Why 'Black' Stress?
Updated: Jul 3, 2020
I started this site with specific intent to focus on black people. I was raised in a black neighborhood in Vallejo, CA that was developed by a black housing developer. I went to a black Baptist Church during my childhood. My schools were always diverse in ethnic and racial composition. My mother and grandmother intentionally instilled in me messages of 'black girl magic,' before it was a movement and hashtag. I had dolls like any young girl, but always had the Black option if there was one. I had several books, as I always loved to read, and also had books that were about Black children or authored by Black writers. They wanted me to know I belonged in this world.
As a psychologist, I know that stress is a commonly treated diagnosis. I often frame stress and anxiety as a cultural phenomenon specific to the U.S. We are often always working, striving to keep up with the demands of a capitalist society, and often have an unhealthy sense of competition. Within black communities, the prevalence of stress is even worse. Experiences of racism contribute to worsening symptoms of stress. In addition to the aforementioned themes of stress, blacks also experience a world filled with white supremacist themes that add an extra layer of significant burden. Black people have a persistent awareness of their presence in society. Extra time is spent considering hairstyles that will be "professional enough" to enter the corporate world, identifying the best attire that will be positively received in a professional setting, making sure to remind the children to stay safe with regular reminders of how to respond when approached by law enforcement, or spending energy anticipating the microaggressions and invisibility that will inevitably be experienced in the work setting.
According to the American Psychological Association, black people are 20% more likely to report stress than whites, and over 30% more likely to report anxiety or depressive symptoms. My personal belief is that is a significant underestimate, as black people are less likely to also report symptoms. My personal and ethnic background combined with my professional training are why this focus, specifically on black stress is so imperative. Black people are faced with so many disparities, including health, educational, professional and financial because of our existence in the U.S. began with us being reduced to economic chattel. Black stress is unique and requires specific, intentional approach to addressing symptoms and identifying meaningful ways to heal. That is why this site is focused specifically on black stress.
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