PTSD, Pt. 1 – 8/12/09

Well hello again,

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have you with us.  As you know The WILD Side is a blog about any- and everything related to black and brown people (and those who seek their equity in our global society).

Today, I write about a particularly devastating dilemma in the African American community.  Now, typically you will see me refer to AfrAms as people of African descent.  But in this case, I am speaking specifically about black peoples descended from those Africans brought forcefully to the United States of America some centuries ago via the Atlantic Slave Trade.

See, I have to get that specific because what I am about to refer to is an epidemic so real, so detrimental, so lethal and so underground – that I myself suffered from it and didn’t even know (because I wasn’t supposed to)!

This epidemic my friends is PTSD – post traumatic slavery disorder.  I wish I was playing (and if you’ve seen Cedric the Entertainer – you understand the wish factor). But this is no laughing matter.

Now you have likely heard of post traumatic stress disorder, no?  Well, think of post traumatic slavery disorder as a concentrated strain of its stress labeled counterpart. Slavery disorder has gone untreated for so long, it has officially laid claim to entire families throughout several generations, and has even come to play a role in the very construction of a culture – African Americans. (I don’t believe in race, so I just won’t use the word).

By no means am I a medical practitioner, so much of this is based on individual research and perception. But I will do my best to explain:

Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when someone experiences something so traumatic that her/his brain physically cannot cope with it.  As a result, the experience is either a) suppressed or b) relived.

When suppression occurs, the victim will likely experience “strange” activity in his/her life.  S/he may experience “random” night sweats or night terrors.  Occasionally there may be hypersensitivity to certain images, smell, surroundings, etc. that trigger thoughts of the event. Though symptoms may gradually dissipate completely in many cases, when left untreated, stress disorder can elevate to critical level – hindering chances of a normal life.

When  a victim relives a traumatic experience, s/he may be inexplicably jumpy and constantly awaiting the “next attack.”  The victim may have a hard time being around friends and family, even if they share no resemblance or affiliation with the attacker.  S/he may find it difficult to go home (or leave home) even when her/his immediate surroundings are not similar to those in which s/he was attacked.

Stress disorder is treatable and curable.  There are all sorts of supports systems in place for victims and their families…unfortunately the same is not true of slavery disorder.

Essentially, Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder is a psychological disorder (much like its stress disorder counterpart) that is linked to the traumas associated with American slavery and The American Apartheid. Because the coping mechanisms used to survive slavery were essentially passed on, even post-slavery, as the world changed African Americans’ practices, values, and beliefs about the world (generally speaking) did not. In essence they were suppressing AND reliving their trauma at the same time!

Dr. Omar Reid, Sekou Mims and Larry Higginbottom argue that  Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder has a direct relationship with post traumatic stress disorder, thus negatively affecting African Americans in a variety of ways, from drug abuse, broken families, crime and low educational attainment to an inability to reverse poverty, achieve unity and build strong Black owned institutions.

They contend that dysfunctional behaviors and disorders that exist among Black people have origins linked back to the African slave period.  Blacks have been damaged from slavery as well as the American Apartheid. To change the effects of PTSlaveryD, one must first understand the cumulative toxic effects of the trauma and then develop the necessary skills to be completely free of the disorder.

The idea behind cellular memory is that within our cells their are codes or inscriptions that are stored. These codes are thought to hold information about our personalities, behaviors, health, histories, etc.

For instance, a single mother finds herself frustrated because her young daughter exhibits very specific habits and behaviors like her father.  But this young girl has never met her father and hasn’t been taught these things by her mother.  In theory, because this girl is made up cells from both parents, it is likely that her her cellular memory (inscription) holds the key to her behaviors.

If this were true, it would hold a very relevant and important key to not only understanding Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder, but curing it. Essentially, if we are to deconstruct the cycle, we must first know how to “re-store” new information in our cellular memories.

This concept of slavery disorder has detrimental implications to the African American family.  Antiquated coping mechanisms that essentially prepare black folks to be separated, victimized, and going without are not getting us through the hard times, they’re creating them!

If we are to understand the affects of slavery disorder on the Black Family and how we are to overcome it, we must:
I. Examine its origins, taking a historical look at the disease;

II. Identify its affects on African American men and women independently;

III. Identify the ways in which slavery disorder’s affects on men and women individually contribute to the complications of Black male-female intimate relationships;

IV. Look at the social institutions which have served to uphold this current model, taking into consideration what changes must be made to restore balance and who might stand to suffer from such a paradigm shift (therefore why it will likely be challenged); and

V. Consider how the stories, values, beliefs, and actions we store in our cellular memories contribute to the cycle of destruction in the African American community, as well as what steps are needed to “re-store” our cellular memories with positive, constructive information.

Incredible isn’t it?  Well ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the revolution.

Wishing you well,
Kiki B.


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