Strategies for Practicing Self-Care from Racial Battle Fatigue

Main Article Content

Stephen John Quaye
Shamika N. Karikari
Courtney Rashad Allen
Wilson Kwamogi Okello
Kiaya Demere Carter


Racial battle fatigue is the exhaustion that People of Color feel from repeated exposure to racism, as well as its negative impact on their emotional, physiological, and psychological health and wellbeing. Although People of Color have engaged in resistance and resilience in the midst of racism, it still takes a toll on their bodies. In this article, we focus specifically on Black student affairs educators, given the racial battle fatigue they navigate working in a helping profession where they are often expected to prioritize students’ needs above their own. Using a narrative methodological approach, we centered the stories of 35 Black student affairs educators across various institutions to identify the strategies they used to practice self-care in the midst of racial battle fatigue, including unplugging from the people and places that caused them harm, building community with other Black educators, caring for their bodies, finding safe spaces, and using counseling. We offer implications for practice for Black student affairs educators and those working to support them in navigating racial battle fatigue.

Article Details



Alexander, E. (2004). The black interior: Essays. New York, NY: Graywolf Press.

Arnold, N. W., Crawford, E. R., & Khalifa, M. (2016). Psychological heuristics and faculty of color: Racial battle fatigue and tenure/promotion. The Journal of Higher Education, 87(6), 890-919.

Bell, D. A. (1992). Racial realism. Connecticut Law Review, 24(2), 363-379.

Beauboeuf-Lafontant, T. (2008). Listening past the lies that make us sick: A voice-centered analysis of strength and depression among black women. Qualitative Sociology, 31(4), 391–406.

Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Clandinin, D. J., & Rosiek, J. (2007). Mapping a landscape of narrative inquiry: Borderland spaces and tensions. In D. J. Clandinin (Ed.), Handbook of narrative inquiry: Mapping a methodology (pp. 35-75). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Clark, T. (2019, January 11). This is what Black burnout feels like. Buzzfeed News. Retrieved from

Corbin, N. A., Smith, W. A., & Garcia, J. R. (2018): Trapped between justified anger and being the strong Black woman: Black college women coping with racial battle fatigue at historically and predominantly White institutions. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2018.1468045

Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2012). Critical race theory: An introduction (2nd ed.). New York, NY: New York University Press.

DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54-70.

Duckworth, A., & Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance (Vol. 124). New York, NY: Scribner.

Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087.

Dumas, M. J., & ross, k. m. (2016). “Be real Black for me”: Imagining BlackCrit in education. Urban Education, 51(4), 415-442.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Evans, L., & Moore, W. L. (2015). Impossible burdens: White institutions, emotional labor, and micro-resistance. Social Problems, 62, 439-454.

Husband, M. (2016). Racial battle fatigue and the Black student affairs professional in the era of# BlackLivesMatter. The Vermont Connection, 37(1), 91-98.

Harris-Perry, M. V. (2011). Shame. In Sister citizen: Shame, stereotypes, and Black women in America (pp. 101-133). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Howard-Hamilton, M. F., Palmer, C., Johnson, S., & Kicklighter, M. (1998). Burnout and related factors: Differences between women and men in student affairs. College Student Affairs Journal, 17(2), 80-91.

Hyun, J. K., Quinn, B. C., Madon, T., & Lustig, S. (2006). Graduate student mental health: Needs assessment and utilization of counseling services. Journal of College Student Development, 47(3), 247-266.

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. New York, NY: One World.

Love, B. L. (2019). We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

McGee, E. O., & Stovall, D. (2015). Reimagining critical race theory in education: Mental health, healing, and the pathway to liberatory praxis. Educational Theory, 65(5), 491-511.

McKay, C. (1919). If we must die. The Liberator, 2(6), 1.

Miller, S. A. (2016). Easier said than done: Practicing self-care and health and wellness in higher education and student affairs. The Vermont Connection, 37, 138-144.

Miller, R. A. (2017). “My voice is definitely strongest in online communities”: Students using social media for queer and disability identity-making. Journal of College Student Development, 58(4), 509-525.

Nicolazzo, Z. (2017). Trans* in college: Transgender students’ strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Okello, W. K., Quaye, S. J., Allen, C. R., Carter, K. D., & Karikari, S. N. (under review). Racial battle fatigue and the impossibilities of healing. Journal of College Student Development.

Patel, L. (2016). Decolonizing educational research: From ownership to answerability. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pierce, J. L. (1996). Gender trials: Emotional lives in contemporary law firms. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sambile, A. F. (2018) Energy exchange: The urgency to move from self-care to community-care in student affairs. The Vermont Connection, 39, 32-39.

Schreiner, L. A. (2010). The “Thriving Quotient”: A new vision for student success. About Campus, 15(2), 2-10.

Smith, W. A. (2004). Black faculty coping with racial battle fatigue: The campus racial climate in a post-civil rights era. In D. Cleveland (Ed.), A long way to go: Conversations about race by African American faculty and graduate students (pp. 171–190). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Smith, W. A. (2009a). “Campus wide climate: Implications for African American students.” In L. Tillman (Ed.), A Handbook of African American Education (pp. 297–309). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Smith, W. A. (2009b.). Higher education: Racial battle fatigue. In R. T. Schaefer (Ed.), Encyclopedia of race, ethnicity, and society (pp. 615-618). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Smith, W. A., Allen, W. R., & Danley, L. L. (2007). “Assume the position … you fit the description”: Psychosocial experiences and racial battle fatigue among African American male college students. American Behavioral Scientist, 51(4), 551-578.

Smith, W. A., Hung, M., & Franklin, J. D. (2011). Racial battle fatigue and the miseducation of Black men: Racial microaggressions, societal problems, and environmental stress. The Journal of Negro Education, 80(1), 63-82.

Smith, W. A., Mustaffa, J. B., Jones, C. M., Curry, T. J., & Allen, W. R. (2016): “You make me wanna holler and throw up both my hands!”: Campus culture, Black misandric microaggressions, and racial battle fatigue. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2016.1214296

Smith, W. A., Yosso, T. J., & Solorzáno, D. G. (2006). Challenging racial battle fatigue on historically white campuses: A critical race examination of race-related stress. In C. A. Stanley (Ed.), Faculty of color: Teaching in predominantly white colleges and universities (pp. 299-327). Bolton, MA: Anker.

Squire, D. D., & Nicolazzo, Z. (2019). Love my naps, but stay woke: The case against self-care. About Campus, 24(2), 4-11.

Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.