The Other Columbus: The inescapable waste of racism

A one-day log of 339 minutes taken from this writer

Scott Woods
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Sunday

A change in modern public discourse that I can get on board with is the fact that Black people can finally publicly admit when we’re tired. 

We used to level such acknowledgements amongst ourselves, but now we declare it regularly as a greeting, a time of day and, most importantly, as a defense mechanism. “Racism is exhausting” is not hyperbole. Most of my days reach a point where I stop to consider how much time racism has cost me.

I used to worry about this in terms of raw seconds and hours, my Black life statistically proven to run out faster than others, but these days it’s more of a freedom counter. I am more focused on what I don’t get to do when I have to spend time considering racism in its many forms. Just this week, instead of learning new barbecue recipes in anticipation of the change in weather, or putting a dent in my recreational reading, moments were constantly being whittled away from me by white supremacy. 

I kept a log for just this past Sunday:

1 minute: While considering cooking the coffee-infused bacon I’d recently acquired, I also pondered the statistics of high blood pressure in Black people.

20 minutes: Watched an episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” while eating the aforementioned bacon because it’s hilarious even though it’s a show about cops. The fact that half of the team are people of color never relieves them of their blue bond, which is both how policing works and how I work.

1 minute: Ruminated on the fact that it was still too early to catch “CBS Sunday Morning,” whose theme song is played by jazz legend Wynton Marsalis, and tried to unwind my still-salty feelings about his opinions on rap and his utter brilliance on a horn.

30 minutes: Shared a Twitter thread about the history of slavery in the Americas and dealt with the initial wave of comments.

30 minutes: I worked 4 hours in the afternoon but rounded down all of the time I actively thought about or experienced racism to 30 minutes. That’s a good day.

1 minute: Tripping off the fact that 30 minutes of racism infection is a “good day.”

2 hours: Did a live video show reviewing “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Talking about Fred Hampton is always draining for me because of what he represents: How far America is willing to go to destroy the truth, especially if it comes out of the mouths of Black people. The show itself was 54 minutes long. It took me another 66 minutes to calm down.

11 minutes: Watched the “60 Minutes” segment featuring Columbus, which focused on unemployment but accidentally covered our long-standing wealth disparity. Much of that time was spent debating internally about how the story focused so much on COVID-19 outcomes with so much meat left on the table about how bad economic segregation was before the pandemic. The first interview was with a woman who had had a job but was living in a tent, which reminded me that last January, in a one-night tally of homeless folks, while other major cities in the state experienced dips in homelessness, Columbus had a 5.5 percent surge. GO BUCKS. And we’re not talking about the numbers you see in Los Angeles (15,000 for the county) or New York City (56,849 in December). Columbus, which came in at 1,800 homeless people pre-pandemic, could completely eradicate homelessness if it wanted to. We could find or fashion enough places in which 1,800 people could live. We could create sustainable income or jobs for 1,800 of our hardest hit citizens. We could do it for substantially less than a new soccer stadium costs ($50 million, in case you forgot).  

90 minutes: Shaking my head at the inescapable Meghan Markle interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Markle discussed the effects of Buckingham Palace's anti-blackness.

5 minutes: Trying to balance empathy for Markle, a Black woman I don't think about any other time, with the story of the Columbus woman in a tent who actually worked for a living, furious that I have to walk and chew that gum at the same time. 

30 minutes: On #BlackTwitter reading Markle interview fallout before tearing myself away from contributing to the recreation of the monarchy here in America.

Total time spent consciously thinking, dealing with or navigating racism: 5.65 hours. 

That’s 339 minutes of my time that weren’t spent enjoying things I love. 339 minutes I didn’t get to spend writing my novel. 339 minutes of secretly driving my blood pressure up. 339 minutes of the world doing what it does every day and me having to dodge its bullets and its pull-overs and its microaggressions, which I’m pretty sure are OK to just call racism now. 339 minutes I didn’t get to give the world any of my gifts because I was too distracted by survival and preserving my mental health. 339 minutes of my life spent processing danger. What a waste, America.