Every year data is telling us that more lives are being lost via suicide due to racist bullying and discrimination. Racism no longer takes the form of extreme attacks. Instead its existing through microaggressions and subtle behaviours.
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The black lives matter movement has brought more awareness and support to those who experience racism due to their nationality, colour or ethnicity. As we continue to fight against inequality and discrimination, more attention also needs to be brought to the lives we have lost through suicide due to racism. Data collected and analysed from a 26-year long corpus of the Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, revealed that the rates of suicide attempts in Black youths increased by 73%, higher than any other category. With additional research showing that suicide had become the “third-leading cause of death for Black men between the ages of 15 and 24”.
A lawsuit filed in 2019, highlighted the responsibility of organisations such as schools and universities to tackle racist bullying after the death of Jerusha Sanjeevi. Ms Sanjeevi committed suicide in 2017 aged 24, while pursuing a doctorate in clinical and counselling psychology at Utah State University. Before her death, Sanjeevi filed multiple complaints and reports outlining the abuse she received from a fellow student, disclosing her despair and distress to college professors. However, no action was taken by the university.
When people think of racism they often imagine KKK members or police brutality. These extremely unnerving images, however, are rarely seen in our day-to-day lives, where microaggression and segregation fuel racist mindsets. As we hold more people accountable for their discriminatory actions, racism is now more hidden and toxic. As subtle racism seeps through the cracks of many legal battles and organisational disagreements. Instances of subtle racism often lead to larger attacks, as hidden racists receive little condemnation for their actions. This is why we need to start a conversation joining subtle racism and suicide together, as data is revealing more evidence of their linking partnership.
Uncovering Subtle Racism and Micro-aggression
Subtle racism takes many forms, whether it’s believing negative stereotypes and using them to treat a person of colour differently, or through social isolation, or only viewing typically white-features as being more beautiful when compared to the features of a person of colour. All of these instances of subtle racism and microaggression exist and take place in our everyday lives.
K. Kelley’s book “Ophra” demonstrated this version of physical beauty related to subtle racism in this extracted quote:
“Oprah without hair and makeup is a pretty scary sight. But once her prep people do their magic, she becomes super glam. They narrow her nose and thin her lips with three different liners…and her hair. Well, I can’t even begin to describe the wonders they perform with her hair.”
In this example, Kelley uncovers her white-focused ideology of beauty as Ophra only become more beautiful in her eyes once her nose and lips have been thinned, and her hair become manageable. All of these changes are performed to take away Ophra’s “blackness” because her original features are often associated with African Americans, who are viewed as being undesirable and unbeautiful.
This, of course, isn’t true and is instead an example of how subtle racism and microaggression works its way into our everyday lives.
Addressing Subtle Racism
The issue with how subtle racism is addressed is that this way of thinking has unfortunately become so common that people sometimes don’t realise they are performing a racist stunt. This has led to people being allowed to continue portraying these white-focused mindsets, without any thought of the damage they are causing. Racism isn’t always lynching and racial-slurs, instead its small common occurrences that let people believe their way is the only way.
If you think you are viewing or experiencing subtle racism, the key question you need to ask is why. Why is that person viewing smaller features as being more beautiful? Why is that person being socially isolated? Asking this question to the person performing subtle racism should help them uncover their discriminatory and prejudice behaviour addressing its unstable grounding.
Starting this form of conversation will help aid the reduction of subtle racism and microaggression, as more people become aware of their behaviour and its negative consequences. Hopefully, this will begin the reduction of lives lost due to racist bullying and other forms of discrimination.
Live On will always provide a platform for people to find support and help when dealing with grief and loss, including loss through suicide. In the picture above we have inserted the pictures of six lives that were lost due to believed racist bullying. We must stand by the Black Lives Matter movement and work towards a better future. Remember their names and fight for equality.
Visit our Helpful Websites page for links to helplines and other centres. There’s no shame in asking for help.