Author: Kim Barnett
I have kept my personal opinions and thoughts, about the state of our nation, mostly to myself. I have been extremely open about my mental health struggles, but now that the state of our nation is having an impact on my mental health, it is no longer in my best interest to stay silent.
The majority of my social media associations are people I grew up with in Moorpark, CA, a smaller city in Ventura County. I love where I grew up and before the pandemic began still visited my mom and step-dad there. Even my psychiatrist’s office is there. I grew up in a nice home, with loving parents and siblings. We were one of the very few black families living there in the early 1980’s. I had everything I needed materially as a child and teenager, but it was very difficult for me growing up in a city where most people didn’t look like me. I remember being asked, by a white friend as a child, if I tasted like chocolate and why I don’t sound like other black people you see on television. Some of my black friends and associations would call me “white washed,” or say I talked like a white girl or “valley girl” from the movie “Clueless” with Alicia Silverstone. This made for a very confusing childhood, for how would a child know how to respond to these types of comments and questions?
I really liked school. I had a few really close friends, but I remember always trying to be friendly with everyone, no matter their social status or what they looked like. That has always just been me. I accept everyone, without any judgment of their life choices or lifestyle. Who am I to judge? I am not God nor is it my place to say what someone does is wrong for them. I talked a lot, and if you know me well, you know I still do. I loved chatting with friends in person and definitely on the phone. I remember getting in trouble a lot at school for being too “loquacious,” which is a word I heard from a lot of teachers.
My mom was contacted by my teacher once, due to my loquacious nature, which I now know is just one of the symptoms of hypomania and mania from my Bipolar I Disorder. I told her there were other students talking too, and explained that I was just the one who got caught all the time. I will never forget my mother’s response to this. She said you are like a black dot on a white page. The black dot sticks out more, because it is different from the rest of the page. Those other kids may have been talking too, but I was the black dot, so they noticed me first. This would be a hard pill for anyone to swallow, but imagine being a young child and trying to swallow this pill that the majority of your friends didn’t have to consume. It was confusing for me, especially since I didn’t see myself as any different.
Unfortunately I also have a vivid memory from High School, of a white male student, drawing a confederate flag on the chalkboard in our History class, and the teacher doing nothing about it. In an English class in 6th grade, we read a book which had the “N” word throughout it, and we were reading popcorn style, where one person reads a paragraph and then chooses another to read after their paragraph has been read. Every person, including the teacher, who came across the “N” word, read the complete word aloud except for me. I was the only black student in that class, and it was like I was being stabbed in the heart every time someone said that horrible word. My brother was almost lynched (hung) by a group of white children at a park, and before someone came to his rescue, they said “Let’s hang him like they did in the old days.” This is my brother’s experience, however, so I will not go into extreme detail as I didn’t personally experience this. I do recall seeing those same kids, who tried to lynch him, at the park while with my brother, and wanting to verbally attack them for what they did. My brother, being the kind person he is, told me not to do anything, and I reluctantly obliged. Anger is not the word to express how I felt in that moment. I was enraged and disgusted, not only with those ignorant kids, but with myself for feeling such hate for them in that moment.
Our nation is currently completely divided. It is clear that emboldened racists have come out of the shadows and shown their true colors with no shame. It’s disturbing and disgusting, and it’s extremely stressful for me as a black person. I have become somewhat fearful of even going to the grocery store by myself, because you never know what people are willing to do or capable of doing, just because they hate the way you were born and look. I should not have to wonder why people are looking or smiling or staring at me. If someone smiles, or says hi or looks at me funny, I don’t know if it’s out of genuine kindness, fear, empathy or pity. This has caused me to be a lot more aware of my surroundings lately, to ensure my safety when I’m out alone, and that is so sad, that I even have to do that.
What happened at the capitol building on January 6, 2021 still gives me nightmares and is a painful recent memory. The hate these people expressed for black, brown and all non-white individuals was disturbing, disheartening and seriously scary. I cried watching my television that day, multiple times! I felt the hate that they had for people who look like me, and it temporarily broke me down emotionally. I try so hard to be a good person, and I really am a good person. But to these people who raided the capitol building, all they see is a black woman who is beneath them and doesn’t deserve the same rights they do! Luckily, I know my worth and know this isn’t the truth, but it still hurts knowing that some people in our society think the same as they do.
My mom, Dr. Juanita Hall, is a blogger as well and a few months ago shared a blog post titled “Treating Racism, White Supremacy, and Anti-blackness” http://fullypresentblog.com/2020/08/30/treating-racism-white-supremacy-and-anti-blackness/
Her advice and suggestions on how to cure racism really resonated with me. Not only because she’s my mom, which helps of course, but because she has lived experiences and explains the history of racism and the root cause, not only for white individuals, but for black and brown people too. This is an issue that affects us all and no one is immune to the impact of our history on our perceptions and outlook on societal racial issues. I encourage you to read and research with an open mind, and invite you to share and start a conversation, not only with others but within yourself. Please stay safe, healthy and take care of you and your families, and I will do my best to do the same!
MY BIPOLAR VOICE