Thriving Together Series

Thriving Together Series: Racial Healing for Well-Being

by Hamal Strayhorn, Director, Coalition Building and Diversity Education, University Life

“Healing from racism is a journey.” – Anneliese A. Singh

Our nation has been grappling with two pandemics lately. One started at the end of 2019, while the other began over 400 years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic can be managed through medical interventions and breakthroughs, while the other remains an insidious pandemic continuing to plague the United States in more covert ways, sometimes explicitly showing itself through the ways we systematically view and treat communities of color. This pandemic is racism. More specifically, white supremacy – a lie that advances the notion that there is a hierarchy of human value based on race. Racial healing is essential for our well-being.

The globally accepted perspective of spring is that it is a time for transformation, healing and growth. It invokes feelings of warmth and compassion, as well as an abundance of mental imagery of a world full of radiant colors. Spring is a time that invites us to reflect on where we’ve journeyed from and where we are going. It is also a time when we can think about what needs to change; what needs to be transformed. We are in a perfect time for a metamorphosis.

Research has shown that structural racism is detrimental to the health and well-being of racial minorities. But systematic racism and the mental capacity needed to uphold its structure is also detrimental to the well-being of those who identify as white. Here lies the reason for racial healing and transformation.

Racial healing is not only for communities of color; it is for those who identify as white as well. Racial healing demands that all racial groups transform their thinking by unlearning the stereotypes and racial messages internalized about our own race and the race of others. At the individual level, it means acknowledging the wounds racism inflicts on us. Racial healing also works actively to stop our participation in the “system of racism and white supremacy” that is designed to privilege some people over others, notes Anneliese A. Singh, in her book The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing.

“Healing from racism is a journey,” Singh writes in her handbook. Those who do the work of racial healing and personalize this journey realize quickly there is no navigation app that can notify us of potholes or hazards ahead. Instead, we all come to this healing journey having to acknowledge that each and every one of us has been affected and effected by systematic racism, though obviously in different ways. Those seeking racial healing will have to be willing to embrace discomfort and humility, since the journey entails relearning history and how racism came into practice, as well as its impact on other human beings.

Racial healing and transformation require us to accept that, while we might not be able to save the world from racism, we can change how we participate and contribute to it. By transforming the “self” first, we can ultimately help others in their transformation journey.

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