“ Black Fatigue ”: Q&A with Mary-Frances Winters on the impact of racism


By counting measures of the economy, criminal justice, education, and physical and mental health, Winters revealed how much we have failed to achieve true equity. In his chapter “So Is Now “Winters wrote,” Black households have the lowest median income and net worth of any demographic, and those measures of progress have not improved. ”

Intergenerational wealth transfer plays a big role in this disparity. When it comes to inheritance, white families bequeath much more wealth, Winters explained. Meanwhile, black families are more likely to unintentionally transmit intergenerational trauma due to embedded social toxins at the cellular level that are transmitted by DNA.

Winters’ work explains how white supremacist systems stimulate whites on some sort of societal level, while the deep-rooted ravages of racism make it difficult for black Americans to even reach ground level.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

CNN: You wrote that when you first conceived the idea for “Black Fatigue” you could not have predicted the outcry against racism that arose over the murders of George floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, among many others. Do you see signs of sustained societal transformation?

Mary-Frances Winters: So many organizations seemed to wake up overnight, issuing statements of solidarity and pledging to develop new strategies, initiatives and funding to eradicate racism. One of the things that is so tiring and frustrating is, “Where the hell have you been all these years? Why did it take George Floyd this wake-up call that things aren’t going right?”

Like so many others – largely people of color – I have been doing this work for decades. But “then” is always “now”. If you look at metrics like unemployment rates, median household income, and health outcomes, not much has really changed.

CNN: People often see education as the great equalizer. If we just do a better job in education, it is believed to lead to better jobs and better economic and health outcomes. Do the facts confirm this?

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Winters: They don’t. The net worth of white heads of households with college degrees is 11 times that of black graduates. Meanwhile, black college graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed. Overall unemployment rates for blacks have been double those for whites since the 1960s.

An educated black man is just as likely to be arrested while walking down the street, driving in black, living in black, or barbecuing in black. No education will solve this problem. Even if you wore a “Ph.D.” emblazoned on your chest, it wouldn’t matter.

The health statistics are also shocking. We know that black women who graduate from college are two to three times more likely to have low birth weight babies and die in childbirth. When we say, “Race is a determinant of health”, we should really be saying, “Racism is a determinant of health outcomes”.

In fact, the health status of blacks actually deteriorated as they moved up the socio-economic ladder relative to whites, presumably because, as research suggested, encountering racism leads to higher stress levels, resulting in faster aging of cells.
Protesters gather on June 2, 2020 at a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City following the death of George Floyd while in custody.

CNN: Because of their position in the hierarchy, whites don’t need to understand racism. It is also the case that many white people do not know what they do not know. Given these realities and the way history is taught in the United States, how can people overcome widespread ignorance and misinformation about the effects of racism?

Winters: As for history, one thing to consider is that the United States has never apologized for slavery. Doing it is more than symbolic – it’s recognition that the wrong has been done. Once you recognize this, what are you going to do to repair the damage? Instead, we lied about the truth, in textbooks and beyond.

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The mother of a 6 year old who is like a granddaughter to me recently messaged me about a lesson at her public school in Decatur, Georgia. His teacher chose Thomas jefferson to illustrate “people of good character”. This, in 2021 – during Black History Month! Jefferson is credited with the wish that “all people have equal rights,” but he owned hundreds of slaves, including Sally Hemings who gave birth to six of Jefferson’s children, the first when she was a teenager. I’m sure he did some good things, but let’s not think of him as the embodiment of good character.

Lies continue to hit this new generation as well.

CNN: What could make a lasting and lasting systemic transformation possible?

Winters: We need committed allies, but the allies are not always in a position of power. We also need enough of what I call “power brokers” to deliberately influence the distribution of political or economic power by exerting influence. We need people in power who have the courage to say, “This is enough. We are going to make real change.” Subordinate groups do not have this power. It is the dominant groups that have the power to change policies, practices and legislation – now.

CNN: Could you speak to the particular pain and fatigue of the continuing injustice despite the values ​​adopted by the country and US laws designed to protect equal treatment?

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Winters: Hypocrisy creates fatigue from all the pushbacks. We are so steeped in American exceptionalism and the myth that our democracy works. If you speak out against it, you are considered a heretic. James Baldwin said: “I love America more than any other country in this world and for exactly this reason I insist on the right to criticize it perpetually.” Protesting inequality and inequity is what we have been doing since the founding of the country.

CNN: You write that racism is “tearing the whole nation apart.” How much is it costing us as a society?

Winters: Citibank recently released a study showing that the US economy has lost $ 16 trillion due to discrimination. Since 2020, the gross domestic product of the United States has lost a lot due to discriminatory practices in education, business lending and other areas.

I have been a business owner for 37 consecutive years. I don’t use banks. I have been discriminated against even though my credit is impeccable. I went to the bank for a small business loan and didn’t get it despite everything being in order. Part of that $ 16 trillion loss is interest on black business loans.

I always ask the companies I work with: “What are your values? And do you live them?” When I have conversations with people who resist or question the importance of working on diversity, equity and inclusion, I ask, “Do we have freedom and justice for all?”

Freedom and justice for all is what we say our country stands for. Democracy is a work in progress, of course. We will know we have real fairness when we can no longer predict outcomes based on someone’s identity.

Jessica dulong is a Brooklyn-based reporter, ghost writer, book trainer, and author of “Saved at the Seawall: Stories from the September 11 Boat Lift” and “My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work that Built America”.

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