Every time I read a book about being Black in the United States, I become sad at the horrible way that people of color have been treated, and continue to be treated, in what is so often called “the land of the free.” Every time I read an article this year about the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, every time I think back to the MeToo movement of a few years ago, I become sad at the horrible way women have been treated, and continue to be treated, in this country. Every time I read or hear about some person or church proudly standing in the way of gay rights, I become sad at the horrible way that people have been treated, and still are, on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I get sad a lot.
And I’ll tell you something. I don’t know how people can continue to go on. So often when I read about civil rights leader, or suffragists, or openly gay celebrities — so often when I read about slaves being beaten and hounded across state lines, or about people threatening other people with violence or even death today — so often when I hear about the suffering that acquaintances and friends of mine endure, the microaggressions and daily slights and reminders that they are less than others — so often when I hear someone in my church use the phrase “those people” — so often I wonder. I wonder how people in these groups can keep on going. How they can survive. How they don’t just give up and curl up and die. How can you be told every day that you are less human, that you are inferior, that you are unwanted, that you are invisible — and survive?
I mean, I have only one person who routinely tells me that I’m worthless (myself), and I have a hard enough time dealing with that. It seems to me that if were somehow to become Black, or gay, or a woman, or any other group that receives such bullying on a regular basis, I wouldn’t last long. A week maybe. A month. Maybe a year if I had some good support. But before very long, I’d become just another statistic, another stroke on the pad of the people who track suicides.
Which is why this shocks me:
- According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the overall suicide rate in the United States in 2018 was 14.2 per 100,000, or about one in every seven thousand people.
- Yet the overall suicide rate of Black Americans in the same year was only about half that, 7.2 per 100,000.
- And the overall rate of suicide for women in the US in the same year was only 6.18 per 100,000. (Although, it should be stated that women are more likely to attempt suicide than men; they’re just less likely to be successful, which is partially connected to the fact that men tend to use firearms for suicide at a much higher rate than women.)
- The only statistic that makes sense to me is the statistic for transgender people. According to the Trevor Project, 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide.
To me, it seems like all the numbers here should be more like 40%, or higher. I honestly don’t understand how someone could want to live in a world that hated them. I have a hard enough time figuring out what the point of life is for me, and I’m in just about every privileged group there is. Honestly, how do people survive? How do they get the nerve to get up every day and face a world where they will be demeaned and degraded and dehumanized over and over again?
Is it just me? Do I just have the thinnest skin in the world? Or is suicidal ideation less common than I think? Perhaps you have to have the “suicide gene” to think about your own death as often as I do.
But one thing I’ll say: My hat is off to you who deal with all the bullshit that we throw at you. You are amazing for persevering. I literally have no idea how you do it, but you are amazing.