Let us take a moment to acknowledge the last few weeks. The recent mass shooting and the violence against the AAPI community may have left many of us feeling drained, burdened, and exhausted both emotionally and physically.
It is work to show up. It takes energy to stand up in spite of all that surrounds us. It takes energy to walk as we grieve. Our bodies and minds may be tired.
Our discussions about body have centered on one particular mantra: Honor your body. Ask it what it needs. Sometimes, the answer that is often neglect is rest.
White supremacy thrives off of skewed and distorted tales that emphasize the perceived “goodness” of white history. Over the last year, we have covered the significant harm of the invisible historical narratives of marginalized communities — from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to Black, Indigenous and People of Color. These communities have seen their history white-washed.
In previous Meditating On What Matters, we highlighted how important it is for marginalized communities to have these stories told. Yet around the country, the history lessons we receive are overwhelmingly told from the perspective of white supremacy.
The burden of educating and sharing these stories is left upon the ones who were and are most harmed.Not only do marginalized communities who are experiencing traumatic events and grieving with their community — they are also burdened with the responsibility to teach white folks.
This task is draining. Instead of giving folks the opportunity to grieve and rest, they forced to explain to white folks why they are upset, and often gaslighted in the process, as white and other privileged communities refuse to acknowledge the true horrors of history.
Racial gaslighting is a common occurrence, especially when folks of a marginalized community are attempting to educate others about their experiences. Ria Wolstenholme with BBC notes that,
Researchers use the term “racial gaslighting” to describe a way of maintaining a pro-white/ anti-black balance in society by labelling those that challenge acts of racism as psychologically abnormal
In essence, racial gaslighting says that the narrators, mostly marginalized folks, are not reliable sources. Instead, they are dismissed and their experiences are questioned. They are met with micro-aggressions saying, “To play devil’s advocate” or “Not everything is about race” when they are explaining their history or why they are upset about an event.
These gaslighting comments are used to create the sense that the person sharing their story, or the story of their community, is unreliable and untrustworthy as a source.
Therefore, not only are marginalized communities burdened with the task of educating white folks, they are also challenged by the white community and gaslighted, rather than having their stories and experiences taken as truth.
The effort and energy that it takes to continue to educate while grieving and being gaslighted and questioned is insurmountable, yet it seems necessary in the world of activism. However, rest in personal liberation is an act of radical action against white supremacy.
Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Self-preservation is key in a society that seeks to burden marginalized communities to the point that they are small and voiceless. Relieving that burden through rest is an act of not only self-preservation — it is also an act of radical action against the society that attempts to push marginalized communities down into silence.
Between the pandemic, the violence and protests from last summer, and the increase in violent attacks on the AAPI community all have a detrimental effect on our minds and bodies. As folks continue to work from home and experience these events, many mental health professionals are calling on folks to rest.
In this article for Scientific American, Ferris Jabr talks about the “cerebral congestion” many of us are experiencing; however, it may not just be from work. Our minds are processing information from numerous different sources, including the information regarding our communities. Jabr writes that the research shows that,
Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.
Jabr also highlights the work of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the University of Southern California and her co-authors who orchestrated research on the default mode network, a “mysterious and complex circuit that stirred to life when people were daydreaming”. The researchers arguethat,
when we are resting the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics — processes that depend on the DMN.
Therefore, Jabr notes,
Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.
Taking the time to allow the brain to rest and not take in any further information is essential to creating space to reflect, problem solve, and be creative in our solutions as well.
Oppression acts in many different ways. It occurs structurally and systemically, as well as on the individual level through gaslighting and micro-aggressions. One of the ways we can dismantle oppression is through self-preservation and resting, relieving the weight of these oppressive forces for a time to gather the energy to continue on the path towards liberation.
For BIPOC and AAPI folks, taking the time to rest and restore is a practice of actionable mindfulness. It is an act of radical defiance against the oppressive forces that seek to destroy marginalized bodies and minds, so that white supremacy and other forms of oppression may continue on.
Actionable mindfulness is honoring the body and mind’s need for rest and restoration.
For white and other privileged folks, actionable mindfulness may look different. It means creating space for marginalized communities to rest and restore. However, merely creating space is only taking half of the burden.
Actionable mindfulness reminds us to seek truth. Meaning: Do the research and educate fellow white folks. This action takes the burden of educating off of the shoulders of marginalized folks, allowing them to rest and restore, and also amplifies the true narrative from a voice that is already considered believable and reliable. The changes of a white person being racially gaslighted for sharing the historical narrative that has been silenced is far less likely than a person who is of a marginalized community.
Amplifying the histories and experiences of BIPOC and AAPI folks is necessary to creating space for these communities to rest and restore.
What feelings or biases come up regarding rest for marginalized communities?
Am I willing to do the research? Is there any push back against that?
What histories and experiences am I sharing? Who am I amplifying?
Am I advocating for diversity in voices in school or work settings? If not, what fears, feelings, or biases are working against that?
How can I amplify histories and experiences from marginalized communities?