From Grief To Grind: Dealing With The Emotions Of Racial Injustice In America At Work



Jul. 15 2016, Published 3:30 a.m. ET

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It’s been a tough week. For some going back to business as usual has been a challenge.

The horrific video capturing the last moments of the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two Black men who were fatally shot by police, and the news of the fatal shootings of Dallas Police officers during a protest against police brutality have flooded social media timelines.

While it may have been easier for some to lock down and switch gears from grief to grind or work remotely, many Black career women across the nation felt the weight of the emotional trauma of police shootings while still on the job. There’s no right way or wrong way to process this, however being open and transparent about how you’re feeling helps us move closer to healing. Either way, as much as we would wish we could, we can’t call out of work for being Black in America. So, how do we clock in at work when our hearts, and minds are clocked out?

Raqiyah Mays, veteran journalist, author and activist refused to watch the Alton Sterling shooting video when she came across it at 1 A.M. but read about the incident on Twitter. Yet, she was blind-sighted by the footage of the death of Philando Castile released the following night.

“It was the most traumatic thing. I was in silence, I couldn’t speak, I honestly did not know what to say,” said Mays. “It was difficult. In the morning I got up and I was still feeling that silence of not knowing what to say, but knowing I needed to say something because I post this kind of stuff on my Twitter feed and Facebook.”

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As a team leader for the human rights group Amnesty International USA at the New York  location and head in charge to 20 people, Mays had to get up for work and put her game face on. “It was tough, but it ended up being an amazing day for us being able to talk to a lot of people of all colors,” she said.

Through a group discussion, she and coworkers learned to channel their anger positively and speak openly. For her personal peace, she participated in a Protest Rally that day after work. Over the weekend, she decompressed by binge watching season two of Power and spent time with her family.

Some women remained in a state of utter shock and were unable to carry on with the day immediately.

“4pm, brothers, sisters…I’m still in my slip, haven’t eaten, half doing…things..drinking iced coffee..crying, y’all doin?” activist  Michaela Angela Davis tweeted on Thursday after the death of Philando Castile.

4pm, brothers, sisters…I’m still in my slip, haven’t eaten, half doing…things..driniking iced coffee..crying, y’all doin?

— MichaelaAngela Davis (@MichaelaAngelaD) July 7, 2016

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Danyel Smith, veteran music journalist and senior culture editor for ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” shared with her Twitter a playlist of songs that The Undefeated staff created to get through the tough times of racial disparities. The playlist included Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam,” and Kendrick Lamar’s modern day Black anthem “Alright” among others. “Blessed w teammates who get it. we worked, rapped+sang to music (NOT via earbuds).  celebrated a bday. made content,” she tweeted in reply to how she coped with the day.

blessed w teammates who get it. we worked, rapped+sang to music (NOT via earbuds). celebrated a bday. made content. — Danyel Smith (@danamo) July 8, 2016

Investor and entrepreneur Lauren Maillian took to Twitter to express her frustrations, saying “The setup is clear; The solution isn’t. We always lose. Targets for wrongful death, police brutality & life cut short.”

The setup is clear;The solution isn’t. We always lose. Targets for wrongful death, police brutality & life cut short

— Lauren Maillian (@LaurenMaillian) July 7, 2016

Despite her verbal display of unease as a Black woman raising a Black son and several other tweets, she gathered her strength and continued on. She made her way to MSNBC and taped a segment for an upcoming show.

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Lanae Johnson, a producer for KHBS/KHG News Station woke up in sorrow to the news of repetitive shootings, but had to immediately put her work hat on to discuss the incident on her morning show segment.

“I had to put my true feelings aside and I had to still report on it. Just because I feel some type of way about a situation I have to report the facts to viewers,” she said. “I have to report the news and let viewers come up with their own conclusion. I have to stay neutral on the situation.

Johnson’s way of standing her ground was her refusal to use Alton Sterling’s mugshot photo that circulated media airwaves.

“I pretty much suppressed my feelings. I had a few conversations with coworkers but I feel like they will never understand because they’re not Black.”

To release her feelings, Johnson shared a post on Facebook.

“Being a journalist is one of the hard the hardest things of my life. I’m tired of reporting officer shootings that end in death of Black males. I just want to cry.”

Mays believes when in the midst of turmoil, you have to “Find a safe space.”

“There’s always someone in your office that you connect with. You talk, you go to the bathroom, you take that walk around the block and you ‘woo-sa,’ and you do it again at lunch.”

Yet the healing isn’t just for work sanity, but our daily lives. “This is the time for friends and family to go places and talk about it with your church or community group or school,” Mays continued.

“You have to find these places to talk about these things because it’s traumatic. We need the group therapy, because we are not alone.”

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