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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tarra Bates-Duford

Racism: What We Are Not Talking About

The death of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020 by police sparked both personal and public outcry for racial equality. For many people of color, the clashes with police, racial profiling, and stop and frisk have been an ongoing concern. However, with the death of Mr. Floyd there seems to be more recognition and awareness of the profound effects of discrimination and inequality in this country. Although, the thought of racism existing in this day and time present as a surprise to some, others are keenly aware it never really left, but slightly changed form. The perception that the death of George Floyd led to racial tension and unrest is not entirely true, with his death fuel was added to a slow simmering fire. Racial discrimination and lack of equality is not new, the only difference between now and prior to Mr. Floyd’s death is the ability to record and share instances of abuse, brutality, and inequality. As protests continue for the rights to equal treatment and the end of police brutality there are still things that we are failing to address, things that stand in the way of true equality.

Covert racism and discrimination are not being discussed nor have we developed strategies that can minimize or eliminate this ongoing issue. Covert racism provides the anchor that allows overt racism to live and thrive. For many people of color, covert racism is the unspoken thing that occurs when you attempt to secure a high-level job, a promotion, a new home, eliminate salary disparities, acquire a bank loan etc. It is the pink elephant in the room that no one else seems to notice except people of color. It is the all-white senior management that has never included persons of color, or the training of a white staff member that will ultimately become your supervisor, it is the inclusion of people of color on a grant proposal targeting other people of color that will be “let go” after the grant has been secured Many of us know what it is like to apply for a senior position, go through all the interviewing processes only to learn “we already had someone in mind for the position, but we just wanted to interview others to see if our decision would change”. Many companies represent themselves as inclusive, they have the resumes from people of different and varying backgrounds to prove it, yet the hiring of people of color is another story entirely. The subtle power of covert racism causes many of us to second guess our own qualifications, did we do or say something wrong during the interview? If you already knew you were going to hire someone else, why the long drawn out interviewing process? It is the unspoken issue that promotes self-doubt, intense feelings of frustration, and inadequacy that creates negative emotional implications for persons of color and their families.

Although, there are more discussions occurring on white privilege than any other time we are not talking about persons of color disenfranchisement. We are not talking about the subtle, covert ways in which people of color are being negatively impacted by racism on a daily basis. We are not talking about the times our parents lectured us on working 10x’s harder than the next person, nor the reasons behind this message. We also do not discuss the potential outcome of failure to surpass others, what that outcome means to a person of color and what it would mean to someone not of color.

As a person of color, we are not entirely blameless in our contribution to the maintenance of covert racism that promotes the continuation of overt racism. Some of us will prevent or minimize access to other persons of color in areas such as housing, employment, social gatherings, etc., because of the perception and fear that we identify with our own race and culture. We play a part in denying or discouraging bank loans to people of color, deny promotions because we don’t want to hire too many people that look like us regardless of qualifications, because that might make us appear “less special” to people not of color. As a country we have a long way to go, we can’t possibly tackle an issue as large as overt racism without addressing the underlying issues maintaining it, the issues that would be hard to distinguish if it was recorded.

The things we are not talking about creates more harm than talking about things aggressively. The tone and direction of a conversation can always be addressed, but how do you talk about things in a meaningful way if they are being avoided?

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