I know that many of you have been severely affected by the ongoing events in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. For the past few weeks, headlines about ongoing acts of racism, police brutality and protests have trended in the news and on social media.
For many black students, these stories, along with those that detail the impact of today’s pandemic, along with your own unique circumstances especially coupled with the COVID-19 crisis, often lead to ongoing issues called racial trauma. I found this special issue, focused on racial trauma, informative about the latest research in the area.
The university recognises that this may have an impact on your exam performance. If you would like to mitigate, you still have time to do so.
The deadline for intermediate years is 3rd July and that for finalists is the 29th June.
I wanted to also offer you some tangible ways of dealing with the impact of racial trauma. Remember, not all these things will work for you but knowing that there are coping mechanisms out there can be helpful.
Seek expert help if you need it
Some issues will need expert help. The university has a wellbeing service which may be able to offer counselling. This service relies on triaging in order to identify your needs and so it may not be ideal for some of you. I am also aware that our counselling service is not diverse as we would wish, and this is something I continue to push in all the university forums I sit on.
If you feel that the Warwick service doesn’t meet your needs, there are now a number of groups which are run by black therapists: BlackMindsmatter.
Celutions is a social enterprise that organises events and workshops on mental health primarily for black communities.
There is also a black girls camping trip that is focused on mental health of black women through outdoor pursuits.
I am hoping that these groups will only grow and that soon you will all be able to get specialist help if you need it.
Recognise the impact that these events have had on you
One of the first steps to knowing how to cope and deal with racial trauma is to first identify how these experiences are affecting you personally. In some ways you have already began to do this by recognising the possible effects of these events on your academic performance. However, it is likely these events will have much deeper impacts on mental, emotional and physical levels.
Writing about these events as part of mitigation is not likely to be cathartic, as it probably brings anxieties about assessment to the forefront, but writing your thoughts and journaling just for yourself may be helpful. It doesn’t have to be pages long, unless you want it to be. [But] just jotting down a few words to capture what you’re thinking is enough.
For some of you it may be easier to talk to a loved one, who may allow you to be vulnerable. I think many people in the black community are very attuned to the Black lives matter movement and conversations with them may help you.
Take time to unplug and engage in self care
Being inundated with headlines about racism, violence and death can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is okay to have a social media fast and not pay attention to the news for a few days. Doing this may help lower your stress. Take a mental health day when you need to and keep it free of deadlines. Give yourself the grace and space not to be as productive as you typically are.
Some of you may find meditation helpful. I have found a guided meditation created by Dr Candice Nicole in the wake of Charlottesville useful. In this guided meditation, called Black Lives Matter Meditation for Healing Racial Trauma, she guides you through a meditation that uses mindfulness, affirmation and loving kindness to “address the multiple ways racism can target black people’s well-being.”
- Racial trauma tool kit produced by Boston College.
- Duke University: The Four Bodies - A Holistic Toolkit for Coping With Racial Trauma.
- If you would like to demonstrate there is an amazing toolkit from students in Georgetown University about how you can keep safe.
- Some of you may have experienced racial gaslighting in which people (either deliberately or unwittingly) make you doubt your experiences about racism. This is a great resource with practical tools for how you can deal with this.
- Some of you may want to support brilliant Black-owned businesses in the UK (via Emily Ames).
- Stress and the black experience: John Henryism and the life threatening stress affecting black men in America.
- How the strongwoman black identity both helps and hurts.
There are two fantastic books that you should consider reading if you haven’t read them already:
- Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eno George
- Taking up Space; the Black girl’s manifesto for change by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogungbiyi