“Your silence doesn’t help us” A mentally challenging year for people of color

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)— The COVID-19 pandemic, and a fight for racial equality. Two life-changing events, that will forever leave a lasting impact on the Black community.

In March, everyone in the United States felt the impact of COVID-19, what wasn’t known at that time, how the Coronavirus would disproportionately affect people of color.

Two months after the pandemic struck, a Black man named George Floyd died during an arrest in Minneapolis. His death kicked off a movement against police brutality and protests calling for racial justice.

“First of all as a black woman when people see me they see my skin. They don’t see my character.”

For Tamilikia Foster, she’s calling for a change in how Black people are treated in the U.S., and the pain she feels goes beyond 2020.

“We’re dealing with trauma from years past. Trauma from slavery that’s engrained in our DNA that pain is there.” Says Foster. “It was just more pain on more pain and I had to decided am I gonna lash out and be angry or am I gonna try to make a difference and change not just for myself, not just for my children, but for the community.”

A community, who at the same time took to the streets to fight for fair treatment, also saw a pandemic, killing other members of their community at a higher rate. Something the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services say they discussed often.

“This has been such a challenging time on so many levels and really early on in the COVID crisis we started to recognize that people of color were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 which meant that disproportionate rates of loss and death that they were dealing with of illness,” Said Doctor Debra Pinals, who’s the state’s Behavioral Health Medical Director. “The scab was pulled off yet again as we saw some of the injustices with the murder of George Floyd. So there’s just so much strain going on in general, but in particular, for persons of color who ya know, may have just maybe standing on kind of a legacy of feeling ya know traumatized or not made equal and inequitable factors and that can really take a toll on one’s mental health.”

Mental Health. A topic Foster says is often shunned in the Black community, and there’s a lack of encouragement for people to get help, something she would like to see change.

“I’m so happy that I’m able to speak and say that it is okay for a black person to reach out and get counseling. It is okay to get medication to help you. It is okay to say I need help. A lot of times in the black community we’re told to pray about it, kneel about it, don’t talk about it, what happens in the home needs to stay in the home, but a lot of times that trauma just keeps going and keeps going and we lash out sometimes not knowing how to control ourselves because we’re so angry.”

The anger she says comes from racism experienced in her everyday life when she’s working as a nurse in Lansing.

“I’ve been called so many N-words. A story I can tell you is I saved a child’s life and the dad didn’t care that I saved his daughter’s life. He was more upset that I touched his child and he said he rather his child die than an N-word touch it”

Her message, quit trying to justify people’s actions, and speak up and out if you see something wrong. Don’t be afraid to accept that you might have things about you that you need to change and overcome.

“You’re silence doesn’t help us.”

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