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Melissa Payne co-authors compelling chapter on Racial Battle Fatigue

Melissa Payne

Melissa Payne, Developmental Math & English faculty member at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, has experienced Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF). Now, as co-author of a chapter in the recently published book “Racial Battle Fatigue: Insights from the Front Lines of Social Justice Advocacy,” she is positioned on the front lines with those committed to educating others about RBF and, ultimately, eradicating the experience, even if it has to happen one relationship at a time.

“I love this new book, and I’m so honored to have had a part in writing one of the chapters,” says Payne. “I co-authored Chapter 7, entitled ‘Difficult Dialogues: A Story of Relationship as a Strategy for Racial Battle Fatigue’ with Dr. Victoria Pruin DeFrancisco, a former colleague of mine from the University of Northern Iowa. The gist of our chapter is that when we were both on the steering committee for the National Coalition Building Institute, a group in which I was the only black woman, I experienced what’s known as ‘microaggression’ and I chose to face the issue in a way that became a model for trust within our group. Maybe our chapter in this new book won’t change the world, but we as individuals moved forward and so life is changed … there’s no longer that ‘elephant in the room.’

Payne explains that Derald Wing Sue defines microaggression as the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. For Payne, experiencing several microaggressions over the course of months of work with the steering committee left her feeling a need to speak up.

Payne writes, “With support from my colleagues in the national leadership, I was able to express my concern to my colleagues: this group, with an antiracist goal, had perpetrated racism against me.” Later in the chapter, the two authors collaborated to write “Our challenge has been to acknowledge racism but not let it define our relationship. We are constantly connecting through our shared identities; they are a key reason why we are friends.”

“It’s often easier to let a problem die or dissolve, or to bury it,” Payne explains. “Sometimes issues have to be confronted, and sometimes people require an ally and an affirmation that no injury was intended, even though an injury occurred. When Victoria and I wrote about our shared experience in an ethnographic style for this book chapter, it was with the goal of giving readers our different perspectives on the same experience. I hope that readers will learn, as Victoria and I have learned, that we need to take our relationships across the lines that can divide us. We can’t change institutions until we change people’s hearts!”

In the book, Payne credits her husband, Orintheo (O.J.) Payne, for his support through the writing process. She also credits ECC’s Osgood Library staff (particularly Marjean Clemons and Cindi Sweedler) for their helpful assistance with her research.

The new hardcover book is available online through at

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