Being an African, otherwise called black in America, is not easy. One is constrained to endure the destructive tendencies resulting from the societal presumptions of white supremacy. The challenges are not only enormous; they are also anxiety provoking with eminent health issues. As human beings, we are called to become the best version of ourselves but this is so difficult to do when one is working from a deficit, guilty-pronounced, and negatively perceived assumptions; when one is constantly fighting to overcome the obstacles of prejudice, bias, discrimination, bigotry, positional relegation, and social exclusion; not because of who one is on the inside, but because of who you are on the outside; “black” as we are called, in the western world.
This chronic experience of race-based discrimination when combined with the experience of Social exclusion—the psychological experience of loss, both in the sense of belonging to a desired group and denial of opportunity to participate in certain social, political, cultural, educational, or economic opportunities and rights—has a heightened negative correlation with the physical, mental, and psychological health of our people; adults as well as children.
These processes are known to create human pain in the brain as well as allostatic overload (the process of the body’s response to challenges and stressors) which over time, does experience wear and tear and thereby, lose its ability to efficiently and effectively respond to human stressful demands and challenges, which in turn creates a chronic biological challenge to the human regulatory system, resulting in all kinds of health issues.
So, the mentality of white supremacy, which is built on the presumption of black inferiority and the mechanisms by which this presumption is enforced, consciously or unconsciously, is known to be positively associated with the chronicity of biological and psychological distress in black families.
What is important to note here is that the negative health impact of race-based discrimination and social exclusion is heightened when a victim’s response is one of passive coping mechanism. What this suggests is that how we cope with this situation, as blacks in this country, is important in mitigating the obvious impacts of internalized racism arising from presumed white supremacy. So, who you think and believe you are, will most probably influence who you turn out to be. We therefore must be very careful with how we think about ourselves, who we are, and what we can do.
As I wrote in an earlier article, we are not what others think we are; we are what God knows us to be and what God knows us to be is that we are wired to do great things, to stand along with the best of the best, to go further than others will ever imagine, and to live beyond the limits that surround us. We should never just rely on the opinions of others to measure who we are. We must always believe in ourselves, trust in our worth, be convinced in our abilities, have faith in our possibilities, and be determined to become the best we can be. It is not in the hands of others to determine how we become our very best. It is in our hands to strive beyond the merely possible; to go beyond the imagined; to stand tall in our dreams; to choose positive coping mechanisms that are in the service of our goals; and to constantly keep our eyes on the prize. We must never let human bias determine who we become. As Scripture says, “I am who I am by the grace of God.”