The person experiencing the racism is never to blame.
Those on the receiving end of the racism may start to believe that they should change something about themselves or how they behave, believing that they can control or limit the racism in some way. It is important that the individual reminds themselves that they are not at fault whatsoever and that the racism is the problem. It is crucial to remember that if you are experiencing any acts of racism, that you are not responsible for any of it and have very little, if any, control over it. However, this lack of control can leave a damaging impact on mental health and this should be understood and addressed.
Attending to emotions
Just noticing and attending to the emotions that racism can bring up can be really helpful. Due to the way that racism can impact on the self-worth and self esteem of the person experiencing it, they may try to ignore these uncomfortable emotions. Rather than trying to ignore the emotions, it could be useful to accept them instead. This is NOT the same as accepting the racism, but rather letting themselves feel the emotions that the experience brings. This acceptance of emotions in the moment can help to alleviate anxiety. By acknowledging the emotions, the person experiencing them might find that the emotions are trying to tell them something and this can help them take action. For example, if you are frequently experiencing microaggressions in the workplace and you are consistently feeling anxious and angry, perhaps your emotions are telling you that you should try to leave the situation.
Leaving the situation
Although the person experiencing racism should not feel that they need to change due to the racism, there may be situations where leaving the situation is the best option. Remaining in a situation where you are are experiencing racism can be toxic and damaging. It is important that the individual be mindful of their mental heath and wellbeing and make this a priority if they have to.
Arguably one of the most important factors which will influence the impact of racism on mental health is the level of emotional support. Having a strong support network can increase resilience and provide a place for the person experiencing racism to process their emotions. Whether the support system is made up of family, friends, a therapist or a combination of them all, having a support network is crucial.
We are all responsible for responding to and preventing all forms of racism. Take the time to learn and to be more knowledgeable about racism, to question your own beliefs and to ask others about theirs, to be accountable for your actions and for your words. It is only by doing this that we can make real progress in preventing and fighting racism and its impact on mental health.