The Forgotten Black Experience, not Trending…What is it?

BE:  behind cages
BE: behind cages

Have you ever been part of a conversation, physically, but not socially? Everyone makes eye contact with each other except you. They are all planning some other event and you are not invited! Without knowing it, you are invisible and irrelevant! The Black Experience is the risk of being ignored in a way that is deeply personal, emotionally and physically damaging. Tim Wise can tell you more than I about, The Forgotten Black Experience and its people.

These nuanced encounters happen every day to black children and adults all over.

Still, I think it is all in my head.

But the same pattern,

Repeated over and over again

Not only to me, but to million others,

Tells me it is not in my head!

Yes, I know this happens to other cultural groups, even those privileged. But there are significant historical and physical differences. Today racism smolders, erupting at a moments notice under seemingly benign circumstances.

The new type of racism is nuanced, non-verbal and lethal. Some systems, particularly those in medicine and public health, have institutionalized racism; it is part of their social fabric.   It is so ubiquitous, they don’t see it.  Embedded in their hierarchy and bureaucratic systems is the survival of White Privilege.

White Privilege, to be blinded, to deny, to be bystanders who benefit in the face of gross overt societal inequities.

Openly manifested in the language and climate are their discomforts with black people and other targeted ethnic minorities.

All systems with gaps and disparities have elements of racism accompanied by discrimination and stereotypes, which result in limited access to blacks and other minorities. Access is a huge problem for many disadvantaged groups. Quality care is another. All of these are part of the black experience, interestingly, this happens before people of color utter a word.

The Unending Black Experience #13

My recent hospital admissions were prime examples of discrimination on many levels without any recourse, unless I died. Forget complaining to the hospital or some local government agencies paid to protect you. I wasted several days and calls over months only find out staff changes left my complaint out in the cold and lost in the shuffle.

Finally, I realized they were not there to help only to get a pay check, a total waste of taxpayers dollars. I received conflicting information and no follow-up — I got tired of calling them back! Yes, I digress because I was tortured and bullied for over 17 hours in a hospital emergency department before urgent surgery.

How can I not be bitter? To not have my pain controlled and to wake up surrounded by vomit and blood filled buckets still untouched (or not cleared) after 2-4 hours of sleep… would this happen to a hospital board member or a friend of that mean, bully nurse in the ER? I think not! There would be media interest and outrage?

Now, I have anxiety at thoughts of entering another ER or hospital…and I should…

Did anyone care? NO! Does anyone care now? Sadly, probably not!

Will the ER crew that night change their ways? NO, they got away with it! Who knows maybe that nurse got promoted! OKay, I am being too cynical, am I? Can you blame me? You really don’t know the story so you can’t make that determination.

That hospital’s administration, my insurance company and the government agencies (who claim to protect our rights) were not interested a story, a classic example of systemic racism / discrimination that lead to increase morbidity and mortality –(disparities)–among millions of black people and other ethnic minorities.   I guess discrimination was not and is  not trending!

I wonder…

That is part of the Black Experience, never quite knowing, but suspecting based on repeated patterns of exclusion and lack of appreciation for your contributions. People claim we whine, do we?

(BTW, I do not think my insurance company should have paid for the ER part of my visit but they didn’t care.)

With little oversight of these nuanced and overt instances of racism that occur daily in Healthcare, these problems, which are causing significant harm, remain growing elephants ignored. The perpetrators instead of being shown more culturally responsive ways to handle other cultures are quietly given the nod of approval by hospital administrators, who are making millions off a system that is drowning this country in debt. Where is the government when we really need them? Busy with politics along party lines, while Main Street suffers!

Another way these systems make the playing field uneven! They keep the status quo of the dominant privileged classes by improving their health, education and access to exclusive opportunities. That is justice in America!


Make no mistake

You or your ideas are not of interest

Or importance to them

Unless it comes from their own!

Such was my experience at a recent meeting. In the past, this would ruin the night but not this time. The people who refused to look me in the eyes were also the leaders and deceitfully the most passionate advocates for disenfranchised people/communities.

Then there was the “Aha” moment! I realized, “This was The Problem!” These people wear facades of advocacy. Intentionally or not, they perpetuate a system whose woven threads of discrimination, fear, and greed are part of the social make-up of the dominant privileged class.

Where is my evidence? Look around you, there is no need for evidence based studies to confirm a fact!

Finally, part of the Black Experience rest on the shoulders of black people. It is what you choose to do with that experience that will make the biggest difference in your life and others.

back exp 2

I tire of always seeing the world through the lens of a culture that is not my own. Why can’t more people see it from my cultures’ point of view?   Why aren’t we given multiple chances like everyone else?

One reason: the Success of media in reinforcing stereotypes and its Failure to Listen to the undertones of other cultures!


Want to hear more stories?  Check these out!

Unending Black Experience: White Privilege Stories

What the Hell is the “Black Experience(BE)?”

Unending List of The Black Experience -Updated 04/08/2013


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

17 thoughts on “The Forgotten Black Experience, not Trending…What is it?

  1. I hear what you are saying, and I am embarrassed to say that I have unfortunately ignored a Black women in a conversation. I was talking about women’s history month and child abuse awareness month, and I was afraid to call out her race and add Black history month, as it was in the tail end of February. I didn’t do it on purpose, but you are right discrimination breeds in our society. I was aware that I did it, and I am trying to reeducate myself. I advocate for embracing all cultures, races, etc… so why is it so hard to say yes I see that you are Black. I am okay with the fact that you are Black. I have been in a metamorphosis of new realizations, and I believe this “color blind” society of ours is ignorant to the fact that we do not ignore color/race, and we do see it, so why pretend we don’t? I am not raising my children to be colorblind anymore, because I feel that it just perpetuates racism. We now talk about race inside my home. Thank you for your post.

  2. You know tigerlilyorange, a friend and I were just discussing colorblind. And this also speaks to the importance of context,I referred to myself as being color blind with daily reminders that others are not. 🙂 -Angela

  3. Is it different for a Black woman to say that she is colorblind? I mean our world is built on racism, and global White supremacy is the present day experience for all. When you are forced to live in a world where you don’t regularly see positive images of your own face reflected back at you through textbooks, magazines, TV, and all other forms of media (unless you search them out), so it is unfortunately more normal for you to be surrounded by Whites faces than it would be for me to be surrounded by Black faces (unless I actively search them out). Please correct me if I am wrong. Does being colorblind mean something different for you then me? I feel that being colorblind for White people is a step in the wrong direction. I feel it causes people to be afraid of acknowledging race or talking about race which perpetuates racism and fear. White people are deathly afraid to be called a racist, and so they don’t talk about it. They hush their children when they notice race or language. I believe this is only making matters worse.

    1. I think we stumbled onto another example of culture, where context and language are important. As a Black woman surrounded by white faces with few positive recognitions of my cultures’ contributions to society, I would respond to your question with a resounding, “Yes.” For me being color blind means accepting everyone at face value, not judging a book by its cover, not letting stereotype or band-wagon mentality get in the way of building relationships. (I am not perfect; however, I am self-aware.)

      In your context, being color blind means ignoring me, not giving me that recognition — That opportunity to dispel many racial and stereotypical myths that are obstacles, fogging visions of who I really am. Yes, we need to talk about race, like we talk about everything else. The denial to do so signals discomfort and other not so nice things.

      So, I am glad you are not Color Blind!  And so happy you are talking about the Important things with your children.


  4. To be black and a woman in America is like going to bat in the World Series with two strikes against you before the pitcher even throws a pitch. As an Asian man I can relate to feeling invisible in the middle of a group. That could be some of my social anxiety though.

    Your words about always having to see through the lens of the dominant culture without the courtesy of reciprocation rings true. I grew up in a German-American family and always questioned this aspect of our culture.
    Tigerlilyorange makes a good point about being surrounded by white faces. This leads to internalizing the image of the oppressor when a lack of role models with a similar ethnicity is not available. Students are inundated with the icons of American history, nearly all white and male, with minimal attention given to African, Asian, Hispanic cultural heroes.

    Great post, Angela!

    1. Hi Jeff,

      The notion of white privilege starts the moment you are born. Schools reinforce it by perpetuating this exclusionary vision of culture, where many oppressed and disadvantaged groups are not main characters in history. Jeff, your point is well taken!

      And thank you for the compliment and your comments.

  5. Angela, would you mind if I inserted a link to your site in my next post? I thought this issue of color blindness needed addressing further, and I didn’t want to neglect that you are apart of this conversation.

  6. Hi Angela. I’m so sorry for my long absence; I was handling a difficult time, and ask your for forgiveness.
    If this post doesn’t prove the incredible strength of white privilege and white racism, I don’t know what will. Physicians are at the top of our social hierarchy – but race and gender trumps all, When a female doctor of African descent gets treated as a Black woman in America, we know where racism stands – it stands on her throat, and it’s not going to back down until all of us, united, knock it the fxxk down.
    Please pardon my xx language, Angela.
    And bless you with all the goodness shining somewhere in the universe.
    Your friend,

    1. Hi Claire,

      No need for apologizes, we are have so many lives. I hope all is going better. for you.

      Claire, I can see you understood exactly where I am coming from, Thank You.

      Some don’t! They feel “my ghetto behavior” makes me deserving of such treatment. (What ghetto behavior? They don’t me! But another example of stereotypes.)

      I am glad you are back! And I will be visiting your blog soon.


  7. “Where is my evidence? Look around you, there is no need for evidence based studies to confirm a fact!”

    yeah. about that. generally one finds that argument as a placeholder for “i am aware of a lack of evidence supporting my remarkable claims, but it is very important for me that you accept those claims”. it’s a *very* old kind of bluff, and very common. but it’s not to be respected on that account.

    where’s the racism in BE#13? what’s uniquely black about that experience at all? you think white patients at VA hospitals couldn’t relate, really?

    if you haven’t got evidence, don’t be so damn sure you’ve got the truth. and if the truth isn’t what you’re interested in, because you have a monopoly on The Truth, the only kind of change you’re going to make in the world is for the worse. take you about five minutes on the internet to find all manner of fanaticism flying the “no need for evidence” flag, if you’ve got the ambition.

    1. Hi misanthropope,

      Those are good, valid points. I appreciate the honesty of your comments. I wish more people would ask those questions to get a dialogue started (not necessarily change mind).

      I agree white patients are subjected to the similar displays of discrimination and poor quality health care at VA. This is unacceptable, we owe Veterans.
      However, my point was not to downplay other groups but to remind people of the persistent existence of institutionalized, organizational and interpersonal discrimination and racism -both overt and nuanced.

      For me, the black experience is a mixture of daily encounters laced with discrimination, negative stereotypes, and exclusionary behaviors towards blacks, and other unprivileged and oppressed groups. In addition, the underpinnings of slavery add a layer of psychological trauma unique to black people.

      These experiences start at birth changing the brain circuitry to adapt to stressful and tense environments. For those living in disadvantaged communities, the Black Experience is an even greater double whammy of Toxic Stress.

      A race of people sharing common experiences with common themes, repeated over generations is a fact, whether science understands it or not. These are the very painful experiences for many black folks. Hypocrisy is also fact and it does not require a degree to discern.

      And as I mentioned in the post, without the context one cannot make a determination, but I can.

      I enjoyed responding to your comments.

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