Racism is Everyday, Every Day

This is the start of something that we can all be a part of, that we can all benefit from, that we can all be proud of.

his is a unique moment in the complicated life of Black people living in America. It’s representative of something that I sometimes ponder as a uniquely Black American experience.

The most recent similar experience that comes to mind is the collective experiences we’ve had during stay-at-home orders across the country due to COVID-19. So many Black people have tuned into the #Verzuz series of Instagram Live streams with some of our favorite, iconic Black artists. We listen in to the music, appreciate the love shared between the musicians, and reminisce on where these songs live in the fabric of our lives.

These moments trend on Twitter all night long. The posts and conversations, across platforms, all have the same tone of nostalgia and connection. These moments are different for every individual, but the feeling is universal and ubiquitous.

We’re having that moment, for a different reason, right now.

BEING BLACK, EVERY DAY

Catalyzed by the compound traumas of the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the performed horror of Amy Cooper’s nationally-publicized 911 call, this moment is another example of us all feeling something together.

Photo: Ashley Nguyen

This time the connective tissue is trauma: the repeated, ongoing, ever-present trauma of anti-Blackness in our everyday lives. It’s death by a million pinpricks that exhausts us all, whether it’s happening to a group of us or to one of us. Whether at work, in the grocery store, on the road, or anywhere else you come in contact with others, every Black person knows these moments. We can see them coming, we know when they’re happening, we can smell it in the air. And the aftertaste… the aftertaste is what hangs around forever.

These moments are moments the offenders, oftentimes, never think about again, but that the offended always remembers with the same pain, almost as fresh as the first time.

This is everyday racism; racism that occurs literally every day.

As a writer, one thing that has always irked me is the misuse of the word “everyday” and the phrase “every day.”

The word “everyday” refers to something ordinary, regular, common, or even daily. However, the phrase “every day” is indicative of regular timing, occurring every 24 hours — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

White people often address racism (when they do at all) as if it is something that occurs on an occasional, isolated-incident basis. But racism in America exists almost everywhere, on every day, because it is where this country started. From the ways Europeans mistreated Native Americans who were here before them, to the ways Black people were shipped across the world as property, racism and white supremacy are deep in our country’s roots. So how could it not find its way into all of the fruit it bears?

For many white people, “racism” means a Black person being lynched or called “nigger,” or the KKK, or the Civil rights Movement. But racism isn’t just those things — it is also those things.

For Black people, everyday racism is being the only person told by a boss that you did something wrong when it’s the same as what everyone else has always done every day. It’s being asked for ID when the white people ahead of you weren’t. It’s being questioned about where you’re coming from or why you’re in this area by the police. This only scratches the surface of what everyday racism has looked like for me and other Black people I know — and we have to start telling the truth about our experiences.

The effects of everyday racism are many. At work, we either withdraw and isolate ourselves, or we overwork ourselves to overcompensate. We, maybe, begin to dress more “nicely,” to appear more friendly and non-threatening to the white people we encounter. We code-switch to sound a certain way around white people to make them feel comfortable and/or to make ourselves fit into the culture of the environment we’re in. We change our hair to be more acceptable to the people around. There are myriad ways we try — often subconsciously — to be more respectable, with the hope of being treated like a human being that deserves to be wherever we are.

Actress and singer Amber Riley recently made headlines after making clear, even in subtle ways to start, some of the challenging experiences she had during her time on Fox’s hit show Glee. Riley’s later discussion of her experiences on the show prompted her to begin the #unMUTEny hashtag, creating a space for Black people in Hollywood to share their experiences of being demoralized and diminished. She started the hashtag in solidarity with her Black costar, Samantha Ware, who spoke of her own experiences of working on the show.

And that’s just one Hollywood story. Similar to movements like #MeToo & #TimesUp, the conversation started in Hollywood and grew to every corner of professional and personal life. Everyday racism is everywhere, every day.

THE MOMENT WE’RE IN

In this unique moment in our history, we’re seeing a few extraordinary things that data and evidence support:

  1. “74% of Americans view George Floyd’s death as an underlying racial injustice problem” according to a new poll ABC News. “This poll shows a more than 30-point increase in the belief that recent events reflect a broader issue over racial injustice from an ABC News/Washington Post poll from December 2014.”
  2. Protests in every state and cities around the globe — with crowds that are not all Black, but filled with a mixture of every kind of person — saying this is a problem and demanding immediate action.
  3. Corporations, organizations, and individuals are loudly proclaiming they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to racism and anti-Blackness.

Borne out of the recurring themes we’ve seen, it’s time to mobilize these often muffled cries to use our voices, our platforms, and tell our stories of everyday racism.

I talk to different Black people every single day, and in recent weeks, we’ve all expressed having seen white people who had harmed us and other Black people standing up and saying they don’t believe anti-Black behavior is acceptable. But it often comes without any acknowledgment or appreciation for their own anti-Blackness and the wounds they’ve left on the Black people in their wake. These are instances of everyday racism that the White person may not ever think about again, but that the Black person never forgets and adds to the shaping of their lives.

So starting today, we’re telling our stories using the hashtag #Everyday. We’re unpacking the baggage we’ve carried for so long and making known the ways we’ve been harmed by the people in and around our everyday lives, every day.

We’re doing this for two reasons:

The first is to begin to heal the wounds of our individual and collective trauma together, pin-prick by pin-prick, in space made safe by our overwhelming collective honesty. In the spirit of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it’s our time to speak, to be heard, to be liberated, and to catalyze change.

Second, is so white people can no longer claim to be unaware of the ways their behavior and bias impact the lives and freedoms of Black people.

Beginning Monday, June 8, 2020, use the hashtag #Everyday and speak your truth on these experiences of everyday racism, both big and small. Whether it’s a tweet, a tweet thread, or video, only you can tell your story.

While we are having a moment where people are signaling they’re listening, we must make our #Everyday voices heard to help shine a bright light on this issue; we can move closer to a time when the next generation can thrive without battling anti-Blackness and racism that’s so #Everyday, every day.

______________________

Please, share your story of everyday racism you’ve experienced using the hashtag #Everyday.

In solidarity and partnership with Amber Riley, if you’re in the entertainment industry and sharing your story, please add the hashtag #unMUTEny, too.

journalist

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