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Perspectives: From Systemic Oppression to Love and Healing

By Sherita Mouzon

June 28, 2019

When I was younger, I remember going with my mother to our local welfare office and seeing the dozens of mothers with crying, hungry kids. I remember how rude and unempathetic the caseworkers were. I remember seeing my mother’s pain when they said “Oh sorry, your food stamps have been cut off. Come back next week.” How demeaning and cruel is that to say to a mother who has to feed their hungry children?

This is my memory. What’s in the past still affects me and all of us today. 

We really must talk about the different ways systemic oppression and racism have scarred the underserved. It’s traumatic to have only limited access to heathy foods. It’s harmful to be exposed to so much crime and unsanitary living conditions in our neighborhood. It’s humiliating and degrading to see our public schools in such terrible conditions with lead-filled paint chips, no safe drinking water, mold on the walls, and asbestos lurking close by.

Let’s talk about racist law enforcement. Let’s talk about Philadelphia’s shameful history of stop and frisk and continued racial profiling of our young people despite reducing the numbers of overall police stops. Just a few weeks ago, the Plain View Project identified over a thousand Philadelphia cops with racist Facebook posts, and over 70 cops have been taken off the streets, showing that even their own are horrified at the blatant racism and sexism in law enforcement. Let’s talk about the high number of incarcerated black men and women.

There are a whole lot of other ways systemic violence racism hurts people of color! These kinds of conditions would not be tolerated in a middle class or white community.

Why are dirty areas of the city --the areas that the city chooses to ignore-- mostly minority inhabited?

Seeing how society treats you if are poor and black is a trauma! People in power don’t care that you and your kids are hungry. They don’t care if your benefits get cut off. They don’t care if you been a victim of a crime. No matter how much we speak up and try to fight, it’s clear that black lives do not matter to society. Just turn on your television, and you will bear witness to present day slavery. For instance, for-profit prisons are profiting even more off of leasing out inmates to do farm work to grow our food.

We must put the present-day black oppression in context and talk about our shared history. Let’s ask the question: why is there so much anger and resentment towards black people in this country? What are white people and people in power afraid of? Let’s open the door for more meaningful conversation. Perhaps this way we can break down the stigma and bias around speaking out about the trauma of black women.

Take a long look in the mirror. Be the voice of change! To prepare you, please read these amazing briefs by Sabea Evans. 

Sabea worked with us at the Center for Hunger-Free Communities for almost a year as the Communications and Policy Fellow. These two pieces–one from the intellect, one from the heart –will open the door for you. They will touch your heart and show you ways that we can start making effective change around these issues.

Let’s start the conversation on how we go from systemic oppression to trauma-informed two-generation approaches. Let’s learn from poetry of those who came before us and from Sabea herself.  These are touching. They show us we need more courage and more tenderness. Please read them.

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