Last week, Teen Vogue published an article that argues that sleep is an example of systemic racism, and activists are now even calling for “rest reparations” to fix this.
In an article called “Black Power Naps is Addressing Systemic Racism in Sleep,” the magazine discusses the Black Power Naps initiative, which claims that African Americans have shorter life spans than white people do. The initiative was started by activists Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa, who claimed that this is because blacks suffer from “generational fatigue” due to their skin color.
They describe Black Power Naps as an “artistic initiative with components including physical installations, zines, an opera, and more.” Acosta and Sosa said that they realized they were always tired because of the “hundreds of years of sleep deprivation” their people have allegedly suffered from.
“[They] were tired, but it wasn’t just any old fatigue,” the article stated. “Yes, they experienced a lack of sleep, but they were specifically experiencing a generational fatigue familiar to black people and people of color.”
This caused Acosta and Sosa to demand “rest reparations” in the form of breaks and additional time off from work.
“[Black Power Naps] is also a recognition of the hundreds of years of sleep deprivation that black people and people of color have experienced as a result of systemic racism, a way to push back against the false stereotype that black people are lazy, and an investigation of the inequitable distribution of rest,” the article continued.
Acosta claimed that people of color have inherited sleep deprivation from slavery, a practice that was abolished over 150 years ago.
“We’re dealing with an inheritance of sleep deprivation,” she lamented. “Sleep deprivation was a…deliberate tactic of slave owners to basically make the mind feeble. That same tactic has only evolved.”
She went on to argue that it’s crucial that black people be given the opportunity to dream.
“The dream space is a crucial space to make sense of your reality and properly process the violence that may be happening,” Acosta said. “When we’re not getting the sleep we need, it is another front line — the place where we sleep.”
Sosa agreed, saying that people of color in the coming generations should be allowed to rest as much as possible because of slavery.
“Slavery is a regime of stealing and extraction: stolen wages, stolen life, stolen land, but stolen time was one of the main things. We need time. We need time off; we need time out,” she said. “Our ancestors never got to take a month off for holidays; they never got to take a sabbatical; they never got to take a nap. When you piled all of those together, you see the reparations that need to happen are monetary, but they’re also time and space.”
Sosa added that it’s unfair that black people even need to fight for these “rest reparations” right now, as it is only making them more tired.
“We are having to go out in the streets during a pandemic, expending our energy in really huge amounts in order to ask for reparations and rest and energy,” she said. “It is a….double-edged sword to navigate as an activist or organizer. You are putting your body on the line to reclaim it. That creates a lot of burnout. We have people who are 20, 21, they are burnt out. They need time off. They need to not only sleep, but to know their people are going to be OK, to know they’re going to be OK, to know they can take a break.”