In a study released a few years ago on black mental health by the Rand Corp. A realization was made showing that black Californians were more likely to experience mental health problems than other ethnic groups and were even less likely to have access to the care they need. The study showed a connection between untreated mental health problems and multiple absences from work, which can take an economic toll on individuals and families in the form of lost pay and even lost jobs. That dynamic was shown to disproportionately affect communities of color much more than white communities.“This could have important repercussions for black Californians’ ability to earn income and stay employed in the face of mental health problems,” said Nicole Eberhart, a senior behavioral scientist at Rand who was lead author of the study. Eberhart went on to state that what she found most surprising in her data was that mental health problems were causing 12 percent of blacks in California to miss four or more days of work per year. That compares with 6.1 percent for Asians, 7.9 percent for whites and 9.4 percent for Latinos.
The report reveals that blacks are three times as likely as Asians and nearly twice as likely as whites to suffer from severe psychological distress and goes on to note disparities based on gender. According to Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness, this is a particular challenge for African-American women because “there is a great deal of stigma, of guilt and shame surrounding mental health, and also women are dealing with the requirement to be resilient, like Superwoman”. What’s more is that she noted that discrimination, along with the direct or indirect consequences of violent crime, can lead to depression, anxiety and heightened psychological stress, especially in the black community.
Maintaining one’s mental health is a necessity for a person to reach their maximum potential and be the best version of themselves. With disproportionate access to needs such as these, black communities will continue to face major obstacles. These obstacles will only serve as hindrance unless a better representation of their needs is achieved as well.
In the last 20 months, passengers who have flown with American Airlines have filled over 29 complaints rooted in racial discrimination. According to the U.S. department of Transportation, these startling number of complaints are among the most amount out of any airline in the United States currently. While air travelers can often be unhappy, American Airlines, which typically has anywhere between 8-12 million passengers in a given month, has recently come under particular scrutiny for its treatment of African-American passengers. Given these alarming rates, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) responded by issuing a travel advisory for the airline in October of 2017 by citing four incidents that,”suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias”.
Since the travel ban was issued, the NAACP has received testimonies from hundreds of concerned passengers and employees regarding alleged racially discriminatory and racially-biased treatment. In response to these allegations, the Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker addressed the announcement by stating “Discrimination, exclusion and unconscious biases are enormous problems that no one has mastered, and we would never suggest that we have it all figured out either-We want to keep learning and we want to be even better”. In the preceding months, the NAACP and American Airlines met many times to address these concerns. In December of 2017, the NAACP announced that they were pleased that American Airlines would start addressing their concerns about the airline’s treatment of African-American passengers. However, they have yet to drop the travel advisory that they issues back in October. Personally, I believe this to be a wise decision.
American Airlines is only one of many corporations that have started to receive heavy scrutiny for their treatment of people of color. No company wants to lose revenue generated from discriminatory practices, and so actions such as meeting with the NAACP or stating ones “drive towards inclusion” are simply easy solutions to help try and alleviate the growing issues rooted in racism. Regardless of whether or not issuing a travel advisory has caused American Airlines to lose revenue, the simple fact remains that the notice makes their practices known to the world. It puts the company in a tough position and I personally believe that by making these types of issues public, real conversations about inequality can be had and sustainable solutions can be achieved.
On Saturday, Donald Glover, under his Childish Gambino alter-ego, released a music video for a single of his latest album titled “This is America.” The Video opens with Glover shooting a person in the back to the head, before turning to the camera and dancing with a big, goofy smile on his face, while his song plays in the background. The rest of the music video follows the same theme, of a shirtless Childish Gambino dancing happily for the camera while acts of violence and atrocity occur behind him. This video has created controversy over it’s graphic images and violent narrative, but the message that is given is an important one. On your first watch through, it’s difficult to notice all of the problems that are happening behind Glover, and that is because he is who we want to see. We focus on the happy, fun dancer, which makes us forget about all of the problems happening around us. At one point, there’s even a group of kids who ignore all of the chaos happening around them to stay on their phones, showing how society can be oblivious to many of the problems that are happening to other people. Glover is aware he and many other popular rappers are victims of these kinds of oppression, even before they became rappers, but the public doesn’t want to see them talk about that, they only want the fun rappers to dance to. In the same vein, Gambino dancing in the music video distracts the viewer from all of the atrocities that are happening behind him. The set he used is reminiscent of American cities twenty to thirty years ago, symbolising the idea that nothing has changed in that time. At the end of the music video, Glover is running in the dark from a mob, because now that the stopped singing, they are going after him to now. Overall, this video is a good representation with many of the problems regarding race in America, and how we as a society chose to ignore many problems that others face and focus on the good and happy to distract us. More importantly, it shows how people only want Gambino and other artists to be making fun and happy music, not drawing attention to all these problems. After Kanye West’s recent remarks, it was refreshing to see Gambino be aware of his fame, and not willing to risk it in order to make a statement.
Tommy Hawkins explains how not all Black culture is the same. Hawkins is appalled that people still group all Black people into the same category. Hawkins gives some examples from his experience and writes that it is up to all cultures of Blacks to correct people when they make this mistake of “being black”.
I have definitely seen this idea throughout the media. Black people in the United States are either grouped into African-American or African. Even though there are so many different cultures of Black that do not fit in these two categories i.e. Haitian, Jamaican, or Afro-Latino. Even within these different cultures people are not all the same they come from different socio-economic backgrounds, different cities, share different experiences etc. Making everybody with Black skin the same needs to be stopped. Everyone, has their own unique ideas, perspectives, and cultures. Some, cultures may overlap or be similar, but saying one culture is the exact same is not correct.
Ali D. Chambers wrote an opinion piece on why Greek culture is detrimental to the Black community. The argument proposed is that Black fraternities and sororities were established to assimilate into White culture. This is because White is seen as the best and what African Americans should strive for. So, therefore these fraternities and sororities were made in the already established images of White Greek organizations so that African Americans could be accepted and considered equal. This argument is similar to Langhston Hughes “Racial Mountain”. Chambers also writes that the organizations are filled with elitism and colorism, through “secret meetings” and “exclusivity”.
While, I do believe that Black fraternities and sororities had to assimilate, I do not believe it was because they wanted to be White. Even though these Greek organizations are structured like already established White ones before them, White fraternities and sororities were not letting in Blacks so they created their own. Even if Blacks were let into Greek life, the goals of those fraternities or sororities were not focused on bettering Black lives. Therefore, the reasoning for creating these organizations are to help the Black community and uphold cultural traditions. For example, these organizations may do volunteer work within the Black community and also give scholarships. Stepping is also very popular and has roots established in the gumboot dances in south Africa.
However, when these organizations began there was a lot of colorism such as the brown paper bag test. Blacks the color of the paper bag or lighter were allowed into the sororities or fraternities while those darker were not. This stems somewhat from slavery because the lighter slaves were treated better usually because they were related to the slave master. This created a tension between darker and lighter Blacks, with lighter meaning that they are better. Colorism, in the sororities and fraternities, has improved tremendously from when they first were established. I agree that colorism and elitism can still be seen today, but I do not agree with Chambers that these organizations were created to promote these elitist ideas. Rather, I think that these organizations are by-products of society.