If My Body is a Text

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Kiki Petrosino and Kim Brooks were classmates students at the University of Virginia more than 15 years ago.

This episode features new writing from both Kim Brooks and Kiki Petrosino. Find Kim's essay, "The Problem of Caring" here, and find the poem Kiki wrote for this project, entitled, "Letter Beginning: If My Body is a Text," here.

Six years ago, Kim Brooks started going on "news fasts." She was struggling with parinatal depression at the time and the news of the world was often too much—too terrible—for her to absorb. So she got into the habit of taking time away from headlines and her Twitter feed to turn her focus inward. 

During the week of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling's deaths, Kim was on one of these fasts. When she returned to her screen, she realized her break from the news was possible because of the color of her skin. Kim is white. She doesn't have to think about police brutality. According to Pew Research, there’s a significant difference in how black and white adults use social media to talk about race-related content. About two-thirds of black social media users (68%) say at least some of the posts they see are about race or race relations. One-third of whites agree. And there’s a similar racial gap when it comes to posting, too: among black social media users, 28% say most or some of what they post is about race or race relations. 8% of whites say the same.

"This is one of the ugliest manifestations of my privilege that I can envision: the luxury of ignorance."

Kiki Petrosino, a poet, professor, and a friend of Kim's, saw the internet as a necessary way to immerse herself in what was happening. Kiki is bi-racial, and while Kim was offline, Kiki noticed a striking paradox at the center of the storm of circulating images, video, and information on her feed.

"On the one hand we're brought really front and center, because you can literally watch someone dying, which is probably the most intimate moment of a life. But we don't know that person. We can't touch them, we can't talk to their family. It really throws into question how to participate in community given all these technological advancements that we're making..."

Videos of police shooting young, black men and a troubling election cycle, played out on social media, have made racism in this country more visible. How do we balance being informed people with being healthy? Kim and Kiki come up with a strategy for absorbing, understanding, and addressing the news—from places of fear, exhaustion, and privilege.