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‘Vigilantes’ Pushing More Black Americans Into Therapy

COD Newsroom (CC BY 2.0)

“To be a Negro in this country … is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

“Police and vigilante killings might bring up a host of emotions”

Therapists share the top concerns they’re hearing from Black Americans

July 1, 2020

Self – If you’re a Black person living in America, there’s a strong chance that systemic racism and police violence aren’t foreign concepts.

Police brutality has been a public health issue for decades, and victims like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and Sandra Bland might still be fresh in your memory.

So while the more recent string of police and racist vigilante killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain might bring up a host of emotions, they probably aren’t surprising.

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More unexpected, however, is that in light of these killings, the country seems more willing than ever to contend with how racism impacts Black lives. (And that can also trigger all sorts of interesting feelings for Black people.)

George Floyd’s killing started “a national and international crisis,” therapist Myisha Jackson, L.P.C., tells SELF. And as she points out, many of us can’t rely on our normal coping mechanisms.

Maybe the friends who usually offer you support are also too taxed emotionally, or maybe the new coronavirus pandemic has robbed you of the coping tactics you’d normally use.

Whatever the case, if you’ve found yourself grappling with a wide range of emotions, we’re here to tell you that whatever you’re feeling is valid.

Below, several therapists share the most common emotional themes they’re hearing from Black people in America. 

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1. You’re angry.

Anger is a useful and healthy emotion. In fact, it seems like an overwhelmingly appropriate reaction to videos and stories of people killed by police and white supremacists without justice. If you find yourself angry, it’s crucial to allow yourself to feel it.

“Don’t try to block out your feelings,” Jackson says, noting that many of her patients want to resist coming off as a stereotypical “angry Black person.” But as James Baldwin said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” So if nothing else, you’re in illustrious company.

2. You’re grieving.

Grief can include many emotions, including anger, sadness, numbness, and a host of other feelings. But ultimately it is elicited by the loss of something or someone important to you. Each of these deaths is a loss, and grief is a valid reaction.

“This was already a challenging time, and there has been grief that comes from the impact the pandemic has had on Black communities,” Cicely Harshom-Brathwaite, Ph.D., tells SELF, adding that you might be experiencing grief on multiple levels. Your sense of loss may also stem from “knowing that at any moment we can be killed,” she explains. In short: Grief is a reasonable reaction to being Black in America right now.

3. You’re tired, burned out, or downright exhausted.

As we’ve mentioned, the recent string of violent deaths is happening along with a pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black people … Read more. 

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