How to Find Peace While Fighting for JusticeBy Tamara Y. Jeffries
If you haven’t gotten The Phone Call, you’re one of the few.
It’s the one where a white neighbor, colleague, or acquaintance sends a message or calls to chat—a chat that turns into a conversation about “everything that’s going on,” and then eases into an apology for any racist remarks they may have made and, finally, leads to a request for advice: “What can we do?”
I’ve had my share of these conversations over the past couple of weeks and anyone who has fielded one can tell you it’s exhausting. And, no matter how well-meaning the request, I frankly didn’t have the bandwidth to help. It’s not my job, and I’ll be honest: I’m still trying to figure out what I should do.
The media highlights images of Black Lives Matter protesters in slogan T-shirts marching, shouting, and hoisting signs demanding change. The crowds are huge; clearly, everyone is there. Everyone but me. I feel just as disgusted and fed up and heartbroken about George Floyd and the whole white supremacist system. But because I’m not marching, I also feel guilty, and inadequate, and at a loss.
Being part of political actions is not just politically important, it satisfies some basic human emotional needs, according to research by James M. Jasper, a sociologist and professor at City University of New York. It boosts our reputation, feeds our sense of connection, gives us a sense of purpose, and just feels exhilarating.
It can also be an outlet for pent-up anger—which Black folks carry in their genes, according to Gail Parker, Ph.D., author of Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma. Psychologists say that unexpressed anger comes from feeling unheard, unaccepted, or unappreciated—and Black folks can check all those boxes. With nowhere to go, that anger can turn inward and lead to self-hatred and depression. So, the desire to be part of the protest—to speak out against violence and take action against injustice—is a healthy one.
But participation in protest doesn’t have to involve marching.
“We’ve romanticized the 60s so much, we think the only t