The Cause and Effect of Black Trauma

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By: Zach Fulwood

You know, one of my biggest pet peeves is people telling me or any other Black person that slavery happened so long ago and that I need to just “get over it.” I mean, sure we’re only a little over 150 years removed from it but you can’t honestly expect me to get over something that this country won’t let me forget. We are constantly bombarded with images and present day reminders of what was and still is that it would be impossible for me to not feel some negative affects toward my mental health.

If I told you that people who looked like you stood a good chance of being murdered without repercussion by the very people who were hired to protect them, would you be in constant fear for your life? If I told you that those same fears have been felt by Black people for over 400 years and have manifested themselves into a constant feeling of nowhere being safe, would you suggest that they might be struggling with some sort of PTSD? Let’s be clear, slavery, racism and all that derives from it can and most likely will cause PTSD. If that’s the case and we can clearly recognize that past and present living conditions have created these psychological issues, why do we consistently find ourselves pushing back the notion of getting help?

It’s long been thought within the Black community that therapy was for crazy, rich White people with too much time on their hands. Black people are strong willed and strong minded. We endured slavery and came out alright. Well, technically, we didn’t survive slavery but, our ancestors did and we have their blood running through our veins so we’re fine. We have other things to do and therapy is not going to help put food on the table. As far as the Black community was concerned, any mental illness or feelings of anxiety and depression were issues that needed to be dealt with internally. These weren’t issues that you let the world know about and they certainly weren’t issues that you felt the need to seek help for. Over the years, Black people have simply become very good at suppressing these problems.

The problem is, these are very unhealthy cures for a very serious problem that can’t be described as anything other than trauma. Trauma is not something that should be hidden and tucked away never to be spoken of again and it is not something that should be normalized as ” just the way it is.”

One of the biggest issues in the Black community is that we don’t properly acknowledge that which ails us as trauma. For example, being pulled over by police officers because you “look” suspicious isn’t something that should routinely happen and should be considered a traumatic experience, especially when considering the mental ramifications that come along with it. How does one even begin to process the feeling of it being illegal to be Black? Being in fear for your life everyday you walk outside your place of residence because your neighborhood is gang-riddled and drug-infested is traumatic for anybody but, for some reason, if you’re Black, it’s just Tuesday

These are traumatic events that happen daily in the Black community but hey, at least we don’t have slavery anymore, right? Speaking of slavery, do we really think that all of the stories of racial injustices in this country being passed down from generation to generation don’t set the stage for us having some level of PTSD? As if walking past low hanging trees and envisioning Black bodies hanging from them makes for good day dreams.

Black trauma is real and it needs to be addressed. The school of thought that holding these issues in and living life as if nothing ever happened being a sign of strength needs to end. We are hurting and if you listen to the testimonies and go into our neighborhoods, you will see what that hurt has turned into. It’s time for us to get the help that we need.

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