When New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams opened up about his emotional fatigue from racism, his shift in candor during the press conference last year hit home for many who empathized with him.
“I am not OK. I am not OK today,” he said.
It was shortly after George Floyd was killed by then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, even as Covid-19 ravaged the city and political strife continued to amp up.
“I want to give the Black community permission to say I am not OK,” he continued. “I am tired. I am tired. I have not watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery. It is too much. I have not watched the video of George Floyd. It is too much. Black people have to go to work the next day and be alright. I am not OK. I am tired. I am tired of racism.”
The author Mary-Frances Winters documented this moment in “Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit,” because it captured the essence of her book.
Winters, founder and CEO of The Winters Group Inc., a global firm specializing in diversity and inclusion consulting, uses this scene to name and describe a phenomenon that she believes countless Black Americans know all too well. She terms it “Black fatigue.”
In nearly 300 pages, the book delves into the history of white supremacy and racist systems that have led to intergenerational Black fatigue. Winters also contends that in every aspect of life — from education and socioeconomics to the workforce, criminal justice and health outcomes — racism is literally killing Black people.
“Science has proven that racism is a direct cause of physiological and psychological maladies,” she writes. “Black people suffer disproportionately from diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, obesity, among others. Many of these health issues are uncorrelated to socioeconomic status. In other words, contrary to what might seem intuitive, education and income are not mitigators. Further, experts have recently made connections to how chronic stress impacts us the cellular level and is passed down generationally.”
Winters spoke with NBC News about how efforts to make the nation more equitable and inclusive for generations have not yet been actualized — and how that affects the health of Black Americans and people of color.
NBC News: This is your sixth book. What led you to this specific topic?
Mary-Frances Winters: In my consulting business, I encounter people in the workplace on a regular basis in training sessions and focus group research. I was hearing over and over again, especially from Black millennials and Generation Zers: “We are exhausted.” This refrain was common no matter what industry or size of organization.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Donna M. Owens