Be Quiet. Racism only exists because we talk about it.
Apparently there's a theory going around that racism still exists “because we keep talking about it”. So, instead of talking about racism, I’m going to tell you a little story about my ankle.
One cool spring evening in 2003 while in college, I decided to play an impromptu game of racquetball. I wasn’t wearing the proper shoes, one thing lead to another, and I rolled my ankle. It was bad. My ankle was literally touching the floor while I was still moving forward. After manually picking my ankle up off the racquetball court I sat down for a while... and then played two more games. I may... or may not have been addicted. By the end of the night my ankle started to hurt again so I put an ace bandage on and went to bed. The next morning I tried to rush out of bed, only to realize that when my foot touched the floor I felt a wave of pain that caused me to immediately sit down. I looked down at my foot, and no, It wasn’t swollen, but it had the largest black and blue bruise I had ever seen on somebody my complexion. I knew something was wrong.
I got a ride to the school nurse and she told me she thought it was a sprain, but referred me to an orthopedic doctor just in case. I saw the doctor and he told me it was probably a sprain and it would heal in a couple of weeks. A little over a month passed and my ankle still wasn’t quite right. I saw the doctor again and he did an X-ray and told me it wasn’t broken. Now, me being the the health and medicine nerd that I am, I know you can't see ligaments on an X-ray, they can only be seen on an MRI. So, I asked if he thought I needed one, and he said “no… that’s a $1,500 test, just give it time,” so I did. Another month went by and school ended for the summer. I decided to be fine with the way my foot felt; I went to France to visit my sister. I wasn’t really worried about my ankle anymore because the doctor reassured me it was just a sprain and should be healed by now. So, while I was there I did quite a bit of walking and I even hiked up a mountain... because I was fine! It was just a sprain. Needless to say, I rolled my ankle again on the way down the mountain. I used crutches for a couple of days just in case, but really after only a day I felt fine. By the end of the trip my foot was literally moving in the opposite direction of my leg, but it didn’t hurt so I figured I was "fine". Besides, I injured it a long time ago, surely it was healed.
When I got back to the US I knew I needed to get a second opinion, so I saw another doctor. I showed him my foot and he said, “It looks like a sprain, just give it time”. I asked if he felt like I needed an MRI so he could see exactly what was going on. He replied, “it’s just a bad sprain, plus an MRI is a $1,500 test”. I blinked, gathered my belongings, and my dangling foot, and left. (I guess they thought I didn't have insurance).
It was September and school had been in session for a few weeks. I walked to class like normal, I tried to pretend my foot wasn’t going in the opposite direction of my leg because all the doctors told me I was fine. Plus, it’s just not a good look to still be hopping from an injury that happened a whole semester ago. However, deep down in my… foot, I knew something was wrong. That’s when I finally decided to see yet ANOTHER Orthopedic doctor. I went to The Orthopedic Center and sat in the exam room. I was frustrated and pretty skeptical of what the doctor was going to say, but in walked Dr. Greco. He was pretty short and really fit. His calves were abnormally large so I knew he was probably a cyclist or something. I figured he would have a different perspective since he was an athlete. He shook my hand, introduced himself, and then he did what no other doctor had done. After looking at my foot hang off the side of the exam table, he actually picked up my foot and touched it!
Until this point neither of the other doctors examined my foot. He pushed down on this tiny area under my ankle bone and said, “it hurts right here doesn’t it?” I writhed in pain, and said, “Yes!” while pulling my foot back into my possession . He said, “mmm hmm, let’s get an MRI”. I loved him. I loved him soooo much. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but I was so happy that SOMEBODY was willing to look into what was wrong.
I got the MRI and I saw Dr. Greco again. This time he said, “Can you stand up and walk to that side of the room for me?”. So, I did. “Mm hmm, now come back,” he said, but almost with an attitude. So, I walked back. Wile shaking his head he said, “Ms. Mobley, I’m really not sure how you are able to walk, the ligament in your ankle is so frayed, it is literally hanging on by a thread! Why did you wait so long so see somebody?”
- Actual photo of my face
Two ankle operations later, one of which being a complete reconstruction with metal sutures, I am able to walk just fine. I ran a marathon, I can no longer predict the weather with my foot, and it’s even stronger than my non-injured ankle. Sure, I had to go through a lot of painful physical therapy, and I still have a little scar, but… the ligament is repaired, the wound is healed, and my ankle is stronger than it was before the injury.
Yes, that's my actual ankle.
Now, back to this theory. You see… it might seem like we just keep bringing stuff up for attention. But let me tell you, we have a critical injury... one that is almost 400 years old. No! That doesn’t mean it happened a long time ago so we should all be alright now. That means the first slaves were brought over in 1619 and the abuse hasn’t stopped. When the slaves were set free did the abuse stop? What about after Jim Crow? To put things into perspective my parents were born in the 50's and black people didn’t get the right to vote until 1965. Did the abuse stop then? Who did therapy on the thousands... millions...of black people that suffered this abuse? Who did therapy on all the white people who had to tell themselves extravagant lies about black people to justify their actions, or simply sleep at night? Who did therapy on them? Hasn't the abuse just continued? So, yes, we can stop talking about it, but that will only make the injury worse. You can tell black people to be quiet, “it’s just a sprain”, but the ligament will eventually tear. If somebody had just acknowledged my pain, or taken a closer look to see what the problem was, maybe I wouldn't have needed surgery. Or, I could have had the surgery a lot sooner instead of having to take a semester off of school. Let’s do the “physical therapy”. It might seem pointless, and it might seem like we're just stirring the pot, but trust me, healing is taking place. If we have the conversations, acknowledge the pain, and address the underlying issues we will be stronger than we’ve ever been. 'Cause right now, we are hobbling around on an a foot that's moving in the opposite direction of the leg.
Comment below and tell me if you think conversations on racism are necessary.
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