Media Room
Telephone: 613-236-1393
Ext. 2344
Quick Links

Racism is one more source of distress during this pandemic!

By Buuma Maisha, assistant professor in the School of Counselling, Psychotherapy, and Spirituality

What sense can we make of the news about racism following the death of George Floyd
at the hands of police in the United States?

We can approach it in several ways. In these comments, I discuss three challenges, three opportunities and three ways to maintain your mental health.

First, the images of the death of George Floyd bring to mind the long and grim history of race relations – one that many of us hoped we would never witness or experience again. Racist violence against Black people can happen in several ways, including extreme cases such as Mr. Floyd’s tragic death. Second, a situation like this ambushes us and wants to drive us into a crisis of confidence or reinforce the distrust that exists between groups of people. It risks proving right those who have internalized the idea that “others will never accept us,” that equality between peoples is an impossible dream. Third, the magnitude of this tragedy risks reinforcing the tendency to generalize individuals’ behaviour onto a group, such as the police, and takes away from those who carry out their duties with dignity.

At times, these challenges can cause us to worry and to experience great distress. However, seeing the collective response from various groups, it’s worth pointing out that this tragedy is also an opportunity to become aware of the huge challenges that still exist in our society; it can lead to positive changes. Also, we have before us an opportunity to reconnect with our passion for certain values, such as justice and tolerance, which we sometimes take for granted, and rally to take action together. In this way, the national and even international scale of this crisis reminds us that humanity is united and is ready to take action to demand better conditions for all.

Having said that, we cannot overlook the impact that this violence we are exposed to can have on our mental health. Let’s not suffer in silence. It is important to express ourselves and to share our reaction with people we trust (friends, family, professionals, etc.). Besides seeing the worst of what is happening, we must also pay attention to the incredible moments where we see people of all stripes (protesters, police, politicians, etc.) working together, and reassure each other. And of course, we can always find inspiration in these positive moments to contribute actively, in lawful ways, to actions that restore hope: take part in peaceful demonstrations, and undertake actions that aim to bring about the better world we aspire to. In the midst of their current feelings, many people can become discouraged. Let us take heart from the words of Nelson Mandela, who said that something “always seems impossible until it’s done.” We all have to work together. Let’s work together to address the challenges related to racism.

Bookmark and Share

Other Links