About reflective articles
Reflective articles are personal responses by selected attendees to the 2021 Racial Equity workshops led by Nikkia Young and on the intersection of DDP with racial and social justice.The purpose of the reflective articles is to spark inner reflection. If you are feeling moved reading them, we encourage you to journal, meditate and be with the important feelings being shared. Sitting with and truly engaging with our responses and emotions is part of the process.
Please be aware that they may contain sensitive anecdotes and/or stories that may be upsetting and re-triggering.
All opinions expressed in the following piece belong to the author(s).
Managing my Mental health
As Nikkia Young’s workshops have come to an end it has caused me to think about my own mental health and how I persevere, nourish, and maintain my own wellbeing. In a world full of divisive opinions, micro aggressions and overt racism how do I find an equilibrium? It has been well documented the inequalities that exist with the UK mental health provision and how this impacts black men negatively.
Well for me to start unpicking this subject of mental health we need to understand that firstly the concept of even talking about your mental health as a man from the Caribbean community is very much a taboo subject and not something that is always addressed in as open and forthright a way as say our European counterparts.
I was confronted with the reality of not talking about my own unaddressed trauma recently while delivering training about racial trauma (yes how ironic) to an adoption agency in the UK. After showing the Doll’s test video, which shows the impact racism has on children particularly black children, it is quite normal that most people are left feeling quite emotional, watching the very young children describing themselves as “bad” and “ugly” simply because they’re black.
I had watched the video numerous times and did not expect it to trigger me at all. But as I started to explain the impact of the subliminal conditioning that we all go through via the media, education and political systems that instils the Eurocentric western view of beauty and cultural behaviors as superior and the norm something very unexpected happened.
I began to recall a time when I was a child and I felt exactly like the children in the video and did not like my own skin. I even remember questioning whether my life would be better if I was white?
While I couldn’t remember what had happen that made me feel like that, the memory of the feeling was very real. It was at this point that I was overcome with shame. “Why would I think that? Am I a traitor to my own race?“
I was totally frozen. I couldn’t speak. Tears were starting to well up. It took what felt like eternity for me to compose myself. After some helpful and encouraging words from my audience on the zoom call I managed to somehow pull it back in and complete the training session.
It was then that it really dawned on me how easy it is for someone to convince themselves that everything is okay, and how trauma that is unresolved can creep up on you at any point in any circumstance. As a black man we are taught to be strong and resilient, as our ancestors survived slavery which was much worse than anything we will have to endure now, right?
And therein lies the trap so many black men fall into: we feel we must put on this hard exterior to survive the tough environments that we are placed in where any sign of emotion can be perceived as a form of weakness to be taken advantage of.
What does that leave you with? Well from my lens I see some black men fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins that lack the capacity to make themselves emotionally available to their loved ones, unable to communicate their feelings and emotions until they are near or reaching crisis point which then can lead to a complete breakdown.
It is okay to not be okay.
Publisher: DDP Network (Nov 2021)
Article Copyright © DM, 2021