Black fatigue

Dear Texas Woman’s University Community,

Eleven months ago, a video capturing the murder of George Floyd shed a brighter light on racism in America than many people had previously seen. It sparked protests around the nation and the world. Here, at Texas Woman’s, it also sparked a renewed urgency to lead the change we want to see in the world.

Last week, a jury rendered a guilty verdict on all three counts in the murder trial. While it may be a sign of hope for positive change, I also hear from the voices of many Black Americans that it does not yet provide a sense of comfort or justice. Just ten miles from the trial location, another police shooting killed Daunte Wright. As only one example of many, I recognize that any call for patience with the justice system would be no small ask under the weight of repetitive stress.

Mary-Frances Winters defines “Black fatigue” as repeated variations of stress that result in extreme exhaustion and cause mental, physical, and spiritual maladies that are passed down from generation to generation. Recently, students have e-mailed me expressing their experience of Black fatigue and calling for support. More than a statement from the university, they have called for action.

As I listen to these voices and reflect on the anti-racism work along with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work going on within the university community, it reminds me how historical trauma can persist despite progress—“both/and thinking” like our CAPS associate director Dr. Carmen Cruz illuminates in her TEDxTWU talk on cultural competence (13 min).

As members of a diverse, caring community, we can start by acknowledging the real impacts of Black fatigue—layered atop pandemic fatigue—and then look for ways to offer grace for those Black students, staff, and faculty who are experiencing it to varying degrees. And, for those who are able, we continue the work.

One outcome of the work comes from the Chancellor’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, which is compiling a growing set of resources that members of our community may find helpful. These resources complement the existing support offered to students in CAPS, and faculty and staff via the EAP.

As I reflect on anti-racism and DEI work at Texas Woman’s, I also see how much of it is grassroots—led by individuals, by groups of faculty and staff, and by students. We are, at every level, a #campuswithaheart. Again, that can be true at the same time as Black faculty, staff, and students continue to grow weary.

My call to action today would be for each of us to think about one way—even a small way—we can show grace to those students, staff, and faculty who are experiencing the effects of Black fatigue. Even if unable to directly combat the violence that regularly re-traumatizes members of our Black community, many of us are yet empowered to look at ourselves and make a change. #blacklivesmatter

With a pioneering spirit,

Carine M. Feyten, Ph.D.
Chancellor and President

Page last updated 4:28 PM, October 9, 2023