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Setback- def. impediment, stumbling block, hindrance, obstacle to progress.

Blackness as a “setback” in their book “Seeing Disorder: Neighborhood Stigma and the Social Construction of Broken Windows”, is what Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson and sociologist Stephen J. Raudenbush wrote. Their article is a study of how implicit bias impacts neighborhood stigma based on how the neighborhood looks. An excerpt on Wikipedia’s citation of their article reads, “The repackaged forms of racism, make it difficult for Blacks to escape a certain neighborhood, to move beyond a certain lifestyle or status, or to exist without first acknowledging their setback: being black.” (Wikipedia, Transgenerational Trauma, Sampson and Raudenbush).

This citation was used to round out Wikipedia’s reference list in their article on Transgenerational Trauma. A fairly new, potentially useful but also weaponized study of intergenerational and trauma in people of color as a result of racism.

The theories of Transgenerational Trauma and Epigenetics do hold some valid points of interest to me, primarily the plausible theory of the genetic inheritance of certain mental predispositions as a result of trauma or post traumatic stress being passed on through the womb. Basically, Blacks may have genetic remnants of the stress our ancestors felt on the slave ships imprinted in our genes.

However, the danger and fallacy of epigenetics is that it conveys this idea that due to this supposed inheritance we cannot overcome the damage racism or racial trauma has caused. As if Blackness is a monolithic prescription for inferiority. The subtlety in this subservient presentation of Blackness almost sways you to believe the fault is in the skin color. Almost.

See, Mr. Sampson and Mr. Raudenbush misspoke. Completely. The real setback is the aversion to Blackness on a large systemic scale that permeates education, religion and social systems in this country. Saying Blackness is the setback to progress in a racialized, anti-Black system is like not being able to swim is a setback to being throw into the middle of the ocean and left there. The reality is the setback is the person who threw you into the middle of the ocean knowing they prohibited you from taking swim lessons.

Anti-Black Narratives are a set-back for Black people, not Blackness. We did not decide to come together one day and tell White American Founders to “other” all of us, frame that othering around our skin color and ancestry, and then legally redefine that combination of skin color and ancestry to mean inferior for future generations to come. The founders created that narrative on their own.

So, ( in my adopted Florida accent for the word no) “Nawl”, Sampson and Rauderbauch, Blackness is not a setback.

World: Angela, calm down. I don’t think they meant it that way…they probably meant society considers it a setback right?

Me: Annnd that’s better how??

OK, listen, I am critical of this passage for the following 1. The quote justifies an ideology that Black people are so defeated by racism that we are unable to within ourselves strive for any upward mobility. 2. We need to acknowledge our Blackness as a setback before we begin to make progress economically or socially. 3. This predisposition of Blackness being a setback is what conditions Black people to view their Blackness as a problem for others and leads to a level of internalizing an inferiority complex...which is traumatic. 4. Embodying a predisposed mindset that Blackness as a human setback bolsters the White Savior complex especially towards poor Blacks, and the White Privilege complex that calls the cops on us, and chases us in pickup trucks. 5. It is the catalyst that forms the dehumanizing concept of colorblindness,( i.e., your Blackness is a setback, here...let me not see it...there, that’s better.)

Most importantly this predisposition places none of the blame on racism. The narrative completely shifts to making Blackness the problem, not the racism towards Blackness. Similar to my swimming analogy.

Hear me.

If subscribe to anything that even minutely alludes to the theory of Blackness as a setback, or allow diminutive minded theories to continue to set the backdrop for Blackness in cultural, religious or sociological contexts, then I subscribe to being subject to anti-Black standards of what is achievable for me, AND I uphold White Supremacist narratives towards me.

Dear America, Blackness does not cause racism.

America, a paradox in and of itself, colonized by marginalized freedom seekers who in order to possess it stole freedom from others has been reduced to its scars, its racist scars. If you have existed any length of time in America or read about the slave revolts, underground railroad or civil rights movement, then you know our African ancestors did not internalize Blackness as a setback in their fight for oppression. White Supremacy was the setback to freedom. White Supremacy created the scars and America is not free from them. The setback for Black people, for People of Color and for White people who want to disassociate themselves from tyranny was and still is White Supremacy.

” You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decided not to be reduced by them” -Maya Angelou #justiceforBreonna

America, I refuse to be reduced to the scars you have placed on Black people, past and present.

Racism, racists and Colorblind ethics project Black and Multiracial Blackness as a regression of humanity and human ability in the world. It is consistently, relentlessly and systemically widening the gap of authentic equity amongst humanity. It is so ingrained in Evangelical Christianity that it makes fighting against anti-Black racism seem like an affront to Christianity. It is so ingrained in our Educational system that there was a science constructed to justify it.

It is continuing to make scars, lacerations in the form of shootings. Shootings that cut children like Trayvon away from their parents, aunties like Atatiana from their nephews, dads like Philando from their children, nine Charleston church members from their church family, 25 year olds like Ahmaud jogging down the street from their future, and 26-year old EMT Breonna who woke up in eternity moments after reeling from the realization that she was shot out of 8 times. White Supremacy tells us that her Blackness and her neighborhood were a setback to her living a long life.

And, that has been and still is the major setback.


Certain of my friends would say “Can’t this all be solved by just not seeing color and by not talking about race?” No.

White Supremacist ideology racialized nationality and ethnicity. So, no, not talking about the poison in the air doesn’t get rid of the poison in the air, not talking about it is how people get shot for being Black. Identifying it and coming up with a way to expel it is the only thing that even begins to solve the problem. Oneness does not mean sameness.

1. Have you heard of Epigenetics before? What are your thoughts?

2. Can Epigenetics and Transgenerational Trauma be tied to a platform for racial bias ?

3. How does the idea of ”Blackness as a setback” resonate with you? How does the idea of “Whiteness as a setback resonate” with you?

4. The Bible says even Jesus had scars, but they were evidence of what He overcame. Will there ever be a day that this country ever looks back on it’s racist scars truly as a thing of the past? As a thing this nation truly addressed and rose out of.

Since the publication of this blog post, Wikipedia has changed their citation from the article by transgenerational trauma to read:

The oppression that blacks experienced through slavery and racism has a psychological impact on how they view achievement. In terms of the social aspects of this, seem to make it difficult for blacks to surpass a certain SES threshold, to escape a certain neighborhood, to move beyond a certain lifestyle or status.


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