“Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”
We all know Rosa Parks as a civil rights activist who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This courageous act was done on December 1, 1955, almost 100 years after the abolishment of slavery during the American Civil War. Throughout history we have seen what a struggle it has been to establish and uphold equality for all. In 2016, we can see great progress made but, unfortunately, we still cannot say that true equality for all has been obtained.
“As I often say, we have come a long way from the days of slavery, but in 2014, discrimination and inequality still saturate our society in modern ways. Though racism may be less blatant now in many cases, its existence is undeniable.”
I lived in Colombia until the age of nine, when I moved to this melting pot of a country. As a nine year old, and younger, living in Colombia all I saw were black and white Colombians. I never saw racism; I don’t even think I knew what this word meant. Yet, all of this changed the day I moved to the United States.
When I arrived in Orlando, I was in shock, everything was different, people looked different, the language was different. Even within the Spanish speaking community, the differences were tremendous. As time passed, I adjusted, and my school days consisted of learning this new language and making new friends. As I reached high school and began my new life as an adult, I continued to see life through similar eyes without giving much thought or attention to all the racism people talked about. My outlook on life continued this way until I reached my first policy class in which I learned about white privilege. And to my surprise, I realized how much of life I had seen through these white privilege glasses. It was during my college years that I learned about naivety, and how, without intending to, I grew up being very naïve about race and racism.
My journey did not end with that class. When I began practicing as a therapist, I met an African American client who was looking for help to cope better with depression. As I got to know her more, she began talking about her family and what life looked like growing up. She told me that she had a very supportive mother who pushed her to be the accomplished woman she is today. As we talked more about family she told me that although she had a good relationship with her family, she always felt inferior because out of all the grandchildren she was the only one grandma would refer to as “my little blackie.” These three words meant that she was the darkest of all the grandchildren. And this was not the only time the tone of her skin color would “lovingly” be brought up. As her mother was passing away, she remembers her saying that she was very proud of her and how smart and accomplished she was, and that she has to keep it up “because, remember, you are dark skinned and things will be much more difficult for you.”
In my years of practice I have seen many stories similar to this one. Sitting in front of clients, time and time again I have seen how racism continues to be ingrained in our society and how it affects people. It is imperative that we acknowledge this and take responsibility to make things right. If you have ever felt the effects of racism, either by being the victim of racist comments or by unintentionally acting racist, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our Orlando mental health counselors.
“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”
Martin Luther King Jr.