400 years of slavery doesn’t even begin to paint the picture of the pain and torture of being Black in America (or Black/African-descent in any other European controlled country). As a society, we tend to think of personal psyche in terms of what is happening with my mind today and how that affected a decision or outcome right now. The thing is, any psychoanalyst will tell you, today is a result of the past. The way that you get to any place isn’t a jump landing or teleportation, it is a progression. We go through the weeds to get to the grass. We drive from here to there. There are a number of analogies that could be used, but the point is, you don’t get to skip the unpleasantries and trials of life to get to the next chapter to understand the full story.
I appreciate and admire the ability of a good psychoanalyst to break down the trauma and experiences that one has had which directly and indirectly impacts their state of being today. They are able to help identify experiences that the mind has tried to forget by repression. The mind wants to protect us from continual trauma, be it from ourselves or others. It is not always forgetting or repression. Sometimes, trauma causes us to repeat what we’ve experienced even when we know or at least think that it is “wrong.” The mind is a very complicated piece of equipment. The psychoanalysis allows us to see through the result and into the journey.
Slavery produced conditions for many Black Americans that included broken families, stolen history, impeded educational growth, lost communities, diminished self-esteem, lack of trust, self-hate, financial ruin, historical violence and so much more. All of these issues don’t affect everyone in the same way. There are many families who have built considerable wealth, succeeded educationally, improved from one generation to the next over the course of the past 200 years. However, this is not the case for the majority or even half of Black Americans. Keep in mind that slavery did not end until 1865 which in itself did not resolve issues of inequality by no means. And to this day, nothing has proven to resolve the basic issue of inequality.
From a psycho-analytic perspective, Black America is in deep need of confronting and grasping the depth of their pain through historical reflection and introspection. The problem for Black America is that White America simply wants to forget, hide, distort, destroy and implicate Blackness for their own atrocities. This brings me to the conclusion that in order for Black America to really deal with their trauma, White America needs to look deeply and truthfully into their specific detailed racist agenda that has been exacted upon this country for over 500 years.
White America needs to go back to the beginning of exploration in this country and rebuild the history that has been “frankensteined” to their liking. It is much like the mirror that tells you, “who’s the fairest of them all.” When you’re in control of the mirror, there is no doubt that you are, but the truth is, that you’re no where near as beautiful as you think you are. Your perspective is distorted and you see only what you want to see. You believe your truth without digging deeper to discover the darkness within. While Black America is no doubt in need of psychoanalysis, I believe that White America needs a deep reflection to understand and properly explain how we got here. (No pun intended) How we arrived in this place of racial division and execution of others as a system of normal behavior.
We can’t relate to the pain that has been inflicted upon Black America because White America lives in their own distorted mirror. This mirror that tells them that this is the greatest country in the world. This mirror that says, “All men are created equal.” This mirror that says that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. This mirror that says, Black Americans have been free for over 100 years and they still have problems. This mirror that says there aren’t any excuses for anyone to be violent. This mirror that constantly places blame on anyone and everyone but the one looking into it. This mirror that could so easily recognize the real truth beneath these lies, but is constantly overlooked because of the refusal to be seen in the light. White America looks at itself in the dark, asking the mirror, who is the prettiest? All the while, declaring itself most beautiful. Can anyone see beauty in the dark?
Maybe for once, White America needs someone else to tell them that they are one-eyed, patchy-bald, deaf in one ear, smell like fungus and crippled. Maybe for once, they can turn on the lights and see everything in the room besides what they believe. The beauty in others just might be greater than what White America has perceived. To atone for the atrocities brought against their fellow man, they need to truly see who they are. Black America has been identified and assessed so much in the shadows of White America that much like the sun shining to create a silhouette, we are all blinded. Can someone tell White America that they aren’t beautiful? Can someone please let them know that they do have to clean? Can someone speak the truth as much as the “truth” has been spoken about Black Americans? Just turn on the lights.
Bishop Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA has a message to breakdown the continual use of race to disrupt the ability of African Americans to fully realize their citizenship.