This is the face of a black woman in America. This is the face of a person who is having difficulty reconciling raising a daughter who is culturally sensitive with one who is also socially aware with racial pride. This is the face of a black woman who worries about her husband daily – a “big black man with dreadlocks” and the antithesis of Eurocentric values visually. This is the face of a woman who is trying to make sense of the current state of affairs in the United States of America.
The events in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend were disturbing to say the least. Not sure if I just love a good argument or was taught to always develop empathy but my readings led me to consider what would motivate a person to become a racists. A complicated and painful history of racial conflict that has yet to be resolved created a vacuum. The empty space is being filled with hate based rhetoric on all sides. Minority groups feel the need to develop a strong cultural identity and speak up against years of oppression. Groups who’s purpose is to protect white history rallied together at an event with the purpose to protect a Confederate monument. Some of white America feels attacked; they are being torn down much like the monuments of Confederate generals.
In a brief search, there were few articles about how racism impacts the mental health of the oppressor. I did find an article in Psychology Today from 2010 stating self-esteem, positive distinctiveness (group importance), survival, and meaning may be the pay off from racist ideals. If there is a “me” then “you” are different and therefore not the priority. Unchecked this can fuel a belief system demonizing anything that is “other”. From scanning online bios of White Supremacists such as Richard Spencer, organizational premises of the Nationalist Front or The League of the South, and various news articles I believe a climate of fear is apparent. There is a message that protection is needed because the changing face of America does not protect their interests.
The issue with this is the idea only white America is entitled to the American dream. “Their” (white supremacist) interests are entrenched in a history of exclusion, violence, and oppression. Racists ideals need a group to hate to feel powerful, confident, and to have meaning. Survival of the fittest. This statement highlights the narcism a group needs to consider itself the fittest and the behavioral motivation to dominate another group to survive. On a micro level, the individual feels directly attacked by their neighbor based solely on group identity even before a “hello” is exchanged.
Mental Health of Racists
Based on the ideas described above I sense the generational impacts of depression and anxiety on all people groups trying to develop an identity in a nation whose story if full of slanderous speech. Racially, economically, sexually (gender presentation), and a multiple of other -lys America has divided itself culminating in internal unrests. National mental health trickles down to the individual. I glanced at Hillbilly Elegy and plan to read it to learn more about a group of people that are so different from me. What I gathered from online descriptions is that perceived limited access to resources impacts white people as well as other minority groups and motivates each generation to try to do better. When you feel unable to provide for your family poor coping skills such as alcoholism and increased vulnerability for mental health issues undoubtedly happen.
I believe if we can heal on the individual level we can heal as a nation. If each of us tackle self-doubt, feelings of hopelessness, paranoia that “others” are out to get us, or other false cognitions we can build a nation of individuals who feel empowered to produce. We will be healthy enough to have difficult conversations that produce actual change for the human race as a whole. With self-empowerment there is no need to base your self-worth, as an individual or as a group, on the back of hate based rhetoric.
Take some time to investigate ways you make yourself feel better by making others feel small. Heal the individual, heal the whole.
NEED HELP APPLYING THESE PRINCIPLES IN YOUR LIFE? MEET WITH ME PRIVATELY.
Sometimes we can “therapize” ourselves and other times we can not seem to figure out why things are so difficult. If you would like to meet with me to explore ways to become your best self, feel free to contact me (http://www.elisedaviscounseling.com). I offer individual therapy in private, comfortable spaces in Raleigh, NC and Durham, NC. Information about cost of services, insurance options, and availability can be found on the website.
If you are interested in integrating movement through yoga into your therapy process or personalized workshops please contact me via the same website.
E.N.D. Pain. Let go. Live,
Elise Nicole Davis