“People are so sensitive these days”.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
These are the things I most often hear during conversations about anti-bullying, or political correctedness. Why are there so many rules about how to treat other people with respect, why does it feel like we’re walking on egg shells, why is there always someone offended about something?
The idea is that people should just suck it up and build a thick skin because it will make them stronger. But the truth is that the stress of abuse doesn’t in fact make us stronger. It wears away at the body and the mind. Chronic stress can cause depression, increase risks of hypertension, migraines, and weaken the immune system.
Multiple studies have shown that even after all other factors like education, socioeconomic status and age, black women still have the highest rate of infant mortality, and that is due to the chronic stress of racism.
A similar effect was seen in Muslim American post 9/11, due to Islamophobia. Infant mortality rate and premature birth rate rose for Muslim women, with an overall lower life expectancy for Muslim american.
Transgender people have a life expectancy of 30 years, with murder and suicides being the top 2 causes of death.
Most of us would tell marginalized communities that their demands for basic human courtesy is asking too much. Microaggressions aren’t a thing and they are just too sensitive. But think about the weathering effect that chronic stress has on the body. Think about how our silence is complicit, think about how political correctedness is too much work for you but the difference of basic humanity for another.
Many of us witness injustice and never think we are guilty participants.
The first time I hear about the stress effect of racism on black women’s infant mortality rate, I was floored. I felt defeated. The idea that I could do everything in my power to be successful, eat healthy and exercise, then still face health risks on top of other factors out of my control, it just enraged me.
The passion I have for body compassion and social justice comes from the idea that life on its own will bring you challenges wherever you are as far as socioeconomic status. But basic human courtesy, fighting each other’s wars, making room for one another, that’s something we can control, something we can do.
Why aren’t we desperately trying to practice compassion with each other? The world is already so cruel, why aren’t we doing everything we can to be each other’s refuge?
It baffles me. I don’t get it.
But I hope you see the way stress is literally making people sick and killing many, and make the decision to not be the person someone has to recover from. Dismantling systems of oppression is complex and difficult, but individual change is the very least that all of us can do.
What does it cost you, when other people are paying with their lives?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.