pri·or·i·ty/prīˈôrədē/ noun: the fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important.
priv·i·leged/ˈpriv(ə)lijd/ adjective: having special rights, advantages, or immunities.
Scrolling down the timelines on my various social media feeds has highlighted the glaring, contradictory lived experiences of folks in America. There are many messages about #BlackLivesMatter, calls for “No Justice No Peace,” and posts surrounding the shameful replaying of George Floyd’s final days on earth on broadcast news. I also see the glaring absence of posts from my non-black friends, a sprinkle of condemnation about the protests/riots, and finally, my favorite of all statements, “We need to pray.”
In spite of this, nothing has managed to infuriate me more than the willful ignorance, and apathetic response to the pain of black people-fighting for the right to live. I came across Mark Clennon’s picture on Instagram that featured the juxtaposition of how the right to live in America is a priority for some, and a privilege for others. I found myself having such a visceral response to this image. I instantly thought two things: Priorities & Privilege.
“If America was a person and could compartmentalize racism, the photo above is what that would look like.”Beverley Andre
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
The duality of this captured moment had me stunned.
The ability to compartmentalize racism is an invisible line that separates people of choice from people of color… and when I say people of choice, I’m referring to people who have the privilege of not having to deal with racism, because their skin tone affords them that choice–which is the foundation of privilege. I do not have control over my skin tone, and neither do I want to change it. Therefore I do not have the privilege to be at brunch, while America is on fire. I do not have the privilege to go about my day like normal, and effectively ignore racism because it doesn’t affect me. I do not have the privilege to not be uncomfortable during conversations about racism. I do not have the luxury of sitting back, relaxed, with my legs crossed, enjoying the sunshine, while sipping on mimosas in privilege.
I was talking to my former clinical director Kathy, who is a white woman, about why I decided to create BeHeart Counseling Services with an intentional focus on serving Black and Brown women. It took me years before I could fully step into and own my desire to work with Black and Brown women; because I know anything that is “overt” in Blackness, is met with negative responses, unless it can be appropriated.
I struggled with the possibility of not being seen as an inclusive therapist until I started researching private therapy practices. Each and every website, had white faces, with a small fraction of them featured pictures of an interracial couple or family. That’s when it clicked for me: Creating spaces for Black and Brown women is inclusion, because the majority of what is out there excludes US. I told Kathy that I didn’t realize the level of importance then, but now I understand. She responded, “…You are making therapy that much more accessible to a population who, frankly, has to carry too much pain. Just as a default setting.”
I teared up when I read it, and I am tearing up as I’m writing this. Our protest is a rebellion against carrying pain as a default setting in response to racism.
We have become conditioned to expect another headline about an unarmed black man being murdered due to police brutality, knowing the murderers will not be convicted.
We have become desensitized to seeing videos documenting the lynching of another black person, played repeatedly, on national media outlets at the expense of our mental health; which is another form of systemic racism, because when have you seen the murder and lifeless bodies of non-black people exploited on national tv?
We are scarred from hearing the haunting final words of another black person, and seeing those words become a hashtag.
WE. ARE. TIRED. OF. IT.
Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
America has repeatedly shown, Black Lives Don’t Matter. So now, as a people, we are choosing to no longer operate on default.
It is long overdue for people of choice to start prioritizing and advocating for Black Lives and People of Color, to have the freedom to thrive, instead of leaning back into the comfortable chair of privilege.
Resources to Help, Heal & Educate:
- National Resource List
- The Bail Project
- A list of recommended resources for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement
- Justice for George Floyd toolkit
- For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies
- #ExpressiveWriting Prompts to Use If You’ve Been Accused of #WhiteFragility #SpiritualBypass or #WhitePrivilege
- Resources for talking with your children
- Anti-Racism Resources
- Black Lives Matter Resources
- Black Lives Matter — School Edition
- Scaffolding Anti-Racism