The burden of being “woke” and why it’s okay to rest.

The tragic murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department in 2020 caused a reckoning for a lot of previously unaware people: racism is real and it should be fought. Books about White privilege and how to be an anti-racist ally increased in sales. It was clear people wanted to educate themselves.

As a result, a lot of White people are felt pretty good. Feelings of shame and hurt that they didn’t do more sooner are being shared, and I’m all for openness and vulnerability. But I think there’s also a sense of pride in people who are now doing something. It’s like that feeling you got as a kid when you finally figured out fractions. THIS WAS HARD BUT NOW I GET IT! You were then totally ready to fraction it up, or in this case, continue to be more aware of expanding your circles.

I have some unfortunate news. You aren’t actually done.

It isn’t just about Black people and it isn’t just about making sure your social media feeds have more POC or reading books by Black authors. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read more about intersectionality (and if you want, listen to a podcast about it!).

It’s the bigger picture of all of this, and it’s the front door to the reality of being “woke”.

There are a lot more -isms than just racism and it impacts the world in more ways than just police brutality. We haven’t even talked about hate crimes against Jewish people being on the risecrimes against LGBTQ+ people just for simple PDAs, or how women still can’t make the same amount of money as men. Those are the big ones. I think a lot of people are aware of the huge, really problematic problems – and that’s great! I hope your work starts to, if it hasn’t already, include all marginalized groups.

But that’s not all! It’s actually everywhere.

Once you start to realize the plight of a lot of groups of people: all people of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+, women, those who are differently abled, etc. you will also start to realize how embedded these micro-aggressions are into our everyday life. When you realize, you’re going to be angry a lot more often. That’s a really hard thing to sign up for. In this case, ignorance really is bliss, or at least a lot less time spent wanting to curse out loud.

I’ll give you some examples.

Why is the worst thing you can call a man, a woman? Top insults in this category include pussy, sissy, literally “a woman” or the ever popular “Grow some balls”.

But at the same time, if a woman wants to be seen as something other than what men find so offensive, she’s ridiculed. “What a bitch”. “Butch”. “Be a lady”. Don’t get me started on how we’re supposed to be sexy, but not TOO sexy because then we’re whores.

Ever see one of those ridiculous INCREASE YOUR TESTOSTERONE! (they’re always yelling) commercials? Yeah, they’re not just ridiculous and funny. This is an example of toxic masculinity (why do all men have to be BIG AND TESTOSTERONE-Y?!). Toxic masculinity leads to things like mass shootings and sexual assault. Good luck trying to laugh at one of those commercials now!

“That’s so gay”. “Go suck a dick”. “No homo”. There are more insults that imply that, aside from being a woman, being LGBTQ+ is basically the worst thing you can be.

Brace yourself, fellow women. This one’s tough.

Why do you wear high heels? Most of us think they’re incredibly painful and uncomfortable. Look how many women ditch their shoes to opt for barefoot dancing at a wedding reception. So why do we wear them? Is your answer “Because I like them!”. Okay, cool. How do you make sense of that you learned to like something that causes you pain? What’s the benefit? (Hint: your answer should start with “the patriarchy”.)

Go watch a few romcoms and look at how many of the stories we find so heart warming are actually a woman saying no and a guy continuing pursue her incessantly until she gives in. Yeah, sorry. I didn’t like that one either.

Lyrics to a lot of rap and/or hip hop songs. Listen to what they’re actually saying.

Go through your day and as you encounter public transit, restaurants, stores, etc., ask yourself if someone in a wheelchair or with mobility issues could access where you are. Spoiler: “no” is going to be a common answer.

Now that I’ve just ruined funny commercials, music, movies, and your shoes, I promise I have a point.

This shit is hard. Necessary, but really difficult. It’s hard to live in a world where you see what goes on behind the scenes, so to speak. In addition to wanting to put the message out there that this work goes well beyond highlighting Black social media influencers, I want to bust another myth.

You are allowed to rest.

Yes, I know. White people aren’t nearly as tired as Black people. 100% true. You know what’s harder than this work? Racism. But at the same time, anyone embarking on this journey is putting forth a lot of effort. That’s especially true if you’re REALLY doing it. It’s also hard to continue to walk through life without your rose colored glasses. Discrimination is literally everywhere and it’s heavy to see that all the time. If you need help dealing with that heaviness, insert shameless plug for therapy here.

So take a break when you need one.

This is a lifelong journey and there’s always more to learn. In order to keep it up, you have to rest. Everyone needs a time out sometimes, and hardly anything is sustainable without one. And if your anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, etc. work isn’t sustainable, what’s the point?

Therapy with a social justice approach. It should be mandatory – and we do it. Schedule a free phone consult today.

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