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A Black Woman Taking up Space: Complicated but Always Deserved

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Some people have figured out this whole living unapologetically Black way of being. They take space and seem unwavering in their thought process (this may not be 100% true but it is my interpretation). Anyway, I have yet to figure it out and the reasons why are very real to my life: my personality, my socialization to respectability politics, and the beliefs of the world I was born into. I recently saw a post that stated how Black people don’t need to fight for acknowledgment of our humanity. It went on to state that we need for the world to acknowledge that shit point blank and do better. (I paraphrased). The ways the world refuses to acknowledge and do better also plays a part in how I do and do not take up space.

As a Black woman, I have to consider how I’m being perceived by my co-workers and my neighbors. I want them to know me and know my car so I am not mistakenly perceived as a threat. I want them to know me as pleasant but not a pushover, so they don’t take advantage.

There are things I have to consider in regard to walking or driving in areas that I am unfamiliar with. Where the residents may be unfamiliar with folks who look like me.

I am also considering how my identities may or may not be impacted before taking opportunities. I can’t just move to another area, state, job, or department without experiencing some degree of anxiety related to how I will be treated based on identities.

On a basic level, all of us consider these things but not all of us consider these things in regard to race. I am currently contemplating if taking a job will serve me not just financially but mentally, emotionally, and environmentally as it relates to culture and race. I can’t just take opportunities for the come up without really holding space that blackness could be subject to an oppressive work environment or living environment. This is a valid reality. The anxiety is valid. However, it is a double-edged sword that doesn’t seem to fully serve me in either direction. Until systems and cultures expand and change — that is the reality. I am currently managing my anxiety surrounding that reality as I make job decisions. What space is worth my physical presence? What space should I take up but am afraid to? What space should I not cling to out of fear for stability? What space will serve me? I am frustrated that I have to consider in this way and am also sitting with it.

All of this contemplation leaves me in a state of overthinking, which is easily tapped into by my brain. I often take up too much space in my own mind and not enough in the world I live in (maybe it seems safer). Let me tell you, “that crap is exhausting.” That anxiety is annoying. Yet these experiences are real. I work hard to hold the reality without adding my own nonfactual judgments and restrictions. I also have to be intentional not to desensitize myself to how it feels.

I haven’t really known how to feel over these past months between the news, uncertainty of what’s next, continued loss of black lives, and restrictions for intimacy. I had no choice but to sit with myself and to check my tendency to overthink. I had to sit with my fear, insecurities, and questions. I also owed it to myself to remember that none of these worries, aspects of institutional racism, stereotypes, or pressures (societal or internal) define me. I can take up space in anyway that fits best for me, my values, goals, and desires.

Months ago I started to really sit with my anxieties. I chose to be still for a whole Saturday, I got up and took space in the world for the remainder of my time off. I made sure my voice was heard by my ex. I did my workout. I told people I loved them and thanked God for them. I returned to posting for @melanin_maskedanxiety despite feeling unmotivated to do so for a few days. I made an electronic vision board in an effort to gain clarity and to re-energize myself. On this chilly May day, I left my house and walked 6ft a part with a friend in this predominantly white town, after feeling slightly fearful due to the loss of Ahmaud Arbery’s life. Prior to that, I listened to my gut and turned down a job in an unknown space (for many different reasons). I decided to have faith that God would open space where I was meant to be. It all felt good. Taking up the space I wanted and denying the space I didn’t want felt good. I am using that experience months ago as a precedent to take up space in all the ways I desire moving forward.

Hey Melanated and Anxious Girl, sometimes you have to be quiet and self reflect. Take a step back from overthinking and simply notice the facts.

My self reflection: The world and people won’t always make space for me but I deserve to take it.

Some days taking up space is harder than others. However, continuing to reflect and take up space may move me closer to living unapologetically Black. Will I be closer to internal liberation? Who knows but for now I know that it felt good. For me taking up space when I deserve to is an act of self care that I am continuing to practice.

What self-reflection are you needing in order to give yourself permission to take space in an area of your life? I encourage you to give it a try. We may not always feel like taking up space, but we should remind ourselves that we can if we want to.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde

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