[COLUMN] Do Better, Be Better:<br />
Living with Race Trauma

If you’re Black in America, it's very likely that you live with one of two plaguing feelings:

  1. At any moment your rights can violated and you’ll be powerless to defend yourself legally or physically.
  2. At any moment the rights of someone you love will be violated and you will be powerless to defend them legally or physically.

Now if you were Caucasian, this phenomenon would be widely accepted as a source of major psychological trauma (an emotional injury resulting form an extremely stressful or life threatening situation). There would likely be a series of specialized programs, resources or mainstreamed evidence based practices devised to help cope with the persistent exposure — just think about the seminars they have at suburban schools when a student commit suicide — and you’d be put on meds.

But for African Americans, it’s just life.

We are used to living in fear. We have grown accustomed to being preyed upon. Worst of all, we have learned to de-value our lives so much that it is now acceptable for us to kill each other. Our boys openly lament about doubting they will live past 25 years old. We brag about serving punitive consequences for antisocial behaviors. Our youth — and adults —openly deface our communities with graffiti, litter and urine. We don’t mandate marriage, a universal social security, before — or after —procreation. This is not what being Black, African or African-American is about.

This is about the lack of hope — due to trauma. This is about the repercussions of generations of people being exposed to persistent fear, anxiety and abuse.  This is the result of having dreams of fair integration shattered. The effect of introducing drugs to mothers of a community. The impact of purposefully robbing men of their core source of pride: The ability to provide and lead. Most African-Americans are traumatized. Sadly, not enough have the natural resources to combat it wholly.

I’d love to say there’s an easy answer to eradicating trauma — but I won’t lie to you. The fact is each person has to decide how he/she wants to cope with it in their lives (counseling, support groups, self-education/awareness), and whether they are willing to pass on their knowledge to their circle and beyond. If we truly want to do better, be better, we have a bitter pill to swallow: Black Americans, collectively, are not winning. And yet, there is a bright side: We have the power to change it.

Do better, be better. Talk to me at dobetter@ebony.com.