Discrimination is a common experience in the United States. Americans experience at least one discrimination event in their life, some can experience it on a daily basis. It is time for all of us to come together and uplift one another.
WHAT BLACK LIVES MATTER MEANS
In the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the question of whether or not all lives matter has created tension for many. The movement does not negate that all lives matter. The movement calls to end violence toward Blacks and to give them the same human rights and dignity that is awarded to non-Blacks.
MEDIA’S PORTRAYAL OF POLICE OFFICERS
Media has also centered police officers as the prime perpetrators of these indignities. I argue that focusing anti-Black sentiments on police officers 1) denies that police officers as individual human beings are socialized within racist ideologies and 2) denies systemic and institutional racism that penetrates all systems in our country, including our justice system.
Scientific data show, for example, Blacks are treated the worst in criminal and civil cases. In my own research, I have found jurors’ biases about race also impact their verdict1. As human beings, we all experience pain and suffering. We all have daily struggles – struggles with paying bills, taking care of our families, managing work-life balance, etc. Yet, for people of color it is sometimes worse – add daily racial discrimination in there, maybe some racial insults, people holding on to their belongings closely when you walk by, and denial of basic needs, such as housing or job interviews solely by the spelling of your last name.
RACISM HAS A MAJOR IMPACT ON PEOPLE’S LIVES
My research has found that racism and racial microaggressions cause emotional distress 2, 3,4 (i.e., depression, anxiety, stress, anger an overall negative outlook on life). We have also found racism can cause traumatic stress reactions 5 – even though the notion that racism as a stressor is not formally recognized in psychological or psychiatric diagnostic systems – at least not yet.
The truth is that racism is everywhere– we all, in one way or another, grew up learning about the ‘good’ vs. the ‘bad’ racial groups under the social construct of race – meaning made up by people – that groups people based on their skin color and physical features. Whether we talk about it or not. That includes, judges, attorneys, police officers, jurors, teachers, mental health providers, you, me.
In a recent appearance on the Steve Harvey TV show on racism in America, Steve Harvey asked me how we could adjust our biases.
Here are three brave things we can all do personally.
We are all good people at heart. Few people want to intentionally hurt others. It is important for us to stop celebrating color blindness, and really validate and accept that all of us have different experiences based on our race. We need to be compassionate. When we acknowledge that we have all been socialized to think of racial groups along superficial and socially constructed racial hierarchies then we will all be able to acknowledge why saying Black Lives Matter uplifts those who have been oppressed and why saying All Lives Matter negates the lived experiences of discrimination and racism by people of Color, in this case Blacks.
It is our responsibility as people to change the way we have been taught to think about race so that all our children can have a better and more just future!
We want to hear from you. Tell us in the comments:
1. How do you unlearn your biases?
2. How do you have these difficult conversations?
- Carter, R.T. & Mazzula, S.L. (2013). Race and racial identity status attitudes: Mock-juror decision-making in race discrimination cases. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 11(3), 196-217.
- Mazzula, S. L., & Nadal, L. (2015). Racial Microaggressions, Whiteness and Feminist Therapy. Women and Therapy, 38(3-4), 308-26
- Nadal, K., Mazzula, S.L., Rivera, D.R. & Fujii-Doe, W. (2014). Racial Microaggressions and Latina/o Americans: An Analysis of Nativity, Gender, and Ethnicity. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 2(2), 67-78.
- Mazzula, L. (2013). But you speak so well: How Latinos experience subtle racism. American Psychological Association (APA), Psychology Benefits Society, a Blog of the Public Interests Directorate.
- Carter, R.T., Mazzula, S. L., Victoria, R., Vazquez, R., Hall, S., et al. (2013). Initial Development of the Race-Based Traumatic Stress Symptom Scale: Assessing the Emotional Impact of Racism. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(1), 1-9.