December 5, 2016
There’s a word for what I’m becoming, but I can’t think of it. A Critic? No … a skeptic? No, that’s not right either. Hold on, let me check a thesaurus … Ah, there’s the word: Cynic.
I am becoming a cynic.
I could lie and say it’s been a long time coming, and that I’ve felt it slowly creep up on me until it has taken over, but I won’t. There was one day that changed this in me. And I know exactly what day that was. November 9th, 2016. I woke up at 4 am in a cold sweat and checked my phone for the results of the election. I had a panic attack that morning, for the first time in months. After doing so well controlling my anxiety, I panicked.
I’m not going to talk about anyone directly. I’m not going to say anything about one or two people in general. Right now, I’m going to talk about my country as a whole. Because they are the reason I’m writing this essay.
I’ve been against racism my whole life. I’ve been optimistic about the future for blacks and whites in this country since I was born. My parents have been honestly concerned for me in the past, because they thought I was being naïve. They tried to talk me out of—not the optimism exactly; they aren’t against white people as a whole—this thinking, and tried to make me see “reason” that I had to be careful around white people. Because white people did not have my best interests at heart and would hurt me if I left myself open and vulnerable to attack as a black woman. But I knew this. I knew I had to be careful. But I had decided inside of myself that I would not fear white people until they gave me a reason to fear them. I would not judge them until they did something wrong against me. And even then, I would give them the benefit of the doubt.
But then November 9th arrived, and all that optimism flew out the window.
I am afraid. I am angry. I am shocked. I am … hurt.
I was naïve enough to believe that white people were getting better, and that black people were getting better, and that we could all coexist as one unit one day without division. I believed the country would come together against this “common” enemy we shared and show we were united. I believed in my fellow human beings. My fellow Americans. I trusted in them. And they threw me away like garbage.
I won’t get into all those feelings of that morning. The panic attack says most of it. But I will not speak of the aftermath. I will speak about the person I’ve become, and why my white friends have possibly noticed my growing distant.
I am scared of you all. Even if you’ve never done anything to hurt me, and even if we were great friends, something inside of me has shattered and it’s going to take time to put the pieces back together and learn how to trust again. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship gone right or wrong, but I imagine this is how it feels to be dumped in a shocking and horrible way. With a grand, public gesture that the rest of the world can view. Afterwards, your heart is left broken and scarred and you shut everyone out. You don’t want to talk. You don’t want anyone to touch you. You just want to be alone to fix yourself. Because no one else can.
To all white people: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I’m afraid of you. I’m sorry that I’m finding it hard to trust you. Deep down in my heart I know many of you don’t have negative thoughts about me or my people. Deep down I know many of you were against this decision. Deep down—way deep down—I still love you all and I want to trust you all…
But right now, I find myself rubbing at my throat at work and breathing slowly and deeply to fend off panic attacks. I’m so nervous every time you approach me. I may smile on the outside, but inside I am preparing to be insulted and hurt. Physically, mentally, emotionally, I am tensing up and shutting my eyes waiting for you to leave because I can’t look at you without thinking about that day. I can’t talk to you without thinking about the country I now live in. I can’t laugh and joke with you when I’m wondering if you’re judging me for the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, or how I speak.
I have become a cynic, and a pessimist, and …
I am afraid of you.
I’m angry at you.
Right now, I’m just trying to pick up the pieces of my optimism and glue them back together. One day, hopefully soon, I will trust you again. I will begin to open myself to you. But for now, just let me heal … I just need time.
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Do not apologize. Ever. For anything.