This Instagram Account Shows How Casual Racism And Micro-Aggressions Happen Every Day

Women's Health Editors

From Women's Health

  • A new Instagram account @OverheardWhileBlack is showing examples of casual racism and micro-aggressions.

  • Created by Autumn Callender Lewis, the account's mission is to "normalize calling out racism and to educate those unaware of their privilege."

  • The account collects stories from real people and shares them anonymously.

A new Instagram account is taking casual racism and micro-aggressions to task using a popular format similar to the @OverheardNY and @OverheardLA accounts.

Earlier this week, publicist Autumn Callender Lewis began to collect stories from fellow publicists on her Instagram stories, titled #OverheardWhileBlackInPR. Yesterday, she opened a new account @OverheardWhileBlack, posting each micro-aggression independently.

"Originally it started because one of my former bosses told me I look more professional with my hair straight," Lewis told Women's Health. A handful of people sent her similar stories, including "a lot of people touching other people's hair," and brands touting diversity when there's only one black person on their team. Mostly, though, the posts reflect the casual cruelty and pointed remarks black people endure every day.

"A lot of people weren't taught that some of the things they're saying are inappropriate, and I think the only way we can change is if we're having these conversations," Lewis said. "Because if you're really friends with someone, and you can't have a conversation about race, then that's a problem." She said some of her own friends have reckoned with their past behaviors and committed to changing as a result of reading the Instagram account.

One post on @OverheardWhileBlack reads, "I was told they understand the struggles of being black because they wrote a research paper about it in college," while another says, "When you talk, you sound more threatening."

One of the most egregious examples of casual racism: "You don't look anything like what you sound like on the phone. You're so well-spoken."

Regarding the recent protests: "Can you stop posting so much racial stuff on Twitter? It's making my friends think you're going to be violent. Well because all of those people are violent."

In her first post on the account, Lewis wrote, "@overheardwhileblack was created to normalize calling out racism and to educate those unaware of their privilege. All submissions will remain anonymous." In case that's not clear enough, she hopes that people who benefit from white privilege will follow the account, learn why these micro-aggressions are offensive, and become more sensitive communicators.

As Ibram X. Kendi writes in his book, How To Be An Antiracist, there is no such thing as being "not racist." In fact, he writes, "We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next."

"What’s the problem with being 'not racist'?" Kendi writes. "It is a claim that signifies neutrality: 'I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.' But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of 'racist' isn’t 'not racist.' It is 'antiracist.' What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist."

The beauty of an Instagram account like @OverheardWhileBlack is its ability to reach a wide variety of readers, since the format is tried and true.

"When I was just posting on my personal account, so many people reached out to say 'I had no idea you were going through these things,'" Lewis said. "I would tell people that I was being treated differently at work, but I don't think anyone understood why I was being treated differently. They assumed it was something I did." Now, the posts speak for themselves.

Already, @OverheardWhileBlack has over a thousand followers, and it's quickly growing. Lewis accepts submissions via DM and will post them anonymously to the account. She also accepts questions to her personal account, @autumncallender.

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