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Anti-Black Racism Student is Heartbroken and Grateful

May 1, 2023
Red background with hundred or more cut out pink paper hearts

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society (Spring 2023)
Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth (Liz) Allen Green

I have often regretted not having taken American history as an undergraduate. However, in taking the course Anti-Black Racism, I have come to realize that, even if I had studied the subject in the mid-1980s, I would not have learned the kind of content I feel I missed; it was probably not offered. The thoughts about race at that time stopped at white-centeredness. I would also love to take a class on critical race theory one day. This Wilmette Institute course has filled a huge gap in my learning, one that I knew I needed. I had read Dr. Joy DeGruy’s book (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing) many years ago and heard her speak about post-traumatic slave syndrome at the Green Lake Bahá’í Conference, so I had encountered some of the detailed content, but not the historical landscape.

From this course, I’ve learned specifics about the timeline and the laws that were laid down to oppress and suppress Black people. I learned details about the specific steps forward and the specific steps back over the course of time that have led to the present state of oppression of Black people in this country.

Because of this new information, I am heartbroken and I feel very overwhelmed by the task before us. I feel that we are losing the battle for mankind’s heart and soul. The constant anti-Black news is very sad and very heavy. I feel we – the supporters and believers in the oneness of mankind – are overpowered by white supremacists in all positions of power. I get a mere glimpse at how frightening it must be to be a Black kid accidentally ringing the wrong doorbell, accidentally walking into the wrong driveway, simply walking down the street or playing ball in the park. I get a mere glimpse at how terrifying it must be to be a Black kid’s mom. I am terrified by a sheriff recorded speaking about lynching Black people. I feel shattered about a Black grandmother in Indiana left to raise 12 grandchildren because her daughter died in childbirth and the father is incarcerated. 

Now that the course has ended, I am thinking about inviting more people to take the course and thinking about how to use my newfound knowledge. I’ve learned how we say things (like “nice”) without knowing the historical context. I need a course in how certain phrases came into use; I hope I didn’t say anything to offend any hearts. I am deeply processing. Processing. Processing. 

To the Beautiful Ones who put this together, thank you. Thank you for this amazing and heart-wrenching learning experience. I feel very humbled. 



Bahia Al-Salihi (Gurnee, Illinois)

I grew up as a second generation Bahá’í to pioneers in the Gambia, West Africa. I am white. I grew up among loving Black Gambians in their native country. I moved to the United States for college in the mid-80’s.

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