African-Americans adults are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than White adults. Studies and journals have shown and written about the impact of racism & prejudice on Black people and how it impacts our mental health. A recent study shows that Black women who have experienced racism in their lives show trauma-like effects on their brain scans. It goes on to further state that being regularly attuned to the threat of racism can tax important body-regulation tools and worsen brain health for Black women. The study mentions that Black women may be more acutely aware of threats within their environment because they have had to adapt to living in societal spaces that perpetuate racism.
I was watching a recent episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (spoiler alert) where Garcelle Beauvais educated the rest of the cast on the fact that being the only person of color, especially the only Black person, in a space is not easy to do. Her castmates were baffled, but I know many Black people felt her in that moment.
For many of us, since we were younger, we were taught to suppress our culture and adapt to theirs if you want to make it. From straightening our hair to striving for a certain body type to even how we dress, we have had to live a life that wasn’t our own. So when we walk into mostly white spaces, our fight or flight hormones kick on immediately. But the fight for us usually turns inward.
Once I left working in music, most of my life was entering white spaces especially in my career. Aside from spending my time trying to prove myself against any stereotypes one may have of Black women in particular, I spent my days having to grin & bear people’s comments on my “accent”, being told I had an “attitude” for simply stating my opinion (or facts really most of the time), to being told how “intimidating” I am. I was even directly told by one boss that it’s BECAUSE I was Black that people are intimidated by me so I should try to smile more and be nicer. Yes…I was the problem.
We constantly walk into spaces and are seen as the problem just for being us. We have to go about our lives knowing that many spaces we walk into, the people in there see us in a negative light. And knowing that if we don’t adapt and change to prove to them how comfortable they can be around us, that they will make our lives miserable.
These are some of the things that feed our chronic stress daily. Not being able to be me daily, in my career and personal life, gave me extreme anxiety and it’s not until recently that I was able to really find, appreciate, and feel confident in sharing who I am as well as who I was. Therapy, filtering my circle and those who have access to me, and building a community based around support and acceptance has been the difference.
At The Fit In you see all races, ages, types, and genders. And that’s because when you have Black women at the helm, and you build a community centered around making sure they are seen and they are well, EVERYONE is that much better for it.