This is Advocate Activism. We believe in standing up for the oppressed against oppression in all of its forms.
We practice restorative justice first, working towards healing and community restoration whenever possible. We also believe in boundaries that keep marginalized people safe.
We practice this in ourselves first, through learning how to sit in discomfort, and radically accepting ourselves and others as they are. With this being said, even myself as a black woman, I’ve realized through education and studying that I’ve caused harm, not intentionally, but by not being educated. And once we know better, we can do better.
Hello, all. Welcome back to another episode of Advocate Activism. I am Amira. And today Rayah and I talk about emotional labor. It is really difficult to do activism work on a daily basis and try to do it with class and ease and without upsetting people. So Rayah and I just kind of talked about, in our words, what it’s like. And we also thought it’d be a good idea to start incorporating some words. Some words and definitions that people may not know or never heard of, or understand. And during this episode, we talk a little bit about anti racist. We talk a little bit about ableism. And we also want to remind folks that in order to really do this work and do it consistently, and really effectively, you got to remember self compassion. Self compassion is so important in life in general. And right now Rayah and I, with our friend Misty, are working on an awesome book club, and we offer for you to join us. And just remember that anything in life that is worth fighting for, you got to do it with some self compassion in there. Enjoy.
Hello, welcome back to another episode with Rayah and I. This is Advocate Activism. And we wanted to start off today with a little bit of a grounding meditation. If that’s okay with everyone. So I’m going to make sure I mute my phone. All right, so if you are sitting in a chair, or if you’re laying down, go ahead and just gently close your eyes if you’re able.
And if you’re wanting to receive energy, or let go of any energy, you can just think of that in the forefront of your mind.
I’m gonna ground, today. So my palms are going to be facing down resting on my lap. And we’re just going to breathe the natural rhythm of our breath. We’re going to just remember to release any tension in the body, relaxing the jaw. Sometimes it helps to keep your tongue resting on the roof of your mouth, if you hold your jaw clenched.
And we’re just focusing on the act of breathing. The rise and fall of your chest. The air going in and out of your nostrils. Just focus on the act of breathing. And now I’d like us to just take a couple deep breaths together in through the nose, out through the mouth and in through the nose. Out through the mouth. And one more time
In through the nose.
Ah out through the mouth. And when you are ready, you can open your eyes. How you feel Rayah?
Pretty good. Pretty good. Glad to be here. That’s for sure.
Yeah. So what we’re going to talk about- what, what are we talking about today, Rayah?
Today we are talking about the emotional labor of all the work that we do, and we’re starting to kick off our definitions that we’re going to kind of pepper throughout the series. We figured it’d be a good chance to just, take like every episode and do a couple of definitions of really common words and the things that we’re talking about, but that maybe everybody doesn’t have a solid definition of what they mean. Or at least you can know what we mean when we say them. So we’ll talk about that later today, too. But yeah, yeah. Lotta talk about emotions.
Cool. Yeah, I want to talk- jump into the emotional labor, of that all. I don’t think people fully understand what it feels like to be doing this work on a daily basis of some sort, where we’re doing this work of some sort every single day, and what that looks like and how that feels.
Yeah, I think it’s really easy to look at us from our social media presences. And just think that, oh, they’re doing great, and they’re very, you know, just not forceful, but like, maybe forceful or aggressive, or just, they’re very sure about everything, and they feel so confident all the time, or things like that. But that’s definitely not the case at all.
No, not at all. Not at all. And it makes it really tricky for me. On both ends of the spectrum. I just had a meeting today with someone and I was explaining how I’m not only healing from the loss of a lot of white people, I’m also healing from the loss of Black people, because I just now understood what it was to have systemic urges to be a part of systemic racism and to realize it for the first time. And right as I was realizing it, I then also realized, Oh, my gosh, Black people, but I, all of my Black people are, are basically homophobic. It’s just something you grow not to speak of, you don’t talk about it. Black people don’t talk about that stuff. You know, you keep that stuff to yourself. And so I have this huge feeling of rejection, that I really am glad that I have such good self awareness. Because if I wasn’t so self aware, I would not be okay mentally, with going through the things that I’m going throu gh. So the emotional labor is a huge piece that I think people are very confused by. And even in my role as the Minister of Justice and Witness in an all white congregation, that is a heavy toll and a heavy burden on my soul. And also the burden of being Black and knowing that there’s a big chunk of my, my people, friends, growing up, family, that really, truly don’t believe that being under the umbrella of LGBTQ is God-like, it’s not okay. And you’re lesser than, you know, all the other sins that are supposedly there, it’s very tricky. And it’s very painful.
Yeah, I mean,
I would imagine that, at least for me, it would be very difficult to be marching for Black lives, and then knowing that many of the people that you’re marching for and with, don’t agree with you, or would not protect your rights and uphold your relationship and your queerness in that.
Yeah, and that’s why I cherish those rallies. The- the last few that I had went to, it’s been a minute since I’ve been to one, but the last few that I went to, having the leaders of those rallies that are Black or the- the men, you know, Black men saying, you know, we need to also include the LGBTQ community and the trans, you know, community as well as Black Lives Matter, too, you know, so it’s difficult. The emotional labor is a huge piece of this work. However, that’s why we keep talking about this subject, because it matters and the more we talk about it, and the more we fight for things to happen, I feel like hopefully the generations that are going to come don’t have to fight so hard, I’m hoping is what what I feel. So.
Yeah, and I think the other part of it is, there’s this intense emotional labor that is being done around antiracism work and you know, ableism and you know, mental health advocacy. But we’re also doing this work in the middle of a pandemic, and in the middle of realizing that all of the structures that we thought maybe were there to keep us safe, or at least we’re not actively trying to harm us. Or we were like, kind of, okay, being oblivious to it, we’re kind of suddenly faced with the fact like, “Oh, actually, there’s way less safety around than I thought.” And so it’s even more so the need to protect yourself and to be careful about who and what you’re doing. And like, what you’re spending your time engaging with, you know, it’s like you realize you have less allies than you ever thought. And that takes a toll on your physical body too. Your actual nervous system responds to all that. And so the emotional labor, it sounds like something that we’re talking about that’s abstract, or,
like, well, you
can just kind of get over that or, you know, you’ll be fine. But it’s like, it – not only does it take a toll on your mental health, which is very significant. But mental health affects your physical body in ways that are not always obvious, but they’re very deep, and they matter significantly.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. You talking about less safety than I thought, than you thought. It’s like, my eyes got big. I was like, Yes. Yeah, it sucks to feel like, I don’t feel safe with a lot of Black family, like a lot of Black fa- I do not feel emotionally safe at all. If I know that they have the mentality of, “I love Amira, they’re cool. I love her husband, he’s cool. But I don’t need to hear more. You know, I don’t need to talk about their relationship, or I don’t need to, you know,
you know, whatever.” It’s very, it’s very painful to realize that at the same time of you have your white people that you thought were your allies that are like, “Ooh, I love you, but not enough to get through this uncomfortableness. I’m not talking about race. So sorry, girlfriend. Imma go.” It’s like Dang, that hurts. I’m really glad that I am as committed to my, my loving myself through this. I’m- Oh, I’m so thankful for mindfulness. I’m so thankful. And I’m thankful for the allies like you, Rayah, I’m thankful for, you know, my sister, my nieces, my parents, though, that these are my my core people that I feel 100% safe with. But outside of that I don’t feel safe with many people right now. And I’m not used to that. I used to be a friend hoarder. And realizing like the depths of those friendships are not really what my heart needs. It was very depressing. But we keep going, because it’s not about me. Right? There’s a bigger picture. So…
Yeah. Um, what- so I think it would be good to talk about like, so when you’re feeling unsafe, or what’s happening in your body? You know, like, I know, when I’m in the middle of something where I’m like, “Oh, actually, I don’t know if you’re an ally.” And then your body just kind of goes through this whole thing where you’re like processing the threat. And it’s weird because it’s like, well, I don’t think you’re physically going to hit me or anything like that. But all of a sudden, your body is responding to a perceived threat.
Yeah, it feels like a slow suffocation. You know, even when I’m in the thick of it. I probably look really cool as a cucumber and calm, but I feel like I’m starting to suffocate. And I feel, I get when I’m anxious like that. It’s usually in my throat. I just feel heat rising in my throat. I can feel my temple going. My chest, my chest feels tight. I just feel unsafe. I feel like I need to get away from the person. Like I physically need to be away. If it’s on zoom on camera, I need to get away. One time, it was probably like six months ago. Nah. It was way longer because we were still in our old apartment, that we were, we were on a family zoom. So at first it was like my sister and you know the regular folk and then they started being like, oh, let’s get cousin-this-person. Oh, let’s get uncle-this-person. Oh- you can feel when certain people are coming on the screen, you can feel it. For me and Sander, we both were like – we, it’s like we shrunk down into. We shrunk down into ourselves because we knew there’s people on there with the energy of “the Bible says.” And look and looks at you with the energy of “Wow. Wow they’re. Wow.” You know like you can see all and I’m empath, so that doesn’t really help. And I’m aware of the fact that I’m empath, but that doesn’t help. But it’s but you can you can feel the energy and even on zoom, you can feel the energy and you just want to get the heck out of there. Yeah.
Yeah, I would think that. I mean, it definitely has felt like this for me in different like, like the beginning of my relationship with Richie and stuff like that. But just like because you know that there’s potential that they don’t, that they aren’t affirming or that you know, some of them are not affirming. Even if they’re cool with you, it almost probably feels like they’re waiting for or they know that you’re gonna fail, or they’re just waiting for that to happen, because they ‘knew better’. And it’s like, please don’t do that. Because even if, if, if the worst were to happen, where like my marriage were to fail. The last thing like it’s to think that someone was just gonna be like, Well, it’s because they were, you know, this is her second marriage or you know, whatever. And it’s just like, I know, you don’t support me, and I know you don’t actually want what’s best for me, you just want to be right.
Right? Right. How where do you feel it in your body, when you’re approached with that energy.
Mmmm, definitely in my chest. I feel it a lot in my stomach, like in that deep gut feeling. And I know part of what it’s attached to, too. So there’s a deep muscle called your psoas muscle. And it attaches from like the base of your spine to the top of your thighs. And it’s really deep. And it’s an internal hip flexor muscle. Which, basically, it tenses up when it senses a threat because it’s like one of your major hip flexors and it’s like ready to spring you into action. So it’s that it’s the, one of the things they call it as your trauma muscle because it kind of always responds or will tense up or whatever. So a lot of times when you have like a gut feeling, or you feel it in your gut, it’s it’s literally that muscle tensing up as a response to a perceived threat like, ‘Oh, shit, we’re not safe, we might have to run’. And so I definitely- and I don’t know if it’s because I know that muscles there that I notice the tension so much in my stomach. But I think I’ve always kind of really felt that in my stomach, and then my chest. Definitely feel like the blood rushing in my ears and like, I can’t think straight, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t like what if I say, I’m gonna say the wrong thing, and they’re like, they’re not gonna understand me. And then this is going to be even worse, and how am I gonna get out of this? They’re gonna attack me. And I’m gonna have no defense for my position.’ And like, It’s wild.
Yeah, I just think it’s important that you know, as you’re, you’re the white woman accomplice, I, I often feel that you, you take a lot of the brunt of this too. And I don’t think that you even really recognize or even give yourself that credit or that. It’s not even like, it’s credit. But like, you, you do the lot of freaking backlash for being so, you know, radical about the things that matter to you, you know, how do you handle that? You know, you’re fighting for causes, and a lot of what you’re fighting for is, is Black lives, and you get a lot of shit for it.
Yeah, it’s interesting. So, when Richie first got sick, I was really vocal about that. And people really appreciated me taking the stance, and they were super appreciative, and all that, but it’s not like there were protests around, you know, mental health advocacy. No one was, you know, trying to cause any major reform. And so I think,
this is kind of always the energy that I brought about activism work. I think it was easier for people to swallow my energy when it was about mental health, and all of that too. And also because I think, um, I think it’s because I’m white is part of it, and they’re like, well, so they have their own white fragility that’s like, well, she’s wrong, or she’s just going too far. And I don’t need to do that too. Which I get, like, I get it, it’s really hard for me sometimes when someone says something about something that’s ableist, or really that big of a deal, isn’t it? And then it’s like, well, yeah, I guess it is a big deal, because somebody said something. And a lot of times just in order to speak up, and say, like, ‘hey, this bothers me, or Hey, that really like that I’m not okay with that’. That takes a lot of bravery and emotional labor. Because there’s- you’re opening yourself up to being rejected or ridiculed or whatever. And it’s, and like, a lot of times, it could be that not only is the person that you’re objecting to, potentially going to reject what you’re objecting to, but you might have a group situation where other people get to pile on and be like, Yeah, what are you talking about, or whatever. And so it’s, it’s scary. And I think it’s interesting to see who kind of was like, Oh, well,
know, now that the problems can’t be ignored. I guess I’m going to go away, since you’re asking me to be involved, too, you know, yeah.
Yeah. You were the one who, you did a post when we had just met each other from church, and we became Facebook friends, and you were you had put a post about people using the word crazy. And how that really hurts people with mental health experiences. And I was like, Whoa, never, never thought about it ever in my life. And now, it’s like, I hear that word in every conversation from everyone – TV shows. I don’t really watch a whole lot of TV now. But one of the shows I do like are ‘the Bellas.’ I mean, I like other shows, but one of the like, just frivolous shows to just binge watch are the Bella Twins. And I just we just binged watch their whole, their new latest season. And they say the word ‘crazy,’ every episode about 1000 times. And we’re like, me and Sander, both are like, you see that? They said it like 15 times in this one episode, in this one scene, like it’s just it when you bring awareness and stuff. It’s so scary. And like you mentioned, like getting attacked. Like you don’t know, if you put something out there the cost. I mean, when you put something on social media, you’re you can hope they’re not gonna attack you, but you don’t know what people are gonna do. They think like, it’s on social media, obviously, I can say whatever I want. I remember putting a post two years ago about I was just learning about more about vaccinations. And, but I didn’t know what an anti vaxxer was, or the other side. I didn’t know that term. But I said, I saw. I saw a clip, I saw something, an article where a child got was killed. And I was seeing them all over the place. And with the studying, I studied holistic coaching and they show you a lot of that stuff about vaccinations and how to avoid and I’m also into gut health. So it all plays plays a role, but I said nope, I’m not doing this to my babies, not thinking anything. And and the backlash that I got was, I was mortified. I was like, Oh, I can never speak about vaccines in public. I will never do that again. I mean, maybe in the future, but I it’s – I’m not an anti vaxxer. But just because I don’t believe in all vaccinations, it’s like you’re treated like you’re an anti vaxxer, you’re called stupid. It’s really horrible. So to be someone who is bold enough to speak up about situations that are hard, it takes a lot of freakin balls. It takes a lot of courage. But it also doesn’t mean that we’re not afraid. Like Yeah.
Yeah, I think it’s just that, yeah, we’re afraid but there’s also, you get to a point where you just can’t. It’s the living in fear and not doing the thing becomes intolerable. You just can’t, you can’t not do it. Even though being afraid and feeling the stress or whatever is really intense. It just not doing it becomes this thing where you just can’t not do it. You have to keep going because you know, the meaning behind it and stuff. And I think one of the things that is involved with emotional labor too, or as something that people need to be aware of is that you have you can continue to find better ways to do things you know, just because it always costs emotional labor to do a certain thing doesn’t mean you can’t do things to mitigate that or to take care of yourself afterwards or to make it easy on yourself. You know?
Yes, I’m so glad that you said that. Because like for me, I had to realize what my like, I’m only at a certain capacity right now, because I’m also learning about being anti racist, learning how to take care of myself before and after the conversation of racial things. And learning that, because I am going through this kind of transition in my life, I can only handle so much white fragility in my face, because that alone is very emotionally draining. Dealing with any type of fragility is very emotionally draining. And so like within my congregation, that is my job, my role, I’m, and we’re fighting together to try to make a change. But outside of that I was trying to be in all these other church groups outside of that, and then having to face other fragility situations, I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with all of those things. So I had to take a step back and say, what’s happening? Am I being effective? Because I also don’t want to scare people away, I want to do this in the most loving way possible. And the more I heal and have mentors and people that are helping me through this, and realizing number one, you cannot do this type of work by yourself, you need a team to help you. I needed to know that. And I didnt. And so yes, and even with you Rayah, you I know you take a lot of care in your mental health and making sure that you’re okay too. Especially now I have noticed a huge shift, and how you are choosing to take care of yourself as well. And I’m so about it, and I so love it. And that’s another thing too, making sure you’re not one of those people that are like ‘there’s the happy girl I know.’ That’s so rude. It’s about saying Rayah, I love you, I’m worried about you. And when you see Rayah, you know, in a better space saying still say, Hey, I love you. And I was worried and I’m still worried and I’m really, you know, but but to say like, oh, there’s the happy person I know. That’s really annoying.
No, it totally is. Because it’s like, you know, just because I I had trusted you enough to be real with you. And that’s what you’re seeing is me, just real me. And now you’re telling me you’re not trustworthy with real me. Because you don’t want real me, you want happy me or you want the fluffy, pretty, creative like fun side, not the full depth of me. And that always just hurts to hear too or to realize.
No, go ahead. I blanked for a second.
Okay, I was gonna say you mentioned one of the words earlier you said abliest? So, I know for me, I didn’t know what that word was. So I would love it if you would delve into the word.
All right, so let’s pull up the definition.
And I know enough to where I can kind of like finagle it, but I want to hear the actual real mamajama.
So ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities and or people who are perceived to be disabled. And generally, ableism is what’s used for like physical disabilities, where there technically is another word called Sanism for like, mental illnesses, but most of the time people just say ableism, because most, most people don’t know the word, sanism. I rarely even use it. And I talk a lot about what’s technically sanism.
But yeah, and that can either, can be internalized ableism too, just like there can be internalized racism. Most of these types of things where there’s like, I don’t know a judgment or what would you call like, race and ableism? discrimination? You can do it to yourself.
So I think I had internalized ableism when I was going through, um, realizing I needed a cane. At one point, I was limping so heavy that I needed something. And once I got the cane, I was leaning so heavy, that then I was hurting my wrist and I’m like, Okay, I need a freaking walker? It took me a really long time. I was judging myself. Is that abl- is that internal ableism?
Okay.I just want to know.
Because why would you not use something that’s gonna help you?
Cuz you’re perceived as being disabled, you don’t want to look disabled. You don’t want to look, you don’t want to be the girl in the walker, right?
30 year old, yeah, 30 year old chick.
Even though, why? Who cares? Like, if you need a walker to help you walk without pain, why should anybody care at all? It does not matter. What does that affect anybody? It doesn’t. But they’re, I mean, we should get into this in another episode, when I have time to look more into the history. But there used to be this thing called ugly laws, where people with disabilities, if they had physical disabilities, they weren’t allowed out in public.
Because people don’t want to see ugly things. And so, you know, ableism even is still I feel like, and Disability Rights still are something that are, not new, but they’re still you know, pretty young, even like, I think that’s why a lot of times people- the disability and disability rights and racial justice, a lot of times go hand in hand, because their journeys have gone together a lot.
The, the disabled community, what they used to do back in the day, to people that had development developmentally delays, the, the way they were treated and the things that they were done to them.
Oh, my goodness, it was horrible. What happened to them. Horrible, and even actors, somebody posted in our social justice page the other day about how ableism within the acting community, you know, they will hire actors to play people that are disabled that can they can just hire disabled people. Yeah, there was an article that was posted in that group talking about an actor who was hired for this role. For being disabled with a wheelchair. And when he went to the to the role, there was a scene change that had they had to take a bus or a shuttle to get to the next lot. And instead of providing that for them, they said, Oh, we have good news and bad news. The good news is, you get to go home early. Well, the bad news is you cant, we don’t have any transportation to get you there. But the good news is you can go home early. And it’s like, whoa. and that person describing the way it made them feel was like heartbreaking. Instead of accommodating that person just gonna send them home?
Yeah, well, I mean, that’s a violation of the ADA. And then there’s also the whole thing where we have laws that allow people to pay disabled folks less and like, they don’t even have to pay minimum wage. So when it comes to, you know, hiring disabled people, especially for acting and things like that, it’s it’s a huge slap in the face when they don’t do it. Because like, you already don’t have to pay us all the money. And you’re not even going to use us when it’s literally way better. And, and representation matters, you know?
Yeah, yeah. Another word I I wanted to touch on is anti racist. Because I just feel like a lot of people are like, Whoa, anti what? Like, I know, for me if I heard that word I would think of it meant something really, really extreme.
How about you?
Yeah, I think it sounds harsh. Or it sounds like really, like a really strong position. I think anything that starts anti ends up being that way, which you know, antifascist is too. So I mean, I’m not afraid of it. But I get why, there’s like the, the strength behind that term that maybe people are like, I don’t get that. Or they’re just like, Well, I’m not racist. What the heck does that even mean?
from Wikipedia, anti racism refers to a form of action against racial hatred, bias, systemic racism, and the oppression of marginalized groups. Anti racism is usually structured around conscious efforts and deliberate action to provide equitable opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level. As a philosophy, it can be engaged with by acknowledging personal privileges, confronting acts and systems of racial discrimination and or working to change personal racial biases.
Yeah, it’s one of those words that I think that people really feel like Whoa, that’s a little, that’s a little much. My dad, when we just went out there a few weeks ago, he was cooking in the kitchen and I was sitting at the table when he said, Amira you done turn into uh, he called me… I can’t think of the name now, but it was it was a woman from like the Black Panther era.
Yeah, I think that’s what it was. He was like, you turning out like Angela Davis.
It was in a really good way. It was a really good conversation. It was it was just it was really funny because me of all people. It’s just funny to think.
Hell yeah, Angela Davis is amazing. So is Assata Shakur, like amazing -the women behind the Black Panthers, were just some of the most badass and incredible women that have walked in this country.
I would, I would be a part of a group that was Black Panthers, all women, I would definitely jump on that for sure. But the reason why I love our book, our book club, though, is because you know, you and I are considered more on the radical, the radical side of the anti racists, you know. But I love our partner this time around Misty, because she’s so soft and gentle. And she’s a social worker. And she’s also in the same realm of wanting to live as an anti racist, and I really love I love seeing the flavor of all of us, because it just kind of teaches other people that you can be, you know, a quiet, you know, well mannered white woman and be an anti racist.
like, yeah, you don’t have to be super loud and aggressive with the energy. And, you know, I know part of that’s my personality. Part of that’s like my frustration with, you know, family or friends who are sitting back or not paying attention. And it’s like, this is, this is your community. These are the people- you know, and and Christians especially frustrate me. So that’s part of why I get so angry is because it’s like I was raised in this my whole life, and you taught me, you know, to do these things stand up for justice to not be afraid of, you know, standing up to the government, even when it comes to the right thing. But suddenly, you know, that this isn’t the right thing. And it’s like, this is bullshit, and you guys need to wake up. I’m tired of these games, stop playing these games where we just want to rebrand everything to make sure that the people in power stay in power, like stop. Not playing games anymore.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
All right, friends, that’s a wrap. Thanks for joining us this week. There are a few ways that you can support our work. The most important way is to share our content. Next is monthly support, which helps because we know how much will come in each month to pay all the fees for all of the services that we use to get this podcast out the door. You can also support through one time gifts, all of which you’ll find ways to do that in the show notes. And you can also send us an email. It’s Hello at advocate activism.com. All right, we’ll see you in the streets.
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