"Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: Myth or Reality?"
By Fahim A. Knight-EL
This writer was reflecting on some chain of events that has recently occurred relative to various conversation he has had with African Americans that represented a differential of political perspectives and after these conversations he began to reflect even further on his own personal experiences and the collective experiences as Africans and/or as African Americans (a term that I am not so fond of). Thus, after receiving a very inflammatory and mean-spirited email from an African American; it cause me to reflect even deeper because certain conduct and behavior that we as African Americans demonstrate is often not created in a vacuum, but it is often tied to our collective experience as a people in the United States. (Reference: Haki R. Madhubuti; “Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption: Blacks Seeking A Culture of Enlightened Empowerment).
We have never had a serious and honest conversation in the United States of America about Race and how race affected the development of our social, political, and economic institutions in America and the attitudes that have been formed by this reality. Moreover, this dishonesty is at the root of the many racial discords—ranging from suspiciousness, stereotypes, lack of ethnic trust, disharmony, etc. This writer lives in Durham, North Carolina and we are fortunate to have in our city Duke University, one of the foremost academic institutions in the United States. (Reference: Tim Wise; "White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son").
This writer has had the opportunity over the many years to talk with one of the premier African-American historians in the United States named Dr. John Hope Franklin who is a professor emeritus and author of perhaps one of the most widely published and read black history books in the history of the United States titled, "From Slavery to Freedom". Also, was appointed to President Bill Clinton's Race Commission. This writer was first introduced to Dr. Franklin in the early 1980s by one of my mentors, the late Dr. Earlie Thorpe at North Carolina Central University another academic jewel in the city of Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Franklin has to be over ninety (90) years of age and although he is perhaps one of the most celebrated historians in America; I believe his personal experience of being born during the height of the turbulent Jim Crow Era has always compromised his ability to confront the issues of Race and Racism aggressively in his writings as opposed to assessing and evaluating this pandemic with tempered fear. Yet, within the United States we are perhaps prepared to elect an African American to the highest office in the world—president of the United States and some will use this symbolic token as the epitome of social progress for African Americans and once again relegate this 450 year old needed debate to the level of being an insignificant and unnecessary discussion. (Reference: Sultan Abdul Latif and Naimah Latif; "Slavery: The African American Psychic Trauma").
However, this writer does think that the entire question and equation of race in the superficial realm, is often instigated and is given a premise to exist by the dominant society, in particular the powers-that-be, which to divert attention from what is really going on and is design to consume humanity in useless battles of artificial barriers and divisive conflicts (of divide and conquer schemes). Thus, this writer, is fully aware of this plot and is very clear about the enemies perspective and motive; then it might appear as a contradiction to many readers around the world who read the KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK articles and the number of blogs that I have posted relative to assessing and evaluating the question of race and politics; in particular in the United States. (Reference: Cornel West; "Race Matters).
The psyche of black humanity in the U.S. was partially shaped by a history of oppression, tyranny and racism; these variables had a deep and everlasting affect on the psychological and collective conscious of these people who were deemed Chattel Slaves (1555-1865) and their descendants. Thus, right after slavery, the United States Supreme Court in 1896 passed Plessy Versus Ferguson (Separate, But Equal legislation and laws), which ushered in Jim Crow laws and segregation. This period lasted until 1954 (Brown V. The Board of Education) in which the High Court legally struck down Plessy v. Ferguson and declared Separate but Equal as being unconstitutional. This social and political history created a political and social dichotomy in America—blacks were never accepted as "full Americans". (Reference: C. Vann Woodard; The Strange Career of Jim Crow”).
So, when you see and hear a Minister Louis Farrakhan, Ben Ammi, Dick Gregory, Malik Zulu Shabazz, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, etc, you must understand that a Black Liberation Theology evolved out of a need for diaspora blacks to reaffirm their cultural and religious identity in the same way there was a need to re-affirm their "Americanism" by forcing America to live up to his creed as it was written within the language given in the United States Constitution. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. socially agitated and this led to the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. These were necessary steps to ensure that the question of race did not enter into the legality of this democracy and the jurisprudence system needed to reflect these measures. But it does not matter how much you legislate, you can not dictate or control people and individuals—group norms, folkways, mores, values, etc. The culture of racism had become entrenched even in the Christian and religious doctrines of America. The religious teachings, images, symbolism, etc., reflected the dominant culture and Black Liberation Theology articulated by James Cone, Cecil Cone, Albert Cleage and others sought to balance this equation. There is a good book written by a former Georgia State University psychologist named Dr. Asa G. Hilliard titled, "The Reawakening of the African Mind."
This writer was given a CD speech titled, "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" by my cousin George Knight from New Jersey last year and it took me a year to listen to the speech because I believe that the Creator decided upon the time I should have this life changing experience. This sister who authored this work is named Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary; she is a sociologist and psychologist by profession. Dr Leary also is the author a book titled, "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing She maintained in her scholarship that African Americans as a collective race of people, although, 450 years later are still suffering from 'Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome". The 310 years of physical and psychological abuse has rendered us as a damaged people both psychologically and emotionally.
Dr. Naim Akbar who is a psychologist on the staff at Florida State University and author of the book titled, "Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery" he stated: "Slavery was 'legally' ended in excess of 100 years ago, but the over 300 years experienced in its brutality and unnaturalness constituted a severe psychological and social shock to the minds of African-Americans. This shock was so destructive to natural life processes that the current generation of African-Americans, though we are 5-6 generations removed from the actual experience in both our social and mental lives. Psychologists and sociologists have failed to attend to the persistence of problems in our mental and social lives, which clearly have their roots in slavery. Only the historians have given proper attention to the shattering realties of slavery, and have dealt with it only as descriptive of past events." (Reference: Naim Akbar; “Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery”).
But what was interesting about this study or should I say, the focus of the scholarship dealt with HEALING and we as a collective ethnic group after the trauma of slavery were never given the proper therapy (mental health treatment like other post traumatic stress disorder victims); and the pathology of slavery scarred us deeply. Therefore, in our present day lives as African Americans we still demonstrate behavior and conduct that is consistent with "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome"; all 30-40 million blacks in this country were passed by-way of DNA and genetic coding the symptoms of trauma. So, when I see an African (African American) demonstrating violent behavior, self-hatred, using abusive language, and acting out anti-social behavior against another black person or against another human being, I know that their behavior is a direct result of lacking HEALING and their own victimization has turned inwardly towards another African. (Claud Anderson: “PowerNomics: The National Plan to Empower Black America).
Prior to listening to this CD titled, "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" I must say I did not totally understand some of our negative behavior, as far as the root cause and effect. If I can, I am going to make an attempt to get every family member a copy of that message, so you all can identify and benefit from this awesome information (we live in an information age). This study provided me with a greater insight as it relates to determining and identifying certain negative conduct and behavior demonstrated by African Americans, which should be placed in its proper context of "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" and not only is the purveyors of the anti-social behavior a victim of this illness and pathology, but we all are victims because a system of white supremacy never allowed us the proper channels to HEAL. The next reflection I had, was when I was a freshmen in college. This writer was given perhaps one of the most important books that I have ever read titled, "The Mis-Education of the Negro" authored in 1933 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson.. Woodson maintained that western education had failed us as individuals and as a collective race of people. Western Education supported the idea that Africans were inferior and gave nothing to civilization and Africa was considered the "Dark Continent", but whites and Europeans so-called enlightened world society by given the world science, architecture, art, religion, math, etc., through our western education and training, we internalized deep rooted self-hatred for our selves and each other. (Carter G. Woodson; “The Mis-Education of the Negro”).
Our Mis-Education was systemic and we were taught to hate ourselves and anything black (African) and our present day negative behavior towards each other is a direct result of our Mis-Education. We were taught to adopt their mores, folkways and values, which lacks harmony with the universe and our spirit of MAAT (balance and equilibrium) with heavy emphasis on negating our culture and heritage. Thus, certain conduct we demonstrate is coming from a history of Mis-Education and the email I received must be received as an act of Mis-Education, but we all are victims of Mis-Education, which takes us back to the HEALING process and the devastating effects Chattel Slavery had on Africans who survived the dehumanization of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the Middle Passage. (Reference: Claud Anderson: Black Labor, White Wealth: The Search for Power and Economic Justice”).
Many of us do not know that we are Mis-Educated and are suffering from "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" I know that I am, but after being in the counseling profession for many years, the first step to curing any illness is admittance. Dr. Leary stated: "The root of this denial for the dominant culture is fear, and fear mutates into all kinds of things: psychological projection, distorted and sensationalized representations in the media, and the manipulation of science to justify the legal rights and treatment of people. That’s why it’s become so hard to unravel”.
“Unfortunately, many European Americans have a very hard time even hearing a person of color express their experiences. The prevailing psychological mechanism is the idea, “I’ve not experienced it, so it cannot be happening for you.”
“Truly, how can anyone tell me what I have and have not experienced? This is a very paternalistic manifestation of white supremacy, the idea that African Americans and other people of color can be told, with great authority, what their ancestor’s lives were like and even what their own, present-day lives are like. The result for those on the receiving end of this kind of distortion is an aspect of PTSS. People begin to doubt themselves, their experiences, and their worth in society because they have been so invalidated their whole lives, in so many ways”. (Reference Silja J.A. Talvi; On-Line Web Magazine “In These Times” Article titled, “Post 'Traumatic Slave Syndrome; Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary talks About Her Provocative New Book”)
I have been mentoring perhaps ten (10) young African American male college students for over the past two years as part of the outreach wing of the KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK and we have learned to talk openly as a method of HEALING—we delve into the African experience on many different levels, the topic varies from week to week. I would like to think these young men have benefited from my knowledge base and experience. We talked about the state of their HIP-HOP culture and the responsibility they have to lead their peers in a positive direction. A few of these young men have recently graduated from North Carolina Central University; they have since come back to thank me for assisting them in their educational plights.
There is a great African Centered psychiatrist in the Washington D.C. area named Dr. Frances Cress Welsing; she is more than qualified to give us the HEALING we need. She authored the book titled the "Isis Papers". Also, there is Dr. Naim Akbar (author of "Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery) and there is Dr. Kobi Kambon author of "AFRICAN/BLACK PSYCHOLOGY IN THE AMERICAN CONTEXT: AN AFRICAN-CENTERED APPROACH”. Now! Those who live in the Raleigh-Durham area there is Dr. Baba Kamou Kambon (author of “The Last Black man Standing”, we all must pursue HEALING. The sender of that vitriol and divisive email may not even know that he is sick, but I am taking my time to write this and to bring some understanding of why, we do what we do. I AM NOT ANGRY AT MY BROTHER HE IS A VICTIM JUST LIKE ME AND ALL OF US WHO ARE AFRICANS.
Finally, I attended the Million Man March back on October 16, 1995 and Minister Louis Farrakhan gave the Black men present that day a pledge and I had just recently quoted this pledge, but I see the necessity to re-state this timely pledge again in this writing . I do not know, if the sender of that email attended the Million Man March; but this is what Minister Farrakhan asked us as black men to pledge and honor:
I pledge that from this day forward, I will strive to love my Brother as I love myself.
I pledge from this day forward, I will strive to improve myself spiritually, morally, socially, politically and economically for the benefit myself, my family and my people.
I pledge that I will strive to build businesses, build houses, build hospitals, build factories, and enter into international trade, for the good of myself, and my people.
I pledge, that from this forward, I will never raise my hand with a knife or a gun to beat, hurt, or shoot any member of my family, or any human being, except in self-defense.
I pledge, that from this forward, I will never abuse my wife by striking her or disrespecting her, for she is the mother of my children and the producer of my future.
I pledge, that from this forward, I will never engage in the abuse of children--little boys or little girls--for sexual gratification. But I will let them grow in peace to be strong men and women for the future of our people.
I will never again use the 'B' word to describe any female, but particular my own black sister.
I pledge, that from this forward, I will not poison my body with drugs or that which is destructive to my health and well being.
I pledge, that from this forward, I will support Black newspapers, Black radio, and black television. I will support Black artists who clean up their acts to show respect for themselves and respect for their people, and respect for the ears of the human family. (Reference: Kim Martin Sadler; “Atonement, The Million Man March”).
Although this article has more to do with "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" and Healing I would be remissed in my duty, if I did not briefly touch on the slave trade, but the article did not sought this angle as its focus. There is a book titled "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews" authored by the Nation of Islam's Historical Research Department back in 1991; which published perhaps one of the most controversial books to be written in the late 20th Century. The research looked at credible and authentic Jewish sources and historical records to assess and evaluate what the Jewish involvement was in Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Middle Passage (1440s --1807). The Nation of Islam researchers found that there were overwhelmingly Jewish involvement on every level—buying and selling of slaves—to owning disproportional numbers of slave plantations. They discovered that some of the Jewish Slave Merchants used Gentile and European names and played a much larger role in the African Slave Trade than what was previously known. They were large on the financier end, slave brokers, owners, plantation owners, etc. Moreover, some Jews equated the Nation of Islam book the ”The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews" as equivalent to "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" and tried to dismissed it as anti-Semitic material. (Reference: Nation of Islam Historical Research Department; The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews).
The Simon Wiesenthal Center hired Jewish Scholar Harold Brackman who wrote the anti-thesis to the Nation of Islam research titled, " Ministry of Lies: The Truth Behind "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews" Brackman tried to refute and discredit the Nation of Islam scholars as using shoddy research methods and less than ingenious Jewish scholars as their verification sources. But the Nation of Islam researchers opened up a new research arena and as much as the European Nations played huge roles in the African Slave Trade, but they found something more sinister relative to the "secret" Jewish involvement who even used Gentile Front men to disguise the level of their involvement. Many scholars black and white are fearful of Zionist reprisals and even more fearful of being labeled anti-Semitic, which might cost them their academic careers, if they were to touch the subject of Jewish involvement in the African Slave Trade. Therefore, this subject has not received the needed scholarly attention to either confirm or discredit "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews". But they will not even allow a sensible debate to occur on the topic and subject without yelling "anti-Semitism". The powerful Jewish Lobby groups went after the Afrocentric scholars for daring to suggest and expose Jewish involvement in the African Slave Trade. They went after Dr. Tony Martin, Dr. Leonard Jefferies, Dr. Khallid Abdul Muhammad, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, etc. They also accused Minister Louis Farrakhan of being the sole author of the book and the Nation of Islam was attacked from every direction by Zionist forces. I am still objective and personally would like to see a greater debate on this issue. (Reference: Tony Martin; The Jewish Onslaught).
We must also understand that it was an inhumane process that the Europeans and American slave masters used to take an African and turn them into a "Negro" and it is nowhere better described, analyzed, and revealed than written in the Willie Lynch letter delivered by William Lynch on the bank of the James River in 1712. This letter reflects the depth of the crime and the inhumanness of the perpetrators and in all of my research this writer has not read anything so descriptive relative to the making of the African slave. This letter in my opinion gives intellectual and scholarly credence to Dr. Leary hypothesis of present day African-Americans could be suffering from "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" There is little doubt that the European nations of France, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, etc., and yes the Arabs are guilty of one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated against humanity--Chattel Slavery. (Reference: JC deGraft-Johnson; “African Glory: Story of Vanished Negro Civilization”).
"THE WILLIE LYNCH LETTER AND THE MAKING OF THE SLAVE"
“Gentlemen. I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve. First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies , where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods for control of slaves. Ancient Rome 's would envy us if my program is implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King, whose version of the Bible we Cherish, I saw enough to know that your problem is not unique. While Rome used cords of wood as crosses for standing human bodies along its highways in great numbers, you are here using the tree and the rope on occasions. “
“I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree, a couple miles back. You are not only losing valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away, your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for maximum profit, You suffer occasional fires, your animals are killed. Gentlemen, you know what your problems are; I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them”.
“In my bag here, I HAVE A FULL PROOF METHOD FOR CONTROLLING YOUR BLACK SLAVES. I guarantee every one of you that if installed correctly IT WILL CONTROL THE SLAVES FOR AT LEAST 300 HUNDREDS YEARS. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it”.
“I HAVE OUTLINED A NUMBER OF DIFFERENCES AMONG THE SLAVES; AND I TAKE THESE DIFFERENCES AND MAKE THEM BIGGER. I USE FEAR, DISTRUST AND ENVY FOR CONTROL PURPOSES. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and it will work throughout the South. Take this simple little list of differences and think about them. On top of my list is "AGE" but it's there only because it starts with an "A." The second is "COLOR" or shade, there is INTELLIGENCE, SIZE, SEX, SIZES OF PLANTATIONS, STATUS on plantations, ATTITUDE of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine hair, course hair, or is tall or short. Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you a outline of action, but before that, I shall assure you that DISTRUST IS STRONGER THAN TRUST AND ENVY STRONGER THAN ADULATION, RESPECT OR ADMIRATION”.
“The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self refueling and self generating for HUNDREDS of years, maybe THOUSANDS. Don't forget you must pitch the OLD black Male vs. the YOUNG black Male, and the YOUNG black Male against the OLD black male. You must use the DARK skin slaves vs. the LIGHT skin slaves, and the LIGHT skin slaves vs. the DARK skin slaves. You must use the FEMALE vs. the MALE. And the MALE vs. the FEMALE. You must also have you white servants and over- seers distrust all Blacks. But it is NECESSARY THAT YOUR SLAVES TRUST AND DEPEND ON US. THEY MUST LOVE, RESPECT AND TRUST ONLY US”.
“Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. IF USED INTENSELY FOR ONE YEAR, THE SLAVES THEMSELVES WILL REMAIN PERPETUALLY DISTRUSTFUL. Thank you gentlemen."
Fahim A. Knight Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight