On August 9, 2022 an article from Psychology Today titled “The Rise of Lonely Single Men” went viral on social media platforms. The article detailed why dating apps are changing the landscape of dating, and how this is specifically impacting cishet men. This created an online conversation around emotional intelligence and gender dating dynamics.
Many content creators on TikTok explored this conversation, including myself. As a licensed counselor and art therapist, I’ve always used my platform to make therapy more accessible to my community and challenge my followers to take care of themselves.. In a video I posted on TikTok , I told men to go to therapy and explained why this is so critical for their romantic relationships. I had no idea what would happen after posting this video and it landed on the wrong side of the internet.
After the video initially went viral on TikTok, it was shared on Twitter by people who had their own social and political agendas. My video was used to launch a gender war and people perceived my comments to be directed only at Black men. I was harassed and received more death threats than I can count; my social media pages were even reported. Since posting that video, I have battled depressive episodes and had my life, safety, and well-being violated. Some people like to call this “accountability,” but the only type of accountability the internet seems to understand is the kind where a Black woman receives death and rape threats.
One of the most hurtful moments I experienced was when another Black woman wrote an article about my video. The article she wrote intensified the harassment and felt like a complete betrayal. Up to that point, the threats I received came mostly from Black men, and it has been incredibly painful to grapple with the fact that the same community I dedicated my work to is also the community that rejoiced when I was fired from my job. They rejoiced in the harassment I was receiving and tried to make me believe I deserve this type of treatment.
The internet’s version of accountability is one where public outrage is somehow more important than the actual people involved and impacted.
I find it imperative to reclaim my name and let people know that there is a real person behind my content. A lot of people have a hard time separating @unusuallybree, the content creator, from Shabree the therapist, and Shabree the artist. I can only show up as my full self, but the internet does not allow you to emote or be angry without judgment. A lot of the reason I was punished online was because of my delivery. It wasn’t what I said, it was how I said it. But I was just being my true self and if you follow me, you know that’s how I speak. I know my approach can be abrasive but I’m just a direct speaker. However, nothing I said in that video was wrong. There are other non-Black therapists and content creators who have said the exact same thing I said but received none of the backlash.
I created my platform for many different reasons, one of them was to showcase to Black women like me that they can be their truest and most multifaceted selves. My platform and my therapy work pushes back against status quo understandings of “professionalism” and I love that. I have built a clientele that loves who I am and my approach to therapy. These people would not have allowed me to support them in their healing journey if they did not like the approaches and the realness I brought into our sessions. The majority of my clientele was Black men who had never even heard the words “I’m proud of you” before me. I utilized art in my approach to help them find creative ways to express themselves and I want to be clear that none of my clients were upset by that video or any of my content in general. But these same people had their therapy services abruptly terminated and have been the most harmed by everything that happened since I posted that video. These are people I maintained therapeutic relationships with for over five years, and they didn’t even have a say in the decision to fire me.
My words have been used to spin anti-Black and anti-feminist agendas when that was never my intention…. To my clients who may or may not read this, please understand that I am deeply sorry for how this has impacted you and I am sorry we cannot continue treatment together.
The internet’s version of accountability is one where public outrage is somehow more important than the actual people involved and impacted. My words have been used to spin anti-Black and anti-feminist agendas when that was never my intention. Many people claimed that “therapists like me are the reason why men do not seek help” or that I did not care about Black men at all. Some people even claimed I was talking about my own clients directly but that is completely untrue. My passion comes from being tired of Black men dying. My passion comes from understanding just how high the stakes are for our community. Again, a part of my platform is to help make therapy more accessible because of the very real barriers to it that exist.
To my clients who may or may not read this, please understand that I am deeply sorry for how this has impacted you and I am sorry we cannot continue treatment together.
I have been failed by so many people. The very people I dedicated my life to attacked me, a Black woman doxxed me by sharing my name, Black men harassed me by calling my job, and a white institution did not stand up for me. But I’m grateful to my powerful community who have been supporting me since I was fired from my job. To the people who defended me and have held me up emotionally, thank you. I’m grateful for my healing journey because without that inner work I would be a lot more at risk for suicidal ideation and depression than I am now. As I continue to heal from this, I know better things are coming and that this one singular moment does not define me as a therapist.
I know I am not beholden to the narrative people have assigned to me. This moment has taught me the importance of defining myself for myself, because if I internalized what people have attached to my name, I would be undone.
As told to Breya M. Johnson. This interview has been condensed from its original transcription.
Shabree Rawls is a Licensed professional counselor and art therapist.
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