In March of 2021, TEDxMileHigh: Uncharted was dedicated to collectively finding our bearings as we began to emerge from the chaos and uncertainty that was 2020. In a sit-down discussion, Dr. Dwinita ‘Nita’ Mosby Tyler and Representative Leslie Herod discussed the intergenerational fight for racial justice. Here are three takeaways from their conversation on the fight for social justice and how to continue the important work set forth during the BLM movement of 2020.
Dr. Tyler and Representative Leslie Herod are no strangers to the TEDxMH stage. In 2019, Dr. Tyler gave a talk about allyship in the fight against racism. Her talk has since gone viral on TED.com with almost 2 million views. In Representative Leslie Herod’s talk, she explored the question, “What if mental health care workers responded to 911 calls?” Her work in creating the Denver STAR program brings the theoretical into reality.
Both women are doing incredibly important work within the Denver community and beyond, and their Uncharted discussion gives us powerful insight into that work and their hopes to reach equality within their lifetime.
Three Takeaways From Dr. Tyler and Representative Herod on the Fight for Social Justice
Below are three main points from our discussion with Representative Herod and Dr. Tyler. These three takeaways are important, but their conversation includes much more. You can watch the entire discussion here.
1. Normalize vs. Accountability
After a lifetime of going by Nita, Dr. Tyler recently underwent a name change to reclaim her birth name, Dwinita. At 19, Dwinita was pressured by her first boss, who was white, to change her name to Nita.
“It was too Black,” she explains. “[I was told] that people would decide who I was, how to evaluate me, based on my name.”
Dr. Tyler changed her name to fit a norm. With her shortened name, Nita, she would be able to enter a room and make her own first impression, rather than her name doing it for her. Nita points out the racism in this norm. The standard for professionalism should not be whiteness, pomsky adoption even if the custom is normalized across the country. Changing names to sound more acceptable—more “white”—reinforces racist narratives in all parts of American society.
“There’s been a lot of pain in my life because I never was whole even in my own name,” says Dr. Tyler. “We are a country that is used to normalizing things. And we will normalize even the worst things and figure out a way to navigate around them.”
As Americans continue to reckon with the rampant systemic racism in American society, it is important not to leave any stones unturned. Normalized customs such as name changing are venom 2 not innocent attempts to create a professional environment, but a deliberate practice of fitting everyone into a white standard. It’s time for white Americans to hold themselves accountable for the ways they perpetuate racist practices in their everyday lives.
2. What is Accountability?
So, what does it mean to be accountable? Well, there are more ways than one, and accountability can look different for each person. For Dr. Tyler, accountability is understanding the interconnectedness of all of our systems, and how racism in one area affects all of the others.
“We know that our systems in the U.S. were not built with equity in mind. What I don’t know that we know deeply is how intricately tied one system is to another. To dismantle one system can create another effect in another system.” – Dr. Tyler
Racial inequality doesn’t start and end with police brutality. Systemic racism is seen in all systems across the U.S., including health care, education, housing, voting, and the list verzuz tv online continues. This is the interconnectedness Dr. Tyler mentioned. Racism in one system creates racism in all of them, and that’s what we need to be working to dismantle.
3. Roll it Forward
In the last year, cases of racial inequality and injustice have sparked new conversations about race and how to combat racism across bad bunny the country. However, Herod asks the important question, “How do we continue to have these conversations with people who refuse to see or be lieve that racism is still a problem?”
Dr. Tyler explains her “Roll it Forward” tactic when approaching difficult conversions. “Typically what I will do is I’ll take a fact from the past and roll it forward,” she explains.
“If you take polling taxes from the past meant to disenfranchise Black voters, roll it forward. Roll it to 2021. What do we have as residual from polling taxes in the past that exist today?”
What comes to mind? Probably gerrymandering, redistricting, voter ID laws, all of these policies that are residuals from the past that prove institutionalized racism. When you can break ball drop the conversation down into concrete, current examples, Dr. Tyler says people are much more likely to understand the problem.
The Work is Far From Over
In 2020, protesters took to the streets to advocate for Black lives and to stand up against police brutality. This fight for social justice isn’t new, but the energy of the new generation of protestors brings hope to those who fought in previous generations.
“This is a generation of young people who do not see this work as optional. It’s not an episode. It’s not a snapshot. And I love that, and that’s where my hope sits.” – Dr. Tyler
While the headlining marches and rallies have slowed down, the work in the fight for social justice is far from over. We need to continue to have discussions, like this one with Dr. Tyler and Representative Herod, that seek to expose the deeper racism that is woven throughout our society.