By: Dr. Robin Amankwah, M.B.A., EdD (Raconsulting7@gmail.com)
The effects of COVID-19 still present challenges even today in the Black community in many ways. Going through the changes caused by the Pandemic brought more mental exhaustion and a feeling of giving up. As African Americans, we have suffered from a cultural pandemic even before experiencing this health pandemic. The pandemic in the African American community has created severe financial hardships, a lack of quality physical health services, a lack of mental health resources, food deserts, and the rise of crime. Many may wonder how we, as a Black community, are able to survive this health pandemic when we were already on ‘life support’ way before COVID-19 hit the Black community. However, there is hope in the midst of recovery through resources.
As the world continues to face this tumultuous disease, the Chicago Recovery Plan focuses on community safety and economic recovery for communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Along with the FDA COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery and Preparedness Plan, this economic recovery is a 3 to 5-year funding Initiative, and Chicago was allotted $1,887 billion for March 2021 to December 2024.
The fear and anxiety created by the pandemic have caused panic and overwhelming responses in the home, workplace, and marketplace (CDC, 2021). The CDC also continues to stress that social distancing can make one feel isolated and lonely, thus increasing stress and anxiety even more, especially for those living in crowded apartments, using public transportation, etc.
Learning how to deal and cope with the disparities in the Black community has shifted us into overdrive emotionally. It is relevant to ask COVID-19 to “get behind the line.’ Long before facing this pandemic, the Black community, as in the famous games of ‘Spades’ or ‘Bid Whiz,’ was ‘dealt a bad hand’ in getting ahead. As a result, many black and brown low-wage workers were affected by COVID-19 severely more than others. As data becomes more readily available, COVID-19 has only magnified the systemic inequalities that are being faced in the United States. It became more evident that African Americans were ‘hit’ extremely hard on every front in this pandemic.
Coming Out of Emotional Issues
It leads one to wonder, how can African Americans get through this pandemic and not be emotionally inflicted on top of all the issues we face as a community? It is imperative that African Americans must continue to move ‘full speed ahead’ going through this pandemic. As the days of being vaccinated are slowly rolled out to most vulnerable communities, African Americans are emotionally drained and ‘burned out’ with trusting America to have a cure. Along with being concerned about how you will pay bills, further education, build businesses, etc., many have also lost loved ones in record numbers. The amount of emotional stress the community faced only extends the’ ‘pressures of life.’ It is time for African Americans to continue to build faith, renew our minds, and change the narrative, making an even greater commitment to our communities.
History: How did populations recover in the last pandemic?
During the influenza epidemic in 1918, African American communities struggled in many areas concerning medical and social issues that included racist theories related to inferiority and racial barriers in medicine and public health. Some may wonder how AA handled such issues during the 1918 influenza pandemic. AA took control of the narrative through establishing their own hospitals and professional organizations. This helped them to get in front of creating their victory story. Studies have shown that during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the disease was found to be lower in African Americans. Even though during this time, it had a less devastating impact on African Americans, it still overwhelmed their medical and public health resources. Towards the end of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the problems African Americans faced were very evident and ongoing. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862340/)
Stigma Regarding Therapy for Blacks
Many may wonder if African Americans are really taking care of their health and mental state due to the constant ‘banging’ of pressures of life. Let’s look at some of the stigmas Blacks face regarding getting health. AA develop mental health conditions that are like other ethnic groups; however, they experience trauma from direct, indirect, and transmitted effects of systemic racism, including effects resulting from various issues from their own neighborhoods and even sometimes their front door, like social worker Anjanette Young here in Chicago.
Anjanette Young’s apartment was invaded by Chicago Police officers using the ‘no-knock warrant’ in error and was totally disregarded while standing completely nude after showering. This incident left Young traumatized, humiliated, and embarrassed, and the incident was later covered up by city officials. She experienced direct traumatic stressors such as being heavily policed and verbal and even physical attacks from racist individuals. There were also indirect effects, like watching a defenseless Black man George Floyd be killed by a white cop in Minnesota while being streamed live. Lastly, there are transmitted stressors that are passed down from generation to generation from the anguish.
Most African Americans desire a life that is stress-free, but due to societal issues, any sense of normalcy is impossible just because of the color of your skin. In many minority households, getting therapy can be a sign that your life is spiraling out of control when you’re only carrying the weight of someone’s issues in most cases.
Front Line Minorities Impacted by the Pandemic
During this pandemic, many people of color have been impacted, and lives have been lost. Especially front-line workers of color have come face to face with the deadly virus COVID-19. Those that have been cleaning rooms, sanitizing, preparing food, delivery driving, and working front desk jobs could not afford to work from home. This pandemic has proven that people of color were doing these jobs before the pandemic just to make a living. As a direct result of systemic economic proportion, people of color were far more exposed to COVID-19 than other ethnic groups.
To conclude, it is important that African Americans focus on living a balanced life in their mind, will, emotions, health, and spirit. This can be done and passed on from one generation to the next. Shifting your focus is not ignoring the stigmas that are permanently ‘tattooed’ on our skin, but it can help bring inner peace. Inner peace can give some stability against COVID-19, racial inequality, injustices, lack of resources, and other things we see as lacking. As we continue to press forward and ride the storm of COVID-19 and inequalities, it is important that we develop that inner peace to focus on the following:
- Focus your attention on those things you can control. …
- Spend time encouraging yourself and not being negative all the time. …
- Be true to yourself by setting new standards or raising the bar higher. …
- Mind What you Eat and select healthier foods. …
- Exercise on a regular basis and stop making excuses. …
- Do Good Deeds by helping those struggling in your own family. …
- Be assertive and aggressive in achieving your own goals in life. …
- Meditate and focus on pursuing and recovering all.
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