Verna Laboy and Dee Campbell-Carter have both lived in Columbia for many years and work with the Live Well by Faith program through Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, a community-based program that targets chronic health conditions, like hypertension and diabetes, in Black churches.
Verna is the health educator and leader of the program, and Dee is a lifestyle coach. They shared – as Black mothers and grandmothers – just a few of their experiences with systematic racism throughout their lives, and they spoke about how racism is a trauma for everyone.
Verna Laboy: Now that the public health here has declared racism as a public health issue, I would like to see us get some funding…
Dee Campbell-Carter: Is that right?
Verna: to heal from the trauma that racism has inflicted on everybody – not just the victimization of the minority, but those that were living in their privilege, oblivious to what effect it was having on others. So, everybody needs a little healing going on. Some education.
Dee: Mm hmm. Everybody needs to feel how they feel, and be able to talk about it and, you know, acknowledge that it's valid. A lot of people do not, did not acknowledge that, you know, the trauma was occurring, because it didn't occur with them and theirs. Now we know.
Verna: The conversations we have to have with our black children as they're growing up. “the talk” to prepare them for being stopped by police, to prepare them for micro aggressions, to prepare them for teachers who are going to say and do mean things to them. to prepare them, you know for what they're going to face out there not everybody's gonna love you the way mom does a grandma and dad and the family will
Dee: You’re basically taking innocence away from children.
Verna: And now our children are going through the difficult situations with their children.
Dee: Yes. It’s not fun.
Verna: It hurts me to my heart to have my grandbabies, who I think are so precious to our hearts, hurt by people. It's there to get our precious babies to understand that these things – and it's a shame we have to tell them – that these things might happen to them, and it's not okay, but if we don't prepare them? Oh, my goodness...
Dee: Right. Right.
Verna: …we're doing a disservice to our children.
We have to prepare them for what white people will do and say to them, and here I am getting ready to retire. I'm close to retirement age, and we haven't made much progress. We've made some, but not enough. We got a lot of work to do.
Dee: And it's not okay.
And so yes, everybody needs to have that “talk” now. But, you know, with the understanding that if you see it happening as a person of Caucasian persuasion, then you need to step up and help the person who's been victimized. Don't just feel bad about it and keep about your merry way.
Understand that it is your responsibility to step up, change it in whatever way you can, and that way your trauma will be healed. So, we all have some responsibility in healing trauma for ourselves, as well as others.