Illinois professor says schools should provide ‘bereavement’ to Black employees amid racially charged national news

Since her Feb. 23 article gained attention, in which she advocates for Black bereavement leave, Southern Illinois University professor Angel Jones claimed she has received an influx of hate mail from "racist trolls."

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An Illinois professor believes Black faculty members should receive bereavement leave after exposure to upsetting racist news and experiences.

According to the New York Post, Angel Jones, a visiting assistant professor in Southern Illinois University’s department of educational leadership, questioned why administrators expect Black educators to return to work as usual instead of being granted time to grieve and process their emotions.

In a Times Higher Education piece published last month, Jones described herself as a proud educator who loves her job, according to the Post. “But before that, I am a Black woman,” she wrote. “A Black woman who is expected to return to ‘business as usual’ on Monday after seeing a member of my community murdered on Friday.”

Southern Illinois University professor Angel Jones - Black bereavement leave
Angel Jones (above), a visiting assistant professor at Southern Illinois University, wrote that Black faculty should be granted bereavement leave to properly process racially charged national news. (Photo: Screenshot/ Library)

Jones specifically mentioned the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died on Jan. 10, three days after Memphis police officers brutally beat him.

The critical race theory scholar described how she emailed her students after Nichols’ beating to see how they were doing without giving herself enough time to process what happened.

Jones noted that she frequently placed the needs of her students before her own, but opined that to keep faculty of color, universities should do more to support them than send out campus-wide emails after tragedies.

“History has shown us that Black educators often have to exert additional emotional energy” to pick up an institution’s slack, Jones wrote, after it sends what she called its “obligatory, and often performative” message to the campus at large.

She said she has received an influx of hate mail from “racist trolls” since her Feb. 23 article gained notice, adding that thousands of people reacted after drawing “clickbait conclusions” and likely didn’t even read what she wrote. The professor shared some of the offensive racist and sexist emails on Twitter, noting their authors merely underlined the significance of racial trauma.

“Black bereavement is a mental health day to deal with the psychological consequences of anti-Black racism,” Jones said on Twitter, the Post reported. “Don’t like it? Then end racism.”

Jones suggested schools offer race-relations counseling and provide grieving space to support black faculty members. She also proposed that Black university instructors receive counseling to help them cope with “racial battle fatigue,” or RBF, the mental and physiological effects of encountering racism.

Racial battle fatigue, Jones maintained, can lead to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, an increased heart rate, tension headaches and stomach ulcers.

She believes schools should offer free counseling at all times — not just after trauma has been televised — by culturally competent individuals who recognize and treat RBF.

​​The ability to take a day off, choose to work from home or receive a deadline extension should also be made available to Black educators as a way to mourn, Jones believes.

While it is common for employees to get support and understanding when grieving the death of a loved one, “the same care is rarely shown to the Black community when we lose someone in horrific and traumatic ways,” she argued, the Post reported. “Where’s our Black bereavement leave?”

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