Racism comes in several forms and is an unfortunate everyday reality for many people. Whether you have first-hand experience or witnessed discrimination toward someone else, racism can be deeply damaging to mental and physical health. While it’s not always avoidable, there are ways of dealing with racism that can help you minimize the harmful effects of race-related stress.
Read on to learn how to deal and cope with racism that you or a loved one has experienced. Having the tools provided, like online therapy, can help ensure that you’re powerful and resilient the next time you encounter senseless and destructive acts of racism.
Research shows that instances of racism can have a cumulative effect. Over time, the stress of racial discrimination can lead to psychological distress. Some studies suggest it can even potentially increase the risk of physical health issues.
The consequences of racism can be severe, which is why it’s so essential we all make a concerted effort to find ways of coping with racial stress. The following tips can help navigate how to deal with racism.
Create a support network
Race-related stress is an issue that many people struggle with. You probably know many others who are grappling with the same emotions you’re dealing with right now. A strong social support system can mitigate the effects of emotional distress and remind you that you’re not alone.
Work to strengthen your connections with family members and close friends. Widen your social circle by joining or creating a group where you can meet others with similar experiences. For example, you could start a book club that reads books by BIPOC authors.
Share your feelings
You don’t have to respond to racist jokes or comments directly if it’s uncomfortable or feels unsafe, but talking to others about what you’re going through can help. Racism isn’t your fault, and you don’t carry the sole burden of solving it, but it can be an isolating and lonely experience for many. Sometimes expressing your feelings can help you feel a little bit less alone.
Above all else, you should never feel ashamed to talk about it, especially if you need solidarity or to feel like someone understands you and what you’re going through. Studies show that discussing your feelings with people who’ve had similar experiences can dramatically lower stress levels.
Don’t hesitate to send a message to a trusted friend after a difficult incident. If you cannot discuss your feelings right away, you can also recount your experience by journaling for your mental health.
Document and report racist behavior
Whether you experience racism in the workplace, at school, or online, it’s essential to document and report instances of racist behavior. Collect evidence that supports your experience. This could include screenshots of racist messages or images of signs or racist displays.
You can keep track of verbal comments by creating a paper trail. Note the incident’s time, the date, and what was said. Compiling evidence can help ensure that your claims are taken seriously when confronting racist bullying.
Embrace your cultural identity
Connecting to your heritage can strengthen your sense of self. Building pride in your cultural identity helps you avoid racial imposter syndrome and cope with racial stress. If you don’t know much about your background, it’s never too late to learn.
Sign up for classes that will teach you more about your culture. Forge connections with other people who have a similar background. The more you learn about your culture, the easier it can be to express your pride in who you are.
Seek out opportunities for activism
If you’re rightfully upset or angry about racial harassment, try channeling those feelings into direct action. There are many ways to support racial justice, whether you join local groups, participate in protests, or donate to causes you support.
For some, activism can be draining, but others find it empowering. Find ways to get involved if you want to feel like you’re making a difference. Tackling racism can be difficult, so it’s important to note that while activism has many benefits, you should never hesitate if you need to take a step back if you’re feeling drained.
Take steps to protect your health
“First of all, know that racism is not your place to solve or fight as a BIPOC as that can be exhausting. Some things that can help include: practicing self-care (exercise, meditation); recognizing you don’t need to perform to make others feel good around you; writing down places, people, or things that are triggering to you; talking to someone you trust; picking your battles when confronting racism or taking in negative content.”
– Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
One of the best ways to combat the effects of racial trauma is to focus on self-care. Ensure you’re eating nutritious meals and getting plenty of rest each night. Set aside time for stress-relieving activities that you genuinely enjoy. Meditation, yoga, and exercise are all great ways to relieve stress and reset your energy.
Physical activity is a highly effective way to boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve your health. Whether you dance, go for a walk, or hit the gym with friends, look for fun ways to get more exercise.
Being an ally means that you choose to stand alongside the BIPOC community and fight to end racism and discrimination. There are many ways to be an effective ally and support people dealing with racism.
Listen and learn
As an ally, the most important thing you can do is listen to what people from oppressed or marginalized communities have to say. Actively seek educational resources like books, speeches, classes, documentaries, and podcasts. Becoming aware of and acknowledging your own racial biases (which we all have to some degree) means you can begin to work towards overcoming them.
When you interact with people directly, focus on listening rather than speaking. While you shouldn’t hesitate to provide support, avoid talking over or assuming you already know what members of marginalized communities are feeling or thinking.
Speak up and intervene
If you witness racial discrimination, don’t stay silent. Provide support to targets of racial abuse. When you hear racist comments, don’t hesitate to call them out.
Silence allows oppression to thrive. Use your voice to challenge racism. Make it clear that you won’t tolerate racial discrimination.
Amplify BIPOC voices
There are many powerful messages from marginalized communities that aren’t being heard. Instead of focusing on what you might have to say, try to boost these voices.
Consider inviting a BIPOC speaker to an upcoming event. Share articles, books, and other content from BIPOC creators. Donate to local organizations focused on racial injustice. Try to spread important messages to as many people as possible.
“Take the lead from BIPOC when possible. Speak up when and if an opportunity arises to educate white individuals about racism and discrimination. Learn about your biases and work through them.”
– Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Coping With Effects of Racism Through Talkspace
Experiencing racial discrimination can cause lasting trauma. Learning how to deal with racism, however, can help us begin to minimize the damage. There are many ways to combat the effects of racism, from turning to a support network to focusing on self-care, to being an ally in the face of injustice.
If racial discrimination is taking a toll on your mental health, or if you see it affecting someone you know, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Therapy can be an effective resource that helps you challenge the racism you might feel or see in your community.
At Talkspace, you can connect with a therapist who can offer some much-needed support. With the guidance you’ll get through therapy, you’ll be able to develop coping strategies that will help you in every aspect of your life.
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