Breathe and Stop: Combating Racial Fatigue
By: Nya Wilson
I’ve been tired since 2006. That’s when I started high school in Moscow, PA and experienced racism first hand. There were several cringeworthy moments—like hearing racial slurs when I boarded the school bus, finding KKK written on my desk, and earning detention for advocating against ignorance. Some classmates seemed to tolerate my blackness although I would never be allowed to hang out in their home, while others couldn’t stray from what was taught at home. I sat with a new group of students each year wondering if I were truly being accepted. And despite feeling small, I maintained a 4.0 GPA; tutored algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; participated in student clubs; and joined the Track & Field team. I learned to believe that the bruises are part of the journey, along with expectations that my energy swell although I’m truly tired.
Now I realize those years prepared me for the battles ahead. The microaggressions, overt limitations, and false narratives that diminish the value of black contributions transcend time and space. Whiteness traded its classroom for the workplace and beyond, filling spaces with systematic oppression. Professor William A. Smith at the University of Utah sums up this dynamic perfectly as “racial fatigue” and recognizes the psychological effects of these spaces favoring our white counterparts. Accurate. Fighting tirelessly through personal and social trauma remains culturally relevant for black men and women, because what challenges have we not overcome!? We are masters at protecting our community and advocating for societal change. We dream of safe spaces and our blackness being seen as a light worthy of all we deserve. So much so that #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy are a thing, but how much of that energy is spent on protecting our own peace?
The causes that demand our attention are often in relationship to spaces that serve someone else, whether that’s wanting to be heard in the workplace to advance its mission or creating visibility for impacted communities. Black Lives Matter as does our wellness. The news headlines, rejections, and racial stressors seem to support the narrative that we’re not allowed to pause before championing the next issue. Fake news. Taking a moment to recharge is a powerful decision because you have the opportunity to pause and identify your own needs amidst the surrounding chaos. Give yourself permission to just be, to stop fighting and nurture your personal healing while gaining deepened awareness for what guides your next steps forward. How you show up within the community, workplace, and wherever else will be as rich as how you show up for yourself.
Here are three affirmations to help you keep that same energy with your personal wellness:
I am gentle with my journey. Much of what happens around us is traumatizing and disheartening. We have the power to give ourselves that gentleness that we seek in society by turning inward and becoming aware of our personal journey. Decide what gentle means to you and find peace in solitude.
I honor my personal truths. There is unconditional compassion in solitude. This is your moment to acknowledge how the experience of racial fatigue has impacted you emotionally, mentally, and physically. Give language to these feelings and identify inner truths that have been otherwise buried.
I protect my emotional wellbeing. Once we become aware of our experience and connect with self, we can put our wellbeing into practice. Create boundaries and intentionally nurture your healing with activities that promote joy. This includes journaling, speaking with a therapist, and knowing when to say no.
Although the black experience isn’t monolithic, we are equally exhausted. We continue to learn what others are capable of beyond what they are willing to admit to themselves. Some folks shy away from these uncomfortable conversations because their character is challenged, forcing them to act differently or unabashedly own their prejudices. May your accountability reach personal depths so that you unabashedly own your mental and emotional health.
About the Author
Nya founded Dialogue Nyne LLC to nurture and empower justice-related populations through meaningful self-care practices. She recognizes self-care as an active reflection tool for heightened awareness, potential, and emotional intelligence. Nya earned a BS in Television, Radio & Film from Syracuse University and a Master of Communication from Bond University in Australia. Journaling for self-discovery and devouring Reese's Cups bring her great joy.