Fast Company recently published a short, powerful article on the gap of black stress that’s worth reading– especially if you want to be a better mental health ally.
“We’re in a terrible position because we don’t control what is necessary to change the circumstances that will alleviate our own stress,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones recently told KC Ifeanyi in a Fast Company article about the gap of black stress. “And understanding that so much of this work is showing white Americans that they need to change the circumstances in which we live.”
The article also explains some of the new science that demonstrates the negative impact that black stress has on health. Ultimately, generational racism has a physical, measurably negative impact on health– even at the cellular level. Recognition of that disparity necessarily comes bundled with a renewed emphasis on black mental health. (Because black mental health is also, of course, negatively impacted by racism.)
“We have to, as black parents, be very honest with our children about the world that they face,” Hannah-Jones told Fast Company. “But also what we all try to do is tell them that, ‘I will try to protect you. That mommy and daddy are going to try and keep you safe, but these are the things you have to know about this world’. And this is what’s really depressing,” said Hannah-Jones.
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This is a sentiment about unique black stress that is particularly poignant and heartbreaking, and one that was recently echoed publicly by Michelle Obama. The former First Lady said in a recent episode of her new podcast that she was suffering from “low grade depression” as a result of the Trump Administration’s cruel handling of the increasingly visible racial strife in America. It’s easy to understand why.
These factors and more have led to a unique trauma. On top of the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on BIPOC populations, recent violence against black people makes the phenomenon of black stress even more troubling. The root of the problem runs deep. It has been here a long time. And society-writ-large has not yet made any meaningful, systematic attempts to weed it out.
In the interim, self-care and understanding depressive symptoms has become more critical than ever. But therapy isn’t always affordable for everyone, or accessible. For the long term, Americans in particular need to create meaningful, substantive change. We can, and we must.
Understanding The Unique Burden of Black Stress
For mental health allies, building awareness of this social disparity is critical. Stress is a universal experience, but black stress is its own particular burden. Thus, it requires its own dedicated, systemic solutions– and solidarity that isn’t performative. It requires active, anti-racist work.
“We have to tell our children things that white parents don’t,” Hannah-Jones also told Fast Company. “We have to give our children this armor that white parents don’t have to give their children. And, in a way, it takes away some of their childhood. But what choice do we have? This is generational. Four hundred years of being black in this country is having to prepare our children for a life that other Americans don’t have to deal with.”
Read the full Fast Company article here.
Related: These 7 Highly-Regarded Organizations Are Fighting for Racial Justice in America. (And they could use your donations– or even just your attention. Check them out.)
On a happier note: Listen to Sarah Blondin’s beautiful Honoring Life Meditation. It’s thoughtful, moving, and an ideal calming meditation for when you’re feeling down.