BY SIMONE SMITH
It hit me like a lightning bolt; I have been thinking about why the African community avoids dealing with mental health. I know that some of it has to do with spirituality; some of it has to do with embarrassment; some of it is just plain ignorance. What I realized is that most of it has to do with a topic that many of us do our best to avoid……RACISM!
Yeah! I know, for some it must be like here we go again. It always comes down to race. Unfortunately, because of how many of us North Americans have been conditioned, it does come down to race. You can deny it if you want, but the truth is the truth! Another hard truth to swallow for many Canadians is that we are very influenced by what happens in the United States of America. All you have to do is turn on CNN and you will be bombarded with overt images of racism, police shootings, Trump and the list goes on. I decided to dig into my box of over 450 articles. As I was looking, I found an article on Racial Microaggression. What really struck me about the article is the fact that the researchers believed that the reason many Africans and other cultures do not reach out for help with their mental health is because the mental health industry is run by Western Europeans. It doesn’t help that models, for delivery of service, are mostly Western European as well (D.W. Sue & Sue, 2003). I want to encourage all readers to reach out to me if you are interested in any of this research. It is quite interesting and I encourage readers to always conduct their own research on any topics that are presented to them.
Racial microaggression has been described as very subtle insults, both verbal and nonverbal, directed toward people of color (as cited in Sue, Capodilupo, Torina, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, & Esquilin, 2007). The sad thing about this is that it is done automatically and unconsciously. This is the unfortunate thing about racism, it is automatic and unconscious. This is one of the reasons why I am not so quick to anger. I realize that racism, and the behavior that comes with racism has been programmed into our D.N.A. We have been conditioned for so many years, that we don’t even realize that we have been socialized on how to deal with racism.
There are three types of Microaggression: Microassault: This is overt, in your face racism, more so seen in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It is now seen at a more conservative level if speaking politics. Microinsults: This is the less in your face racism. You see this type of racism right here in Canada. It is characterized by communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity. It can also be as simple as being ignored, or being watched when entering a store. Microinvalidation: This is characterized by communications that include dismissing the feelings and thoughts of a person who believes they are being racially discriminated against. This is the part that concerns mental health professionals and their clients.
Whether is it Europeans showing their racism overtly or discreetly or Africans and other cultures not knowing how to react, racism is an issue and microaggression must be acknowledged. It is important that European clinicians understand the experience of an African who may come to them for the first time for help. They must be open to overcoming their fears and their resistance to talking about race.