Below is a short discussion inspired by Michele Norris on Episode Two of The Michelle Obama Podcast.
It’s difficult to address social issues during a pandemic. We’re already overwhelmed with personal problems and caught up in political disagreement. But when we stop fighting among ourselves and focus on the source of our collective tension, we can rebuild a more cohesive society.
In this episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast, the former First Lady talks with journalist Michele Norris about managing our mental health during the pandemic, understanding Black struggle, and moving forward as a country.
It’s important to be patient and accepting when managing mental health. We are in the middle of a worldwide crisis. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and tired. When we allow ourselves to go through moments of vulnerability, as we settle into the slower pace of a new normal, we gain clarity and strength to focus on issues of the outside world.
Here are some issues that were spotlighted:
- Racial stereotypes against Black people. There were few historically few TV shows that had Black characters. In those, the few characters only portrayed comical and exaggerated aspects of Blackness. This created the stereotypes that furthered the discrimination against them.
- Police brutality against Black lives. Black people still face violence despite America’s progress in stopping racism. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Jacob Balke, and George Floyd are but recent victims of police brutality.
- A problematic economic system. The capitalistic system makes people think that the success of “others” was made at their expense”. It emphasizes competition over cooperation. Since minorities are literally seen as the “others” in society, they’re often the ones blamed for its problems.
Once we realize that we’re all just people trying to survive a systemically competitive economy, we can ease the collective tension. We can then show compassion to others instead of discriminating against them. Together, we can work for a better tomorrow as we adapt to our new normal.
the distilld lessons
These are the distilld lessons from Episode #2 of The Michelle Obama Podcast with Michele Norris.
With the sudden and frequent changes around us, feeling “off” is normal. Be patient and allow yourself to adjust.
Due to added stress and a loss of structure caused by a health crisis and an economic downturn, we can overwhelm ourselves with stress if we stay “on the go”. Be sure to rest and re-calibrate.
Make time to “just be.” During stressful times, we need to rest more than ever. When you’re done with work, don’t instantly look for other things to do. Take breaks. Play cards with your family, make snacks, or just sit in silence.
TV played a big role in introducing Black people to America. Because of the nature of these stereotyped portrayals, it also limited they’ve since been characterized.
Michelle Obama recalls how limited Black representation was in TV shows in her time. There were few Black characters, and for those that were portrayed, they showed few real aspects of Black culture.
Today, America has made efforts in championing progress for the equality of Black lives. But it’s there is still significant ways to go. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd are only few of the Black lives who have tragically been victims to police brutality.
As First Lady, Michelle saw the innate kindness and decency of American people overall. As such, the problem doesn’t seem to be the people. It’s a system predicated on inequity.
The current economic system creates fear predicated on zero-sum competition. If you don’t succeed it’s because of “others”.
Minorities are often positioned as “others”, so they are often scapegoated — consciously or otherwise — for problems. This fear breeds a proclivity for Americans to discriminate against each other.
When we realize that we’re all struggling, we can start to understand each other. Slowly, we can bridge the divide between people. We can then work for a compassionate and just society.
- Allow yourself to feel down. Your moments of vulnerability are part of the healing process. Be patient with yourself.
- Make time for relaxation. You need to take breaks during a stressful time like this. Do something relaxing.
- Get to know a culture beyond what mainstream media shows you. Incorrect or lack of representative exposure may limit your perspective of others. Give yourself the opportunity to understand others. We can connect more easily when we understand.
- Don’t demonize people who disagree with you. Even if their ideals are in conflict with yours, understand they reflect individual perspectives — fears, beliefs and ambitions — just like yours.
- Speak out against the system, not against people. It’s the systemic inequity within institutions that pit us against each other. People are in fact kind and decent at their core. We’ve just been influenced to believe the opposite is true in those that seem different from us.
For a more in depth conversation, the distilld lessons (extended) are here.