For Black Professionals, Secondhand Racism Is an Unending Stress
In the course of their work, black lawyers and journalists are forced to confront the ugliest examples of our nation's racial inequity.
Image: Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia
On Edge is a series about stress in 2017.
“Man the fuck up!” I told myself, staring at my reflection in the mirror of a men’s bathroom at the Kings County Supreme Criminal Court in Brooklyn.
The date was November 6, my 35th birthday. But I wasn’t in any mood to celebrate, because I’d just seen Victor Dempsey crying like a baby.
On July 4, 2016, Dempsey’s older brother, Delrawn Small, was fatally shot during a road-rage encounter in Brooklyn with NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs. Small was unarmed during the altercation. Dempsey had been weeping in the courtroom because 12 Brooklyn jurors, five of whom were black, had just acquitted Isaacs of murder and manslaughter charges.
I wasn’t surprised Isaacs walked. Intellectually, I know it’s extremely rare for officers to be charged with a crime for fatal civilian encounter; it’s even rarer to see a conviction. That tends to be true regardless of whether the person the cop killed is unarmed, underage, or in wheelchair. But despite everything I knew, hearing the result of Isaacs’s trial still sent me into momentary shock.
In my eyes, this was another glaring case of the institutional racism thatinordinately affects black people. It didn’t matter that several of the jurors or the police officer were black. They all were role players in a judicial system set up toprotect police officers who disproportionately target, abuse, and kill black people.
But the lethal impact of institutional racism doesn’t just stop with policing. The harsh reality of American life for black people infects our health in insidious, covert ways.
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