When I set out to investigate this issue of Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder, I found myself perplexed. How is it that we can come to believe that slavery, so long ago – so far forgotten – can in any way, shape, form or fashion be the source of the multitude of evils plaguing an entire population of people?
Is it really possible that any one event could have so profound an effect that its aftermath would linger in the midst of generations for centuries to come? If this is true that would mean that even I, and my parents before me, have suffered from this disorder with little to no awareness of it. Can that happen? The short answer is…you damn skippy!
To understand post traumatic slavery disorder, we must first revisit this issue of slavery – but not just any slavery…particularly the institution of slavery that was The American Apartheid.
Nowhere else on this planet, not even in the throws of Great Britain, was slavery so institutionalized, systemic, and dehumanizing as it was in the United States of America.
In America, being born free meant nothing for a person of color- being colored was all that counted. If you were Black and free in America, you could easily be captured and forced into servitude. If you were born a slave, you were most likely going to die as one. If you were a slave then your children and your children’s children, and their children after them were most likely going to die in captivity – just as you were likely to do.
But no self-respecting human being would permit themselves to be treated as such, right? Of course not!
Stories of freedom were passed down from parents to their children. These stories of hope transcended language and time – they instilled a sense of self-worth and purpose that made such treatment impermissible. We all know the story of Kunta Kente who ran away repeatedly until he was finally hobbled. We all know of Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman. We know the stories of bloodshed, murder, and quiet betrayal (like ground glass in the corned beef hash). We know the stories. Even before we heard them, when we learned of the brutality of slavery, we felt the rage – the betrayal and anger. We wanted to fight. Who would let this happen, we thought?
So how was it that those stories could be so deeply embedded in us, that even as young prepubescents we knew something was wrong,but our world right now does not reflect this manifestation of self-worth? It is because another set of stories were also passed down.
You see, no self-respecting human being would allow him- or herself to be treated with such disdain; so if s/he is to be a slave then the self respect must be the first thing to go.
Perhaps the most noted authority on deprecating the Black soul is one William “Willie” Lynch. And yes, he is the one for whom the term for hanging “negros” would come to be named – though he thought the practice was a “waste of valuable livestock.”
Willie (because I can call him that – and I know he would HATE it) was a plantation owner from the West Indies. His practices, while deemed harsh in his own surroundings, were embraced here in “these United States.” He embodied tactics so brutal and inhumane (and timeless), that we still see evidence of their effects in the Black community today some 298 years later. In fact, according to his predictions “Rome [would] envy us [as slave owners] if we were to implement [his practices]” and “it [would] take effect for at least 300 years.” That was in 1712.
Essentially, Lynch conformed to the idea of breaking nig***s like you break horses! Teach the mother to eat from your hand and she will teach the calf to eat from your hand. Break the stud so he is not protective of the herd, he will breed and leave – returning for breeding as required (stop me if you’ve heard this somewhere before).
Willie was a firm believer that once a White man broke the male negro (especially in front of the negro women and children) then essentially he could get other negro males in place and teach the negro woman and child to succumb to his commands because the negro male has no power or authority to protect the woman and child.
(Now, if a woman can’t go to her man for support, where do you think she’s headed for her bread and butter? Or in today’s times her cheese and her check? OK, I’m going to my corner as soon as I finish up here…I promise. I’ve pissed some of you off – I KNOW).
But here is what you have to understand: This sort of treatment, this kind of conditioning, reflects the very state of most Black American families today. Willie may have single-handedly systematized the dynamics of the Black male-female relationship as we know it.
See, he believed that if you take two black men and two black women, and you “mate” them – one couple is likely to conceive a girl and one a boy. Now, remove the father from both families, and essentially you will see that each child is raised to assume the reverse role of his or her “natural” state.
The young girl will be taught to do as her mother does – she will be encouraged to care for everything – tend the fields of her master, care for her master’s children and provide for her own home, without ever giving much thought to her own welfare. The young boy however will be taught to depend on his mother, lest the master think him dangerous, or “too big for his britches.”
Without a strong male influence, the family would continue to repeat this cycle…at least for 300 years.
Surviving trauma such as this for a lifetime requires a certain level of psychological blockading. Essentially, you will teach your children to do as you have done to ensure that they live long enough to teach their children the same. Even in a post-slavery world this was necessary.
Such forces as the Ku Klux Klan and the Secret Brotherhood of the White Knights (KKK predecessors) were responsible for the torment, torture, destruction, and deprecation of the Black community. Black children could be chopped up, mowed down, and literally ripped to shreds if they were even presumed to be looking a White person in the eye. A black man could lose his manhood or his life, for “defiling a White woman with his ‘probing’ eyes and ‘filthy’ mind.”
In the state of Georgia until 2003, an antiquated law in a small county gave a Black person more jail time for killing a rabbit in the off-season than another Black person. Of course, federal and state law overruled it – but do you see how far we’ve come?
And yet, we still aren’t 100% sure where we’re headed. How do we overcome something so deeply rooted in the core of who we are; so entrenched in the very fabric of our history it is almost as much a part of us as our skin itself? Willie said it would be 300 years before we figured it out. Well, he didn’t bank on us having a WILD Side!
He was trying to suppress an uprising, but we (brown folks) come from the earth. And you know what happens when you kick the earth around long enough? Dust rises up and gets in your eyes. This ladies and gentleman is the uprising. Knowledge, power, and action.
Welcome to the revolution. They said it would not be televised…they didn’t say anything about the Internet.
Wishing you peace and love,
Kiki B., The WILD Side