The "Our House is On Fire" series started off with speaking with Darrell (Mr. Blackovation), the host of the "All Things Black Podcast". We focused on how relationship violence has impacted our community. The episode was dedicated to Taylor McFadden, Danielle Hoyle, and Kennedy Hoyle. The conversation focused on how violence among the black community appears to be tolerated more than violence against us from others. While we have been getting great feedback, the question from some may be creeping up. "Why don't you all just put the fire out?"
As Darrell said so directly on the podcast...
"You're looking at an internalization of behaviors that we have been accustomed to accepting. It's okay to cuss somebody out in the black community because that's what we do. It's okay to beat the hell out of somebody in the black community because that's what we do. We've just internalized that to a degree where is commonplace."
So why not just put the fire out?
Well, we first must acknowledge that the house is on fire. I wanted to give context to the use of the wording "house". Nick Moore, host of Forbidden Fruit Podcast explained in Season 2 Episode 19 that referring to the word "house" is to identify things that happen internally within the black community. In contrast, things outside the house are the external influences that impact us each day. Our house being on fire are the internal issues that hurt and damage our community. Violence is one of the most significant and most destructive issues we constantly deal with. There has to be a discussion around the gasoline issues. These are the foundational causes of the ongoing challenges and blocks we are experiencing. The match is the external impact of everyday life of being "Black in America."
What are the gasoline elements? It is the historical trauma, the pain, the death, the traumatic stress of the American experience for the black community. As Darrell said in the episode, "Devaluation,"
"You're not going to be able to move forward unless you deal with the subject of devaluation in our community"
This devaluation that Darrell speaks about is based on the "gasoline elements." A legacy of violence based in pain and death. This has been our linage from the first Africans who stepped foot in this country. A close friend once told me that "America Culture" is "Rape Culture." That was the most authentic statement about American history I had ever heard. Just take a moment to reflect on that, a group of people who have been forced into a life that was built on a foundation of death and trauma. It creates a lens of how we see one another. It allows the devaluation of a community based on the impacts of forced views and teachings and compounded by centuries of programming. Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome PTSS (developed by Dr. Joy DeGruy as a result of decades of quantitative and qualitative research) is a condition that exists as a consequence of centuries of chattel slavery followed by institutionalized racism and oppression. This has resulted in multigenerational maladaptive behaviors that are harmful and destructive and continue to cause ongoing trauma to our community.
So asking, "why don't you just put the fire out?" is in the same vein as telling a black person to "just get over it; slavery happened hundreds of years ago." Learn more about PTSS by reading Dr. DeGruy's book entitled Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. Now, let's look at the science behind the pain, neuroscience to be exact.
How does trauma impact the brain before birth? Research has found that mothers who have suffered childhood trauma can pass this memory down to their unborn baby – scans showed altered brain circuitry in young children. This is also seen in generations of trauma, descendants of genocide survivors, or families who suffered from extreme poverty. Their brain scans show how the brain chemistry is altered due to the trauma that is not experienced firsthand i.e. slavery.
This brain scan is a part of the research conducted by Jing-Na Zhang and team that highlights the difference in brain activity based on trauma. The full study can be accessed by clicking the image. To keep it simple, the back of the brain is our "survival brain," while the front of the brain is our "logic" brain. When trauma impacts someone, activity is present almost entirely in the back of the brain. This further illustrates how trauma causes changes in the brain and how the world is seen. When someone is living in the space of "surviving," it can be a challenge to feel safe enough to make changes. Looking at the world through a trauma lens means you are just trying to stay alive. The condition of being black in America is something we have been taught we must survive. When we add the ongoing impact of poor race relations, it further supports this ongoing mindset. So when you ask, "Why don't you just put the fire out?" it suggests that you are unaware of the science behind the pain. Hopefully, this blog entry allows for more understanding of the subject matter.
To stop looking at the world through a trauma lens means we need to feel safe enough to do so. The current landscape of this country, this planet even, does not allow for that comfort. However, the first step is to be aware of the fire, so we can use our inherited creativity, strength, and intelligence to adapt to our surroundings in a way that will allow us to heal and thrive. History speaks for itself; we are some of the most creative people on the planet and thrive on innovation. We have learned how to master transforming ideas into action, and we get the world to follow. We need to change the narrative of "hopelessness" and live in the power of the fact we are the people that all life originated from, and it is time we remember and act accordingly. It is the hope that these conversations in this series help facilitate healing and get the conversations started.
Again, thank you, Darrell, from the "All Things Black Podcast," for being one of my partners in these conversations as we continue to discuss the issues and look for solutions.
If you are someone you know is in need of resources or help with fleeing an abusive relationship, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or visit www.thehotline.org