Well, here I go.
The past few days blips and bubbles referring to Naomi Osaka’s offending act littered my feeds, but I did not really pay attention until I saw what she did that cost her 15 racks. She said no to some press interviews and cited her mental health as the reason. WTH?
But, then again. Yep. It sounds just about right. Exactly right for a sister trying to make it. And if you can’t see it, then you are truly a part of the problem. Full stop. No mincing my words today because I.AM.TIRED.
I am tired, as a Black woman of this expectation that I am always supposed to be obliging, accessible, and visible (when you want to see me) and content in my inconsequential existence when you don’t. And I am nobody. I can only imagine with misty-eyed compassion for Black women in the public eye, like that Queen Naomi. I mean, DAMN! Can a sister just live?
The answer is apparently, HELL NO. As the privileged vultures swarmed (one a pro-Tennis player who had also been fined for skipping interviews included – the hypocrisy), she then had to divulge even more of her very private and personal mental health battles just to get folks off of her back (they forget she is also half Japanese. So much for that wave of support for our AAPI family) . I have seen this happen my girl Lizzo (I know we would be friends should we ever meet) as everything she does is either praised or ridiculed by the body positivity movement trolls. And for the exact same reasons. I realize they are public figures, but they also entitled to live in private—to hold some things close. If you disagree, GET.A.LIFE. of your own.
No longer are we the mammies that care for you and wet-nurse your babies before our own. Black women do not owe you explanations for their actions when you would not expect them of others. I already know that this post will be misconstrued as some aggressive rant by another “mad, Black woman”. Well, I am a little mad. But mostly just exhausted. Which is part of the reason I needed time off from work (and could do with one more week away). Time off from work for personal or mental health reasons should be enough for anyone. Naomi was brave enough to say it and to me that shows integrity. She is doing exactly what she needs to do for herself in the public and private eye. But instead, her literal peace of mind was stripped away and resulted in her considering leaving tennis for a while. Naomi, girl, I feel that on so many levels!
But while I am here, let me not forget to dig into the concept of ‘self-care’ and why Naomi made such a ‘radical’ statement by taking time for herself.
The term is everywhere and the pandemic gave it a boost of speed-laced steriods and it is BIG. Big in terms of marketing and soscial media fodder. But, to be clear, it is not this face-mask and wine spa getaway for sisters. Not even a little bit.
Black women have been the caregivers for America for centuries. There has not really been a time, space, or attittude that the workhorses needed time to care for, restore, and perserve themselves. Now, as caring for yourself permeates every corner of capitalism, consider that her refusal simply refuted all that the media purports to be true about Black women. She was not angry. Or loud. Or overly emotional. She just simply skipped out to care for herself and was bashed, hated on, trolled, insulted, and dehumanized publicly. Because this country has been taught that they have an inherent right to all aspects of Black women. So, what was she supposed to do? Subject herself to further degradation when she was already feeling low after a loss? What good would that have done? So, next time when you feel compelled to rattle off stats about high blood pressure, diabetes, black mother/infant mortality rates, or heart disease, remember that effects of STRESS and how you would deny a sister a much-needed mental health day.
Audre Lorde, self described black lesbian feminist warrior mother once wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I am sure that is how Naomi felt. I have felt that way. This Western culture has made us lose sight and connection to ourselves and our innate wisdom to the point that when we do tap in and listen, the resulting actions are felt as warfare. We all should be honored to self others but the obligation is to ourselves first. How can you fill someone’s cup if yours is empty?
I am luckier than most. I have a mom and other female relatives who have always been about more than working themselves to an early grave. They had each other and a few close friends. They had a sister circle.
These tightly-knit groups have been a part of our culture as a way to get the “community consensus” for acts of self-care. Traditionally, it is during these meetups that women could be themselves, try a new hairstyle, or vent and receive copius amounts of loving “therapy”. Often the only time they could be themselves and endeavour to reconcile reality and dreams; to feel appreciated and a sense of unconditional support and belonging.
In these times, in Pride month, social justice upheaval, pandemic recovery, and in every day life, I feel that these tight communities would serve us well. They would teach us that what is radical is fighting fiercely for that self preservation. Turning and holding on to each other, our friends and communities so that we all might be uplifted; so that we all might not jut survive, but thrive together and in harmony. That is the only way that it can be accomplished. Supporting the holistic wellness of all people is how communities grow stronger together.
Again, I am a nobody. But I invite you to join in some of the conversations and good old-fashioned support of this little circle—The Sister Cipher. I would be honored to learn with and from you!
I am going to leave you with an affirmation about the power of living in private. If you need to tell someone to mind they business, use these words to help you find your footing, or call me and I will let them know!
I disclose only what feels comfortable to me.
Some of my struggles and my successes feel more meaningful when I opt to keep them private.
It is easy to lose my sense of self when I feel compelled to talk about my life. I prefer to have a clear mind when thinking about building my life. Whenever I feel the urge to get advice, I carefully choose my source.
Today, I happily keep some things in my life private. I achieve greater balance when I create a separation between what is personal to me and what is shareable with others.