, when my anger, a justified anger, stems from having experienced racism. I feel sad, too, because I wish I could share specifics about what has happened on this blog like I often do, but right now, my fear of retribution – that someone will find this blog and attack me for my sharing – makes me unwilling to provide specifics.
This processing takes up time. Experiencing the racism, then processing it, seeking social support about it, healing from it – all these steps take up time. Time that I could use to mentor students, learn more therapy techniques, produce more research. Toni Morrison once wrote that “the function, the very serious function of racism is distraction.” Distraction: as I sit and write this post, I wonder how much more I could contribute to the world’s healing if I did not need to spend as much time healing myself.
When I feel hurt and scared, I have to remind myself why I decided to pursue my path. I did not choose to pursue a graduate degree in Psychology because I want to see my name in prestigious journals and on big grants, nor did I pursue this degree so that every single person in my program or field would like me though even writing that scares me because if someone in my professional life sees that they would interpret that as me not caring about collegiality, when my feeling pertains more to staying true to my values even if that offends people who hold racist or oppressive viewpoints. I chose this path because I want to help others help themselves, whether that happens through the therapy I give or the mentoring I provide or the research I conduct. I have always aspired to work as a psychologist so I can spend my time making a difference in the world, not so I could spend my time pleading with people to stop discriminating against me. When I remind myself of my purpose, I feel a renewed energy, a commitment that I will not give up on my journey as a healer, no matter who tries to stop me.
I wish I could say I do not feel afraid. But I do feel afraid, and I will do what I came to do anyway. I am most afraid that I myself will internalize and perpetuate the nasty ways people with more power have treated me. Audre Lorde once wrote that “the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.” With this in mind, I will keep doing my best to practice compassion and gentleness and not abuse. I will continue reading about feminist mentoring styles and therapy, I will invite students and clients to share feedback with me without getting defensive, and I will always examine the ways in which I may participate in oppression, even without intent.
I feel hurt and scared. I know, though, that I am not alone. Unfortunately, so many others experience discrimination in work and in life. However, many of these people have shown so much courage as of late, ranging from those discussing trauma in graduate school generally to specific forms of abuse such as the sexual harassment case at Dartmouth. I hope that one day I will have the courage to join their voices, and until then, I will do my best to act as a supportive and justice-minded presence in the background, behind the scenes. When we join forces and raise our voices against oppression, I feel hope that we will change the world.
Any words of wisdom, support, solidarity, etc. from those who have experienced similar situations would be appreciated. Or, thoughts and feelings in general about discrimination, racism, and oppression. Though this semester has been off to a rough start, I feel so grateful for my close friends, my mentors, and the community I have outside of my graduate program who have given me so much compassion and strength during these trying times. Until next post.