Regardless of your status or perceived status, if you are a Black woman, man, person, or child, you will be faced with systemic racism at some point in your lifetime—and at times frequently for no reason other than being there doing your job, sleeping, working, playing, sitting still, walking, breathing.
That’s not including the work-related discrimination, microaggressions, getting healthcare while Black, driving while Black, education-related discrimination, and other biases lodged against you if you are a woman/girl, LGBTQIA+, disabled, international, etc. Yes, systemic racism does negatively impact mental and physical health for African Americans, and we now live in an age where significant scientific, medical, sociological, and psychological research confirms that claim. However, that begins another conversation on other related issues like high BP, diabetes, depression, and PTSD.
Or think of it this way—I did not fall unconscious on the floor of a classroom during a faculty meeting last fall due to me being diabetic because I am not close to becoming diabetic or pre-diabetic (and diabetes as a result of persistent stress/anxiety and poor diet is rampant for Black folk).
Instead, my stress and anxiety levels have been extreme enough for me to be at high risk for a stroke and heart-attack to occur at the same time, actually—and one of my uncles died from that happening at 45.Instead, I had a grand mal seizure at 53. In other words, my body went into restart mode. It wasn’t my first seizure, but I did not realize what it was until my Mom told me over the phone while talking to her on the way to the hospital in an ambulance).
Why did I have a seizure?
Because after almost 30 years of academia (grad school 10 years and 17 years from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor), the climate on my campus had become so consistently negative and toxic with almost no indication of improvement that my brain and body shut down and restarted. Ever have your computer do that–shut down and restart in the middle of a project you hoped you saved before it shut down? That’s what God did to help me reboot and heal, and luckily I only ended up losing some short-term memory.
Chronic or sudden illness is what systemic racism does to your body and mind—and if one is wounded enough, your spirit also suffers, eventually. I am a feeling being, and I do find myself wondering how is it that to be considered even minimally acceptable in my chosen field, I had to sacrifice part of my humanity to successfully work in such a toxic environment for low pay and constant disrespect and belittlement.
Now, to be honest, that joy and passion and connection was missing before COVID-19, but the extended quarantine sharpened what was a multi-year experience of social isolation while attempting to surmount the almost impossible obstacles in front of me that kept me from advancing my career in academia as a professor. This is not a shocking story–many Black women in academia overwork ourselves “just to get half,” as we hear so often now in pop culture, only we who are not famous enough or vicious enough to move up the ladder to become part of the machine are often not seen or heard even as we produce work that others who are more privileged and higher up the hierarchy steal or take to use for their own professional advancement and glory.
But you knew that from the words I wrote under that title. Unlike most people, I do not hide behind a vanilla exterior. As long as you’ve been through my blog back and forth, has it not occurred to you that I started looking at you within a leather paradigm the moment we met? Certainly after a few conversations you knew my history and identity. In fact, it occurred to me you were doing a poor attempt at mindfuck. Right now you have, at best, attempted to emulate a Dominant persona without actually being one. I’ll recommend some readings for you, but for now you need to figure out how to not come across as an emotionally toxic person accustomed to being pampered by women you collect and discard.
Honesty. Openness. Consent. Pride.
That’s missing in your approach to me, and it probably didn’t help that I was slowly descending from a mountain of pain–unaddressed PTSD that emerged in a series of illnesses that put my very life at risk.
Imagine that: get your head together or die. Just like that. I chose to live and it demanded very painful confrontations with everyone in my life having impact on my emotional health, good or bad–and everything in between. I had to clear my desk and go up to the attic to pull out those old records still playing just to smash them into pieces. I had to make phone calls and type out texts that six months ago would have been sitting in my brain rotting and leaking.
Six months ago no one would have expected me to dare to leave such a harsh digital trail. One year ago I was still willing to take yet another face-slap or microaggression and swallow it like fresh sperm. In some ways I was the slave or the unpaid servant for you, emotionally, but I was in the ultimate position of slave in that I was unaware of my state of being. I was being drained by a shaman in a cave in a parallel universe while in an ecstatic trance.
In both universes I had two grand mal seizures that forced me into full consciousness and memory of the far past. All of this feels familiar, as if this has already happened, as if I am writing to you and me in a time-warped teachable moment. Ride along for a bit as I travel back to my leather memories and dreams. My first venture will address the first word that I feel you are most unfamiliar with when it comes to women. Next post will be about emotional abuse and Consent.