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Araminta’s Place : Calling forth all the good!

America’s conscience and that of the world was jarred by the ruthless murder of George Floyd by four police officers paid to protect and serve all citizens. The degree of inhumanity toward Black people in this nation has been made evident by an ongoing series of recent events, but dates back over 400 years to present day. If Black people were considered as fully human collectively, how would the psychological trauma caused by the systems of dehumanization underlying structures of systemic racism be addressed?

Who would be considered competent and capable enough to address their needs? Would it be those people who have fully participated in and benefitted from the systems of dehumanization their underlying structures of systemic racism? Could we rely on those institutions responsible for perpetuating the status quo, such as the formal educational system to provide guidance. The call has been made for substantive social change, but who will we allow to lead us toward that end, the same “leaders” who got us here in the first place? Clearly a more complete grasp of the complexity of systemic racism, its impact, and the trauma induced functioning it causes is needed.

Psychological oppression, epistemic violence (denial, denigration, and distortion of African science and cultural ways of knowing, which are now supported by the heights of knowledge across cultural groups), and menticide (systematic destruction of a people’s mind and culture) are key features of the systems of dehumanization and systemic racism that have been put in place. They are so commonplace, many are not fully conscious of their existence. Cleverly socially engineered under the guise of meritocracy and consumer focused marketing, the propaganda has become so accepted as the norm it seldom reaches the level of conscious critique. Systemic racism is so ingrained in the deep structure of American culture (its values and world view) and psyche that even people benefitting from it or traumatized by it may not fully realize its impact. As a consequence when most people think about systemic racism, they seldom consider all of its forms. One of its least often considered in terms of impact, but often the most devastating forms, is internalized racism.

Racism is defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a system of assigning value and allocating opportunity based on skin color that unfairly privileges some groups and individuals, Whites, and unjustly disenfranchises other groups and individuals, Blacks. The CDC identifies three forms of racism: systemic, undergirded by social policies, institutions, and practices; personal, individual bias in support of systemic racism; and internalized, bias held in support of systemic racism by members of an historically disadvantaged group.

Only the third form of systemic racism, internalized racism, is the direct consequence of systemic racism itself and the trauma it causes.

Although internalized racism is a very common result of the mis-socialization and the trauma imposed by systemic racism, its influence on decision making and choices is seldom openly discussed and critiqued in forums seeking to address systemic racism, but it needs to be. Ibram X. Kendi, historian, writer and proponent of anti-racism, describes his coming into awareness of his own of internalized racism as a high school senior. In delivering a speech filled a long list of anti-black ideas, which he thought at the time were progressive and radical, Kendi recognized how much mainstream racism he had consumed and internalized over his lifetime, particularly the 1990’s. It is from that background Kendi’s orientation to anti-racism emerged.

Racism as a system of assigning value and allocating opportunity based on skin color has deep and pervasive psychological and cultural roots. The captors of our African ancestors who enslaved them as less than human chattel and trafficked them to America to build their personal and this nation’s wealth. The enslaving captors knew it was imperative to take control the enslaved Africans’ minds. Which indicates the European descent captors obviously understood that not only were the Africans fully human, but they were also smart, skilled, and posed a great threat without the mind control.

The psychological oppression process created to control the African mind incorporated five phases: 1) control the physical survival of the African through terrorism (whether they were physically brutalized, had food, shelter, clothing, lived or died; 2) deny the African access to the truth of their history and culture (disallow access to true history, rituals, rights, music, drums and other cultural artifacts, only allow them to congregate under the guise of Christianity); 3) negate the Africans’ history and culture (paint such a negative image of Africa and being African that people disidentify; 4) elevate the history and culture of the European captors (present the image of European culture as the most civilized, developed, and advanced if all cultures and civilizations; and, 5) divide and conquer (separate the enslaved Africans by every diversity marker possible, gender, skin color, age, etc., and pit them against one another, rewarding those who would to their captors bidding with better living conditions, making them “head men”, overseers, etc.).

Although this psychological oppression process was instituted during chattel enslavement, it has proven so effective that it has not been changed in over 400 years. The control of one’s physical survival has now come to be called one’s success; access to history and culture, as well as it negation remains in full effect; European culture and beauty standards continue to be put forward as the gold standard; and, the divide and conquer strategy continues to be enforced with the rewarding of those who serve to perpetuate the status quo of systemic racism.

Race/racism are social constructs invented in attempt to mask the corrupt, heinous, pathologically, materialistic behavior of the European captors. During the two and a half centuries of chattel enslavement Black Africans were submerged in processes of terrorism, dehumanization, and psychological oppression, designed to erase their cultural identities and strengths. Another one hundred years was spent under legalized domestic terrorism facing unprecedented lynching and disenfranchisement in every area of life.

Only in the last 56 years were equal civil rights won under the law, although with limited access to quality education, economic resources, health disparities, and mass incarceration still experienced. Most would expect that such a group of people would not have survived for over 400 years, much less emerge as the moral and spiritual leaders of a movement benefitting all people. To the extent Black people have successfully combated the trauma of systemic racism and its internalization they have continued to thrive and rise in every arena of life where given the opportunity. Yet their achievements and contributions have often come at great cost and sacrifice.

That Black people have internalized racism is by design not a coincidence, yet its full effect is seen only relatively recently with the acculturation and assimilation coming with desegregation and the advent of television. Prior to that time the interactions with Whites was most often limited en masse to commonly held experiences and perceptions of who Whites were collectively based on observations of their behaviors.

In 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. shared the following requirements for overcoming the trauma of systemic racism, particularly its internalized form, which still ring true today. Requisite are inner transformation liberating Black people from ideological dependence on the dominant white society and awareness its philosophy and morals are not holy or sacred but often degenerate and profane. Also, becoming aware the crudity and cruelty of white society’s responses to Black needs is systemic, reflecting an appalling lack of knowledge and appreciation concerning the reality of Black life.

King described the inability to question and defy the fundamental precepts of the larger white society as the worst aspect of the oppression of Black people, having been coerced and conditioned not to think outside the context of the dominant white ideology. King foresaw and applauded the critical trend in Black thought of returning to its roots. Now fifty-three years later we have come to know that new, yet ancient. understanding which encourages us to see the world through our own eyes. We now know that all who have internalized the putrid ideology of systemic racism can choose to free themselves. We are empowered to create a just, sacred, and sustainable world for all of humankind. Let us learn to think for ourselves and create that which we think.

Adorn yourself with the strength, wisdom, knowledge and understanding of our ancestors. It will bring you peace, love, and strength. All praises to those who know that they chose to come back at this time to carry us forward into the age of peace, justice and equality.

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