A recent study published in the periodical, Psychology of Women Quarterly, just came out with some news that might be counter-intuitive to church going, mentor-seeking, and candle-burning black women wishing to relieve racial stress–the report says it doesn’t work. That’s no surprise to me. Whenever I go to my mother about some stress in my life, this Creflo Dollar-loving woman just tells me to pray and read the 23rd Psalms. Tried it once or twice, no dice.
According to researchers, the typical go-to stress relievers for “the struggle” are:
- Collective-centered coping, such as asking for advice from elders or the community
- Cognitive-emotional coping, such as seeking out people who could draw out emotions like laughter or happiness
- Spiritual-centered coping, such as prayer
- Ritual-centered coping, such as lighting a candle
…and none of them seemed to be doing the trick.
“I expected that higher use of coping efforts would reduce the severity of psychological outcomes associated with individual race-related stress,” wrote Tawanda Greer, the study’s author. “However, the outcomes were surprising. The results showed that the use of one particular method of coping, the use of ritual-centered coping, actually increased stress levels.” (e!Science News, July 12, 2011)
Aside from the candle lighting, all of the above coping mechanisms focus on the dependence of others to make black women feel better. And perhaps therein lies the problem. Not saying it doesn’t help to talk things through or seek The Big Guy in the Sky for guidance, but maybe black women should be looking for other avenues to solve problems and/or episodes they perceive as racially-fueled. We’re so quick to assume that every non-black person who is rude to us, doesn’t speak or cuts in front of us in line is racist, when in truth he or she just might be an a**hole. If you’re looking for racism under every rock, behind every tree and in between the sidewalk lines, then yes; no amount of praying, candle burning, or complaining to your friends is going to help the situation.
And that’s the big problem I have with this study. What is the researcher’s definition of “racial stress?” Is she talking about people who get hurled the n-word everyday while walking the streets minding their own business? While it is true that black women experience tremendous amount of stress from a variety of sources–single-parenting, working 10-12 hours then coming home for the second shift, financial problems, battling weight and health problems, etc–I wouldn’t necessarily categorize them as “racial stressors.” These stressors are cultural.
Here’s a novel approach: how about instead of looking to everyone else to make us feel better, we work on empowering ourselves?
Christelyn D. Karazin is the co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race Culture and Creed (to be released April 2012), and runs a blog, www.beyondblackwhite.com, dedicated to women of color who are interested and or involved in interracial and intercultural relationships. She is also the founder and organizer of “No Wedding, No Womb,” an initiative to find solutions to the 72 percent out-of-wedlock rate in the black community.