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Professor demands bereavement leave for black faculty to process 'psychological consequences' of racism

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

An assistant professor in Illinois published an article urging higher education leadership to provide bereavement leave for black faculty and staff to process the "psychological consequences" of racism.

Angel Jones, a critical race theory scholar and a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Southern Illinois University, released a column in Times Higher Education titled "Where's our Black bereavement leave?"

The piece argued that "higher education routinely ignores the emotional needs of Black faculty and staff, particularly after traumatic events."

In the February article, Jones mentioned that she emailed her students to offer support following the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man who died earlier this year, days after being beaten and arrested by five black Memphis police officers.

"As I was writing the email, my primary concern was the mental and emotional well-being of my students," Jones wrote. "However, the tears streaming down my face as I typed let me know that ignoring my own feelings was impossible – which wasn't surprising given the numerous times I have cried while sending similar emails."

Jones accused universities of doing the "bare minimum" by issuing "often performative" statements following traumatic events.

"History has shown us that Black educators often have to exert additional emotional energy to pick up the slack the academy leaves behind after it sends its obligatory, and often performative, statement to the campus community," Jones stated. "But while those obviously copy-pasted, campus-wide emails are the bare minimum, Black faculty and staff don't even get that."

Jones argued that higher-education institutions should acknowledge the pain of their black faculty by providing free counseling services at "all times," allowing time off, granting deadline extensions, permitting work-from-home days, and even reducing their workload.

"Yes, we have jobs to do and students to support, but we also have trauma to process," Jones said.

She claimed that, as a university employee, she is expected to "return to 'business as usual' on Monday after seeing a member of my community murdered on Friday."

Jones argued that some individuals face "racial battle fatigue," which "refers to the psychological and physiological consequences of experiencing racism." She claimed that symptoms of RBF – which continue to be "minimised or ignored completely" – include anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, elevated heart rate, tension headaches, and stomach ulcers.

"We experience these symptoms on a regular basis as a result of our first-hand racial trauma," Jones claimed.

According to the Southern Illinois University website, Jones has over 15 years of experience teaching K-12 and higher education, with her areas of expertise including "racial microaggressions, Racial Battle Fatigue, and gendered-racism."

Since publishing her column, Jones stated that she has received vulgar messages from "racist trolls."

"Thousands of people are in their feelings because they've drawn clickbait conclusions about an article that I doubt they even read," Jones wrote on Twitter. "Black bereavement is a mental health day to deal with the psychological consequences of anti-Black racism. Don't like it? Then end racism."

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