Statement from Yolanda K. Glover
To the Rutgers School of Social Work Community and Beyond,
I AM NOT OK, and I don’t pretend to be. My trauma covers the entire spectrum, from hurt, anger, disgust, hatred, disheartenment, a sense of loss, and many more. Daily, I try to find my words and still I struggle.
I am a direct descendant of kings and queens, slaves, and sharecroppers, whose great-grandparents and aunts rest in paradise across from the plantation that owned my family because that’s the place they called home for so long. In 1935, the plantation owner paid for my great aunt to go to college because of the respect that he had for my grandparents. When I was younger, we would go twice a year to visit the house that my great-grandfather built from the pennies he received from being a handyman at that planation. During these visits I learned of the history and heard all the stories about my family and the journey through a racist society. As a naïve child I struggled to understand. Why we were treated like a half a person? Why was the town still so segregated? Why did the white people always stare at me, like I was doing something wrong? As I got older I learned how the world viewed me and others that looked like me.
I learned that it was a long road and I, just like many of my Black and Brown colleagues, have my own stories about injustice and traumatic experiences with the police and racism. I have watched the cops chase my brother and his friends because they looked like they were doing something wrong, just because they were “hanging” in front of the 7/11. Can you imagine the trauma of a nine-year-old watching four cops chasing someone they love without just cause? Thankfully, nothing happened. Can you imagine that during one week your husband is pulled over five times, sometimes by the same officer, driving on Route 1, having his car searched each time and his lunch being thrown down on the highway, because he is driving while Black with dreads? Can you imagine having to teach your son a whole lesson on when and if you get pulled over because this lesson is not part of driver’s ed? Can you imagine having to tell your daughter the same along with teaching her how to change a tire because you don’t want her to be even more vulnerable? No, I am sure some who are privileged can’t imagine this, nor do they give this a second thought because it has never been a part of their story or history. Most are taught or are led to believe that the person being arrested, pulled over, shot, or killed had to be doing something wrong. Being Black is an honor and should not be looked at as a death sentence.
I am frustrated because why do people care now? I am frustrated because I am having to teach history. This is not a new story; this is American history, which we were all required to learn in school but were only taught certain parts. I know others’ histories – why haven’t others taken the initiative to learn mine? No one at the protests or rallies has asked for or stated that the goal was for special treatment. We just want to be given the same opportunities. How are we supposed to feel as though we are a part of the conversation when there is no one that looks like us at the table? Or when we have an idea it gets shut down and/or dismissed or even adopted, but we are never given credit.
Silence speaks volumes. So I say to those with privilege, WE ARE NOT OK, and we haven’t been ok, but it didn’t seem important to ask until this moment. There have been countless examples placed in the media showing the treatment of the Black and Brown communities, but it went unacknowledged. When Paris and Boston were attacked, many of those with privilege across the world posted on social media, “We stand with you.” When the many school shootings happened there were postings saying, “We stand with you.” When Michael Vick was arrested and found guilty of dog fighting, PETA condemned, convicted, rallied, and made sure that the welfare of animals was brought to the forefront with protests, but when multiple children of color have been killed, due to racism, where were the posts? Why does posting “Black Lives Matter” have a negative meaning? In order for healing and change to happen, the first step is acknowledgement. In my lifetime, I have had several individuals with privilege stand with me and acknowledge the disparity and have made conscious efforts to do better. How? By understanding that they don’t know my trauma or my pain, from a lens of experience, but they acknowledge that it does exist and where it stems from. They are transparent with their own ideologies and lack of knowledge. This moment cannot go unaddressed.
Yolanda K. Glover
For a list of resources and actions, including petitions, numbers to call, and places to donate, as well as anti-racist readings, resources for protecting oneself, and additional information around demanding justice, visit our social justice resources page.