What white people and other allies do in conversations about the mental health effects of racism matters.
What white people and other allies do in conversations about the mental health effects of racism matters.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were inflection points. The pain of centuries of racial wounds has driven weeks of protests over police brutality. The Black community has been screaming “Black Lives Matter” for a long time now, and finally, their voices are being heard.
Race is, and should be, at the forefront of conversation all over the country. But this can be a challenging time for those who have experienced racial trauma. Here’s what not to say.What is racial trauma?You can think of racial trauma as the psychological and physical impacts of racism, both interpersonal and structural, according to Jennifer M. Gómez, assistant professor of psychology at Wayne State University and a faculty member at the university’s Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development.
Acts that can trigger racial trauma range from slurs and open discrimination to health care disparities and police profiling, Gómez said. Racial trauma has “similar outcomes to domestic violence, like depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, PTSD, insomnia, physical health problems, the gamut,” she explained. headtopics.com
Because not every interaction or every system is labeled by the victim as racist, someone may also internalize that pain in a personal way. This can lead to self-doubt and a lack of trust in people and systems like health care and criminal justice, according to Georica Gholson, a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C.
“They will think, for instance, ‘I’m not going to go to lunch with these people because I don’t trust them’ — and those people could be potential supporters or potential friends,” Gholson said.Many who have experienced racial trauma could also be dealing with irritability or mood swings. “The root of it is oppression, just being tired of it,” she said.
Racial trauma is common and consistent, noted Ashley McGirt, a therapist specializing in racial trauma.“It’s similar to PTSD, but it’s different in that it reoccurs,” she said. “Usually, PTSD [arises from] a singular event — although sometimes, it may reoccur in like domestic violence, for instance. Racial trauma is the ongoing reoccurrence of race-based traumatic experiences.”
It’s going to work and experiencing race-based microaggressions, for example, and then coming home to see a news story about police brutality against a Black man.martin-dm via Getty ImagesDon’t dismiss or minimize someone’s experience.It’s important to be mindful of what you say to someone who may have experienced racial trauma. First, don’t be dismissive of a person’s experiences, said Michael James Nuells, an actor and special events manager in Los Angeles. headtopics.com
“I’ve repeatedly felt in many cases unwanted, unheard and unsupported,” he said. He’s been told, “Things will get better,” “You’re going to be just fine,” and “I’m praying for you.” None of these dismissive phrases comforted him, he said.Don’t say, “Oh, maybe that person didn’t mean it that way,” Gholson added. “Or, ‘Oh, she does the same thing to me.’ Minimizing what is happening is kind of like gaslighting. You are telling someone their experience isn’t what it is and ignoring certain actors that have been historically relevant since the beginning of this country.”
Veronique Ehano, a Ph.D. candidate in politics and international relations, recalled experiencing “stares, racially motivated negative remarks and ill treatment” while working overseas in Vienna.“In the event of vocalizing my discomfort and maltreatment, my significant other at the time simply dismissed my concerns as fictitious incidents created in my mind,” she said. Her partner said things like, “Oh, come on, that wasn’t directed towards you. She didn’t mean that in a bad way. It’s not what you think. Just ignore those comments. They’re just ignorant.”
Minimizing and dismissing is what saying “All Lives Matter” does as well. Gómez said to imagine that everyone is served dinner at a large gathering, except Jane. She is left out. You wouldn’t say, “Everyone deserves dinner.” You would advocate for equal treatment of Jane. This is why “Black Lives Matter” exists.
“We are saying that Black people are being abused, raped, beaten, killed, and to the extent that anyone survives that, there’s this huge mass incarceration problem, there’s all these different things,” Gómez said. “Saying ‘All Lives Matter’ removes all of that context and says it’s not about racism.” headtopics.com
Similarly, don’t brush off the ongoing reality of racism itself. “Don’t minimize the effects of racism,” saidBrittany Johnson, a licensed mental health counselor from New Albany, Indiana.“For instance, saying, ‘I don’t see color.’ ‘Slavery was abolished years ago.’ ‘We’re all equal,’” she said. “We call that microinvalidation.”
Don’t make it about you.For white people in particular, don’t proclaim shock over acts of racism and don’t go on and on about not realizing how bad things have been for Black people or other people of color, Gómez said.“It reminds people that white people exist in a different world than we do, and they have the luxury to not be aware,” she explained.
Visible shock also highlights the fact that Black and other marginalized people have been saying, “Hey, racism is a problem,” for years. “And white people have said, ‘Oh, not really,’ or ‘You’re overreacting’ or ‘being too sensitive,’” Gómez added.
“We as a collective have been saying this is a problem for decades and decades. Your shock can seem almost insulting,” she said.The additional element is that it shifts the focus toward you. “If I’m the target of racial trauma, you telling me about your shock or white guilt then pulls focus and centralizes white people’s perspective and kind of by definition erases the Black perspective as one that should be discussed,” Gómez explained.
Another way of shifting focus is when you try to empathize with racism even though you don’t have a comparable experience.“When people say that they understand, it can be a bit triggering — particularly if it’s coming from someone white or privileged in certain respects and there’s a power dynamic happening,” Gholson said. “It can feel like, OK, you’re saying that to appease me and not because you genuinely understand. Or you just don’t understand because of your position.”
Gholson said to try this instead: “I’ve never experienced that, and I don’t quite understand it because it hasn’t been an experience I’ve had, but I do understand the frustration. It makes sense why you feel dejected or dehumanized.”She said to “validate the feeling versus joining in on it.”
Don’t ask a victim to educate you.It can be retraumatizing for a victim of racial trauma to be asked to explain their worldview and experiences to you ― but, of course, there might be a time where asking questions about a person’s experience is important. How you approach this is key.
“I think always starting off conversations with ‘You don’t have to answer the question if you don’t want to’ is good,” Gholson said. “And for a lot of people, including myself, who’ve experienced racial trauma, going out there yourself and doing some of the work, reading certain books, going to community meetings where there’s predominantly Black people and hearing their concerns, doing that work on the front end and coming with a deeper understanding is important.”
That way, you are not asking for an education. You are seeking instead to engage, showing commitment and going deeper.“For instance, [say] ‘I read this book, and it was really fascinating,’” Gholson said. “It shows that you’ve taken the time, and you’re not coming to the conversation with the perspective of ‘What can you teach me? You do the academic and emotional labor while I just sit back and receive it.’”
It’s impossible to know everything that might be triggering to someone who’s experienced racial trauma. Learning to be acompassionate listenercan help.“Regardless of what you say, it might land wrong, because things are so stressful,” Gómez said. “We have to have that sort of be OK.”
It’s better to try to be a good ally and stumble than to not try to be an ally at all.martin-dm via Getty ImagesHow white people, in particular, can be allies.If you’re white and have never considered racism, now is the time. Read more: HuffPost Parents »
Gavin Newsom holds onto his job as California governor, CNN projects
California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has defeated the effort to remove him from office, according to a projection from the CNN Decision Desk, capping off a recall effort that was born in partisan anger over his pandemic response but ended with a vote of confidence in his strategy to combat it.
Just like how people are calling white females Karen's 🙄 There is only one race Like Being smeared as a Karen by the media and black people? When you say white people, do you mean every single person who is not of a minority? What do you mean by white people? Do all white people behave in the same manner and have the same beliefs and intelligence?
The Huff is nauseating. I really wish white progressices were just honest about their own bigotry and racism instead of acting like they care about minorities as anything other than pets Racism is racism. Every race has experienced it either firsthand or secondhand. Segregating races is racist. Separating the races because you view one as superior/inferior is racist.
With Progressivism you may want to Fix that Mental Disorder First! Ocado has placed all customers in a 'virtual queue' after a weekend of technical failures. So white people have NEVER suffered any of this? Hahahahahaha
17 Hamilton-Themed Things For Superfans Whose Love For The Show Will ~Never Be Satisfied~You better believe someone made a shot glass that says 'I am not throwing away my shot' on it. eItonjon 👀 Mrs_DeLaParra TWMAMA
I laugh when blacks use racial slurs against me. Black fragility is wild. People dying to come to America from 3rd world countries, listening to the American racebaitors. FCUK OFF!!!! Bernie what do you think about mount Rushmore? Don't EVER say: 'They should have complied.' I am so tired of hearing white people say that even in light of PoliceBrutality evidence.
White people don’t have allies anymore, do we? Get over it Tough Ignore it
Facebook admits to improperly giving user data to third-party developers, againNo, you're not having déjà vu. Again? Shocking... Lower your expectations and you won't be so disappointed next time. oh really? people still use facebook?
Getting a Cat Was the Best Thing I Could Have Done to Manage My Mental HealthHaving grown up surrounded by animals and as someone with anxiety and depression, I briefly thought about getting a therapy cat before moving away to college
This Is What Racial Trauma Does To The Body And Brain Racism , injustice and brutality — experienced directly and indirectly — can have a lasting effect on a person's mental health.
12 Ways Black Therapists Personally Deal With Racial TraumaMental health experts share how they process racism and brutality, along with the self-care methods helping them in this moment.
Black People Are Experiencing Vicarious TraumaWhile some people were hopeful that recording police violence against Black people would prove it’s a systemic problem, the videos have mostly served to traumatize Black viewers. Then stop rioting and u won’t get tramatized