In 1961, James Baldwin was asked by a radio host about being Black in America. “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious,” Baldwin said, “is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time and in one’s work.”
Racism takes a huge toll on one’s mental health.
Racism affects how people operate in the workplace, at home, and in social settings. In my 20’s, racism caused me to be an angrier person. If I knew I would have to be in a room where I was the only person of color, I would drink to delude myself into believing I was in a safe space. Racism has the tendency to make you feel as though you can’t compete in certain spaces. When you finally decide that you can compete, you work 10 times harder to be seen as equal, often being overly critical and judgmental of yourself which sometimes causes you to revert to the mindset that you are not good enough.
One of the most helpful things I found is to realize we all suffer from unconscious biases and in some situations give people grace that they may not be aware of what they did or said that had a negative effect on you. What do I do in that situation? I communicate my feelings like an adult; we have a constructive conversation around racism, and we both learn and grow from the situation. You cannot grow unless you are willing to change.
The issue of racism is not new. Over the past decade, we have seen a rise in racism and hate toward Latinx, Jewish, Black, and many other communities. Throughout airports and train stations, you see signs that say “If you see something, say something.” The same notion applies in life. If we want to combat racism and build community support, we need to work together and not feel the fight is unique to one particular group. We are all in this together.
About the author: D’Angelo Virgo is a Campaign Strategist who advocates for civic engagement and voter education in communities of color.