Growing up, my mom would use this phrase frequently as a sarcastic comment when she'd do something and we wouldn't notice or understand why she'd done it or if we accidentally went against an action she'd done.
Let's take an example...
Scenario: mom is folding clothes. Someone rifles through the clothes when she walks off and leaves some of the once folded clothes unfolded...”Hey, what do you think...I'm doing this for my health?”
In thinking about this phrase, I automatically started to ponder on organizing with queer and POC communities. As we all know, this work is stressful and a lot of times thankless. There are folks who don't understand why we put the time and effort into building bridges, anti-oppression work, and forming coalitions. Obviously we don't just do this work for our health- though some seem to think so.
I don't really enjoy being the token. I don't take delight in educating folks who'd rather stay in the dark or keep with their misconceptions. I don't wake up and suit up for a new day of anti-racist and anti-homo/transphobic vigilance. Well, I do- but not because I want to.
It's because I have to. Need to.
Some folks in our community are single-handedly destroying the hard work of hundreds, thousands in our movement to uplift and advance our people. Some are artists, some are our own community members, some are politicians, some are bigots, some are just oblivious. Some have no idea the lives that have been lost, the blood that has been shed, or the countless hours of sleep lost. The burden beared for the sake of just a sliver of freedom- and I dare not call it liberation. We can't have liberation with 80% of our community's mind enslaved.
Some of us organizers, activists, advocates, educators, and social workers are seriously withering away inside because of being so burnt out from this work. Consistently re-doing the undoing of our movement. So many are tired and jaded. So many have given up and left the movement.
Clearly we're not doing this for our health. Fighting oppression, joining the struggle, advancing a People daily is definitely not akin to an apple a day. Taking on toxicity, eradicating -isms that run rampant and are interwoven in our societal fabric certainly can't be a multivitamin.
And people always say to us- why are you doing this? Why can't you just worry about your own family? You should only look after yourself. You are born alone and die alone. But that sounds unhealthier to me than acknowledging the interconnectedness of our communities and doing something about the sickness and destruction in them. Once you are awakened to systematic/systemic oppression- there is no going back to sleep.
Paulo Freire said-
"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. "
If you withhold information, live in denial, refuse to be educated- it is the same as working against those who are trying to build together. I realize that POC are heavily burdened and cannot give much of their time to organizing. But the civil rights movement still happened despite day jobs and families. What's different now? I venture to say that the only thing that's different now is that POC are not as willing to see interconnections and are not as invested in their communities or the movement. They deem the civil rights movement complete.
The media and politicians are still trying to brainwash us into believing that we live in a post-racial society. Ha! We're all middle class...we all have the same access to health care and education- if we only try hard enough. Everyone has equal access to power. Hmph. Really?
Get out of here with that.
Us educators, facilitators, organizers, and people who refuse to take on any of these labels are not advancing this movement for our health, though we are trying to create healthier communities. Maybe some folks still don't understand why but as I always say..if you're not going to stand behind me or beside me...at least don't stand in my way.
That is all.