Review by Ginelle Skerritt (October 14, 2020)
Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind Body and Spirit, Mary-Frances Winters, BK Business, September 15, 2020, 256 pp., $21.73
As a Black woman, the title of this book, Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind Body and Spirit, sparked intrigue, relief, hope and strangely, joy.
It is the joy of anticipating the appearance of an oasis in the desert; the joy of hoping that at long last, the deeply personal and painful truths that have been hiding inside, will be exposed and resolved. In this case, it is revealing the simple truth that Black folks are tired.
This is no big secret in the Black community, and the recent tsunami of worldwide protest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder has some of us, quite frankly, exhausted. Yet, we are also curious as to what will happen next.
Black fatigue has been a reality for us for so long and the author Mary-Frances Winters, who provides corporate training and has written extensively on diversity and inclusion in America, lays it out in Black and White. By that, I mean, that in the US, it seems that the racism problem is clearly defined along the lines of Black people and White people. As an African Canadian person, having experienced racism across a wide spectrum of diversity in Canada, I found that perspective somewhat limiting.
“Black Fatigue is ideal for the group that the author defines as “the sublimely ignorant ” those who just don’t know but because of recent events are feeling compelled to take action.”
For this audience the book raises awareness and provides an excellent overview of the issues that lead to Black fatigue.
With the precision of a researcher, real-life examples, scenarios and events are carefully laid out accompanied by sobering statistics from across the United States, to show just how tiring racism is for Black people. The book breaks it down for specific groups of Black people – women, men, children and for specific situations – the workplace, the classroom, streamed into the home through all forms of media and it goes further to explain the intersectional realities.
The book provides strong evidence about the magnitude of the impact of racism on Black well-being, making a strong case that racism is real, it’s relentless, it’s pervasive and it’s exhausting.
It highlights the need for the “sublimely ignorant” to be diligent and accountable, self-aware and actively anti-racist.
Highlights that made the read worth it: The reframing chart in Chapter 4 and the 5 key areas for Black men in Chapter 6.
For me, the book was more of a mirage than an oasis. I expected a focus on providing insights into how Black people can cope with spirit injury and the intergenerational impacts economically socially and on our mental health and physical capacity and deeper analysis of the impacts on the Mind, Body and Spirit.
Instead, I read what I would recommend as a very good book for those unaware of Black fatigue, who may need proof that it is a real thing and a well laid out guide as to how they can do something to address their role in perpetuating it. That brings me full circle as I leave the book with hope that the author’s goal is achieved and that it changes how the sublimely ignorant in America support their fellow citizens.
I am hoping that the momentum of 2020 is sustained and that those who could not turn away from the truth on May 25, care enough to create the just America that Mary-Frances Winters speaks about in the final chapter.
(Ginelle Skerritt is a leader and influencer in the non-profit sector, where she has worked for more than 30 years.)
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