In book that I am writing, I offer the opinion that African-Americans have suffered or do suffer from post traumatic stress disorder due to racism.
Somebody will groan, but the possibility of this being very true is real. Racism, or acts of violence due to racism, have done nothing short of creating terror in the hearts of individuals and the African-American community as a whole.
I can remember my mother telling us to be careful and to be wary of police officers, because they were not “always on the side of African-Americans.” I can remember doing stories as a reporter where individuals had been terrorized, brutalized by police, but were afraid to talk about it.
In earlier times, African-Americans were terrorized by the ever-present possibility of being lynched, with no legal protection against the same. In fact, it very often turned out that those who participated in lynchings or those in the Ku Klux Klan were members of the judicial system, charged to protect all citizens. That “all” did not include African-Americans.
African-Americans have seen loved ones cut down by law enforcement officers and get away with it. Neither the courts nor the jury system have been particularly “safe” these members of American society.
An article I read in The New England Journal of Medicine said that symptoms of PTSD include high anxiety,depression, bouts of anger…maladies which are all too often found in the African-American community in large numbers.
African-Americans have learned to cope and to push through the barriers put in place by institutional and structural racism, but the end-result of having to fight harder than the majority population for a “place” in this society, for decent and right treatment, for civil rights…has been a group of people who have developed a specialized set of coping mechanisms. We are here not because of the U.S. Constitution, and have made gains not because of the Constitution or of democracy, but in spite of those two supposed guarantees.
My musings on this made me think about what America would be like if such a large segment of its population were not working with and through PTSD. Even our children, caught too often in poor public schools in horrible condition that legislators seem to care nothing about, suffer. From the time they come out of the womb, people who are “pro-life” turn their backs on them and begin to count them as part of the banes of our society, participants in entitlement programs that are considered a waste of American dollars.
I am not sure of the treatment for PTSD, but I do know that when people are traumatized, it causes a change in behavior. What the mind has seen and internalized cannot be extinguished or erased. There are people who have been traumatized in a number of different ways, years ago, who are still suffering as though the trauma happened only yesterday.
If it is (and I think it is) the case that African-Americans suffer from PTSD due to racism, how can it be fixed? It seems pretty clear to me that if such a large segment of our nation is suffering from a disorder due to the way racism has flourished in this country, that something ought to be done about it so that we do not keep on repeating acts of domestic terrorism, albeit more subtle than before, that adversely affect citizens of our nation.
It seems to be that no nation can be as great as it has been intended to be if any segment of its population is so systematically and consciously terrorized and basically ignored.
Just a candid observation…