In Times of Trauma – Can We Ever Truly Escape?

There is a certain tolerance for pain and bullshit that you have to get used to as a black woman in America. I’m not sure at which stage of development we come to terms with what is sadly inevitable, as a woman, a black woman, there will be tests and trials that are unlike any other faced by other Americans. This is not to diminish the experiences and hardships of other groups, but if we are playing oppression Olympics, Black Women are definitely on the podium – maybe not gold, Trans people of color may have that – but we’re definitely on the podium.

I recently saw a study saying that Black women are the group most likely to suffer from a serious mental illness such as depression, yet least likely to seek treatment for it. With the deaths of three black women in police custody in the past month and the release of the video of Sam DuBose murder (because let’s not forget that Black men are still the sons and brothers and husbands of Black women) I have been feeling increasingly exhausted by my existence and horrified by the all too real prospect that this existence is not destined to change anytime soon.

This is where I find solace in being a black girl nerd, I recently met Angeliqué Roche at Netroots Nation who is a smart, beautiful and inspiring Black Girl Nerd and we both had the instinct to write about the solidarity that we find there in the face of these traumatic events. Angeliqué is vastly smarter than me so her piece is published – but after this week I’ve been thinking about this even deeper. It goes beyond finding solidarity in fellow fans of science fiction to the actual, palpable need for escapism.

I’ve recently fallen in love with USA’s Mr. Robot and began bonding with my brother by sharing Orphan Black with him, but after yesterday’s news I found it difficult to escape into these bleak places. No matter how intriguing and involved Mr. Robot or Orphan Black are, you can’t deny that they’re bleak.  It’s in these times that I find myself looking for mindless fun and purely fantastical stories to lose myself in. However, there has been a serious lack of those types of stories recently. The best stories in the past few years have been explicitly dystopian (Hunger Games for example) or very dark undertones (Harry Potter, Doctor Who, etc).

It makes me wonder how this constant exposure to trauma has affected the art that is created. Can you ever really separate from the pain that infiltrates your everyday life? As an aspiring writer and artist I notice that the stories that I come up with in ways large and small are all infused with themes that I struggle with daily, sexism, racism, erasure – how do I expect anything different from the creators whose work I consume? As we are inundated with damaging images and traumatic events is it fair for me, as the consumer, to ask creators to separate these lived experiences from the art that is created, and is it even possible for creators to do so?

It seems my best bet is to retreat into the mindless entertainment of reality TV with its laughably low stakes conflicts or the fluffy escapism of urban fantasy, Mercy Thompson series is my usual go to for that (though there is a sexual assault in one of the books that brings to mind the Bill Cosby traume). Where can I go to truly escape? Well, Reading Rainbow is coming to Netflix next month so I’ve set my sights there.