Black Trauma and Anti-Racism
Is one a prerequisite for commitment to the other?
Here’s a question that’s been weighing on my mind recently: do Black people have to experience trauma for white people to commit to their anti-racism work? Does it take our visible pain or videoed death to make you believe in what we have been saying for years, for decades, for centuries? If that’s the case, there’s something very messed up about it.
We’re in an age where there’s information everywhere, where it’s possible to find multiple perspectives on everything, and to get close to discerning the truth. No story based on partial voices will ever hold the whole truth, of course, but there are enough scholarly articles and lived testimonies around to attest to the fact of the trauma of racism, which has been going on since before the days of enslavement. (I say before, because racism was used to justify starting and continuing with enslavement.)
When you say “I never knew,” it cuts us to the quick because we feel like we have ALWAYS known, and you should too. We are all swimming in the same water of white supremacy, after all. How can you not see that racism is hurting all of us, and anti-racism is the only logical response? As Lea Jovy-Ford puts it:
“An understanding of how EVERYONE suffers from racism drives change… Today, racism puts us all in roles we did not choose - white oppressors, Black & Brown ‘victims’. Anti-racism releases us all from the roles we did not choose and the oppression and harm this perpetuates.”
Aside from what looks to us like willful ignorance, let’s get real for a minute here. For many of us, there’s some resentment that you can, and often do, go back to your lives while we deal with the aftermath of racism. Perhaps you are fired up to fight racism actively, but you still have your privilege, and we are left with the pain while we try to heal. Racism may often present as paper cuts, but it leaves deep scars under thin skin (not my analogy but I think it’s apt).
To be honest, I don’t even know how we can fix this, except for you to open your eyes - and likely close your mouth or stop typing - BEFORE you do more harm, before you make it clear just how much your future action depends on our present pain.
None of us needs that. Black trauma shouldn't be the only thing that makes someone commit to dismantling white supremacy. Isn't our shared humanity enough? It certainly should be.
You need to do better so we can all BE better. And that starts with taking action today, before another Black person has to experience harm, and before another Black person dies needlessly.
Thanks for reading my perspective. How does this land with you?
Image credit: Getty images: FG Trade
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.