I’m just going to say it. When they said “roaring ‘20s” this is not what I had in mind.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)
Now that we’ve had a moment to take a deep breath and re-center ourselves after the shit-show that was the outgoing administration and riot-watch 2021, your friendly neighborhood activists are here to refill your perspective prescription. You’re welcome.
In the days leading up to the Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20, there were reports of armed groups planning to gather in all 50 states at their respective state capitols. Naturally, people panicked but our fearless leaders (Twitter and TikTok) kept us updated with information on possible danger and gave tips for locking down.
Then, thanks to all the spare time she had after Keeping Up with the Kardashians was canceled, Kendall Jenner single-handedly prevented any civil unrest. Single-handedly because the other one was holding a Pepsi, of course.
Thus, inauguration came and went with minimal drama and maximum drip and now that we’re mostly in the clear it’s important to step back and reflect. The fact is, all the chaos and stress of the inauguration violence produced very different reactions, and those reactions are tied to privilege and racial experience.
A charged political atmosphere is threatening for all, but not equally. It’s time we talk about why in the days leading up to inauguration some people were preparing weapons for riot participation, some were stockpiling necessities to hole up for weeks, and some stocked up on snack food and snark to watch the events for entertainment purposes without feeling at risk.
Sure, we were all on high alert for Inauguration Day and potential violence but for some those fears died the moment JLo ✨ got loud✨ and scared any rioters away with her….volume?
Yet, for BIPOC stress and fear is a constant state of existence that lasts way past an initial incident. It’s tricky. Minority / threatened communities often feel anxieties that last for weeks, if not months, because violence means, well, violence. But no violence can hint as repressed violence that may manifest in more targeted ways once it does bubble over, if it bubbles over.
For example, a violent atmosphere à la Inauguration Day and riots can imply that racial tension in general is on the rise and trigger race-based traumatic stress.
Racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS) can occur from encounters that are racially charged, discriminatory or can be described as emotionally painful, sudden or uncontrollably racist. Racial trauma also forms indirectly and can come as a result of indirect or systemic racism. So basically, we’ve found another thing America can be number one in!
Purdue University, in acknowledging the perfect clusterfuck insurrection + a pandemic + regular-degular young adult stresses creates, held a series of Inauguration Stress Discussion Groups “based on the possible emotional impact and physiological reactions of BIPOC”, to the inauguration according to their Counselling and Psychological Services website.
Not only do political environments cause emotional stress, but “For BIPOC students and other minority students these stressors are layered on top of experiences of systemic racism in their daily lives, which can result in physiological (e.g., high blood pressure, heart disease) and psychological (e.g., increased depression, anxiety, and trauma reactions) consequences,” continued Perdue’s website.
So physically, mentally and emotionally post-inauguration season’s been taxing on BIPOC and building a panic room is expensive so financially coping isn’t exactly a walk in the park (up to armed guards to stop riots with richness, Kendall). Peace of mind in political unrest is a privilege non-BIPOC get to have, so the least we can do is check their privilege…like a cheque.
OK, I’ll go.
In the event that you feel you may be experiencing race-based traumatic stress injury, the Mental Health America website has a list of therapy resources that are sorted into categories that may more specifically meet your needs.
Alazne Cameron was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica and is an Online Activism writer at Rowdy Magazine. She loves food-based metaphors, alliteration and social justice. Her favorite food is food for thought (but anything with a cheesy, creamy Alfredo base is a close second). You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @alaznecameron for more information.