Photo by Benji Aird on Unsplash

I plowed through an online form, annoyed at repeating the same information a million times a week. Why couldn’t the world centralize this stuff once and for all? I plugged in name and address, checked Black, supplied phone number, copy-pasted my website url. Bla bla bla. After finishing, I went back through to catch typos. Above the race/ethnicity list, I noticed the instruction: Select all that apply.




Do it.

I checked White.

Energy surged through my ribcage. It made me sit up straighter.

I checked American Indian.

My chest puffed out.

I felt bigger than myself, made…

Than you! You've written exactly what I've been living. You're so right that when I'm the only black person in the room, it's not fun. I'm on edge. You captured my being pissed off that my white friends live segregated lives and don't care. At the same time, you made me laugh, showed me I'm not alone. Somehow, you managed to make me feel good about how bad I've been feeling. Thanks.

I just read Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. My enjoyment of this exquisite story was deflated by the author's inclusion of a Magical Negro, a cliché so common, it's practically invisible. Invisible, an inhuman prop - that's how I feel as a black woman reader, when this trope shows up. Even incredibly talented and skilled authors can benefit from a sensitivity read.

Photo by Taylor Deas-Melesh on Unsplash

After writing Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room, I was interviewed for a podcast by Antoinette Scully, creator of Black and When Ms. Scully learned that most of my readers were white, she asked about my relationship with the white gaze.

She referred to a sensation that someone is looking over your shoulder. That writers of color need to make themselves understood by, and/or palatable to, white readers. The question floored me. Only a person of color would pose it, and, up to that point, I’d only been interviewed by white people.

Thank you, Antoinette…

Photo by Olya Kuzovkina on Unsplash

Who invented God?

What does empathy feel like?

Astrophysicists report that 85% of the universe is dark matter, and that they don’t know anything about dark matter. So, how do they know how much space it takes up?

What’s the difference between procrastination and waiting for an opportunity that feels right?

What are dandelions? Flowers or vegetables or weeds?

How many wrongs does it take to make a right?

Because the polar ice caps are melting, is hell freezing over right now?

Stage fright gives me nausea and the runs and a headache. So does the flu. …

Photo by Jack B on Unsplash

In the early days of my yoga practice, shavasana was the most painful pose of all. Corpse pose, the final relaxation pose, it was always announced at the end of class like it was dessert. You burned all those calories in Warrior II; now you can have some shavasana. I dreaded the final relaxation. Lying face up staring at the ceiling, I carried so much tension, it seemed like only my heels and the back of my head made contact with the floor. My entire body was a fist.

The years released their grip on me. The tension of striving…

Photo by Daniel Páscoa on Unsplash
  • Learn to fall down and bounce right back up, like basketball players do.
  • Respond to “So, what do you write about?” without “… umm … uh ….”
  • Deliver a concise, inarguable rebuttal to the next white person who declares “I don’t see color.”
  • Stand on my head.
  • Live in Chicago for a year, all expenses paid, gorging on art and black box theatre.
  • Learn to swim in the ocean.
  • Give $50.00 to a panhandler.
  • Hike alone in the woods, without assuming the trees are stalking me.
  • Keep a snake plant alive for six months.
  • Feel (something vaguely close to) joy…

Author, Essayist, Disruptor

I write essays about love and pain.

Writing is the perfect job for me, a woman buffeted between existential doubt and the cosmic laugh. Existential doubt says, “You don’t know how to write.”

The cosmic laugh says, “You can’t make the writing stop.”

I start each day in my home in Kansas City MO at 5:00 AM, with a bowl of granola, a handful of vitamins, and a dose of caffeine. 6:00 yoga. 7:30 meditate online. 8:30 shower — make mental note to clean bathroom. 9:00 set a timer in the kitchen downstairs, then report to my writing room upstairs…

Photo by Jessica Delp on Unsplash

When the news anchor reported the police had killed Casey Goodson, Jr., I gagged and then bolted up the stairs to the safety of my closet.

What was I doing watching the damn news, anyway? It was bad for me. I had vowed to abstain and hadn’t watched for months. And then, like an addict, I slipped. What were the odds I’d get bad drugs the one time I slipped?

I moaned. I rocked myself for comfort that could not be found. Another one gone. Another one lost. Another future stolen.

No more. No more.

Casey Goodson, Jr. was transformed…

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes about love and pain. Her latest book is Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store