As the youngest child of an 80 year old mother who migrated from Drew, Mississippi to Chicago when she was just 17 years old, I can only imagine the mixed emotions of the eagerness and anxiety that possibly consumed her during that time; the idea of liberation and living up to obtaining the American Dream yet the reality of being a Black dark-skinned woman. My mother, Evangelist Odia B. Anderson witnessed the ills of racism since birth and the discussions have only progressed to include video footage and online social media platforms in 2020. Unfortunately, it took authentic restoration and a commitment to consistently recalibrate in order for me to finally sit among the wisdom my mother has to impart regarding her life. My mother’s story is compelling. I urge us to take the time to sit among the elders and soak up as much wisdom as possible. I wanted to share a piece of my personal lineage as it relates to the complexities I have heard from a historian herself as well as what I have witnessed and experienced firsthand. Earlier last week, I shared my personal encounter(s) with racism. What I initially thought to be a random yet necessary post, turned into what felt like a never-ending cycle from one horrific experience to the next. Once I shared my experience(s), others chimed in and shared theirs as well. To keep you up to date, here is what I posted on Facebook and Instagram June 10, 2020:
When was the first time you personally felt the impact of racism?
Was it when my Black friends no longer wanted me to play with the one White girl on our block…..
Was it when I watched my mom be called a Black bitch by a White man who was a local patron…..
Was it when I witnessed the riot tear shit up when I was in high school because what was allowed in the locker room wasn’t allowed in the lunchroom….
I realized that what you allow behind closeddoors will either shine or bleed into the streets….
the White boy called the Black boy a nigga in the lunch line…..
Was it when I was falsely accused of stealing while the White girl and her boyfriend walked out the store with a 32” TV……
Was it when I was offered a full-time position making $38,000 with a doctorate degree….
Was it when I was told by a White woman that my pink blouse matched the inside of my lips…..
Was it when the Whiteboard member asked me how many men I have children by…..
Was it when I was called a nigga bitch by a disgruntled White male driver…..
Was it when I applied to work for an institution that initially said I wasn’t qualified but two weeks later offered me the same position because I changed my first name from Shaniqua to Shan………
Was it when I was told I should dress up to help minimize all my other challenges……
The responses were heartfelt for some and re-traumatizing for others. This post alone shows how we suppress our feelings and continue to move on with life. Key word; with. Is this how we define resilience? To a certain extent, yes. To continue having the conversation about race and the injustice we face as Black people is grotesque. How do we recalibrate knowing that we are watched, harassed, and killed by the self-appointed neighborhood watchman? Trayvon Martin. How can we seek resolve when traveling to embark on a new journey leads to your ultimate death? Sandra Bland.How do we repair the harm when we continuously see how we are dehumanized in a matter where we cannot jog and check out our surroundings in peace? Ahmaud Arbery. How do we move forward when we cannot sleep in peace? Breonna Taylor. How can we forgive when we make an effort to rebuild but experience our last breath in 8:46 while calling out for our deceased mother? George Floyd.
Many of us are attempting to find a new way of life through COVID-19 which has been coined one of the deadliest viruses of our time. Racism, the deadliest virus of all times, is a public health crisis that must be addressed consistently and not in a reactive approach to modern day lynchings, murder at the hands of those who were appointed to serve and protect, and/or by the
systems that were not created to provide equitable opportunities to progress. Racism is a driving force of the social determinants of health (like housing, education and employment) and is a barrier to health equity. 1 Many are making an attempt to define and redefine protesting, rioting, and looting. Yet, we have to remain diligent and focused on the why.
The silver lining has been the courageous steps taken to rebuild and protest. I have watched the people come together as one with a message to reallocate funds to the communities and the purpose for the betterment of all shareholders. I have seen brothers and sisters hold one another accountable to make sure their Black business standards are intact regarding superb customer service, proper signage, and other business necessities. Gangs and factions that have been at odds have joined forces to reconcile their differences and clean the streets, educate the youngin’s that come behind them to rethink the decisions they make, and become more inclined to the idea of legalizing their efforts to become entrepreneurs.
In essence, we are living in perilous times yet we have to remain resilient, soak up the knowledge of those who come before us, continue to focus on the why, stay on the right side of history, and last but not least; take the necessary steps to heal from the matters that prevent you from being the change we need in this world. When we learn how to do things with one another, we learn how to be restorative. We can no longer do things for people as a way to enable them. We can no longer do things to people as a way to control them. We can no longer do things as if they do not exist as a way to neglect them. Rehumanize opposed to dehumanize; Restorative Justice is the way.
1 American Public Health Association, 2020