This is the podcast adaptation of the sixth episode of The Break Room! This one’s titled “The Body Keeps the Score.” Part of the Living Corporate network, The Break Room is focused on mental health, wellness and healing for Black folks at work. You can expect real talk from real experts about the real ways Black folks can protect and heal themselves from racialized trauma at work. (Note: The Break Room is currently between seasons. Catch up while you can!)
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Dr. Hill (00:09): Hey, y’all, and happy Thursday. Welcome to The Break Room, where we are dedicated to talking about Black mental health, specifically in the workplace. I am Dr. LaWanda Hill, one of the cohosts of the show, and I will allow my wonderful cohost to introduce himself.
Dr. Bamishigbin (00:27): Thank you so much, Dr. LaWanda. My name is Dr. Olajide Bamishigbin. I’m a Professor of Psychology at Cal State Long Beach. I’m a Health Psychologist and I’m a dad. And we’re really excited to have this episode today.
Dr. Hill (00:38): Yes, I’m so excited for this episode, y’all, because I have been in a state of rage following the anti-Asian, racially motivated, hate-motivated crime that occurred in Atlanta on Tuesday. So I’m like, “I cannot wait to come to The Break Room to talk about this,” because I think it’s so related and so on par with what we addressed. But before we hop into it, I’m going to try to pace myself. We may have some new listeners, some new people. So we want to give you an overview of what The Break Room is, who we are, what we do, and how we’ll spend our time today and encourage you to engage us in the comments, ask questions, be in the mix. So The Break Room is a webinar. It’s part of the Living Corporate series, where there are four of us that come together weekly, Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, and we talk about all things Black mental health in the workplace, and living in a very anti-Black, white terrorists world, we have topics galore. So we usually open up with the tea. You know “What is the tea? What’s happening? What’s going on with the current events?” Because we know current events impact our health and our mental health, and then we move into our topic, and tonight’s topic, we are going to be talking about the fact that the body keeps the score. I’m going to really unpack what that is. After we talk about that specific topic, we ask that the audience engage us in comments, in questions. You can always write in to us. I’m hoping that Jide has the email address. And we’ll talk about how you can write in to us with questions. And then, after we take those questions, we go to the Last Nerve, which is one of my favorite parts of our show when we talk about what has gotten on our last nerve for the week. And we give ourselves 60 seconds, and we sometimes go over.
Dr. Bamishigbin (02:28): Ninety.
Dr. Hill (02:28): Yes, about a 90-second rant about what’s been getting on our damn last nerve, and then we wrap up. So that’s how we spend our time. I’m super excited today to hop into the topic about the body to keeping the score, which is going to talk about the psychological and physiological impact of white toxicity. Okay? That’s what we’re going to unpack today. But before we do, pop us off with some tea, Dr. J. What have we got? What’s the tea?
Dr. Bamishigbin (02:56): Yes. So today our tea, we’re going to spill the tea and we’re going to talk about a recording that came out in the last week of Kirk Franklin. So Kirk Franklin is a nationally famous, probably world famous gospel artist.
Dr. Hill (03:12): I’d say world.
Dr. Bamishigbin (03:12): World famous. He makes incredible music. I love Kirk Franklin’s music and I’m sure many people do. But a recording came out recently from his son that put it on Instagram of, how do you call it? An argument between them.
Dr. Hill (03:31): It got real-real between them.
Dr. Bamishigbin (03:34): It got really, really heated. And there’s been a lot of talk about what was said, and Black folks’ reaction to it with regard to what happened. So he’s on the phone, and Kirk Franklin’s is a gospel artist, but we heard some language. And I quote–I wrote this down beforehand because I wanted to make sure. So I quoted. He called him “a bitch ass.” He said, “I will put my foot in your ass.” Sorry I’m saying it like this. It’s more funny this way. He said, “I will break your neck, nigga.” Okay.
Dr. Hill (04:16): Oh! Okay, I ain’t heard it. Okay, but Kirk went there. He went there. Okay.
Dr. Bamishigbin (04:16): To his son who–and this is important–is 33. Okay. His son is not like a child, he son is a grown man. And that’s what’s happened. And there’s been lots of debate about, is that type of language appropriate? Is it appropriate for him to talk to his son like that? A lot of people say “Well, my parents talked to me like that all the time, what’s the problem?” So, Dr. LaWanda, what were your thoughts on it?
Dr. Hill (04:39): Okay. So I didn’t hear it, but my best friend called me and told me about it. And I was like, “Okay, I feel I’m okay.” They are grown ass men. Because from what I hear, the way he opens it up, he’s like “Let me talk to you in the language,” I’m paraphrasing, “that you can understand. So if you don’t get it this way, let me talk to you in this way. So for me, I’m going to go ahead and conclude or assume that he tried to get through to him with non-expletives and he didn’t. So he went in on him. And I don’t see anything wrong with it unless he really intended to put his feet in his ass or break his neck and all of that. I don’t support physical abuse or anything like that. But that’s how Black people talk to each other sometimes. That’s how people talk. So I felt people were overreacting, maybe because he was a gospel artist, but from what I’m hearing from you, and just taking it in, people know that their parents talk to them like that all the time.
Dr. Bamishigbin (05:36): I think that’s a fair perspective. I saw it and I felt… So I’ll say part of the conversation was about, “Oh, well, you’re not going to cancel Kirk Franklin,” and my whole thing is we’re not talking about canceling, we’re not talking about cancel culture, because it doesn’t actually exist. All these things–we’ll talk about that another time. But I will say I think Kirk Franklin probably wants to have that conversation back. Like, I’m a father, I have two kids. I’ve said things that, you know what, upon reflection I wish I could take that back. I wish I could phrase that better. Is Kirk Franklin actually going to beat his son’s ass? I don’t know. I don’t know. But that kind of conversation, I feel like he could have handled it better as the adult. Because no matter what age you are, your parents are still your parents. Your parents are still your parents. At the same time, that’s how people talk. That’s how me and my dawgs talk when we’re playing basketball with each other. All these different kinds of things. So there’s a lot of cultural aspects of it. But also as a parent…
Dr. Hill (06:45): You feel that he may have lost his cool.
Dr. Bamishigbin (06:47): I think he lost his cool. And that doesn’t make you a bad parent, that makes you a human.
Dr. Hill (06:53): In that moment, you were really emotional. So maybe he may want a redo because he’s calmed down a little bit, kind of have the same [inaudible 00:07:01]. I can see that.
Dr. Bamishigbin (07:06): Exactly. [inaudible 00:07:06] though.
Dr. Hill (07:06): I think people will say, that’s funny, that “We’re not canceling Kirk.” And somebody say there’s no Melodies From Heaven. “We are not canceling Kirk, and that’s on Melodies From Heaven. Y’all can forget about it.” So I guess the way to think about it is, we understand culturally it is normal. At least for some cultures, some parts of Black culture. In some parts of Black culture it is normalized. And at the same time, it’s like he may have lost his cool, and he may want to call it back.
Dr. Bamishigbin (07:40): Yes. But it’s not the end of the world. He wouldn’t be the first parent to curse at his kid.
Dr. Hill (07:44): He’s not the only one. He happens to be famous, and he was caught on tape.
Dr. Bamishigbin (07:53): He was caught on tape. Right. Exactly.
Dr. Hill (07:57): Not even caught on tape. He was outed on tape by his son. Okay. So that’s our tea, y’all. We like to start off with something light. Some tea so that we can keep our ear to the streets. We like to stay relevant before we hop into the topic. And I guess this is the perfect time to pivot to tonight’s topic. I want to talk about the physiological and psychological impact of white toxicity and how the body ultimately keeps the score of that. Now, I feel this is so timely, y’all, because we know that on Tuesday, in Atlanta, Georgia, a white terrorist who shall remain nameless decided to do what whiteness and white toxicity does in its inability to manage its own impulses, its own challenges, its own shortcomings that is a part of the human experience, decided to externalize that and take the lives of people. He opened gunfire in Atlanta, killing eight people, six of which were of Asian descent, and–
Dr. Bamishigbin (08:57): In one hour.
Dr. Hill (08:58): In one hour, and was on his way, his raggedy ass way, to Florida to kill more people. Okay. We know that there has been a spike in anti-Asian racism. There’s been a spike in violence against Asian-Americans since COVID-19, since 45’s presidency and him inciting that. And it’s predictable. Arguably, this was predictable, and it has come to an end.
Dr. Bamishigbin (09:25): Thank you so much for saying that. 45 really has incited this. I really feel it’s important to stress that the previous person in office has incited this type of violence.
Dr. Hill (09:35): And made it acceptable, and made it socially acceptable, and just activated people’s own internal hatred and their own evilness. So he is a culprit in this. So when this happened, this went down on Tuesday, and I began to see the news coverage already beginning to spin the narrative, to ‘humanize him’ and other the victims. The police officer went as far as to say he was having a bad day. They were talking about his sex addiction, which is not a thing by the way. They were talking about giving all these reasons and rationale and not calling it a racially motivated crime. They gave him the opportunity to write his own narrative because he said it wasn’t racially motivated. Yeah? And so, because he said it, even though six of the eight victims were Asian, and he targeted them, then that must be true, because whiteness gets to write its own narrative.
Dr. Bamishigbin (10:33): And can I just add to that?
Dr. Hill (10:36): Absolutely.
Dr. Bamishigbin (10:36): Nobody really took the time to interview the Asian people who were around as well. So there are reports from Asian news outlets which pointed out that literally he screamed, “I will kill all Asians,” before he went along and did this. And you’re allowing him to set this narrative about well, it wasn’t racially motivated. It’s really upsetting, sorry–
Dr. Hill (10:56): It’s a bunch of bullshit, that’s what it is. It’s a bunch of bullshit. And as it begins to unfold, I remember just feeling rage and a physical reaction, which we are going to talk a little bit more about later. That physical, visceral reaction to the news coverage, to his audacity to the fact that lives have been lost. And then, I begin to think about “This is the impact of white terrorism.” I’m not calling them white supremacy anymore, I’m calling them white toxicity. I’m calling it white terrorism. This is the psychological impact of white terrorism on people. And these crimes that targeted Asian-Americans or people of Asian descent can activate our own trauma as Black folks. And the body literally keeps the memory, and holds the story, and keeps the score of what has happened. So I want to unpack that today. So I want to pay my respects to the lives that were lost.
Dr. Bamishigbin (11:57): Eight people.
Dr. Hill (11:58): Eight people, in my prayers, my thoughts. My heart goes out to that family, those families that are beginning to grieve and deal with the shock and the aftermath of all of this. My heart does really goes out to them. And so, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that, and spend some time today talking about how that impacts Black folks specifically, because we still have to go to work. This happened and people still have to show up at work. So when I say white toxicity, the impact of it, what do you think about something that’s toxic, y’all? I’ve looked for research on this and oh, there’s nobody. Probably people are being polite. They haven’t really written about white toxicity, probably because there’s still probably white supremacy, but toxic means something that causes harm. It’s legit, poisonous. Okay? It eats away structurally at something, breaks it down, can kill it over time. And whiteness in and of itself is toxic in a lot of ways, and that toxicity has psychological, physiological impact on people, and specifically for the sake of our show, at work too, because these events happened and it just activates to me white toxicity in the workplace. So there’s a lot of ways in which white toxicity manifests.
Dr. Bamishigbin (13:24): This anti-Asian shooting was just the worst extreme example of it. Because people are dead. But it manifests itself every day. Every single day.
Dr. Hill (13:33): Yes, say that again. That is only one example. That’s an extreme version of it, but it manifests itself every day, y’all. And I want you to understand it and be able to recognize. That’s what I hope to take away from the show today, to be able to recognize when it’s manifested, because it does have a physiological and psychological impact on who we are. That violence, extreme levels of violence, lethal violence is one manifestation of it, but we still have other manifestations of it happening on the news channels that we see at work. Let me help you out with what that looks like. Number one, whitewashing. That is a manifestation of white toxicity. When I say whitewashing, I know y’all know what I’m talking about. It’s the way white people take a story and they spin it and they make it more comfortable. What do we see? “Oh, he was having a bad day.” When have you ever seen anybody who’s not white have an issue where there’s violence involved and somebody gives the explanation that he was having a bad day or that he had a sex addiction. So now we’re making an excuse for him. We’re making an excuse for his behavior. Whitewashing. We’re going to change the narrative. You know, “Christopher Columbus came over and discovered America,” as opposed to “He savagely raped and took land that was not his from the native indigenous people who were already here.” It’s called whitewashing, and you see it all the time. Retelling stories, rechanging narratives, this manifests at work in a lot of different ways, where “Such and such, they found another opportunity so they left the organization.” Or you pushed them out. It’s lies and it’s deception and it is toxic, and when you take any in, just any poison, when you take it in daily, it begins to have an impact on you.
Dr. Bamishigbin (15:28): Yup. And they whitewash all our heroes too. Same thing. Martin Luther King whitewashed, in terms of all his thoughts, all his speeches. The white people that Martin Luther King think of is not the actual Martin Luther King who was a radical, who called out white people and white moderates. The Martin Luther King that white people talk about is the one who wanted everybody to be together without skin color coming in between. That’s an example of whitewashing.
Dr. Hill (16:00): Or they want to talk about… I remember seeing on Twitter one time where this white woman literally was going back and forth with his daughter about what his mission was. “Your dad would be so–” First of all, how are you going to tell this woman what her dad’s true purpose and mission was? That is a classic example of the audacity of whiteness and how it becomes so toxic. So they begin to rewrite this narrative about, “Hey, it’s being so peaceful and wanting to center love.” And first of all, there can be no love and peace without justice, and you cannot have justice unless you tell the truth, and that is something whiteness, by and large, has a very hard time doing, being honest and facing and telling the truth for what it is. And so this level of toxicity, y’all, it’s so there. Like the air you breathe. And I want to name it because I don’t think that we know that we’re being impacted in the workplace. We know that there’s a challenge. We know there’s something that’s making a profit. You can’t really name it and we don’t know why, and whitewashing is definitely one of those things. That is white toxicity, a manifestation of white toxicity in the workplace that makes a physiological impact. Another impact is gaslighting, y’all. Gaslighting is another manifestation of white toxicity that basically is when white people, by and large, and people who are white who then televise these white-dominant views, who play this psychological warfare and dismiss the reality of what is, making you question yourself psychologically. I don’t know. For instance, let’s say you are impacted by the events that happened in Atlanta and you show up at work and people are just going on, moving on with their day, and you’re having a reaction, and everybody’s looking at you or dismissing it like it doesn’t matter or it didn’t happen or you shouldn’t be as impacted. And when this happens, you begin to psychologically question yourself. “Am I overreacting?” or “Why am I so angry about this?” or “Why am I so mad about this?” Or you don’t understand why there’s such a problem. Now it is an active dismissal. It’s an active dismissal of what’s really happening that usually happens to Black folks and people of color. That creates a physiological and psychological impact. So when we think about the ways in which this toxicity shows up, it is most definitely this whitewashing narrative. It is most definitely this gaslighting, and that begins to wear and tear on us over time. So do you have any examples of gaslighting at work?
Dr. Bamishigbin (18:42): Absolutely. Imagine being in a workspace, a workplace, and you’re a Black person in the workplace, maybe the only, maybe one of a few, and you notice that other people are moving up, they’re moving up, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with other people moving up. That’s what you’re supposed to do in an organization if you’re doing good work and you’re there, you move up. But you notice other people are moving up. You ask questions about why you’re not moving up and it’s “No, you’ve got to wait for something else.” “Oh, no, you got to wait for X,” “Oh, you got to wait for Y.” “Oh, well, it’s a funding thing.” “Oh, it’s an X issue.”
Dr. Hill (19:15): And a time issue.
Dr. Bamishigbin (19:15): Until that one day where the absolute worst person in the office gets a promotion and you’re like, “No way.” You know, the son of the boss, the white man in the office, whatever, somebody just gets a promotion, and you’re like, “No. This whole time I was waiting on you, because I’m thinking you’re my boss, this is a good faith effort, my time will come when it’s time, but actually you were never going to let me move up.” And that happens a lot. I went to graduate school at UCLA. I can pull a Black grad student out of any department. Chemistry, political science, XYZ, and they’ll have a similar story. “There’s no more funding, there’s no more X, it’s not the right time.” Well, no, that’s just gaslighting.
Dr. Hill (20:02): That’s not the truth. It’s not the truth. At the end of the day, that’s what gaslighting does, it distorts the truth and the reality of what is that you know is rooted in anti-Blackness, that you know is rooted in a lot of privilege, nepotism in a lot of instances or mediocrity, but it refuses to acknowledge the reality of what’s happening. And you have got to know that fucks with your psyche. They are going to say “This is a funding issue” when y’all found funding for random things? Or “This is going to take so much time,” but you can put time and energy behind things that you really, really value. So this gaslighting is another way in which white toxicity manifests, y’all, and it is problematic on so many different levels, and it begins to eat away at you. And I think the third one, before we start talking about the impact, the psychological impact of this toxicity is this. This is a common one that I think doesn’t get a lot of air time, and it’s this white niceness. It’s toxic. It’s this white niceness that manifests as “I’m going to be nice, and I’m going to be kind to you so that I don’t have to address any bigger issue, or a deeper issue, or acknowledge my privilege or acknowledge the ways in which I am unfairly or unduly benefiting from my whiteness. And if I’m nice to you, that’ll make all that go away, and we don’t have to address any issue, I don’t have to give up any level of power. I don’t have to be uncomfortable in any way as long as I’m nice.”
Dr. Bamishigbin (21:37): Toxicity with a smile.
Dr. Hill (21:37): Toxicity with a smile.
Dr. Bamishigbin (21:44): I’m not going to hire you.
Dr. Hill (21:45): But I’d be nice and I’m going to be kind about it, and I’m going to be polite, but I’m not going to really deal with any of the real issues because I know that what you face is real, but I’m just going to pretend like I don’t. And so, sometimes, I feel like–not sometimes, most of the time white niceness is weaponized. It’s weaponized in a way of, “I can’t believe that you are angry with me. I can’t believe that you would have a strong reaction to me or be mad at anything that I’m doing or not doing, because I’m just being kind.” I don’t give a fuck about you being kind. I want you to do what you need to do to address structural racism and anti-Blackness. Be rude. I’d rather you be rude than be kind, and I see it all the time. It’s like racism with a smile is the perfect way to think about it. I can’t think of any examples today, of that white niceness.
Dr. Bamishigbin (22:37): Whew! I’m having, like, flashbacks, right now. And I’m not going to lie, it even is a little painful, you know, to try to go back and think about these things. But, you know, people will smile in your face, believe it. White people will smile in your face and then go in whatever office and backstab you. An example I can think of, I recently watched–don’t judge me–I watched What Men Want with Taraji P. Henson.
Dr. Hill (23:09): I’ll try not to judge you.
Dr. Bamishigbin (23:09): Please don’t judge me. I watched it and there was an example of that. So she could read minds, and she had a co-worker who she thought was against her. And she’d read his mind and she found out, “No, actually he voted for me to move up to partner because he’s a lawyer.” It was the boss who she always thought was on her side. It was that one who was the one who was not voting her in. Once again, “I’ll do it right there with a smile on my face, and I will not let you move up, but I don’t want you to think that it’s me.” That’s part of the niceness. “I don’t want you to think that it’s me. I don’t want you to know that it’s me doing that.”
Dr. Hill (23:46): “Because I want to hoard this power.” Or as Dr. [inaudible 00:23:50] said, it’s that sweet prejudice. “I’m going to be sweet to you, and I’m going to be kind to you, and I’m going to agree. I’m going to come after the meeting.” Those are the people that come to you after the meeting is over. They let you struggle in the meeting and say everything you need to say. [inaudible 00:24:03].
Dr. Bamishigbin (24:04): Yes. “You were so great.”
Dr. Hill (24:05): “You were so great, and that was so nice of you. Oh, my God. That took so much strength,” and you set your ass there and didn’t say nothing. And you think because you were kind enough–it’s performance of kindness is what I call it. It’s performance of kindness that maintains an equity and maintains distress. And I think the paradox, the psychological paradox for folks is like, “Should I be mad? They’re so nice.” Or “They’re always bringing me coffee,” or “They’re always affirming me, and they’re always doing XYZ, so I guess I shouldn’t be that mad at them.” And I think that’s the psychological impact that begins to happen. And you’re wondering “Well, what’s the problem? They don’t dislike me.” First of all, racism is not a good-bad [?]. It is structurable, action-oriented, and systematic. So you could be nice to me all you want and be a not diversified leadership. You can be nice to me all you want, but there’s nobody in the budget to be able to help you up [inaudible 00:24:59]. And you are still racist at the same time. So I think these three pieces, and I could go on and on and on about whiteness and [inaudible 00:25:10] and toxic at its core, but I find that in this particular week, with things that have happened, and as a psychologist, I hear people deal with these insidious acts of whitness in their workplace, in their environments. I’m a psychologist at Stanford. I also have a private practice. And so people who are in tech, at Facebook, Google, Instagram, all of them. Anti-Black. Every single one of them, and the toxicity of the whiteness and the ways that it shows up… If you don’t have a language for it you can’t name it. It’s hard to understand its impact. And so I wanted to be able to provide smoothing that you–
Dr. Bamishigbin (25:51): I was going to ask you a question, and we might get to this later today or another episode. What do you do about it?
Dr. Hill (26:02): With what?
Dr. Bamishigbin (26:02): If you’re in a situation where “Oh, this is a toxic white environment,” what do you do as somebody who works there?
Dr. Hill (26:11): We’re going to. We’re going to get to that. I want to talk about the impact of it, and then I want to center our mental health in all of this, because if you’re drowning in a sea of white toxicity, which is a lot of people’s reality, we don’t want you to leave this show without having some tips and tools about how to survive this. So I’m going to talk about it.
Dr. Bamishigbin (26:29): Life graphs.
Dr. Hill (26:29): Life graphs. But before we do, I want you to talk a little bit about, now that we know how white toxicity can be manifested and whitewashing and gaslighting and that white niceness and that white performance of kindness, talk to us about the psychological, physiological impact of it.
Dr. Bamishigbin (26:50): So it’s not a question as to whether white toxicity and racism and all these things impact the physical and mental health of Black people and other people of color in the country. It’s a matter of how and to what extent. That’s really the question. It’s not if, it’s how. Our body has a job. I don’t know if we think about it this way, but our body has a job to protect us. When something happens in the environment, our body says, “Okay, let me level you out. It’s kind of cold, let me warm you up. It’s kind of hot, let me cool you down.” That’s what our body does physically, but also psychologically. So there are so many different examples of white toxicity that I could point to. I think the most recent example of white toxicity is this COVID-19 pandemic and the handling of everything that went along with it. As you pointed out earlier with the previous person who was the president of the United States, he was responsible for the anti-Asian violence we just recently saw. But also just the entire handling of it from beginning to end, the way Black people are treated in the hospitals, the way that Black people are getting stepped over for vaccines. It’s all examples of white toxicity. And even the stigma of Black people not even wanting to get vaccinated because they don’t have this trust in the health care. And there’s this idea that Black people don’t want to get vaccinated. The people who don’t want to get vaccinated the most are white Republicans. There’s really no difference between the average Black person and the average white person in terms of wanting to get vaccinated. It’s really the white Republicans who say they don’t want to do it, but that’s neither here nor there. But white toxicity. So COVID-19 lowered the life expectancy in this country. Overall, it lowered it a year. For Black people it lowered our life expectancy by three years. For Hispanic people it lowered their life expectancy by two years. White toxicity. There’s research showing that in places–and this is just crazy to me—in places… because Google tracks all the information.
Dr. Hill (29:03): Of course.
Dr. Bamishigbin (29:03): And they know what you’re searching, they know when you’re searching it. They know where you’re searching it from. When they see in certain places where people are searching the N word more often. And I mean the N word with the hard R, not with the A, because that’s the distinction, or with the hard ER. They find that Black people in those areas have an 8% increase in mortality, an 8% increase in mortality in comparison to white people, which translates–because I want to put this into numbers you can understand—into 30,000 more deaths a year.
Dr. Hill (29:40): Because of white toxicity.
Dr. Bamishigbin (29:41): Because of white toxicity. Just from knowing who types in the N word in Google. Telomeres, they’re on our chromosomes. They’re like shoelace caps and they help us. They’re associated with aging. So much research has shown that Black people have shorter telomeres, and that’s something that leads to worse health [and?] a higher likelihood of dying. And you can even see those changes really, really early on in life, because the differences between Black people and white people start prenatally, truly, because of racism and white toxicity in the United States. Recently the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), they recently had a podcast with some white doctors, and they posted on Twitter with this great headline. Are you ready for this headline?
Dr. Hill (30:36): Give it to me. Wait, wait, wait. Let me take me a little sip.
Dr. Bamishigbin (30:39): Okay. Take a sip. You know what? Me too. Me too. Me too. Okay. And this is a country where Black women have the highest rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality. I’m reading this right now. “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in healthcare?”
Dr. Hill (31:01): No physician is racist. Listen to the bullshit and the white toxicity. Listen to the gaslighting. Listen to the whitewashing. No physician. Even–Hell, I don’t think you could say even the white niceness. No physician is racist, so how can there be…
Dr. Bamishigbin (31:19): It’s all three.
Dr. Hill (31:21): It’s all three in a nutshell. Wow.
Dr. Bamishigbin (31:25): And everybody’s like, “In this country? The same country that treats fat people poorly? That doesn’t listen to them when they have problems. It doesn’t treat Black people well, doesn’t treat poor people well, treats homeless people as if they’re disposable. That country?” There’s no physician that’s racist?
Dr. Hill (31:42): First of all, let me break it down [inaudible 00:31:44]. Like he said on Love Jones, I believe. Racism is an act. Any time there is multiple racists at the table–and let’s just take this whole idea of infant mortality rate or maternal rate up there. If there are more people within one race represented in those deaths than others, and they happen to be disproportionately Black or disproportionately Latinx, or disproportionately indigenous native folks, racism is at play. One race is being favoured having a higher rate of life expectancy. One race is not. There is something racist about that because it is essentially elevating one race, while marginalizing, and oppressing another. That is a fundamental fact. You’ve got to get beyond this good-bad binary. No person thinks they’re racist or admits to being racist, but the data suggests differently. So if you see that the rates of mortality for Black women, for instance, who are maternal and moving through the maternal process are higher, there is a level of racism at play. Why has that not happened for whites, Latinx, Asians, you name it? And so then, just for the ignorant doctors who don’t get it, that is racism. So therefore, if it’s happening structurally, there’s something inherent in the process that creates the disproportionate outcome. Even in their biases in evaluating these women and understanding these women’s bodies and understanding the way that [Black?] women carry children to term or not to term, in ways in which they assess—structurally there’s something that’s being missed about a particular race that’s leading to a negative outcome. I’m sorry. I had to give that, because that whole [inaudible 00:33:35].
Dr. Bamishigbin (33:36): No. Huge idiots. No, no, thank you. Thank you. That’s exactly what it is. And that’s just to showcase this is what we’re up against. This is what we’re up against. JAMA. I can’t really explain how big JAMA is. Do you know what I’m saying? JAMA is like the New York Times of medical journals. You know what I’m saying?
Dr. Hill (33:54): Exactly. Exactly. And this is a representation of the medical system gaslighting you, telling you that structural racism doesn’t exist.
Dr. Bamishigbin (34:07): Yep. Yep. So that’s what we’re up against. So we have a question that was asked previously, and I’m going to read it to you because I want you to answer this one. Okay?
Dr. Hill (34:18): Okay.
Dr. Bamishigbin (34:19): “I am a Black female, fairly young 30ish professional, that feels that the excellence that is inherent in how I show up often makes others, even other Black folk in power, uncomfortable. Any advice on how to unpack that? Not wanting to lose myself, but also not wanting to make others uncomfortable.”
Dr. Hill (34:40): I would say for the person that said it, you can say a little bit more about you. What it means for you to make other people feel uncomfortable. What is that about? Because I can share my reactions to it. I think that first of all, because of white toxicity, I think Black people […] have been socialized to overperform, to go above and beyond to do what we need to do to [reach our?] goal. And I think, just based on the education rates, I think that Black women are the most highly educated group […] over the last five to ten years, have the most buying power, have the highest rates of advanced degrees. So Black women have internalized this. I think that it takes a strong person, like you said, to be able to say, “Oh, my God. I see another Black woman who is magical.”
Dr. Bamishigbin (35:38): “I aspire to be like you. I appreciate it. I will be close to you because you are better than me. I want to let it challenge me.” I think that is a very healthy response to what I think I’m hearing in the question. And I do think that because of white toxicity, and even sometimes internalized whiteness, internalized racism, jealous people will have the opposite response where they would feel intimidated, they would feel jealous. They would feel like you’re in a competition, create conflict. I think it is part of what I want to talk to you about, how we manage white toxicity. I think it’s important to be able to name it for her, to be able to recognize it and name it, determine who does it belong to. When I say “Who does it belong to?”, people’s insecurity […], it’s not yours to manage.
Dr. Hill (36:24): So when we start to believe it is ours to manage, then it’s like–okay, I feel like you maybe get into, “I’m unsure of myself. I don’t want to lose myself, but I don’t want to make them feel comfortable.” Well, it’s not your discomfort to manage. It’s theirs. And that certainly doesn’t take away the feeling. That’s certainly doesn’t take away the fear that comes from it. But it helps if you can be able to name and disentangle, “Is this mine or is it theirs?”
Dr. Bamishigbin (36:50): “I can’t carry this. It is not mine.”
Dr. Hill (36:51): “I can’t carry this. It’s not mine.” And I think that that would be my reaction to the young lady who posed the question. Who is carrying it? I think that the burden of it and managing it may be [inaudible 00:37:02] simplify it. But I think it’s important for us to recognize that, first of all, excellence exposes mediocrity. I believe that. And when you are showing up as yourself and being excellent, and it is exposing somebody’s definite mediocrity, I think there’s going to be a reaction to that, and we have to decide, “Who’s is it to carry? Is it ours or is it theirs?” I don’t know. Would you add anything to that?
Dr. Bamishigbin (37:26): I think you summed it up. If you’re at work, doing your thing and you know you’re killing it, then it’s like Katt Williams said, “If you don’t have haters, you’re not doing it right.” So keep doing you. Keep focusing on yourself.
Dr. Hill (37:46): I hope that helps you, because it’s not easy, and I think we live in a world that, especially for us Black women, will have those negatives. So to your question, I want to give us something. We talked about white toxicity. We talked about the impacts of it physiologically, psychologically. I want to give us some tips to [inaudible 00:38:05] and navigate before we move to The Last Nerve. So Melanin in Mental Health. If you are not following Melanin in Mental Health, I strongly urge you to. They have Black and brown folks who [?], and they give some really good tips about dealing with racist terroism, which I think is basically is a form of white toxicity. The first one is to recognize when gaslighting, whitewashing, white niceness is occurring. We’ve given you three examples of that. So to be able to recognize and name it, and usually our emotions give us some indicators that something is off, and if you were to lean into it as opposed to dismiss it, you can recognize it. So that is one tool to managing the white toxicity and its impact, and it’s good to recognize when it’s happening, to name it. Two, connect with people who affirm, validate and celebrate your existence. So when people want to gaslight you, and I would say even for the young lady that posed the question, surround yourself with people who are not intimidated or jealous by your excellence but affirm it and lift it up and celebrate it, because we don’t need to feel like we need to explain and justify our human experience. That actually creates more toxicity for us. So surround yourself with people who celebrate you, who acknowledge the impact, you don’t have to explain to. But we want to name it. And we want to connect with people who affirm. Process your emotion. When we say practice, we’re talking about acknowledging the emotion and making yourself move through it. When my co-workers asked me today, “How you feeling, LaWanda?” I said rage, and if everybody don’’t feel it, so I don’t feel ignored.
Dr. Bamishigbin (39:44): Yes. Avoidance is not good for you. It might feel decent in the short-term, but long-term avoidance is not going to solve your problems. So I just wanted to add that to what you said, because you made a good point.
Dr. Hill (39:56): You have to process the emotions, move through it. They take as long as they take to process, but process it. But usually we very rarely experience real emotion [inaudible 00:40:04]. There are three more things. Engage in at least one activity that helps you feel empowered. Not disempowered, not oppressed, but feel empowered. That could be boxing, that could be exercising, that could be sex, that could be painting. That could be a web show, podcast. Engage in something that makes you feel empowered. Then engage in at least one activity that you enjoy and would add pleasure, whether that’s talking shit about white toxicity, whether it is watching your favorite show, coloring, having you a cocktail. Engage in something that you do enjoy. And then finally, rest and recharge. We have to take a break. Toxicity in and of itself eats away, and it’s poison, so we have to be able to rest and take a break from that. So those are six tips to managing white toxicity in the workplace.
Dr. Bamishigbin (40:59): I’m going to try these myself this week. Thank you.
Dr. Hill (41:01): There you go. All right, I went on my rants about white toxicity. I hope it was helpful.
Dr. Bamishigbin (41:11): You haven’t even gone on your official rant yet though.
Dr. Hill (41:15): I haven’t. Thank you. Okay, here we go. So this brings us to our last segment of the show, and this is The Last Nerve. And perhaps my favorite. I’m going to get my timing together.
Dr. Bamishigbin (41:26): Give yourself 90 seconds. Don’t give yourself 60. Give 90.
Dr. Hill (41:27): All right, 90 seconds of The Last Nerve. Let me tell y’all what my Last Nerve is. My Last Nerve is the toxicness of whiteness and its inability to be able to look at itself in the mirror so that it can deal with its own shit. Whiteness and all of this toxicity is so powerful in these great United States of America that it is constantly externalizing, constantly not validating, constantly looking for reasons to blame other people for its shit. “I have a sex addiction, so I shoot up people.” “I’m having a bad day, so I kill people and I take lives,” and I’m over it. I need for y’all to sit down, look yourself in the mirror, and deal with your bullshit. Stop making people a victim of your toxicness. People don’t deserve it. People do not deserve to be victims of your toxicity. You are lethal. You are toxic and you eat away at people’s psyche. You eat away at their mental health and well-being. You rob them of their fundamental experience of moving through this world, to be all that God has created them to be, because you are toxic and are unaware and won’t deal with your shit. And I’m sick of it. Deal with your shit. Stop externalizing, stop being caught up in guilt, stop making excuses. Take your ass to therapy and deal with your shit.
Dr. Bamishigbin (43:10): Do better.
Dr. Hill (43:13): Do better.
Dr. Bamishigbin (43:13): Do better. That’s it.
Dr. Hill (43:13): Do better. End of my time.
Dr. Bamishigbin (43:13): Thank you. Thank you. You’re absolutely right. Thank you.
Dr. Hill (43:18): Thank you, I appreciate that. Y’all, that has been The Break Room. We have talked about how the body keeps the score. I hope you all have found something helpful [inaudible 00:43:26]. Please do better. We will be reconvening next week, and we’re going to talk about when toxic is too toxic. That’s next week topic, when toxic is too toxic. So y’all join us again, same time, same place. Thank you.
Dr. Bamishigbin (43:39): Stay safe. Thank you, Dr. Hill.