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Overcoming Racial Battle Fatigue Through Education Reform

Young teacher pointing at notes in his pupil copybookThe horrific image of George Floyd taking his last breath is seared into our hearts and minds. Since that tragic event, we continue to bear witness to racial violence, police brutality, and incidents of discrimination that are played repeatedly in the news and via social media. The cumulative effect of these stressful reports can be traumatizing, and they are having a profound impact on our educators and students of color.

Racial battle fatigue (RBF), a term coined by critical race theorist William Smith, reflects the cumulative results of race-related stress. It emerges not only due to macroaggressions, but also from daily microaggressions, such as dismissive and demeaning comments directed at Black and Brown individuals. Basically, RBF is a wearing down based upon one’s racial identity. Some of the symptoms include depression, anger, frustration, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness that a person of color is unable to contribute to positive change.

RBF is persistent and pervasive, and it manifests in different ways dependent upon who the person of color is and what he or she has experienced in the past. And while RBF impacts every aspect of our society, in higher education and K-12 environments, we predominantly see it’s imprint through hateful, divisive speech on social media, racial profiling in our society and our schools, and discipline policies that differ for students of color.

DEI Prof-spectives: Racial Profiling, Institutional Racism, and White Allyship

The following article is an excerpt from the Rowan University Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion blog and is reprinted with permission.

Monika Williams ShealeyFor the past 2 months our country has been in the grips of a pandemic that has challenged us in unimaginable ways and revealed our strength and courage in the face of fear. Unfortunately, during a time when we should be united against a common enemy, COVID-19, racism and xenophobia has become the cure for some who are inflicted with an irrational hatred and fear of people of color. Let’s not forget we were introduced to this pandemic as the “Chinese Virus” and the result was an onslaught of hate speech directed towards Asians and Asian Americans. We are not ok.

It is difficult for Black Americans to forget the legacy of the enslavement of Black bodies for economic consumption, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and mass incarceration lives on. How does one talk about systemic racism and the oppression of people of color without acknowledging and understanding the current conditions that ensure our country remains divided by race.  The election of a Black president was believed to be an indication of how far we’ve come as a country and we even heard that we were living in a post-racial country. Yet, the stories of police brutality, racial violence, and discrimination directed at Black Americans continued.  We are not ok.

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