February is Black History month! How is that even fair? Black people get a whole month devoted to them, but white people get bupkis — or is that butt kiss, I’m never sure with these things? No matter, we’ll start our celebration of Black History month with a couple of hilarious jokes, so strap in and tickle your funny bone as you prepare to laugh your ass off — wasn’t he just elected to the Senate? See what I mean? It’s just a laugh a minute around here.
How do you get a Black person out of a tree?
Cut the rope!A viral video forced a wealthy Texas suburb to confront racism. A ‘silent majority’ fought back.
High-larry-us, don’t you agree? How about this one?
Now that Rosa Parks has passed, Black people have to sit at the back of the bus again!A viral video forced a wealthy Texas suburb to confront racism. A ‘silent majority’ fought back.
Man, Ye Olde Blogge is just on fire here at the beginning of Black History month!
As hard as that racist bullshit is to read, imagine if your child came home and told you that those were things other kids at school were telling them. Imagine the realization that you couldn’t protect your children from the worst ravages of overt racism in your community.
Imagine telling your children, “I’m your mother, and I am supposed to protect you. And I failed you.” It’s heartbreaking. We all know that we cannot protect our children from every harmful thing that is out in the world, but we feel like we should be able to. And, there are only a few stark reminders that we can’t… if you’re white.
If you’re not white, then you are reminded frequently that you cannot protect your child from racism.
The only thing that comes close for white parents is having a child with a disability or mental health issue. So, today Ye Olde Blogge takes a closer look at what makes racism so damaging to Black people in the hopes that we can convince the hold outs among white people that (a) racism is alive and well in the USA, (b) racism is typically expressed in much more subtle ways than we whites imagine, and (c) demonstrate the ways that it damages Black psyches and souls. Sounds like fun, right?
After writing The Civil War Never Ended series on the racism inherent in our deep culture, I got a lot of push back from folks who didn’t think it racism is really a thing. Most white people don’t understand racism. They think it is all lynching and using the n-word. You know, overt hatred of black people, so if you’re not running around spewing racial hatred with a noose hanging out of your back pocket, you’re good. They don’t realize the subtle ways that implicit bias is expressed and influences our behaviors and mental processes. Our deep culture is what makes the Harvard Project Implicit work. If you haven’t taken one of their tests, you should. They are illuminating.
Another window into racist beliefs in our culture is in the “jokes” these children were making. Those ideas didn’t just spontaneously generate in a vacuum. They were picked up from their environment, and who makes up most of a child’s environment? Their parents and their schools. Those kids felt like that shit was normal because it was occurring in their environment with some regularity.
Racism and Traumatic Stress
Racism is a form of bullying. Bullying results in traumatic stress disorders. Exposure to racism results in traumatic stress disorders and numerous others.
Threats to Group Membership
One reason that racism is so debilitating is because it threatens the individuals membership in the larger group. Because the safety and security of great apes and many mammals is predicated on group membership and inclusion, anything that threatens continued membership in good standing is a direct threat to the life and well-being of the individual. You might not think that consciously, but you feel it outside of your consciousness. You have an implicit primitive emotional understanding of the mechanism and will react to it. At its core, racism is the threat of expulsion from the group based on skin color — a trait no one can choose or change. In this sense, all experiences of racism are extremely stressful, and none of them can be brushed aside lightly.
The Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Stress Hormones
When distressed, we produce stress hormones and experience other physiological responses. Long-term exposure to those stress hormones leads to numerous serious health issues like headaches, migraines, and bodily aches and pains; aggravation of respiratory illnesses; increased incidents of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks, high blood pressure, and stroke; and gastrointestinal complications like increased bloating and abdominal pain.
Given that life expectancy is five years shorter in our Black population and that the average age of first heart attack is younger for Blacks, it is reasonable to think that racism is a contributing factor through explicit acts of racism, implicit acts of bias, and systemic racism that consistently denies Black people the same quality of care dollar-for-dollar that white people receive.
Another way that racism affects affects Black people is through stereotype threat as established by Steele, Aronson, and Spencer. The idea is that if you remind someone of their group membership such as gender or racial groups, then ask them to do some high-stakes performance like take an important standardized test, then if their group membership is one that is discriminated against in a specific way, their performance on the test will shift to conform with the stereotype. Hunh? If you give students a standardized test and ask them what their race is immediately before taking it, Black kids will perform worse on the test than Black kids who weren’t asked about their race. It is as if they are conforming to the stereotype that they are stupid as they are so often told they are in subtle and not so subtle ways.
The take away here is that the self concept that we beat into our Black community that they are criminal, lazy, stupid, and other negative characteristics has a tremendous effect on their ability to perform. There is a very real, very permanent effect. It happens outside of our awareness making it insidious and difficult to overcome. Black people really do have to work harder just to achieve the same outcomes as white people.
Race also affects school performance in two specific ways: (1) teacher expectations based on student characteristics and (2) improvements in student performance when teacher and student are of the same race.
Teacher expectations. It has been well demonstrated that teachers have expectations of their students and that those expectations are based on ethnicity and socioeconomic level. Teachers treat students differently based on their expectations. When expectations are high, teachers give more response time, call-on students more often, give more challenging instruction, more praise, and higher marks for similar work. The opposite was true for teachers with low expectations. Of course, you can guess one of the determinative factors for expectations was race.
Worse, though, is that students from discriminated against ethnic groups were more susceptible to the effects of low expectations. In effect, the internalized racial bias caused teachers to worsen their educational conditions limiting their achievements proving to the student that the racial characteristics are true and when reminded of it caused them to perform worse on high-stakes assessments (stereotype threat). And, none of them realize that they’re doing it. How fucked up is that?
Race-Congruent Teachers. One mitigating effect on the detrimental effects of racism on education is the same-race effect. When a Black student has a Black teacher we can see improvements in several areas: (1) higher ratings for behavior and behavioral performance — they’re punished less often; (2) higher scores for academic performance; and (3) higher scores on standardized tests. Overall, the students are more successful simply by being with someone who is like them.
What is clear is that the hill that Black Americans have to climb is steeper than what whites have to climb. There probably isn’t a single metric that isn’t worser for Blacks than whites. Given that the country started through the suppressing Native Americans, blacks, women, and religious dissenters, we shouldn’t be surprised that white Americans cling so stubbornly to our privileged positions and insist on our rights to discriminate against those we please.
Racism is a daily occurrence for PoC. It eats at your self-esteem, your sense of belonging, your humanity, your soul. You have to harden yourself to it. Find a way to cope with it.
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