Justified Black Anger and Mental Health: Controlling the Narrative

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It is important that we acknowledge the issue of Black anger against the systematic structures that keep a large segment of the population marginalized and trapped cyclical in oppressive conditions for what it is – justified. In recent years, extensive studies have shown that pervasive confrontation with racism can create feelings of powerlessness and depression that may lead to emotional and psychological harm. These findings are essential to the discourse on racism – equally important, particularly in this climate where racial tension is high and more Blacks are raising their voices, it is crucial, that a clear distinction is made between justified expressed anger and what determinant factors constitutes as a mental health condition.

Indeed, many are justifiable angry that Blacks have remained among the poorest, most economically disadvantaged, oppressed population from the slave-era into current times. Studies show that the same slave-era, racist ideologies and systematic structures have rendered the group greatest at risk across the spectrum for illnesses, physical, emotional and psychological abuse, poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, unemployment, and underemployment – to name a few. These injustices have not only been passed down to this generation, but many can also envision these same chains around the necks and ankles of future generation. As such, many of us are angry and justifiable so, that…

1. Socio-economically, most of America’s wealth remains predominantly in the hands of the white ruling class. And with the vast disparities in socio-economic solvency, education, and political representation that are in place – there is little to no chance that these inequities will change.

2. The vast disparity between incarcerated Blacks and other groups, whites, in particular, indicates an immediate need for review and reform of the penile system. Instead, more jails are being built to host more Black bodies – leading to an epidemic of fatherless Black children who are left to be raised by over-worked and over-stressed single mothers struggling to survive harsh economic conditions. This domino effect places many Black children at risk for a life of drugs, crime, and systematic exploitation. Within the construct of these conditions, one can argue that long before many Black children becomes an adult, they are perceived as future criminals – that once old enough, even a minor offense can mark them convicts and ‘property’ of the same system that created the problems that led to these horrific outcomes.

3. It is hard-pressed to turn on the news and not see Black people being brutalized and treated like animals, getting arrested for sitting in Starbucks, white people calling the police for things as basic as napping in a common dorm space, getting fired for speaking out against racism, and that massive under funding in predominantly Black schools has led to high drop-out rates and illiteracy among many Black youth.

4. Negative slave era stereotypes still mark Black women as angry, unrefined, overly aggressive, out-of-control and a plethora of other intimations that deflect attention from the real issues that they face. As such, when they voice concerns about social issues that impact their lives, their interests are dismissed and their voices silenced. Despite women contributing to the workforce more than any other group, even those with comparative or more education, on a large scale, work menial jobs, are among the lowest wage earners and face a variety of intersectional challenges that renders them perpetually marginalized and struggling against oppressive conditions.

While it is necessary to address the adverse mental and psychological impact on Black lives resulting from racism, we must be careful not allow white America to label us as emotionally or psychologically disturbed when we express anger at the fact that slavery and its enduring adverse impact on Black people remain unconfronted and unaddressed. The danger here is that if the ideology of expressed anger at racism converges and takes root as a mental or psychological health ‘condition’, adding to the list of negative stereotypes, will be mental instability which will further marginalize and diminish the voices of those who speak out against racial injustice. An effective approach to silence us – is to discredit us- and we must be cognizant of all the ways in which that can happen.