Carefree Black Girl
August 24, 2014 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Buzzfeed reports: The Life and Death of 22 year old Karyn Washington, creator of the "For Brown Girls" blog and the #darkskinredlip project.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (41 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
posted by ChuraChura at 8:37 AM on August 24, 2014

So very sad

posted by pearlybob at 8:57 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:59 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by marimeko at 9:11 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by duvatney at 9:13 AM on August 24, 2014

By 2012, when For Brown Girls was taking off, Karyn’s mother Jean had been battling cervical cancer for four years. She had been diagnosed Karyn’s junior year of high school.

“Her mother was probably one of the only people she really was comfortable talking to, family-wise,” John Griffin tells me. A friend and old crush of Karyn’s from high school, he speaks at a near whisper on an upper floor of MSU’s library and looks like Will Smith in his Fresh Prince days, with flattop hair and a black-and-gray diamond-patterned sweater. “She never really talked about a lot of people in her family, but she loved her mother.”

Griffin is the first of many to explain that Karyn and Rip, her father, had a particularly difficult relationship. Though he declined to be interviewed, Rip admitted in a Facebook message that Karyn “hated” him because he disagreed with some of her “behavior.” “I know she told me in high school at one point her parents had taken the hinges off the door to her room,” Griffin says. “She didn’t have any privacy.”

PJ saw Karyn’s moods swing between “real extreme highs and real extreme lows.” She seemed particularly conflicted in reconciling her mother’s death with the newfound freedom it afforded her. “She always used to get emotional about that because she felt like she traded her mother for the money,” he says. “She always thought about that.”

She was contacted for a few interviews, the biggest with Madame Noire, in which she described FBG’s goal “for new generations of darker-skinned girls to not even have one thought of wishing to be lighter, to never doubt their beauty.”
posted by ersatz at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2014

FTFA: many were left asking: How could a woman whose mission was to uplift others take her own life?

People Won Don't Understand Depression Continue to Write About Depression, take 38,492.

And . for this young woman.
posted by tzikeh at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2014 [34 favorites]

People Won Don't Understand Depression Continue to Write About Depression, take 38,492.

There's nothing wrong with asking that question. How else are people supposed to learn?
posted by girlmightlive at 9:36 AM on August 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

What a terrible loss.

posted by MissySedai at 9:38 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by metaquarry at 9:40 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by crush-onastick at 9:51 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by arkhangel at 9:59 AM on August 24, 2014

I think people who think they understand depression also don't understand depression. The ways that neurochemistry gets off kilter are frequently because of actual causes, including those in the environment in critical periods of development and across generations of exposures or lack of positive environmental variables that rebuild health.

It's a valid question even if the damage to her mood and cognition and brain chemistry was disordered, how it got that way.

People who throw their hands up and say "oh it's just random depression that falls out of the sky and hits people" are the ones missing the opportunity to understand and prevent people's decline into mental illness. Of which family of origin issues, and racism are in fact implicated in the cause of.

Current research has not found that genetic mutations themselves are the "cause" of mental illness the"biology as cause" definition is really quite frankly a bunch of quakery that I'm surprised so many people of metafilter buy so readily. I'm not saying meds can't help some people, just that actually neuroscientists have not yet found any actual evidence the "random biological misfiring" model is valid simply because mood and cognition and biology inter-relate with each other. It's not clear that people who get sad for longer periods of time, or more deeply effected by negative variables in their life are exhibiting "ill" behavior any more than people who vomit when trying to eat shit are more ill than people who can tolerate eating shit. Rejection of unhealthy environmental variables is a healthy process and many reactions classified as "mental illness" are simply observing reactions to negative environmental variables that haven't been addressed or repaired.

We SHOULD want to know why. And explaining it as "oh neurochemisty simply misfired and she should have been on medication" let's systemic racism, and issues facing her family as a result of variables in our culture, and her own family isa disservice to her and to anyone we could prevent from experiencing this in the future.
posted by xarnop at 10:00 AM on August 24, 2014 [21 favorites]


posted by slater at 10:05 AM on August 24, 2014

That was a really sad article to read.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:10 AM on August 24, 2014


It's been 9 months since my neighbor and acquaintance committed suicide. She was a beautiful person who had just graduated from seminary after many years of trying to find her place as a black woman; a single woman; and a woman who supported gay rights in a denomination and black church culture that did not support them.

She had struggled with depression for a long time. In fact, I met her because I agreed to host a casual coffee talk for a local group on "Living on in spite of depression" about my own story. She was the only black person who attended and asked if we could have coffee the week after, which we did. She briefed me on the particular struggles PoC have with getting help for depression, I connected her with various resources and speakers about depression resources. We kept in touch on FB and ran into each other in the neighborhood, but I had just started a family and was overwhelmed with it all.

She began a very thoughtful blog about race and depression and the clergy. And then, she took her own life last December.

I had been buried under grading papers, and holiday preparations, and herding the kids here and there. I hadn't read her blog in weeks. But there it was. In the last entry, #4: Don't assume the worst about people who end their lives. She was preparing us. And 20 days later she was gone. And I'd missed the signs. And I'm still sad and angry at depression for taking her. And I miss her voice.

One of the last things she did in that entry was to compile a list of race-specific resources for depression, including some of the ones I found for her. Here are two of them:

Talking Mental Health in the Black Community (Huff Post Live recording)

Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting – Terrie Williams

Add more "inequality of resources around support for mental health" to the growing divide in this country. Just one more gap to struggle with.
posted by jeanmari at 10:13 AM on August 24, 2014 [40 favorites]

posted by lord_wolf at 10:33 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by GrammarMoses at 10:33 AM on August 24, 2014

That it is so hard to reconcile the idea that Karyn could have loved the skin she was in yet also have been deeply depressed reflects more on us than it does on her.

I wish I could say I was surprised at the negative reaction to her death.

Sure, she wasn't quite a victim of the Strong Black Woman trope, but that of the Carefree Black Girl seems to be a different side of the same coin. So it's not that you bear your problems without complaint, but that you have none at all. In either case, almost no one hears about, or wants to hear about your problems, and coping with that is hard, because we are human, and we contain multitudes.

So I'm glad that she sought help before she passed, but sad that she wasn't able to get the kind she needed. And angry at the people calling her work and who she was a sham, as if her depression and suicide negate what she did.

posted by supermassive at 11:21 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 11:26 AM on August 24, 2014

posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:38 AM on August 24, 2014

And angry at the people calling her work and who she was a sham, as if her depression and suicide negate what she did.

It's just the fear in them talking, though it can get tiresome to listen to it sometimes. People are forever looking for the magic formula to eternal perky and enviable perfect happiness and when they see someone -- for whatever reason -- end his own life despite whatever real or perceived blessings he had -- they just go into full attack mode -- trying to make the person into some faceless glitch of nature who has nothing in common with them and the distancing is as effective and logical as hiding under your blanket when someone breaks into your house. Too many people do not want to face it, talk about it, or even contemplate that something that tragic could ever befall them or their loved ones.

Well, it can and it does and instead of ignoring reality, it would be nice if people did not disparage those who are no longer here to tell us their stories and just accept the fact that it happens with alarming frequency to all sorts of people -- black, white, rich, poor, male, female, young, old, loved or alone.

But fear is the ugliest of emotions and it makes people say the cruelest of things.

The news is heart-breaking on every level imaginable, and once again the world loses someone with heart and talent who did not pull through. I am sorry to hear it...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


posted by allthinky at 12:35 PM on August 24, 2014


This piece reminded me strongly of this piece, one of my favorite writings about mental health of all time, which touches on the specific pressures activists are under to keep a positive public face.
We don't know how to let people be gifted and imperfect. And when we are those people, going from being a nobody to being a movement star, well, it doesn't leave a lot of room for complexity. Or to feel comfortable being honest about wanting to die when so many people are looking to you for a reason to live.
posted by ActionPopulated at 1:22 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the clueless: lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps is literally impossible.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:27 PM on August 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

posted by subdee at 2:06 PM on August 24, 2014

To illustrate Halloween Jack's comment...


"...her reality was far more complicated."
It's always more complicated than it seems. Sometimes you just gotta stop trying to Understand and just Listen and Accept. Which (oversimplified) was what she was all about, right?
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:13 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Token Meme at 2:42 PM on August 24, 2014

Tommy Sotomayor can be a bit of an asshole, but his video talking about her death was really good.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:46 PM on August 24, 2014

posted by skye.dancer at 3:27 PM on August 24, 2014

posted by jlbartosa at 4:29 PM on August 24, 2014


That was a difficult read, but a well-written article and I appreciate your sharing it. Thank you.
posted by jaguar at 5:02 PM on August 24, 2014

Really heartbreaking.

posted by OolooKitty at 5:39 PM on August 24, 2014

posted by wobh at 7:12 PM on August 24, 2014

posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:17 PM on August 24, 2014

posted by oceanjesse at 6:06 AM on August 25, 2014

22. Fuck depression.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:28 AM on August 25, 2014

posted by LizBoBiz at 8:26 AM on August 25, 2014

posted by pony707 at 8:29 AM on August 25, 2014

posted by daisyk at 9:03 AM on August 25, 2014

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