In recent weeks, we have watched headline after headline of public protests, police brutality and issues surrounding race and justice in America. These stories and images have taken a massive toll on the emotional and mental health of Black Americans.
For many Black Americans, stories of racially motivated murders and violence are not a new phenomenon. As a matter of fact, a recent study found that 261 people were killed because of police brutality, of those recorded deaths, 26% were Black. The numbers are alarming considering Blacks only makeup 13% of the U.S. population, (Ray, 2017). Often these deaths are reduced to a social media hashtag which does not truly convey the loss of that life for the family, community, and our collective country. The repeated act of loss and devastation makes it difficult for many to move forward.
Witnessing these tragic deaths and headlines often lead to continued mental and emotional health related issues which is defined as racial trauma and stress. Racial trauma also known as race-based stress is described as events that are rooted in racism that endanger the lives of Blacks and other communities of color, (Comas-Díaz, 2019). There are physical and psychological effects related to racial trauma. They include, “Hypervigilance to threat; flashbacks; nightmares; avoidance; suspiciousness; and somatic expressions such as headaches and heart palpitations. The impacts are similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms,” (Comas-Díaz, 2019). Though racial trauma mirrors PTSD, they differ in the sense that racial trauma involves ongoing exposure and re-exposure to race-related stress (Comas-Díaz, 2019). Racial trauma also causes hidden wounds that can continue throughout a person’s life.
Racial trauma can be difficult to handle but there are ways you can address it and maintain your peace while standing for justice. Here are 5 ways to cope with racial trauma:
Unfollow and mute
It can be disheartening to hear and see comments from friends and passerby’s that dismiss the grief, fear, anger, and anxiety of the Black community during this time. Make it a habit to unfollow or mute posts that contribute to those emotions. As you edit these messages from your purview, also avoid videos/images of Black hate crimes and violence. Replaying these videos and images can be triggering and cause you to relive the trauma.
Disconnect and unplug
Though you want to stay in the know, it is important to know that you can take a break. Constantly consuming videos/images and new headlines of death, racism, and anger can be overwhelming mentally and emotionally. Take a couple days off or review your social media usage all together and consider taking a sabbatical until you feel healthy enough to engage.
Acknowledge how you are feeling and honestly share with others
It is important to acknowledge how you are feeling both emotionally and mentally during this time. It’s okay not be okay. Be honest with those around you and set boundaries when needed. It’s okay to ask your boss for a self-care day. It’s okay to tell your spouse you would rather discuss something different at dinner. Acknowledge your emotions and thoughts during this time and seek experiences that can support you in the moment.
Engage in self-care that brings you joy
Racial trauma can not only impact you mentally and emotionally, it can also impact you physically and spiritually. Find self-care activities that not only meet your needs but allow you to enjoy and celebrate the fullness of your life. Consider journaling, reading, drawing, painting, speaking with loved ones or your licensed therapist. You can also become more physically active by engaging in cycling, weightlifting, yoga, running, Zumba, walking the dog, or having a dance party with your kids. For your spiritual needs activities such as praying, meditation, or reaching out to your religious community/organizations will help. Whatever self-care looks like for you, indulge in the things that bring you pure peace and joy.
Process your thoughts and feelings in a place that offer support and validation
Lastly, process your thoughts and feelings in places that truly offer support, validation, and that make you feel safe. It easy to share your feelings on social media, however, you can often be met with criticism or backlash from those who wish to dismiss your experiences. This can contribute to even more trauma and feelings of anger, hopelessness, sadness, and grief. You are valid to feel how you feel and deserve to express and process openly in a safe place. Process your thoughts and feelings with a trusted loved one, friend, and/or your licensed therapist. Our team at Revolutionary Change Counseling understand the seriousness of the major impact of racial trauma and stress and are ready and on standby to support you during this time because your life and mental health does indeed matter. Please call us at (813) 331-7673 for counseling services for individuals, couples, families and children. We are located in Apollo Beach and we service the Riverview, Brandon, Ruskin, Sun City, Seffner, Gibsonton and Bradenton Area.
Bridging the Gap: How to be in Ally in 2020
As the national consciousness turns toward the inequities facing Black Americans, many people are now asking how they can become an ally.
Now, is a critical time for collaboration and synergy as non-Black communities work to support justice and equity efforts during this racial pandemic. To achieve this goal, it is essential for collaborators to understand the role of an ally.
Webster’s Dictionary defines an ally as, “One who is associated with another as a helper, a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.” Being an ally is a growth process, it holds one-self accountable, while working to enhance inclusion that benefits all. It is important to note, that while racial oppression is often difficult to fully understand without the lens of experience, it makes it more commendable that an ally is willing to submit to learning and taking on the struggle as their own. There is a great sense of healing, power and wholeness that can be derived from using the experience of privilege to support the cause of the racially oppressed. Allyship is more than just a verbal commitment, it is a statement of empathy and it requires action.
Here are three steps to being an ally in the effort to end systemic racism:
Acknowledge your biases and privilege
Acknowledging your biases and privileges is imperative in becoming an ally. When you hear the world privilege it is defined by Webster’s as, “A right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” Webster’s also defines privilege as, “To accord a higher value or superior position to.” An important part of understanding this, is that privilege does not mean one has not experienced difficulty or hardship. It means that the privileged majority have had no firsthand knowledge of being Black and living under systemic disadvantages and oppression on a micro or macro level. The privilege of not having to live through the filter of skin color, which could impact someone’s ability to live or die or at the very least experience bias and discrimination, is something that an ally must explore and address.
In the words of late-night talk show host and comedian, Jimmy Kimmel, “White privilege does not mean your life has not been hard. It just means the color of your skin is not one of the things that makes it harder.”
The reality is that we all have our biases which are normal as individuals. However, its essential to explore, identify, and understand biases, privilege, and negative thoughts that contribute to systemic, covert, and overt racism which impact the lives of Black people. Biases and prejudice cannot change until they are addressed and understood.
Seek knowledge and learn
It’s imperative to gain a full understanding of the history of racial injustice and systemic institutionalized racism to understand how your role as an ally can support Black people during this time. It might be easy to just ask your closest Black friends or family members but its essential to gain education for yourself. Here is a list of great resources which an ally can use to empower and educate themselves.
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- How to be an Anti- Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in The Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Between The World and Me by Ta- Nehisi Coates
- Divided Sisters by Midge Wilson and Kathy Russell
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrion
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Looking up Our Own by James Forman
- The Miner’s Canary by Lani Guiner and Gerald Torres
- The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fannon
- 1619 (New York Times)
- About Race
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Intersectionality Matters! Hosted by Kimberle Crenshaw
- Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
- Pod For The Cause
- Pod Save The People (Crooked Media)
- Seeing White
- Parenting Forward podcast episode “Five Pandemic Parenting Lessons with Cindy Wang Brandt”
- Fare of the Free Child Podcast
TV Shows & Movies
- 13th (Netflix)
- American Son (Netflix)
- Dear White People (Netflix)
- If Beale Street Could Talk (Hulu)
- King in the Wilderness (HBO)
- See You Yesterday (Netflix)
- The Hate You Give (Cinemax)
- When They See Us (Netflix)
- Strong Island (Netflix)
- Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
- Selma (Netflix)
- Let’s #TalkAboutBias: A Social Experiment (YouTube)
When discussing race, privilege, and systemic oppression it can be exhausting and scary for those who are not Black and have not lived the Black experience. However, just imagine how exhausting and scary it is for Black people to live in a daily system of inequity. These conversations are not easy, but they are imperative. Right now, allies can gain ground by learning and listening. Avoid the temptation to run or dominate conversations just simply listen and gain from the voices of those directly impacted by systemic racism and oppression. Often listening without response or defense is hard but living in a world that tolerates and ignores injustice is harder. Remember, racism and police brutality are not just Black issues but human issues. Anyone has the potential to become an ally and can begin today.
Our team at Revolutionary Change Counseling understands that navigating the discussion of race, privilege, and biases can be challenging. We want you to know we are here to provide you a safe place to discuss, process, and empower yourself with the skills to support others. Please call us at (813) 331-7673 for counseling services for individuals, couples, families and children. We are located in Apollo Beach and we service the Riverview, Brandon, Ruskin, Sun City, Seffner, Gibsonton and Bradenton Area.
Comas-Díaz, L., Hall, G. N., & Neville, H. A. (2019). Racial trauma: Theory, research, and healing: Introduction to the special issue. American Psychologist, 74(1), 1-5. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000442
Ray, R., Marsh, K. and Powelson, C. (2017), Can Cameras Stop the Killings? Racial Differences in Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Body‐Worn Cameras in Police Encounters, Social Forum, 32: 1032-1050. doi:10.1111/socf.12359