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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Daddy Issues

I grew up in a single parent home. My mother raised me all by herself. To me, she was mom and dad. As a child I always felt like there was something missing, My father. Ah! So many great memories of my absent father, Shall we take a walk down memory lane? Let’s see, my mother ran him over when I was a young child (He lived don’t worry) but technically he had it coming. I spent one weekend with him and my two older brothers where he bought me two pairs of shoes (such a generous man) Oh! and let me not forget the after birthday visit when he dropped off a bunch of Nsync memorabilia in the middle of the night, no wait, or that one time he came to a track meet and stayed for 30 minutes. Father of the year award goes to………

Those three memories stuck with me, those were the only times I could recall being with my dad. My mom was not one of those hard to deal with babymama’s, she wanted my father to be play an active role in my life. She wanted me to spend time with him and build a relationship. She didn’t talk bad about him (not to me anyway) but I know she felt some type of way about my father being a dead beat. My father had struggles with addiction, I’m sure he had experienced trauma, but I always thought to myself “is that really an excuse”? As a little girl I thought he could have he could have tried a tad bit harder.

I was not his only child, just his only girl out of 8 boys. I felt as if I wasn’t a priority in his life, I wanted to desperately be apart of his world no matter if he had an addiction or not, I didn’t care, I just wanted my daddy. I often felt as if he never cared. I cried for my father, most nights. I would ask myself “What did I do wrong” “why doesn’t daddy want me”? A little girl shouldn’t have to ask those questions, they should be asking “daddy can I have an ice cream cone”? Or “daddy can you read me a story”? Not “daddy do you love, do you want me”? Little girls should be able to depend on their father when they need them the most. A girls father is her first love. I would fantasize that my father and I would have the same type of relationship that singer Brandy had with her on screen father on the show “Moesha”. The simple Daddy/daughter pleasures of life were non existent. He didn’t teach me how to ride a bike, he wasn’t there to hold me when I cried, he missed great report cards, parent meetings, holidays, birthdays, prom, high graduation, all my firsts. Do you know how damaged I was as a kid? as a teen? as a grown adult now? I needed my father!

There were many times when I would go into the bathroom at my My elementary school, cry, and hide in the bathroom stall when it was occasions involving fathers. It could be a father’s day celebration, field trips, father and Daughter dances. My mom wasn’t able to attend most of these events due to the fact that she worked her was off to provide for my sister and i, so I understood she couldn’t participate. I can admit now that i would be jealous and heartbroken when my friends father’s would take them trick or treating, or pick them up early from school for a picnic or trip to the movies. Why couldn’t I experience the same joys?

My mother, bless her heart, did the best she could to teach me about life, about responsibility, the importance of education, and how to become independent, but there were some things that my father should have taught me, things that only a dad would be able to explain to his babygirl. The absence of my father not only affected the way I felt about myself, but it affected the way I viewed men. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what it was meant to be loved by the opposite sex, there was no outline or diagram that I could have utilized to avoid a shit load of heartbreak. How was I to know that not all men had The best intentions? My father could have talked to me about it if he had been present. How would I be able to recognize genuine intention from the opposite sex?

The yearning for make attention spilled over into my teenage and adult life. I wanted so desperately to be loved, accepted, and desired by a man that I knew didn’t have my best interest at heart. I would jump into “relationships” completely blind, I had no expectations for men, I didn’t know that it was my right to have certain expectations. I had no clue that some men boys/men could be total assholes, not all But some. My mother would put me on game about boys/men, but it’s different when the message is coming from another trusted male in your life, your father. Would a mother be able to talk to her son about certain things that only a male can explain? Am I making sense here?

I find myself blaming my father for a lot of heartbreak that I have experienced being with men, I shouldn’t put all the blame on him, but I think my life would have turned out slightly different if my dad and I had a relationship. I resented my father for many years. I loathed him. The more I learned and experienced this so called thing called “life” I was able to identify what it meant to be truly loved, to love myself, and receiving love from a man. Don’t get me wrong, I love my father, I have to from a Christian stand point, I’m also apart of him. I hope My father and I get to get to a point where we can hash things out and I can be completely transparent with him. I even fear now that whatever I say will miss him off and he will leave again.

For the past few years my father and i have tried to work on our relationship, but to be completely honest, at times I find it extremely hard to connect. I feel like the bonding portion of our relationship is non existent, I feel like it has passed. I’m unsure if we will ever be able to have a great father/daughter relationship, but I’m hopeful. I’m on the long road to healing myself, i’m doing my part to ensure I am mentally and spiritually ready to open up to my dad. Attending therapy and talking about my issues with my father has been very helpful. It’s definitely a process. I’m not sure if my father has ever healed from his trauma, but I hope he can also break the cycle of stigma around black men and mental health. One day I hope we can physically reunite, and when we do I want him to say “Baby girl I’m here, daddy isn’t going anywhere and nothing can keep me from you”.

Featured Photo: Quotes Gram

Will A Child Make Me Whole?

I swear Instagram will be the death of me. Listening to Moses Sumney and coming across cute babies and pregnant bellies on my Instagram explore page is not what i had in mind for a Friday night. I find that these days, any little thing can trigger past trauma. Mostly my decesion to terminate a pregnancy 11 years ago. I am in total desperation to have children of my own. I am 32 years old, and have no children. Now, let’s look at my dilemma, there are many factors that one must consider before having a child right? A Husband, a home, financial stability. I have observed that it is imparitive to know who you are creating life with. It’s like you’re applying for a new job, filling out an application, then going in for the interview. Now, you don’t even have to engage in the actual act of sex, you can go to a sperm bank and take your pick of the most potent sperm from eligable donors (there’s also suragacy and insemination). But i want both parents in the home, a family dynamic. I want to enjoy the process of conceiving a child (wink wink that’s the fun part) but i want to start this journey with a man that i know will be there. I hope I’m not loosing you here, are you still with me? Great!

Children are an absolute joy to be around (parents i know sometimes they can drive you nuts). Their honesty is unparalleled, and their laughs are contagious! I imagined that I would be hearing that giggle, but unfortunately I made a decision that haunts me, and will haunt me for the rest of my days.

I’m saying all this to say, i am ready for a child. I have been asked so many questions, such as, “why would you want kids”? you’re young, your free, kids will just slow you down, travel, see the world, live your best life”! Well, I’m here to say “my best life would be me becoming a mother, bring it on”! I think i would be a great loving parent.

I often ask important people in my life what it’s like to be a parent, some reactions I get are pretty positive and pretty awesome, some are not, but being a parent and raising a child is no easy task. I witness it daily. As an early childhood educator i get a front row seat and witness parenthood, I get to observe the bond and love a parent has for thier child. Me working with young children can, at times, trigger feelings and memories of what could have been. I put so much dedication and passion into my profession, it’s always been natural. Why wouldn’t I want to put that energy and love into my own child?

I’ve asked parents How they felt when they first held their child in their arms”? “what is it like”? with most responses, parents cannot begin to express how deeply centered and connected they have become to their newborn child. As soon as that child enters the world screaming his or her lungs out, that is the moment of total and utter unexplainable, unconditional love. I’m sure the words I’m using does it no justice, but stay with me.

Lets talk about the gift if Bonding between a child and a parent. Bonding is probably one of the most pleasurable parts of being a parent . This happens during the sensitive time in the first hours and days after birth when parents make a deep connection with their baby, Physical closeness can promote an emotion. To put it best, you fall “madly in love” with your child that had lived inside your womb for 9 months. Children thrive from having a parent or other adults in their life who loves them unconditionally and vice versa. This is an experience that I yearn to live out one day.

Having a family of my own remains a priority. Having a child would fill this uncontrollable void in my soul that was created when i chose to not keep my unborn child. I hope that this time around with therapy I will be able to manage unrealistic thought patterns surronding love and what it means to be “whole”. Will my need to have a child of my own complete me? Will having a “family” make me whole? Will i be able to properly heal from past experience with abortion? only time will tell.