CPT or Colored People’s Time is an American expression referring to a stereotype of Black people always being late. The expression is often described as a derogatory racist stereotype. It’s considered derogatory because it implies that Black people have a relaxed or indifferent view of work ethic, which leads to them being labeled as lazy or unreliable.
I’ve always been a person who requires extra time. My mom likes to recount my birth story - when, six weeks after my expected birth date, she desperately tried to induce labor with me by waddling across the Brooklyn Bridge, her big belly protruding with each step. No such luck!
Eventually a C-section was scheduled to get me OUT. At 3:54 p.m. in a cramped room of Lenox Hill’s Hospital maternity ward, the jig was officially up.
As much as she likes to share the story of my penchant for slowness since birth,
I got it from my mama.
Throughout my childhood, my most vivid memories involve finding my mom - a human cat - lounging in various spots in our house, peacefully napping. I remember feeling a combination of envy and resentment towards my mom for her prioritization of relaxation. As I grew older and the world felt more and more complicated and judgmental, I desperately wanted to blend into the chaos.
I've always felt a strong tension between my soul -- which aches for peace as nourishment, and my body -- which aches from productivity as acceptance. From the time I entered the fourth grade at the private school in D.C. I attended through high school, there was little room for rest. When I preferred taking my time to savor each word in my favorite chapter books, I was assigned a tutor to help speed up my reading. My daydreaming during eighth grade science class became an attention issue, and my requests for assignment extensions were seen as problems with procrastination.
According to a large-scale 2015 study, Black Americans get less sleep than any other ethnic group — almost a full hour less per night than their white peers. That gap narrows slightly when considering class, but even wealthy Black Americans don’t sleep as well as their non-Black neighbors. Reasons for this range from environmental factors (unequal access to safe, comfortable places to sleep) to psychological ones (such as the stress caused by experiencing discrimination).
I've been thinking a lot about the above study in relation to CPT and all of the ways we, Black Americans, have been socialized in the United States to equate productivity with self worth. Even while writing this post, I feel an intense pressure to produce a powerful, timely post. After all, today is Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally, the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the former Confederate States of America.
The pressure of productivity is rooted in a white, Eurocentric framework. This feels really important to restate.
The pressure of productivity is rooted in a white, Eurocentric framework.
American culture celebrates people like Thomas Edison, who claimed that he only needed 3 hours of sleep a night to create the light-bulb. Our culture praises white men for their heroic triumph over their own physiology, trading nonproductive rest for work, innovation and progress.
The Nap Ministry, created by Tricia Hersey, is an organization that examines the liberating power of naps. In an interview with Elemental, Hersey explained, “Capitalism doesn’t care who you are. “It wants to use anyone’s body as a tool for production. It wants you to work a hundred hours a week if you can.”
A growing body of activists have embraced napping as a political act, raising questions about who is allowed to rest in our society and who gets to decide if or when that rest has been earned.
In a recent Nap Ministry instagram post, Hersey wrote:
This is about more than naps.
We are attempting to disrupt a toxic system that ties our worth to how much we produce.
Our bodies to not belong to capitalism.
We know better.
Rest and resist.
In Jewish tradition, Shabbat or the Sabbath is Judaism's day of rest. For those who practice Shabbat, from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday, rest is prioritized. It is an opportunity to slow down, spend time with friends and loved ones, and just appreciate the simple pleasures of life that are often forgotten about during the week.
A rest practice is about so much more than just taking naps. It's a practice that prioritizes slowing down, listening to our bodies, following our intuition and saying no. It is a form of Sabbath.
Well, this day, Friday, Juneteenth, Shabbat, and the first installment of All Mixt Up, is dedicated to rest as a form of resistance. It is an invitation to join me in challenging the capitalist systems of power that see rest as weakness.
You, my friend, are enough. We are enough. You are welcome to rest here. Dream. Remember your ancestors, our ancestors, and what it must have been like for them to have no agency over their own time or bodies. To always be on the clock. To be punished for taking a break, oversleeping, relaxing.
This is CPT in its truest form. A reclamation of all the time lost. Thank you for living. Thank you for showing up late. Thank you for taking your time, our time, back. This is our time. You are enough. We are enough.
I love you.
Some inspiration for rest: