How to Seek Support When Experiencing White Supremacist Harm

White supremacy has been getting more attention in 2020 from people who benefit from it than ever before. It refers to the belief that white people are better than Black, Indigenous, and People of Color folks, as well as all the implicit and explicit ways in which this perspective is reinforced.

BIPOC folks experience white supremacist harm daily given how deeply entrenched this is in the systems and the consciousness of those with whom they come into contact. Unfortunately, part of what has helped this ideology to be maintained is the narrow definition by which white supremacy has been defined by those who benefit from it, to the detriment of BIPOC folks.

Thankfully, there has been a societal shift towards considering how white supremacy operates in more insidious ways than such extreme manifestations as the Ku Klux Klan or engaging in blackface.

Many of the extreme elements are still around just under different guises. KKK does still exist as an organization though perhaps not as abundant as it had been in the past. And while overt blackface is something that is not routinely seen, we have seen elements of it in certain cultural relics such as ads for food.

Negative Effects of White Supremacy on BIPOC

From stolen Indigenous land and lives to stolen Black labor, white supremacy has been ingrained in the social fabric of this country from its inception, so it is vital to understand how far-reaching those negative impacts can be in the daily lives of BIPOC communities.

Microaggressions refer to intended or unintended negative messages based on the lived experience of marginalization, are a common example of how white supremacy harms BIPOC folks and can encompass the following:

  • Microinsults (unpleasant statements that are often unconscious)
  • Microassaults (intentionally derogatory statements that tend to be conscious)
  • Microinvalidations (often unconscious way of excluding the experiences of a marginalized group)

Barriers to BIPOC Folks When Seeking Support

Unfortunately, it can be challenging for BIPOC folks to seek support when experiencing white supremacist harm, as a direct result of how this bigotry is ingrained in the resources available.

For this reason, many rely on support from other BIPOC folks as lived experience of the harms of white supremacy can help individuals to feel less alone when struggling.

BIPOC folks may also internalize their negative experiences of white supremacist harm as a poor reflection of themselves, given how such bigotry has been maintained by gaslighting, silencing, and derailing.

For example, while white folks may think of the police as a resource when experiencing violence, Black folks disproportionately lose their lives at the hands of police brutality.

This can also affect BIPOC folks when seeking therapy. For example, it can be difficult for some BIPOC folks to find the support they need if therapy is stigmatized in their culture or community. In addition, it may be harder to find a therapist who is culturally competent to assist BIPOC folks with their experiences.

While this issue is beginning to get more attention, there are many more such challenges that limit the support available to BIPOC folks when dealing with white supremacist harm.

Since the system of white supremacy is so pervasive throughout all of society, just being a member of the BIPOC community itself does not absolve people from having certain white supremacist ideas or feelings. It is something that has to continuously be evaluated and challenged in order for us as a world community to move forward. 

Cultivating Resilience for BIPOC Folks

Thankfully, BIPOC folks have a long history of survival based on creative solutions to white supremacist harms that extend back to their ancestors who made it through such experiences as genocide, enslavement, internment camps, and more. It is also important to remember that while trauma can be passed through generations, resilience is as well. 

It is also important to note that BIPOC individuals and groups are not uniform. Different people and groups will have differing experiences.

Looking to the Elders

In this way, it can be particularly beneficial to harness the insights from BIPOC elders who came before, as books from such trailblazers as Audre Lorde, Richard Wagamese, and Ntozake Shange have provided sustenance for many surviving white supremacist harms. Reading about BIPOC folks who faced similar challenges can often help individuals to feel as if they have more strength to keep going.

Therapy can provide a powerful tool for accessing mental health support when dealing with white supremacist harms, but BIPOC folks often face additional challenges in this regard, too.

Culturally Competent Therapist

Research also demonstrates that depression can be experienced differently by Black adolescents in comparison to their peers, which makes a culturally competent therapist extremely crucial for BIPOC folks.

Due to these barriers, psychotherapists Eboni Harris and Eliza Boquin founded Melanin and Mental Health to connect BIPOC communities with more appropriate resources to assist them with accessing supporting mental health services.

While some professionals may be experts in their respective fields, gaps regarding the unique challenges that white supremacy poses to BIPOC folks can serve to gaslight individuals who are already struggling to cope with the harms of rampant bigotry.

There’s also more research to highlight issues with therapists and patients of different ethnic backgrounds, which complicates issues of treatment. In addition, there’s a long history of abuse in the fields of psychiatry/psychology that contributes to the ongoing issues that we have around seeking appropriate treatment.

White supremacy as a result is deeply embedded in the fields, as they did not develop independently of the societal context from which they exist.

Finding Solace In Shared Experiences

Often, when marginalized folks are facing adversity, they may rely on resources that were recommended by well-meaning loved ones who may lack a thorough understanding of their needs, which can contribute to more harm to them.

For this reason, it can be particularly helpful for BIPOC folks to make use of supports that have been helpful for others who share their lived experience of oppression when attempting to avoid further trauma. Shared spaces are definitely important, the village is one of the cornerstones of us getting through the harmful past and present.  

BIPOC-Only Spaces

Due to the vast differences in the experiences between those who benefit from white supremacy and BIPOC folks, who can often suffer its assaults daily, some may find it most helpful to engage in BIPOC-only spaces to minimize further harm. 

While this can be of value, it is worth noting that such spaces can often still feel oppressive to the most marginalized folks in attendance, as Black and Indigenous individuals may still experience bigotry from non-Black people of color, or those with intersectional marginalized identities such as an Indigenous Two-Spirit person or Black disabled folks may find transphobia and ableism to be challenging.

There are many different types of groups available, so people are often able to find one that works for them. However, this may not always be the case. If you cannot find a local BIPOC-only space that suits your needs, consider looking for spaces online or turn to people in your own life. Ideally, you will also have some individuals close to you that you can rely on. 

A Word From Verywell

BIPOC folks may seek to address the daily harms done to them by white supremacy in many different ways. Challenging white supremacy, getting support from a culturally competent therapist, and seeking a safe space are a few of many valid ways. For non-BIPOC folks, it's important to remember to be conscious of what you say and to be willing to listen, rather than to cause more harm by minimizing or dismissing what your BIPOC friends and family are experiencing.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health. Microaggressions.

  2. Black Lives Matter. What Defunding the Police Really Means.

  3. Lu W, Lindsey M, Irsheid S, Nebbitt V. Psychometric Properties of the CES-D Among Black Adolescents in Public HousingJ Soc Social Work Res. 2017;8(4):595-619. doi:10.1086/694791

  4. Melanin & Mental Health. Mental health awareness for minority communities..

  5. Blackwell K. Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People. The Arrow: A Journal of Wakeful Society, Culture, and Politics. 2018.

By Krystal Jagoo
 Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice.