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The Heartbreak of Being a Chronically Ill Black Woman Who Can't Attend Protests

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The past few weeks have been traumatic to say the least. First, it was the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Then it was the bird watching incident in Central Park. Then Breonna Taylor. And most recently, George Floyd. And perhaps George Floyd’s death hit the hardest. I will say it totally broke me down for many reasons.

Now, many are gathering together in cities worldwide to speak out, protest and riot against the racism and brutality that hurt Black lives. We are letting the world know not only that we matter, but that we have had enough of the mistreatment because of our skin color — and we are doing this even if it makes people uncomfortable.

Now, I will admit, when I heard the news of the deaths of Ahmaud, Breonna and George, and even the stunt the woman pulled in Central Park, I had so many emotions. I had anger, fear, sadness along with so many other emotions. I hurt because I am a Black woman with a Black father and a Black brother. I have Black cousins, nephews and a Black godson who is young and still doesn’t understand why this happens over and over, doesn’t fully get what makes him so intimidating as a 100 pound 5’4” teen. That just broke me all the way down and all I could do was cry because he doesn’t deserve to live in fear.

And then I felt total heartbreak seeing my community torn to pieces, and seeing my neighbors just emotionally ruined as well. It just hit me harder.

And then I also felt helpless because I couldn’t physically get out and help clean up, march against the injustices or attend these rallies.

These protests, riots and rallies are happening despite the very real threat of COVID-19, and it doesn’t seem like many people are concerned about that. In fact, it’s beautiful that despite a pandemic, groups are still organizing and making their voices heard. However, many of us cannot join that rally or that march or that protest.

Why, you ask? Well, it is simple.

You see, for the millions of us who are immunocompromised or live with severe chronic illnesses, it’s difficult to be out around large crowds, especially with such an infectious disease like COVID-19 still ravaging our communities. As many know, this virus is especially dangerous to our population and of course being in an extremely large crowd increases our chances of contracting the virus.

I have wanted to go out, but I just can’t risk it. And maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m feeling such sadness. I cannot be with my friends and neighbors as they hurt through this time. I have been supporting the movement as best I can from home. And that includes speaking out against privilege and racism, having honest conversations with those who are miseducated and have bias towards Black people or inadvertently make racist remarks, supporting Black owned businesses and not asking for a discount, and donating to nonprofits such as bail funds for protestors and Black Lives Matter movements and even community development funds for programs for Black youth and other minorities. Of course, another important thing we can do is vote to bring about new leadership and change in our communities! These things seem small, but they can make a huge impact. We will slowly see dynamics change and see shifts in how we are treated by police and other political figures. 

So to my other Black chronically ill friends, especially the Black women, there are few things I leave you with:

First, don’t beat yourself up because you can’t physically participate. The fact that you are acknowledging the situation we are in is a great first step.

Second, if you have Black men in your life, loving them harder is so necessary right now. They need our support and protection.

Third, remember that making sure your bucket is full before helping others is just as important. We have to take care of our physical and mental health and ensure we are in a safe place and space. If not, then we will struggle even more than we already we do on a day-to-day basis and what good is that?

Lastly, remember the behind-the-scenes work is just as important as the in-person, in-your-face marching, protesting and media. We need just as much support in making phone calls, fund development, supporting Black owned businesses and in community program planning… all of this makes the in-your-face stuff go round and evokes change as well. So stay strong, practice self-care and remember it’s not that all lives don’t matter — it’s that we need to remind the world that Black Lives Matter and deserve to be treated equally.


Photo by David Ramos on Unsplash

Originally published: June 4, 2020
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