My thoughts this weekend don’t go much further than a research study in which “black faces looked more criminal to police officers; the more Black, the more criminal.” Source Notice this research isn’t limited to White officers, it references police officers.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been digging into my ‘monkey’ research because I’ve been developing a proposal to further my work. It’s not hard for me to think of how unintentional bias allows some of us -particularly in moments when we may feel fear, our authority being challenged, or other things that disrupt our awareness – to allow biases to kick in. The more Black the individual, the more criminal. Why? Because of that association between Blacks and apes; the messaging that Blacks/African Americans are less human than Whites. When dehumanized in such a way, Blacks are seen as less intelligent, less cultured, less articulate, and less attractive. They are expected to have more physical strength, but less emotional control. We’re all fed this message through the media that sends these messages; it’s in the adjectives that appear in the evening news, and in editorial cartoons. It’s repeated in Facebook groups, and yes, in children’s picture books.
It allows too many of all races and ethnicities to think that Tyree Nichols and Keenan Anderson, 2023 victims of police officers, were in the wrong and deserving to lose their lives to excessive force.
I’ve raised a question in a few places this week asking: what is your activism? Underlying that is the premise that you’re an anti-racist. As a #diversityJedi, I consider ‘antiracism’ to be built upon Teachings of Yoda: Do. Or do not. There is no try. You cannot try to be an anti-racist, either you are, or you aren’t. Sure, our doing may fall short, but we get up and keep going. We may not all march, tweet, FB, or write letters because we all have different strengths when it comes to engaging our activism. But, we all do something. We all show up in ways that matters to us and to our communities. Part of what I do is to reach out to others; to contact those near to me whether they’re Asian American, or Black/African American after another incident hits the media. It’s often a one-way thing, but that’s OK. We’re not activists in the same way. I don’t encourage anyone to engage in writing, for example, if it’s not you forte because that may only increase the trauma you feel. When I asked my children how they were handling this most recent event, one of my sons responded “Avoidance. Annoyance. Anger.” I was thankful not to see ‘apathetic’ because that’s where I realized I was when he first asked me ‘why does this keep happening’ and all I could give him was the too old that that it happened because it always happened. Anti-racism doesn’t allow that response. If you think this work hasn’t been a journey for me, you’d be wrong.
Reading is a rather passive, but necessary form of activism. Last Friday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. That day, I picked up The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Hithers in Hitler’s Ghettos by Judy Batalion. I plan to visit a new exhibit at Candle’s Holocaust Museum here in Terre Haute this week because some remembering takes more than one day/year. Learning histories, listening to stories, and expanding our awareness is a necessary way to inform our activism. I think working for solidarity is too because “nobody’s free until all everybody’s free” (Fannie Lou Hamer)
Reading is passive, but it feeds our imaginations, informs our minds, and elevates our souls. People who attempt to ban children’s books know this. They find it easier to take books away from every child than to educate their own. They reduce the imaginations of all children, allow for the continuation of disinformation, and suppress the self-esteem of BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ youth. Have you ever seen someone on the right ban a book and then offer an alternative?I cannot help but wonder why they don’t. They would actively work to prevent Zetta Elliott’s A Place Inside of Me from being a balm in a classroom this week. They wouldn’t want readers to discover how art elevates Jade in Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson and they wouldn’t want anyone to imagine how the enslaved people in Carole Boston Weatherford’s Freedom in Congo Square experienced joy or how they can, too.
Anti-Blackness permeates this country. And, even though I know how too many perceive me, my children, and their children as a threat, I manage to wake up most every day without those people on my mind. Not because of apathy but, because I know they don’t define me. Rather, my work does. “Do or do not.”
Be well and do good.