Opinion| Racism and Mental Health

Opinion| Racism and Mental Health

"When you're woke, it becomes hard to go to sleep."
- Random Acts of Flyness (Episode 6)
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"When you're woke, it becomes hard to go to sleep."
- Random Acts of Flyness (Episode 6)

"Are you staying here?"

A seemingly innocent question. Yes, I was wearing a conference lanyard. Yes, I was performing the role "scholar at a conference" fairly well (laptop clutched under arm, pen held in hand, body wrapped in socially acceptable business attire, etc.) however, a member of the hotel staff still felt the need to question my existence in this 5-star hotel.

Before being pushed into a new state of awakening of the sheer violence that is life as a Black person, I would have smiled and simply answered her question. But not now. Now that I am aware of the many faces that racism has taken (historically) and the way my Black body looks against a White background, I have entered a place of hyper-racilization. Microagressions and odd questions from aversive racists sear through my skin leave scars. The scar burns when I'm alone with my thoughts in the shower wondering "what did she mean by that?" The branding infiltrates my cognitive spaces as I replay the moment 10-15 times trying to better understand the situation. I am not okay.

More literature is being dedicated to examining the role that racism and discrimination plays in emotional and psychological distress. Studies have shown that racism has the potential to increase the risk of stress, cold symptoms, cardiovascular disease, mortality, and depression.

An article by the American Psychological Association based on a meta-analytic study that examined perceived racism and mental health asserted that: "For Black American adults, perceived racism may cause mental health symptoms similar to trauma and could lead to some physical health disparities between blacks and other populations in the United States."

Researchers examined 66 studies for a total sample of 18,140 Black adults in the United States. According to the study, Black Americans' psychological responses to racism are very similar to common responses to trauma, such as somatization, interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety.

In a separate study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, a sociocultural model of stress and coping was tested in a sample of 215 African Americans. The study found that race-related stress was a significantly more powerful risk factor than stressful life events for psychological distress.

Even when Black Americans are not personally on the receiving end of racism, social media feeds are full of images and videos of brutalized, bleeding, battered, Black bodies. There is video footage of White officers punching a Black child and pulling up her shorts to expose her as she is pinned down. There is video footage of a white officers straddling a Black teenager outside of her community pool. For activist (or aware individuals in general), third-party sources and first-person experiences of race-based trauma create a violent accumulation of negative mental outcomes.

They will not be linked here because the purpose of this discourse is to go beyond consuming Black pain and death. If you feel inclined, a simple google search can give you access to hundreds of pornographic images and videos of our violation.

Black Americans are constantly faced with the reality that their lives are not protected.


Licensed clinical psychologist Monnica Williams studies the epidemiology of PTSD in minorities and explains that it can be incredibly traumatic for people of color, particularly African American children to see Black death in the form of these violent police encounters. In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Williams studies the link between racism and post-traumatic stress disorder, which is known as race-based traumatic stress injury, or the emotional distress a person may feel after encountering racial harassment or hostility. Williams acknowledges that race-based stress reactions can be triggered by events that are experienced vicariously, or externally, through a third party — like social media or national news events.


This opinion piece is to make people aware of the psychological toll that racism and racialization has on racialized subjects. From a personal standpoint, I am looking for ways to silence the pain and panic attacks. I urge others to prioritize self care and healing as well.

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Bailey Posted A Racist Tweet, But That Does NOT Mean She Deserves To Be Fat Shamed

As a certified racist, does she deserve to be fat shamed?
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This morning, I was scrolling though my phone, rotating between Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Snapchat again, ignoring everyone's snaps but going through all the Snapchat subscription stories before stumbling on a Daily Mail article that piqued my interest. The article was one about a teen, Bailey, who was bullied for her figure, as seen on the snap below and the text exchange between Bailey and her mother, in which she begged for a change of clothes because people were making fun of her and taking pictures.

Like all viral things, quickly after her text pictures and harassing snaps surfaced, people internet stalked her social media. But, after some digging, it was found that Bailey had tweeted some racist remark.

Now, some are saying that because Bailey was clearly racist, she is undeserving of empathy and deserves to be fat-shamed. But does she? All humans, no matter how we try, are prejudiced in one way or another. If you can honestly tell me that you treat everyone with an equal amount of respect after a brief first impression, regardless of the state of their physical hygiene or the words that come out of their mouth, either you're a liar, or you're actually God. Yes, she tweeted some racist stuff. But does that mean that all hate she receives in all aspects of her life are justified?

On the other hand, Bailey was racist. And what comes around goes around. There was one user on Twitter who pointed out that as a racist, Bailey was a bully herself. And, quite honestly, everyone loves the downfall of the bully. The moment the bullies' victims stop cowering from fear and discover that they, too, have claws is the moment when the onlookers turn the tables and start jeering the bully instead. This is the moment the bully completely and utterly breaks, feeling the pain of their victims for the first time, and for the victims, the bully's demise is satisfying to watch.

While we'd all like to believe that the ideal is somewhere in between, in a happy medium where her racism is penalized but she also gets sympathy for being fat shamed, the reality is that the ideal is to be entirely empathetic. Help her through her tough time, with no backlash.

Bullies bully to dominate and to feel powerful. If we tell her that she's undeserving of any good in life because she tweeted some racist stuff, she will feel stifled and insignificant and awful. Maybe she'll also want to make someone else to feel as awful as she did for some random physical characteristic she has. Maybe, we might dehumanize her to the point where we feel that she's undeserving of anything, and she might forget the preciousness of life. Either one of the outcomes is unpleasant and disturbing and will not promote healthy tendencies within a person.

Instead, we should make her feel supported. We all have bad traits about ourselves, but they shouldn't define us. Maybe, through this experience, she'll realize how it feels to be prejudiced against based off physical characteristics. After all, it is our lowest points, our most desperate points in life, that provide us with another perspective to use while evaluating the world and everyone in it.

Cover Image Credit: Twitter / Bailey

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Facebook Sued By Former Content Moderator

They go through all the reported content, which includes murder, rape, child abuse, beheadings––and remove it from the internet to make the internet a safer place.

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Have you ever wondered who goes through all the reported content and decides it's unsuitable for the website? They are content moderators. They go through all the reported content, which includes murder, rape, child abuse, beheadings, and remove it from the internet to make the internet a safer place.

What about them? Watching these horrific videos every day must definitely impact their mental health. Selena Scola, a former Facebook moderator, is suing the company as she claims that the images and videos she had to view gave her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Facebook does have a voluntary code for training, supporting and counseling the content moderators but failed to abide by its guidelines. They are not doing what they are supposed to protect their content moderators from being scarred. The moderators are expected to watch the videos but are not trained on how to deal with the stress that it causes.

Scola has suffered from insomnia, fatigue, social anxiety before she was diagnosed with PTSD. She is triggered by loud noises, violence on TV and touching a computer mouse.

There needs to be proper care provided for content moderators to prevent this from happening. There should be a mandatory rotation, more time off and weekly meetings with a therapist.

Facebook said on the subject, "We recognize that this work can often be difficult. That is why we take the support of our content moderators incredibly seriously, starting with their training, the benefits they receive, and ensuring that every person reviewing Facebook content is offered psychological support and wellness resources.

Facebook employees receive these in-house and we also require companies that we partner with for content review to provide resources and psychological support, including on-site counseling––available at the location where the plaintiff worked––and other wellness resources like relaxation areas at many of our larger facilities."

Facebook has also since said that they are providing mental health resources such as counselors and full health care benefits to content moderators. If you are thinking abut getting a job as a content moderator, make sure to go through all the pros and cons before settling for this work.

I think this was a good thing that further content moderators will be provided with the care they need. On the other hand, all the previous employees that may have suffered from it will not get to prevent it from happening.

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