The Pandemic of Anti-Blackness

By Lorin Jackson

From PHN Issue 44, Fall 2020

“These are hard times for Black America,” Lecia Brooks and Eric K. Ward write in an article for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Black communities are disproportionately devastated by COVID-19—one in 500 of us is projected to die from the virus by January 1—along with police violence and criminalization, wage inequities, healthcare disparities, environmental toxins, and hate crimes.”

COVID-19 and anti-Blackness go hand-in-hand. Anti-Blackness is a pandemic and has been for many years. As with COVID-19, anti-Blackness is a global phenomenon that impacts the well-being of Black people.

What is anti-Blackness?

The University of California San Francisco Multicultural Resource Center cites this definition of Anti-Blackness:

“Anti-Blackness [is] a two-part formation that both strips Blackness of value (dehumanizes), and systematically marginalizes Black people. This form of anti-Blackness is overt racism. Society also associates politically incorrect comments with the overt nature of anti-Black racism. Beneath this anti-Black racism is the covert structural and systemic racism which predetermines the socioeconomic status of Blacks in this country and is held in place by anti-Black policies, institutions, and ideologies.

“Anti-Blackness is also the disregard for anti-Black institutions and policies. This disregard is the product of class, race, and/or gender privilege certain individuals experience due to anti-Black institutions and policies.”

We see anti-Blackness in displays of overt racism and discrimination where people or policies are outwardly racist in their behavior. There is also covert anti-Blackness, though, which is when people or policies do not outwardly show their disdain or discrimination against Black people directly, but rather, indirectly institute or influence the livelihoods of Black people.

For example, a medical provider may assume a Black person is ill before they have even spoken about their symptoms in a medical appointment because they are Black and are assumed to be generally less healthy. The medical provider may have already formed this negative opinion of the patient and be less likely to hear them out during their appointment to provide adequate medical care because of their bias.

What can we do about anti-Blackness and its intense grip on humanity?

Combating anti-Blackness starts with us.

Ask, discuss, and write journal reflections about anti-Black racism:

  • If you are not Black, what ways do you discriminate against Black people?
  • What are some of the messages you have received or seen that cast Black people in a negative light?
  • When you see examples of anti-Black racism, how can you intervene and challenge inappropriate and oppressive notions?
  • If you are Black yourself, how have you internalized anti-Black oppression and what would you like to see changed? How would it feel to truly be yourself?

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