It’s time to start taking Black mental health seriously
April 28, 2022
After releasing one of the most critically acclaimed underground rap albums of the last decade, “AmeriKKKan Korruption,” Jamal Dewar Jr. (better known as Capital Steez) tweeted “The End.” on his Twitter account. While many viewed the message as nothing more than a cryptic tweet, the reality was something much darker. On Christmas Eve, a day after his final tweet, Capital Steez jumped off of a New York skyscraper to take his own life. He was 19 years old.
Mental health within the Black community tends to be overlooked both outside the community and within the community. From the long-lasting results of slavery, African Americans have had to deal with the harsh reality of being in a country that wasn’t constructed with the intent of their inclusion. The dehumanization, oppression and violence against African Americans has been disguised to further push the narrative of progression in our society. Amid this awkward transition, we see racial bias, hypocrisy and racism displayed through the public’s reactions to Black trauma and hardships.
For example, whenever a black celebrity has a mental break or speaks out about their concerns, the internet tends to disregard their words. Take the situation involving, for instance, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time: Lebron James. During the 2020 NBA season, James expressed the need for changes in the legal system as the killing of George Floyd plagued the nation. James claimed that Derrick Chauvin (the officer who killed Floyd) needed to be held accountable and that these tragedies happen far too often. James was met with heavy backlash, with many claiming it isn’t his job to speak out about these occurrences, even going as far as spreading a popular Twitter meme in his comment section saying “shut up and dribble.”
While on Instagram Live, popular “Fast and Furious” actor Tyrese Gibson was coping with not being able to see his daughters while spending thousands per month on child support. Gibson began crying. Instead of people sympathizing with a distraught father, they instead made a viral meme of him, disrupting his entire message of Black men needing to be in Black households.
Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles battled mental health issues prompted by the death of a family member and her testimony in the FBI’s case against USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. Struggling with this caused Biles to withdraw from the all-around Olympics gymnastics competition. Her departure sparked a debate around the importance of mental health within sports. While Biles had many rooting for her and praising her decision, many also had issues with her decision. Biles’ withdrawal caused outrage as many believed her to be the key to USA’s gymnastics success and that leaving due to mental health was not a good enough reason. Popular broadcaster Piers Morgan even went as far as to call Biles’s actions “a joke” and that “kids need strong role models, not this nonsense.”
As a Black person, talking about mental health seems almost illegal. It’s almost as if speaking about your mental position somehow makes you ungrateful or weak. Within the Black community, there are tendencies to disregard mental health as a means of survival. We look at life’s hardships as a part of life and as long as you have the bare necessities you should be perfectly fine.
The culture we’ve created doesn’t endorse mental health awareness. With high depression rates and a suicide rate twice as high as white people’s, as a community we must shift the narrative of mental health within the Black community. You aren’t selfish for putting yourself first or ungrateful for feeling the way that you do. Although we are Black and have to work twice as hard to sometimes only get half as far, we are still people and need to recognize that. You are not a machine. You are a human, and that’s okay.