Last week’s killing of George Floyd has affected all of our lives. For those who have decided to tune in deeply, we understand that his slaying by the knee of a warped and indifferent police officer is just one of hundreds of similar incidents, such as the police slaying of Breonna Taylor while she laid in bed in her own apartment, and of the long-delayed justice (only know starting its wheels) for Ahmaud Arbery murdered by jogging in a certain kind of neighborhood. Add in the potential and very real danger the Central Park bird-watching Christopher Cooper who was put in because of a woman’s racial panic that led her to make a demonstrably false report to police about being threatened by a black man, the police choke-hold death of Eric Garner several years ago, and we cannot help but realize we are being invited in a most intense way to examine the systematic and personal racism that has led to extremely unfair and, too often, violent actions against persons of color, especially black women and men. The fact that this awakening is taking place during a worldwide pandemic is good but also very scary. Good because many of us have fewer distractions that will take our attention away from these crimes and the demonstrations in our streets and around the world. Scary because of the additional health risks that come from people crowding together to protest these and all the thousands of deaths and enslavements of black persons going back more than 400 years.
We are grateful that three black counselors, therapists, and educators agreed to come on Latter-day Faith to share their experiences and open a door to the world they have lived in their entire lives and the toll it has taken on them and other black people. This is an episode in which we are taught, taken into new heart and mind spaces, and challenged to examine the world in new ways. But it is also an episode that is full of hope alongside the pain and frustrations shared. Our great thanks to LaShawn Williams, Kimberly Applewhite, and Jameson Holman for being on the show and sharing with us so much of themselves, of their learning, and of their experiences, including those within their faith home, Mormonism.
Included in this conversation are great sections about whether or not it is truly “safe” for black persons to share their experiences with white people, and especially to be vulnerable with regard to their own emotions. It is exhausting to constantly have to scan your environment and the settings in which you are being asked to share, judging whether this person or group is only wanting to hear from you in a way that won’t lead them to become uncomfortable and defensive. The panelists also address what is harmful and hurtful and ignorant in statements such as, “Well, all lives matter” and “When I see you, I don’t see color.” These black Mormon therapists also reflect on the LDS Church’s recent statement about what is happening in the world right now, especially with regard to the sins of racisms, the need for repentance, and about demonstrations that in some cases have become destructive and even violent.
As part of all this, you will hear the “vomit analogy” (unforgettable!) as it relates to white persons’ general and specific hesitations to talk directly about race and privilege. So often we will work to avoid at all cost such discussions (both external and internal). The conversation also talks about PTSD and how it applies to black experiences and how it in many cases leads to devastating health (physical as well as mental) effects. But, again, even in all of this you will also find reasons for hope as we and people all over the world find ourselves finally ready to really look at the devastating effects of societal, institutional, and personal racism.
This is an unforgettable listen! You won’t always be comfortable as you engage with it, but you will, inevitably, be very glad you did.
Robin J. DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018)
Beverly Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race (2017)
Resmaa Menekem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies (2017)