The Air I Breathe

The Air I Breathe

I went to bed last night with Trump 26 electoral votes ahead of Clinton. At that point I figured Trump winning the Presidency was inevitable so I may as well get some rest for work the next day. Wide awake the majority of the night I woke exhausted, nauseous, and anxious. I turned on Good Morning America and was greeted with a victorious Trump delivering his acceptance speech. Such a sight took my breath away and I remember experiencing an onslaught of emotions that were very familiar. Something I had only felt as an adolescent living in constant fear of racist bullies. A time when I felt like an alien on my own planet. An outsider. An unwanted visitor. As if the air around me was not my own. The air that filled my lungs and gave life to the blood in my veins did not belong to me.

Despite your political affiliations and personal opinions of either candidate I will tell you that the racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic sentiments Trump has imparted the course of this election have for many become equally as psychologically damaging as they are politically.This election season has been the most stressful we’ve seen as a country. That stress has scratched at a wound I’ve carried since I was a young girl; a wound inflicted by the notion that my blackness was a crime and something to be hidden.

Few people know that I suffer from a very real and very painful Race-based Trauma Disorder. Growing up I was the token black girl in almost every life situation, however my ethnicity didn’t become a novelty until I moved to the suburbs in Jr. High. I felt incredibly alone and weird like an odd anomaly only a few had seen before. I faced blatant racist remarks on a daily basis for years. Funnily enough, the most painful encounters were with those who were simply ignorantly inquisitive. The questions about my hair, my family, what I ate or my favorite why I didn’t ‘act black’ were constant. Living in continuous fear with no one to turn too slowly taught me that my blackness only brought pain and should be masked so as not to draw attention. Never let them find out your black.

After enduring years of racism in a place that I grew to call home I developed an ever present anxiety that I would be ‘found out.’ Like an alien masquerading as human fearful of discovery. This anxiety slowly abated over time but it wasn’t until years later as an adult that I realized I was simply burying it and upon recovery I found the anxiety had become trauma. Donald Trump’s victory is an incredible trigger, one that unearths intense feelings of fear and hopelessness. I walked to my favorite cafe for lunch today and I felt such a disconnect to my city, to my country. Everything around me, even the air I breathed wasn’t mine to claim. I thought ‘why does this feel familiar?’ and quickly realized I felt the same as a Sophomore in High School walking the halls with my head down, exposed yet ready for an attack.

I’m constantly working to heal my trauma and move forward but I wanted to share my story with those who are unaware of how deep the pain of racism and bigotry can be. It’s time as a society that we acknowledge the psychological implications of racism. Trump’s victory is a devastating blow simply because he symbolizes the rebirth of an often long forgotten history of the dehumanization of marginalized peoples.




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