Although Black History Month and Valentine’s Day end in February, we cannot stop learning about the experience people of color continue to face and we especially cannot stop celebrating love in all its forms. Let’s take the time to highlight the intersection of race with what it means to love someone and how both concepts are an integral part of practicing prevention.
Racism has been so ingrained into our societal structures that interpersonal violence can be an entirely intersectional experience on its own. Along with the emotional trauma such violence can cause, the difficulty in finding resources and support systems that look like you or cater to your specific needs as a person of color can add to stress, confusion, difficulty understanding one’s trauma, and barriers to healing. The systemic issues that the Black community faces, whether it be financial or physical accessibility, can hinder that ability to seek healing or even promote positive prevention strategy.
Let’s be real: if you are already undergoing daily racial trauma that seems inevitable, does it seem possible to hold space for any other trauma or emotional change? This can also include the harm that can be caused by expecting Black women, men, and children to remain ‘strong’ and not fully experience their emotions without feeling ridiculed, judged, or authentic to themselves or their community.
If we want to work towards a society of change, we need to begin by being honest in that the experience of harm and the experience of love are different for everyone, even if the only difference is someone’s racial identity. When we talk about prevention related skills and concepts, such as discussing consent or understanding empathy, these frameworks need to be intentional in including how this can look differently to marginalized communities. Loving someone doesn’t have to equate to romance, but rather showing someone that they are deserving of empathy, being believed in their experience, and being cared for. It can be showing them that their voice matters and that they deserve the equal love and compassion we show those that we personally care about. It can include allowing them to feel weak or unheard because the harsh reality is that it’s true. This includes allowing them to experience what they are feeling without trying to compare our own experiences, and it includes having their voice at the forefront to have a moment of justice and fair treatment that they may not be able to receive every day. The little actions matter as much as the big.
For those of you who are a person of color, we hope that you know that you deserve love and that you should be celebrated for being you. We hope that you can take this information and reflect it inward to practice the self-compassion that you need. For those of you who are wanting to ensure that our communities are safe for everyone, whether it be through prevention strategy or what you find to be most effective, take time to practice authentic compassion and continue to learn more about what it means to experience the reality of oppressive systems. Let us work together to celebrate love in all forms throughout the entirety of the year, including the moments when we need it most.
Practice kindness without people pleasing
Provide space without judgement by assuming people are doing the best they can
Actively listen without thinking of a response
Ask: “What if this was someone I love? How would I want someone to respond to them?”
Take care of yourself in the ways you need to prevent compassion fatigue
Ask clarifying, open-ended questions
Ask: “What can I do to best support you right now?”