TRANSCRIPT

Why I Do Antiracist Work & Why You Should, Too

(Podcast #011)

Please forgive typos. Transcripts are created by an automated service.

I truly believe that the responsibility of dismantling racial disparities should not be placed on the shoulders of the people that these disparities have harmed the most. The responsibility of dismantling these disparities should be placed on the shoulders of people and systems, who created consciously and unconsciously these disparities in the first place.


I'm Dr. Regina Koepp. I'm a board certified clinical psychologist and I specialize with older adults and families. I created the psychology of aging podcast to answer some of the most common questions I get about aging. Questions about mental health and wellness, changes in the brain like with dementia, relationships and sex, caregiving, and even end of life. Like I say in my therapy groups, no topic is off topic, we just have to have a healthy way of talking about it. So if you're an older adult or caring for one, you're in the right place. Let's get started.


My heart is so heavy this week with all that has been brought to light with the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and I'll say the billions of other lives over the centuries that have been taken by racist acts. And then with the protests and the response to the protests, it's been very intense and important, profound time. I'll say. 

I want to take this episode to acknowledge suffering, I want to take this episode to acknowledge pain and to not excuse away white a white person's role in all of this. And so I'm going to be sharing some statistics today about disparities between whites and blacks, between Caucasian Americans and African Americans as it relates to health care and older adults. These are based on research. These are not based on my opinion, and I am sharing this because I want to convey the message and I hope, if you're still listening, that you hear me when I say that the problem is not race, the problem is racism. And we can do something about that. 

Regarding maternal mortality, black women in America have a 243% higher risk of dying and childbirth or childbirth related causes than white women 243% higher risk of dying in childbirth or childbirth related causes.The problem is not race. It's racism. 


I read an article this week from the American Psychological Association president, Dr. Sandra Shullman and she wrote an article saying that we are living in a racism pandemic. It's not only a COVID pandemic, it's a racism pandemic. Racism is associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, post traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, so many conditions and disparities in physical health conditions as well like cardio vascular and other physical diseases. 


Related to older adults, African American older adults are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than their white counterparts. But they are less likely to be informed and educated by their doctors when they are diagnosed with dementia than their white counterparts. The problem is not race, the problem is racism. Not being educated about a medical problem that you have prevents you from getting the necessary treatment that you need, especially with dementia early on. The problem isn't raised it's racism. In one month, in my own job, two separate families consulted with me, not even my own patients. But two separate African American families consulted with me on concerns that they brought their older parent to their primary care provider. The primary care provider, even though both of these families are highly educated, one of the family members was a physician taking her father to the doctor, even though these highly educated African American families are taking their older loved one to the doctor asking for a dementia evaluation, asking for lab work to be done asking for referrals to neurology. The primary care provider said no. Older African American adults are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia, but less likely to be informed and educated about it. And so they came to me and they said, so what do we do? And I told them, okay, we need to get you a second opinion. We need to figure this out. We need to go back in with exactly you need to go in with what's the difference between where they're at now and where they used to be. Tell me all of the objective things that you've been witnessing. When did that change what was happening at that time and you go in with your list and you do not take no for an answer. And if they say no, then you go to see somebody else. And just the validation that they are right to be asking these questions, bolsters them, again, to be able to do it to be able to go back highly educated people, doctor to doctor, and still, the problem is not race, the problem is racism. 


The New York Times on May 21, had an article talking about the striking racial divide and how COVID-19 has hit nursing homes. That's the name of the title of the article the striking racial divide and how COVID-19 has hit nursing homes. Homes, they said, with a significant number of Black and Latino residents have been twice as likely to be hit by the Coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white, no matter their location, no matter their size, no matter their government rating, no matter their socio-economic status. The Times analysis found that racial disparity remained, even after accounting for a variety of factors, including size, infection rate in the surrounding community, population density of the neighborhood, how many residents had Medicaid or Medicare and socioeconomic status. It doesn't matter. The problem is not race. It's racism. 


People asked me often and you might be wondering, also, why are you (me), a privileged white psychologist (me) married to a white man, mother of white children. Why are you so interested in the disparities affecting black lives? And I will tell you why. 

I truly believe that the responsibility of dismantling racial disparities should not be placed on the shoulders of the people that these disparities have harmed the most. The responsibility of dismantling these disparities should be placed on the shoulders of people and systems, who created consciously, and unconsciously, these disparities in the first place. I also believe that when we acknowledge these atrocities and disparities, and take responsibility for them, that this is what is required for repairing and healing to happen. I am a psychologist I'm in the business of repairing and healing. I am not a psychologist, if I do not make a commitment to social justice, and equitable care for everyone, I am not a psychologist, if I reinforce what's causing the suffering, the problem is not race. The problem is racism. 


I hope that you think about your reason for why this topic is so important to you. Maybe your lives have been intimately touched by racism and racism based disparities. Maybe if you're white, you share my belief system. Maybe you have your own belief system. Whatever your reason, state it, be clear about it, acknowledge it, because when people come at you with Why are you doing this work? you'll be scared and you need to know your reason. You need to know the reason why you do this. You need it as a foundation. And once you have that, you educate yourself deeply. You work on making yourself humble. And you work on getting your community educated and humble as well. And then use it to help us work together and to create a system that can dismantle all of these atrocities of racism. And then we'll create this collective movement then the collective movement will get stronger than the current system of oppression. 


I don't have the right answers. I know that people need some space and grace. And that's not all. People need a recognition and acknowledgement of suffering. And people need apology. And people need truth and reconciliation. And not just people, black people, African American people. 


I think you can hear in my voice that I recognize that this is a problem. Racism is the problem. I will be doing more episodes, where we talk about what we can do about our racism. The first thing that we need to do is to acknowledge that there are indeed disparities based on racism. The problem is not race. It's racism. I am not going to attempt to solve all of the problems in my little podcast. I'm doing this podcast today as my way of acknowledging and spotlighting how racism plays a role in the lives of older adults because so often older adults are left out of the conversation.


The thing for older adults is they have been experiencing racism longer. They have longer lives lived. In the South, many of the older adults I have worked with experienced indentured servitude, experienced sharecropping, experienced Jim Crow, experienced no voting rights experienced fighting in wars when they had no rights at home. The problem is not race, it's racism. And we need to do something about it. 


As a psychologist, I stand against racism and hate. In all of its forms. Yesterday, I met with three families who were white and three families who were black. The white families had the luxury of not being affected by what's happening. The black families were devastated. The problem is not race, it's racism. As a psychologist, I stand against racism. I stand against hate in all of its forms. And I support the efforts of researchers, clinicians, teachers and policymakers to eliminate hate crimes, eliminate police brutality and eliminate oppression in all of its forms. 


What will you do? What is your role in this? Everybody has a role, whether you acknowledge it or not, you have a role, what will your role in all of this be? And what is your reason? If you choose to do anti-racist and anti-oppression work, Why? Be clear about your reason why search for it? Articulated it. Understand it. So when somebody asks Why, you are unwavering in your reason? I am in the business of healing. I cannot help others heal when there is active harm. The problem is not race, the problem is racism. I'll see you next week.

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