Detaching From the Trauma of Being Just The Black Best Friend

Author : greensameblue
Publish Date : 2021-01-04 20:49:22


Detaching From the Trauma of Being Just The Black Best Friend

I hate complaining. I don’t like victimization either. Especially as a young, freelance writer, I choose to have a fearless attitude towards an indifferent journalism industry, whose editors often prefer the work of critically acclaimed staff writers who have already covered the subjects I wish to further unpack. Despite all of that, I persist, demonstrating that my perspectives are unique and that my stories are worth being read. I have to believe that I’m worth it.
I’ve applied similar logic to racism. I’ve come to a space in my life where I’ve accepted that this world operates in a Eurocentric system predicated on ecological, gender, and racial injustice, and in spite of that, I know undoubtedly that my perspective is valid, and that I’m worth respect and recognition. I’ve prided myself in avoiding succumbing to the poison of racial bitterness or 'perpetuating' the victimized narrative (unfairly) ascribed to African Americans, and instead, I try to focus on acknowledging the progress society is making and continue persevering towards my goals. This way, I’ve been able to remain generally optimistic about humanity, and moreover, remain objective and distanced from my past.


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I would say my experiences, more than time itself, have healed the pain from my past. I’ve cultivated my life to avoid ever feeling emotionally belittled again as I did throughout my adolescence. I currently live in a liberal city, I’ve traveled significantly, I speak two other languages in addition to my mother tongue (and counting), and have connected and interacted with people from an array of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. These experiences have made me feel cultured and special, the way I’ve always wanted, and have thus added to my perspective. I am no longer the insecure girl I was as a teenager, but an eccentric, multilingual, nomadic writer. My experiences in a way, are colorful band-aids on deep wounds.
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Shutterstock Image: By lazyllama
It wasn’t until I did a cross country trip through the US that that insecure girl I thought disappeared, actually resurfaced. I was traveling with my boyfriend in our new camper van and all of those bandages, one by one, seemingly peeled off. Wounds that had been buried for years had appeared right before my eyes and all I could do was look out the window, in pain, and pretend that I was okay.
Eight to nine hours a day, we traveled. Sometimes we drove seven, and on an easy day, five. Traveling such distances weeks at a time caused me to visit spaces in my mind normally crowded with my daily to-do list. On the open road, I saw nature in its finest and most distressed. Some days I saw seemingly endless stretches of trees, boulders, and mountains. Once, there was a river that followed alongside us for hours. Other days, my eyes stung from the smoke from the unprecedented, vicious forest fires plaguing the west coast. These conflicting and powerful images gave me time to really sit and think.
Not to mention, seeing Trump 2020 flags rippling in the wind from the back of trucks as well as signs on crop fields and yards along the way didn’t help my running mind; neither did stopping into gas stations and entering White Supremacist Wonderland. Everything from the country music fluttering out of the ceilings’ speakers, the camo-printed merchandise, MAGA hats for sale, and the unapproachable cashiers made me want to sprint into the bathroom and back out. I felt uncomfortable. All of these images seemed familiar. It reminded me of growing up in a place in which I felt ostracized. Over time, a mental pattern developed and I resented everything. We drove, I thought, we stopped at another dreary gas station, and then in the car, I was confronted with another traumatic memory. I fought through all sorts of thoughts, like the more I could’ve said or done at various points of my life, especially when faced with injustice. Most of all, I pondered how I ended up here, a seeming imitation of the town I’ve tried to forget.
Drive. Think. Stop. Confront.
Drive. Think. Stop. Confront.
Drive. Think. Stop. Confront.
As nightfall approached, my running mind melted into a lake and suddenly, I felt like a pot of boiling water spewing negative emotions. I couldn’t let my partner see me cry though. I had to keep my lid on, hold myself together, and be excited to meet his white family. I had to be just as thrilled as he was, despite the hurtful encounters I’ve had growing up in white teen culture that until then, I realized I still hadn’t overcome.
Drive. Think. Stop. Confront.
Drive. Think. Stop. Confront.
Drive. Think. Stop. Confront.
By now, all the band-aids peeled themselves off. My mind was submerged in my past and my wounds were staring at me, ugly and festering in dried blood, glaring at me, as if I neglected them. It was obvious that I still hadn’t overcome being overlooked and misunderstood. My insecurities were eating away at me and preventing me from being excited to meet my partner’s family because of the inferiority I experienced as a teenager. In my mind, I was still the “black best friend.”
This daunting cycle went on for days until I came across two articles that helped me conceptualize what I was feeling. I’ve struggled for years putting the covert racism I experienced in high school into words until I came across Ramesh A Nagarajah’s, Reflections From a Token Black Friend and Jenny Arimoto’s, Responsibilities of the Asian Best Friend. Both writers discuss their experiences as respected ‘ethnic friends’ among their white communities and the systemic racism that is maintained by implicit biases towards people of their backgrounds.
Between Arimoto’s assertions about deserving to be the protagonist of her own story and not no longer remaining the ‘sidekick’ to her white peers and one of Nagarajah’s reflections about his former compliance with his friends about the romantic inferiority of black women, both stories have equally compelled me to share my journey of growing into my own main character, instead of the accomplice role American culture has romanticized of girls like me, and not allowing anyone outside of myself validate me.



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