Coping with Racial Battle Fatigue

Coping with Racial Battle Fatigue Handout

“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
  • Depression
  • 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.

If you would like more information, we recommend reading this article: Racial Microaggressions, Racial Battle Fatigue, and Racism-Related Stress in Higher Education by Jeremy Franklin.

For a printable copy of our handout covering this topic, click here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing racial battle fatigue and desire support, please reach out to the Counseling Center at 912-478-5541 (Statesboro) or 912-344-2529 (Armstrong).

Last updated: 7/17/2019