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race journal one

joni sky's picture

every summer, everything that happens happens at summer camp. tiny quaker summer camp in western maryland.

i argue with my white employer when my photo is used for promotional material. she asks how i dare to question that she is doing everything in her power to welcome people of color into the community of camp. i ask if she read her message over before sending it to me. 

all summer i fight with a black girl over a white boy. we pretend like we’re not fighting, but we’re still mean to each other. it feels a funny kind of dirty.

five summers ago i was the only black counselor at summer camp. there was one black camper in my cabin. she visits camp every year after and calls me her favorite, tells me she can’t wait to be a counselor. this year she is, and it’s hard. she says she will go home. nobody understands her and i don’t either and i know she is right. i can’t be the things she needs but i do my best because i have always loved her. 

our director was once the only black counselor. i am thankful for her leadership. she asks how i am doing and she means it and i try not to lean on her because she carries so much.

it is my job to be a sounding board. i exist here as a support. i listen, i respect process, i get tangled in rules of respectability. sometimes i let things slide because they are things that only i notice and there is so much to keep track of. nobody asks if i am okay and maybe i'm thankful for that because maybe i'm not.

a camper shares a story with her counselor who shares it with me who shares it with the director. a chain of triggers. i have a job to do. i am overwhelmed by the force of intergenerational trauma.

i work confidently and people trust me to do good work. 

 at the end of the summer, i cry into the arms of a boy who loves me. tiredness takes over my body and all i am is sobs and snot.  


Sunshine's picture

thank you. i don't know what else to say, but thank you