Black Men & Trauma

Today I had the amazing opportunity to talk to one of my old high school friends. Over the years I have watched her grow. Thank God for social media! We were always able to keep in touch and say “Hey Girl!” now and then. Her posts and messages on social media always grabbed my attention. The girl is damn brilliant! She would post issues that plague the African American community, she would discuss motherhood and spirituality. She even had the pleasure of speaking in front of the great Dr.Cornell West. She believed in most of what I believed in so I had to get her on my join me on my social media to drop some knowledge.

Before the words could even escape my mouth, she expressed that we should discuss “Black Men”. That girl must have read my mind, i swear I think she has telepathy. While discussing black men we brought up things that pose a major concern within the black community, specifically Black men and trauma. Why is it that so many black men remain silent after experiencing trauma? Why don’t they seek out therapy, even resources to support their healing?

First lets look at the statistics shall we?

  • African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites.
  • Blacks and African Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide at all ages. However, Black and African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers (9.8 percent v. 6.1 percent).
  • Studies examining trauma exposure among community samples of Black males show that approximately 62% have directly experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime, 72% witnessed a traumatic event, and 59% have learned of a traumatic event involving a friend or family member
  • Trauma has been identified as a major public health and medical issue, and Black males ages 18 and older are at a noticeably high risk for trauma exposure.
  • Homicide rates for Black males are 26.77 per 100,000 compared to 2.67 per 100,000 for their White counterparts, and they are roughly three times more likely than White men to be victims of a nonfatal injury by firearm.

The statistics are shocking and very frightening. Many black males who experience a traumatic event will go on with their lives without persistent lasting negative outcomes, but other men may experience traumatic stress that lead to mental and/or behavioral outcomes. Young men of color in communities where violence is prevalent can develop post-traumatic stress disorder from events they have experienced or witnessed. For example witnessing physical abuse, being a victim of physical and sexual abuse, witnessing drug abuse seeing a person they love get killed in front of them or knowing someone close to them who has been killed. Those experiences shape, mold, and determine how the male will view the world and the people in it. Many African Americans lack access to the health care system, so they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or sexual promiscuity. This can impair their ability to get a job, so they fall into illicit and illegal activities. It can impair their ability to get a proper education. Black men don’t trust the police to protect them, so they carry a gun. This can lead to violent interactions, incarceration or death. Throughout Men’s lives, racism amplifies the lack of opportunities they face.

With acknowledging this information, what can we do as black women to support black men who have experienced trauma? How can we love them through their healing process? During my live interview with my high school friend Ashley she discussed some of the reasons why so many black men experience trauma and why most don’t or wont seek the help they require.

Self Love

This is a piece of our conversation on self love.

Me: “How can we help men to navigate and heal from trauma”?

Ashley: “What’s interesting is what i learned on my journey is understanding that you heal naturally when you first have learned to heal thyself, and what happens is the love abound within you should be on a frequency level, that is spiritual. See there’s no denying the spiritual. Spritually and loving unconditionally dosent necessarily mean we will be around them to take on their pain, but by loving unconditionally given the spirit and frequency, it offers up a certain level of perspective that allow men to change their thinking which then causes them to go in and do their individual work and heal”.

Me: “Wow”

Ashley: “For me, when i look at the black man ecspecialy men i have i personally dealt with i notice the same line of defense, every man is operating from thier trauma and their spritual awareness, or lack there of”.

Me: “I agree some men are disconnected from spirituality”.

Ashley: “Yea, When a black man is not aware of his spirituality he is weakened by the human experience. That human experience is very dramatic, its very emotionally imbalanced, its very toxic, and there’s no power, no authentic living, there is no real love, they become hardened then we become hardened. We take on this energy, the roles get switched and next thing you know, there is no submission, there is no submission to each other, there’s no submission to purpose, there’s no submission to the internal being that is, and then we are out of whack”.

Me: nodding my head

Ashley: Language is also important. Being on that spiritual journey requires acceptance. Prayer is a form of language. Where are you praying from? a lot of black men they pray from a spirit of begging “lord if you just give me this ill stop”, women do it too, but it’s the spirit of begging, not knowing that what you say is so, not knowing and understanding that as a black man you have the authority to dictate and control how you think, but you’ve been bombarded with improper food, drinking alcohol, things that minimize your vibration, Bad toxic previous relationships, and beliefs that don’t serve you”.

Me” Yes, Yes!”

Ashley: “We put a lot of responsibility on the black man, which there is a responsibility but, as a woman, you came from my womb i carry the “burden” of your trauma now because our families have been torn apart by racism, by slavery, by the oppressive society all the way down to the welfare system where the black man is not allowed to be in the home if you want to collect food stamps and aide for your home, your not allowed to have a dual family home.

Me: “So that self love takes time”?

Ashley: “Yes! loving thyself doesn’t happen over night because it a journey, but we want that self love to come quick, like instant gratification that’s our problem. As a black man, especially as a black woman, self love is not just saying “i love myself”, its literally combing through the nuts and bolts, the trauma, the pain, the justification for being angry, the “you were wrong you hurt me”, all of that energy being able to take that and observe it, not identifying with it and letting it pass creates a level of abundance and prosperity of which they cant fuck with. Create the foundation of loving thy self first”.

Me: “Wow, what are other things that we can do as black women to support black men”?

Ashley: “Listen! shut up and listen not everything needs to be a discussion, every error he makes dosent need to be corrected by you, natural consequences are the best teachers in life, just be there, help him push through. Be supportive offer little sentiments like text messages that encourage him saying “i hope you have a great day”.”When you walk past a black man on the street, smile and say “hey black man, i hope you have a great day.”

Stigma

Black and African American hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors. African American men are particularly concerned about stigma. Stigma and judgment prevent African American people from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses. However, it is important to note that reservations against treatment may be rooted in actual experiences of racism and encounters with medical professionals lacking cultural awareness. Research indicates that Blacks and African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate to speak about even among family. Many African Americans also have concerns about treatment effectiveness, which may be due to both lack of education and cultural beliefs. Apprehension about clashing with the morals or worldview of the clinician can cause ambivalence about seeking help, and this may be especially true for the many who believe that mental health treatment was designed by white people for white people.

Financial And Other Factors

Many black men lack financial resources to for mental health treatment. Most don’t have the extra income or health insurance to seek treatment. African Americans also view the typical psychologist as an older, white male or white female who would be insensitive to the social and economic realities of their lives. In the psychology profession there aren’t many therapists or psychiatrist that look the black men who require treatment. Work, family responsibilities, commitments, and transportation issues can overshadow the need for therapy, Another way to reduce fears is to offer free assessments and phone consultations, which will help familiarize potential patients with the clinic, clinician, and treatment. Clinicians might use initial contacts to address fears of being involuntarily hospitalized by explaining the difference between typical mental health challenges and “being crazy”.

Hearing the reality of black men and how they deal with trauma opened my eyes. I now hold so much appreciation for black men. So much is put on their shoulders, and as black women, its critical that the black man feels loved and supported, he needs to know that we will be there in his corner when his world seems to be falling apart. As black people we also need to acknowledge that this “system” that was made for us will not go away. My Friend Ashley had this to say about the “system”. “The system is not going to change, you have to change. As a black man or black woman you must step inside your divinity, your power, your spirit, and operate from that power source in order for you to not even be affected by whats happening in this world today, that’s the only way”.

BLACK MEN WE LOVE YOU!

BLACK MEN WE NEED YOU!

BLACK MEN YOU ARE IMPORTANT!

BLACK MEN YOU ARE APPRECIATED!

If you would like to view more of our conversation

Follow me on Instagram @theofficialblackgirldiaries

Featured Photo: Rawpixel

References:

CDC. (2018). Health United States, 2017 Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus17.pdf

Exposure to trauma: a comparison of cocaine-dependent cases and a community-matched .Afful SE, Strickland JR, Cottler L, Bierut LJDrug Alcohol Dependancy. 2010 Nov 1;46-53

Cuff R, & Matheson FI (2015). Women, trauma & incarceration: What they say, how we work. Retrieved from http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOJBOPNIC/bulletins/111206c

Race/ethnic differences in exposure to traumatic events, development of post-traumatic stress disorder, and treatment-seeking for post-traumatic stress disorder in the United States.Roberts AL, Gilman SE, Breslau J, Breslau N, Koenen KCPsychol Med. 2011 Jan;71-83

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Analysis, Research, and Practice Integration. (2016). 2014 Violence-related all injury causes nonfatal injuries and rates per 100,000. http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates2001.html

Treatment barriers for low-income, urban African Americans with undiagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder.Davis RG, Ressler KJ, Schwartz AC, Stephens KJ, Bradley RGJ Trauma Stress. 2008 Apr; 21. 218-22

CDC. (2019). Summary Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey: 2017 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/shs/tables.htm

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Dear Black Men (Black Lives Matter)

Growing up I didn’t have many male figures to look up too. I thank God that I was blessed with two older brothers and a few male cousins. My mother took my father’s place because he was absent. I had uncles, but one was killed before I was born, and the other in and out of jail. I didn’t know the role of a Black male, I just knew that the women in my family loved  black men. There had always been a longing for me to connect to a strong Black present male. Growing up in Richmond California Black men/boys were all around me. Most struggling to survive, some fighting to make it out the hood, and some became a product of what they lived in, what they were exposed to (drugs, gang, violence, crime, sex). The odds were meant to be against them since they were born, the system was set up in a way where the Black male were destined to fail. Drug dealing, pimping, hustling were not what our black kings were meant to be. It was a way of survival, to eat, to make sure grandma and nem was straight.  I witnessed Black men in the community always becoming a victim of police brutality and they were constantly harassed. I always saw a Black males getting arrested and shoved inside a cop car on the daily, most times for no reason other than standing on the corner, simply walking, or driving.  I always observed police becoming hostile and alert when they interacted with a Black man.  I always wondered, why is it always the Black man? Aren’t they getting the short end of the stick already? Have they not been oppressed since they brought us from the motherland and across the seas? 

What was it about black men that cause the white man in power or the oppressor so uncomfortable? Their smooth melaninated skin? their knowledge? The fact that they are hip to the racist agenda?  their big broad shoulders? Their swag? Their demeanor? The size of their…….? Seriously, I could go on and on and on about my Black kings. It seems, they despise our Black men so much that they are willing to to kill, earn power, and recognition for it.  What makes it okay for a person who is obligated to protect us from harm, kill our father’s, sons, grandfather’s, cousins, and uncles? Where are the consequences? Where is the justice? enough is enough!

Image:
Tony L. Clark holds a photo of George Floyd outside the Cup Food convenience store on May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis.

How do i, a Black woman, protect my Black kings?  How do I advocate for Black men’s lives? According to US statistics, Black men and boys face the highest risk of being killed by police at a rate of 96 out of 100,000 deaths. By comparison, white men and boys face a lower rate of 39 per 100,000 deaths, despite being a bigger portion of the U.S. population. The risk is greatest between ages 20 and 35 for men and women overall, and men are far more likely than women to be killed by police”.  These statistics are frightening! this is excluding the count for the black women that have also been murdered. 

ahmaud-arbery-1588598208With recent slaying of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Steven Taylor and countless others. The pot has boiled over. It has gone to the point of no return. People are outraged, just as they should be. I am outraged, broken, and furious that this continues to happen over, and over again, with no justice, no dire consequences. This could easily be my brothers, my uncle, or cousins. Condemnation and outrage aren’t enough. We, as a nation, black or white must come together to push for systemic change. I urge law enforcement and governments to join efforts and name the system of white supremacy that accepts acts of violence against Black people and other communities of color. This transformation must include thorough investigations into police assaults and killings, acts of brutality, reforms in state laws on the use of force by police, and nationwide changes in law enforcement hiring practices to expose implicit bias and meaningfully diversify staff with more women and people of color.  I believe that within the police academy it should be mandatory for recruits to take courses on racial sensitivity. I believe that there should be psychological assessments to determine if the recruits have have prejudices against other races. Officers who have more than two disciplinarian incidents involving police brutality need to be terminated and punished to the fullest extent.  We have been enslaved, we have been lynched, raped, and held down for too damn long. NOW is the time for HUMANS, regardless of cultural and racial difference to unite and fight for change. Change Is Now!

DEAR BLACK MEN,

I am deeply sorry that you’ve had to encounter so much hurt, pain, discrimination, obstacles, and backstabbing from those who look like you and don’t look like you. I’m sorry and acknowledge that you don’t receive affirmation, or value as a black man. Your not always edified by woman who look like your sisters. You are hated by most, not acknowledged as being great because of your choices and circumstance. You are portrayed as “evil” to the world based upon societal trickery and false images shown by the media (killers, aggressive, rapist, cheaters animals, liars, lazy, broke etc). 

If you have never been affirmed, i am proud and always ready to affirm you respectfully. You are valued, you are not your past mistakes. You are loved, appreciated, the head and not the tail. You bring have a valuable life to bring to the table. You are uniquely made under the image of god, your strength speaks volumes. You are supported through prayer, and protected by the almighty god. You are wonderful fathers, brothers, sons, grandfathers, uncles, god fathers, friends, business owners, creators, inventors, teachers, and helping professionals with something valuable to add. You are the epitome of god’s first creation, the rib that can never be shun behind closed doors of those “history books”.I personally would like to thank you for adding value to brown women like myself, and it is my due diligence to salute you, because you deserve it.

 

 

                                                                                                               Sincerely,

                                                                                                               A Black Woman

 

 

 

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Aye Yo! Play that Solange “A Seat At The Table” Album Right Quick”!!!!

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References:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Seat_at_the_Table

https://www.google.com/amp/s/abcnews.go.com/amp/US/family-man-killed-police-walmart-angered-lack-notification/story%3fid=70284327

Santhanam, L. (2019, August 09). After Ferguson, black men still face the highest risk of being killed by police. Retrieved May 31, 2020, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/after-ferguson-black-men-and-boys-still-face-the-highest-risk-of-being-killed-by-police

Feature photo:https://www.positive.news/society/i-am-not-a-stereotype-the-photo-campaign-that-celebrates-black-men/

Pic Credit: https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/

https://abcnews.go.com/US/cellphone-video-shows-georgia-jogger-allegedly-ambushed-gunmen/story?id=70509641

Breonna Taylor Photo: Google

Sean Reed Photo: Google

5 Things Every Black Woman Needs To Hear From Their Significant Other

As a black woman in today’s society it’s hard for some to  acknowledge struggles that black women face in society and have faced for years. We are wives, mothers, daughters,  and entrepreneurs, but yet i feel that we are not acknowledge enough by our people and by our men. We work, go to school, bear children, cook, pay the bills, do the shopping. We are expected to do all this and perform to the highest standard in the bedroom. There are rewards and incentives that should be implemented in order for us to continue to feel like we matter, that we are needed and wanted. Everyone needs a little Positive descriptive acknowledgement(PDA). I learned of this through my early childhood education training’s. The term (PDA) or positive descriptive acknowledgment is basically praise we give children when they act on a positive interaction or behavior, it is used to build a child’s confidence and to encourage more of the positive behavior. I believe adults need this also. Who wouldn’t want to hear praise in great detail? I know i would feel warm inside if someone acknowledged my good actions and qualities. To use PDA on a woman is Not just saying “man babe that fried chicken was good” but describing the positive action or behavior “babe dinner was delicious i appreciate you taking the time to make this meal for the family”. Not only do you try this with your significant other, but try it on your friendly cashier at a local grocery store, your bubbly waitress at your favorite restaurant, even a helpful retail employee, i promise it does wonders. Take notes! Black women need to feel appreciated! Which brings me to number 1:

1. I appreciate you

From picking our kids up from school, to grocery shopping, doing laundry, cooking, making kids their lunch, making the husband his lunch, it is in us to nurture and take care of our family. When we do meet needs of our family and go far and beyond we just need a little something to show that the people we take care appreciates our acts of care and pure well being. So when a man comes home to a clean house, dinner, and some nasty adult behavior It helps to let your lady know “thank you babe” be specific on what your thankful for “thank you for cooking my favorite meal, thank you for cleaning the house, thank you for putting the kids to bed, i really appreciate everything you do for us”. Women need to hear this daily!!!!!!

2. You Are Loved

Women need to know and hear that we are sexy no matter if we have wide hips, big behind, or non existing breasts.  We as women tend to pick our bodies apart and compare our bodies to other women’s bodies, i know i do, but when you have a man that loves your weight, stretchmarks, saggy breast, flabby arms, wide thighs and much more you realize that what society considers beautiful doesn’t matter because you have a man that thinks you are the most beautiful in his world, the Beyonce to his Jay- z , the Jada to his Will. When i have one of my days where i’m not feeling what i’m wearing and insecure, sometimes we need our men to make a deposit to our confidence bank. We would like to hear ” you are right for me, every part of you is beautiful,you are enough, you are my queen”. When i hear these words something inside me rises, my confidence goes from 0 to 100 and i feel confident in my own skin, not only do i know i’m sexy, but my significant other knows it too.

3. You Are Respected

Would you ever disrespect your mother by calling her a bitch or a Hoe? would you want a man or woman to call your daughter out of her name and abuse her? So why do we do it to our women? I have been called a bitch, and i have heard women being called bitches and hoes. The same women that you are calling a bitch is someone who contributes to this world. As women we need respect, we want respect, we demand respect. Respect is what we have earned, people respect all women/men no matter what decisions or experiences that women have gone through. When there is no respect shown, that can’t  be reciprocated. We have to set an example for the younger generation. We have to teach society that women carry a lot of power, a power that men alone cannot hold. Women, we also need to set boundaries for ourselves when it comes to us respecting ourselves and other women. When a man/person acknowledges that you have boundaries and expectations it leaves no room for disrespect. My favorite author and life coach Iyanla Vanzant stated ““We have such a rich culture and in that culture, there are roles and purposes and powers, we live in a society now where women are commodities, where women are demeaned, diminished, demoralized in ways that we accommodate, And if we really understood who we are as feminine representations of the creator of the universe, some of the things that we experience in life — like crying when the unemployed boo boo leaves us , if we really understood who we are, we wouldn’t be so apt to let other people define us and confine us. We are out of order!”. Ladies we must respect ourselves, we must carry standards and believe in our morals in order to gain the respect that is deserved and necessary.

4. Its Okay

As women we are expected to be superhuman. Work, raise the children, prepare the meals, clean, fold laundry, picking up and dropping off kids at school,  hold down the house And while the husband is away, still keeping our personal dreams alive, but at times it can become overwhelming mentally and physically. Some of us might be depressed, drained, and loose sight of our own happiness and what we want. When we hit a stump in the road and we feel like we are not in control, when it’s too much pressure, too much demanded tell her it’s okay, tell her she Doesn’t have to take it on by herself. Every great man needs a greater woman to stand next too. Becoming a team and keeping open communication supports the union and love between lovers.

5. I can’t do this without you

So many responsibilities are put on “The man of the castle”. Whether it’s his job,  bills, household repairs, men can’t do it all without a strong woman behind him supporting him. Just because men are strong, does nor necessarily  mean that they can’t feel or become overwhelmed. At times i believe that men can be just as sensitive as women. Men go through challenges, hardships, loss, and self doubt often. Men need a woman that’s going to listen, a woman who is loyal and honest, a woman that is going to give him the gut wrenching low down dirty truth. Men need to feel like they can trust their woman with everything. When a man feels secure and know that you are down for him with the utmost  loyalty, they will want you there through all life challenges. When he is down on his luck he will look to god and to his woman to pick him up, when he gets laid off his woman should do whatever is necessary to make sure the family is taken care of while her man looks for work. He shouldn’t have to carry the load in his own, he needs support from his woman. When challenges and obstacles arise, women should hear “i can’t do this without you babe, i need you”.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

 

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 Photo Credit: If Beale street could Talk film (2018)