Methods: Forty-three in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Black women 21 years of age and older who self-reported having had experiences with COVID-19 and racism and self-reported middle-class status based on their education level, income, and occupation. Women were recruited using participant driven sampling methods (snowball sampling), social media outlets such as Twitter, and emailing flyers to various social groups that predominantly served middle-class Black women (e.g., Black female sororities and Black female professional organizations). Interviews focused on questions that elicited the women’s perspectives on how they created meaning regarding their experiences with COVID-19 and racism, and how their experiences with COVID-19 and racism influenced their mental health. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, analyzed, and coded using the constant comparative method of grounded theory.
Findings: Findings revealed that middle-class Black women’s experiences with COVID-19 and racism focused on the tenuous position of their racial identity, gender identity, and middle-class status despite having improved life chances based on their class standing. With few exceptions, all of the women’s stories highlighted the ways they were trying to manage the multiple stressors they were experiencing because of COVID-19, racism, and the impact of these events on their mental health. Their experiences were characterized as “We’re Trying to Manage, But Can’t Control It,” which consists of three dimensions: (1) racism and COVID-19 colliding, (2) trying to make sense of it, and (3) looking for a way out. Together, these three core categories formed the meanings that middle-class Black women associated with their experiences of COVID-19, racism, and their mental health.
Conclusion and Implications: Studies on COVID-19, racism, and mental health among middle- class Black women is a neglected topic. Results of this study suggest that middle-class Black women are a unique group, existing at the intersection of a number of incongruent status positions in the social hierarchy. Findings also suggest the need for further investigations by social work researchers that explore the unique ways in which race, gender, and class intersect and remain salient in the lives of middle-class Black women during times of crisis.