It has been awhile since I last submitted a blog. This is because following my plans to submit part 2 of the things you can do during shelter in place seemed to be pale in comparison to the social movement that gained force. To address this, I am going to interrupt my usual content to give the Black Lives Matter Movement that time that it deserves. I would have liked to have done this earlier but like many of you I was also impacted by what has been going on and I needed time to process.
I stand with Black Lives Matter. I do not believe that “All Lives Matter” is an appropriate response. Like many people I went through a period of time that I thought I could function without seeing color. That I could see all people as equal. This was in part due to my own issues being a multiracial person raised in the predominantly white Christian community. I did not feel like I had a place in the racial conversation since it felt like all the conversations were only being directed from 100% ____ ethnic groups. Back then I may have been the kind of person to jump on the All Lives Matter bandwagon. Since then I have learned and addressed (and continue to address) my own hang ups. I have read The New Jim Crow. I have watched documentaries and done what I can to continue educating myself. Most of all I have begun the work of accepting who I am and making a place for multiracial people to join the conversation.
I could go into why I believe the “All Lives Matter” response isn’t appropriate but I also think that it has been said so much that no matter how I say it I would not change the minds of those within it via a blog on the internet. It isn’t personal enough to reach them and give them a face to everything happening or to give them the support they need to face the pain that is accepting a wrong so deep that it can be defined as evil. Given my stated expertise and sexuality I am sure this blog is most likely to end up in an echo chamber of those with like mind. So, this is written for those of you who already believe in those protests and are dealing with the impact and repercussions of decades of oppression.
I see you.
I saw you missing from the history books when my schools never addressed the breadth of slavery, how the war to end slavery wasn’t about ending slavery but about commerce, how the German, Nazi movement started in the US, Eugenics, how the US would have let the war continue without us if it weren’t for Pearl Harbor. Japanese internment camps, and the genocide of the multitude of tribes that made up what we call the Native American people. I saw you missing in the ranks of my professors and teachers. I didn’t have a teacher that was a POC at all till college. I didn’t have a black professor till I got to grad school.
I didn’t know what to do so I just hunkered down and focused on my niche desire to address trauma. Trauma lead me to what is missing. Into the parts of the city that so many people want to forget exists and where they want to keep what they do not want to see. What they don’t want to see though is people. People with needs, dreams, and desires. I spent years in the south side of Chicago trying to help but the system is so broken that people die before the paperwork to get them help is finished. I have too many examples of the broken, oppressive system. I have chosen a mere three from my years working on the Chicago, south side that each highlight different ways the system is broken.
I was working with a young, pregnant, black girl at the time. While outside a police station she had an episode that escalated into a crisis, she proceeded to walk into traffic and wander in the middle of the busy street yelling. I couldn’t get her back on the sidewalk no matter what I tried. I went into the station and asked for help, the police officers chose not to help me, and I called my supervisor at my wits end as to what my options to help were. At this time, I was still new to this job much less a crisis situation of this caliber. I was walked through filling out the paperwork that legally shows that a person is in a mental health crisis and requires intervention to hospitalize them. I walked back into the station and they refused to take the paperwork. They claimed that without a judge’s signature on it the paperwork wasn’t legally binding, that isn’t true and I stated as such. There is not a line on that paperwork that requires a judge’s signature. What perfect situation would it be if a judge just happened to be present every time any person had a mental health crisis that required intervention. Since that isn’t feasible it isn’t required. Also, if the police don’t accept the paperwork there is no paper trail to show that the police didn’t do their job. Eventually it reached the point that they just ignored me all together. I think at least some wanted to help but they refused to make any eye contact with me. The way the police social structure is, if any of them helped me they would have risked losing their jobs since doing so would mean they aren’t being a team player. A system that is designed so that if a black woman gets hit by a car in front of a police station, and no one in that station is concerned there will be any repercussions for doing nothing. That is a broken system.
Before I worked on the south side, I had no traffic tickets to my driving history. This is because by the time I had a driver’s license I was attending a college prep type school on a partial scholarship so I was driving in mostly middle/upper class neighborhoods. Growing up I remember the white kids I went to school with bragging about how they would speed and never get caught. They never had to worry about speed cameras. Once I worked on the south side, I lost count of how many traffic tickets I got while driving to people’s homes in just one year, it was excessive. On the south side where there is already very little work and the work that is available pays little. That is where our city officials, politicians, decide to put the majority of the speed cameras. If it was about money, they would put them in the white neighborhoods where white kids with well to do parents will pay the tickets from their regular stable income. Instead it is used as an additional tool of oppression and take money from people that barely have enough money to live and feed themselves. It is one of the many reasons people who are forced to live in a ghetto have to stay in the ghetto. Money spent on speeding tickets don’t go into saving accounts or college funds. If you can’t afford the tickets you lose the legal right to drive and that means you can’t get to work to make money to pay the tickets. That is a broken system.
A regular task I had was to take/escort people to their appointments. These appointments spanned psychiatry to primary care physicians and on occasion the ER. The reasons I would be there were numerous and complex. They might be too mentally ill to learn the public transportation system. They might not be able to remember what they were told in an appointment if I wasn’t present to help them take notes and do memory prompts. They might have anxiety so severe they couldn’t bring themselves to attend any appointments on their own. What it means is that I got to see firsthand the vast difference in medical service that is received in a middle-class neighborhood clinic vs. a lower-class neighborhood clinic. For many of us when we see our primary care physician, we make an appointment, we show up 10 minutes early, we get called in to the back within 15 minutes of the appointment time you signed up for and you may have to wait another 15 for the doctor to actually see you. In general, you will be in and out in less than hour. Afterwards we have the rest of the day and we might even go into work. For the people that go to clinics on the south side of Chicago that are paid through medicare/Medicaid the routine is different. If I had to be with a person for the entirety of an appointment that was typically my day of work. They are also expected to be 10 minutes early to their appointment. They then wait to be seen and that wait can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 5 hours. I am not exaggerating. That is if the doctor their appointment is with, has even shown up. I often brought people to an appointment only to be told the doctor wasn’t there at the time of the appointment. When that happened, the doctor often didn’t show up for an hour at least. This meant that all the appointments got pushed back even though the patients showed up on time. If the patients show up late, they may lose their appointment slot altogether. Even with an appointment the clinics often functioned on a first come first serve basis so if a person was scheduled after them, they might still get seen before them because of the first come first serve sign in. All this adds up to losing a whole work day to attend one appointment. Most of the people that go to these clinics don’t have jobs that provide sick days to use so they lose a day of pay. This means that when a person gets sick, they avoid getting medical treatment because the cost isn’t just the medical bill but a day of paid work. If there are any medical complications it means more appointments. Complications are also more likely to occur since prior medical needs don’t get addressed due to the avoidance of medical treatment to instead do paid work. If there are more appointments there is a risk of losing their job all together due to them asking for so much time off to attend the appointments. Once they lose their job, they can no longer afford the medical appointments and their medical complications get worse and multiply. They then end up going to the ER only for their medical needs when those medical needs reach a point of intense pain. This is because even if they can’t pay, the ER will still treat them but they will wait hours in pain for that treatment. The ER only handles emergencies though and not consistent treatment so the underlying conditions that are causing the pain are still not addressed and will continue to exacerbate. In this manner it isn’t a gunshot to the back or a knee to the neck but it is still a slow painful death sentence. That is a broken system.
These examples would almost never be seen by the average white person because they take place where the average white person will not go and has no reason to go. While the oppression happens in white spaces as well, in more subtle ways, the systemic oppression that is based on keeping a ghetto a ghetto stays out of the white neighborhoods. Aside from my work on the south side, the events I get invited to and even the casual social events are predominantly white spaces even if in a predominantly non-white area. I have often been the only POC present at these engagements. There is so many of us and yet we rarely see each other in these white spaces. I used to not see color but that isn’t true, I used to ignore important information that tells the story of what a person’s potential life experience is and ignored the signs of who is missing. Without acknowledging color, I invalidated the experience of others and blinded myself to everyone that has been missing. Not acknowledging color made me feel less alone in a sea of white but that is an important truth I need to face. Now I know better and I look. I look for who is missing when I walk into a room. I see you. I see when you aren’t there.