There is a level of fatigue that comes with being Black in America and the pro-Trump rally on January 6 was a perfect example of that. On January 6, thousands of white supremacists took to Capitol Hill to support Donald Trump with demands of recounts, expressions of solidarity of the Confederate flag, and a plethora of other demonstrations. Social media pages were filled with anger, frustration and sheer disturbance following the planned rally for the damage demonstrators caused, lives lost, and the complete transparency of value for white lives over Black lives.
In other words, if that was a rally filled of Black people or other people of color, law enforcement would have gotten involved immediately and most likely exerted severe violence. As Black people, we know this because it is a repetitive trauma that we have been living in for centuries.
Insular audiences were finally awakened to the police brutality and racism that occurs in this country last summer. It created a demand and authentic desire to support Black and POC-owned businesses. Great change came when America elected a woman of color as our next Vice President and when they did not elect Donald Trump for another term. Things were truly looking up and only days away from Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration, this rally serves as a reminder that even if on paper it looks like the country is making progress, we are still living in a white supremacist world that is as divided as ever. The rally also reminded me of all the anger and anxiety I felt prior to the November 4 presidential election.
Leading up to the presidential election, I was excitedly consuming content around Donald Trump, Joe Biden, his administration, Kamala Harris and the multiple policies and issues, to be well versed in who I intended to vote for. I listened to NYT‘s The Daily Podcast, NPR, and read the news cycle from The Washington Post, Forbes, NYT, LA Times and Huff Post for a couple hours every morning. It was exciting to follow the story as it unfolded and made me even more eager to see Biden as President.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were elected President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States of America on November 7, 2020. As a Black woman, it was both a glorious and extremely frightening day. The morning it was announced, my South African family and I, popped champagne and went to join a celebratory rally nearby. We reside in quite a conservative city and there were several big trucks waving massive “Trump 2020” red flags yelling out f*ck you in denial. As the day progressed and the days that followed, more and more people vocalized their desire for a recount, including Trump himself.
My excitement was quickly left on the back-burner when fear crept in. I was fearful that he could be up to something, that he could somehow rig the results and get away with it, like he has with everything else in his presidency. I found myself having analysis paralysis, where I was overthinking so much that it was disabling me to move forward and turn my emotions to actions. Anxiety is about unknown possibility and not knowing what he was up to or planning to inflict on us, specifically people of color, was paralyzing.
And I’m not alone, people are fearful of what Donald Trump and supporters are still capable of and the attempted coup this week further confirmed that. For so long people feared losing healthcare, their lives, jobs and citizenship. Donald Trump and his entire administration was a threat to our safety and security. So how do we manage our anxiety when Donald Trump is refusing to leave office peacefully? We spoke to licensed psychotherapist, Akua K. Boateng, Ph.D. for ideas.
Normalize the Ability to Feel Feelings
“People are silently dealing with this [fear] and not having the language and so not having the language creates a lot of phycological and emotional stagnation and frustration in people,” Boateng says. She believes that after years of a powerful figure threatening our livelihood, survival and everyday security has created a dynamic where our prominent leader is an emotional abuser. “There’s been a lot of emotional manipulating happening, lying happening, and misuse of power. Those are all signs of emotional abuse,” she continues, “so when we’re in this type of dynamic, it is natural to feel anger, resentment, fear, frustration, and despondency.”
Boateng notes that majority of the emotions people of color are having to navigate with this administration have been induced by a system that created it. It’s important to grasp this concept because too often it’s easy to internalize your reactions to something instead of understanding your reactions are natural for what happens in an abusive environment. “In order to heal, we have to recognize that we have been placed in a situation that the feelings we do have are warranted, they’re valid, they make sense and they are true,” Boateng tells us.
Be Intentional of Creating Safe Spaces
Creating cognitive space through journaling, or connecting with communities online are all great steps to take as it validates your experience and can create opportunities and plans for next steps.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Activists, specifically new activists, are very eager for change and don’t always see the journey it takes to get to real change. Working through heavy emotions like fear and anxiety isn’t an overnight job, it is very much ongoing- because its still not done. “We are actively in the midst of these emotions because Donald Trump is still in office. It’s gonna take some time to reestablish safety within government spaces, trust between political figures in the communities of color,” Boateng shares. It’s important to give yourself the space and proper environments to allow your body to do what it naturally does, heal.
Invest in Total Wellness
Be intentional about checking in with your body and mind, cautiously aware of when enough is enough. That might look like a social media fast, a break from certain loved ones, not engaging in every Facebook war and things along those lines. “We have to minimize the offense trigger influence of the abusive power – in order for us to be able to see security outside that person and or power, to see how life and survival is possible in the midst of that environment still,” Boateng shares. We are only our best and equip to do the inner work if we are taking care of ourselves. Dr. Akua believes in maintaining your vessel and making sure it has everything it needs, which can include not over stimulating it.