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Black in White Spaces: Why We Need Black Doctors

I just fired ALL my doctors.

Of course, as a patient I don’t have the power to literally “fire” my doctors. As a matter of fact, I’m sure each of my former physicians is doing just fine, with thriving practices and growing patient lists.

I bet they won’t even realize I’m no longer a member of that patient list. And that’s one of the reasons why I fired all my doctors. Follow me as I list three top reasons I fired my doctors, and why I believe, actually know, why we need more Black doctors.

1. Doctors of color say we need more like them.

I attended a spiritual retreat a couple weeks ago, and to say it fed my soul is an understatement. Time away from the grind of life, long walks in nature and meeting some fascinating people doing justice work around the country was truly balm for my soul.

One of the most unexpected and inspiring conversations that weekend was with a 30-something guy who was born in Morocco, but now serves in the medical field in the US Army. I told him that my youngest daughter wants to enter the medical field and that, instead becoming a doctor, she is now considering becoming a nurse anesthetist.

He unapologetically stated (and I’ll paraphrase here), “Becoming an RN is a wonderful goal, and we need great nurses. But your daughter shouldn’t waver from her desire to become a doctor. She’ll have more influence to effect change as a doctor. And we need more women doctors. We need more Black doctors.”

And the most powerful words he shared: “Your daughter will have naysayers telling her what she can’t or shouldn’t do. Tell her to never be her own naysayer.

Can the church say AMEN?

My daughter is only 14-years-old and has lots of time to chart her career path, but I shared with her everything my new Moroccan brother-friend shared with me. And this resonates with me even today: we need more Black doctors.

2. Black doctors put BIPOC patients at ease.

I hate going to the doctor. I mean literally, undeniably, hate it.

But I’m also a proponent of a healthy lifestyle, and a close relationship with my physicians is part of that lifestyle. So I make the regular appointments, subject myself to all the suggested screenings, get vaccinated, and all that.

One thing that puts me at ease regarding my healthcare journey is having doctors that I feel connected to. That’s why all my doctors are female. And that’s why I fired all my previous doctors and replaced them with women of color.

Last week I had my first appointment with my new GYN. I’d heard a lot about her, and felt a connection before I entered her office. When I met her I felt an immediate ease. She and I talked about our alma mater Howard University, where she earned her medical degree and I earned my B.A. We talked about her daughter attending Howard now, and how her sophomore year is going.

We chatted until it dawned on me that I wasn’t there for a coffee date with a new girlfriend. I was there for my annual examination. Honestly, it felt so good to have found not only a new doctor, but a doctor who gets me and my experience as a Black woman.

It was truly empowering.

And the empowerment I felt is what I’ve needed. It’s what more women of color need.

3. Black doctors are more likely to truly see and hear their patients.

The reason I fired my primary care physician (PCP) is laid out in my previous posting Black in White Spaces: Disparities in Healthcare.

Now mind you, I liked my old PCP. She was easy to chat with, funny, and we actually connected well. But as soon as I discussed the physical issues that I’ve been dealing with for at least two years, she minimized my concerns. She’d run labs before, but never dug deeper into my symptoms. And when I mentioned a family history connection and the fact that I was feeling progressively worse, she would say, “Oh, but your such a healthy woman.”

My interpretation was, Oh, but you’re such a strong Black woman.

Medical studies show that doctors often minimize the pain that Black women feel. There’s a belief that we can handle more pain than our white counterparts.

We are often overlooked — unseen and unheard.

So you can imagine the satisfaction I felt when my new GYN asked a few questions after my exam, and sent me for additional tests. Now mind you, I had shared not one complaint or concern. So she explained her reasoning for the precautionary screening by stating, “Just to make sure we aren’t missing anything going on.”

Never have I ever.

Let me just say, this is the Number One reason we need more Black doctors. We need doctors that will look beyond the stereotype of the Strong Black Woman. Doctors that will go beyond the bare minimum during a routine physical. Doctors that will investigate, ask deeper questions, risk getting all up in our business.

Doctors that will see and hear us.

This is why I fired all my non-BIPOC doctors. This is why I’m rooting for all the little black boys and girls even considering becoming doctors. This is why I’ve empowered myself by choosing all new BIPOC doctors.

This is why we need more Black doctors.


Black in White Spaces: Disparities in Healthcare

I recently read a book that rocked me. I mean I literally wept through the last few chapters. Not only is author Dolen Perkins-Valdez a beautiful storyteller, she also takes her readers to school regarding the United State’s egregious history of medical abuse against people of color.

Take My Hand is a fictional story of young Black nurse desperately fighting for justice for her rural-poor, Black patients that face harrowing injustice at the hands of medical professionals. When Nurse Civil follows this trail of injustice it leads her all the way to the federal government’s involvement in medical malpractice against poor Black women in the 1960s and 70s.

And that’s not that long ago y’all.

I’ll let the author speak for herself with a couple excerpts from her Author’s Note at the end of the book. {Plot-spoiler Alert}

“This novel is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the real-life case of ‘Relf v. Weinberger.’ In June 1973, Minnie Lee and Mary Alice Relf, sisters aged 12 and 14, were sterilized without their consent in Montgomery, Alabama, by a federally funded agency. Eventually, the case went to federal court in Washington, DC. This case… brought to light the 1000s of poor women of color across the country who had been sterilized under federally funded programs.

What is particularly shocking to me, when I first learned of this case, was that it had happened just one year after the Associated Press had revealed the story of how the federal government left hundreds of Black men in rural Alabama untreated for syphilis in a study at Tuskegee that lasted 4 decades. Both cases prompted national discussions about medical ethics and racism, but how could these events have been allowed to happen in plain sight?

The moral and ethical questions I explore in Take My Hand remain salient today. In 2013, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that between 2006 and 2010, nearly 150 women in California state prisons had been sterilized without official approval. A year later, the AP reported on multiple instances of prosecutors in Nashville, Tennessee, submitting permanent birth control as part of plea deals. In 2020, a whistleblower alleged that immigrant women detained by ICE were being forcibly sterilized without their consent in US detainment facilities.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Now I am humbly aware that some of you might not have made an appearance into the world by 1973, but surely you were here in 2006. It is unbelievable that these injustices happened in our lifetime.

While reading Take My Hand, I began pondering and researching the ways Black people, and especially Black women, have been marginalized in the healthcare sector. Here are a few quotes I stumbled upon:

“Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women.”

National Partnership for Women & Families

“Black women continue to experience excess mortality relative to other U.S. women, including shorter life expectancies and higher rates of maternal mortality. Moreover, Black women are disproportionately burdened by chronic conditions, such as anemia, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.”

NIH National Library of Medicine

“Statistics on Black maternal health in US underscore serious gaps in care. Death rates for infants born to African Americans with advanced degrees are higher than White Americans who didn’t go to high school. The US is the only industrialized nation where Black maternal health is getting worse. This ties in with the US history and legacy of racism.”

American Medical Association

These quotes represent our medical landscape TODAY.


Another way Black women are marginalized medically — albeit more subtle and therefore less overt — is through what I’ll call “medical nonchalance”. There’s probably a more technical term for this phenomenon, but medical nonchalance is the a medical professional’s tendency to underestimate a Black female patient’s potential medical issues. Racial bias and the stereotype of the “Strong Black Woman” can lead a medical professional to under-examine and therefore misdiagnose the ailments that have sent a Black woman to the doctor’s office in the first place.

I’ll share a personal story to illustrate an example of medical nonchalance…

For at least two years, I’ve had suspicions that something was going on with my health. My symptoms were all over the map, and I had a persistent feeling that I wasn’t well.

I’d run to my PCP with the same complaints: intense fatigue, headaches, joint pain, weight gain, etc. etc. I also had expressed some strange feelings in my throat area and some hoarseness that I assumed were gastrointestinal in nature, and even wondered if I had asthma.

I had mentioned my late mother’s history of hypothyroidism, but labs had been inconclusive for years. My doctor would conclude, “Well your labs look fine. Your such a healthy woman, so I think you’re great.”

I appreciated the compliment, but I hadn’t felt “healthy” for quite some time.

For too long I took her word as truth. Until my last visit to her office. I had determined I was going to plant myself on her examination table until she came up with something. My fatigue had been overwhelming and improving my nutrition and exercise schedule hadn’t made dent in my physical woes.

She chatted 15 minutes straight about how age and hormonal changes can bring all kinds of symptoms, and I felt my patience waning. By the time she mentioned her own weight gain, “I’ve always weighed in around 120 pounds, and now I’m at 135!”, I was ready to throw a blood pressure cuff at her.

Finally, she shut up and performed a brief physical checkup. When she felt my throat area, she frowned and said,”Hmmm… your thyroid is rather enlarged. Let’s get some more labs run and get you into ultrasound.”

Well long story short… I indeed am struggling with hypothyroidism, with an enlarged thyroid and surrounding nodules. The good news is I’m on the road to treating my condition, with the help of a specialist — a woman of color, by the way. The bad news is I might have had this condition for over two years, and could have made some headway with my condition by now.

Oh, but I’m such a healthy woman. Such a strong Black woman.

And because I’m both a strong Black woman and a Black woman susceptible to illness and disease like any other woman, I have learned to advocate for myself. To plant myself in a doctor’s office until she gets quiet enough to do due diligence with my healthcare. To request to have additional tests ordered. To request a referral to a specialist.

To leave my old PCP and find a new one.

A Black female physician that hopefully will see me and hear me.

One that will see my strength, but know that I too can be fragile and in need of her help.

One that will take the Hippocratic Oath to heart: “I will do no harm or injustice to them”.

May every medical professional, of every race and creed, do the same.

Working It Out: Why I Vote

I remember this phone conversation with my Mom (pictured below) as if it took place yesterday. It went something like this:

“I saw on the news that you all have an election in Tennessee today,” my Mom, who lived in Maryland, said. “Did you vote today or did you vote early?”

“We’re so new here, I didn’t know any of those folks running,” I replied. And then I stated those five fateful words that I would have done anything to take back after they left my mouth. “I didn’t vote this time.”

Now let me share some backstory. I can’t remember exactly how old I was at that time, but I do know that I was grown, grown. I was married, had at least one child, and was definitely over the 30-year-old mark. And still, this is how my mother responded:

“Daughter,” she began with her stately, matter-of-fact, ’bout to drop some Black-mama- wisdom-on-you voice. “You need to vote in every election. Don’t you know? Our people marched, protested, and gave their lives so we could have the right to vote. So please, don’t ever give up that right by not voting.”

I can’t remember exactly how I responded, but I’m sure I humbly responded with very few words, mumbling something along the lines of “Yes, ma’am. You’re right.”

That conversation was many years ago, and my Mom has since passed away, and yet I think about her words every time there’s a local or national election happening. Just the other day I shared this story with some ladies from the community as we chatted during a local candidate’s “Meet and Greet” event in my neighborhood.

My mother’s words are a huge reason why I vote. The history behind her words are another huge reason why I vote.

As a Black woman, I would not have been able to vote until 1965, after the passing of the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Prior to the signing of the Voters Rights Act, a historical event, now known as “Bloody Sunday”, galvanized the voting rights movement.

Led by the late Representative John Lewis, at that point the 25-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Hosea Williams, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Bloody Sunday began as a nonviolent march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

The crowd of 600-plus protesters marched for the right to vote in Alabama, but the peaceful march quickly turned violent when armed state troopers met the marchers with billy-clubs, whips and tear gas. Marchers were spat upon, overrun by horses and attacked with billy-clubs and bullwhips. As a result, more than 50 marchers were hospitalized. John Lewis was one of them.

When citizens around the country viewed televised footage of the bloody altercation, mass protests arose around the country. Many people, of all races, were outraged that this kind of violence had taken place on US soil.

A week after Bloody Sunday, President Johnson introduced voting rights legislation during an address to Congress, identifying this savage event as a turning point in US history much like the Battles of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolution.

Unfortunately blood had to be shed for Black folks to earn the right to vote.

This is one of many instances that my mother invoked with her words, Daughter, our people marched, protested and gave their lives so we could have the right to vote.

Today, I google election websites, watch candidate debates, read interviews, talk to local folks, and do whatever I have to do to make an educated choice during elections. I vote in local elections with the same fervor that I vote in presidential elections. It doesn’t matter how impactful the election results might be on my way of life. I still vote. All. The. Time.

As a matter of fact, this Thursday I will vote, for school board officials, county commissioners, and so forth. I can hardly wait.

And even though elected officials, especially local officials, make decisions that influence daily life for citizens like me, exercising my right to vote isn’t really about me. It’s about honoring those that have gone before me. It’s about John Lewis. It’s about Fannie Lou Hamer, the Black Civil Rights activist who led voting drives and founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

And it’s about my Mom.

My she rest well, knowing that her daughters are carrying on her legacy of civil rights and empowerment.

What COVID Taught Me: My Top 10

There are several things I learned during the week COVID yanked me from behind, wrestled me down to my Tempur-Pedic and pinned me down until it decided to call “Uncle”.

And of course, out of the kindness of my heart and maybe a little displaced passive-aggression I’m feeling towards this persistent, perpetual, and perplexing phenomenon… I have decided to share these lessons with YOU. ** Read to the end!

The top 10 things COVID taught me:

  1. You’re always in good company when you contract the virus. The day after I found out I had COVID, President Biden revealed he too had contracted the virus. (Don’t fret: I’m sure you too have had an amazing host of famous people simultaneously suffering through COVID fevers along with you — glamorous pop stars, talented writers and thespians, and even some enormously famous Tiktokers.) I personally thought to join POTUS in one of his videos, but was confined to bed by then, and didn’t think my aura would communicate the hopeful, positive message the country was needing from our Head of State in that moment.
  2. Mild COVID could be compared to being “a little pregnant”. Over time your body will be made aware that an alien has definitely taken up residence.
  3. Your bedroom should be prepared for quarantine-war at any moment. A comfy chair and ottoman to ward off threatening bedsores that can occur from laying in bed ALL DAY LONG. A small refrigerator the size and capacity of which you haven’t used since moving into your college dorm. A healthy stockpile of bottled waters, naturally-sweetened popsicles, pretzel goldfish and any other tasteless foods that stimulate the brain but need no flavor due to the decreased capacity of your tastebuds. Oh, and boxes of tissues. So. Many. Tissues.
  4. The bathtub that typically sits unused and lonely, suddenly becomes your bestie — doused with plentiful epsom salt and essential oils. Who knew your Mama’s home remedies worked better than Tylenol?
  5. Books really do have the ability to take you to an outside world full of imagination and adventure. After all, you’re not seeing much action in quarantine a.k.a. life without bail a.k.a. purgatory.
  6. Don’t be too sensitive. Others, including family members that test negative, will be seen holding their breath around you, dodging your eye contact and bolting out of any room you might enter for even a few seconds. This could last days, weeks, even months after you’ve completed quarantine.
  7. The folks fighting mask mandates in schools, carrying signs stating “Give our children freedom”, either haven’t had COVID or were asymptomatic. Personally, I’m willing to quadruple-mask!
  8. COVID misery loves company. When another family member goes down, you secretly rejoice that you are no longer alone in the fight, ’cause it’s rough out here in these COVID streets.
  9. As a COVID late-bloomer, you wonder would you’d receive more sympathy from others during the first waves of COVID. In the beginning of the pandemic, we Door-dashed and Instacarted meals and groceries to COVID-ridden friends and family, begging them to rest and stay in bed for a month, or two if needed. When you’ve contracted what must be Omicron z.542, after a two days folks are snapping fingers and blinking quickly, saying, Well where is she? Why is she still in bed? GIRL! GET BACK TO THE GRIND ALREADY!!
  10. And this can’t be stressed enough… Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your dang hands!

Disclaimer: This post was started at 4 am during some atrocious COVID insomnia. All thoughts shared here are solely the author’s and are not backed by the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, nor the American Medical Association. This post might not make the world a better place, but if I have created just a chuckle or two, then my COVID woes have not been in vain.

**And with all that said…

I’ll add a Bonus Lesson 10 1/2: Since many of us have lost loved ones to severe cases of COVID, this horrible pandemic is also teaching me that we all should try to show others more kindness, more empathy and more authenticity. We really don’t know how long we have with one another.

Working It Out: Truth’s Table Book Review!

I haven’t written much lately, but I’ve got a pretty good excuse. I’ve been on a much-needed vacation with my family. Thus the beach photo above.

And please excuse me as I digress a bit… I absolutely LOVE the beach. It is truly my happy place. Note the cheesy grin on my face in aforementioned family beach pic.

Case in point: One day while wading in the ocean, jumping waves, I noticed lightning strikes off in the distance. You would think my first thought would be to get out and away from the water. But no, my thought was Oh well, if I get struck by lightning today, my family can say I died happy. My epitaph would read, “Here lies Carla Adair Hendricks, who died in her happy place.”

Okay back to the subject at hand… today’s book review.

This year I brought two book companions with me — one fiction, one nonfiction.

I’ll share more about the novel eventually, but today I want to share about Truth’s Table. Now to give a little backstory… Truth’s Table began as a podcast created by three deep theologian sister-girls that I’ve been following for a few years. Honestly, I’m not an avid podcast listener, but I have listened to theirs several times.

According to their website, Truth’s Table is “A podcast by Black women and for Black women, where we tackle politics, race, culture, and gender issues through a Christian lens.”

Me & My Beach Companion

Their similarly-named book does more of the same.

Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation, is unapologetically written by Black women — Ekemini Uwan, Christina Edmondson, and Michelle Higgins — and is unapologetically written for Black women like me.

Would I suggest others, non-Blacks and men of any race, pick this one up?


But the reader must understand the perspective these sisters are coming from. They have written every single word with Black women in mind. And that is undeniable when they come out the gate with the first essay, written by Ekemini, titled “The Audacious Perseverance of Colorism.”

Ekemini uses Alice Walker’s (author of The Color Purple) definition of colorism: “the intraracial discrimination against people with darker-skinned complexions in preference for people with lighter-skin complexions.” She then goes on to share personal experiences with colorism and drops several truths surrounding this “dirty laundry” within the Black community that we all know exists, many deny, and none of us want to reveal to our non-Black friends.

And so goes the thoughts and admonitions that these sisters drop in this book.

I enjoyed the entire book, but have a favorite essay from each of my author-sisters. I’ll share a quote from each of my faves.

“This is why disentangling white supremacy from the faith should be an essential part of discipleship. It’s high time for the church to dismantle this relic of white supremacy: white Jesus. It is an idol. It is a myth. It is violent. It is a weapon. This weapon has been used to oppress Black people globally, and it will burn in hell as all idols will.”

Ekemini Uwan, Decolonized Discipleship


“Inclusive worship is more than music; it is more than multiethnic. It welcomes the eyes and ears of the body, the slender and short, the curvy and the cane-carrying. Meaningful multiethnic worship is intentionally interdependent. When God’s body moves as a unified whole, each part freed from trying to be another, our worship is inclusive, and the body is liberated.

Michelle Higgins, Love & Justice in Multiethnic Worship


“You are born to resist. Coming to Christ fully dependent on His grace alone doesn’t make us docile and compliant to injustice. Rather, our rebirth results in holy convictions and empowerment to speak truth to power and grace to the crushed.”

Christina Edmondson, Born to Resist

Amen. Amen. Amen.

If I had more time to break this book down, I would. But let me just say reading this one encouraged and challenged me. And encouraged me as it challenged me.

If you’re looking for a feel-good or easy read, the kind that most women choose to take to the beach, this is not your next buy. But if you, like me, want to be edified by sisters that have done the theological and boots-on-the-ground work to speak on these topics, I think you’ll find this one as enlightening and edifying as I did.

Black in White Spaces: Independence Day for Whom?

It’s the 4th of July aka Independence Day, and I know some folks are wondering, why are Black folks throwing so much shade on this beloved red, white & blue holiday?

The 4th of July has been a conflicting holiday for Black folks for a long time — since it’s inception even. I mean, who doesn’t love a day off work to cook out and gather with friends and family? Who doesn’t love a spectacular fireworks display?

This year, however, it seems more and more Black folks have decided to forfeit the celebrations and flag waving. And some non-blacks are scratching their heads and wondering why?

Well I’ll list a few reasons why. I’m sure my list could be longer, and I won’t elaborate much, but I feel compelled to bring a little clarity to the day.

So here we go…

Photo courtesy of CNN

1. Black people were not free on Independence Day

On July 4, 1776, the US was recognized as a free country, liberated from its mother country England. For enslaved Africans in American, however, we weren’t declared free until the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863. That date is 87 years after the original 4th of July. Today most Black folks weigh heavier on celebrating Juneteenth, and in my town of Franklin, Tennessee we show out on Juneteenth! So much I even blogged about it this year.

And for more insight, watch one of my she-ros Isabel Wilkerson share how this 4th of July shares a common landmark as the history of slavery in our country.

2. Unarmed Black men and women are still being slain in the streets of America

Just yesterday, video footage was released of Jayland Walker being shot approximately 60 times in the streets of Akron, Ohio. More evidence will be revealed in this fairly fresh incident, but no matter what transpired during this altercation, are 60 gun shots ever warranted? At this point, it is nearly impossible to list the names of men and women that have been killed in similar incidences. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and on and on… We want to #saytheirnames, but there have been so many. How can we possibly keep up?

As long as our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, fellow Black Americans, continue to die in our streets, we Black folks are going to have a hard time celebrating our country’s “freedom.”

3. Black people worry about our basic freedoms being stripped from us

After the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24th, Black folks are concerned that other freedoms might be stripped away from us. Whether you land on the pro-life or pro-choice side of the debate, this kind of decision immediately drops worry into the brains of Black citizens. We begin to wonder what other laws will be overturned. And if we happen to reside in the southern half of the country, it’s truly concerning to witness federal laws being relinquished to individual state governments. The same governments that fought to the death during the Civil War for the right to trade and own slaves.

So needless to say, this holiday is bittersweet and conflicting for us Black folks. Some of us might still enjoy a barbeque or fireworks show, but many of us are feeling some deep feelings on holidays like today.

**WORKING IT OUT: If you want to further educate yourself on our country’s conflicting history, I highly recommend watching WHO WE ARE: A Chronicle of Racism in America on Netflix. Watch with your kids and teens. I promise you, you will better understand the social media posts you’re seeing today that reveal how we Black folks really feel on the 4th of July.

Black in White Spaces: Racial Disparities in Foster Care

As much as I love to write, my day job is in a completely different lane. As a social worker, I serve CASA Nashville as a volunteer advocate team leader. Simply put, I manage and supervise a team of 30+ volunteers that advocate for youth in foster care. [Shameless plug: CASA Nashville is currently hiring and we’re always looking for great volunteers to join our team!]

This work lands me in Metro Nashville Juvenile Court weekly, speaking up for the best interest of children and teens in state custody. (Shout out to Judge Sheila Calloway!) In addition to advocating for youth, I also serve as the Family Preservation Specialist at CASA, as we aspire to assist youth return home to their “first families.”

A few things have become obvious to me as I’ve done this work since January 2021, and worked with foster families for over a decade now. I’ve learned:

  1. Once a child is in the foster care system, it can be very challenging for him/her to return home.
  2. It often takes 6 months or more for a child to return home, even when parents are working the plans that the state has mandated they complete.
  3. Being removed from home and being placed in foster care creates additional trauma to already traumatized youth.
  4. It is typically easier to keep a child home and help parents improve the safety and stability of their home, than removing the child and placing him/her in a foster home or residential facility. (Unless there is severe abuse or neglect involved, of course.)
  5. Teens land in residential facilities more often than they should, due to the lack of foster homes willing to take in teens or equipped to handle the trauma and special needs of teens.
  6. And the topic I want to discuss today — youth of color, and especially Black youth, are grossly overrepresented in the foster care system in every state in the US.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation:

“Black children are still overrepresented among youth in foster care relative to the general child population. In 2018, black children represented 14% of the total child population but 23% of all kids in foster care.”

These statistics hold up in every state in the US.

These statistics are atrocious. They illuminate the disparities in the child welfare system that we see daily.

One brilliant woman taking on these statistics is my newest she-ro — Dr. Dorothy Roberts. I could quote her 2 million times, but I’ll try to control myself.

According to Dr. Roberts in Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, it is no coincident that Black children and families are overrepresented in the US foster care system. This book has become so important in our work at CASA Nashville, my staff team has christened it the “good book” of child welfare.

“The overrepresentation of Black children in foster care is not simply an accident. All those displaced children do not ‘just happen to be Black,’ as adherents to a color-blind approach would say. The disproportionate number of Black children under state supervision results from discriminatory decision making within the system as well as racist institutions in the broader society. High rates of poverty among Black families, bolstered by stereotypes about Black parental unfitness, create the system’s racial disparity.”

Dr. Dorothy Roberts

As an adoptive mother, you might expect me to push for children in foster care to be adopted by more seemingly-stable families. This is not the case, however. As much as I adore my adopted children, and can’t imagine my life or our family without them, I have mourned the fact that they weren’t able to be raised by their first parents. As an adoptive parent, I am actually more committed to children returning to their first families, as long as their families can provide a healthy and safe environment for them.

My she-ro Dr. Roberts has dedicated decades to sounding the alarm on these racial disparities in our nation’s child welfare system, and addressing our country’s adoption dilemma in Shattered Bonds as well.

“Major shifts in federal and state policy on child protection, welfare reform, and criminal justice are converging to proclaim a dangerous message: the solution to the problems of poor Black children is either to dissolved their family ties so that they can be adopted by more privileged parents or to lock them up in the nation’s expanding prison system.”

Dr. Dorothy Roberts

In her newest book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families — And How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, Dr. Roberts renames the child welfare system, the family-policing system. Her bottom line: states spend astronomically more monies on policing and punishing families, than providing aid and assistance to the very families that need it the most.

As citizens, we need to push our elected officials for a more just child welfare system. Individuals working within the system, those working for Child Protective Services for example, need racial bias training to aid them in making fairer judgements when deciding to remove children from their families. And those in power positions need to spend more time and energy providing services to strengthen families, instead of tearing them apart.

The bottom line: racial disproportionality exists in nearly every system: foster care, education, the penal system, law enforcement and even healthcare. I’ll spend the next few weeks examining some of these other systems, but I wanted to start with the system that I work in and witness on a daily basis.

I hope to raise awareness and challenge us all to open our eyes to the disparity that exist right below the surface, and often hide in plain sight. Let’s do what we can to make these systems more just and balanced, if not for our generation, for our children and our children’s children.

Black in White Spaces: The Overturning of Roe v. Wade

The Dividing Lines of Roe v. Wade

Just yesterday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping away a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time arguing pro-life vs. pro-choice, although I will say that I am a fierce defender of human life from the womb to the tomb. Unfortunately, many of those holding signs outside abortion clinics and shouting for joy after yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling do very little to defend the lives of children once they are born, especially those born poor and/or black and brown.

I have chosen to spend my energy and resources fighting for children once they are born, especially those born in challenging situations. I wish lawmakers and politicians would do the same.

I won’t share too many words or thoughts here, since I usually shy away from political issues on my blog. However I do feel a need to provide some clarity. If you are not a person of color, you might be puzzled by the vast amount of Black folks, even those of strong faith, that are discouraged, and some even enraged, by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Well, you didn’t ask me, but I’d love to speak to this issue.

The SPOTUS’s ruling on Roe v. Wade is troubling for many people of color for the following reasons:

  • This Supreme Court decision has brought increasing division and divisiveness to our already polarized nation.
  • Federal laws being overturned sets an unsettling precedence. As a Black woman, my mind immediately considered the implications. Will other constitutional rights be overturned? Will the civil rights that my ancestors marched and fought for be overturned?
  • Moving huge issues like abortion from the control of the federal government to the discretion of individual states is frightening for a Black woman like me, particularly those living in Southern states. After all, they say the Civil War was fought over states’ rights — the right for states (especially Southern ones) to own slaves.
  • This overturning will affect health outcomes for women. Will women, and especially women from impoverished communities, be at risk medically when they seek abortion procedures in other states or even countries? Black women in the US already suffer immeasurable health disparities in the healthcare system.

I’m sure there are multiple other reasons that folks are crying out after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, but these are just a few that you should consider. As Black Americans we see the world through a different lens, our heritage and culture literally color the things we see, hear and feel.

As a Mocha Writer-Mama I hope to open your eyes to our lens and to our view of the world.

Working It Out: It’s Juneteenth Y’all!

It’s Juneteenth Y’all! A day to celebrate FREEDOM and PROGRESSION.

I’m sure by now most people know what Juneteenth represents, but just in case, I’ll give a brief synopsis.

Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Black Independence Day, is a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, celebrated on June 19th each year. On tomorrow, June 20th, federal offices and other workplaces like mine (yayyy CASA Nashville!) will close their doors in honor of this federal holiday.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which declared more than 3 million slaves in the Confederate states to be free. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, however, that Union troops reached Galvaston, Texas to proclaim the news of freedom — two whole years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. On that day, the former slaves broke out in celebration of their freedom with prayer, song, dance and huge feasts.

This is why we celebrate Juneteenth.

My family has celebrated this entire weekend. (See pics below!) So much celebrating, that we have opted for an at-home, low-keyed Father’s Day today.

Yesterday (Saturday) we spent nearly the entire day at the “Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom”** festivities in our city’s downtown square. We had lots of fun with our 14-year-old daughter and one of her besties.

A portion of the Fam (and a friend) @ yesterday’s Juneteenth Celebration in Franklin TN

Wanting to do my part, I signed up to volunteer for the celebration’s “Kid Zone”, picturing myself helping adorable little ones on and off rides or explaining one of the games. I signed up online, declaring, “As long as they don’t ask me to make the cotton candy, I’ll be good.”

And what do you think they asked me to do?

Make the dang cotton candy!!! (Gotta admit, I loved it!)

Check me out Y’all!!

Also on Friday, my husband and I attended our community’s 2nd Annual Juneteenth Formal Gala.** The venue was beautifully decorated, the meal was delicious, and we had so much fun connecting with friends and line-dancing, of course.

Anthony & me (Exhausted at the end of the evening!)
My friend Revida & me – She won an award for her org OneWillco’s justice work!

Anyway, as you can see, my community and my family celebrate with vigor during Juneteenth weekend. If you and your family want to do the same, find out what’s happening in your community to celebrate. And luckily, you have a whole year to research!

Also encourage your employers to consider adding Juneteenth to the list of annual federal holidays that they recognize. At the least, encourage them to commemorate the day with a special reading, article, company-wide post, etc. This past Friday I shared a link to this USA Today article with my coworkers that highlights various programs, concerts, documentaries and movies to watch on Juneteenth weekend.

And as a family, there’s so much you can do. Find a local Black-owned restaurant or coffeeshop to support. Go online or to Target to purchase some Black art, jewelry or clothing. Purchase Juneteenth-themed books to read to your little ones, like this board book written by my friend Dorena Williamson. There are plenty of documentaries and movies to watch together. My family and I plan to watch a CNN Juneteenth Concert tonight after we cook out together.

The ideas are almost endless, but whatever you do, don’t let this important holiday pass you by. And if you’re a parent, don’t miss this teachable moment for your children.

Celebrating Juneteenth helps us remember how far we come.

Celebrating Juneteenth helps us realize how much further we need to go.

Celebrating Juneteenth helps us, and the next generation, find our place in our country’s movement towards unity, justice and equity.

So once again, Happy Juneteenth Y’all!!!

**Note: Both the Saturday Juneteenth Celebration and the Juneteenth Gala were spearheaded by the Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition with the support of several corporate and community partners.

Black {Mama} in White Spaces: Other Mamas’ Stories

Apparently my last post Black {Mama} in White Spaces struck a nerve. Afterwards my own teens continued to share more stories they hadn’t thought of before. I heard a lot of “Oh yeah, there was that other time a boy called me the n-word in middle school” and “Oh and so-and-so told this racist joke a few weeks ago.”

And walking out of a nearby Walgreens, one of my daughters said, “Mom did you see that guy that just walked into the store? That was the one that called me his ‘baby-mama’.”

I promise I did not commit assault of a minor that day.

Another result from my post… I heard from several mamas about their children’s racist experiences in schools in my county. Another mama even shared her own personal story with race in high school decades ago.

I’ll share some of those stories in a bit, but for now, I want to list some thoughts that rise to the top for me when I think of being a parent with Black kids in White spaces.

  1. My children are not unusual or alone in their experiences of racial statements and jokes being directed at them or spoken with them in earshot. Many children and teens are experiencing the same kinds of racist offenses.
  2. Sometimes teachers and school administrators can be the source of racial trauma for our kids.
  3. Students of color are traumatized by these incidences, and can often share the details of them for several years — and even decades — later.
  4. Teachers, coaches and school administrators are ill-equipped and untrained to handle these issues when they arise. Parents like my husband and I are often either ignored or coddled when we approach school staff with issues like I shared last week.

To introduce some of my mama-friend’s stories, I’ll share a story from a few years back about an interesting homework assignment given to students at Sunset Middle School in Brentwood, Tennessee. The story was covered in The Tennessean and one of my friend’s sons was a student in the class given this assignment.

Her son and his classmates were learning about slavery, and their teachers gave the students the following writing prompt, “Your family owns slaves. Create a list of expectations for your family’s slaves.” (See pic below)

“When we discuss slavery, it always seems to center on the slave masters. Any discussion of slavery needs to begin and end arguably with those that were enslaved. “

Learotha Williams, Professor of Civil Rights History and African American Studies (as quoted in the Tennessean article)

Professor William’s other quote speaks volumes.

“It demonstrated to me that we are not really training our teachers on how to teach this subject.”

Amen. To this I would add — it’s also been demonstrated that we are not really training our teachers (and other school staff) how to handle racial slurs, jokes and verbal offenses that our children experience in school ALL THE TIME.

Something must be done.

Now a few other stories from other mamas. I have permission to share these stories, but will not name any individuals or schools. I’ll only share the race of the parent and the student(s).

“My youngest son had an incident at his middle school. He found the n-word scratched on the concessions stand. I met with the principal about the incident.” Black mama, black sons

“I paid for a private Christian school to racially traumatize my children, when we could have done that for free in public school.” Black mama, black daughters (paraphrase)

“Thanks for your article and keep writing. This is so helpful for me. I too at times have been lost on what to do regarding things said to my child and how they were handled.” White mama, biracial (Hispanic and white) daughter

And one mama’s story of her own high school experience while sharing my last blog post on her social media page:

“I remember being voted Homecoming Queen my senior year in high school (I will not share the name), and the teachers had the ballots redone, stating there was not enough representation. It’s laughable because the new ballots didn’t include my or my friend’s name.

She continued…

“Then God had a bigger plan. My senior year in college, I was voted Homecoming Queen. As an adult, I often look back to my senior year in high school and wonder what could’ve been so bad about the school having its first black Homecoming Queen in its first year of existence? We will never know.” Black woman & mama of black children

I’m sure if I took more time to interview other parents, I’d have so many examples I wouldn’t be able to fit them into a post of reasonable length here. And if I interviewed children and teens of color, I could literally fill a book. And you know why? Because for every racist incident our children share with us, there are several others they choose not to share.

Is it because of shame? Embarrassment? Or because telling Mom or Dad will make life at school even harder for them?

Maybe it’s all of the above.

If you’re raising children of color please encourage them to share their stories. Make sure they know their story is theirs to hold and heal from. Make sure they also know they are not alone.

If you are a school professional, please listen to your students of color and advocate for them. Please don’t write our children off as being overly-sensitive or mistaken over what they heard, meanwhile writing white children off as being “just silly kids” or “repeating what they heard at home”. That might be true, but children abusing other children racially will grow up and become adults who marginalize and insult people of color.

This racial traumatization must stop.

What will we do about it?