- Racial stress can damage your (or your clients') emotional and physical health.
- It can be helpful to identify the bodily signs of experiencing racial stress.
- Creating a “Racial Recovery Plan" can manage stress and trauma and improve mental health.
In the midst of repeated acts of domestic terrorism in a country founded in part on genocide and slavery, racism is baked into our lives and institutions. BIPOC experience racial trauma daily—it is insidious. And bound to keep happening.
Besides the Derek Chauvin trial or the latest Black public killings in the news, I keep hearing about “workplace racism.” Such racism is damaging because we often cannot escape jobs quickly and easily. But it makes me think: Well then, what is racism at a festival, “recreational racism?” Or, on the street, is it “sidewalk racism?” It is exhausting. We need to continue to make moves to change it but just as importantly we need to restore and recover. I have been working with clients to create plans of restoration within the first couple of sessions—a “Racial Recovery Plan” (Jernigan et al. 2015).
This week, during the heat of varying racial crises, Dr. Jessica Isom and Dr. Bryan Hotchkins discussed on Clubhouse: “When Antiracism Becomes Trauma.” They talked about “racial battle fatigue” (Smith, 2004) which is defined as a “cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distressing mental and emotional conditions. These conditions emerged from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals” (Goodwin, 2018).
Racial battle fatigue harms your emotional and physical health. If you or your clients experience ongoing racialized stress, carefully begin a racial recovery plan for today, tomorrow and the future.
We can’t often wait for institutional responsiveness in a system that is racist in a country that is historically and presently violent to Black and Indigenous and People of Color. Dr. Hotchkins instructed participants to map their surrounding geography—navigate away or reverse direction from past racist people, spaces and places. Microaggressions (more likely macroaggressions) are to be expected—where do you expect them? Where do they frequent your life? How can you find new paths to avoid them?
Do you pass confederate statues on your way to work? Does your campus have racist names on the buildings? What sources of racial triggering are you internalizing? Change it up on the days you are more racially impacted, whether from your personal, professional or social media life. Walk past Black owned businesses, instead, if you can. And, many identities (trans folx for example), may not necessarily feel safer, and so it may not work for everyone or every situation but the notion is important. Take metaphorical and physical steps to care for yourself.
What are the bodily signs you discover as you experience racial stress? What happens to your mood? Where do you feel anxious? Anger? What happens to your work output? What are the tools available to you in moments of racial stress crisis? Where do you find reprieve and who is your racial trauma recovery plan accountability partner?
We need to plan. We need to recover. We need to take off of work. We need to treat racial stress like an injury.
We should take true sick days to restore our emotions as we would if a bodily injury occurred. To tend to our physicality. Take good care of our spirits.
Jernigan, M. M., Green, C. E., Perez-Gualdron, Liu, M. M, Henze, K. T., Chen, C….Helms, J. E. (2015).#racialtraumaisreal. Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture, Chestnut Hill, MA. Retrieved from: www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/schools/Lynch School_sites/isprc/pdf/racialtraumaisrealManuscript.pdf
Racial Battle Fatigue: What is it and What are the Symptoms? by Morgan Taylor Goodwin