Young, Black, Professional and Outraged: How to Deal with Constant Chaos and Oppression

If you are paying attention, you are most likely outraged. Unfortunately, there are countless reasons to be distressed these days. If personal problems are not enough, social and political strife around the world is a constant threat to our wellbeing. We have a right to be distraught over the current state of our country given the mass shootings, a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis, the Keystone pipeline, discrimination against immigrants, poisoned water in low-income areas, police brutality, the threat of nuclear war, and the list keeps growing. Beyond our country, oppression and violence plagues millions of people around the world. Many of these atrocities disproportionately impact the lives of marginalized ethnic groups, with Black people typically getting the brunt of the attacks. I am outraged and I’m not afraid to say it. Unfortunately, I still have to live my day to day life despite the current state of affairs in this world. We still have work, school, responsibilities, and people who need us to find a way to persevere through the chaos. 

So What Can We Do?

As young, Black people we may not be treated with the respect we deserve or afforded the privileges that others take for granted but that does not determine our value nor our fate. We are inherently worthy and we can take steps to change horrible these circumstances for the better. Though it may seem like an overwhelming task, it is not impossible. Here’s where we can start:

Allow Yourself to be Outraged

Or to feel whatever feelings you are experiencing… hurt, betrayal, sadness, loss, grief, anger. Allow yourself to have the natural reactions to the outrageous way that people are oppressed and killed around the world and don’t push it away. Find a healthy outlet to express your feelings. Try talking to someone you trust. If talking isn’t helpful, then try writing or find other creative ways to express your emotions. Your feelings are valid and should not be ignored. Suppressing your feelings will have a long-term negative impact on your emotional and physical health. Feelings won’t go away unless they are expressed in a healthy way.

Pay Attention

As difficult as it might be to think about all of the terrible things happening to marginalized groups every day, we cannot allow ourselves to be ignorant to all that is going on in this country and around the world. We cannot settle for ignorance because the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that there is a problem to fix. We have to pay close attention to determine the root of these problems and then find ways to solve them. It is essential to be aware of the current state of affairs. Let’s not forget that knowledge is power. If you don’t know what’s going on then you can’t do anything about it.

Participate Politically

Trust me, I am not very politically savvy but it is important that we start educating ourselves and taking action. We need to vote in every election, city and state elections included. We need to know our representatives and hold them accountable to their constituent's needs. We need to run for office. It may sound cliche but we need to be the change that we want to see in the world. We will never experience profound change by sitting around complaining or waiting for other people to make changes. If everyone were to say to themselves “someone else will do it” nothing would ever get done. It has to start with every frustrated individual who sees a need and fills it, who recognizes injustice and rectifies it, who understands the disparities and closes the gap.

Impact your Spheres of Influence

Think about ways that you can make a difference at your job, in your school, in your family, or within your community. How are you impacting the lives of those around you? So often we can get discouraged because it seems impossible to make large-scale change but we forget that it’s also important to make changes at the interpersonal level. If you have family, friends, a job, attend school or live in a community, then you have spheres of influence. Volunteer in your community, have meaningful conversations with people you know, mentor someone coming up under you, raise awareness, and utilize what’s around you. That’s the best place to start. Have you taken the time to have meaningful conversations with the people closest to you? One changed mind could eventually impact millions. So don’t feel discouraged if you can’t impact millions of people just yet, seek to enlighten or help empower at least one person and then expand your reach from there. If you genuinely want to make the world a better place, then don’t concern yourself with the numbers. This isn’t an all or nothing game. You can take purposeful steps make a change today.

Action Items: Consider whether you have allowed yourself to express your natural reactions to the chaos in the world, if you haven’t, think about healthy ways that you would be able to express those emotions. Then take active steps to pay attention, participate politically, and impact your spheres of influence. You can be purposeful about making a difference in this world.

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