Black people have been collectively grieving all year. It’s not that we haven’t known this type of pain before—but now it feels compounded with no time in between to catch our breath. If we weren’t consumed with reports of how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted our communities (we are dying of it at higher rates, we comprise a higher percentage of frontline workers), we are standing at the epicenter of an uprising addressing racism, inequality, and police brutality.
Jacob Blake—a Black man who was shot seven times in the back and left paralyzed at the hands of a white police officer in Wisconsin a week ago—is the latest victim to dominate the news cycle. Images of Breonna Taylor accompanied by demands to arrest the cops who killed her have been circulating on the internet for months, while the murder of George Floyd prompted protests both nationally and internationally.
The death of activist Oluwatoyin Salau (at the hands of a Black man) and the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion by Tory Lanez only serve as a painful reminder of how Black women are often targets of violence by those we expect to protect us the most. The memeification of those two women (along with Breonna) was also heartbreaking—it stripped them of their humanity by making them caricatures instead of people deserving of empathy, compassion, and care.
As author Danielle Butler pointed out in her Medium essay, “Maybe we are beautifying their (Oluwatoyin and Breonna) image to beautify our failure(s). But in doing that in such a way, we also obscure the violent material realities that caused their murders, to make their memory more palatable.”
In other words, it’s like we are trying to dilute the severity of their suffering by turning it into images that expunge the cruelty that harmed—and killed—these Black women.
In addition, the loss of highly visible Black role models and pioneers, such as Little Richard, Chadwick Boseman, Andre Harrell, B. Smith, Kobe Bryant, John Lewis, and Zindzi Mandela have felt like blow after crippling blow in a society that routinely stereotypes us in a way that harms us.
We are encouraged to take to the polls in November and vote for Democratic nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris if we want to see real change. However, their questionable political pasts are reminders of how people of color have never been their focus and how that ultimately doesn’t matter during their election run.
The racist attacks that Kamala has already been subjected to—which include ridiculous claims that she is ineligible to run for Vice President because she isn’t American—reinforce how embedded the vitriol is for Black folks in this country when they try to assume positions of power. Our brutalization and suffering have been so normalized in America that when we declare Black Lives Matter it's met with controversy.
When we boycott institutions, we are considered unreasonable. When we protest our oppression, we are met with violence. For the last 300 years, we have been conditioned to believe that distress, struggle, and torment is inherent to our existence. That if we aren’t scraping to get by then we really aren’t alive. Yet somehow we are expected to keep taking each devastating hit after hit with grace, dignity, and resilience. And while we know that the injustices and maltreatment won’t stop any time soon, we must remember that the exhaustion we are experiencing—and have always experienced—will require us to prioritize our mental health, make time for breaks from the constant barrage of violent images, and to simply take it one day at a time.
Candace McDuffie is Boston-based writer with bylines in Entertainment Weekly, Vice, Forbes, Vibe, and more.
Originally Appeared on Glamour