Mental Health America has made strong statements in the past that have condemned racism in America because it diminishes our mental health. It is time for another.
For us, there are two alternatives: racism or antiracism. Racism is about inequity. Racist policies and practices are those that increase inequity based on race. Antiracism is just the opposite – policies and practices that decrease inequity based on race.
The response to the DC riot is an example of racism. Ninety minutes went by from the time members of Congress begged Maryland’s governor to send in back-up National Guard support until the time the Department of the Army approved it. Meanwhile rioters were ransacking the Capitol. And when reinforcements did arrive, the muted response to the mostly White rioters was far less aggressive than the outsized response to mostly Black, mostly peaceful protestors in DC last year, who were tear-gassed in a matter of minutes when the President wanted a photo op.
In other words, the two responses exemplified less equal, and therefore more racist, treatment.
And this is the result.
For people of color – particularly Black and African Americans and Indigenous folks – the insurrection that occurred at the Capitol was a blatant display of white supremacy at work in real time. It brought up memories of the brutality experienced by peaceful protestors during decades of civil rights protests.
The disproportionate response from police to the mob riot at DC of a violent, mostly White mob at a federal building succeeded in exacerbating the anger, stress, and trauma experienced by Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities – not calming a violent scene at the Capitol.
In addition, the blatant displays of antisemitism harmed the mental health and sense of safety of Jewish Americans, who have also experienced decades of generational trauma.
These traumas are real, valid, and must be addressed. Racism in our institutions comes at the expense of our mental health. It must be systematically addressed and eliminated to create a world that is mentally healthy for all.