Continuous riots and acts of violence spotlight the topic of racism in America. Questions of racial injustice, acts of hatred, and personal safety have been thrust back into the center of our national dialogue.
The outcome of the election and other frustrations have left many Americans wondering what causes racism to persist in our society, and what psychological implications it has on our communities.
At the center of racism lies three concepts: ignorance, self-appointed superiority, and fear. Dividing the world into “us” and “them” is so powerful and results in an unwillingness to appreciate the benefits of diversity, as well as instills a fear of people who are different. As we evolved as a species, fearing people who were different became a way of survival. However, with the world being more connected than ever, this way of thinking has become extremely problematic and irresponsible.
America prides itself on being the melting pot of different cultures, but the way we welcome newcomers or change is a contradiction to that image. As long as the attitudes of privilege and superiority are supported, racism and the fear of the unknown will continue.
The psychological toll racism takes on its victims is ongoing. Dr. Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, a psychologist at Georgetown University, explained that people can become depressed, fearful, and anxious. Many have trouble sleeping because they are unable to settle down. They remain hypervigilant of their surroundings and feeling safe becomes a concept, not a reality.
The consequences of racism are very real and it is important to reach out for help or create a strategy to move forward. If you or someone you know has been victimized, here are some tips that may help:
· Know your worth. Racist comments come from a previous bias or experience, not from you. It’s important to know your worth and what you offer. Doing this will quickly help you find the ignorance in racial statements.
· Focus on your positive. Whatever you choose to focus your thoughts on-grows. Allowing negative comments to consume you is a waste of your energy and gives merit to uninformed individuals. Focus on your positive and the untrue and negative comments will soon fade.
· Grieve and regroup. Feeling hurt after experiencing racism (or perceived racism) is normal and it’s important to not be ashamed. Share your experience with loved ones to help realize the comments say more about them then they ever could about you. Resist bitterness and anger. Most of all resist retaliation.
· Live for your purpose. Begin each day with a well-established confidence in your purpose on this planet. You’ve been purposefully placed exactly where you are to create a positive impact on the world.
· Forgive. Life is short and forgiveness is a must. When we choose not to forgive, we only hurt ourselves.
When hatred and negativity are the focus of many national discussions, it can be hard to see the positive progression being made. We are moving forward and our continued fight for equality has brought us closer than ever before.
Authors: Dr. Jada Jackson and Dani James (Intern)