“Weathering the cumulative effects of living in a society characterized by white dominance and privilege produces a kind of physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments.” -Dr. Ebony McGee, Vanderbilt University
About Racial Battle Fatigue
Racial battle fatigue is defined as the social-psychological stress response associated with being an African-American at a historically White institution. Signs of racial battle fatigue include: frustration, anger, exhaustion, withdrawal behaviors, depressive symptoms, anxious symptoms, physical health concerns (Smith, Allen, & Danley, 2007). Some traditional coping methods, such as high effort coping or grit, can further perpetuate feelings of distress. Alternative coping strategies, such as being a part of a network, participating in social justice causes, engaging spiritual practices, relaxation, and seeking counseling, may be more helpful.
Traditional Coping Methods
John Henryism/ High Effort Coping- working twice as hard to prove one’s intelligence/worth
Grit- perseverance of effort to achieve a goal
Physiological & Psychological Effects of Traditional Coping Methods
Hair loss, fatigue
Problem eating, high blood pressure, diabetes
Stress, anxiety, panic attacks
Thoughts of suicide
Points of More Effective Interventions
Universities can establish programs to intervene on a perceived hostile climates for historically underrepresented groups.
Universities can create race-conscious programs for White students, faculty, and administrators to dispel negative stereotypes, and to be allies to students of color.
Universities can train faculty and staff to recognize when students are impacted by racism on campus.
Students can be part of supportive academic and social networks
Students can engage in social justice activism
Students can participate in self-care activities (yoga, meditation, creative outlets, aromatherapy, nature walks, etc.)
Students can talk with a counselor trained in treating racial battle fatigue.