By Joshua Turner, Special to the AFRO
“Ain’t no PTSD the drugs keep em at ease”- Trauma, Meek Mill
When we experience trauma, in order to properly recover, there has to be an incubation period in which we are isolated, so that we can undergo the process of healing. However, in our society, not all healing is equally valued. Isn’t it amazing that when “tragedy strikes” in communities that don’t look like ours, experts rush in. On the other hand, in my city, there has been a record breaking 348 homicides in 2019, and no such support is given. Our elected officials and some mayoral candidates ironically label their plans and solutions as a holistic approach, which is beyond a misnomer, and use our trauma as a political chess piece. Furthermore, the media and some proposed plans, immediately look at our city’s crisis as a crime problem, rather than an issue of survival, systemic abuse, economic abuse and a need for true healing. I attribute this to the normalization of pain, trauma, abuse and glorification of Black resilience that is sadly synonymous with the Black experience.
Resilience and survival are often viewed separately from each other, when they are one in the same, society has characterized “Resilience” as “positive,” while characterizing those that have survived by other means as “caved in” “negative.” Meaning that one displays “resilience” when they are surviving in the way that is deemed acceptable by the society and system that has abused them. If you survive by other means outside of what our institutions have deemed to be appropriate then you have “caved in” although it was our institutions’ systemic abuse and oppression that put you into those situations. For example, if Person A becomes a successful millionaire businessman after being at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in an economically destitute area, and Person B becomes a successful millionaire drug kingpin, we would label Person A as resilient and Person B as someone who “caved in.” The reality is that both persons were fighting to survive and operated in response to their trauma.
Survival and resilience are a trauma response that enables one to numb themselves in order to push forward, when we promote resilience we also promote and normalize the trauma that caused it. This places the assumption that only Person B needs help, when both are in need of healing. The mass social normalization of struggle, pain and trauma is the direct result of systemic abuse.
The evil of systemic abuse is that it brings about a reality in which stress and trauma fill your past, present and future, leaving an inability to appropriately address trauma and heal from it, an inhibitor of progress. Our systems and institutions have set the parameters of the lives of the “disvalued” to create constant traumatic stress. This has woven itself into “normalcy” of the life of the “disvalued.” Meaning that trauma and stress cannot be “appropriately” dealt with because there is no stop or rest from the “stressor,” or the source of the trauma. If a wound is constantly cut in the same place it cannot heal. In other words, we cannot heal our past because the afflictions of the past remain our present reality.
Constant Traumatic Stress, makes conditions of abuse appear to be the norm as mentioned in part one of this series “Normalization pushes forward the dogma that Black trauma is the norm and that Black resilience is the norm perpetuating the stagnancy of the Black condition.” Survival through these experiences is not a true choice, but rather a response to adverse conditions, as mentioned in part five of this series. The resilience that is praised in our society of those who have “defied” the odds, were just surviving in a different way. This is what made them outliers, meaning that the trophitized resilience that is praised is not the norm. This leaves the vast amount of people that are not outliers to scorn, and the outliers to praise rather than any true help to begin the process of healing from their trauma.
The act of surviving a reality crafted by systemic abuse only brings forth more trauma because the lack of choice that pushes one into an undesirable course of action that brings about trauma to oneself and those around them. This leaves people desperate for reprieve in a community where seeking out help is deemed as weakness. Our healing is not valued, so the liquor stores on our every corner become our counselors, in areas where major grocery stores claim that there are no customers, and opioids help us handle the gravity of our condition. We cannot seek to not “live,” but “survive.” While experts on trauma ignore the communities in dire need.
The facts speak for itself because in 2008 it was found that although Black people make up 13 percent of the population, we comprised one quarter of all public abuse treatment admissions, and for the past five years the rates of opioid deaths have been on the rise in the Black community across the country. This is a cry for help from a people whose healing is not valued. The lack of value on our healing only perpetuates cycles of trauma and abuse within our communities, spinning our communities into a state of crisis.
In order to address and solve the crisis within our city and others like it we must call the situation what it is and stop the demonization of those who are trying to survive, and promotion of “resilience.” The crisis within our city and others alike are a result of the failure of our elected officials to address systemic abuse, its consequences and the various layers of trauma resulting from its impacts. Until we implore systemic changes, address our city’s trauma and undergo the process of healing forward we will remain in crisis.
Joshua Isaiah Turner is a community organizer, a developer, and a civil rights activist. He is the cofounder of Students Demand Action Baltimore, an organization against gun violence.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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