Students, faculty, and other members from the Springfield College community came together on Monday afternoon to learn about Black mental health by being a part of the panel “Exploring racial trauma and black mental health” as part of Springfield College’s SEAT at the Table week. The panel was hosted by Allie Burdick, Dr. Angie Cartwright, Dr. Dominique Hammonds, Dr. Lani Crumb and Janee Avent Harris as a question and answer type of session.
The session began by each panelist giving their own definition of racial trauma and how this type of trauma is handled in today’s society as well as speaking about the current racial climate in 2020. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic going on right now, unwarranted police brutality has exposed the systematic racism that has been going on for hundreds of years. People of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“My definition of racial trauma is a compounding and cumulative impact of oppression, discrimination and systematic oppression that has a physical and mental health impact,” said Dr. Angie Cartweight. “There are also educational impacts of racial trauma and economical impacts as well. The cumultive impact of racial trauma really is systematic opression, covert and overt discrimination that compounds anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and physical illness as well.”
The panel continued on by discussing how the racial issues that have been brought to light recently have cultivated years of frustration and anger for people of color. Many of them have a lack of trust in people and governmental systems since they have felt silenced and alone for so long.
Since they could remember people of color have had to engage in internal work and invisible labor like therapy and spiritual practices to help deal with the effects of racial trauma. The panel highlighted repair and education to help combat racial trauma.
“It is important to include in my scholarship community engagement and to always stand up for myself and the work that I do so it is not as invisible anymore,” said Janee Avent Harris.
The panelists discussed how even some professionals in the counseling industry are uneducated about racial trauma and how there is “no true diagnosis for racial trauma”, which makes people of color feel alone and their feelings unvalid- which is why education is so important. Being understanding and being able to effectively listen is key when it comes to healing racial trauma.
Each panelist brought up some examples of racial trauma, whether it was at the workplace, at school or in the community. All of the panelists emphasized the importance of “showing up as you are” and creating a balance between self care and action.
One of the most common examples of racial trauma was centered around feeling alone in the workplace or at school. Many felt they had to hide parts of themselves to fit into the expectations of the environment, also known as code switching. The smallest things that seem like nothing, people of color have to worry about. One example was styling hair and confirming to the environment’s expectations of what is trendy and what is not.
“We show up in a professional or educational setting with baggage, with racist baggage that I have experienced my entire life, said graduate student Ocean Eversley.
The audience continued to ask questions throughout the session that were centered around racism and how people learn it. The panelists highlighted that “racism is a socialization process” and thoughts about race are based by your “sphere of influence.”
SEAT at the Table will continue throughout this week with many informational workshops. To find out more information about the events, visit Springfield College’s SEAT at the Table website.
Photo: Office of Multicultural Affairs