Racism is a Pandemic and Compassion Could Lead to the Cure
Black Americans are fighting against two battles—COVID-19 and the deeply rooted racism of America. Grief has become an all too familiar emotion experienced by Black people in our country. Between the countless murders of unarmed Black men and women by police officers and being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, this past year has uncovered a pandemic that has been plaguing our country for far too long—racism.
A Closer Look at the Impact of Racism on Black American’s Wellbeing
Being Black in America means you must consider your safety before doing virtually anything. Running while Black, driving while Black, birdwatching while Black, or even playing with a toy while Black could cost you your life. All it takes is one person’s implicit bias to put your entire life on the line. That’s what it’s like living the Black experience in our country.
Despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which outlawed discrimination based on sex, color, religion, or national origin, inequalities and racial injustices are still alive and prevalent in our country today. Systematic racism, which promotes economic disadvantages, has negatively impacted generation after generation of Black Americans. Structural racism results in the lack of quality education, less wealth, poorer health outcomes, and even a shorter lifespan for Black Americans.
Racism is a silent killer, and it’s time for us all to put an end to this disease. Overall, Black Americans tend to report lower levels of life satisfaction and happiness. Research shows that Black people experience lower rates of depression compared to white Americans. However, once depressed, Black people are more likely to not only stay chronically depressed and experience higher impairments, but they’re also more likely not to receive treatment.
Macro and microaggressions can lead to daily stress in the lives of Black Americans. Significant experiences like not being hired for a job because of their race, or slighter aggressions like receiving poor customer service or being followed in a store, can cause significant stress and impact the mental health and overall wellbeing of Black people. It’s evident that Black Americans experience heightened levels of stress, and over time stress can wear down the body leading to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure—all of which disproportionality affects Black people. We must face the reality of the consequences that racism has on Black Americans and come together to stand against hate.
How to Fight Racism With Compassion
There is no easy fix for the centuries-old disease of racism. We’ve all inherited ways of thinking about race, class, and gender, and it’s our job to unpack these thought patterns and challenge negative behaviors. The truth is, being racist isn’t a characteristic reserved for just “bad” people. Understanding that fact is the first step to permitting yourself to really take a hard look at your explicit or implicit biases.
People are not born racist, meaning everyone can do the difficult but necessary work to unlearn bigotry and stereotypes. Compassion and empathy are integral to the fight against racism. Honing these characteristics can only push the charge against racism forward. Here are some ideologies Americans can and need to unlearn with the help of compassion.
- “I don’t see color.”
Brandee Anderson, an educator and lawyer, said it best when she said, “Being colorblind isn’t kind.” Some Americans believe that “not seeing color” is a good thing, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Suppose you can’t acknowledge someone’s race or how their life experiences may be different from yours. In that case, you’ll lead yourself into a trap of invalidating people’s lived experiences because you “don’t see color.”
- “They must have done something to deserve that outcome.”
This statement completely lacks compassion. No one deserves to be unfairly treated, and learn to check your own biases when you feel this sentiment come to mind. It might feel uncomfortable to look at a situation from a different perspective, but it’s necessary to feel empathy for people.
- “It doesn’t involve me, so why speak up?”
Being silent in the face of racism makes you just as guilty as the perpetrator. Don’t be silent, and speak up when you see something wrong happening. Unpack why you feel the need to turn a blind eye to racism just because it doesn’t involve you. Lean into empathy, and step up to challenge racist behavior.
Racism is a pandemic that is slowly killing Black Americans, and it’s up to us and you to be part of the cure.