Racism & White Supremacy: How These Pervasive Systems Affect the Mental Health and Well-being of
Here at Symmetry Solutions we have watched in horror as we witnessed the murder of George Floyd, especially in the context of an ongoing pattern that this crime represents in our country. We have also watched in horror as institutions in power continue to incite violence: police brutality, harassment of peaceful protestors, and the chronic silencing of voices of color to name a few. We are fiercely committed to anti-racism work and advocacy.
We have learned that identifying our social location is an important part of anti-racism work. To that end it is important for us to acknowledge that a large percentage of our clients and providers come from a not very diverse Western-North-American Mormon background. We are continuing to educate ourselves through the writings, research, and classes given by therapists of color and hope to point our readers toward this important work so that we can learn together.
Here we provide a quick summary of some of the things we are learning. Our hope is that by providing a summary you will follow the links provided and learn more about this research.
Experiences of racism have very serious negative impacts on the mental and physical health of black Americans. 88% of black Americans say they experience racism and see it as a serious problem. Experiencing racism results in increased levels of anxiety, depression, anger and sadness. Research indicates that the painful effects of racism arise from feeling a loss of control, internalization, and not doing valuable activities to avoid the stress of racism.
Just as one example: most of us believe in the value of hard work, but because systematic racism does not reward equal work with equal rewards, a feeling of hopelessness and lack of control often results. Further, many messages embedded in the system tell the story that there is something wrong with the person. Either they didn’t work hard enough, or they didn’t do something right rather than acknowledging that the system is unfair. Both the unfairness of the system and the blame that gets directed at the person can result in that person avoiding the work they wanted to do, and/or potentially feeling like they are at fault. This type of situation can be a daily experience for many.
To future complicate the problem, there are many more obstacles for black Americans in obtaining mental health services, including fewer black clinicians, few clinicians trained in therapeutic anti-racism, and many white clinicians who actually increase the anxiety and stress of their black clients. Specifically, many white counselors reinforce the system by ignoring or denying the experiences of racism as reported by their clients. Here at Symmetry Solutions we are committed to being part of the solutions black members of our community need from mental health clinicians and wellness coaches.
Read more here about understanding white privilege and what actionable things can be done by white allies
Read more about coping strategies for living with racism in this article by black clinicians:
Please be sure to watch this week's Symmetry Solutions Strategies Facebook Live Video. Lisa Butterworth and Natasha Helfer Parker discuss racism and white supremacy and how these pervasive systems affect the mental health and well-being of our communities.