Black History Month: An Honest Reflection on Collective Trauma and Healing
It's Black History month. Instead of taking this opportunity to recognize some incredible black leaders, innovators, and change makers - of which there are many - I want to talk about awareness. Stick with me, this is important.
In January 1865, Congress added the 13th amendment to the Constitution; the abolition of slavery became federal law.
Awesome, right? Our black citizens received their well-deserved freedom. All of the southern states, except Texas, set their slaves free.
Your entire world has been on a plantation and under the control of someone who holds no familial ties or love for you. Your entire life has been labor. It’s all you know. You’re broke…and broken. Not only are you broken from such immense trauma, but most likely all of your loved ones are experiencing this exact brokeness as well. There is no one to turn to. Where would you go? No one will hire you, shelter you, protect you. So, you’re forced to live on the street. This was reality for many, many freed people, especially in the southern part of the United States.
In January 1866, Congress passed vagrancy legislation making it illegal to be homeless.
So, many of our newly liberated black brothers and sisters were rounded up and taken to prison where they were given “labor credits” for food and other basic necessities. They were being punished and traumatized all over again to serve the twisted views and greed of the white men running the country at the time.
And, guess where they were taken for labor duties.
That's right. They were placed right back at the plantations they’d been released from - AND - plantations then made deals with the wardens to keep the “prisoners” on the plantations to make it easier on the jailers. When their "sentences" were up, plantation owners offered them the very things they needed - food, shelter and safety - on the plantations. This is how sharecroppers started in the United States. The plantation owners knew they'd be in huge trouble detaining free Americans against their will, so they set up the system to look like "freedom." It was anything but that.
This is a huge part of black history that is often brushed over or ignored, even though it laid the foundation for what is happening in our justice system.
You may be asking yourself what you can do now. For me, it was the very first question. Educate yourself. Divorce your ego from, "That was a long time ago," mentality and look at what is happening NOW, right in front of us.
There is unhealed trauma and generational healing on a mass scale that needs to be addressed and healed authentically, with love, first and foremost.
As someone who is a white American, I began asking myself how I can begin to understand something so emotionally overwhelming. In the time I have spent (and it's been a lot of time) thinking about the ways I could start to address the leftover trauma so many people are still dealing with, I began to clearly see an opportunity to begin a healing process that is desperately needed. It's the little things, but it all starts with learning the history of corruption so that we can be a louder voice than the voice of evil.
I began to listen to creators who don't look like me, don't talk like me, and don't have the same heritage or history as me. I began asking, with empathy and respect, important questions that, as a white woman raised in the south, I would have never considered growing up. Our textbooks and means of education lack so much important information. It's when people connect, share their experiences and traumas, and feel there is a mutual understanding and respect - that is where healing begins.
Learn. Meditate. Pray. Ask for inspired action. Then do it.
If you made it this far in my blog, thank you.
All my love and support,