THE AUTHOR’S CORNER
To order a copy of living while black: the essential guide to overcoming racial trauma, please click here.
Welcome to the author’s corner.
Intermittently until the book is published, and perhaps even after, I will write a few reflections on the process so far. In this corner, I intend to answer three questions, each time I post. Please get in touch if you have queries and I will try to answer your questions, next time I run the corner.
The book has been out for over a week, how do you feel?
It’s been so humbling to see the responses to the book and it’s reception. The reading and the engagement, the thoughtfulness, the impact. It seems what I set out to do: primarily to make those of us who have not often felt this way, feel seen, heard and held, has been achieved.
Many white people have read the book and have found it a useful anti-racism resource as per reviews some have left. And, the words spoke to others who are not black but also experience racism. So all round, happy with how things are going. So far mission accomplished.
Has there been any adverse response?
So far not a single one. My family and close friends were really worried I may become the target of trolls, right wing media and press or be otherwise subjected to abuse. I was never worried, I did not think I was at risk at any point. It’s still early but I must say thankfully I have been proved right, let’s hope it continues.
Is there anything else that is worth sharing?
Not much from my own processes. Simply once more to say a massive thank you. I am grateful and I do not take this support for granted.
How did the community launch go?
The community launch was powerful. It was most definitely healing. For the first launch, I needed to be in a space where I trusted the book would be seen for what it is and be accepted in its fullness, in its richness and in its complexities. A space where we could as a community come together to celebrate but also a space safe enough to be vulnerable given where we stand in the world. I also felt needed to give something back to the community.
Perhaps it is no surprise, the reading in particular, triggered strong responses, tears at times and at others, shivers. So many have said they felt seen, heard & held, which is what I set out to do. This speaks to the impact of the words, I think. We ended with music, we danced, we connected to ancestry via African drumming. I will carry with me the community launch for a long time even though its hard to put into words what I am left with. I still need time.
What’s been happening otherwise?
I have been invited to have conversations about the book with many, mostly with journalists who have shown an interest in the book or the issues. So far I think all have been black, I think it speaks to something. It’s been lovely to see so many welcome and engage with the book so deeply. It has been quite special. Life has gone on.
I started writing the book a few months after the murder of George Floyd. The trial has now ended and the guilty verdict passed. More have died at the hands of the state in the U.S. In the U.K. the government has attempted a gaslighting tour de force with the Sewell report as we continue to die disproportionately from Covid-19 and empirical evidence of anti-blackness is becoming irrefutable. Life has gone on but things have not improved.
Has anything else changed?
Some subtle changes in professional relationships. Mostly positive. Some tension in some spaces. But mostly again, positive.
I have received physical copies of the book. The manuscript proofs as they are called. Felt them, smelt them, touched them. I can’t put the feeling into words. One of my favourite moments of this whole process. Holding the fruit of so much labour is very satisfying. I wrote the book in about three months and a half. Which now looks outlandish but I did. Perhaps I did not have to feel and connect to the process fully. It’s dawning on me the size of the undertaking and achievement. I have been slightly more emotional than usual, perhaps because of this.
Loved ones are starting to read the book too, taking their time like they are about to get ready for a meal they want to enjoy. That’s really special too. The only practical challenge has been coping with demand. No bad ‘challenge’ to be honest, but it means we have to show a little patience as the book publication date has shifted by a few weeks to accommodate associated issues. The price to pay. I have tried not to be phased by this.
What is the significance of the book to you?
It’s another tough question. Plenty of lessons in this book and the journey to the book for me. Many I share in the book itself. Trust yourself. You are ok as you are. Honour your ancestors. Connect to others. Find your tribe, your community, your people.
The latter point is central to Living While Black, it can be very hard to find like minded people for Black scholars who are radical and/or challenge whiteness or established orthodoxies. Institutional retaliation and violence come with the territory. I know that now.
It’s easy to give up and/or believe that you’re doing something wrong or that you’re the problem. I ask the reader to connect with their power. But the truth is, it took me a little while to embody my own power. This comes from living an authentic life, acting in the world in a way that is consistent with what you believe in and learning to be uncompromising in your commitment to the world you want to live in.
What was the hardest part of this journey?
Related to the above, often standing alone or standing with yourself. You learn to be at peace with being alone. Not alone or lonely in the commonly understood sense, but alone in your beliefs or alone in verbalising them. Because firstly you are rarely greeted with chocolates and flowers when you challenge structures of power. Let’s just keep it real. Institutions often go out of their way to isolate those deemed ‘threats’.
Secondly, often other marginalised people disown you as well out of self-protection and/or fear, and perhaps internalised racism. Everyone wants to be on the good side of power. Finally because you are walking a path so few have walked on before you, you don’t have a roadmap or role models who can guide you. So you are often left to doing the thinking alone. Forging your own path alone. Doing things differently, I am afraid can be isolating.
Still, if you have not got a tribe or community yet, it can be really tough to sustain yourself in the longer term. It is arguably impossible. Find yours! I found or created my intellectual community and tribe through Race Reflections, amongst others radical scholars and there is no doubt, social media has been instrumental to this. So I know where I belong and where I won’t waste time in. People eventually want to join you, I’ve also realised this. If you stand firm where you are, others usually come meet you there, there is no need to compromise yourself for popularity, people who matter and who get you, eventually find you. I have never been driven by popularity.
What would you do differently?
I would do everything I have done with less doubt!
I would do everything I have done with even more passion. Even more conviction. Looking back I can see in many regards many people perhaps, were not ready for me or for what I had to say or my thinking or my writing. I can now see it had little to do with me.
But for years I carried their stuff as my baby, I have let it go now. I have my own babies to feed, nurture & grow. And that’s my mind and community.
What does the book cover?
Many of you have asked about the contents of Living While Black. I hesitated to share the chapters outlines but here they are:
Chapter 1, Being Black explores what being racialized as Black means as well as race dynamics and inequality from my own lived experience.
Chapter 2, Black Minds, looks at Black mental health in the context of mental health institutions. It examines racial trauma and unpacks the mental health consequences of living within white supremacy.
Chapter 3, Black Shame examine shame, as a core consequence of racial trauma. It links this shame to racial injustice and to issues of belonging and ‘homelessness’.
Chapter 4, Black Bodies, links the history of mistreatment of Black people via imperial and colonial functioning to everyday violence.
Chapter 5, Raising Black Children, looks at challenges of raising a Black child. It offers practical support to strengthen attachment and mitigate the intergenerational impact of racial trauma.
Chapter 6, Working While Black consider race dynamics in workplaces. It contextualises them historically and offers tools for Black people to navigate hostile work environments.
Chapter 7, Black Love, explores romance and intimacy in the context of white supremacy. It encourages reflection to help foster more authentic and fulfilling intimate relationships.
Chapter 8, Black Resistance, offers a roadmap for resistance, drawing on historical examples of rebellion and insurgency. It provides evidence-based tools to help you thrive as you resist white supremacy.
The book ends on a Radical Self-Care Plan, with various activities selected to help the reader connect to ancestry, community, history and to nurture body, mind and soul. The book also provides more specific tools for specific challenges such as managing race-based stress and coping with Black shame and talking to black children about race.
Which was your favourite chapter?
This is a tough question.
I think chapter 1 is for me the most beautifully written, it covers perhaps more philosophical questions around what it means to be human and indeed being a Black human.
It is also the most personal and emotional chapter, it certainly was for me when I wrote it. Chapter 8 possibly best captures the spirit of the book. The spirit of defiance and resistance and I love it too for this reason.
I really feel the book chapters and how the reader relates to each of them, will vary over time. Over and over people have said this is not a book to read in a sitting or two. It needs time to sit with the content, to assimilate it, to reflect on it. Perhaps even to grieve it but also to reconnect to hope and beauty. This fundamentally is what the book aims to do.
Do you have a favourite sentence?
Yes I do! And it is…’We live our theories but our lives are not theoretical‘. This is extracted from chapter 1.
I love it because it speaks of my praxis of embodied scholarship.
To write Living While Black, I had to look at the world through my own eyes, sharing the wisdom that life has given me through my own lived experience of racism but also that of others. And to value and trust what my mind AND my body have taught me.
Black mental health professionals have had to assimilate and disappear into whiteness. For too long writing ourselves into our theories has been deemed unprofessional. Too unscientific. Too political. Too unboundaried. My public scholarship challenges these notions. It refuses the racism they normalise. That sentence encapsulates all that I aspire to be as an intellectual, as an activist and as a human being.
To pre-order a copy of living while black: the essential guide to overcoming racial trauma, please click here.
If you would like a arrange a talk on the book or any of the chapter, get in touch with Ronke Lawal, email@example.com
Writing Living While Black has been a tremendous and challenging journey. But one that I have no regret taking.
So, possibly the most important question…why did you write Living While Black?
Firstly I wrote it because it needed to be written. Auntie Toni, taught us if there is a book that we want to read but that does not exist, we have a responsibility to write it. For ourselves primarily but also for others. I felt the weight of that responsibility.
Secondly, I wrote Living While Black quite plainly because I was asked to write it. I was approached by Marianne Tatepo, Commissioning Editor at Ebury (Penguin Random House). She shared her vision for the book. It aligned with mine. Perhaps it was a case of why and how meeting at the right time.
More importantly, the book is sorely needed clinically. It is not even a year since George Floyd, was publicly suffocated by Derek Chauvin. The murder occurred against a backdrop of increased white nationalism, racism and xenophobia around the globe. The unequal COVID-19, mortality rates have exposed institutional and structural racism in a way it is becoming more difficult to ignore or deny.
Although racism and whiteness are more than ever at the forefront of public and political debates and discourses, clinical understanding remains limited. Guidance, methods and tools to support those who experience racism-related trauma are scarce. This absence means the needs of people of colour and the impact of racism remain by and large ignored within mainstream mental health service provisions. That is so despite stark and on-going mental health inequalities along racial lines and, Black people continuing to report that racism is central to their psychological distress.
This absence is thus hugely problematic and a symptom of structural racism in and of itself. Living While Black starts to fill that gap. It provides psychological tools that Black people and those with lived experience of racism can start to use to navigate white supremacy and keep themselves well. It aims to make everyday experiences of anti-blackness seen and contextualised within an intergenerational context. It starts us off on a journey of self-discovery, of healing and of growth. A journey of empowerment which I hope will help many become their own therapist.
And, how was it for you?
It was tough. It was emotional. It was exhilarating. It was heavy. My body still aches…But also, it was joyful and at times it felt victorious. Someone said to me upon reading the book it was the biggest two middle fingers up, she’d ever read. Resistance runs through my veins. Through our veins. So it is that, but it is also more.
The authority of people who look like me is always questioned. I questioned mine. Often, I was scared of putting such a radical book into the world as someone who comes from one of the most conservative disciplines there is: psychology. A white field that likes to think of itself as progressive and inclusive but in my experience is far from both.
I have a love-hate relationship with psychology. A relationship which is still conflictual and conflicted, mostly because of its racism. I need to acknowledge that. I have made some peace with that. But if you read Living While Black, you will know, I descend from a long line of defiant women. The book has also allowed me to connect to the beauty and strength of that legacy.
So…it is a wonderful experience overall to write on something where you genuinely believe you have a contribution to make. Something you know is needed. It’s a privilege but it is also an immense responsibility, as I said. I want to never lose sight of both.
You have just finished the final edits, how do you feel NOW?
I feel relieved. I feel I am on a high. Cautiously optimistic about what is to come. About the book’s reception. I am humbled so many have ordered the book and have been encouraging me. It means a lot. Publicly those who follow my work, probably know about the book already.
In my circle of intimacy most know. But, I have not told everyone in my life about the book, so perhaps that says something. I have told my parents, my siblings (well some of them), most peers and a few close friends. I have been thinking about what this is about. I am still not sure. Perhaps a combination of things.
It is important to note I am still processing. The project has just been wrapped. Fundamentally, writing Living While Black has felt like home coming, an important theme in the book. The book does consider what home means, what it means to be dislodged routinely from our sense of home, what it means to sit at the intersections of various homes, what it means to make home. Living While Black has brought me a sense of homeness. Of togetherness. For now, this is how it feels. It feels like home.
I hope it gives a little bit of that homeness to the reader too.
To order a copy of living while black: the essential guide to overcoming racial trauma please click here.
For press enquiries contact Ronke Lawal, Ariatu PR, firstname.lastname@example.org