Think of your daughter being raped. Think about the pain and agony to her as a result. Think about the loss of trust and fear that develops in her. And think about the long time that will be required for her to heal, if possible.
During slavery, black slaves’ bodies were raped, not once, not twice, but several times. Many were used to “breed” while others were used to satisfy the lust of the slave master.
Now, if we know today, the impact of one rape on one woman, then imagine the continuous rape of the black woman and how this affected her mentally, physically, and spiritually. Imagine the impact on the children she bore, children she may not have wanted and who reminded her daily of her rapist.
Think of the fear, hatred, and pain that were passed on in each generation. On top of this, her children and her children’s children were used for the slave master’s lust or to “breed.” The result was one horror being added to another.
Black women, men, and children did not have the resources of a shelter, counseling, or possible criminal prosecution of the rapist that is present today.
As we are learning today, such horrific and traumatic experiences, also affects one’s biological chemical balance as a result of the feelings of depression, helplessness, and anger they produce. This imbalance gets passed down to the children and their children and their children.
Now, let’s turn to physical abuse. We know today about the adverse affects of this abuse on women. Today, we have shelters and counselors for the women and prosecution laws against the abuser. We even provide shelter for the woman’s children. We do all these things because we need to protect the woman and place her in an environment where she can feel safe and have a chance to begin to heal.
Slaves had none of these resources. During slavery, black women, men, and children were physically abused and many times on a daily basis. They were beaten and whipped, and in many cases tortured. They wore the permanent scars of their abuse on their resultant disfigured bodies. Some had a hand, foot, finger, etc. cut off as punishment. Imagine these things occurring to you today and no one doing anything to stop it. Other slaves were required to helplessly watch these horrors. Great depression, anger, and hatred resulted in the slave, against himself for being helpless and against the slave master for hurting him.
Today, we know the kinds of damage to the brain, body, spirit, and emotions that such negative feelings impose when they cannot be expressed and appropriately resolved. This horrific damage has been passed on generationally.
Slaves lived in terror everyday not knowing who would be raped next, whipped next, used to set an example, or which child would be sold away from its mother never to be seen again.
In 1634, slavery began in America. It ended “on paper” in 1863. Black slaves endured approximately 230 years of the torture and abuse described above. Following that, came lynching, discrimination in any attempts to become independent and earn a living, and disrespect and ill treatment from non-blacks. Beginning in the 1960’s, blacks became more vocal concerning their human and civil rights. As a result, some progress was made. However, if you study the statistics today, you will see that blacks remain on the bottom in critical areas: health, political power, economic power, and group cohesiveness.
I propose that a primary reason for this condition is due to the horrific abuse that has been passed down from generation to generation and the resultant affect on the psyche, spirit, and neurochemical makeup of African-Americans.
I also propose that a national healing campaign is needed for the African-American with the full support of the U.S. government, educational and religious institutions. If it were not for the support of the U.S. government, businesses, educational and religious institutions, slavery could not have lasted as long as it did.
This campaign would include:
- Counseling groups to discuss slavery and its impacts so that feelings can be resolved
- Medical attention for individuals suffering from chemical imbalances
- Education explicitly describing how slaves were treated during slavery and discrimination after slavery
- Acknowledgement by the U.S. government for supporting slavery and provision of reparations for the economic loss to African-Americans as a result
- Media coverage on the psychological and economical impact of slavery and discrimination and the need for government intervention and reparations
- Instituting more affirmative action measures to counter the on-going racist attitudes and discrimination
- Destroying any monuments or tributes to any acts that supported slavery or salutes those who did
- Educating the public that there is “enough to go around” to discourage an attitude of scarcity
- Building monuments to salute the African-Americans for their contributions to building America
Some believe that when slavery ended so did its impact. Well, I ask you if a “single” act of rape ended or a “single” act of physical abuse ended, did its impact also end then? Or, even just think of the World Trade Center terror, do you think that will be easily forgotten? Do you think the families were not affected? Do you think they don’t need financial support and help with the resultant feelings they have to live with? Of course not, and this was one event on one day.
There is another belief that time heals all wounds. I would agree if the wound was physical, but even some of those get worse if not properly treated. However, psychological wounds are different, just think about the last time someone disrespected you or treated you as if they were better than you are. Would you feel good? How quickly did you forget about it? Now, think of having to endure such acts on a daily basis for “all” of your living days. How easy would that be? It wouldn’t be easy at all. No one thrives in a negative environment.
Even if the government does not take action to aid healing, we must begin to do it to the greatest extent possible. We must also remember who helped us and who didn’t. We have suffered too much and too long to put this behind us. We must address it if we are to begin to thrive in our personal lives and become economically competitive as a people.
In addition, slavery for blacks was different than for any other group of enslaved peoples. Blacks were treated worse than cows and dogs! They were considered property like someone’s toilet or garbage pail. Yet, these things received better care and attention than they did.
So, whenever you think about African-American, know that you are thinking about a miracle of survival. It’s time to heal. Time is short.
God Bless You
Written: 12-26-01 by Gina McGill
Published at AfricanAfrican.com