This post originally appeared on BVG SLP.
This week, I am going to use my small platform to share some very personal experiences related to racism in an effort to help keep the important conversation going. Regardless of how uncomfortable it may be, talking about racism and the systemic oppression of Black people is imperative if we truly want to see a change. I am a mother of three amazing young boys who are going to grow up to become incredible black men. I owe it to them to do my ABSOLUTE best to try to make the world a better place.
I do want to be clear and point out that this is not about me, it is the result of the countless murders taking place in this country of Black people at the hands of police officers. We have witnessed it far too many times and unless we collectively (myself included) use our voices and fight for change, it is, unfortunately, going to continue. The murder of George Floyd this past week and Breonna Taylor a couple of months ago (plus SO MANY others), has opened the wound that keeps getting deeper and deeper with every Black person in this country. To see our people (men, women, and children) being murdered by police officers causes a level of pain that is so hard to verbalize.
I hesitated about writing this post because it does hurt. It puts us in a very vulnerable place because we have been taught to be strong and keep our game faces on. The mix of emotions include pain, anger, anguish, fear, anxiety, confusion, uncertainty, oppression, a sickness in the pit of your stomach that doesn’t go away. For Black mothers (and fathers) it hurts so deeply because, for me personally, my number ONE goal in life is to protect my children. Seeing so many Black people being senselessly murdered hits entirely too close to home. Every time it happens Black people can see their own children, spouses, fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, mothers, sisters, aunts, and nieces in the faces of the victims. It is scary, in fact terrifying. To say that it doesn’t make you feel afraid for your own family would not be honest. Although I have been raised to put my faith first and I have been taught that fear is not of God, I definitely have to turn to him for strength and guidance ALL the time but especially during the challenging times. I am in constant prayer for God’s shield of protection over my family and friends.
As a Black woman, I have so many stories of racism that I have experienced first-hand. From as early as elementary school, to high school, to college, to grad-school and now the workplace it has presented its ugly face in every stage of my life and continues to be very visible on a regular basis as I put myself “out there” via this business I’ve created. EVERY Black person experiences it. We are not immune regardless of where you live, your educational level, your credentials, your wealth, your celebrity status, it doesn’t matter, racism is everywhere. This country has been designed in such a way that the oppression of Black people is ingrained in its very fiber.
I started my career in the corporate world. I worked for five years in corporate America before venturing back to graduate school to pursue my Master’s degree. Fresh out of college, I held a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology with a minor in Education. I made the decision to take some time off before grad school to explore my options and career choices. I worked my way up from a Department Assistant (aka secretary) to an Account Manager for an insurance consulting firm. The racism that existed in the corporate world was so very apparent and in order for me to “level up” from entry-level to Account Management I had to switch companies. My very first manager later explained to me that he did not approve my bids for promotion because I was “too good” and he didn’t want to lose me to a different department despite the fact that I was the only member of the all-White department that held an advanced degree. I really felt he thought he was complimenting me even if it was at the expense of me advancing with the company.
As a Speech and Language Pathologist, racism has presented itself in every setting that I have worked in. When I entered into this career field, I had no idea that it was comprised of less than 4% of Black SLPs and Audiologists (this demographic figure is based on 2019 data). I started my SLP career working on the medical side of the profession. In this setting, the racism existed in the form of Directors of Nursing picking apart and questioning my plan of cares even when I had physician orders (no other therapists on my team received the same scrutiny). It existed with White CNA’s standing outside patients’ doors while I was treating to question my credentials. It existed in the form of staff members in the medical facilities asking if I was the nail technician or the beautician when I entered with my lab coat despite the fact that my name and credentials were clearly presented on my badge. The looks, the stares, the whispers were very apparent because the people were not used to seeing a Black SLP.
I could go on and on, but again I do not want this post to be about me. I share my story to hopefully encourage you to take action. I would like for you to use your voices to speak up for your family members, friends, colleagues, and students. Use this moment and the emotions you may be feeling to be a part of the solution by collectively doing the work to dismantle the problem of systemic racism. So, what can you do to help? I posted a few things on my IG account (@bvgslp_belinda) last week but I would like to share them again here.
- Keep the CONVERSATION going — Don’t stop talking about racism. Racism is something that every Black person experiences every day of our lives. For White people, it may feel uncomfortable to talk about, but it is time to get very comfortable with being uncomfortable until changes are made. Don’t turn to your Black friends and colleagues to have them relive the pain they experience as a result of racism but instead talk amongst yourselves about what you are doing to expose it and work against it. Don’t be afraid to use your voice, no matter how small you think your platform may be, you have the power to create a ripple effect that can be felt by many.
- Use your WHITE privilege to be an advocate for change — If you are serious about being an ally for change and standing with Black people in this fight, know that your White voices are very important in this movement. The world is paying attention and collectively we need to keep standing up for what’s right. If hearing the term White privilege makes you uncomfortable, please Google it and read the many articles and books that have been written to explain exactly what it is.
- When you see RACISM speak up and speak out — This is the only way that it will end. We cannot pretend that we don’t see it when it is happening every single day of the week. As SLPs working with Black and Brown students, I know that you have witnessed it. Advocate for your students and this in turn will help teach them to advocate for themselves. As a Black parent, I am my boys’ loudest cheerleader and biggest advocate. I have been very vocal at their schools when I see racism happening. I not only advocate for my own children I speak up and speak out for my students on a regular basis.
- Support BLACK businesses – owning a small business is challenging but Black business owners experience even greater obstacles. Make it a conscious effort to support Black businesses. This will not only help to build up the Black community, it will fuel the commitment to creating jobs. After years of oppressing Black people, for those of us trying to come up in the business world it is a struggle. For Black entrepreneurs, we understand the importance of business ownership to help ignite a passion in our own children to create generational wealth.
- Educate yourself on ways to be ANTI-RACIST — If racism is ever going to truly be dismantled, we have to make efforts to intentionally be anti-racist. How do you do that and what does that look like? There are a number of books that are highly recommended by activists and scholars that will help guide you on this path. A few titles that would be a great start are “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo, and “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo. There are so many others and doing the work to research additional options is imperative to keep growing towards anti-racism.
- DIVERSIFY your resources — This is so important when working with and even educating your own children. Making it your intention to represent Black people in a positive light and show your students and children books and materials that are diverse is critical. Starting this early will help to break down the stereotypes and bias that are presented to children in the form of TV shows, commercials, toys, books, and even video games. The Conscious Kid has assembled a list of books that ensure positive representation. If you are on social media, give @theconsciouskid and @slpsofcolor a follow. They are doing incredible work, and have been for some time, to educate and keep the conversation going.
- Take ACTION — It’s one thing to talk about what we should be doing, it’s another thing to put your money where your mouth is. Taking action comes in many forms from signing petitions, sending emails, donating money, speaking up and protesting. Where you are on this journey may be different from others but it’s important to note that CONSISTENTLY doing SOMETHING is what it takes. I have been signing the petitions, donating, sending emails and speaking up but I know I can do more and I want to do more. I reached out to my Congresswoman Val Demings to take my actions even further. I encourage you to intentionally take action with the goal of being consistent with the steps you plan to take.
- VOTE! — This is so incredibly important and should go without saying. When people say it’s not about politics, I get that. This is definitely a struggle and a movement that goes beyond party lines. The reality is, when the country is in a crisis, who we have in the role of leadership significantly impacts how well we work together for change. We look to our elected officials to make an effort to unify the country during a crisis and stand up for what’s right. Regardless of your political affiliation, this is a time to truly put the political differences aside and support Black Lives because we do matter! Keep this in mind and know that your vote is your voice.
As I stated previously, being vulnerable and talking about our personal experiences related to racism is painful but it has to be done. Please know that lots of your Black friends and colleagues are emotionally drained and exhausted. The pain is deep and goes back hundreds of years, but we are resilient people. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me or have any pity whatsoever, I hope any emotions you felt from reading this will be channeled towards good and positive actions. I hope and pray that the information provided makes you want to do more. Black Lives Matter and this movement needs to continue to stay in the forefront. Use your voice to help advocate for the change that this country so desperately needs.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the content of this and all previous/future blog posts are for informational purposes only. Be sure to abide by and follow your company’s policies and procedures. The information contained within are tips that have worked well for me in my therapy/teletherapy room.
About BVG SLP
Belinda has been a speech-language pathologist for over 13 years. She has worked with adults as well as elementary and middle school students. She will be entering into her fifth year as a teletherapist this Fall serving school-aged children in grades K-9. She has a Masters in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from the University of Central Florida and is certified by the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA). Within ASHA, Belinda is currently a member of their Special Interest Group 18 for Telepractice, has served on their Telepractice Convention Committee, and presented at their 2019 convention. In addition to speech-language pathology, Belinda holds an endorsement in Reading, is passionate about literacy, and is a children’s book author.
On her blog, Belinda frequently shares tips, tools, tricks, and advice on ways to be more effective with teletherapy and distance learning. You can stay up to date on her blog by visiting her website. She can be found on her IG account or her YouTube channel. And, you can visit her TpT store at BVG SLP.