by Nicole Smith · 16 Jun 2020 · 1 min read
On one of my first assignments at a large corporation, no one could remember my name. It wasn't because they couldn't pronounce it. It wasn't because they had never met me. It wasn't because they had forgotten it. It was because everyone kept calling me by someone else's name.
Growing up, every image depicted around me gave the message that most dark girls were ugly. So, when people would say, "You're pretty for a dark-skinned girl," I took it as a compliment.
I'm writing this piece on a Thursday night, days after riots and protests erupted following the murder of George Floyd. Posting on social media didn't feel authentic to me. Protesting didn't feel enduring. For me, they both felt like actions that would temporarily make me feel good about myself without any real lasting impact.It took days to write this because I needed time for the words to catch up with my emotions. Since then, I've had a number of people reach out to me, some with genuine concern for my mental state and others who seemed to be offering a "check the box" gesture. They were mostly all the same in content: "What can I do?" or "If you need to talk or vent, I'm here." Some even expressed how sorry they were for what I must be going through. The problem is, no one should feel sorry for me. No one should feel sorry for Black people.
Take it from someone who just graduated with their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater, when I tell you I know a good performance when I see one. Let's put my training to the test shall we? In my opinion a good actor consists of three things: A. An understanding of tactics and given circumstances, B. An ability to command an audience, and C. A believable performance of the material. It isn't a surprise that performative activism also encompasses all of these things, because it is just that, a performance. My only questions remaining, as a critic, what activism is true activism? Or are these simply just cover up performances to ensure that you do not get penalized for actually being ignorant and racist?
Someone jokingly tweeted that COVID-19 lost a 28-3 lead to racism in America. The analogy is based on the infamous Super Bowl 51 when the frontrunner, the Atlanta Falcons, lost a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots and, as a result, lost the Super Bowl in the last few minutes of the final quarter. This sentiment is still being stated after everything the African American community has endured in America. From 400 years of slavery to the Jim Crow system. From racial profiling leading to the New Jim Crow's mass incarceration of African Americans to the disproportionate cases of police brutality and murders of African Americans, with the most recent incident, no less, occurring in the midst of a global pandemic that is also disproportionately impacting the African American community. No, this is no joke at all and is even more evidence that racism still exists.
As a psychologist — i.e. one who studies the mind and human motivations — my mind periodically returns to Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist who is lovingly known as the father of psychoanalysis, which is the foundation of psychology and the basis of many of the psychological treatments that we use today.As part of his theory explains, the Oedipus complex is a childhood psychosexual stage, wherein young people harbor unconscious sexual desires that fuel their anxiety and/or frustrations that may, or may not, appear negatively in life — depending upon the successful resolution of this puzzling, internal conflict.I have periodically come back to this tenet of psychoanalysis, always with the nagging inclination that this somehow explains America's issues with racism
In the past couple weeks there has been a surge of people asking what they can do to be better. Conversations are beginning to take place and guards are beginning to come down. While that's a good start, it is just the starting point and there's plenty of work to be done. Below are six ways you can begin playing a different role in a Black woman's life.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented moment for our country. What we see playing out in front of us isn't just about police brutality; it's about a trifecta of police brutality, murder, and the weaponization of skin color. We see these events nearly everyday, and they underscore, in a very visual way, how Black people do not have equality in this country — not by the government, society, and in some cases, the general public. These events highlight how they often continue to be thought of as less than whites.
When I was growing up, there was a local furniture store that my family and I would go to. We would walk in, and one of two things would happen. First, we would be ignored and not acknowledged or helped. White families came in after us and were immediately greeted with big wide smiles. They were offered sparkling water and ushered to see the latest living room set. Or second, we would still not be greeted and would be followed around at a distance, as my younger brother and I sat on couches and explored furniture sets. I distinctly remember a white associate with a fierce brown ponytail wrinkling her nose at us, asking us to keep our hands off the couches. Meanwhile, little white children jumped on a myriad of mattresses, squealing loudly and proudly in the other section.
Due to the coronavirus emergency, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is postponing the 2021 Oscars to April 25 rather than the usual late February date. The eligibility period will also extend to February 28 instead of late December to account for the months in quarantine. As the United States confronts a pandemic and increasing attention on systemic racism at all levels of our society, the more interesting question is how (or if) will this high caliber ceremony systematically change to address its own history of racism and cultural bias and how (or if) the nominees will reflect a more diverse collection of perspectives.