Because literally the chronic stress of racism is cutting our lives short.
Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Without a second thought, I freeze with terror when I see a police officer -- in any country -- or wake up in a panic when I know that my son is driving home late.
Jones is co-author of "Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete." She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia's 900AM-WURD. Three weeks ago, my house was pelted with watermelon rinds. It often feels like there's no escape from this nightmare.
And this is exactly why a trailblazing woman like Michelle Obama is so inspiring.
As the nation's first black First Lady, Michelle was the object of equal parts adulation and scorn for eight years. Recently, she spoke at a women's empowerment conference in Colorado.
Her Reach Higher Initiative helps students to expand their educational horizons beyond high school.
And just two years ago, Michelle and President Obama together started the Let Girls Learn, a federal program that helps educate girls around the globe.Michelle's ability to continuously rise above hate, to speak with love and compassion for all people is her true power -- it is not her Harvard degree, her title or her husband.She has found a way to acknowledge her pain without sacrificing her dignity or robbing others of their own.I need look no further than my own family over the past three generations.Black women and men stood strong because they were never allowed to be weak. No matter how much we say "everyone is equal," our government policies, our history and our daily social interactions betray this lie. You see, growing up in the United States, I've been culturally conditioned to see the world always through the suffocating prism of race. This is a basic instinct for Americans of every race.Fox News anchors took to calling Michelle, "Obama's baby mama." Impossible to imagine Barbara Bush or Melania Trump ever being denigrated in this way.The two were celebrating with a fist-bump standing beside a portrait of Osama bin Laden.There's no racial stigma attached, no lingering racist Reconstruction Era cultural stereotypes about lazy blacks and watermelons.Calm down and breathe is what I told myself as I cleaned up those watermelon rinds. But generations of toxic cultural indoctrination do not die easily and even now, weeks later, I'm still trying to get over it and my suspicions about some of my expat neighbors, many of whom like me are from the United States and travel around the world towing their own racial baggage as white Americans.