Meeting Your Subconscious

Racism is a public health crisis. Try these home remedies to make it better.

Posted Jun 08, 2020

  • Have you ever been asked, “What are you doing here?” while standing in your own yard?
  • Have you ever been helping a child fix their bike and had someone call the police on you?
  • Has anyone ever told your 7-year-old daughter that she is ugly because of her skin?
  • Have you ever had to tell the delivery person the color of your skin in advance so they would not draw a gun?
  • Have you ever had to take the garbage out at night because it was too risky for your husband to go to the end of his own driveway?
  • Have you ever had to move to a part of town so your children wouldn’t be harassed at school every single day?
Latifat Alli-Akintade, MD
Source: Latifat Alli-Akintade, MD

Latifat Alli-Akintade, M.D., has. She lives in Sacramento, California in 2020. These are a few of a thousand calculations she makes every single day since moving from Nigeria. Her husband would never dream of jogging alone in his neighborhood. “My kids are my shield so people know I’m harmless.” Let me say that again. Having children with them helps people decide they are not dangerous while going about a normal day while being Black.

Since chances are that you have different experiences than Latifat, please stop and think about what it might be like for you or your loved ones to have to make these calculations every day. When you start to process these, you may start to feel outrage, defensiveness, anger, or even doubt. Let’s set that aside for now and refocus.

Latifat Alli-Akintade, MD
Source: Latifat Alli-Akintade, MD

Structural systemic racism is a public health crisis. As a physician, Dr. Alli-Akintade understands that. However, this does not recuse individual responsibility.

As a Black physician who is a highly trained specialist at some of the top hospitals in the country, she still has to deal with her patients turning towards their family after being consented for a procedure. She quotes one patient asking his family, “What do you think? Should I let a Black doctor work on me?” At that moment, her qualifications, training, and expertise mean nothing because of the color of her skin. She becomes invisible.

“A woman changing her voice to report and describe a Black man in central park as a threat, that’s a person. That’s us, not the government. That is an individual who believed that a bird watcher’s melanism is a characteristic that automatically qualifies him as guilty before law enforcement. Guilty until proven innocent.”

Her point is that we can all do things on an individual level to be anti-racist. The racism of every day, in our homes, and especially in our own minds.

“A problem develops when we point at Those Racists,” Dr. Alli-Akintade says. “It reduces our responsibility for ourselves.” She is also a life coach. She collaborated with other members of the Sacramento Physician Mom Group (PMG) to organize the Sacramento peaceful protest “White Coats for Black Lives.” In her own words below, she makes the following recommendations for us to get in touch with our subconscious and the biases we hold:

1. Examine your mind, examine your thoughts. Meet yourself alone in your room. I want you to really look at yourself in the mirror, not with shame. No shame. Look at yourself, learn about your subconscious beliefs you have about people who do not look like you. Download your thoughts pen to paper without filtering. What do you think about people who are Black, Asian, Latino? Look at it. Not in shame. In truth.

2. Observe the scarcity mindset. Realize there is enough for everyone. If other people do well it does not mean less for you. Shift to an abundance mindset. Start by simply doing your own work, on yourself. Then talk with your children about racism.

3. Know what your specific privileges are. I know mine is I can jog in my neighborhood and my husband cannot. Extending privilege to everyone doesn’t mean that it is taken away from you. What specific privileges do you have?

4. Vote. Not only on a national level but also on a local level. I don’t care for whom. Vote with your values for what kind of world you want.

5. Put responsibility on each person. Don’t stay bogged down in emotional overload because then you can’t take action.

6. Take action. Do something. Reach out and talk to people who don’t look like you and open to hearing things you may not be comfortable with. Examine your discomfort and stay with it.

7.  Don’t be distracted by questions, reflections, or pontifications that are not about the main point. Refocus on your inner work and what you can do to be steady in this moment. Change starts from the inside.

8.  Lastly, don’t criticize others for what they are doing. If protesting isn’t your thing, do something else. There is no right way, just Do Something (75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice).

Dr. Alli-Akintade is tired. There is hardly time to recover in between these daily occurrences before the next one comes. She has never been more exhausted in her life than the days since George Floyd’s death, and that includes medical school, residency, and raising three young children while working, volunteering, and coaching women on mindset changes that affect their personal and financial life. “When non-black people join in to take action, it helps. It helps because some people will not listen to someone who looks like me, but they might listen to you. We need to pass the baton when we are too tired to keep going like this.” This is not about divisiveness. This is about unity for the sake of our future.

She paused and went on. “We aren’t crazy. We are made to feel paranoid because we are Black. Racism is real. For most people, it is unconscious.” White participation against racism helps to validate real pain, which is exactly what Dr. Alli-Akintade does every day of her gastroenterology practice. She validates the real pain and suffering of thousands of patients with various diseases, disorders, and struggles. She listens compassionately and tries to make it better.

Latifat Alli-Akintade, MD
Source: Latifat Alli-Akintade, MD

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