My emotions are not rooted in history, no matter how many times you say it.
My experiences? Sure. But the emotions I have because of my experiences and my understanding of my own identity are not yours to historicize or contextualize.
It makes sense to me, obviously, why one would want to understand the history behind the marginalization of certain identity groups. After all, it is only by understanding the history of a problem that you can fix it. Yet, despite the mostly genuine nature of wanting to understand this history, connecting my feelings about my identity to the history of societal oppression has a funny way of dismissing them.
I have feelings about the history of oppression. I have emotions. I have anger and resentment and sadness about the injustices that have been, and are, done to people who have the same identities that I do. I have similar amounts of anger, resentment, and sadness about the injustices that have been, and are, done to those who do not have the same identities that I do.
Yet, my emotions about my identity are so separate from my emotions about this history.
My emotions and my understanding of my identity live in the present. They fluctuate, however extremely, in the now. When I find my race or my gender or my socioeconomic status difficult to grapple with, I do not have one single thought about how history has led me to feel that way because to root my feelings in historical oppression is to explain away why I am feeling a certain way.
Rather than explain my feelings, I want to sit with them. I want to come to terms with them. I want to be silent and feel frustrated and cry until I reach the point that I am okay with who I am and what that means in this world. I want to do so without being reminded of the history that has led me to those tears, if only for a moment.
I would like the opportunity to talk about what I am feeling, rather than intellectualize why I am feeling the way I am because my emotions are individual and personal and mine.
They are mine to share, mine to sit with (even if I choose to do so silently), and they are mine to experience without the reminder that someone, somewhere, hundreds of years ago held enough power to say that certain individuals because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, nationality, religion, and ability status were lesser and are continually treated as lesser.
When you attempt to associate my experiences of identity with history you invalidate them in a way I find difficult to explain. It feels as if your history and your intellectual thoughts on oppression and prejudice compete with my own emotions about the marginalization that I experience. It feels as if my feelings are not real enough, not tangible enough.
And they certainly are not, not compared to your facts.
But how meaningful are your facts?
Do your facts make you want to be silent? Feel frustrated? Want to cry?
Because that is real to me. My identity is real to me. The emotions I feel because of my identity mean everything about who I am and how I live my life. Yet, they have almost nothing to do with history.
I understand the necessity of history and the importance of contextualizing particular experiences with structural injustices, especially when attempting to fix the injustices that continue to plague our society. However, there has to be some separation between feeling and fixing. There has to be a moment to let people breathe, vent, and reflect upon why they feel the way they do before we are asked how we can fix the reasons we feel this way.
I desperately need those moments.
If I am not given a moment to sit in silence without being told that I need to speak or share or give in order to have a conversation, then it feels like my emotions are not justified or validated or real. If I am not given a moment to reflect upon my experiences before being told to reflect upon history, my emotions feel dismissed and trivialized.
You tell me to speak, but what I have to say is caught in my throat and my hands are shaking because it is all so personal. You ask me to historicize, but all I can think about are my emotions about my identities and experiences with those identities because I am not yet comfortable with my experiences.
Nor do I believe I should feel pressured to feel comfortable.
I am willing and ready to have the historical conversations, those that add context to injustice. I am prepared to delve deeper into the reasons that structural oppression persists. Yet, I think it is still fair to ask for some time to sit with my emotions. I think it is fair to take some time to come to terms with the experiences I’ve had because of my identities before I feel obligated to turn history into action.
Someday soon, I will speak on my emotions. It just may not be at the speed that you would like. Someday soon, I will reflect upon history to contextualize the treatment I see around me. It just may be motivated by my emotion where yours is motivated by fact. Someday soon my emotions will not act as a hindrance, but as a propellant.
Yet, they will only do so after I have been silent, after I have chosen to share, and after I have reflected enough to come to terms with my own identity — reflected so much that historicizing no longer feels like a way to overlook my emotions, but feels like I’m creating a plan for action.