We express our condolences to the families and loved ones of Javier Ambler, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black Americans killed at the hands of U.S. law enforcement.
The World Mental Health Coalition brings together mental health professionals and allies in other disciplines to educate the public and policymakers about issues that pose potential dangers to public health. It is thus our responsibility to inform the public of the threat that white supremacy poses to the wellbeing of society.
First, we acknowledge that the psychological trauma incurred by persons of African descent in North America has been unremitting for over 400 years. Post-enslavement, Black Americans have always been subject to discriminatory practices: punitive “Black Codes” during Reconstruction led to Jim Crow, setting a precedent for segregation and miscegenation laws in the twentieth century, and for the institutionalized disadvantages facing Black people today, including: redlining and predatory lending by banks; disproportionate prison sentencing; Black children trapped in lower-end special education school programs; the denial of culturally responsive teaching and healthcare; and the consistently underrecognized incidents of lynching, rape, and castration that have Blacks under years of asphyxiating conditions.
We affirm that Black Americans are living under the duress of trauma that threatens every aspect of their lives, including a reduced life expectancy and poor physical health. The ongoing psychic abuse of Black people surpasses Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—there has never been a “post” trauma—and requires a more appropriate label: Persistent Enslavement Systemic Trauma (PEST). We embrace this new designation, coined by one of our Board members, Dr. Kevin Washington, to describe the unique trauma, co-occurring with systemic and structural racism, that has residual effects upon the daily lives of Black people.
The agenda of white supremacy does lasting psychological harm to both its adherents and its victims. We agree that the rhetoric of sitting U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, combined with the unwillingness of lawmakers to hold him in check, threatens the health and wellbeing of Black people and, therefore, negatively impacts the general health of society.
We call on enforcers of the law to closely examine how their policing tactics are informed by racism; and we call on city councils, governors, and other elected representatives to hold police departments accountable in order to bring about meaningful reform.
We recognize that icons and images are associated with ideology, and we support the removal of statues, icons, and images that are associated with denial of the humanity of Black people.
We support calls for increased funding in mental health education and psycho-spiritual healing for all people of African descent, and advocate for interdisciplinary research in these areas, particularly at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) and other Black organizations.
We call for solidarity in bringing reparations to persons of African descent around the world: addressing the sociopolitical issues that disrupt their mental and physical well-being; conducting research on the promotion of mental wellness of this underserved population; and engaging in corrective actions that help restore African peoples psychologically, politically, and economically.
As long as any portion of the torn fabric of society goes unrestored, societal health will always elude us. For this reason, we stand in protest against the denial of human rights and the right to live that people of African descent have endured, and we proclaim that Black Lives Matter.
Bandy X. Lee, M.D.
Kevin Washington, Ph.D.