By Clayton Gutzmore | The Atlanta Voice | Word In Black
(WIB) – A trait that many Black people have in common is resilience. Part of the reason why is that most people of color are combating racism in its many forms on a daily basis. Whether it’s dealing with systemic racism or the microaggressions that occur in the workplace. Some Black people are reaching their limits. This leads to exhaustion or what can also be known as “Black Fatigue.”
Black Fatigue levels have been reported on by the American Heart Association. Experts weigh in on how this subject is taking a toll on the Black community and why we should not underestimate it.
“You should take Black Fatigue seriously, because it’s killing people. It’s killing their mind, body, and spirit. We are misdiagnosed, in terms of some of the mental stresses, and oftentimes told that our pain is not as great,” said Mary Frances Winters, CEO and founder of the Winters Group Incorporated.
Black Fatigue is the exhaustion from small acts of aggression and disrespect Black people endure on a daily basis. Other stressors that lead to Black Fatigue are the endless need to prove one’s worth and constant exposure to news about injustice and violence being inflicted on people of color. Winters describes the feeling of Black Fatigue as “a dull droning sound that is always present.”
Winters is an expert in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She released a book called “Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind Body and Spirit” in 2020. The book explores this subject more and reveals why this problem has been perpetuated.
“I was going into organizations to do training, and strategy sessions about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Younger Black people would approach me and say that they’re exhausted and tired of having to deal with the microaggressions in the workplace. I was like, ‘You’re 25-years-old. How are you tired already?’ They gave me a look, but with respect, they responded, ‘Hey, I know, but I’m tired.’ If these young people in the workplace are fatigued, at 25, 30-years-old, that means this is an intergenerational problem that has been perpetuated over and over,” Winters said.
One symptom of Black Fatigue is high levels of stress. Too much stress can play a role in heart disease and diabetes, among other ailments. Black Fatigue also taps into one’s feelings of inadequacy.
According to the report, psychotherapist Aishia Grevenberg said Black Fatigue will have one internalizing the stereotype of deficiency. Many Black professionals feel the pressure to prove they are worthy. Grevenberg and her clients were raised with the narrative they’d have to be twice as good to be considered half as good.
Rest is a protest.AISHIA GREVENBERG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized that racism is a threat to public health. The American Heart Association has another report from 2020 that discusses how structural racism-based stress can lead to long-lasting damage to the body and brain. Winters believes medical schools and institutions need to highlight the relationship between racism and our health outcomes. A recent moment of Black Fatigue that Winters felt was her discomfort of going to the store after the Dollar General shooting in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I think we sometimes as people don’t even recognize the relationship between racism and our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. I was in a Dollar General store thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Wow three people were killed at a Dollar General store last week just because they were Black.’ That is extra unnecessary stress just for going outside,” Winters said.
Black Fatigue is a complex issue with no simple solution. Winters says solving the Black Fatigue problem involves changing the whole system. A step you can apply is to know your triggers. Winters set boundaries for herself by not watching anything about racism because she needs a reprieve from the race-related work she does every day. Winters encourages finding your triggers and walking away from them with no guilt. Grevenberg recommended rest and giving yourself permission to back away from the pursuit of perfection.
“Rest is a protest. It’s revolutionary, and it’s a sign that says I am human. I tell every single person I work with, ‘Have a snack and take a nap,’ Grevenberg wrote in the report.
For those who want to be an ally against this issue. Listening to your colleagues of color is a great step. Grevenberg explained in the report that being an ally is about providing a safe presence, someone who can validate experiences. She further explains being present while listening and asking questions for understanding.
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