Respecting the Black Experience During Black History Month

February 22, 2023

Each February, we celebrate Black History Month. It is a time to deepen our understanding of not only the contributions of the Black community, but also of the Black experience.

This year’s Black History Month theme “Black Resistance” serves as a reminder of the struggles that the Black community has faced and how they have fought and continue to fight for racial equity. For centuries and still today, the Black community has faced oppression in a variety of forms – slavery, redlining, segregation, lynching. The list goes on. Through it all, they have had to advocate for themselves, often through forms of resistance. As the Association for the Study of African American Life and History® explains in their description of the 2023 theme, “Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty and justice for all.” But the Black community should not have to shoulder this burden alone.

As I reflect on the realities of Black History in the U.S., I’m reminded that for the Black community and other communities of color, the way they experience the world is vastly different from how I experience it. The Black community has been traumatized for generations by racist systems, including the health system, that were not built to serve them. They are carrying the weight of not only that community trauma, but also their own individual trauma as the result of racism. Those traumatic experiences greatly affect how they navigate the world around them, including feeling a need to be hypervigilant and causing feelings of depression and low self-esteem.

Mental health treatment can help to ease the effects of racial trauma, but distrust of the behavioral health system in the Black community can make it more difficult to seek out help. Our team at Wyandot BHN recognizes that seeking mental health treatment can be a very vulnerable and stigmatized act. But we want those in the Black community to feel safe coming to us for support. It is on Wyandot BHN to continue to work and evolve to make sure that anyone who comes to us who is looking to process and heal from their trauma can work with a service provider with similar life experiences who can provide compassionate, trauma-informed treatment.

As we recognize Black History Month, we must acknowledge and respect that those in the Black community may see and experience the world in a way that is different from the way we see things. When we recognize and validate the different ways that people experience the world and the reasons why, we begin to provide an opportunity for healing.