These past few days have been filled with the media detailing hate crimes that have occurred in the United States. Just to fill you in on what’s happened: 1) Robert Bowers targeted the Tree of Life Synagogue with a deadly shooting that killed 11 people. While he opened fire on the victims, he was shouting anti-Semitic slurs 2) A white man shot a black couple at a Kentucky Kroger store. It was found that he was trying to enter a predominantly black church right before this attack. 3) Another white man who had written hate messages about Democrats and minorities sent mail bombs to various politicians and locations…
When people hear about these things, their immediate reaction is shock and a disdain for someone who would inflict such people upon people. The reality is that though these acts are not something that may happen everyday, racism is. Every news outlet is stating just how violent of a week it has been, but such hate is normal. It’s built into our institutions. We have to step away from the idea that in order to be racist, you have to go out and commit such an act. Instead, racism relies on power dynamics, microaggressions, subordination of people, systems, institutions, etc. Everyone, including marginalized individuals, contribute to a culture of white supremacy. There are levels to racism and it happens every day. To better understand this fact, I urge everyone to read Dr. Camara Jones’ “Levels of Racism: A Theoretic Framework and A Gardener’s Tale” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/pdf/10936998.pdf). Every day, I think about the fact that I am black and how it influences the way I may act, think, and speak.
The ordinariness of racism, not its absence, is what characterizes society (particularly American society).
There’s this black boy that I think about often…
There’s this train station that I stop at on my way home from work. Usually, I cannot count the number of cops that are stationed there. It is no coincidence that most of the commuters who they come to “police” are young black students, most of them black boys.
I was at the same train station a couple of days ago and noticed that there was a bunch of commotion. A lot of middle or high school students surrounded one of the staircases leading down to the trains. Most, if not all, of the students were black or possibly Latinx. In the next minutes, I saw an older man pulling a young black boy up from the stairs. I am assuming there was a fight that broke out and he was involved. After about two minutes, the transit police were called and they came in something that looked like a SUV/SWAT car. It’s hard to explain, but it is one of those cars that have a mini cell in the back that resembles something that would cage an animal. Instead, it housed that black boy. Immediately, I start panicking and my heart started racing. This is the lived experience of racism. I don’t even have any kids, but my reaction was so visceral. I cannot imagine having a black son and seeing something like this. Something that I cannot forget. This stress response is what causes black people to be weathered down.
I prayed that they would not manhandle that kid or do something that I was not able to see. I think about that black boy and what came of that situation. The reason this stays on my mind is because I know that the cops (two white male cops) who came for the boy may not see him as human. They may see him as another black body. Another thug. Another kid that needs correcting. I pray they treated him okay. I still pray for him.
Black mothers, how do you talk to your black boys about what they may encounter? What specific words do you use? What do you say to the black lady (who I assume may have been a mother) who said that “all these are some bad ass kids.” Black boys, do you understand or grasp the gravity of your existence? Does it shape the way you act? Do you internalize that you are still enslaved? Is it even a kid’s job to police his own behavior to appease cops or law enforcement?
Please comment down below and let’s start a dialogue about this.
Recently, I was eating lunch with coworkers at my fairly recent job and we starting talking about future plans. I mentioned that I was pursuing my MPH and hoping to do work focused on racial equity. I was at a table with two white nurses and one black MA. One of the white nurses stated, “Well is there any money in it (racial equity work)?” This struck me for two reasons:
1. Some white people can so easily dismiss racial equity work as something that is not theirs because they don’t have to think about their race every day and see it as a problem that does not personally affect them
- The point of racial equity work is not money, for starters. Racial equity work is needed because social institutions have marginalized people of color for more than 300 years. Everyone, including white people, should be fighting for equity. This isn’t the reality though. People seldom want to give up privilege and power and stating that racism negatively impacts everyone is a hard sell. That racism affects the ability of white people to truly empathize with people who have different, more oppressed existences or build emotional intelligence isn’t compelling enough.
- While my coworker may not have meant to skew the conversation towards money and detract from the importance of racial equity, she did so unconsciously. It is this unconscious bias that must be checked. I urge white people to think about how racial equity is important and can be achieved. And I don’t mean the superficial desire to have a society where people don’t discriminate against black people. I mean a true sense of racial equity where you truly understand that history has lied to you and built a false superiority between yourself and others. I mean true racial equity where you believe that you are personally harmed by racism and its effect on society. A true racial equity where you don’t distance yourself from race dialogues and attempts at solutions.
2. You have privilege when you can walk away from a conversation (got this brilliant piece of information from a racial equity facilitator who came to my class)
How could I have engaged my coworker in a productive conversation to show her that racial equity is not just a black person’s problem?
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” -Lilla Watson
I am young. I am black. I am a woman.
To everyone reading these posts,
My name is Natalie. I am a public health professional currently pursing my Master’s in Public Health (MPH). I am interested in empowering marginalized communities and sexual and reproductive health. This blog is an extension of a journal that I started in one of my classes called Social Justice and the Health of Populations: Racism and Other Systems of Oppression in America. This blog is my reflection on intersectionality and what it means to be a young, black woman. It is a window into my inner thoughts and social justice issues that I am passionate about. This blog is also meant to start a dialogue about racial equity and ways to achieve it. I will talk about numerous public health topics, theories, current events, and life experiences. The name “I See Color” is because we have socially constructed the idea of race and skin color pervades society in every way. We can never truly be “colorblind” or race blind.
Rules of Engagement:
- Comment rebuttals, thoughts, experiences
- Respectfully disagree or agree
- Challenge your own biases