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Survival in a White World

Sometimes, I just feel too tired

I see my teacher to-do list expanding, inflating and never-ending, alongside my activist wish-list of things that would be, could be and should be. I spread myself so thin that even my self-care priorities somehow get pushed aside, despite my New Year’s resolutions of increased creativity.

Energy depleted

Feeling my colour draining away

Being an educator of colour working in white institutions is psychologically taxing. And being an activist of colour who refuses to give up on the struggle for a better, fairer place – that’s a real trial of patience.

Emotionally shattered

Too exhausted to do anything

But sleep

Until the guilt creeps in

The guilt that nothing is changing unless we are constantly challenging oppression and dismantling the white supremacist structures that infest our lives. At work, I am helplessly trying to dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools. It often seems pointless, but I need to keep chipping away at this gargantuan task. Otherwise how will my pupils know that better futures are possible? Outside of teaching hours, I am working with fellow activists to build safer, more compassionate spaces that value people of colour – where we are empowered. I cannot stop. If I give up on these dreams, how will they ever come true?

Anxiety keeps a tight grip on my shoulders

Doubt gets a hold of my body – without my consent

Sometimes, I just feel too tired

I am wary of those organisations that make empty promises of race equality. They seduce me briefly until I realise it’s all a trick to squeeze out as much emotional labour out of me as possible.

Free labour - sounds familiar?

Taken for granted, then cast away

Like so many of my predecessors of colour

I carry on giving, giving, giving, with the hope of finally getting something back. A step closer to racial justice? Then why is it that the oppressed are always expected to step up against their own oppression, while the most privileged watch them from the top, patting themselves on the back for their alleged hard work and undeserved rewards?

I draw the line

I am not a commodity

If I do not stand up for myself, nobody will

I am mindful of the amount of free emotional labour that is constantly demanded from people of colour for the benefit of making white people ‘less racist’ - or rather more comfortable. Sure, I have dreams that fuel my activism regardless of any compensation; all our work at The Anti-Racist Educator is done out of goodwill. The difference is that we have autonomy in this project. I am driven by the exciting possibilities I share with my peers of colour. It’s a space where political puppet masters aren’t pulling our strings. Where we have agency and where we feel empowered. I do not trust those who expect us to create free resources for white people before wiping out our legacy, ticking equality boxes and grabbing inclusion trophies. Challenging racism opens deep wounds of racial trauma for many of us. How much compensation do we get for it when organisations led by white people are credited for it? How much racially-literate therapy is made available and affordable for us to carry on with our work? Unfortunately, in the neoliberal capitalist white supremacist patriarchy that we live in, our work will often be undervalued.

The least we can do is say no

Refuse to be disposable

Stop burning ourselves out

We are worth so much more

And then, I breathe

I breathe and remember Audre Lorde’s pearls of wisdom. This week we celebrated the first birthday of The Anti-Racist Educator. It is an incredible achievement that would never have happened if it hadn’t been for our collective belief in ourselves. And as I carry on creating with my fellow anti-racist activists on this platform, I will never apologise for our work. I will stop feeling guilty for taking the time we need. For not doing more. For not producing more content.

Daring survival.

And when we speak we are afraid

Our words will not be heard

Nor welcomed

But when we are silent

We are still afraid

So it is better to speak


We were never meant to survive. (extract from Audre Lorde’s ‘A Litany for Survival’)



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The emotional exhaustion you describe is all too familiar for many educators and activists of color working tirelessly against systemic racism. Finding spaces like The Anti-Racist Educator, where you can recharge and reclaim agency, is so crucial. It's inspiring to hear how you and your peers are creating that empowered community. When the work feels endless, remember to take the time you need - you are worthy of rest, just as your efforts on platforms like this one are invaluable. Perhaps an omegle video chat with a supportive fellow activist could provide a refreshing change of pace when you need it.


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