Fight Like a Girl: My Journey With Endometriosis

Author’s note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. All information below is based on research and personal experience. This is not meant to be a substitute for healthcare or a definitive resource on endometriosis. Please do your own research before pursue any treatments.

Throughout the piece, I reference women. While the vast majority of people with endometriosis are women, this disease also affects transmen and non-binary individuals, as well as, very rarely, cismen. The use of women is not to be exclusive of those of other genders who suffer from this disease but to highlight how the gendered nature of the disease has affected treatment and research.

Welcome to Endometriosis Awareness month!

As one of the many people who live with endometriosis, I thought I would take some time to talk about what endometriosis is, my own experiences with it, and why awareness is so important.

For me, it all started while I was in college. My periods had never been particularly enjoyable, but they started to grow more and more painful each month. It got to the point where a wave of pain would strike and I would drop to the floor as sharp pains ripped through my abdomen and I lost control of my body. I was barely able to function during my period, and each month the period of time I was affected grew longer and longer.

I went to a gynecologist about all of my symptoms, but was told that these were just bad cramps and plenty of women deal with this. I was given a prescription for Aleve and was sent on my way. I took Aleve, but it never even touched the pain. I tried to just push on with my life, but the pain that wracked my body each month was making it nearly impossible to function.

During this time period, I ended up with ER a couple of times with pain so severe I couldn’t think straight or move. Each time, ultrasounds showed that I had had an ovarian cyst burst. I would be given some pain meds for a couple of days which would help me actually function for a while, but the pain always came back. I tried going back to the gynecologist, but continued to be dismissed.

I started researching things online to try to find an answer as to what was wrong with me. I read up on PCOS, cancer, adenomyosis, endometriosis, and many more. The more I read about endometriosis, the more it seemed to fit.

I went to a new gynecologist with all of my research in hand ready to fight for treatment. This time I got lucky and saw a doctor who actually listened to me. After hearing all my symptoms and how much it was affecting me life, she told me that she suspected that I had endometriosis. However, she wasn’t very familiar with this condition, so she wanted to refer me to her co-worker who specializes in endometriosis.

I met with this man who agreed that I likely had endometriosis. He told me we could try treatment to see if it helped or we could do surgery to conclusively diagnose. I elected to go for the surgery before trying medication, and during that surgery I was conclusively diagnosed with endometriosis which they found on my uterus, pelvic walls, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, intestines, the ligaments holding my uterus in place, and my stomach. While they were in there checking things out, they also ablated the masses they found.

We should probably stop here for a minute to talk about what endometriosis actually is. You may have seen posters about it in your gynecologist’s office or read about it in relation to Lena Dunham recently. You might have heard that it is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. But what exactly is it?

Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue very similar to endometrium (the lining that grows in your uterus and normally sheds with your period) grows outside of the uterus. Most often, endometriosis is found on the outside of the uterus, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, or on the pelvic wall. For some unlucky people (like me!) endometriosis grows all over the place. Endometriosis has been documented on every organ of the body (including skin, eyes, and spine!), except for the spleen.

Not only does this tissue grow places it’s not supposed to, but it keeps acting like the uterus lining. It thickens throughout the month before breaking down and bleeding with your period. Now, when the tissue is where it’s supposed to be, the blood is able to escape out the vagina, hence, period. For those of us with endo, this bleeding doesn’t have anywhere to go other than the surrounding areas. For instance, I have endometriosis on the outside of my stomach, so when it comes time to bleed, the only place for the blood to go is into my abdominal cavity.

While we need our blood to survive, most of our internal organs don’t like it very much when blood ends up where it’s not supposed to. The blood that ends up trapped irritates the surrounding tissue, and, if it’s not able to be absorbed, turns into scar tissue and adhesions which is a fancy way to say that it starts bind your organs together. Yep, not only do you get your period throughout your body, but the blood acts like super glue sticking all your organs to each other.

Now, there are many women with endometriosis who have no symptoms whatsoever. These women, if they find out, usually discover this due to fertility issues. All the scar tissues and adhesions that can come along with endo, particularly on the reproductive issues, can interfere with fertility in a number of ways. Many times, fertility issues can be resolved with medication (more on that in a minute) but there are cases where fertility is irreparably damaged.

There are other women (myself included) who experience a great deal of pain due to endometriosis. This pain can take on many forms and isn’t necessarily tied to when our periods fall. For me, the week of my period is full of cramps that pull me double and make it nearly impossible to straighten my torso. These cramps wrench my body making it a challenge to sleep. As my period comes to a close, the pain subsides to a more manageable level. Note that I didn’t say it ends, it just gets to a point where it is easier to function and less willpower is necessary for everyday tasks. For the next week or so, I tend to remain in this state with occasional sharp bursts of pain, but during this time I am able to function fairly well. After that lovely week is up, my ovary shoots out an egg (or tries to at least. One of my fallopian tubes is blocked so it’s hit or miss if the egg is actually making it out) and my pain skyrockets. I usually have a few days of “maybe if I die it won’t hurt so much” levels of pain associated with this which then lets up slightly into “why must I ever be apart from my heating pad it hurts to breathe” type pain which mixes with pain that feels as if someone shot a bolt of lightning out my rectum. All of this builds until I get my period and this all starts again.

Logically, you probably assume that the level of pain with endometriosis is correlated to how extensive the growths are. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Endometriosis, like cancer, is broken into four stages. Stage I (minimal) involves superficial implants (clumps of endometrial-like tissue rest upon organs rather than root into them) that are isolated and no adhesions. Stage II (mild) still doesn’t have adhesions, but the implants are more numerous. Stage III (moderate) indicates multiple implants that are more deeply rooted as well as some adhesions (scarring) often around the fallopian tubes and ovaries. Stage IV (severe) has a bunch of implants as well as think adhesions. We would assume that people with Stage IV would have way more symptoms and pain that someone with Stage I, however, any person with any stage can have severe pain and there are women with Stage IV who have no pain or symptoms.

So how do we treat endometriosis? The answer to this varies depending on the level of symptoms and stage of the disease. Before we dive into treatment, however, let’s look at the diagnostic process. While endometriosis can cause horrific pain, the sources of that pain are often pretty small in the grand scheme of things. As such, we have a really hard time picking up on endometriosis using imaging. MRI’s might possibly show something going on in more advanced cases and ultrasounds really can’t show anything other than cysts which could indicate endometriosis or a whole host of other issues. As such, the only way to actually diagnose endometriosis is surgically. This is often done laparoscopically which involves making several small incisions through which cameras and other instruments are inserted. Usually, if they find endometriosis while they’re in there, the surgeon will try to get rid of the implants and adhesions. This can be done by ablation which is basically burning out the endometriosis or excision which involves cutting it out. Overall, excision is a lot more effective because the surgeon removes everything they can find, both what is visible and what is below the surface. Ablation only gets rid of what is visible. However, not all surgeons perform excision as it needs to be much more precise (they are cutting things off of your internal organs!).

Because surgery always carries its risks and not everyone wants to take that risk to find out whether or not there is anything going on in there, many doctors will give a loose diagnosis based on symptoms and provide treatment. If the treatment works, the diagnosis is further supported. If it doesn’t, doctors will pursue other options.

So what is this treatment I keep mentioning? There are few different options. Since endometriosis is fed by estrogen, the medications used to treat it work by affecting hormones. As such, one of the main treatments is hormonal birth control like the pill. For many women, going on the pill reduces many of their symptoms, particularly pain. This is awesome for those it works for, however, birth control can only keep endometriosis from progressing, it won’t do anything about the implants and adhesions that already exist. This works particularly well for those who have had surgery to remove everything the doctors can find.

While birth control can help, the big baddie of endometriosis treatment are GNRH-blockers such as depo Lupron. These drugs put the body into a state of false menopause by stopping all production of estrogen. These medications can be very effective for some people because it starves endo of the hormones it needs to grow. Not only will GNRH blockers stop the disease from progressing, but they can actually reduce implants that are already present. This all sounds awesome, but GNRH blockers can come with some pretty hefty side effects. Just like actual menopause, GNRH blockers can cause hot flashes, mood swings, and all that fun stuff we usually think of. They also increase the risk of osteoporosis which can be a huge thing for younger patients who still have many years left of needing their bones to function as bones. Some patients report horrible migraines, mood swings that make it nearly impossible to function day to day, and many more terrible side effects. GNRH blockers are taken by injection either in one month or three month doses which means if you start taking one of these drugs and can’t handle the side effects, you’re stuck with them until that time frame is up.

Aside from medical intervention, there are a wide variety of diet, lifestyle, and natural remedies that help many women manage their condition. Many people swear by the endo diet which is a very restrictive diet that focuses on cutting out anything that functions in the body like estrogen (such as soy) and anything else that tends to cause endo suffers problems. Light to moderate exercise can be beneficial. Even if it doesn’t help with the pain, it can help lift your mood which is huge when facing a chronic illness. There are many natural remedies that are purported to help with endometriosis though few of these have been studied. Always research treatments before taking them!

After I received my official diagnosis, it was time to consider treatment options. Throughout my teens and early twenties I had tried a variety of birth control pills, but I could never stay on them because they severely exacerbate my mental health conditions. So when it was suggested I try birth control, I was very resistant. While it may have been able to help ease some of my endometriosis symptoms, the severe toll these pills take on my mental state is not worth it for me. On birth control, I lose my ability to function which is not worth possibly reducing pain levels. The doctor who did my surgery wanted me to start taking GNRH blockers which I am also highly uncomfortable with. Due to my intense reaction to birth control, I fear for my mental health were I to take one of the drugs. The GNRH blockers have the added concern for me that once it’s in your system, you’re stuck with it until the month or three months are up. If GNRH blockers affect me nearly as badly as birth control does, I cannot afford to be out of commission for that long. When I refused to take the GNRH blockers, this doctor refused any other treatment.

The surgery significantly reduced my symptoms at first, so I went about my life, enjoying being able to function again. After a few months, though, symptoms began to return. At first I just fought through it because I was very discouraged after my dealings with that doctor. However, as things got worse and worse, I began looking into other treatment options. I came across a surgical technique using robotics that was able to excise implants effectively even from sensitive organs. I was able to locate a doctor based out of NYC who utilizes this technique and scheduled an appointment. After a few months of tests and appointments, I had my second surgery about a year after the first. Once again, implants and adhesions were removed from all throughout my abdomen.

That was nearly a year and a half ago for me. I’m still at a stand still in regards to treatment. I use a variety of home remedies (especially my heating pad) to help with symptoms throughout the month, but after a stretch without health insurance and some continuing financial strain, I am not able to pursue medical treatment right now. Hopefully soon, I will be able to pursue treatment, however, I am also still hesitant about taking anything hormonal so I’m not sure where that will lead to.

We’ve looked at what endometriosis is, how it’s diagnosed, and how it’s treated, so what next? Endometriosis is primarily a woman’s illness, though there have been some very rare cases of endometriosis appears in cismen and, of course, non-binary individuals and transmen can be affected. Because this is a disease that primarily affects women, research and treatment options are far behind where they should be for a condition that has been known since the 1860’s and was documented more than 4,000 years ago. Despite all the time that has passed, we do not know what causes endometriosis. There are many theories, but doctors and researchers are widely divided on these. While there are options for treatment, these options carry many side effects and are not always effective. Birth control can only slow or pause the growth of endo. GNRH blockers can reduce growths but do not always have an effect. Surgery can remove what doctors can find, but there are often implants that are too small to notice or ones in areas that surgeons don’t check or don’t feel comfortable operating on. A hysterectomy can help, but for some, the endo returns years later.

Gender also comes into play with diagnosis. I’ve already discussed my experience getting diagnosed and the resistance I faced. Sadly, my story is one of the better ones. It only took me about two years to get diagnosed. The average length of time it takes for most women to get a diagnosis is twelve years.  To this day, society as a whole down plays women’s pain. Start reading stories from women with endometriosis and one of the most common themes you will find is the dismissal these women have faced. They are told that this pain is normal. Told that they are just oversensitive to the pain that all women face. Women begin to doubt themselves, growing to believe that the pain they feel is all in their heads or that they are simply weak for not being able to handle what it seems everyone else can. Even when a woman can stay strong in the knowledge that this is real and not normal, finding a doctor will to go down the road to diagnosis can be very difficult.

Even when we are able to get diagnosed, women also face further barriers regarding treatment. Too many of us are told to take x treatment, or else. I have been denied treatment because I would not take GNRH blockers, which was a decision I came too after weighing the potential risks and benefits and my own personal health difficulties. Many of us face patronizing attitudes from doctors who show us that our opinions and decisions for our bodies don’t matter unless we do exactly what they say. Further, fertility is often one of the most emphasized aspects by doctors. Even though I do not want to ever be pregnant and have been very open about this with doctors, every gynecologist I have met with has emphasized that my fertility may be in tact and have pushed treatments as fertility sparing rather than the best option for my pain and my body. I have been told that I will change my mind eventually when I try to explain that my fertility really isn’t important to me, and, if anything, I’d rather be infertile. Many women are denied hysterectomies because they do not have children.

Endometriosis affects between 6-10% of women. This condition can be life altering and debilitating. We need more effective treatment options. We need more research into the causes, treatment methods, and diagnosis. We need to listen to women and trust them to know their own bodies. This month, in celebration of Endometriosis awareness month, let us bring these issues to light so that we can move towards better options for the many people with this life long condition.

Racism in the Wake of Paris

Friday November 13th, a series of attacks hit Paris leaving about 130 people dead and many more injured. In the days since, people across the world have come out in solidarity with France. People are tweeting and posting about their mourning for those lost in the attacks. Many have changed their profile pictures to feature the French flag. Politicians moved quickly to make their sound bites and tweet about how these events totally prove they’re right [insert unrelated political point].

After a disaster strikes, we often marvel at the good that humanity shows. We rally around those who aid victims/survivors and celebrate the good in the midst of the storm. However, while I don’t discount the good, I think these events, and other great losses of human life over the past several years, do more to show some of the darker aspects of humanity. The aftermath of the attacks on Paris has shown, to those willing to look, the great prejudice and racism at play in how we respond to tragedy.

Before continuing, I would like to clarify that I am in no way trying to diminish the pain and suffering of those affected by the attacks in Paris. It was a senseless and brutal attack that took many lives and affected a great deal more and we mourn for those who were lost.

These attacks made international news immediately. Since the attacks, nearly every news outlet is plastered with coverage of the attacks and their aftermath. There is analysis of what happened, pieces mourning and remembering those lost, stories from those present during the attacks, interviews with political pundits giving their two cents about what could have been done, etc. Everywhere we turn right now there is more coverage of these events. Yet, in April of this year, a Kenyon school was attacked leaving 147 people dead. Where were all the think pieces then? Where were the buildings lit up with the colors of the Kenyon flag in solidarity? How many of us were even aware that such a disgusting attack had occurred? Thursday, the day before the attacks in Paris, there were similar attacks in Beirut leaving 43 people dead. Where was the 24/7 coverage? Where the tweets and posts of outrage and mourning? How many knew about these attacks before they were brought to light in contrast to the coverage of Paris?

Though certainly not a new idea, these past few days have shown us how prejudiced and racist our media coverage of tragedy is. Paris is a city of whiteness. While there are certainly people of color who live within the city, our romanticized, idyllic image of Paris is lily white. For white America, Paris is relatable. Though we speak different languages and have some different customs, there is familiarity in whiteness.

For over a decade, we have been engaged in a war on terror. Our media has fed us images and stories of this war and the horror that comes along. We’ve grown desensitized to the grotesque violence that pours in through our screens. Over the years, we have become accustomed to scenes of brown people’s homes being decimated through acts of war. We have seen and heard too much about the destruction of these other lands. Yet, throughout almost all of this war, the violence has only affected the homes and lives people of color. These are people who look different than us, and similar to those our country fights against.  Their customs and beliefs do not match up with our view of how things should be, nor do we speak a shared language. To many Americans, the people of the Middle East, the people whose lives have been torn apart in this unending war, have become only news headlines. We don’t see the faces of the victims or feel for their humanity; rather they are registered as part of the faceless death toll.

Then the violence came to a place of whiteness. The attacks in Paris have garnered so much attention because now white people can relate to the danger. No longer is the death toll a list of names that sound strange to us belonging to people who look different, they are names and faces we can identify with. Paris brought about the fear that the violence is coming to us. Rather than staying in a remote place that too many of us don’t care about, the violence now seems a real threat.

The attacks in Paris were awful, but so were so many other tragedies we haven’t heard about or never registered beyond a snippet of a headline.  This disparity between our reactions to the attacks in Paris and the lack of reaction to so many other tragedies shows our internalized racism. This is not to say that those showing support for Paris are horrible awful racists. I’m sure no one is trying to be racist in their support. Rather, this has brought to light all of the racism and prejudice that we internalize. From birth we are all socialized with various thoughts and beliefs, many of which are based in racism/sexism/etc.. These internalized biases shape the way we interact with the world around us, whether or not we are conscious of it. This is rooted in the same internalized fears that cause many of us white people to cross to the other side of the road or grip our bags tighter if we see a black man walking towards us. These are the unconscious prejudices make it hard for people with black-sounding names to get hired. These are the prejudices that have led to the vilification of the refugees fleeing the same violence we now mourn.

It is wonderful to see so many people banding together in a time of tragedy. The stories of all those who opened their homes to those in danger are heartening. Let us just hope that in all of the discussion that has arisen, we may start to see the violence that affects so many people around the world, not just the violence that affects white people.

To My Niece On Her Birthday

This is a letter I may never show you. This is a story I’m not sure I will ever share with you. This is the story of your birth, but not in the usual sense. This is the story of what came after and the memories that are intrinsically linked.

Four years ago, while we were getting ready to take our Spanish midterm, your uncle received a call that you were on your way. We both finished that midterm in record time, speeding off as soon as we were done to come welcome you into this world.

We got to the hospital just after you had arrived. The first time I saw you was through a window into the bright room where the nurses were cleaning you up and checking you over. After chatting with your mom for a bit, they brought you into the room. You were so little. The first time I took you into my arms I filled with warmth and love as I looked down into your tiny face.

I saw you often in the following days. Even as a wriggly, crying newborn, you had captured my heart. However, this is the point where the story turns dark. Nine days after you were born, two days before Halloween, I went out with one of my best friends to dance the night away in our costumes. What started out as a night full of excitement, ended with my rape.

The following days, for me, are a blur of police, doctors, fear, and shame. Your uncle was by my side through everything, reminding me again and again that it was not my fault. However, I still felt dirty, out of control, and guilty. I had chosen to go out, so I felt that it was my fault that this had happened. It certainly didn’t help with the psychologist I went to see at school told me that it was at least half my fault.

My world felt as if it was crumbling around me. Only a few months prior, I had ended a two year, abusive relationship. When I was raped again, this time by a stranger, I was already a mess from the trauma of abuse by one I had loved. To me, the world seemed dark and dangerous. Life felt hopeless.

Yet, in the midst of my horror, there you were. You had no idea of the violence that occurred, no way of understanding the pain the wracked my being. You were this small little bundle of warmth that cried and smiled and snuggled. For the first several months of your life, we spent a lot of time together. I cared for you several nights a week. I rocked and bounced you, fed you, changed you, and helped ease you to sleep. I would hold you for hours as slept. Even when your grandparents told me I could just lay you down and let you sleep, I kept you close to me, drawing comfort from the warmth of your small body in my arms.

When it was just you and I, and the house was quiet and calm, I would whisper to you as you slept. All that I was too afraid or ashamed to say poured out of me. I would tell you about the pain and confusion that filled me to breaking. I told you about the shame and guilt I felt. I told you about how disgusting I now thought myself to be. As tears streamed from my eyes, I would pull your sleeping form close to my body, as if the protect from the possibility of trauma in your own future. Though you could not speak or understand the tales I told you, you were one of the best therapists I ever had. Having someone to talk to who did not judge me or try to give advice was invaluable for me at that time. It allowed me to find the words to express my thoughts to others.

On your birthday, four years later, I am unable to ignore the pain that lingers still. I am still plagued by the darkness of what happened. But I am also filled with joy as I look into your beautiful face. My love for you fills me to bursting when you wrap your arms around me and tell me that you love me. Watching you learn and grow has been a pleasure for me and I look forward to seeing the person that you will become. Four years ago, you became my beacon of hope in the midst of seemingly impenetrable darkness. Though I already gave you your presents this year, there is another I would like to leave you with, though these words will not be shared with you for several more years.

If you ever find yourself the victim of rape or abuse, which sadly there is too high a chance of, know that it was not your fault. It doesn’t matter if you went to a party and got drunk. It doesn’t matter what you wore. It doesn’t matter if this was a person you welcomed into your life and maybe even loved. It matters not what you did or did not do. You are not responsible for anyone else’s choices and actions. I hope that you carry your strong will with you as you grow, for it will take you far. Know that even if you find yourself a victim, you are still strong. You are still beautiful. I hope that you will never have to know this darkness, but, if you do, I will always be there for you.

Much love,

Aunt Bina

Beautiful Contradiction

We find beauty in the destruction. We watch as they fall to their death, marveling at the exquisiteness of their demise. We gather around, some travelling miles and miles to watch this colorful mass extinction. As October presses on, we stare out at the multi-hued leaves breathing their last.

October is a time colorful splendor. It is the month of pumpkin spice and apple everything. It is a time of hayrides and haunted houses. It is friends frolicking through the fallen leaves. It is the beginning of snuggling under blankets and steaming cups of cocoa. It is running through the streets in costumes and filling bags to the bursting with candy.

October is a time to become something else, someone else. It is a chance to transform into a favorite character or person. It is an opportunity to be whoever you want to be. But what is inescapable is the intertwining of destruction with happiness. The beauty we seek comes from the dying leaves and fading of the seasons.

October is my favorite and most dreaded month. It is a month of contradiction. For me it is a time of joy and sorrow, simultaneous and intertwined. It is friendship and laughter, apple picking and pie making, birthday parties and celebrations. There is palpable magic in the air and the mists. It is also trauma and pain. It is bitter nights spent chain smoking alone. It is violation and destruction. It is dreaded memories that leave no peace. It is Halloween, both my favorite holiday and anniversary of the last time I was raped.

I love and hate this month of beautiful demise. October is who I am, contradiction and conflict, pain and beauty, destruction and rebirth. It holds both my most horrific memories and my hope for what can be. It holds the pain of the past and the power to drag me deep into the hell of my own mind, but also the hope of what can be born of destruction. It holds the discord of incongruity caused by such polar extremes, much in the way I am always torn between the depths of depression and a hope for what can be.

I dive recklessly into the busy of the season. I flit between harvest festivals, apple picking, time spent with friends, costume making, party planning, baking, and so much more, striving to stay occupied. I love this month because I must. I cannot allow myself to fall into the flashbacks and depression. I run through the corn maze of celebrations and expectations, attempting to outrun my own mind.

October is the month of beautiful destruction. As the leaves transform into things of great beauty in their destruction, so it is that we may find ourselves in our darkest moments. Four years ago, I reached a point of desolation I thought would never be escaped. The bitter nights still well up within me the darkness that once consumed me. But out of this anguish and loss, I have grown anew. Over four years I have let my leaves fall, parsed away the parts of myself that no longer belonged as part of my being. From the barren branches that remained I have slowly grown, and continue to grow, into someone I want to be. Out of my destruction, I have found myself.

What a beautiful contradiction.

On Motherhood

To be a mother is praised as a most beautiful thing. The process of birth is lauded as one of the greatest acts to endure. As a woman, it is painted as my most sacred duty to brave and rejoice in this most natural honor. It should be my highlight of existence, my greatest aspiration. Continue reading

3 Myths About Mental Illness I Learned Growing Up in the Church

Throughout childhood and youth, I spent a lot of time at church. A lot. Most of the day on Sunday was dedicated to church services and Sunday School, and then there were various church events several other nights throughout the week.

Most of my social interaction was with people from the church, both my own friends and my parents’. The media I was allowed to consume, the people in my life, and the lessons I was taught by my parents all centered around a very socially conservative, Evangelical Christian view of the world (think virginity pledges, purity rings and halloween worships the devil).

I also, since childhood, have struggled with mental illness that was not fully diagnosed until I was 21.

I live with Schizoaffective disorder, which is a collision of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder.

When I finally received the diagnosis I had spent so long fighting for, I was incredibly relieved. You see, growing up in the church, I internalized a lot of myths and misinformation about mental illness that made it that much harder to deal with. Finally having words and explanations for what was happening allowed me to start fighting back against my internalized stigma.

Here are some of the myths I learned and some of information to unpack these ideas:

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A Call for Action in the Wake of Charleston

Wednesday morning we awoke to the news that another predominately black church has been burned to the ground. This is the seventh black church to be set ablaze in the two weeks that have passed since the Charleston massacre. In the wake of such great destruction of black lives and communities, it is astounding that there are some who still try to deny a connection, those who continue to decry racist motives. This string of violence against places of community filled mostly by black individuals shows us that, clearly, racism still lives in America (though the idea that racism ever ceased in America was a wishful delusion).  As we attempt to grapple with the racist violence that is making itself known throughout our country, it is important that do more than think about what has happened, but that we take action against the systemic racism that is ingrained in our society.

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