Our collective mental health depends on our acknowledgement and affirmation that "Black Lives Matter" because the dignity and worth of every life demands this be true. The need to affirm that “Black Lives Matter,” demonstrated in frequent protests, says a lot about who we are, our culture, and our society. We at CAPS believe the outrage is real, warranted, necessary, and brave. We would like to acknowledge the emotions that our UM community is experiencing after the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery. Your anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, and frustration are valid. While the impact is felt differently, the cry is disheartening as we continue to live in a society/culture where people of color, and specifically these two Black men, are killed. These acts of racism, now or in the past, in Minnesota or in Ann Arbor, visible or invisible, exposed on national TV or experienced daily with no one else to see, whether through words, policies, or violence, all pose serious impacts to our collective mental health.
In 2014, CAPS wrote a response in reaction to the death of Eric Garner, #BlackLivesMatter . Then again, in 2016 CAPS wrote about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, “Another day, another hashtag. You didn’t deserve this... #AltonSterling #PhilandoCastile .” Certainly not the only appalling losses in the past few years, but we highlight these two moments to name the reality and truth for many people of color in our country and students and staff of color on our campus. Creating another hashtag, being a bystander, and choosing to ignore visible disparities because they are not impacting you directly are a few of the methods that DO NOT WORK. The level of frustration and despair felt specifically by Black people and other people of color is valid and should be shared and empathized with, not questioned or criticized. Saying that you do not see color or choosing to grieve the loss of materialistic means, as opposed to the unjustifiable loss of human lives, is a clear indication of a problem that continues to feed into the existing issue of the invisibility and villainizing of Black people and people of color. The lesson, it seems for many white people, is one that takes too long to learn or is too easily forgotten. What is it that prevents this lesson from sinking in and truly changing lives? Guilt, fear, fragility, avoidance, distraction, depersonalization, or some other emotions that keep you stuck? Is it the comfortable and privileged bubble that our country and culture creates for white people? For many, as the headlines fade, the comfortable cushion grows again. For some, there are moments like these when the bubble bursts, awareness and emotions compel action, and commitments to change are made. We encourage you to explore what it means to be and how to constantly progress toward being a white ally HERE.
One of the truths we can learn is that we are all connected. The death, tragedy, and anguish felt by one person impacts us all. The unexamined privilege and perpetuation of white supremacy impacts us all. The silence of white allies impacts us all. This impact is true for our mental health as well. Although commonly seen and experienced in an individualistic way, our mental health is actually connected to everyone around us. Acts and systems of injustice anywhere find their way into our emotions. Trust in communities and those in positions of authority appear to no longer exist, because of the harm that has been inflicted by the hand of those that claim to “care.” It is not the responsibility of Black people and people of color alone to carry the weight and try to repair oppressive systems. More than ever, our community needs to see and acknowledge what is happening, and stand together. More than ever, our non-Black communities need to acknowledge that racism and white supremacy exist everywhere and fuel police brutality, which disproportionately impacts the Black community.
So today, like us at CAPS, you may be feeling a range of emotions including anger, sadness, outrage, tired, helpless, afraid, frustrated, hopeless, numb or something else. Additionally, your feelings may fluctuate over time. It is important to acknowledge your feelings, demonstrate self-compassion, and take care of yourself. Engage in activities that allow you to feel connected to who you are. Have occasional “check-ins” with yourself, assess your needs, and identify how your needs can be met.
We at CAPS encourage you to seek help when/if you need it. This can look like many different things, and a few starting points to consider may be:
Getting a sense of your current needs:
Start with meeting yourself where you are at right now. In other words, when you are ready, take a moment to identify your thoughts and emotions, if you are able. Try to acknowledge them, and use them as informative tools to guide what you need and could find helpful at the moment.
- Mindfulness is one tool that can support you in identifying, acknowledging, and moving through emotions. Dr. Candice Hargons has created two Black Lives Matter Meditations , one for healing racial trauma and another for allies and accomplices to cultivate an anti-racist mindset.
- A Family Care, Community Care, and Self-Care Tool Kit created by the Association of Black Psychologists
Finding your support/community:
Channeling your emotions into action:
Utilizing professional counseling and other services:
No doubt, there is work that needs to be done by white people in our community and around the world. For more information on how to be a White Ally:
- Please see THIS web page written by CAPS staff.
- Check out this article on the “75 Things That White People Can Do For Racial Justice”
- Review and share THIS guide for further anti-racism resources.
- Learn about the pervasive forms of white supremacy and how people consciously and unconsciously perpetuate white supremacy. For more information about this, please review THIS resource.
Our collective mental health depends on seeing and hearing things clearly. The clarity that is needed now is being able to recognize a system that was meant to keep certain groups of people down. It is a system that is impacting your emotional health.
“...I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention." Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
Finally, while we do not want to “over-resource” at this time, we also know that different things help different people at different times -- below is a list of link for additional resources:
Resources for Black Individuals and Communities
Liberate Meditation App (by and for people of color)
Books to Read
How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Dr. Robin DiAngelo
On the Experience of Racism
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
The Bridge Called My Back, Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
Many of these were compiled by the staff at the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago; we are grateful to them for sharing.
* Title from Fannie Lou Hamer