I’ll be honest, it has truly taken me awhile to process through the things that are currently happening in our world.
I’ll also be honest and say that coming from a small town, I’ve seen and heard so many awful racial remarks and I wish I would have done more about it.
I have always been an all lives matter type of person, obviously. I’ve provided care to such a wide array of populations from rapists to abuse victims, and I have found a light of good in every single person I have taken care of. I could write a book on how in most people, there is a little piece of good; on how someone’s childhood and teenage years can shape their entire future without their understanding for why things are the way they are. I could sit here and tell you about all the brain structures and why and how people do the things they do or act the way they act. But I’ll save that for another day. I don’t think that it would matter anyway; at least not right now.
The transition from a small town to the city of Columbus was a drastic change. I didn’t think much of it at first when I started my college career at eighteen-years-old. I was raised to treat everyone with respect, no matter what they look like. Arriving to campus during my undergrad, however, I was mildly culture shocked. I had never been around such a diverse population; and I absolutely loved it.
Somalians. Blacks. Whites. Middle-aged. Old. Young. Asian. Hipsters. LGBTQ. Christians. Muslims. Catholics. Atheists. Autistic. Artsy. Entrepreneurs.
I learned so much during my first year of college about the world outside of the small town I was raised in. I made so many great friends from all types of families and backgrounds and races. It was truly incredible to see so many different people interacting and loving each other. After the initial culture shock, I had never felt more at home. I loved being around such diversity and I felt like I could truly be myself. People were outgoing and open and accepting. It was a whole different world outside of high school; a new world from the country life I was accustomed to living.
I remember taking my first culture diversity class and realizing that not everyone felt the same way that I did about the diverse population at the campus. Like I had mentioned, coming from a small town, I was not blind to the racism. I knew it existed in towns like mine, but the fact of the matter is, it exists everywhere. Some of the things I heard people saying in whispers during that class was honestly scary. The majority of the racial slurs I heard were about blacks and Asians. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear remarks about white people, too. I once heard a Somalian guy talking during class saying that white people were all white trash hicks.
It’s everywhere. Stereotypes. Racism. Quick judgement and wrong assumptions. And you’d be lying if you said that you have never said something racists or stereotypical.
We all do it, sometimes without even realizing it, and that is what’s scary.
Bringing awareness to the discrimination is not enough. Not now. People are dying, being murdered because of the color of their skin.
How many years have to go by before this stops?
How many lives have to be lost before something changes?
One of the first times I saw this in action was when I was a nurse in residential and it was beyond eye-opening for me.
There were times in residential when we could not handle the kids on our own. Some of the units would start riots and attack staff. Sometimes the kids would start fighting and it would break into multiple kids fighting and not enough staff to maintain them all. During times like this, the police were called to assist.
I knew the majority of the officers by this point and knew who was actually helpful and who was not. There were more good than bad; more of them helpful and understanding than not.
This particular night, the unit that housed the youngest of our patients was short staffed and had multiple kids in crisis at the same time. Four of the kids started fighting each other and even though we had multiple staff members from other units there to help, they were also being assaulted so the police were called.
When the police arrived, I realized it was three officers that I had never seen before and one that I had. I quickly introduced myself to the one who came my direction to help me. I was talking down a girl who had just been punched in the face by another patient. She was finally starting to relax and her breathing was starting to steady. I started talking to the officer to catch him up on the situation when the other patient who punched this girl in the face started saying awful things to the patient I was taking care of. The patient sitting beside me screamed and cussed at the other girl, but did not even stand up from the floor.
She was still sitting on the ground!
This officer, I kid you not, ran at her and literally tackled her the rest of the way to the ground and started screaming for her to shut up.
“What in the hell are you doing?” I remember nearly screaming at him.
“She’s not cooperating!” He screamed. I watched her laying face down on the floor, with this grown ass man on top of her, holding her down by her head. She started to squirm and cry.
She had an absolutely terrible sexual abuse history and instantly went into fight mode when this unknown man tackled her to the ground and held her there.
He went to handcuff her and I asked him why. He again said that she was not being cooperative.
“She has an abuse history. You’ve triggered her! Get off of her and she will calm down!” I was livid at this point, close to tears.
As she continued to struggle, he grabbed her head and pushed her face into the floor.
“That was uncalled for! Get off of her!” I screamed at him, drawing attention now of the other staff and officers. The other officer came over and asked what was going on and I quickly told him that this officer needed to let her go.
Long story short, he finally did let her go. She ran into my arms and started crying. I had to hold back tears because I had never seen anything like that before from someone who is supposed to be trusted.
I made a report on this officer’s actions and called the department to ensure they knew I made the report and what had happened.
When I was back in the nursing office after everything on the unit started to calm down, I called the shift supervisor and let them know I made a report.
“Against the redhead officer?” He asked with a laugh.
“He is one racist son of a bitch! He’s not supposed to be here. Hopefully he will get fired this time. This isn’t the first time he’s done that to our black patients,” he told me.
During the chaos of the event, I did not think about race for a second while this was happening.
And that right there is what white privilege looks like; watching racism happen in front of your eyes and not even recognizing it.
All I could think about during the time was how in the world someone could do this to a child. How did this guy have a job as an officer? How could you throw a child on the ground by her head!? Let alone a child who was literally sitting on the floor, not even attempting to make any sort of gesture towards harming anyone.
Was she yelling and cussing? Yes, but no one was getting hurt and the situation was starting to calm down before this man became involved.
When I sat in the nursing office at the end of my shift, I started crying. Would he have done that if it was a white kid?
Working in residential, I heard black patients say things like, “I hate being black,” and “my skin is gross.” It tore me up to hear a child say something like that.
One thing that the units at residential did each year was have a family fun night. The kids biological or foster or adoptive family or grandparents could come and spend a few hours with them, playing games and eating dinner. I always made sure to stay late on those days to be the support person for a child who didn’t have family to come; which happened all of the time with a lot of these children.
I was sitting in this patient’s room talking to him about what they were cooking for dinner. He was nine. “Nurse Brandy, do you think I’d get adopted if I was white instead?”
It caught me completely off guard. I can’t remember what my exact response was, but I’m assuming it was something of encouragement and something about loving yourself.
How could this nine-year-old child even think of something like that?
My heart broke.
I could continue on; telling you story after story like the one above, hearing children hating themselves because of their skin tone.
Everyone has been through hard times. Everyone. Even the wealthiest person has had struggles; the most privileged person has been through hell.
Life is hard.
It shouldn’t have to be hard based on the color of your skin.
I’ve provided care to all populations. I love people. Why? Because I take the time to listen. I don’t judge them. I care about what they’ve been through.
I’m not perfect, but I like to think that one thing I am good at, that I pride myself on, is the love I have for nearly every single human being. The most hateful person; the rudest child; the criminal. I will find a glimmer of light in each person. You have no idea what someone has gone through. We all have hard times.
But we shouldn’t have to add skin color to our list of struggles!
And if you don’t have to add that to your lists of struggles, consider yourself lucky.
As a white woman, I will only be able to continue to educate myself and others, be a supporter of change, and a friend to those who are hurting. I will never completely understand the struggle of being afraid when being pulled over by a cop, or being fearful for my child’s life when she is walking down the street and possibly getting shot or attacked because of her skin color.
I will never truly know what that is like, but I will continue to try to understand and help in anyway that I can.
The racism has to stop.
The killing has to stop.
The judgement has to stop.
Working in mental health, I have had a lot of aggressive patients. One thing that always tears me up in regards to the shootings by police is hearing them say things like, “they weren’t cooperating,” or “they were fighting me.” I’ve been in situations where patients a lot larger than me have been aggressive towards me, hitting me, biting me, kicking me; and I have never once used my knee to hold down someone’s head. I have had patients tell me that the feel like they can’t breathe during restraints and I instantly assess and have them released. Therapeutic communication and trauma informed care is life changing and makes a world of difference when dealing with situations like this! And remember, in residential we did not do IM injections! No medication to calm them down when they were attacking us or another kid. Physical, hand-only restraints and communication!
The training needs improved for all of these professions and honestly, for the entire world.
I appreciate the officers who do good.
I appreciate the people who are trying to make a change.
I pray for the world.
Please know that I am here; I will listen. Tell me what I can do to help!
Please, open your eyes. Take a stand.
Change starts with you.