In the wake of George Floyd, I respectfully compose this article. The intent of my article is not to debate or facilitate hate or discrimination. I write this article from a place of genuine concern and with a heavy heart. It is not only my heart that is heavy-laden, but the hearts and minds of so many who have been burdened by the tragedies, bloodshed, and woes of our time. I cannot imagine the burdens that you may be facing in the wake of these events. As a psychologist, I could never have imagined such a massive outpouring of emotions, distress, or affliction. In my humble opinion, this turbulent time is by far greater than any other that has been experienced.
As an individual, I can imagine that these times have given you some grave concern. For me, I have been gravely concerned for the precious lives of the children and youth of the day. We are living in an unprecedented time of human history. We are not only facing the crisis of COVID-19, but we are now facing the crisis of human conflict, discrimination and despair at unimaginable levels. Collectively, we are living in a time that dwarfs all others.
The human race was ill-prepared for such a calamity of events to unfold. Despite the human species having continuously gone through feuds and global conflicts; wars and rumors of wars; crisis upon crisis; unlike so many events of the past; the events of the day reach every corner of the world.
As far as the events involving George Floyd, I dare not downplay the significance or the overwhelming emotional relationship of this tragic loss of life. I am not contesting the validity of this tragedy or downplaying the “universal” feeling of discrimination felt by so many.
Discrimination is one of the most egregious experiences a human can endure. Discrimination knows no allies or foe. Discrimination is not settled with enough is enough, rather it can be poured on you until your cup is overflowing. It leaves an individual with feelings of hopelessness and despair. Emotionally, discrimination can feel as though your heart has been thrust from your chest. It is through discrimination that an individual’s own identity can be squelched.
I doubt that there is a human alive that has not experienced some form of discrimination. While the degree with which an individual may have experienced discrimination may vary; the effects of discrimination is commonly universal. When an individual has been discriminated against there is a shadow of doubt placed upon your character, your abilities and your overall persona. It is the single most human invention that I could do without. At its essence, discrimination is the intentional or the un-intentional prejudice or prejudicial perspectives, behaviors, actions, beliefs, propaganda or treatment that affects the life of another.
Discrimination can occur through blanketed ideological perspectives that segregates or singles out an individual or a group of people. Discrimination may occur out of a prejudice that is related to an individual’s personal race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political, belief system, educational or lack therein, cultural, employment, or intellect.
MANAGING THESE TURBULENT TIMES
How are you coping? How are you managing your personal angst? Do you feel that your emotional well has run dry? My concern is that there have been many, and will continue to be many, who return to abusing various substances, alcohol and other vices. We are indeed in a perilous time, but this is not to say that we will remain in this time. We most assuredly will be moving beyond this. Although the media and others may have you believe that these times are here to stay; I firmly believe that these times will pass. We will move beyond these times as we have others in the past. Hopefully, we will learn from these times. Possibly, we may gain a new appreciation and acceptance for our fellow human.
According to a poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the survey aimed to provide a clear explanation of the struggles that individuals may be facing at this time. The assessment focused on perspectives of the nation’s mental, physical and financial health. The survey provided disturbing details of how people currently feel. The poll found that during the first week in May 2020, approximately two-thirds of Americans describe overwhelming feelings of anxiousness, nervousness, depression, loneliness, and hopelessness.
MOVING BEYOND OUR STRUGGLES
I beseech you, do not give into your past struggles. Life is worth living. It is worth pursuing and enduring these challenging times. It is worth the hardships and the acts that are blatantly designed to cause you harm. We will move beyond these times and prove better for it.
We will need one another to move beyond our struggles. We can no longer act as a lone vessel in the harbor. We must understand that our struggles and the struggles of our fellow humans are mirrored. If nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis has brought all of humanity to its feet. You are not alone, and your struggle is the same as so many.
When an individual begins feeling isolated, lonely, depressed, and desperate; they are often feeling as though no one can relate. Believe me, I can confirm that there are a vast number of people who are feeling the same emotional uncertainty that you are experiencing.
THE GOOD NEWS
We will move beyond these unbelievable times. We will overcome these struggles and our indifferences. For far too long, there has been a racial divide that has plagued our country. The egregious acts of discrimination and prejudices will no longer be tolerated.
At this time, we must become unified. The outcry of our country and the global community is for universal peace, acceptance, liberty, and justice. For so many, the depths of discrimination have caused personal angst and trauma. We are listening.
I encourage you to help your fellow human. Empower those around you by offering a gentle word, a sincere smile, a listening ear, a shoulder to lean upon, and simply, words of encouragement. We are all living in a difficult time, but it can be improved with each empathetic act.
Dr. Asa Don Brown is a prolific author, an engaging speaker, human rights advocate, and clinical psychologist. He serves as first responder in New York and he has held university faculty positions teaching incoming freshmen to those completing their graduate work. asadonbrown.com