Overcoming Invisibility

Like most little kids, I wished for superpowers when I was younger. Being able to do something otherworldly (ironically) appealed to my introverted personality as a way to stand out with a unique gift. Saturday cartoons, comic books, and other media provided pretty heady options to choose from; pyrokinesis, levitation, and telepathy among them. Of course, I eventually outgrew this childish fancy, but it recently occurred to me that I did unwittingly end up with a superpower, one bestowed by this country: invisibility.

At least, that’s what I tell myself repeatedly in light of the backlash against DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) initiatives, the dismantling of affirmative action, the upholding of whitewashed revisionist history, the persistent attempts (and successes) of voter suppression, the dismal Black maternal mortality ratethe racial wealth gap and other disparities that significantly and negatively impact BIPOC, women, or anyone deemed some variation of undesirable, unimportant and unwanted. Obviously, I’m invisible. Why else would my safety, humanity, needs, and concerns—and that of others— be repeatedly diminished again and again and again? Why am I not seen as worthy of protection, security, peace of mind, or happiness, as others?

If detractors are to be believed, any acknowledgment of race and racism, sexism, nativism, and other forms of discrimination, the people they impact, and attempts to remedy them, is discriminatory in and of itself. However, here at Children’s HealthWatch, our data shows repeatedly that BIPOC, children, women and immigrants get the proverbial short end of the stick when it comes to their health and well being because of these very factors. In emergency rooms and clinics across the country, we quite literally see and hear what happens when public policies ignore the realities of their experiences: their stories belie the narrative that everyone has fair and equitable access and opportunity to resources and necessities. And we see time and again how young children’s health suffers as a result. Alternatively, when public policies reflect a concerted effort to recognize the totality of who people are, where they are, and aim to rectify the harms of inequity, we all benefit

And that’s what this backlash is all about: all of us being able to benefit from an equitable society where everyone’s needs are met and all can reach their fullest potential without barriers. Those who wish to cling to white supremacy and the power that lies therein absolutely abhor the mere thought of equity: because when you’re accustomed to privilege, equity feels like oppression. A mindset of scarcity overpowers the notion of abundance. So, the fallacies of reverse racism and the ‘dangerousness’ of DEIB initiatives as being divisive take hold and rot and corrode the progress that has been made in racial justice and its reckoning. 

For those who take umbrage with my words, who say I’m ungrateful for the rights I do (for the moment) still enjoy, keep in mind one clear and irrefutable fact: any rights I have as a woman, especially as a Black woman, were hard fought and won by those who came before me. This country may have been built on the premise “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but for centuries that meant only white Christian men. Those who did not fit that mold were treated as second-class citizens and some were not even considered wholly human and therefore could not truly or practically live out the spirit of those words. 

Two things can be true at once: we are indeed a great country, but we’ve done some horrible things. We are the land of the free, but we imprison our population more than any other country. We have world-class hospitals, but systemic health inequity flourishes at every level. We are among the wealthiest countries in the world, but poverty plagues our cities. I can be a very proud American, but I can also lament how I am perpetually seen as an interloper.

While I feel pride, it is mixed with pain, but that pain is also a strength. It fuels me on the days when the last thing I want to do is talk about race, or gender or any topic where I feel I must defend my unquestionable right to be who I am and to take up space. This strength is my true superpower, not the one of invisibility cast upon me. Because I know that “…pain can be endured and defeated only if it is embraced. Denied or feared, it grows in perception if not in reality. The best response to terror is righteous anger, confidence in ultimate justice,…[and]… a refusal to be intimidated.”*

I’m here, America. You can’t unsee me. 

Join me in uplifting, promoting and advocating for equity so that all can be seen and heard. Check out our policy priorities that do just that here

 ― * quote from author Dean Koontz’s book, Velocity