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Remember This When Facing Discrimination

November 17, 2021 – Joel Bervell remembers moving from his hometown of Seattle to the East Coast after being accepted to Yale University.

Still used to the big move, Bervell, who had walked through high school with straight aces, went to his chemistry teacher for advice after getting a bad mark on a test.

“He glanced at me and said, ‘Oh, if you’re on the soccer team, you don’t have to worry about it. So many people from the football team come into the class and end up dropping out, so if you have to drop out of that class, you can, ”Bervell says.

Bervell, who is black, was not on the football team and did not receive a sports scholarship of any kind.

“That this professor made a guess about me, which I felt was based on my race, made me less likely to want to enter a scientific field, where I felt like I was being judged even before. to have had a chance to prove myself, ”says Bervell.

Discrimination can have particularly damaging consequences for young adults entering college or starting careers, according to new UCLA study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers studied the health data of 1,834 Americans between the ages of 18 and 28 over a 10-year period. The results show that the more discrimination they experienced, including ageism, sexism and racism, the more likely they were to experience mental and behavioral issues, such as mental illness, drug use, distress. severe psychological and overall poor health.

Bervell, now 26, says he feels lucky to have learned healthy ways to deal with his feelings and emotions as he grew up.

“Instead of taking that and internalizing it, I said, ‘How can I use this to prove him wrong?’ He said. “Does that mean I have to work harder or does it mean I have to find another mentor?” Surround myself with different people?

Bervell is currently a third year medical student at Washington State University.

When not in the hospital seeing patients, you can find him educating his nearly 340,000 TikTok followers on topics such as racial bias in medicine.

Recognize the impact

Most black people do not link psychological distress to acts of racism, according to Rheeda Walker, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Houston and author of The without excuse To guide to black mental health.

Many blacks even normalize it.

“People face it [racism] as just another thing, like paying bills, going to work and studying for class and not as an overwhelming psychological burden that it is, ”says Walker.

And despite what some may say, racial discrimination isn’t just “a thing of the past,” says Walker.

“Instead, discrimination has moved from more overt forms of discrimination to less obvious microaggressions,” she says.

It is also essential that young adults learn to deal with racism to avoid the risk of “internalizing the fact that they deserve to be abused and / or that they have to work twice as hard to overcome racism”, explains Walker.

“Both scenarios can worsen hopelessness and worry, the psychological characteristics of depression and anxiety, respectively,” says Walker.

Embrace your emotions

Known in the office as “a big teddy bear,” Frederick Herman, a Charlotte-based mortgage creator, trained a new employee to make sales calls, a common practice in his job.

He says a day or two later, his manager let him know that he had made an employee “very uncomfortable” by intimidating him while he was on the phone. Herman, 29, has been asked to watch for his “aggressive” behavior.

“I am a taller black man. I’m like 6’2, 300 lbs., A bit muscular. So if I was talking to her or trying to coach her was intimidating, then there is nothing I can do or say differently than what I was already doing so that she doesn’t feel intimidated, ”says Herman.

“If a big teddy bear is intimidating you now, that tells me all I need to know.”

This was not the first time that Herman had been reprimanded for being “too aggressive” or “showing off” when trying to help his co-workers at work.

“I’ve had other experiences at work where I can’t share my ideas, or I can get very anxious,” says Herman, a black man of Haitian descent.

It’s important to allow yourself to feel your emotions after facing acts of discrimination, says Ebony Butler, PhD, licensed psychologist and creator of My Therapy Cards, a card game designed for men, women and teens of color, with personal care and invites reflection.

This is a practice called “self-validation” and can reduce the tendency to blame yourself for abuse, explains Butler.

Herman, 29, says he recently signed up for therapy to overcome his anxiety issues.

Relaxation techniques, like anchoring and mindfulness, can also be helpful, Butler explains.

“Some examples of ways to practice anchoring are to immerse yourself in nature, to walk barefoot on the ground, to lie on the ground, to practice slow and deep breathing or to awaken the senses”, she says.

“When we are rooted and present, we can better manage our responses and plan our actions. “

Use Unique

If you find yourself in a racist school or workplace, don’t be intimidated, says Wendy Osefo, PhD, professor of education at Johns Hopkins University, political commentator and television personality.

Osefo made history in 2016 as the first black woman to earn a doctorate in public affairs / community development from Rutgers University.

“Your attitude should be that no matter how different you might be, you belong and you have earned the right to occupy this space. You are no less qualified than the others around you, ”she says.

Ofeso is also CEO of The 1954 Equity Project, an organization that gives minority students tools to succeed in higher education – like mentorships, peer support groups, and other resources and services – while staying authentic.

No matter how uncomfortable it can be, staying true to who you are rather than conforming to the masses pays off, Osefo says.

“Being different is unique and allows you to bring a new and fresh perspective to an environment,” she says.

“Addressing that uniqueness creates a level of confidence that will help you be successful. ”

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