The Continuing Impacts of Slavery on African Descendants in America

Chattel slavery in America came to an end in 1865, but the horrific, barbaric, cruel, criminal acts still affect African descendants today.

Yes, I’m a black man writing this article, but a white person could have written this article too. It’s not about black history. It’s about an honest and true history of the human race. History has no color. I’m not writing this article to be divisive or offend anyone. I don’t waste my time and energy hating anyone. Bringing history to the human race correctly is a must; it’s the only way that humanity can heal and begin to walk on this earth with peace and dignity.

When a group of people talk about the systematic mass slaughter and reckless destruction of life their people were subjected to (e.g., the Jewish Holocaust, American Native Indians, the Irish Holocaust, the Australian Holocaust), none of them will forget the horrific criminal acts, and they are not supposed to. They are supposed to let their descendants know about the atrocities in their history and the impact they have had on their people.

When talking about American chattel slavery and its impact on African descendants in America today, you often find that people do not want to talk about it and accuse you of making excuses for black people’s behavior in America. They will tell you that American chattel slavery happened so long ago that it could not possibly have an impact on black people today. You get a lot of pushback when talking about slavery and its legacy. Why don’t people want to engage in conversation about this subject? It exposes everyone’s behavior during that era, and makes everyone uncomfortable. Whenever slavery is discussed honestly and truthfully, and you uncover what has been covered up, all kinds of emotions are displayed.

It was not just the slaves that were affected by over 240 years of slavery and subsequent systems. I examine everybody’s road during this era in history; these were years of trauma and mental torture; everyone felt the pain.

After chattel slavery ended, the trauma continued without any time for healing. There was no therapist or psychiatrist to help the freed slaves. This is not about pointing the finger at anyone or making people feel humiliated or guilty; it’s about seeing the fact that all of us have been affected, all of us have been impacted by American chattel slavery and subsequent systems.

None of us were involved in slavery today so why would the descendants of that era be traumatized by something we did not experience directly?

According to Dr. Joy DeGruy, an internationally renowned researcher with amazing credentials, “People do not have to directly experience an event to be traumatized by it. Research has shown that severe trauma can affect multiple generations. For example, some children and grandchildren of World War II European Holocaust survivors have also suffered trauma related to those events even though they were born years after the war ended. That horror lasted for approximately 12 years and resulted in considerable suffering through generations. Compare this to the slave experience, a similar series of atrocities perpetrated by a group of people over the course of 240 years.

“Although other atrocities have been studied immensely, no one has ever measured the psychological impact that slavery had on us. For centuries we have lived in a hostile environment; we have been hurt not just by obvious physical assaults, but in deep psychological ways that are connected by centuries of abuse. Our ancestors learned to adapt to living in a hostile environment, and today, we normalize our injury. These behaviors have passed through the generations because our ancestors did not get therapy after slavery.”

The trauma and mental torture was horrific. Families were broken up, they were taken away from their homeland, lost their spirituality, their language, their culture, and everything they owned was taken away. This is the worst thing that you could ever do to a group or community. Dr. DeGruy explains how we must heal: “So much more research, support, and assistance are needed to produce vital healing at a rate that exceeds the injury. I want to stress that healing must occur on multiple levels because the injury occurred on multiple levels.”

Our minds have been destroyed. We are mentally ill. We need to work hard every day to bring back a healthy mind of excellence. This applies to both black and white people. The first step in this process is to stop hating each other, and instead, start caring and helping each other to be the best that we can be.

Chris Mesfin is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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