Columns / Discourse / October 5, 2016

Speaking On Revolution – In the Outside World, In Ourselves

Nearing the end of the Black Lives Matter Chicago rally and march, July 11, 2016, my head felt numb. We marched through downtown for what felt like six hours. It was unbearably hot. Our all-black attire had absorbed the heat from the sun. My legs were noodles of dripping sweat, my eyes burning from the sun, my heart thumping through my palms. It was probably 90 degrees that afternoon. I gulped the water and guzzled the snacks that were passed around, because I knew if I hadn’t I would have definitely fainted. But the thought of the numerous black and brown bodies killed at the hands of the police forced me to keep walking.

The murder of Michael Brown in 2014 introduced me to the ideas of black liberation, intersectionality and activism. Still, I was living in my own bubble, taking the world’s violence at arm’s length. However, after finishing my first year at Knox, my perception of the world has changed drastically.

Through taking classes centering around the marginalization of many groups of people not only in the United States but also internationally, I learned about the causes of the violence. The racist policies, language manipulation to perpetuate an Orwellian society, the untouchable systems of oppression. All of this new information made me angry, especially as a self-identifying Afro-Latina. The political is most definitely the personal. God forbid, but I or any person of my family can be subjected to racialized violence and anti-blackness. Everyday, I am paralyzed in fear by that terrifying fact.

It is a rare occurrence where I go on any social media site and I do not see the slaughter of a black and brown person. Or a Trump supporter attacking a person of color with a slew of racial slurs. These videos do not need to be posted  Ð  everyone already knows racism exists. But perhaps because I’m a masochist or I need something to pass time, I watch them anyway. Once I watched these painful videos, a wave of frustration and helplessness overcame me. I was then subjected to awful, physical pain. I watched the murder of Philando Castile the day it was released to the public. After watching the video, the panic I felt was similar to the pain I felt after six hours of protesting downtown under the suffocating sun.

I have never felt so fearful in my life. I have seen so much hate and violence in the world, against people that look like me. Against people of color, working class, queer, gender non-conforming, femme presenting or anyone of those intersecting identities. Offhand jokes and policies that target these marginalized groups of people just prove how terrible this world can be. It makes me think why are we here? Why am I here? Am I here to suffer, to panic, to fear? I endured so much pain during the long protest, watching these hateful videos, and just thinking about the fact that innocent people are dying at the hands of oppression.

I may not completely change the world, but I can change myself. And to do so, I must take care of myself and surround myself with radical, unconditional love and support. Self-care and activism are not mutually exclusive. How are we going to change the world when we are not taking careful measures for self preservation? In order to change the world, we must take care of ourselves. As feminists like Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde purport, self care is inherently revolutionary. Because white supremacist capitalist patriarchy does not want to see us take care of ourselves. Because when we take care of ourselves, the power within us is fully realized. If we find the peace, glory and power within all of us, we can truly transform this system.

I can feel a revolution brewing not only in the world, but in my heart.

Francesca Downs

Tags:  column discourse intersectionality race racism revolution Society

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