Image courtesy of Oprah.com
I think unlike any other race, blacks have had to endure excessive amounts of trauma that has lasted centuries and are hardwired into our psyche. These built-in emotional, cultural, spiritual, racial, and mental traumas have shaped our histories, our beliefs, values, and our strengths and weaknesses. When we say that black mental health is a necessity, we mean that we must be mindful of the hurt and trauma that lingers in our minds, bodies, emotions, and psyche. The late Maya Angelou said it best, “I come as one but stand as ten thousand,” because our souls are filled with the pain of the past hurts and continued triggers we still deal with.
Social issues faced by the Black communities include mass incarceration, gang violence, poverty and generational poverty, unemployment and opportunities, drugs, single parenting, children born out of wedlock, language barriers, lack of resources, education, and sexual education. Additionally, our community struggles with long-held systemic issues that have plagued all our cultures for centuries, not just the American culture. Social issues are difficult to overcome as they present as everyday issues that we deal with; hence, sometimes we may no longer recognize them as issues because they are so ingrained in our minds and lives. For us to overcome social issues, we must want more for ourselves and we must take control of ourselves instead of waiting for someone to give us something because the world does not work that way. For example, I have worked with clients who have not even considered a future for themselves. If we cannot conceive or even dream of a future, we are already lost. We cannot envision a goal, and we cannot dream of actionable steps toward those goals. If we have nothing to look forward to or work toward, then we are just biding our time, wasting time even.
I think that generational poverty sums up most, if not all, all the issues that we face as a Black community. Generational poverty includes low-to-no income, lack of resources, lack of educational opportunities, and is passed down to us by our parents. And if no generation can dream big or challenge themselves to do better than their parents, then the cycle is passed down. I am no different from any member of my community as I was born into a poor family where education and resources was scarce. But I promised myself by the time I got to high school, I would have a way out because I did not want this for myself. When I was born, it was given to me through circumstances, but I am intentional in changing my own circumstances and that of my children.
Black culture is suffering. It is hemorrhaging terribly. I think a good amount of us understand the consequences of slavery in our societies. However, I am unsure that we understand the consequences of the continued scarcity mindset we have developed. In some ways, it’s like we have lowered our standards for what is acceptable in our culture. Our culture should represent the best of us. Our food, our music, our fashion, our hair, our history, our accomplishments, and everything that makes us proud to be Black are deeply ingrained in us. But sometimes, we are blind to the issues from these things that threaten to overwhelm us. Our diets are not always healthy; we do not want to exercise because it will mess up our hair; some of our music is total garbage and we feed our minds with this; we want to build healthy families for our children, but we are not doing anything to become these kinds of families, and so on and so forth. We jeopardize our health to perpetuate things that do not necessarily do us any good.
There is a saying in life: everything in moderation. There is a reason for this. Of course, we should want to enjoy the fruits of our culture. But we do not have to glutton ourselves. We do not have to reduce our standards to just accept anything. We should be accountable for the things we create and the impact these things have on our communities. Let’s be frank, the things we put out there for the world to see, shapes the way the world sees us. Especially in the media, where blacks are never pardoned by mental illness of some other circumstance beyond our control. So, we cannot then, be upset when the world only sees us in a negative light. We must become accountable for us. People have literally given their lives and freedom to move us along as a people. Yet, we take these things for granted daily.
While reading this piece, I ask you to think of any old hurt and pain that you carry with you daily. Begin thinking about little ways you can make changes to your life. We want to evolve from a fixed mindset on pain and injustices and to a growth mindset where we can begin to enact changes within our lives, our families, and our communities. The current social and political climate in the US has given the younger generation just a taste of what it was like to live in the US fifty years ago. Segregation was not only an American issue for we only have to think of the apartheid in South Africa, racial issues in the UK, France, and also the Caribbean. Therefore, we are all affected by the residual effects of a history that viewed us as only properties to be controlled.