Stand up to Stigma

How We Reject Fear and Shame

Pernessa C. Seele (Author)

Publication date: 10/23/2017

Stand up to Stigma
No More Hate! All Are Welcome!


“Stigma” is a simple two-syllable word, yet it carries the weight of negative and often unfair beliefs that we hold about those who are different from us. Stigmas lock people into stereotyped boxes and deny us all the right to be our authentic and whole selves. Dr. Pernessa Seele, a longtime public health activist who started one of the first AIDS education programs in the 1980s, has crafted a proven method to address stigma. This powerful book confronts stereotype development, shows how to undo the processes and effects of stigma, and explains how we can radically change cultural thinking on the individual, interpersonal, and societal levels to put an end to stigmatization once and for all.

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Overview

No More Hate! All Are Welcome!


“Stigma” is a simple two-syllable word, yet it carries the weight of negative and often unfair beliefs that we hold about those who are different from us. Stigmas lock people into stereotyped boxes and deny us all the right to be our authentic and whole selves. Dr. Pernessa Seele, a longtime public health activist who started one of the first AIDS education programs in the 1980s, has crafted a proven method to address stigma. This powerful book confronts stereotype development, shows how to undo the processes and effects of stigma, and explains how we can radically change cultural thinking on the individual, interpersonal, and societal levels to put an end to stigmatization once and for all.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Pernessa C. Seele

Pernessa C. Seele is an American immunologist and interfaith public health activist. She is the CEO and founder of the Balm in Gilead, Inc., a religious-based organization that provides support to people with AIDS and their families, as well as working for the prevention of HIV and AIDS. Through a cooperative agreement with the CDC, the Balm in Gilead, Inc. operates the Black Church HIV/AIDS National Technical Assistance Center. The Balm in Gilead, Inc., serves and connects 10,000 churches and 70 community organizations in the United States, some African nations, and the Caribbean.

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Excerpt

Stand Up to Stigma

INTRODUCTION

Before launching into this work, I would like you to consider three terms. Although each term can be seen as a single, simple word, each one also carries a vast amount of meaning. What’s more, these three terms are dramatically affecting our world today, and if we are to truly progress as human beings, we need to acknowledge, address, and radically alter the path they describe.

The first term I want you to consider is civilization, which is “the condition that exists when people have developed effective ways of organizing a society and care about art, science, etc.” 1 Although the history of humanity goes back tens of thousands of years, it is only relatively recent by the historical clock that human beings have been dubbed civilized. Precise definitions have fluctuated over the years, but the majority agrees that being civilized refers to human societies having a high level of development in technological and cultural arenas. This is opposed to the state of being “primitive” or “belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development.” 2

Within the context of the word civilization is the state of being civilized, or to be “polite, reasonable and respectful.” 3 Civilized societies are cooperative by definition. It is commonly accepted by authorities that civilized humans (civilizations) first appeared around 7000–8000 BC. We are now well on our way into the twenty-first century AD. It stands to reason that if we have had nine to ten thousand years to practice and explore being civilized, then we should, today, be at a very advanced state of politeness, reasonability, and respectfulness. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In actuality, it appears that we as a civilization are regressing to a more primitive and reactionary mindset — reverting back to a period of “Dark Ages.”

Take as an example the next word, stereotype, which is “to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.” 4 The term is more acutely defined in psychological circles as “a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.” 5 Of course, not all stereotypes are intended to be hurtful and many are considered positive, like seeing obese people as “jolly,” considering judges to be “sober,” or believing that blonds “have more fun.” However, it is far more common for people to focus on negative stereotypes such as Native Americans being “savage,” people from Poland (Polacks) being “dimwitted,” or persons living with HIV being “extremely contagious.”

Stereotyping originated from a very advantageous form of behavior when civilized humanity was young. For example, judging that all cultural tribes that wore green facial paint were vicious and warlike served to prompt us to act quickly (based on previous experience of our own or those in our circle) when someone or something similar appeared to us. However, the tree of humanity, I believe, has experienced tremendous growth from its original civilized roots. Our world has exploded in technological, educational, scientific, and medical advances that cater to our civilized lifestyles. As a result of such advancements in modern civilization, we no longer have to fear such things as insufficient means of storing food, monthlong journeys on foot or horseback, or living in caves or flimsy structures. The problem is that in the midst of such advancements, the social aspect of our civilization is, at best, stagnant and, at worst, declining.

Tiya A. Miles, an American historian and professor at the University of Michigan, expounds, “Stereotypes are so powerful and resilient that they operate beyond the individual psyche to shape cultural currents and societal structures. Certain images have long operated in American culture as containers for a host of ideas that distort and belittle groups of people in ways that have material consequences.” 6 Although great advances have been made over past centuries, decades, and years, stereotypical judgments about those we see or meet have become fixed in our consciousness, even if we choose not to act upon them. Stereotyping has branched into what we today call prejudice — “an unfair feeling or dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, etc.” — and discrimination — “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently.” 7 In today’s society, people are constantly favored or disfavored based on a variety of unfair judgments, many qualities of which were not chosen by them (for example, sex, ethnicity, age).

Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination no longer serve us as they might have many thousands of years ago. Such behaviors are now disadvantageous and work to drive divisions between social structures that are rapidly transforming into larger, united circles through globalization. As we are witnessing, these divisions are not helpful but harmful to the advancement of civilization because of unjust, untrue, and outright ignorant assumptions that are made by individuals about other people. Stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminations, therefore, serve only to disrupt the flow of social growth specifically and cause a breakdown in the stability of civilization in general. Thankfully, a growing number of people are coming to an understanding about the harmful effects of stereotyping and are moving away from such unfounded prejudices and discriminations when making individual assessments.

This brings me to the third term, which is a lesser known and acknowledged phenomenon that is taking place, although it has greater potential to threaten our civilization than stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination. This final word is “stigma,” and although related to the others, it tends to define civilization or society as a whole compared with the more individualistic form of stereotyping. Stigma is defined as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.” 8 Stigmatization is broader in its effects than stereotyping because larger numbers of people adhere to negative and unfair beliefs. A few examples of stigma that continue to permeate our humanity are those that mark all people living in the mountains (hillbillies) as poor, white, ignorant, barefoot, and living in shacks; all whites as dominating and prejudiced; all Muslims as terrorists; all blacks as poor and lazy; or all Hispanics as associated with gangs that start riots and destroy entire neighborhoods. In all likelihood, these longstanding trends of stigma are at a critical point of destroying our entire nation and way of life.

Stigma, as we all know, can involve a deliberate attempt to mark the intended victim with a feeling of lower status or shame. One might encounter a prejudiced person and never know his inner thoughts if he keeps them to himself. However, one who “stigmatizes” intends to brand the other — either by words or deeds — thereby adding to its hurtfulness as a phenomenon.

To our shame as human beings, we are witnessing the negative results of our ever-festering stigmas, which are rising to an uncomfortable and dangerous regularity throughout the world. We are witnessing it in the United States, which is considered to be one of the most civilized nations on earth. We are witnessing it in Europe, which has centuries of experience more than the United States in civilizing its peoples. We are witnessing it in Russia, China, Australia, and practically every other country. Various groups, cultures, religions, media outlets, and even governments are busy fanning the flames of stigma, which have risen to feverish and destructive levels of assault on nations of people. Perhaps what we are witnessing is the result of our ignoring the stronghold of stigma that has festered for generations against individuals and groups of people. Perhaps it is due to the rapidity of globalization, merging together peoples from various religious, ethnic, linguistic, or other backgrounds. Regardless, these are not excusable reasons. However, if we are to progress as civilized human beings, we must quell the rise of stigma by actively addressing the issues, educating the masses, and coming together as one kind . . . humans.

This book addresses the ever-present and perpetual sting of stigma, how stereotypes develop, the processes and effects of stigma, the levels of intervention that are needed, the need and process to change cultural thinking regarding this subject, and practical ways that stigma can be managed to create a healthier and more fulfilling environment for all.

Stand Up to Stigma

CHAPTER 1

The Venom of Stigma

Stigma is a simple, two-syllable word. Yet because of an array of sociological factors, for many people it creates powerful impressions and emotions that always conjure up a variety of uncomfortable and even hurtful feelings. Many people may not be familiar with the term stigma, while others may refer to it only on a casual basis. Still others believe that the very injustices that the word represents have long been removed, or at least drastically reduced, in our “civilized” culture. However, is that really the case? No! It is not! For too many people in our society, we wear the impact of stigma like flaky, dry skin. The continuous application of lotion to cover up the unappealing, flaky, dry cells is a perpetual, daily exercise that almost never eliminates the problem. The human skin is our largest organ. It consists of three layers and is made up of mesodermal tissues that adapt to the internal and external environmental conditions of our bodies to protect our inner muscles, skeleton, and other organs. Our top layer of skin, often dry, flaky, and wrinkled, depending on our age, is called the stratum corneum. Its primary function is to protect us from the environmental conditions of the earth — or society, community, or family in the case of stigma.

Everyone experiences stigma at some point in their lives. Being the recipient of stigma is painful, regardless of the situation. However, becoming stigmatized because one brings a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to elementary school every day cannot begin to compare with the daily encounters of stigma experienced by millions of people as the result of culture and inherent systems of mass hatred of fellow human beings — systems that have been bred into existence through intergenerational words, thoughts, actions, and policies.

During these early years of the twenty-first century, we are witnessing the severe impact of ingrained hatred of populations in a civilized society. Among many persons presently living on planet Earth, there is a longing for the continuation of stigma and fear through legislative polices that will reconstruct or keep systems in place that render people fearful, hateful, and helpless for many generations to come. At the same time, there is hope and protest among others who want to dismantle stigma and hate of every kind and on every level, resulting in the birth of the next generation of human beings living in peace among themselves and within themselves.

Stigma is a devastating social disease in our world. The coherent progression of hate, fear, and shame for centuries has widely spread this infectious, debilitating social disease. Stigma kills millions of human beings of all ages, races, and creeds every day.

As with all diseases, it is important to first find the root cause. Is the disease caused by a bacteria, virus, or parasite? How is it transmitted — perhaps like malaria, a virus carried to human beings by female mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles? Or is stigma transmitted between two human beings when they encounter each other’s body fluids — such as blood — when one person’s blood is infected with the virus? This would suggest the continuous transmission of the virus and the disease, as is the case of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

The first step in understanding the terms that define and affect society and all human beings that make up our world is to go to the roots of those terms. If you trace the root meaning of the volatile word stigma, you will find that it originates from the Greek language and culture. In the world of the ancient Greeks, those who were considered “lesser than” — such as criminals, traitors, the mentally ill, and slaves — received a mark (stigma) that was burned, cut, or branded into their skin. This visible mark announced that these human beings were blemished, defective, or otherwise outcast and should therefore be shunned and avoided by the general public.

Initially I called this chapter “The Sting of Stigma.” However, a sting is usually considered a quick, sharp pain that oftentimes contains poison. There are so many over-the-counter antibiotics for a mere sting that I felt the word misrepresented the extreme violence and lasting effects of stigma on individuals, populations, and the communities to which they belong. On the other hand, venom conjures up in my mind the most terrifying predators in the world — snakes and scorpions. I personally have an extreme aversion to snakes (all kinds) and scorpions, viewing them with a hatred so strong and an almost toxic anger that I just have a desire to kill them. I know these animals don’t deserve to be judged so harshly, but their cultural baggage is hard to avoid. The effects of stigma in our world, both historic and present, are the result of conscious poisoning with an undeniable desire to kill the mind, body, and spirit of another human being.

It is well documented that in the United States, there is a longstanding history of stigmatizing people who are deemed different. The Pilgrims who arrived in 1620 were escaping governmental and religious persecution. Ironically, the Puritans who followed in 1630 identified religious lawbreakers with bright letters that were worn on their clothing or by letters burned into their chests, including A for adultery, D for drunkenness, and B for blasphemy. 1 These Reformed Protestants sought to “purify” anything and anyone that did not meet their definition of the world as they saw it through their scriptural interpretation of the Bible. Criminals, “savage” Native Americans, African slaves, migrants, women, and others who were deemed offenders of ordinances and laws or who were simply different were often branded, disfigured, or otherwise marked in some fashion for identification, punishment, and lifelong shaming. 2

We in the United States no longer impose the barbaric practice of physical disfiguration or marking as a means to identify certain categories of people, but we must grapple with the reality that almost four hundred years after the arrival of the Pilgrims, the interwoven fabric of stigma and its impact are on full display. The long-lasting protocol of applying stigmas to people or groups that we think deviate from what is normal remains an effective, behavioral intervention. The marks may no longer be physical brands, but the damage is most definitely etched into the psyche, which can often manifest in physical illness or death. History is filled with examples of past atrocities of stigmatism that not only stained our country but set the foundation for the sustained culture of stigma, hate, and fear in which we are all continuing to live.

Stigma against Native Americans

The effects of the US genocide on Native Americans are not readily talked about within the borders of the United States or on the world stage. The scope of the history, values, and contributions of Native people that is taught in American classrooms is extremely limited, at best. To give even the smallest sense of the stigma placed on “first peoples,” consider how easy it is to complete this sentence: “The only good Indian is a . . .” Atrocities committed against Native Americans by European settlers and the established United States government have been extreme. A few of us might argue that the extremes continue. It is estimated that more than ten million Native Americans occupied the territory now known as the United States when European explorers first arrived. However, by 1930, the US census counted 332,000 Native Americans and 334,000 in 1940. 3 The sheer numbers involved in this decimation can be considered as nothing less than a real attempt at genocide, yet the US government remains silent, by and large, while chastising other nations for similar acts.

As the people of the young United States spread west across the continent, Native Americans were increasingly found to be occupying land that was considered valuable for farming, mining, logging, traveling, and the like. Native American tribes were systematically eliminated by force through starvation (destruction of crops and depletion of wildlife), exposure (causing members to flee during harsh weather), poisoning of food and water sources, disease (trading disease-infested items), and the outright slaughter of entire encampments (men, women, children, and elderly). More than five hundred treaties were made between the US government and Native Americans, but the majority of those (if not all) were changed, broken, or nullified when the interests of the government and/or corporations required it. 4 Many of these “Indian treaties” are still in existence and enforced today, although they are greatly reduced in their effectiveness.

Today, according to the 2010 US census, there are only 2.5 million Native Americans (inclusive of American Indians and Alaskan Natives), with about one million living on reservations. 5 Most Native Americans living on reservations do so in extreme poverty and squalor. The mental and physical health of reservation Natives are far worse than that of the general American public. Tuberculosis is 600 percent higher, diabetes is 189 percent higher, alcoholism is 510 percent higher, and suicide is 62 percent higher, and of Native Americans over twelve years of age, one out of ten becomes a victim of a violent crime every year. 6 Although conditions have been slowly improving over recent years, many Native Americans, especially the younger generations, are choosing to leave their tribal communities to pursue higher education and a better life in mainstream society. However, they have to continuously overcome hurdles of discrimination from peers, schools, housing authorities, health-care providers, businesses, and other segments of our society that still consider them to be lesser beings.

The reality is that mainstream society continues to be disrespectful and intolerant of Native people. The present fight of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which began in 2016 against the Dakota Access Pipeline, is evidence of the continual disrespect of culture, land ownership, and tribal traditions that Native people still endure. 7 The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, once a part of the Great Sioux Nation, is fighting to stop the construction of a pipeline that would, when linked with other pipelines, carry 470,000 barrels of oil per day from western North Dakota to Illinois. 8 After the pipeline was deemed too risky to be constructed near Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, because of the possibilities of contaminating the water supply, it was rerouted to run parallel to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, which borders the reservation. 9 The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, like the people of Bismarck, is concerned about the possibilities of major environmental disasters, such as oil spills and water contamination, as well as the cultural threats that are being cast upon them. According to Standing Rock chairman Dave Archambault II, in his address to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, this action is yet another US violation of an existing Indian treaty. 10 It’s noteworthy that the Obama administration halted both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, citing safety and America’s commitment to fighting climate change. 11 The Keystone XL Pipeline is a $7 billion project of TransCanada, which is constructing this oil vessel from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska. It will at some time in the future connect with an already existing oil pipeline that runs from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. 12 Within five days of taking office, newly elected President Donald Trump — who boldly called Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” without hesitating to disrespect her Native American ancestry, the direct family descendants of Amonute (known to us as Pocahontas), and all Native people — signed an executive order reauthorizing the completion of both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline along with the removal of thousands of protestors who were camped near Lake Oahe. 13

Images of Native people as savage and unworthy of land as well as of life are being witnessed every day in our twenty-first century mainstream society. When we think of Native people, we most likely bring forth images of red-skinned men in enormous headdress costumes or savages riding on horses killing white men, women, and children. New York Times reporter Jack Healy, in an article published September 13, 2016, provides a glimpse of the present-day cultural divide and racial attitudes toward Native people regarding the pipeline. In the midst of only peaceful protests and demonstrations, Bruce Strinden, the commissioner of Morton County, North Dakota, and also a part-time rancher, shared in an interview the unwarranted historical fears and attitudes of surrounding white residents. He stated, “These ranchers, it’s their livelihood. If somebody would come and set fire to their hay reserves and come and cut their fences and cause their livestock to get loose, that causes real problems.” 14 On the other side, Jana Gipp, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who was also interviewed, stated that most people “don’t know that we’re hard workers. We don’t all drink. We have jobs. We have to support our families.” 15

Stigma against African Americans

There are many historians, scholars, and individuals who try to deny the truth, but the lasting and present-day stigma of racism in America is the direct effect of the US holocaust of Native Americans and the American slave trade, which was used in the colonies between 1607 and 1776 and then flourished for almost another one hundred years. African men, women, and children were sold, bought, and bred for the purpose of the machine of slavery, which was essential to the economic empire of the South. From the early 1700s to the Civil War, enslaved people outnumbered free whites in places like South Carolina. Slave ownership meant an individual was legal property and could be separated from family members at the will of his or her master. During slavery, black people were “marked” for ownership, and offenses such as disobedience, insubordination, running away, poor work, and others were normally met with fierce reprisals, including, but not limited to, whipping, cutting off body parts, branding, and deprivation of food and shelter. Rape and physical abuse by white men were common practices against black slave women and men.

Although the ratification of the thirteenth amendment on December 6, 1865, ended slavery, Americans, both black and white, suffer from a condition that has been termed post-traumatic slave syndrome. Dr. Joy DeGruy, sociologist, researcher, educator, and author, outlines this theory in her book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, which explains that necessary, adaptive survival behaviors that black people gained through multiple generations of living in a traumatic society where social norms and culture framed black people as “inherently and genetically inferior to whites” are now embedded in the psychic consciousness of black Americans. Dr. DeGruy suggests that these multigenerational, maladaptive behaviors of African Americans are the results of systematic and structural racism and oppression, which includes lynching, Jim Crow laws, and mass incarceration. 16

I contend that white Americans are also suffering from post-traumatic slavery syndrome. What else would cause Dylann Roof, a twenty-one-year-old white man from East-over, South Carolina, to travel to Charleston (102 miles from his home) to attend a Bible study class led by the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and then open fire, killing nine of the attending parishioners, including the pastor? In 2015, website evidence and Roof’s own reasoning for the mass killing were that he wanted to start a race war in America. 17 Emmanuel AME Church was established as an extension of the Free African Society led by Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1787. 18 The church has a long history of leading social injustice movements in the South. Truly, racism in America is America’s longest war.

The teachings of white supremacy, the perpetual learned behavior of hatred toward black people, and the continuous existence of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups entwined in American culture are evident in the present-day effects of slavery on our society. They are the direct impact of post-traumatic slavery syndrome on white America. Many blacks have shattered the glass ceiling of success. However, the current political climate and realities, which include far too many police killings of unarmed African Americans, provide daily evidence that regardless of class or economic status, African Americans are far too often singled out for unfair treatment. However, long is the list of stories with discriminatory themes that tell of the pursuit of blacks to live the American dream. One of the richest women in the world, Oprah Winfrey, has shared her stories of being discriminated against when attempting to purchase items in exclusive high-end stores when her identity was not yet known or recognized. Surely, I could write another book about my very own stories of discrimination when growing up in the segregated South and living in the North during six decades of my life thus far.

The continuous stereotyping of blacks as lazy, uneducated, violent, unfit, and unclean throughout three centuries in the United States has resulted in hatred and stigma that continue to lead to job denial and unemployment, mass criminal conviction and incarceration, poor health-care services, inadequate housing conditions, inferior educational opportunities, denial of basic rights, and much more. Outright slavery may have been officially abolished, but slave-like conditions and treatment clearly continue to plague black communities across the country. For example, the War on Drugs (1971 to present) has overly targeted blacks, resulting in skyrocketing incarceration numbers. According to Michelle Alexander, who has helped to expose the problem, there are more “black men in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” 19 That is a sobering statement that reveals that the enslavement of black men has not ceased but shifted from the slave master’s fields to imprisonment and close monitoring. According to the November 2011 Archives of General Psychiatry, 20 black and Asian adolescents ages twelve to seventeen are much less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol, whereas Native American and white teens have the highest rates of drug abuse in our nation today.

Interestingly, as the nation begins to focus on drug addiction among white suburban youth, solutions are focused on legislative appropriations for drug rehabilitation programs and not incarceration for petty drug possession. Drug addiction is a public-health crisis in our country. However, the primary intervention for this public-health crisis among thousands of black men and women for the past fifty years has been jail sentences resulting in felonies that legally revoke all voting-rights privileges for one’s entire lifetime.

There are volumes of examples of inhumane treatment of African Americans within the health-care industry that are sickening and appalling. African Americans were both pleased and, quite frankly, disappointed that it took so long for a US president to apologize for any one of the horrendous health-care injustices inflicted upon black people over the past centuries. This occurred when then-President Bill Clinton, on May 16, 1997, issued a formal apology for the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. 21 This appalling experiment conducted by the US Public Health Service is documented as the “longest non-therapeutic experiment on human beings” in the history of medicine and public health. The lingering effect of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and so many other documented atrocities is very evident in the alarming rates of health disparities among African Americans and in their distrust of the health-care industry in the United States.

After a mission trip to the United States in January 2016, the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent concluded that the history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans. This working group is composed of human rights lawyers from around the world. Their findings were presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, September 25, 2016, in Geneva, Switzerland. The working group report includes the following statement:

In particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent. Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching. 22

Sadly, in these uncertain days of President Donald J. Trump and the increase of racial violence in the United States, the sustained hatred of black people and the commitment to return to the days of slavery (Make America Great Again) do not allow for much political movement in the direction of reparation as recommended by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. Further, James Porter, National Rifle Association president, during his speech to the NRA’s reported 4.5 million members, called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American,” and the US Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” He further repeated his call for training every US citizen on how to use military firearms so that each person would be allowed to defend themselves against tyranny. 23

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Endorsements

“Pernessa's book can make a difference in your life. In a powerful way, it gets to the heart of a complex issue. Many people stigmatize others without realizing it, and Seele helps readers understand what they can do to change their attitudes and actions.”
—Jeff Pegues, Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent, CBS News, and author of Black and Blue


“We all dream of living in a world without stigma and bias, but a quick glance at the news proves that this is a dream deferred. Pernessa Seele pulls no punches in identifying the cost of stigma and steps to take away the power of stigma and bias.”
—Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman, Conference on National Black Churches, Inc.

“Dr. Pernessa Seele's tireless efforts to remove disparities in health care—and wherever we need more understanding and acceptance—is nothing short of inspirational. I will gladly share this book with anyone who questions the toll that stigma takes on our human community—or the path we can take to escape it.”
—John Hope Bryant, Chairman, Operation HOPE

“In sharing cogent reflections based upon her pioneering experiences as a courageous health advocate, Pernessa Seele squarely identifies the societal toll taken by stigma and stereotyping—and delineates the steps we can take to reaffirm the dignity we each innately possess by virtue of our humanity.”
—Natalia Kanem, MD, Acting Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund

 
“Dr. Seele puts a human face on the consequences of stigma, shows the need to examine our biases, and gives me the uneasy personal reminder that as a public health official and researcher, I must drive outside my lane of numbers and statistics.”
—Willi McFarland, MD, PhD, MPH&TM, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, and Director, Center for Public Health Research, San Francisco Department of Public Health

“The Balm In Gilead founded by Dr. Pernessa Seele has saved lives in
the United States, Africa and beyond. Through education, treatment
and prevention, Pernessa has enabled tens of thousands to walk the
earth with health, hope and wholeness. We are blessed to have Dr.
Seele's narrative of healthcare and wellness in a wounded world.”
—Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. International pastor, theologian, speaker, author,
and activist


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