Coping with racial battle fatigue

Constant flow can have physical consequences

Protesters+with+Black+Lives+Matter+sign

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

People of color suffer from racial battle fatigue because we are forced to constantly care, to constantly explain ourselves, to keep fighting with racists. You do not need to always care.

Racial Battle Fatigue is defined as “a cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distressing mental and emotional conditions emerging from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals.”

While many do not realize it, the implications of dealing with a constant flow of microaggressions  around race are not just about feelings being hurt or friends being lost but can manifest themselves as a physical illness, increasing chances of hypertension, infant mortality, and more.

This by itself should not be the reason that people stop being racist, that people stop berating people of color with insults, but in a world where white America is determined to maintain its innocence it seems like everyone needs some sort of “proof” that racism is detrimental and real.

There are forms of violence debatably more insidious, hidden behind a facade of “humor” and ignorance. It’s racial slurs disguised as jokes and slight acts of disrespect. It’s forcing people of color to engage in conversations with ignorant peers about why racism exists, and why it matters. It’s seeing images of people who look like you dying on social media over and over again. It’s the exhaustion that comes with knowing that no matter how hard you try, you can’t change the way the world operates. It is the feeling of being alone, carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, despite being surrounded by people who claim to support you.

But this article is not for the racists, nor the ignorant, I am not here to tell you to stop being disrespectful and rude. I am done wasting my energy on people who don’t care about my well-being.

This is not to say never engage in conversations with people who disagree with you, or that you are always right, but that it is okay to be selfish sometimes. It is okay to delete social media, to block people, to cut off people you considered friends, and to take time to take care of yourself.

You do not have to explain yourself, you do not need to be a search engine for people who are too lazy to do research for themselves. You need to be your own first priority, and oftentimes, the best form of self care is to say no, to refuse to engage in pointless conversations with people who will never agree with you.

You do not owe anyone but yourself anything. Stop feeling forced to constantly remind those around you to not be offensive. I know it can feel like it is your job to be an educator, to teach people about structural racism and racial advocacy. But it is not your job.

Maybe this article is just a letter to me, justifying the decisions I have made, the friends I no longer am in contact with, but at the end of the day, the only person I ever have to answer to is myself. I hope you are able to see the same is true for you.