It is no surprise when it comes to the many injustices experienced by African Americans in the U.S. on a constant basis that the list is numerous. The frequency of such travesties happen so often, that the term “Racial Battle Fatigue” has come to the forefront. Yet for African Americans, this is something that has been noticeably experienced at least since the childhood years. For example, the most common experience is when a peer we used to hang out and play with daily at school will suddenly tell us we can no longer play with them because their parents “don’t like our kind”. And that’s putting it “politely”.
Some Backstory To Put Things Into Perspective
In addition to such scenarios, many African Americans have reported that as we get older, racial aggressions towards us becomes more and more apparent. For example, having the police called on for doing everyday things such as waiting at a coffee shop for a business meeting or swimming in a residential pool where we live. There’s a story out of New York about a white woman calling the police on an birdwatching African American man after he politely asked her to put a leash on her dog as that is the rule in order to protect the birds in the park. Also, it appears some non-African Americans get so agitated that calling the police on an African graduate student for falling asleep while writing a paper in the student lounge area seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t the first time the caller committed that offense. The list of these types of petty situations is so long, you can find well over 9 unique stories in about 10 minutes alone.
Police brutality cases are a whole other area of issue which has caused national and even international outrage…and not just from African Americans alone. For example the case of George Floyd and how the officer felt so comfortable putting his knee and body weight on his neck, cutting off oxygen and blood flow as he was handcuffed and pinned to the ground with no fear of any repercussion for his action. As George Floyd was telling the officer he couldn’t breathe and ultimately called for his dead mother with his last breath the officer seemed to have such confidence and comfort to stay on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds straight. In the words of Dave Chappelle, from his latest special 846, “Who are you talking to?! What are you signifying?!”
It’s if the officer knew that if there was any punishment for his actions, it “may not be so bad”. A firing, paid time off and, if serving time, maybe some probation and a short jail sentence. So far, all 4 officers involved in George Floyd’s death have received 2nd degree murder charges (At the time of this post, the story is still developing).
This case seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back where people and leaders from Middle East, Europe, South America, etc. are openly protesting with Black Lives Matter movement the murder of George Floyd (and countless others) by a police officer and the other officers who stood by watching. There was even opposition from many officers across the U.S. who also quickly condemned the actions of George Floyd’s killer. President of Fraternal Order of Police also condemned the killing.
Another recent case involving a young EMT woman, Breonna Taylor, was also killed by police whom to this day they have not been charged. The official report is said to be missing a lot of crucial details which has been condemned by Louisville, KY mayor. It wasn’t until many protests and petitions two months after her death that more individuals got involved, including celebrities such as Janelle Monet. The feds are currently conducting an investigation.
The list of similar travesties are long and include names such as Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery, and more.
Why The Widespread Outrage Over These Cases?
The main reasons African Americans are so upset over many of these situations is that justice has not seemed to have been properly served as many officers and other perpetrators have been found not guilty/convicted or just fired only to return to work in another department in most of these cases. For example, the officer who killed George Floyd has a long history of police brutality with 17 previous complaints and another murder under his belt.
Yet, it is clear, not all officers are in line with the “Blue Wall Of Silence”. For example, Retired Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey is very outspoken on a variety of platforms and news channels on injustices that occur and what should be done as the proper protocol in the legal handling these situations.
Whether it is an experience of constant macroaggression (example; racially motivated murder, calling police for everyday activities such as barbequing with intent to cause [or causing] intentional harm, etc.) to microaggressions (example; prejudice/racism on a smaller, personal scale, slurs, downplaying of skills/qualifications for work/school, etc.) it is apparent through many testimonies and national news cases that these experiences are very real. The constant triggers and obstacles we face are guaranteed to be a daily monster to battle. It is no wonder, or maybe it is to some, that the amount of emotional strength and resiliency needed for African Americans to be able to still get up and go about daily careers, businesses, errands and family time is just as common as taking a shower and brushing your teeth everyday. After all, it has been a basic, expected experience if you are Black in the U.S.
So what exactly can we as African Americans do to combat the emotional and physical effects of this constant stress on a big or small scale?
Reduce News Watching
One of the things we can do is avoid spending all day watching the news, especially if a death has been recorded live and spread like wildfire. Yes it can be tempting to want to stay on top of new developments all the time but let’s face it, the news repeats all day for days. There is a real negative effect on the subconscious mind when we constantly see our brother, sister and/or child suffering unnecessarily because of racism and prejudice. When people see someone like them suffering it’s almost as if they are experiencing it just the same. Seeing it over and over ingrains in the mind the reality of what happened. in addition to the feelings of fear and pain associated with it. In a way, continuing to watch these videos and read these articles over and over can have the same effect as experiencing it yourself over and over. And to be honest, why torture yourself like that?
What I do recommend is that you can still watch the news but give yourself a timeframe. For example, get about 20 minutes in for your midday or evening (not bedtime!) news. I don’t always recommend right when you wake up or go to sleep because you want to focus on your positive thoughts for the day/night. Take that time when you wake up to breathe. Take 9 deep breaths and thank your creator/ancestors, etc. for all the good things you do have and keep it moving.
As I mentioned before, focus on positive things in your life. It could be something as simple as being able to see a beautiful sunny day. You can be thankful of supportive friends or family. You can be thankful for having a comfortable place to sleep. You can also write the numbers 1-10 in your daily journal and write down something you are thankful for by each number. By focusing on gratitude daily you develop your fortitude against adversity in your life making it easier to deal with.
Saying words of encouragement and wisdom to help keep your mind on a positive tip and fortify you with emotional strength to deal with life’s daily battles is another way to keep your head and heart lifted. Utilize inspiring words of self-love, peace, strength and more. Here is an example affirmation you can use daily:
I Am Strong
I Am Intelligent
I Am Beautiful/Handsome
I Successfully Accomplish All Good Things I Put My Mind And Heart To
It is always good to say your affirmations in the mirror and with a smile. Put on some beautiful instrumentals if you can and immerse yourself into your daily practice. You can do it once or multiple times a day. You can also write each sentence of your affirmation on index cards. Put them in a box or shuffle them and choose the empowering affirmation for the day.
Help Out In Your Local Community
Sometimes doing something positive for someone else gives us the feeling of happiness. If you see something in your community that you think could be fixed, or you simply want to do something positive for your neighbor or the elderly, go for it. Something as simple as making sure your elderly neighbor has groceries or someone to talk to is a good start. Another area that needs filling is to be a positive mentor to the youth by teaching them a new skill or encouraging education in trade or STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math). They are our future, after all. I personally enjoyed tutoring children or just being the person they needed to talk to for some guidance on things going on in their lives. Community gardens where locals can pitch in and help grow and distribute food are another way to be an asset to your local community. This is especially important in areas designated as “food deserts” where a grocery store with fresh, affordable food options are not available for miles. Looking out for each other and having each other’s back is essential.
Get Politically Involved
Do you know who your representatives are? Who is your governor, city mayor, etc.? These are important to know so that you can understand the dynamics that take place in order to make change happen on a deeper level. Changes in your city are more effected through local elections although presidential elections have their own benefit, too. For example, the president appoints judges for supreme court, court of appeals judges and more who are then confirmed by the U.S. Senate. All of these factors contribute to who help to make decisions that affect major federal laws and cases.
If you are up to the task to thoroughly study how politics works, you may wish to run for local offices to help make those important changes in your city such as with laws, prosecutions, etc. For example, Mike Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, decided to run for city council in Ferguson, MO. Keep in mind each town, city, state has slightly different rules as to how things are run so study your area carefully. Dr. Claud Anderson also has some excellent plans and resources for how we can build, develop and have better control of our communities with direct step by step plans.
Let’s be real. Dealing with the constant macro/microaggressions results in us feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted deep down inside. Not only is Racial Battle Fatigue a real thing but depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of prejudice and racial experiences is also a known issue in the African American community. Experiencing these feelings on a chronic (long time) level can wreck havoc on our bodies such as excess of the stress hormone, cortisol, ravaging our bodies making us prone to more physical sickness. I’m sure it’s one of the factors that puts us on the charts for highest levels of this or that sickness.
So what are the benefits of talk therapy for African Americans who continue to be bombarded by these micro/macroaggressions and constant news of killings and lack of true justice?
Talk therapy allows us to address our internalization and negative affects of the receiving end of racism and discrimination. With talk therapy we allow ourselves to safely release those bottled up emotions while also receiving further advice on how to better deal with what comes our way. I, for one, have utilized talk therapy to help me cope with a variety of everyday issues and I can attest to how well it has worked for me. I was dealing with some serious overload of aggressions from white peers at school in suburbia. It was so bad that I was extremely stressed and I was losing hair. I was extremely anxious and angry and I didn’t want to go to school. Going to therapy has allowed me an outlet for those negative emotions that was taking a destructive toll on my body. Seeing a therapist allowed me to release those emotions I was holding on to. I began to have a more positive outlook and incorporate new techniques in order to develop a better resistance to what I was experiencing. It also allowed me to learn to let go of things I could not change and focus on what I could. From then on I utilized more positive outlets such as immersing into the beauty of nature and diving into things such creative writing and drawing. Because of the advice given to me to help me redirect the bottled up anger, anxiety I held on to, my body begin to replace that overload of cortisol with those feel good chemicals and hormones. I began to see an improvement in hair growth and my mood had significantly improved.
Despite many positive outcomes that can come from therapy, it is not uncommon for African Americans to be reluctant to see a therapist. Oftentimes we may be told to pray about whatever is ailing our heart. While I do think the advice is well meaning and that spirituality can help with easing our worries for the time being, I still think it is important to receive therapy with a therapist/counselor who understands your situation. People generally do well with a therapist who can understand, conceptualize and sympathize with the issues of their client. So it only makes sense that having a therapist who is of the same cultural background is better able to help you than someone who only has a textbook view of your issues.
There are plenty of resources to find an affordable brother or sister therapist who can understand and help us. For example, we have Black Therapy Central, African American female therapists, and Therapy For Black Men. Different types of insurances and payment plans are available. Some places are offering free therapy support during the covid-19 pandemic. Help is available based on location. Just know you deserve the help you need and that’s just fine.
Considering the multitude of adversities we African Americans report facing in daily life in the United States, these various methods allow us constructive, positive outlets to get through life better. Taking time out to focus on the positive things, getting involved in activism, consulting with a therapist who understands your situation are some of the few out of many ways to help improve our overall feelings and situations.
Be well and remember to stay active in your self care!
As an African American, what positive steps have you taken in order to combat and find some relief from experiencing stress due to discrimination, racism and prejudice in your daily life?