We’ve been wanting to post on Tracee Ellis Ross for awhile now. She is so brilliant AND funny in the ABC Wednesday night series, Black-ish. But more than that there is something about her that rings true as just a really nice person. January 8, 2017, the Golden Globes award for the Best Actress in a Comedy was awarded to her for her role as Rainbow Johnson, a physician and mom. It was the first time in 33 years that a black woman was honored as the best comedy actress, since Debbie Allen received the award for her role in Fame, in 1983.
In her acceptance speech, Ross spoke out on the meaning of having her talent recognized and the talent of the many overlooked “women of color and colorful people” in the television industry.
“Black-ish” gets it right. It’s a little like therapy, right? Many of the points made in the show hit you right in the heart. You feel yourself going “Yes!” when they use humor to point out the not so funny everyday microaggressions that we as black people put up with. There is something about validation of our experiences in the wider culture, that helps make us stronger and that is what AfricanAmericanTherapists.com is all about.
Black-ish was created by writer and television producer, Kenya Barris, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University. He has also worked on America’s Top Model and Barbershop: The Next Cut.
When I go “home” to the city of my birth, I go to the corner where I used to play ball and there is little recognizable. Not even a tree that I used to play under or a shrub that we hid behind those summer nights we played hide and seek. That is probably true for many of you.
In nearly every major city I have visited in the last few years, the “old” neighborhoods are becoming “new”. The new South Side. The new “Bronzeville”. (What do they call it?”) The new Atlanta. The New Newark. Coming eventually: The New Detroit. The lovely new names they give to streets that resemble wore torn Iraq but hold our most cherished memories. The close, warm connections with neighbors & family broken by alcohol, unemployment, crack and then boarded up following the “War on Drugs” that we seem to have lost. Who knew?
I did. I just didn’t understand how it would occur. I remember as a child hearing that the land our home was on was owned by the university even though the home was owned by my parents. That after the year 2000, the land would go back to the university. Well that was inconceivable to me because, after all, the world was supposed to end in 1984. But don’t you know, that seems to be exactly what’s taking place in major cities all over the country. Whenever I take the train passing Baltimore, I see row upon row of houses, boarded up. Factory buildings for blocks, empty, their metal fittings rusted and I wonder to myself, “How did they get all of those people to leave, all at the same time? How do you get whole neighborhoods to vanish?
Of course, it’s the blacks that leave and the whites who move in. The buildings are cheap but they have pretty surfaces: granite kitchen counters and stainless steel refrigerators. They are cheaply built but they have big price tags- too big for the folks from the old neighborhood, many of whom were retired & struggling to pay the rising property taxes. Gentrification seems to mean “Give the younger generation of whites the homes, the land that your memories were made on”. Probably to local government it means new taxes, new income for new businesses, new mortgages for old banks.
To us it means, the destruction of our social networks and our families. To therapists and other healers it means an epidemic of invisible losses, a cutting of the fabric that holds us all together. Watching this phenomenon as well, is social psychiatrist, Mindy Fullilove, a New Jersey native with a keen eye for the effects of the macro environment on the micro-connections between people. What she has come to understand is something we all need to know. Continued…..
University of Maryland researcher, Dr. David H. Chae, completed a study of the effects of racism on African American men. It is already known that African Americans have shorter life spans and increased chances of suffering stress-related illnesses.
Telomeres, DNA sequences that cap the ends of chromosomes, were examined in 92 African American men, ages 30 to 50 years old. The men were questioned about their experiences of being discriminated against. In addition, these men were tested on their own attitudes toward their race. This measure, along with their experiences of being discriminated against, was associated with shorter telomeres. The telomeres are the cells’ way of stimulating the growth of new cells to replace damaged cells in the human body. The shorter the telomeres, the fewer new cells the body makes and the less the body is able to fight off disease and disability.
The men with fewer experiences of racism had longer telomeres than those with greater experiences of racism. Those men who had positive attitudes toward other blacks (less racial bias), had longer telomeres as well. Per Dr. Chae, “African American men who have more positive views of their racial group may be buffered from the negative impact of racial discrimination.”
Researchers reported that participants felt discriminated against most frequently by police and at their jobs. They also felt discriminated against by service providers in restaurants and stores. In addition, the study noted that African American men reported being routinely treated with less courtesy and respect and experiencing more “daily hassles” which contribute to their overall experience of racism.
The effect of having negative attitudes about their own race is both intriguing and troubling. One wonders, though, if self-hatred & group self-hatred could be sparked by a sense of helplessness & hopelessness. If one thinks that being black is a characteristic that causes negative treatment would that affect how the body responds to illness? Would a man blame himself if he were targeted for poor treatment? And would he assume that other brothers, particularly younger brothers, deserve their prison sentences, for example, for fairly minor offenses?
While telomere shortening provides biological evidence of the effect of racism and explains the increase in premature death due to dementia, diabetes, stroke and heart disease, Dr. Chae puts it in simple terms. “Racism”, he says, “literally makes people old.” Maybe it also unconcsiously makes them biased toward other blacks.
“Discrimination, Racial Bias, and Telomere Length in African-American Men”, David H. Chae (University of Maryland, College Park); Amani M. Nuru-Jeter ( University of California, Berkeley); Nancy E. Adler, Jue Lin, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, and Elissa S. Epel ( University of California, San Francisco); and Gene H. Brody (Emory University), American Journal of Preventive Medicine, February, 2014. The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging, the University of California, and Emory University.
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