In joining the professional counseling faculty, Teysha Bowser brings crucial expertise in racial battle fatigue and microaggressions to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh at a time when the nation faces ongoing social unrest.
Bowser, who recently earned a doctorate in counselor education and supervision from the University of Nevada, Reno, researched and wrote her dissertation Gendered Racial Microaggressions, Racial Battle Fatigue and Intergenerational Learning with Three Generations of Black Women.
Her work considered the personal experiences of three generations of Black women from two families. She looked at their coping mechanisms in response to racial battle fatigue and how those responses impacted them across generations.
“Racial battle fatigue is a stress response that people of color experience from constantly dealing with racism and microaggressions in their daily lives,” Bowser said.
Microaggressions are everyday verbal and nonverbal slights or insults directed at marginalized groups. As microaggressions pile up over a lifetime, racial battle fatigue can manifest in a number of ways, including emotional/behavioral, physiological or psychological, she added.
“It is amazing how young it starts,” Bowser said. “Even in elementary school or younger, a young Black girl may be told she can’t have a crush on someone who isn’t Black. Or someone may refuse to learn her name. While that may seem insignificant, it indicates that there are boundaries that you cannot cross because of who you are.”
Following analysis of in-depth interviews with the women in her study, Bowser identified major themes running through their life stories.
“Every person talked about feeling that as strong Black women they had to be selfless and did not have time for themselves,” she said. “As each generation encountered extreme traumas, they reported not having time to grieve because people were dependent on them.”
Bowser said the strong Black woman archetype in American society does not leave space for the women to rest, recover and recuperate.
“There is the expectation that strong Black women must be devoted to their families, communities and a higher power,” she said. “This archetype enforces that devotion is focused so much outside ourselves that it may feel that we should not take time or space to nurture ourselves.”
Bowser plans to incorporate what she has learned through her research into her graduate-level courses, exposing UW Oshkosh professional counseling students to information about the experiences of minority women can impact them.
“At first, some Black women might feel like the gendered racial microaggressions they experience are not that bad, but then they build up and gradually make an impact. Counselors should emphasize the need for Black women to check in with themselves and incorporate more balance in their lives, but they also need to understand the context and barriers that may make it difficult for them to do so,” she explained.
“While it is important and necessary for Black women to find time to take a breath and be more attuned with what they are experiencing in body, mind, spirit, they will not be able to fully do so if we as counselors are not able to identify and address what prevents them from doing so. It is not enough to just understand the client’s struggle, we must also act without overshadowing their agency and their humanity.”