Failed Psychology and the Legacy of Slavery

The strangest psychology is applied to the condition of Black Americans today.

The spirit of Nat Turner

The spirit of Nat Turner

If this psychology were mathematics, one plus one would equal two, three, or fifty-seven depending upon the context in which one performs the addition.  To be honest, I do not fully understand this psychology.  In this post we will explore this strange psychology.

Assume, I had a child that I was abusing.  Assume the abuse included regular beatings, severe mental abuse, extreme isolation, and rape.  Assume this treatment (socialization) went on until this child reached eighteen years of age.  What would such an individual look like?  What type of behavior would such a tragedy of parenting imbue in that innocent child?  Can there be any doubt that such socialization would create an individual with psychological issues that would be studied and pondered over?  Would we not expect that young adult to be violent to him/herself and others?  Would we not expect that individual to be incapable of understanding the full range of his/her behavior?  If that individual were to have children with a similarly abused individual, would we be shocked if their offspring were just as physically and psychological distressed as the parents who made them?  

Would it be fair for me to give that abused individual freedom or fifty bucks and to tell him/her that whatever happens next is in his/her hands?  Could I rightly tell this person that he/she ought to get over what I did to him–that what happened is the past?  Would I be morally superior for creating ideologies and religions that explain why my child deserved that abuse and simultaneously ignored the affects thereof?

This is precisely the plight of Black people in the U.S.  Why are we surprised by the affects of the legacy of chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and a host of de facto and de jure laws and policies geared toward worsening the lot of Black people as a whole?  Why are we shocked at the affects of abject poverty and powerlessness?  I cannot even begin to list how many books there are, authored by scholars of all races, that explain the plight of the poor Black female (probably the worse status a person can have in this nation)–the poor Black man–the poor, in general.

Much of what ails the Black community ails all poor people.  Add to those ills the intersection of racist ideologies, sexual politics, and the politics of powerlessness (see Black Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins), and you have a situation in which Blacks begin to aid in their own destruction (see The Mis-Education of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson).  We ought to seek to understand the psychology of this situation–not ignore or invalidate it.  It is not only counter-productive to ignore the psychology (see just about anything by Na’im Akbar, Wade Nobles, or Amos Wilson) of the plight of Black Americans, it is flat out disrespectful and mean.

I would not propose to blame women for their second class citizenship status.  We must bear in mind that no one (and I mean NO ONE) wants to be poor.  No one chooses to be on the street.  Black people in the ghettos no more choose to be where they are than any other race.  In fact, every time a Black person “makes it,” the first thing they do is move away from the horrors of innercity life–no matter how close to “the streets” the rappers swear they are.  No one willingly goes on welfare rather than accepting gainful employment.  I am saying these things because we often treat poor and downtrodden people as if they actually like their lot in life!  I’m not in the habit of quoting Tupac, but in a documentary on his life he noted that White people tend to think that Blacks don’t mind living next to killers and gang-bangers, but that is just stupid.  We don’t want to be there either.

I was trying to keep from saying this phrase, but “blaming the victim” is so tired.  It’s so played.  It addresses nothing.  It fixes nothing, and maybe that’s the point!  It is a selfish and self-righteous stance to take, and unfortunately, many of my brothers and sistas can be found spouting such talk.  We ought to apply a true psychology to the situation that Black Americans are in.  Let us put away these childish intellectual acrobatics.  Let’s make true progress with race relations.  The very first step is acknowledgement of wrongs.


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