We MF Tired…And Chronically Stressed From All This Anti-Blackness

March 13, 2022

“So let me get this straight,” Haitian-American singer and actress Jessie Woo started in a recent Instagram post, “even in the midst of a war, y’all still are finding time to be racist?”

Her exasperation echoed what many of us had felt upon seeing footage of Nigerian students being denied the right to enter Austria as they attempted to flee the conflict in Ukraine. Even in the context of what might be the whitest war we’ve seen in a minute, we could not escape anti-blackness.

Call Anti-Blackness Out By Name

The term, coined in 2020, is used to distinguish between Black people’s lived experiences with racial discrimination and that of other people of color. Kim McIntosh, senior policy officer at the Runnymede Trust defines it as “the specific exclusion and prejudice against people visibly (or perceived to be) of African descent – what most of us would commonly call Black people adding that its effects are felt across multiple facets of the Black experience.

“It prevents us from enjoying or exercising fundamental freedoms on an equal footing – like the freedom to live and work free from discrimination or abuse,” she adds. But there’s another important reason why anti-blackness must be called out specifically. ‘In the same way we now accept that white women, as a group, are often complicit in the oppression of people of color,” McIntosh adds, “non-Black people of color also have a stake in the systemic injustice black people experience, and often reproduce it.’

Black People Are On Constant High Alert And It’s Affecting Our Bodies

In addition to their personal experiences with discrimination, for the last two years, African-Americans have watched the most extreme examples of anti-blackness. And it’s taking a toll. According to Yes Magazine, emerging research shows that social stress can shift the body’s ability to protect itself.  Specifically, scientists are finding that racial discrimination is actually changing the way genes code themselves, resulting in higher levels of stress hormones. 

Since these findings were consistent even when factors other stressors like poverty were taken into consideration, Yes Magazine’s research group concluded that higher instances of racial discrimination could explain why African American communities continue to deal with certain health conditions in greater numbers than their counterparts. Yes, we’re talking heart disease, which was the leading cause of death for non-Hispanic Black men in 2017, according to the CDC. But we’re also talking depression and anxiety.

Black Therapists Matter

What has emerged alongside the new studies about how anti-blackness is a realization of the importance of Black therapists. Here are just some of the reasons Black therapists matter:

  • Only 2.3% of Black or Hispanic youth see mental health professionals compared to 5.7% of white youth
  • On average, patients of color are more likely to experience racial misdiagnosis from professionals who stereotype certain mental illnesses as “white” problems. 
  • Black people are disproportionately over-diagnosed with psychotic disorders; our behaviors are stigmatized and denoted as psychological flaws. 
  • Patients of color, specifically young people, often don’t receive mental health resources that cater to the intersection of our cultural and psychological needs

“As a Black woman, having a black woman therapist allows you the freedom to be yourself,” Tola Lowal tells AfroPunk. “You can let your hair down, and speak with trust and freely about your troubles without feeling like you are a stereotype.” Lawal’s organization Gyrl Wonder is working to provide more mental health resources for college-aged women.

Because above all else, you need the support of people who see you and can recognize anti-blackness as trauma.