The “Angry Black Woman” or “feisty and fiery Latina” narrative- and Black and Brown men who fall under these tropes- stem from powerfully dangerous stereotypes, but are not examined through any further. My question lies with this: Why are Black and Brown communities deemed so angry? Moody? Even Lazy? These are traits that, if they were seen in a white body, would just be considered of a mental illness, possibly depression. Why is it that we ignore Black and Brown bodies’ mental health and dismiss mental illness as racial/ethnic traits?
I, along with many of my other Latinx folks, suffer from depression and anxiety, but no one would know that not because I’m “pissed off” all the time, but because I’m Brown and that’s…just how my people are? I say no, Black and Brown bodies aren’t angry just because of that is how we are culturally. The combination of our possible mental illnesses being ignored along with the systemic oppression that Black and Brown bodies have to go through, make for a not-so-happy-camper.
There are many reasons why Black and Brown communities may ignore mental health and choose to move on with their lives pretending that mental illness is not an issue-or rather, it’s not a Black or Brown issue, but a white person issue. Here are 4 many reasons communities of color, specifically Latinx communities, ignore mental health.
We may possibly lack the language comprehension, and this may lead to lack of access to the proper mental health education.
When Latinos come from their respective countries into the United States, the language difference is the first and most prominent barrier and this instantly creates a divide. Latinx folks who face challenges with the English language often cannot obtain resources due to financial, systematic, or personal reasons, and resort to sticking with communities who are in similar situations-with similar cultures, for the comfort and support they wouldn’t receive otherwise. Having to learn in American schools, in the English language, is an obstacle in itself, but being able to find accessible information on mental illness and mental health, a concept that is new and constantly finding new things within its own field, is near impossible. These two reasons combined may create a sense of apathy within the community.
We’re too busy worrying about our physical health.
Various degrees and types of cancers, diabetes, and heart disease are some of the types of physical ailments most common in Latinx communities, and come with very strong and valid concern, but sometimes the concern just stops here. Because our community, like many other communities of color, rely simply on symptoms of illnesses that are tangible and physical, anything that is more abstract is simply nonexistent or insignificant. We need to learn that dealing with mental illness takes a tremendous toll on your health, just as much as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Religious views of older generations prevent us from understanding science and medicine.
Religious attitudes that can be seen as archaic and out of date, are still very much influential in much older generations of Latinx folks and this, like their religious traditions, gets passed down to their children and so on and so forth. With this ideology, symptoms of mental illness are ignored or deemed works of some devil from somewhere, and it is said that if one simply just tries hard enough, praying the depression or bipolar disorder away is possible, that this could be the cure for the mental illnesses, when in fact they are anything but.
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Our communities cannot simply fathom ANOTHER marginalization that can set us back.
What else besides gender, race, sexuality, class, ability, anything that is “physically” seen and presented to the world on a day to day basis, can add to the intersections of Latinx individuals and would cause them even more setbacks, cost them more jobs, create an even thicker layer on the glass ceiling? Adding mental health and illness into the equation seems scary to have to think about, “what would make society hate me even more than they already do now?” and that thought is…well…depressing.
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Luckily, first and second generation Latinx folks are making changes to fix their communities, starting with marking importance on mental health, as much as physical health. And luckily, their parents and older generations living in the United States, are following suit.
I’m not trying to invalidate non-marginalized folks who do in fact deal with mental illness – their feelings, experiences, and issues are very real and very much valid – but some of us have very real and very scary issues that leave us angry, anxious, disturbed, and sad. Really sad. So sad that getting out of bed seems like the greatest obstacle of the day. Depression, along with other mental illnesses, can make you feel as though no one wants you and that you are worthless. But considering that living as a marginalized person, where history, society, and the world tells you and shows you that this is in fact, true, and this truth will not change any time soon, you cannot expect us to “cheer up because it ain’t so bad.” -No, it’s worse.
But hope is not lost. I, along with many of my fellow Latinx friends, have parents who are seeking professional mental help if they have access to it and need it, and their children are planning on doing the same. Slowly but surely, when Black and Brown folks say they want to go through therapy, the response won’t be “why would anyone do that?” but instead, “Great! So, when?”
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[Feature Image: The photo is grey scale. It is of four people walking away from the camera holding hands. The person on the left has short dark hair and is wearing dark pants. Holding their hand is a child with short dark hair and dark shorts. Holding their hand to the right is a person with long dark hair, a dark bandeau top and short dark skirt. Holding their right hand is a person with short dark hair and white shorts. In the background are palm trees. Source: marco antonio torres]