We’re doing the most. Even in the midst of a deadly global pandemic and turbulent civil unrest, we are still doing the most … if not more than we were doing before any of this started. Our current reality is one characterized by Zoom fatigue, news and social media overload, financial stress and social isolation. Yet during these extremely exhausting times, almost none of us are getting the rest we truly need.
This reluctance to rest isn’t new. “Grinding” aka this obsession with working ourselves to death has been a characteristic of American culture since its conception. At an academic level, we glorify not getting enough sleep at night, taking more credits than we can handle, and putting way too many extracurricular commitments on our plate in order to stay “booked and busy.”
If being busy is a flex, no wonder we all feel so weak. If we’re always “working to death,” when will we get a chance to enjoy our life? If we’re always “on the grind,” when do we get to get off?
The toxic effects of grind-and-hustle culture are further exacerbated by racial injustice, especially in this time where conversations on race are in the spotlight. For Black students, beyond the academic, occupational, extra-curricular duties we have, there’s often the expectation that we take place in a higher civic duty. Especially in these turbulent times Black students often feel pressured to overextend themselves, exerting extra emotional labor time advocating for social causes, speaking about their injustice, and doing “the work” on top of everything else.
With all these exhausting endeavors, many Black activists are recognizing sleep deprivation as a racial justice issue, and calling for a divestment in grind culture. In other words, we need to stop grinding. Black community activist and healer, Tricia Hersey talks often about how we’ve ingrained in ourselves a machine-like sense of constantly working, much like robots as a result of a grind culture that very much literally treats humans as machines. In a Q&A with her and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, she details the ways in which capitalism and colonization have influenced our rest, discusses the necessity for “rest as resistance,” and identifies the relationship between rest and abolition.
In order for us to solve the problems of today, we have to be able to be the best versions of ourselves. We have to take the time to rest … to recover … to recoup … to relax.
When we divest from grind culture, we also divest from the beck-and-call of consumer culture that drives us to place profit over people.
We divest from white supremacist culture that plots to over-work, over-extend and over-bear people of color robbing them of their right to rest.
We divest from the individualist, self-centered mindset that drives competition and capital gain and prohibits us from recognizing the humanity in others.
More importantly, we invest in a healthier version of ourselves that is centered around joy, restoration and healing. Most importantly, we get the most out of doing the least.