Mitigating Internalized Racism Among African-American Women: A Journey to Wholeness
The legacy of racism in American spans some two hundred years and has been linked to a number of behavioral and mental health problems for people of color and especially African Americans. For African Americans, the struggle to understand and cope with the insidious affects of racism dates back to slavery and are as real today as they were during that time (Gilbert et al 2009). African Americans are regularly exposed to racism on multiple levels (Lewis-Coles and Constantine, 2006). This exposure according to Harrell (2000) is embedded within the African American interpersonal, collective, cultural and sociopolitical perspective and maybe a predictor of stress that is due primarily to the nature of racism. Given the ubiquitous nature of the effects of racism on the wellbeing of African American, it is important to identify alternative traditional psychotherapies that can mitigate these deleterious effects of these social, psychological and physical elements in the lives of African American women. To mitigate the effects of racism and accomplish this goal, it is important to view the African American woman within the context of her environment to understand behavioral responses in order to move her to a healthy discovery of herself within the context of the African philosophy and way of life. Clearly there is need, as this paper will elucidate, for a paradigm shift that focuses on the development of more culturally sensitive and specific approaches with considerations placed on the emotional, social and spiritual interaction to achieve better race-related outcomes for the African American woman (Gilbert et al, 2009; Schiele, 2000).
Scope of the Problem
According to the Women of Color Health Data book (2006) suggest that racial discrimination and racism have remained significant operative factors in the health and health care of blacks over time. Dating back to 1867, black scholars and leaders have concluded that racism was a major factor in the poor health of black Americans (pp.37). The report further suggests that black women experience a number of bio-psychosocial related stresses such high blood of pressure; prevalence of diabetes; poverty; anger; domestic violence; alcohol and other drug abuse; and HIV/AIDS more than any other woman in the United States. Further, it is intimated that despites these overwhelming health and health-related issues, African American women are not particularly incline to seek treatment because of mistrust, discrimination and unfair treatment. On a similar note the Black Women’s Health Project (BWHP), (2003) reports that approximately sixty percent of African American women suffer from depression, but few seek professional help because of the communal stigma and the lack of mental health providers specializing in African American issues. Instead, they repress their feelings, let frustration build and release tension through tears or conflict. In addition BWHP indicates that in addition to racism, sexism is often played out in the workplace, in relationships with men and often leads to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Similarly, Nicolaidis et al (2010) reported that African American women are typically burdened with poverty and endure a tremendous amount of violence, drug use and depression. Further, these authors posed that the attitudes of the women in this study “about depression care and health care in general were consistently and systematically informed by racism” (pp. 1474). This appears to be an accurate assumption given the fact that approximately 43 percent of black families are maintained by women, more than 25 percent live in; and many believe that because their mothers an grandmother suffered it is just the way of life for Black women in American. While some may argue that these health disparities can be related to...