Month: August 2020

Weathering Is Killing Black People

The stress of racism is killing Black people, writes Tanya Russell in Self.

Viral footage of Black people dying at the hands of police officers and vigilantes shows the worst-case scenario of racial profiling. And yet, as jaded and traumatized as we are, we are taking to the streets and social media, continuing what seems like a never-ending quest for racial equality, equity, and justice. And we’re tired of constantly dealing with the physiological effects of this trauma.

The effects of this can actually be measured through allostatic load, which is a metric used to quantify the accumulation of chronic stress-related health effects in the body. “The body is always trying to maintain balance, and the term allostasis is used to describe this process for buffering the stress response, which may be activated by [something] psychological, like discrimination, or environmental, like light exposure during the sleep cycle,” Olivia Affuso, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, tells SELF. As SELF previously reported, experts can calculate a person’s allostatic load with various lab tests.

Stress can affect anyone’s body, but Black people have a higher allostatic load score than white people, according to research published in the Journal of National Medical Association. Research also points to racism as a culprit, and this has been problematic long before social media amplified racial trauma to a viral level. This concept is also known as weathering.

Russell, Tanya. (2020, July 1). Let’s Not Forget, Weathering Is Also Killing Black People. Self.

How Long You Live Depends On Your Race

The New York Times keeps getting better at these interactive pieces.

As hospital beds filled up this spring, health departments in cities like Milwaukee and Charlotte, N.C., began to report an alarming trend: A disproportionate number of their patients were Black.

Data eventually revealed that the pattern was nationwide. Black people were three times more likely than white people to contract the coronavirus, six times more likely to be hospitalized as a result and twice as likely to die of Covid-19.

The gap in Black and white infections has become part of a conversation this year about how deeply racism is embedded in the day-to-day lives of Black people.

Wezerek, Gus. (2020, Aug 11). Racism’s Hidden Toll. The New York Times.

Strong Black Women

Ramenda Cyrus, writing for In These Times on the trope of the Strong Black Woman and the damage it can cause to the women it places on a pedestal – and in harm’s way.

In May 2020, a young Black woman kneels in front of riot police with nothing but a face mask. In August 2016, Ieshia Evans calmly approaches riot-armed police and is promptly taken into custody. Over 50 years ago, Gloria Richardson pushes a rifle away from her in apparent exasperation and outrage.

This type of photo—where the Black woman is unabashed and unafraid in her protest—emerges often. 

Photos like these allow people to see us as the unshakeable face of the movement, which only plays into the oft-criticized trope of the Strong Black Woman, where Black women are portrayed as upfront, always in control, and never vulnerable.

The Strong Black Woman is more than just a media trope, though. It is a pervasive myth that will continuously harm Black women as long as the movement and society at large demands Black women’s attention and energy without giving anything back.

Cyrus, Ramenda. (2020, August 7). I Shouldn’t Have to Be a “Strong Black Woman” for My Life to Matter. In These Times.

Ruth Etiesit Samuel writes a similarly blistering op-ed in Teen Vogue.

Our Black babies should not have to risk their health in the middle of a pandemic to defend Black life while many of their white peers are playing house inside. Little Black girls should be allowed to be kids, yet time and time again, we see images like that of seven-year-old Wynta-Amor Rogers plastered across social media. Black girls, specifically darker-skinned Black girls, are inadvertently thrust into this activist position by those applauding them for their strength and “passion.” We are robbed of the chance to transition into womanhood, stripped of softness or delicacy and expected to perform like superhumans while being treated as subhuman.

Samuel, Ruth Etiesit. (2020, June 19). The ‘Strong Black Woman’ Stereotype Is Dangerous. Teen Vogue.

Protecting Black Daughters

Maia Niguel Hoskin, Ph. D., writing for Zora on how she thinks and acts about protecting her Black daughter. That she has to do this at all is appalling beyond belief.

When most women find out that they’re pregnant, worrying about their daughter going to a racist daycare, going missing, or being brutalized or harmed by law enforcement is likely the last thing on their minds. But it needs to be. Outside of the Aurora incident, it’s useful to consider a few others. There’s the 11-year-old middle school girl who was body-slammed for taking one too many cartons of milk from the school cafeteria during lunch. And the 15-year-old high schooler who was grabbed by the neck and then thrown to the ground by school police and the 14-year-old Black teenager who was punched repeatedly and pinned to the ground by police. Even worse, the heart-wrenching story of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old girl who was shot and killed while sleeping on the couch when police raided the wrong apartment.

Niguel Hostin, Maia. (2020, August 6). A Checklist for Keeping Your Black Daughter Safe. Zora

This should make you furious. No woman – no parent – should ever have to think about these things. That they do shouts volumes about just how broken our country is in so many ways.

Malcolm X Stood Up for Black Women

Feminista Jones, writing for Zora (which is fast becoming one of our favorite reads) on Malcolm X and his advocacy for Black women.

On May 22, 1962, Malcolm X delivered a speech in Los Angeles, California, in which he spoke to and about Black women. There, he gave one of his most-quoted statements about his observation of what it means to be a Black woman in America. During this speech, he spoke to the negative ways in which Black women are treated, and he called on us, Black women, to think deeply about the harmful internalization of society’s loathing of who we are, particularly when it comes to our natural appearance. “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?” Malcolm asked his audience. This remains not only a collection of potent quotables but also a testament to his commitment to the upliftment and empowerment of Black women.

Jones, Feminista. (2020, August 6). Malcolm X Stood Up for Black Women When Few Others Would. Zora.

Black Women Led the Movement Behind the Voting Rights Act

N’Dea Yancey-Bragg, writing for USA Today on the leadership of Black women during the Civil Rights movement that led to the Voting Rights Act.

Boynton Robinson’s mother was a suffragist and she grew up in a “culture of justice,” according to Faya Rose Touré, a fellow activist and lawyer. She said Boynton Robinson and her husband Sam, also a voting rights advocate, came to Selma in the 1920s where they started their own insurance business.

“They saw [voting rights] as a key to the road to justice, to equality. They saw it as the key to end Jim Crow segregation in the South,” Touré said. “They lived long enough and were smart enough to know that voting rights may not be a panacea, but it was certainly something that could be fought for.”

The couple worked with sharecroppers, teaching them about voting rights “in an underground manner,” according to Verdell Lett Dawson, board chairman of the Historic Tabernacle Baptist Church Selma AL Legacy Foundation. When Boynton Robinson’s husband died in 1963, she used his memorial service at Tabernacle Baptist Church as the first mass meeting for voting rights in Selma.

Also in attendance at that meeting was Marie Foster, the sister of a dentist who became interested in voting rights after being denied the opportunity to vote multiple times early in her life. She began holding voter registration classes and teaching people to read in the basement of Tabernacle, Dawson said.

Both women became the first two female members of the Dallas County Voters League, a group that led a voting registration campaign and some of whom would eventually be known as the Courageous Eight.

Yancey-Bragg, N’Dea. (2020, August 6). The Voting Rights Act was signed 55 years ago. Black women led the movement behind it. USA Today.

The Breakdown of Discourse

Craig Jenkins, writing for Vulture.

Volatile speech carries with it the potential of inspiring volatile action — they’re branches of the same tree. Activist Shaun King’s brash tweet calling for the destruction of statues, murals, and stained-glass windows depicting Jesus as a white man was treated by right-wing media as a direct edict from Black Lives Matter. The net effect of speech that closes ranks; that reinforces misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia; that draws wedges between groups that ought to be allies in the struggle for justice is the disintegration of communication. Activism that ignores the concerns of the most vulnerable people in the community only reinforces the lines that divide us. If this generation is to overcome the flaws of the last one, the selfishness and fearfulness cleaving the country in half, it’ll be as a functioning unit, not as a network of bickering interest groups. The price of failure this time is the future.

Jenkins, Craig. (2020, July 29). We’re Witnessing the Total Breakdown of Discourse. Vulture.

Racism As a Public Health Crisis

Colorado plans on becoming the latest in a slew of places labelling racism a public health crisis.

Colorado is planning to take a big step toward tackling systemic racism in healthcare.

The state will declare racism as a public health crisis, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Denver Post this week.

Hunsaker Ryan said the agency’s immediate goals are to partner with local community organizations to provide services to people of color, increasing the diversity of her department’s workforce (which is nearly four-fifths white), and hiring an equity and inclusion officer for the department.

Blest, Paul. (2020, July 31). More Than 80 Cities and Counties Have Now Declared Racism a Public Health Crisis.

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