I am a Black woman. I am a mother, sister, daughter, aunt and friend. I am an American. I am a corporate professional. I am an entrepreneur.
The recent murders of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have had an adverse effect on my feelings of safety, security and comfort as a Black person in America.
The feelings of grief and fear for my own safety, and those of my family and loved ones, are serving to compound the stress of adjusting to shelter in place arrangements, the persistent threat of COVID-19, potential economic uncertainty, and the need for heightened vigilance against police brutality.
I AM TIRED.
Some days, it’s hard to get up in the morning because I am not sure what the new day will bring. My head hurts, my body aches, and I feel like I’ve been in a physical fight. At first, I attributed the pain to stress, but was introduced to the term “racial battle fatigue” through a webinar focused on responding to microaggressions presented by Dr. Frank Harris II and Dr. Luke Wood of the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement (CORA).
If you’re unfamiliar with Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF), it is a concept first developed by Critical Race theorist William Smith to describe the long-term effects of the psychological warfare caused by consistent exposure to racism, discrimination and microaggressions. A few ways that RBF can present itself are in the form of headaches, body aches, gastrointestinal issues, as well as mood swings and insomnia. I encourage you to read more about RBF in this article by Morgan Taylor Goodwin.
I am not the only person that feels this way, but maybe you’ve not had the space or opportunity to have a conversation with a Black co-workers to hear about their experience first-hand.
IT IS A LOT TO HANDLE.
Just so that we’re clear, this is not a cry for pity or a request for you to treat me differently if we happen to encounter one another in a virtual meeting. In my professional experience, when I may have been having a bad moment or day and didn’t react in the expected manner, I was labeled difficult or angry, or as “having a bad attitude.” No space or grace was provided. Enduring that type of snap judgment repeatedly is demoralizing, infuriating and unfair.
Keep this in mind when having a conversation with your Black employees and peers right now. Ask how they are doing and assume positive intent instead of assuming the worst about their character in times of adversity. Extend the same courtesy and consideration you would want when navigating rough waters.
DON’T EXPECT MORE GRACE THAN YOU AFFORD.
The times that we are living in grow more uncertain by the day and we are all learning how to survive. Survival for me and other Black employees is going to look different than it does for you. Honestly, another Black employee’s experience may differ greatly from my own. In honor of our collective humanity and multitudinous experiences, I will provide space for that person to feel, speak and react without judgment.
Use this as a first step toward answering the question of “What should I say to a Black person when a racial injustice occurs?”
I hope this message gives you a different perspective to consider as we all try to find our way in this difficult time in America. I am sincerely grateful to those of you that attended (or plan to attend) a protest, had conversations with your peers/family members or supported causes committed to equality and equity during this time.
Stay safe. My family and I will do our best to do the same, against all odds.