Historically Black Americans experience trauma and violence more often than their White peers, impacting youth and adults’ emotional and mental health.
Historical oppression, dehumanization, and violence against Black American people have grown into present-day racism – individual, structural, and institutional – and developed a uniquely mistrustful and drastic community experience characterized by numerous distinctions, including inadequate access to the healthcare system. It is tough to process and deal with coatings of individual trauma on top of new mass traumas from COVID-19 (isolation, uncertainty, grief from human or financial losses) and police brutality news media. Divisive political rhetoric adds compounding layers of complexity for individuals to manage responsibly.
- Incidents of racism have substantial adverse effects on both physical and mental health.
- As a result, anxiety, sadness, depression, anger, etc., arises, which is a logical reaction during and in the wake of these heartbreaking experiences of racism.
- An effective strategy for responding to experiences of racism and for dealing with racism’s effects is making choices based on what matters and is of value to you.
- Acceptance represents an accepting affinity with our emotional reactions to incidents of racism and does not suggest an endorsement of the existence of racism or racist experiences at all.
- When we experience emotional reactions catering to racism, we can consciously practice being empathetic with ourselves and recognize that the anxiety, sadness, anger, etc., that we feel is a logical reaction during these painful experiences.
Racism is a severe and prevalent issue in the US, and racism is related to stress, anxiety, and other mental and physical health problems. Racism can be disguised in many forms, including racial microaggressions, which are described as more apparent racist experiences, including being called a racial, being physically attacked due to race, or being refused fair wages due to race.
How to Cope
Given below are some ways that can help you with the coping mechanisms:
One potentially effective strategy is knowing what matters the most to you or what you value the most. When people can identify and comprehend their values, they can be more clear about what matters to them during those anxious moments; they can make choices invariant with their values and act upon these choices.
For Black Americans, reconnecting to values can be empowering, like making choices can feel natural and in control of their lives, even in the face of racism.
For example, the individual who receives disrespectful and hurting comments from the racist jokes of his boss may choose to reconnect to his value of respect and approach his boss about the racist remarks because simply accepting the disrespect would be living a life conflicting with who he is and what he stands for. His decision to act in line with his values despite these painful and unfair experiences may ease some of the stress associated with racism and induce a feeling of satisfaction.
Attending to our emotions
Attending to our emotions, instead of avoiding and pushing these emotions away, can be described as acceptance. Developing an accepting relationship and a present-moment awareness of the distressing emotional responses due to racism may lessen our anxiety.
We know that consistently attempting to suppress emotions heightens the intensity of our emotional experiences. We might begin to think about more flexible coping strategies and be willing to discuss the deep passion we may experience in the face of racism. For example, Black Americans may wonder how to be strong while appreciating our emotions. It is important to recognize that managing our emotional responses to racism can be beneficial. It has been one of the most excellent strategies contributing to our strength in many contexts.
Experiences of racism can stimulate any or all of the emotional experiences, sometimes at the same time. Experiences of racism can endanger an individual’s safety, be barriers to accessing resources (employment, education, healthcare, validation), and destroy an individual’s sense of self-worth and value. For instance, the Black Lives Matter movement arose as a meaningful response to many Black Americans’ fear, anger, anxiety, sadness, and depression because a mass of unarmed Black men was killed brutally by law enforcement officers.
Being Compassionate with ourselves
We discussed that emotions provide us with the necessary information and help us adjust to the life challenges that racism may produce. However, societal norms often tell us that anger, anxiety, sadness, or depression are signs of weakness or proof of a lack of self-control. Because we are Black individuals who experience racism and react to it, we are usually told that we are “overreacting” or “hypersensitive,” which memorializes the self-perception of emotion as weakness. Specifically, In Case of emotional reactions in the face because of racism, we can intentionally practice being empathetic with ourselves and recognize that anger, anxiety, sadness, etc., are all logical reactions during these stressful incidents. Self-compassion is the appreciation of our emotional responses to racism and refers to it as coherent, natural, and part of our human experience. For example, when a racist incident happens, a Black woman can accept that she is angry and value that this anger is a natural and logical to an unjust situation rather than considering her reaction as being unreasonable or something to “get over.”