Survey gives insight on Black women’s coping styles
By Charles Hallman
Throughout her doctoral work, Texas A&M Assistant Sport Management Professor Akilah R. Carter-Francique found that there wasn’t as much research done on how Black women cope with stress or stressful situations. In response, she created a survey to act as a foundation for her own research.
“What I began to see in the literature — or rather not see — was discussions on Black women. So I went into my study more exploratory than trying to determine what is going on with Black women today,” recalls Carter-Francique. Through the use of a survey, she asked several female athletes at her school to share their experiences with racial stereotyping and discrimination situations.
According to two scholars she quoted in her work, there are three dimensions of coping: task-oriented coping (TOC), emotion-oriented coping (EOC) and avoidance-oriented coping. The TOC strategy doesn’t seems to be used by Black women as the other two, says the professor.
“Some [women] will cope with [stress] just by [focusing on] one project at a time. Others will deal with it on the emotion side, and then others will use the third area — the avoidance-oriented [coping]. If you want to look at professional Black women in the working world, they may adopt the avoidance coping style as well. I think it is because when you look at the stereotypes [that] surround Black women and the notion of the ‘angry Black woman’ — if she does speak up for herself, it often is seen as aggressive,” Carter-Francique notes.
Though each woman handles challenges differently, the professor’s research shows that Black women most often use the third coping dimension. “The similarities are that we all have these challenges, but the differences [is] in how we chose to deal with or [are] coping with them. What I really found [was] that [Black females see] coping styles such as praying” as important, says Carter-Francique.
“If they were being discriminated against…if the coaches were on them, they wouldn’t necessarily confront them,” she continues. “What they did was chose to…do things such as pray or revert to religion, talking it out among friends or mom and dad…utilizing their journals [or] listening to music,” the professor says.
“Basketball is my stress reliever,” admits Devereaux Peters, a recent Notre Dame graduate and first-year Minnesota Lynx player. “I would go shoot [hoops] by myself. That usually works when I’m stressed out about something or I had a lot of things on my mind. I’m not a talker and I don’t like to write things in a diary.”
“It is so easy to get stressed out about little things,” says Monica Wright, a third-year player with the Minnesota Lynx. “When you have faith in God, all that stuff is so unimportant. I just pray to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; he is my stress reliever.”
Carter-Francique also discovered in her study, “When talking with [Black females], they modeled the same behaviors that their mothers, grandmothers [and] aunts did in dealing with issues of stress.”
“Everybody learns from their mother,” jokes Wright.
Black women’s experiences “are distinct and different from those of African American men and White women,” says Carter-Francique. “When you deal with issues of race and racism, I think it is one of those things that some think we are in a ‘post-racial environment’ and others may assume that you are jumping to conclusions and being hyper-sensitive. But there’s very real issues about racism that are taking place, and not so much overt [racism] but more covert and more subtle,” she explains.
“So these small little things that happen on a day-to-day basis — that may be a colleague not acknowledging you…those little things begin to add up.” She calls this ”micro-aggression.”
Carter-Francique is currently studying Black female athletes, but she warns that her sample group shouldn’t be used as a basis for all Black female college athletes nationwide.
“Being a female athlete, and a Black female athlete, you are going to be looked at in [as] many ways [as] someone puts you in a box or in a certain category,” says Wright. “The main thing for me is to be who you are, embrace who you are as a person, for your family and where you came from, and don’t try to change based on other people’s ideas and perspectives on you.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.