In honor of the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday commemoration Black Mail will be sharing a 3 part compilation of quotes from “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos To Community”. Published in 1967, Where Do We Go from Here was King’s evaluation of the state of race relations in the U.S. following ten years of the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
King wrote the final draft of the book while vacationing in Jamaica in January and February 1967. During this time King stayed in Ocho Rios, Jamaica where he rented a home with no telephone. This marked one of only a very few times when he was completely isolated from the day to day leadership of the civil rights movement. In this environment he was able to focus on completion of the book. 50+ years later, the book still holds some powerful parallels to our current political climate.
It is important for the liberal to see that the oppressed person who agitates for his rights is not the creator of tension….How strange it would be to condemn a physician who, through persistent work and the ingenuity of his medical skills, discovered cancer in a patient. Would anyone be so ignorant as to say he caused the cancer? Through the skills and discipline of direct action we reveal that there is a dangerous cancer of hatred and racism in our society. We did not cause the cancer; we merely exposed it. Only through this kind of exposure will the cancer be cured.”– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
Today, I came across a quote I shared on social media on “predatory blending”. It is just as true today as it was 11 years ago and inspired more reflection to flow from my pen:
Beware of “Predatory Blending”. Your associations should embrace you not erase you. -Enid Gaddis, Black Mail Founder
I created the term, “predatory blending” to describe the assimilation that can be expected from black people or other people of color as we navigate, infiltrate, integrate, and situate ourselves in various settings from employment, entrepreneurship, community involvement, civic engagement, education, etc.
There are times when our “acceptance” or even or “eligibility” for inclusion is based on our ability to assimilate. Assimilation leads to erasure. When assimilation is required for acceptance, the often hidden but powerful forces of “predatory blending” are at work.
Don’t allow your wisdom, wit, and work to be manipulated and re-worked so that your influence and imprint is watered down and unrecognizable. Don’t let systems and shysters mine the riches of your intellect and innovation co-opting it for causes that refuse to accept the totality and phenomenality of your essence and presence. Bring the fullness of YOU into these spaces. Refuse to be erased.
Journalist Charles Blow’s 6/7/20 New York Times article, Allies Don’t Fail Us Againshares a thought provoking quote. With recent protests, nationally and internationally calling for reform following the death of George Floyd, “This is not the social justice Coachella. This is not systemic racism Woodstock. This has to be a forever commitment, even after protest eventually subsides.” Power to his pen!
The vicious murder of yet another black life has left me reeling once again. “I can’t breathe”…..AGAIN. Rest In Power George Floyd. 1946 – 2020. My pen was inspired to express the pain of another black life violently taken from our midst. The title of this piece, “That Knee” (Copyright 2020 – All Rights Reserved).
On March 5, 2020, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) highlighted the difference in treatment that he experienced in 2012 when he wore a hoodie and sunglasses on the house floor to protest the death of Trayvon Martin. Rush was forcibly removed from the house floor by the seargent-at-arms for violating its decorum code. Fast forward to 2020. Republican Rep. Matthew Gaetz came onto the floor with a full gas mask to call attention to the COVID-19 virus. While he was asked to remove the gas mask, he was not removed. Gaetz is white and Rush is African American.
In response to the difference in treatment, Rush tweeted, “In 2012, I wore a hoodie on the House Floor to make a statement about the deadly consequences of racial profiling. On Wednesday, @RepMattGaetz wore a gas mask in the chamber, making light of an epidemic that has killed 14 Americans.Guess which one of us was forcibly removed.” Gaetz defended his actions by saying that the gas mask was “medically necessary”. However, gas masks are not normally considered to be medically necessary.
The Central State Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane opened its doors in 1868 to provide mental health treatment for African Americans. The quality of care and conditions was often substandard. Like many institutions at that time, blacks receiving care were often segregated and subjected to substandard conditions. The 1866 Civil Rights act actually required that state-owned mental hospitals accept black patients. Despite the law, mental hospitals refused to do so. Located in Petersburg, Virginia, it was the first facility to care for black people who were thought to be experiencing mental health challenges. However, the criteria for determining if a black patient had a mental disorder was often racist and inequitable. Prior to the facility being opened, politicians and medical professionals in the state of Virginia viewed the enslaved as being at no risk for mental health challenges because they were not property owners. Thus, continuing to advance the stereotype of the inhumanity of black people. At the time, the prevailing sentiment was that only white landowners who were engaged in commerce would be at risk for mental health issues.
At the close of the civil war, landowners and legislators, seeking to maintain control of the formerly enslaved began to assert that African Americans suffered a mental illness; especially if they were seeking to flee the South. Doctors created fictitious diagnoses to label those who chose to migrate away from the south as deviant and mentally deficient. The characterization of freedom as the cause of a patient’s mental health diagnosis was intended to vilify emancipation and subjugate the formerly enslaved. Blacks could be committed to the asylum for infractions such as not following oppressive Jim Crow laws. Infractions such as not stepping off the sidewalk to allow a white person to pass, arguing with a white supervisor, or talking back to a white law enforcement officer were incidents that could result in a black person being committed to the asylum. Poverty was also a significant factor in admissions to the asylum.
In recent years, over 800,000 patient records were discovered from the Central State Assylum, as well as pictures, letters, and various other documents. Central State patient records were stored in onsite and were set to be destroyed until an astute professor, Dr.King Davis from the University of Texas recognized the value of the medical records and sought to preserve them and undertake the tedious process of digitizing the records. Davis was previously a commissioner for the Virginia Department of Mental Health. The institution remained segregated until the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is still in operation today. Sources:
On June 15, 1953, the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott occurred. It was the first Black bus boycott in in the U.S. Years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the black residents of Baton Rouge took a stand against racism and segregation. In 1950, the city began to require all residents to use segregated public bussing. Prior to this, black residents utilized black-owned public transportation and required all residents to use the city’s public transportation which enforced segregated seating. Black residents had to sit at the back half of the bus or stand, even if seats in the “white” section were empty. Black passengers comprised 80% of bus passengers and were fed up with standing up on buses while “white” seats remained empty, particularly after the company had raised fares from ten to fifteen cents in January 1953. Continue reading “Before The Montgomery Bus Boycott There Was The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott”→
Alice Augusta Ball (1892 – 1916) was the first to develop an effective treatment to cure leprosy (Hansen’s Disease). It was not until years after her death that she received the credit she deserved. Ball was born in Seattle, Washington. Her mother Laura was a photographer and her father, James P. Ball, Jr. was a lawyer. She had 3 siblings, two older brothers, and one younger sister. The family lived comfortably and by today’s standards would have been considered middle class. The family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1903 hoping that the warmer climate would be better for her father’s arthritis. James Ball, Sr. died shortly after the move and the family relocated back to Seattle. Ball graduated from high school in 1910 and then attended college at the University of Washington and the College of Hawaii (University of Hawaii); earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry in 1912 and a bachelors degree in pharmacy in 1914, both from the University of Washington. She then transferred to the College of Hawaii and was the first African American as well as the first woman to graduate with an M.S. degree in chemistry in 1915. Upon graduation, she was offered a teaching and research position, making her the first woman chemistry instructor at the College of Hawaii at the age of 23. Continue reading “Alice Ball: African American Chemist Who Developed First Successful Treatment of Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease)”→