Thursday, June 11, 2015

White suprememacy and depression.

As a white person, I can't fully comprehend what it's like to be "othered" through race and culture. The only experiences I have that are somewhat comparable are gender oppression, and the prejudices/antagonism encountered for being fat. I've felt targeted and been threatened with sexual violence. I've been cussed at for being fat. None of this, however, can be compared to the insanity that is our history of white supremacy.

AlterNet has an article up on the 6 Ways White Supremacy Takes a Toll on the Mental Health of Black People. Though I knew that women are twice as likely to suffer from a mental illness than men, I didn't know that black people (this piece is written from a black American perspective) are 20 times more likely to report serious psychological distress than white people.

AlterNet interviewed several mental health professionals regarding the issue, including Erlanger Turner, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Houston-Downtown:
“Research has shown that racism has negative psychological consequences for African Americans such as increased symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.”
This isn't difficult to understand, the systemic targeting and dismissal of black voices, and the disproportionate incarceration of black men in particular is overwhelming and seems akin to cultural genocide. 

Lisa Jones, a licensed clinical social worker based in New York City:
“While racism comes in various forms, be it through personal experience or media portrayals, black people tend to feel hopeless and give up mentally, often feeling as if they are not good enough. Living in a society where there is constant portrayal of racial injustice (forms of micro-aggressions, ongoing discrimination, unarmed black people killed by law enforcement) can lead to chronic feelings of despair. Many, at times, will feel like racial issues will never be solved. Such negative and consistent thoughts can trigger severe depressive symptoms.”
The article goes on to list the upsetting realities (author's term) faced daily by black communities. It's an important read. Depression and anxiety is often warranted. Yes, there are times when it's a medical, nearly ghost-like possession that we can hardly explain, but there are also real, lived experiences that inform the way we relate to the world.

The systemic devaluation of you, your ability, and your worthiness is a heavy, devastating reality for a lot of people, especially for people of colour and those targeted as minorities of some kind.

Here, in Canada, the systemic genocide of several aboriginal generations is something we don't hear enough about. Ideally educational policy would change, and Canadians would start discussing native culture and history in our schools. The genocide of our own land shouldn't be belittled and ignored. We see this systemic genocide today, through the over-representation of native women and men in prisons, and by the pervasive issues of violence, homelessness and substance abuse in native communities.

Aboriginal women have insanely high sexual-assault and murder rates. There have been constant calls for an inquiry into the systemic roots of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and the government is quick to downplay their role in fostering the violence.

With Barack Obama himself being a black man, I have more hope for the dialogue around race and racism in the United States taking place than I do for the racism faced by Aboriginals in Canada. Harper, when asked about a possible inquiry, said flatly:
Um it, it isn't really high on our radar, to be honest.
Boom. At least Obama is engaged. This being his last term, he could really open up a dialogue, and possibly in-act real solutions. 

I say all of this with a lot of hope and I guess naiveté. 

It just seems like we're getting to a tipping point. White, rich, Christian, able-bodied, hetero-normative dudes are now the minority. . .

With every new law that allows gays to marry, with every non-normative couple adopting a child and starting a family, with every mixed-race couple, with every young person of colour going to university, with every trans person properly represented in the media, with every woman and person of colour (or gasp, both at once) in a position of power - all of it, the narrative is changing. 

A decade ago conversations of gender, sexuality, racism and class, of entitlement and privilege, of support and of being allies, all of this only ever took place in Women's Studies or activist spaces. The fact that this is taking place over social media, and in everyday spaces must be a good sign.

It must! 



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