George Floyd’s death has ignited yet another movement and uprising for equality. We are again faced with the ugly truth of racism and discrimination. Along with protesting, it’s important that we educate our communities, including people of color, in order to dismantle anti-Black behavior and attitudes. I’ve heard people say they feel “helpless” or “powerless” because they aren’t able to protest. But I truly believe that if we can start to have conversations about anti-Black attitudes, within our family and smaller communities, we can start to make more progress. As a South Asian immigrant, I have seen the resistance in having these conversations, whether it’s because of the language barrier or how some communities live in their own bubble and adhere to what they hear or see in that bubble. In many cultures, including mine, you are taught and expected to “respect your elders,” which makes it intimidating to speak up against your family’s discrimination. But there’s no time like now to dismantle these old, anti-Black beliefs and have an open, respectful conversation with your family/community.
- Media: When you start to pay attention to the subtleties in the media, you start to notice how light-skinned people are deemed more “beautiful” than dark skinned people. From T.V. shows to movies, to even advertisements, there are so many hidden messages about your skin color and what that means about you. I remember growing up seeing my aunt use an Indian skin-lightning face cream “Fair & Lovely.” When I was younger, I didn’t really think much about it, but as I started learning more about colorism and racism, I realized what message society is trying to send, just in the name of the cream. When you notice these covert forms of racism in movies or TV shows, use that opportunity to challenge the hidden messages and bring the real issue of colorism to the forefront. A great way to increase more exposure to different skin tone and culture is to introduce your family and relatives to more movies, T.V. shows, books, and articles by Black creators.
- Challenge their stereotypical beliefs: Not only do you hear subtle comments of anti-Blackness in the media, but you might have encountered it within your family in the form of “All Black people are thugs” or “He/she speaks well for a Black person.” A way to start a conversation about these types of statements is by commenting on how this generalizes a diverse group of people. You may challenge them to reflect on how they formed their stereotypical beliefs about the Black community and their own experiences with others, making stereotypical remarks about their own cultural or community.
- Use language they understand: Like I said, a language barrier can sometimes make it difficult to have these conversations if you’re not proficient in your native language or if your family doesn’t primarily communicate in English. A great way to overcome this challenge is to find resources in your family’s preferred language, such as articles or YouTube videos from credible sources explaining racism, Black history in the United States, and the current events. In some cases, immigrant families may not be well familiar with African American’s enslavement history and the fight for freedom. So maybe teaching families/relatives of that time period can help build some empathy towards the Black community and shed light into the current events.
- Be aware of your own biases: Let’s face it, we all have biases to a certain degree. Along with educating and informing our families and communities, we need to continue being aware of our own biases that have been taught and/or socialized into us. Due to the nature of microaggressions, we sometimes might not even realize how we’re contributing to the anti-Black beliefs. For example, being mindful of the language and words you use in our day-to-day or when speaking about slavery.
We have to continue fighting for equality as a united front. Deconstructing these anti-Black, systemic beliefs is difficult and change will take some time! If you find yourself struggling with these recent events and notice it’s impacting your emotional and mental health, you’re not alone. For support in processing your own experiences with racial/cultural discrimination, contact Dr. Anuja Patel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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