I spent a little over a year working at a clinic located in Southwest Atlanta. Overall I worked about 9 years with patients from all around Atlanta. During that time my eyes opened more and more to the crooked systems we all suffer from at the end of the day. But I couldn’t see it then like I do now and I had another growing problem that whole time. I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for more than 4 years now and leaving that field was a thing I had to do to get here for sure. My own guilt, shame and perceived victimhood had sent me on a downward spiral that I’m thankful to be alive from today. I’m not going to connect all the dots on how that relates to systemic racism but it does.
I’ve had plenty of trauma throughout my childhood, adolescence and onward. That caused me to develop a huge chip on my shoulder and I had problems with authority and run-ins with the cops for years including getting my ass kicked by them when I was 19. I’m a self described punk and fighting the system has been something that always seemed imbedded in me. Yet that made me blind to my own transgressions and certainly kept me from being the helping hand I always wanted to or said I would be.
I’ve always had Black friends, I always said I was anti-racist, I thought I was fighting the good fight for sure. But I was racist and still can be (Don’t act like you’ve never code switched in your life). I did the worse thing you can do a lot of the time; jump down someone’s throat with malicious intent or selfish purposes to point out their own problems when I was being a hypocrite myself. That’s not helping and only creates more divide. I have to strive to be better today and my story and experiences are the best way I can do that. Nothing can replace someone’s lived life experience and that’s what those years in the field showed me.
My own victimhood and mental illness didn’t compare to the generations of systemic injustice I could see for myself. When I started to work at that clinic they had just recently moved to that neighborhood in SW ATL. Quite a few of the younger employees working there had little life experience and the judgmental things I heard in that building everyday really started to get to me. But it kept me in a place of judgment and from pointing the finger inwards to look at myself. There’s nothing worse than a self-righteous ass with a real good waft of arrogance and a point to prove.
Working with schizophrenics really opened me up to what real trauma is. Seeing firsthand how the byproducts of the environment and the system plays into breaking down the human psyche like that gripped my heart hard. The breakdown of healthcare alone in these communities was infuriating and it’s designed to hinder advancement, not help. I nearly drank myself to death wracked with guilt and shame from being afraid to face the mess I had made out of my own life from blaming others. I had played a victim my whole life for things I reasonably could be mad about but looking around me I had no right to behave the way I did and be so ungrateful for the privileges that had been given to me in my life. I had to be humbled to get introspective and start cleaning up my own house…
… But the best part was I still had a house. I had a soft landing place, once again, for me to fall back on once I came crashing down spectacularly. Many of the folks I dealt with everyday for almost a decade had nothing to fall on and the deck was stacked that way. If I trace all of this back to why I have these safety nets and opportunities – and why people who I genuinely love are born into a place where the safety nets were never installed to begin with and spend their life dealing with things like “double consciousness” and “societal graces” just to go about a normal day and make it ahead – the answers are always the same: Systemic racism.
Just because I had bad days growing up and throughout my life doesn’t mean I’m the winner of the Victim Olympics™️ and that’s a big part of the problem here. We don’t need to compare our scars, but can share them with one another and understand where they came from. Then we can honestly help heal them and prevent the future generations from getting them. But, none of this happens without perspective and introspection.
Perception; the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
Introspection; the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.
I’ve been working on a comic project that’s about this for a while now and I still plan on publishing it at some point but these experiences can’t wait and I feel that these are conversations we need to have. The media and Hollywood will misrepresent what the people who live in these communities are like in real life, but once you see with your own eyes it’s easy to see that the struggle is stemmed from a foundation built on exploitation and greed and race was used to make that foundation. Turn off the national news and talk to someone who actually lives the life you have an opinion so strongly about. No numbers, no studies. Open hearts, open minds and open eyes. Look don’t think. I love you all and please feel free to share this and your own experiences. ❤️