In this age of instant information racing across cyberspace at lightning speed, the incidents of racial profiling, racism and death while black are ever present in our daily lives. The onslaught of images of these incidents amplifies the fear and trauma that people of color, and more specifically, Black people have harbored from slavery, through Jim Crow and into our contemporary contexts. Psychologist, Dr. Joy DeGruy writes extensively about Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. As critical race theory teaches us, the permanence of racism exacerbates that syndrome and results in continued trauma to our psyche with each public incident.
During slavery, slave masters routinely terrorized the enslaved into submission through public humiliation, flogging and lynching. These images still stir the cellular memory of those of us who are the descendants of those enslaved as well as White people who abhorred the institution. During Jim Crow, White people were able to keep Negro people in their place through inhumane laws that supported the continuation of public humiliation, arrests and death, all without consequence. At least without legal consequence. The moral consequence is the legacy of racism and White supremacy that we are now living with and witnessing daily in prime time. We, of all races, are fractured, as a result. Our humanity has been compromised and it is our humanity that begs us to begin the process of racial healing.
The wounds run deep. Every time the scab is pulled off, trauma ensues. The Starbucks manager’s wolf cry ripped off that scab, yet again. The same wolf cry that caused Emmitt Till’s death, the same one that took Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castille and so many others from this earthly realm with no justice and no peace. The trauma is real and the impact of that trauma results in the reinforcement that Black Americans are still unable to be free in the “land of the free”. We are not free. We are not free to drive, walk, ring doorbells and ask for help, go to the store for skittles, sit in a coffee shop… we are not free. We must still give our children “The Talk” and pray that our loved ones are not the subject of the next story in the news cycle.
Lastly, I have become a bit cynical as our terminology shifts away from systemic racism. I am curious about the words implicit and unconscious when connected to racial bias. How many examples are necessary for us to become conscious? When do the actions get named as explicit? Why is it so hard to examine the racism that is born out of this nation’s sin of human trafficking through the slave trade? We must commit to speaking the truth and work across racial lines to undo the systems that support the conditions that allow these “incidents” to continue. If we don’t, someone else will be writing another blog about the next headline and the trauma will continue.