A visiting assistant professor at Southern Illinois University gained media traction for writing an essay about “black bereavement leave,” arguing educators should get extra time off to deal with racial trauma.
Angel Jones, who has a Ph.D. in Education, wrote an article called “Where’s our Black bereavement leave?” in Times Higher Education, citing the recent death of Tyre Nichols as the impetus for her article.
“I am a proud educator who loves what I do,” writes Jones. “But before that, I am a Black woman. A Black woman who is expected to return to ‘business as usual’ on Monday after seeing a member of my community murdered on Friday.
“Although it is customary for employees to receive support and understanding while grieving the loss of a loved one, the same care is rarely shown to the Black community when we lose someone in horrific and traumatic ways,” she continues. “Where’s our Black bereavement leave?”
Bereavement leave is a common business practice where employers will offer time off to an employee dealing with the death of a close friend or family member, not the death of someone who happens to share the same ethnic or racial background.
“Some may have thought I was joking when I mentioned Black bereavement leave, but I wasn’t,” Jones continues. “We need space and time to grieve without having to explain or defend it. And since the grief process, like the Black community, is not a monolith, flexibility is required.
“Some may need a day off while others may just need to be able to work from home. Some may need a small extension on a deadline while others may need to have something removed from their plate completely.”
While institutions can and should prioritize the well-being of their employees, the idea that organizations should designate specific time off for people of color, solely on the grounds of race, borders on racist.
If Jones’ proposal is applied to any other group, the concept is revealed to be just as nonsensical as it sounds.
After all, who would advocate that all women should get a day off after a high-profile news story about a violence being perpetrated against a woman?
If a house of worship or religious leader is attacked, should members of that faith across the nation get special leave?
If a firefighter dies in the line of duty, does every other firefighter take a mental health day?
Of course not. Because if they did, no one would ever go to work.