Black Lives Matter
Racial justice and injustice completely overlaps with power and oppression. We still kept this page because it can not be emphasized enough that Black Lives Matter. In order to have a just society, it must be racially just. This means fair and equal treatment in all ways including housing, employment, healthcare, education, and criminalization. Even our voting laws have been enacted to suppress the voices of people of color. We work to put an end to inequality and injustice in all its forms. Our Commitment to Racial Justice can be heard here.
Unless we’re specifically taught not to be racist, we absorb racism from all around us. There’s no such thing as the Birth of a Racist. Racists are made from the society in which they are raised; they’re not born that way. Every time we make some progress in this regard, there’s a backlash from the haters. Angry White Men have been in power since the founding of our country. The Ku Klux Klan is one of the most well known white supremacist hate groups in America. They reigned terror on Black communities.
In response, Fred Hampton from The Black Panthers said, “We don’t think you fight fire with fire best, we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism but we’re going to fight with solidarity.”
Separate has never been equal. Systemic discrimination has been a problem since the founding of this country. It’s our responsibility to wipe out continued injustice caused by oppressive policies such as Segregation that continue to negatively impact our society.
A Deeper Look:
Throughout our history, people of color and black people specifically have been cast as dangerous and disposable. Black and brown people are overrepresented among the poor and working-class, and efforts to ‘maintain law and order’ often involves harassing poor and working-class people. Racism can’t be separated out from the United States form of capitalism. Capitalism and Racism are intertwined.
By many accounts Memorial Day started partly as an expression against racism because it was initiated by families, friends, and allies of Black veterans and people struggling against white supremacy and the rise of the KKK.
It wasn’t until June 19th, 1865 when all enslaved people even heard that slavery ended. That is the significance of celebrating what is referred to as Juneteenth, when the last of the enslaved people received word of their freedom. And again, many people in our country are still not free. Whose freedom and independence do we celebrate on July 4th? There’s deep hypocrisy in celebrating independence on July 4th when so many of us are still not free.
The Underground Railroad was run by a brave and creative network of people who made freedom possible to thousands of enslaved people from the Southern U.S. before slavery was abolished. Even in our lifetime, living life, such as just traveling while Black, can be dangerous and deadly. Victor Hugo Green wrote The Green Book to help people travel safely throughout the United States and beyond.
Another issue, white people, is that celebrating your event at a plantation is ill advised (read: please do not do this). The Antebellum Era was a horrible part of our past, despite the beautiful landscape.
The Southern Black Belt is a large stretch of land in the south that once brought great wealth to plantation owners. Currently descendants of the formerly enslaved people who worked the land live there in poverty.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama continues to be a Bridge Over Troubled Water, famous for violent attacks against people marching for voting rights including John Lewis. The attack on voting rights is still happening today.
We know that racist incidents aren’t just because of a few bad people but are based on ideas and policies that have embedded racism and perpetuate racial inequality. Critical Race Theory recognizes that systemic racism is part of everyday life in our society. It’s our responsibility to look through the Blinders we wear as we move through our world, specifically in the direction of systemic racism with the goal to end it.
Segregation, inequality, and lower job opportunities has become associated with increased violent crime. In part, this association has lead to profiling that has resulted in the unjust deaths of unarmed young black men by police officers. It’s up to us to change how people are seen and treated, the culture of how we maintain order, AND the way we currently rely on ineffective and biased ways of doing so. There is even Racism in Deathcare. Neither decomposing bodies nor cremains have a color, yet racism persists after death.
Steps We Can Take:
Once we begin to think about our own place in society, paying attention to our own privilege or lack thereof, we see so many places that inequality and injustice persist. It’s important to examine ourselves in this regard and supplement self-examination with learning about becoming anti-racist and donating to anti-racist work when we can. We can support black business, authors, speakers, and coworkers. We can choose books, movies and TV shows with accurate and positive portrayals of people of color.
Aside from our own internal processes, we can pay attention to racial bias expressed around us. When we see it, we can write letters or call government officials or organizations to report what we see and demand investigations or direct change. We can advocate for such things as body-cams and de-escalation training for police officers, along with fair housing, education, healthcare, and employment practices. When racist news circulates on social media, we can share and amplify the message. We can do our due diligence and a little research before we vote.
And then there’s the one nobody wants to mention: Reparations. We need to talk about the debt we owe to Black and Indigenous people. How can we ever repair even some of the harm that has been and continues to be inflicted upon them?! We also owe them a debt for fighting in all of the major wars this country has ever had where many of them ended up Dying for Freedom.
Harvard psychiatrist Chester Pierce coined the term ‘microaggression’ to describe everyday insults that communicate hostile or negative messages either verbally or nonverbally, toward people of color. Derald Wing Sue, a Columbia psychology professor expanded the concept to include slights directed at other groups whether of different races, religions, gender, ability or sexual orientation. This type of aggression, intentional or not, has insidious effects like silencing, invalidating or humiliating another person. Chronic exposure to micro-aggressions can turn into micro-trauma. This greatly adds to the stress that marginalized people already face such as stereotyping, intersecting statuses, economic inequality.
Chester Community Coalition works to heal the psychological and emotional impact of homicides and reduce trauma-related violence in Chester, PA. This program is an example of a group of people who saw a problem and are working towards solutions. We had a session with Alexia Clarke, MPH, the Program Coordinator, and Fran Stier, PhD, of the ChesterCommunityCoaltion.org about their work helping families heal from gun violence. It’s obvious that There’s Something Very Isolating About Murder.
The American Psychological Association is finally owning up to and apologizing for its history of racism. In these two episodes we read the APA’s statement on Psychology and Systemic Racism, and Psychology’s Apology.
According to the Giffords Law Center, unarmed black civilians are nearly five times more likely than unarmed white civilians to be shot and killed by police. Our Shrinks After Hours colleague, Allison Gibbs, LCSW, of Therapy Concierge, LLC, spoke with us about the harm this does to individuals and entire communities of color at Wrong Place Wrong Time
Another respected colleague from Shrinks After Hours, Dr. Holly Sawyer of Life First Therapy, LLC works with professional people of color who deal with the racism communicated through the racial slights of micro-aggressions on a daily basis. This can cause chronic stress and have a cumulative effect on the body and mind so is a very important topic and you can listen to the conversation here: How to Have a Voice
Tamara T. Waraschinski, PhD. spoke with us about Radical Death Studies. She is the Director of Communications for the Collective of Radical Death Studies. Dr. Waraschinski discussed how racism and imperialism are inherent in death practices and put out the call for sweeping changes.