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Yale Child Study Center Talks (Anti) Racism

June 11, 2020
by Lauren Perry

Tuesday, nearly 300 people gathered virtually for an emotionally charged town hall hosted by the Yale Child Study Center (CSC), titled, “Ripple of Hope: Race Relations and Advancing Anti-racism in Our Community.”

During the forum, co-hosted by the CSC’s and Belinda E. Oliver, MS and Andrés S. Martin, MD, MPH, speakers candidly shared their personal experiences. Presenters revealed intimate accounts of workplace racism, navigating life as Black parents and spouses, and recalling the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s with a harrowing likeness to what’s happening in our world today — recognizing that this time, it is different.

Expressions of love and messages of hope were shared and encouraged. But the predominant theme was a call to action: we all have a responsibility, and we must do better. As Laine Taylor, DO, said, “Getting our own house in order must happen before we can expect to make change in our society. We have no excuse for our lack of action. We are better than this as individuals. We can be better as a department.” Dr. Taylor is assistant professor in the CSC and an exiting co-chair for the department's Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Dr. Martin led the town hall, stating, “We must be brave enough to make things talk about-able. It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m not a racist.’ We need to move toward anti-racism.” Dr. Martin explained that as a child psychiatrist, making things talk about-able is often an approach used when working with children. In this case, making racism talk about-able is applicable to all — and necessary for many.

Organizer Belinda E. Oliver, financial assistant, continued by sharing her truths about life as a Black woman – stating purely, “there is no way I can give you all my feelings in less than five minutes.” She then shared about her experiences, like her own emotional unravelling after visiting the African American museum, raising Black sons, being on the receiving end of race-based accusations, and how today, she no longer holds back. “As a young woman, I tried to blend in,” she said. “My hair was straightened, and I chose to color-wash the Blackness of my exterior skin. No more. I am tired.”

Elder Walter Jones of the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, in Evanston, IL joined as a special guest. His convocation encouraged people to come together in peace, understanding, and togetherness — a message shared by others, including Mark Lazarus, IT support specialist of the CSC. Mr. Lazarus gave an emotional account of why he always tells his daughter he loves her – because he doesn’t know if he’s going to come home. Before he signed off, his parting words were, “I love you all.”

Family continued to come up. Tasha Brooks-Boone, administrative assistant at the CSC shared that when she and her husband had “the talk” with their kids, it wasn’t about sex, drugs, or alcohol. Yes, they talked about those things — but “the talk” in their house was about how to make it back home safely. Nicole Miller-Tyson, a nurse with Children’s Psychiatric Inpatient Services, talked about her life as a mom and wife who is married to a Black police officer. And of her son, she said, “At his school in New Haven, he was the cop’s kid. Now, in his private school, he’s the Black kid.”

Child Psychiatry Fellow Amanda Calhoun, MD, MPH, imparted the angst she feels daily worrying about her family members. She challenged participants to consider shifting their thinking about implicit bias and move toward facing the truth about racism. “Unarmed Black people are not murdered because of unconscious bias,” she said, “they are murdered because of racism and racist systems.”

The collective call to action from the speakers was loud and clear. It sounded like this:

“I want you, as child psychiatrists and child mental health professionals, to help me protect our Black children from racism,” implored Dr. Calhoun.

“Know that your silence looks like you agree with how things currently are,” said Ms. Brooks-Boone. “It starts with each of us making a choice: whether to be a racist, or anti-racist.”

“I know that there are people out there that are tired of hearing about racism. Well, imagine how exhausting it is living it every single day,” said Mr. Lazarus.

“What will you do today, tomorrow, and the day after that commits to anti-racist work?” asked Dr. Taylor.

Those who tuned in fired up the Zoom chat feature: Black colleagues felt validated and seen because they are not alone in their feelings and struggles, although it often feels that way, they shared. Some non-Black colleagues admitted how much they didn’t know about the Black experience. Expressions of gratitude — for courage, vulnerability, and education — were abundant.

And lastly, a message of hope from James Comer, MD, MPH of the CSC: “I’ve been here before. At almost 86 years of age, I have seen this picture. New characters, same play. But it's not 1968 anymore. It is a different time, and a different opportunity. We must fix it. And it’s no quick fix.”

We all have a responsibility. It’s time to act. Change begins with awareness, understanding, and looking inward. See this list for more information on anti-racism resources, including what to watch, read, follow, and listen to.

View a recording of the event here. The Yale Child Study Center will host an additional town hall in follow up to this event Tuesday, June 16.

Submitted by Lauren Perry on June 11, 2020