Hate is a family disease –
July 15, 2020 – After being taken to a field and told to “run,” he instead proceeded to kneel on the ground with his hands up. That didn’t stop a police officer from beating him to the ground with his baton to “teach him a lesson,” but it did mean that my father lived through an experience that so many Black boys and men don’t. Over the past several weeks, we’ve witnessed a national dialogue about racism against Black people in America unlike I’ve ever seen. That, coupled with hearing my Dad share his own experiences, has triggered many memories of violence I experienced at the hands of racist people and institutions in my own life.
As the cofounder and co-CEO of a mental health company, Shine, I am reckoning with how those experiences have shaped my relationship with my own mental wellbeing. I keep reliving my first vivid experience of racism: I was in my front yard when a tall kid from my elementary school, a boy four years older, used my face as a punching bag and repeatedly spat the N-word at me. I was in the first grade. I distinctly remember the sweat that dripping off of his face while he beat me. I cycled through three different elementary schools in Warren, Pennsylvania, where I grew up, because white children and teachers couldn’t keep their hands off me.
One teacher had a bad habit of grabbing me aggressively and verbally degrading me in front of other kids. When my mom reported her to the school’s principal, the principal proceeded to tell us that I “should probably find another school,” because she didn’t think I “belonged there, anyway.” By the time I reached middle school, the racism I experienced went from episodes of physical assault to everyday vicarious racism.