Beyond Emotional Endurance: Reckoning With America’s Racial Trauma

LET’S CREATE A NEW WORD or phrase, because, after five years of the Black Lives Matter movement, I need us to advance this conversation. Right now, we are repeating our emotions, like America is a hamster, inside our wheel like a hamster pretending it is free, when we can see, even with a small brain, that the hamster knows a  cage is all around it.

Being a Black man in America, I can hear the often-practiced and repeated statements in my head. I don’t need to go onto social media and read the comments underneath news articles. Since my first article about Black Lives Matter back in 2013, the ‘emotional endurance’ – yes! That’s the phrase! – demonstrated by Black people to any shooting, stabbing or lynching by police, or the average white person, is predictable.

“Sigh.” “Here we go again.” “I’m not surprised.”

Very predictable. Allow me to reach here a little, ‘emotional endurance’ is expected. White people reinforce it by their reactions to any in depth discussion of race, racism or news articles related. Deviation from the position of ‘emotional endurance’ risks the (so-called) White people immediately around you viewing you as a risk to their immediate safety. White people feeling scared doesn’t bode well for Black people, no matter your standing in society. (See the BBQ Becky memes.)

In essence, we swallow the emotional/psychological pain and effectively re-traumatize ourselves in order to remain alive, or keep a job.

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The Oakland Stabbing of Nia Wilson

The ticker tape of events, happening in real time, is hard to keep up with. Here is what we know at the time of publication.

On Sunday, July 22, 2018, Ansar Mohammed chose to visit the place where his 18 year old daughter, Nia Wilson, died. He paced the MacArthur BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. She bled to death after a heavy-set, 27 year old White man named John Lee Cowell decided to use a large knife to take Nia’s life and her older sister’s. The sister, Letifah, is in critical care, fighting to stay alive.

Word on the street is that the police are desperately attempting to find Cowell before the community does. Law enforcement fears the community will kill the man in retailation, since the Black community feels targeted by racists in the Oakland area, a la “spook hunters” from the 1940s and 1950s.  Update: Cowell is in police custody.  Letifah is out of the hospital and giving interviews. The manhunt was extensive because Oakland is preparing for an anti-racism rally.

Mohammed, who works at Highland Hospital, gave a news interview through tears. His grief is evident.

And, so is mine.

This is where the Western, i.e. European, cultural more of individualism just doesn’t carry water. Recent articles document reading the details of the murder of Black people, and/or watching news programming which shows the graphic display of Black lives “do not” matter, is directly affecting Black people’s mental health. Resistance to this idea doesn’t just fly in the face of basic, accepted psychology: resistance hints at an underlying viewpoint that Black people are not human like you, as a white person, are human.

I have two daughters. Just like President Barack Obama can put himself in the shoes of Tracy Martin and envision Trayvon Martin as his son, so, I can envision myself as Ansar Mohammed. Many (so-called) White fathers can also.

This father’s grief and sense of helplessness must be acute.

Feeling the Pain

This is not an isolated incident. Thanks to the journalistic activism of Shaun King, incidences like these are spreading quickly over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He is giving those who feel helpless a way to use social media as a communication tool for change. It is called doxing. It results in a unique social isolation that I supremely disagee with because it doesn’t appear to work.

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Quick review from last year.

On March 20, 2017, James Harris Jackson, age 28, traveling — miles from Baltimore, Maryland to commit his crime, arrived in New York. He is an army veteran. He targeted, stalked and killed Timothy Caughman.

I have no idea what flows through the mind of someone who is purposely hunting another human being outside of the war theatre. Jackson said he was inspired to begin hunting by seeing White women and Black men romantically coupled. Caughman was practice. He planned to visit Time Square and kill more Black men but that did not develop.

On May 26, 2017 in Portland, Oregon Jeremy Josephy Christian, age 35, saw two women, one Black and one wearing a hijab, chatting on the ligh-rail train and threatened them. The three white men heard the racial slurs and hate speech flowing from Christian’s mouth and intervened. One survived the attack. Two did not. The stabber is/was unapologetic.

The culture of individuality, and the public opinion it produces, washes clean the hands of  the average white person and puts these three white men – Christian, Jackson, Cowell – into a special category: racist. As racists, individuality/public opinion says nothing can be done to manage them. Racist want to hurt people of color against all argument that people of color are human beings. As of yet, a cure to this condition is unknown. Prevention is known: don’t be raised racist. However, once turned racist, the (so-called) white person is a lost cause.

That’s a hard line to tow. It means the most American society gives the average white person is the category of: non-racist. The inner dialogue appears to go something like this. “I am not racist. I am a safe white person. I don’t have to deal with race or racism because it is not my problem. It is the problem of racists. I am not a racist.”

So, where are all of these racist persons coming from? The Bart stabbing as just explained, isn’t an isolated incident. The defensive psychological reaction – let’s call it ‘matrix self-hypnosis’ – by the average white person appears to be just as programmed as the ‘endurance reflex’ of the Black person.

Once identified these mental states raise a lot of questions. The first one I have is: How do we choose to heal from this trauma? Is it best done individually, through one-on-one sessions, or collectively, through group grief rituals? How do we measure the effectiveness of any selected method of trauma reduction?

Those are the questions I would like to raise and answer.
Words by Kokayi Nosakhere, who chooses to spend the majority of his time in search of magnificent minds. If you are one of them, please choose to reach out at royalstar907
@gmail.com

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