What is the Powder Room?

What I'm Allowed to Feel

Early last week, when the news of Robin Williams's passing surfaced online, I saw several people saying something to the effect of "Just wait. Now that a white celebrity has died, no one will pay attention to Ferguson."

For a split second, I found myself irate. I wanted to throw something, to scream at those people. Because the absolute insult in the assumption that people are incapable of holding both of these problems in their heads and their hearts at the same time was so enraging that I could not manage it without somehow venting the pressure. I wanted, and still want, to believe better of humanity.

But yes, there are a lot of white people out there who are not paying attention to Ferguson. There are a lot of white people who are paying attention to Ferguson in ways that are not productive.* Even more offensive, there are a lot of people out there who are pleading off entirely, saying that they know this is important but that they can't handle it. That they're burnt out on suffering and tired of the Oppression Olympics.


So let's step up. I am capable of holding disparate thoughts inside me and prioritizing them all, and so are you.

I am allowed to mourn the passing of a man who brought joy to millions, who gave hope and money to more causes than I can count, whose loss could trigger other losses.

I am also allowed to mourn the loss of a young man who was murdered, who did nothing to deserve subsequent smear campaign.

I am allowed to grieve with my grandmother and my cousin's best friend, both of whom lost brothers last week.


I am allowed to worry fitfully about our once more increasing military presence in Iraq, the human beings living in a situation so fraught with danger and history that I cannot begin to explain it when people ask me, despite extensive research.

I am allowed to read with wide eyes and fear in my gut about the situation in Gaza, even while recognizing the courage of Palestinian people who were tweeting advice to the citizens of Ferguson on how to manage encounters with tear gas.


I am allowed to be furious that people are making money off the image of a young man who was trying to protect his community.


I am allowed to worry about my boyfriend, who broke his collarbone ten days ago when he got doored.

I am allowed to feel sick when I think about the mentally ill inmate who was tortured to death, screaming for help as his guards burned his skin off with scalding water.


I am allowed to rage at the fact that a woman in Ireland was being forced to carry her rapist's offspring because doctors refused her an abortion and are now forcibly feeding her after she went on a hunger and fluid strike.

I am allowed to be disappointed in my friends and family who are not listening to what's happening in the center of our country right now, in the heartland that they would claim to love if you ask them.


I am allowed to hurt as I realize the raw truth that a group of unarmed people of color will be treated as criminals, whereas a group of white folks with automatic weapons who were breaking federal law are lauded as heroes for their "civil disobedience."

I am allowed to be distraught that I still haven't figured out what the fuck my dog is allergic to.


I am allowed to be livid that the mainstream media isn't including images like this in their coverage of Ferguson.


I am allowed to wonder what's happening in Ukraine as other stories both international and domestic crowd out very real fears of Putin's desire for control.

I am allowed to wring my hands about what fracking is doing to drinking water in already parched California.


I am allowed to fear for the life of a missing Native American soldier, whose mother is frantically looking for her since she went missing over a month ago from Fort Bragg.

I am allowed to let the strange noise my car has been making gnaw at the back of my head and make me anxious for my bank balance.


I am allowed to be shocked that, after deploying observers inside the US for the first time in the organization's history, Amnesty International workers were forced from the scene in Ferguson.

I am allowed to be appalled that journalists are getting arrested, maced, tear gassed, and fired at by police.


I am allowed to be annoyed that Kevin Feige continues to be a complete twit.

I am allowed to be incensed that it looks like white people are setting up false "evidence" in Ferguson of molotov cocktails, that property damage caused by the police in Ferguson continues to mount without end in sight, that CNN is allowing white anchors to wonder why no on is using water cannons against protesters and that the lieutenant governor of Missouri is repeatedly using the phrase "Anglo-American civilization" as if it doesn't mean something deeply racist.


I am allowed to be irked that you're here reading this right now instead of this or this or this or this or this because there are some amazingly smart people out there who deserve so much more attention than they are getting and I want you to follow their truth.


I am allowed to be angry that in the five days I've been wrestling with writing this, more people of color have been killed by police, an Ebola epidemic is taking lives and destabilizing several countries, Russia and Iran have called out America for our treatment of protestors, and they found the body of a young Native woman in a river. I am allowed to be irate that I will never keep up with all of the bad things going on in the world, that there are always people suffering, and always will be. I'm allowed to pissed the fuck off that I got the distopian militarized state I was promised in sci-fi instead of flying cars and a world free of disease.


I am allowed to hold all of these things in my heart and feel wounded by them. I am allowed to recognize that some of these things are trivial and meaningless in the long term and on the large scale, but they are close to me and impact me none the less. I am allowed to understand that I am not the person whose life is most changed by most of these tragedies but to want to acknowledge them all the same. I am allowed to feel all these fears and betrayals and angers, but also all the joys and moments of pride.

Take a breath.

What I'm not allowed to do is believe that feeling any one of these things negates or diminishes the rest of them.


What I am not allowed to do is feel helpless in the face of all these things, because I can make progress and I can do good. And so can you.

Feed the Students of Ferguson, who often rely on meals at school for nutrition.**


Bail and Legal Fund for those arrested during protests in Ferguson.

Mike Brown Memorial Fund.

St. Stephen's Food Pantry in Ferguson can feed twenty people with $50, and can route needed resources to the community.


Amazon Wishlist for Ferguson.

There are several groups collecting school supplies, reading materials, and toys for Ferguson's kids. The Ferguson Public Libraries remain open and teachers are holding classes there for many kids.


Petition to enact new federal legislation to protect people from police brutality.

Petition for Mike Brown Law to require all police to wear a camera.

Find your local suicide prevention organization to volunteer or donate.

Volunteer or donate to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, or Comic Relief.


Help the Red Cross in their efforts in West and Central Africa.

Don't hesitate to find your representative and senators and tell them what you want of them. Hold them accountable for the lives of their constituents in America and abroad.


Stay informed with sources that don't ask why cops aren't using water cannons in Ferguson: Al Jazeera America, Mother Jones, other international news agencies. Above all, use Twitter.

If you have any other resources, please share them here.

*I have waffled about linking to some of this bullshit, but at the end of the day I'd rather spread something productive around. It shouldn't' be too hard to find for yourself, if you really need. Go check out the astonishing and amazing voices at the Salad Bowl for more.


**h/t to Groupthink and my Twitter feed for these links; I have done my best to vet all these but cannot guarantee they are legitimate

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