After months of pandemic lockdown, it's been such a relief to feel the mass energy of global racial justice uprisings and to get out in the street with other people. Yet, this relief is mixed with deep grief, feeling overwhelmed and horror at the violence being perpetrated against Black, Indigenous, and people of color in this country. As most of us know, this relentless racial violence is certainly not new—it is the underpinning of capitalism and the foundation of the US as a colonial project—but the ability for millions of people around the world to witness it on social media is rapidly shifting public awareness and energizing enormous outcry.
Incredible things are happening. Here in New Mexico, statues of murderous conquistadores and obelisks commemorating genocide are finally being removed after decades of action by Indigenous activists and allies. Cities across the country are moving to disband or defund police departments. And yet, alongside these victories, more Black people have been lynched and shot by police in just the last couple weeks. New Mexico is not immune from police violence—the state actually has the highest per capita rate of police killings in the entire country. We have so much work to do. The prospect is simultaneously energizing and exhausting.
When I think about how to organize for liberation in a way that is sustainable on a human level, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the genius of Black, Brown and Indigenous-led movements for disability justice and healing justice. Visionaries like Patti Berne, Leroy Moore, Staci Milbern, Mia Mingus, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and many, many more have done so much to articulate what it could look like to care deeply for each other and ourselves as we work for justice, and to imagine what could be possible if we make our movements accessible to every body and every mind. They remind us that there are so many ways to participate in change, and conventional street protest and its accompanying urgency is only one of them.
If you're involved in the current movements for change, it's a heady and overwhelming time. The feeling of urgency is inescapable. For the first time since my daughter's birth, I am diving back into organizing white folks to show up in support of BIPOC-led movements for racial justice, and trying to figure out how to maintain some kind of life/work/health/activism balance while doing so. A barrage of new tasks have appeared on my to-do list, plus an ever-multiplying array of communication channels to stay on top of, plus the constant calls to action to sign this petition, email that politician, raise this money or show up at that protest. As a chest-feeding parent and a person with mental health needs, I'm acutely aware of my limitations—I'm unwilling to put my body in danger or get arrested these days, and I generally need to be home for bedtime—so I'm exploring what contributions make sense in this moment, in this body. Many of the folks I'm close to are running a fairly manic pace right now, and I'm deeply curious about how we can slow down and be even more effective, even more durable.
Lately I've been deeply moved by the work of Tricia Hersey, a Black artist, activist, theologian and founder of The Nap Ministry, who is doing a brilliant job articulating why rest can actually be a form of resistance, and how for Black folks, rest is an essential form of reparations. In her analysis, rest pushes back against and disrupts capitalism and white supremacy. On a recent episode of the podcast For the Wild, Hersey asserts that "to not rest is really being violent towards your body, to align yourself with a system that says your body doesn't belong to you, keep working, you are simply a tool for our production." In the current historical moment, she says she wants to see white people on the front lines and Black people able to be at home healing and grieving. It is a powerful vision I want to support. As a white person, I find myself in contemplation of a paradox: What does it mean to be deeply engaged in work for liberation while making space for a rest that is not avoidance? Can we embody the world we want to be living in while we are doing the labor to dismantle systems of oppression? I believe the answer is yes.
Necessary Magic is a semi-regular column wherein writer and artist Jacks McNamara explores queer issues, liberatory politics, magical creatures and other relevant topics. Learn more at jacksmcnamara.net.