For people of color, May 2020 was our tipping point. On May 5th we learned of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery - killed February 23, 2020 while jogging. The DA’s office made no arrests. May 5, 2020 a video was posted on a local radio station’s website and went viral. Three weeks later on May 25th another Black man was murdered by another member of the majority – Mr. George Floyd. Our country has been intensely divided ever since. Members of the African American community have suffered voluminous amounts of grief throughout the centuries which continues and until May 25, 2020 had been denied and contested by the American majority.
Psychological traumas were produced by brutal kidnappings, centuries of enslavement, the fight for freedom which alone included several agonizing steps such as the Emancipation Proclamation, establishing the 13th Amendment, multiple Civil Rights Acts, 14th and 15th Amendments and Jim Crow laws. Slavery and racism have created socioeconomic disparities associated with poor health, including mental. (These poor health outcomes persist as evidenced by the number of African Americans who were infected and perishing at higher rates with COVID 19.) In addition, Negroes were illiterate until the 1900’s, rendering them unqualified to perform a host of occupations and thus impoverished. Segregation, riots, the mass killings of African Americans, lynchings, and the overuse of force by law enforcement created a climate of paranoia, angst, sadness, emotional turmoil.
As African-Americans, this has been our baseline, our starting point before COVID 19 ravished our communities – physically, emotionally and financially. In less than three months 41% of Black businesses shut down. COVID 19 exacerbated our pre-COVID issues. Self-quarantine and social distancing caused additional stress, sadness and nervousness.
While the plight of the Negro has a timeline filled with trauma and simultaneously one that has created strengths, bonds, and dynamism achieved in the face of insurmountable odds and suffering experienced by no other race of people in the history of mankind, the mental injury will take time and work to overcome. But we can take steps toward recovery by utilizing and accessing mental healthcare services available to us today like at no other time in our history. Let us lay the groundwork for real change and seek solutions to mental illness and emotional distress. Let us start by ending decades of shame and the stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare, and encourage those who need help, to get help.
The rat race in America has slowed. We now have a chance to embrace family, friends, rest and to be thankful for more than one second for the things that we take for granted. Make good use of this time by realigning your energy, slow down and check on family and friends. Also, appreciate the air you’re breathing and thank God for life! Use anxiety to energize you - become more organized, motivated, be reminded of your purpose! If you cannot channel the anxiety into positive energy, reach out for help.
Control what you can. A lot of ‘this’ is not in our control but there are many things which are. TAKE CONTROL! Practice gratitude. And always keep your sense of humor.