The Well Nourished Soul

swimming with a black face in a white space

i am not a strong swimmer. i know how to swim and i enjoy being in the water, but i don’t know how to tread water so i tend to only go to the deep end with an immediate return trip in mind. every once in a while, i swim away from the shore and just float for a bit, letting the waves wash over me and reveling in being weightless. it’s like being free. there is nothing like being free.

i’ve been thinking about what it means to be free when you’re a black face in a white space lately. actually, i’ve been all emo and i’m tempted to sit myself in the sensitive corner. my friend kim keeps telling me i’m far more sensitive than i realize. i immediately disagree; obviously she’s correct. but i lowkey feel like i’m turning into drake and that’s the opposite of ok with me. so as i’m feeling all the feels about being black living in white ass seattle, i find myself contemplating my desire to live as a free black woman.

being free has always been my goal. i feel claustrophobic trying to fit into the small minds of those who lack both imagination and a grasp on history, and are therefore unable to imagine a world where black is beautiful, brilliant, and bold. but i’m a free black woman and that means living my truth, speaking my truth, and walking in my truth. truth is … i feel like i took a lap away from the shore and found myself unable to float, weightless, in this sea of white faces. i don’t have the stamina to swim back to shore, and i lack the ability to tread water. i am sinking.

there i said it. this might come as a surprise some people. but lately i have grown tired of trying to filter myself to make others feel comfortable. i’ve always been a safe black. but this is seattle where there are so few black spaces, and even those that do exist are under attack by racist assholes who claim to be color blind (as if that’s an actual goal worthy of achieving) but are really just violently against being told no. how dare melanated people tell pale people they can’t go somewhere or do something? how dare we?

oh, but i dare. and as a result, i’m drowning from the lack of safe black spaces to revel in my blackness on a regular. i’m exhausted from trying to stay afloat. and each time i dip under water, i take in just a little more surge, filling my lungs with splashes of microagressions that seem innocent in and of themselves, but collectively leave me choking and gasping for air.

my birthday is approaching and i’ve written about some of the things on my mind. i’ve never been anxious about an upcoming birthday. i love the mess out of my birthday. besides it being an actually national holiday, it’s just a great way for me to reflect on and celebrate my life. this year, i feel some things i’ve not felt before and as i’ve wrestled with them, i recognized that i’m tired and my exhaustion means i’m not going to be effective at rescuing myself.

i remember writing about accepting that i need people. after all the emoting that has taken place the last few weeks, i finally get it. but in my quest to seek help, i was once again reminded that i’m a black face in a very white space. there are so few black mental health therapist in this city it’s laughable. only it’s the laugh of a dark comedy, and it’s really not all that funny.

i was talking to my insurance rep trying to figure out how to find someone in my network and i asked for a black person specifically. her response was no one had ever asked for a therapist based on ethnicity before. she was caught off guard by my desire to lay my black body on the couch of another black body and stare into a black face as i unpacked my exhaustion from being a black face in a white space. sigh. how dare i?

after being away from shore so long, i just want a buoy to hold on to. maybe if i can just catch my breath, i can recover my strength and be able to just keep swimming. i can accept that i’m one of the few black faces. i can accept that i have limited safe black spaces. i can accept that community and family won’t match my expectation.i can find a way to be ok with this reality and still be free. because that’s what you’re supposed to do. just keep swimming.

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for putting into words a lot of what I am feeling living in the Pacific NW. Peace to you!

    1. So encouraged that it was relatable. We aren’t alone even though it feels that way sometimes.

  2. I just want you to know that I am a white face in a black space here in Africa but even then, I can’t empathize because white privilege exists here even in a nation that is almost 100% NOT white. All that said, I’m heartbroken about the situation in America as I have lived most of my life there and grew up as a child whose parents were fighting against racism in Mississippi long before it was “cool ” to do so. I had been so encouraged by the many positive steps I’d seen over the years but the last couple of years have shown that so much of the change was only superficial and that many, many hearts are still not changed. Praying for you and for America. That’s it. No easy answers. Just that I am reading your blog and I’m sorry for all the ugliness. I am also praying. Truly, only the love of God can truly and permanently make a difference.

    1. those prayers are so needed. it is disheartening and sad, and yet we have a hope in the one who set the foundation of the world. my prayer is for true repentance so forgiveness can take place. it will take a miracle but god specializes in doing the impossible. 🙂

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