Opinion | Covid Isolation: A Reprieve From the Stresses of Racism

To the Editor:

I am a Black man weighing in at about 200 pounds. My Afro hairstyle adds a couple of inches to my six-foot frame. Consequently, I stand out in the predominantly white spaces I inhabit.

In the early months of the pandemic, I noticed myself growing more relaxed. I welcomed isolation and the familiarity of my home. My breath grew deeper and more regular. Sleep came easily. Muscles released. I felt peaceful and a sense of overall wellness. Being sequestered was not a burden to me. It felt safe being inside.

But as I begin to venture back outside, now fully vaccinated, I realize that my transition from a normally high level of stress and anxiety was not entirely due to shielding from the coronavirus, but the sudden absence of everyday encounters with racism and microaggression. I believe that over time, I had acclimated and become unaware of how my bodily functions were being affected by the conscious and unconscious racial biases inflicted on me by most of the white people I encountered in my daily life.

Now that the respite imposed on us by the pandemic is ending, I am aware of my own body starting to readjust to its former self: my shoulders tensing, stomach clenching.

Determined to hold on to my newfound wellness, I recognize this re-entry to communal life as an opportunity for transformation. The effects of how we see, react to and receive one another hold power. It becomes physical and can live on in our bodies without our realizing it. But we can retool our perceptions and help to shape a better future for us all. Now seems like the perfect time.

Michael Reid
Santa Fe, N.M.
The writer is a former minister.

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