Guest Post: The Color of Trauma
by Lavern Merriweather
On a recent episode of the silly date show Baggage hosted by shockmeister Jerry Springer, there was a black female who had the three black male contestants share with her some of their most embarrassing secrets. And one of the males – I forget his name – revealed that he hadn’t been to a dentist in 15 years which might surprise most people since his teeth were very nice looking. When Jerry asked the man why, he said it was because when he was nine years old the last dentist he went visited yelled at him and made him upset. While the audience groaned in unison after what he told them, it got me to thinking, why is it that black people are never allowed to suffer from emotional tragedy?
Not to say that a mean dentist is tragic, but for a child it is very traumatizing and might make them feel vulnerable and afraid, something that we are not allowed to exhibit, especially around each other. Not only do we never get any compassion shown to us, but we seem to not want to show any to one another.
When Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans and devastated that part of the land, there was a barrage of hateful comments and criticisms, Mainly “Why didn’t those dumb Negroes,” and I’m putting it nicely “just leave when they had the chance? Why stay when you know danger is coming?” Many people, especially on the blogosphere, were particularly evil in saying that they got what they deserved for not hightailing it. And need I remind anyone here about the whole ‘looting vs. finding things’ controversy? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Even former first lady and ‘W’ ‘s momma Barbara Bush weighed in by saying the victims of Katrina were ‘better off’ because they received some shitty little trailer and $2,000 dollars, like that is supposed to compensate for losing your home and a lifetime of memories in the blink of an eye. That’s not even 40 acres and a mule. That’s more like 10 blocks and a goat. It ain’t squat to people who have lost everything they worked for. But to the many that weren’t affected by the storm, they felt like those black people should have been grateful for whatever they got.
That is a direct contradiction to how the victims in New York and New Jersey whose lives have been ruined by Hurricane Sandy are being treated. Not one soul has muttered a peep about why they didn’t just get out of town when they had the opportunity. Not one person has made comments about looting and spread countless blatant lies about how the victims were behaving.
Oh yes, I distinctly remember all the tales of bullshit from the media regarding the New Orleans residents holed up at the Metrodome for days and weeks on end. Most stories about how women were being raped in record numbers and how some people had even gotten their throats slit which were all later to be found not true. But do you think ONE person from the media ever apologized for that or even attempted to correct all the false information they were spewing every day? I can answer that question in 4 words: hell-to-the-no.
They didn’t give a rat’s ass that none of that even happened or that what they reported was wrong. But you see, that’s the way it is when you are a person in America who is 10 shades darker than a peach. Even when you are suffering and going through a horrific event, people who are not you will still use that as a chance to make your world even more unbearable. Get used to the fact that you won’t be getting any sympathy because to many of those who love to kick you while you are down, you probably did something to deserve it, either that or you are not seen as fully human.
Anyway, on the ABC show What Would You Do hosted by John Quinones they present a variety of scenarios to see how everyday people would react to certain situations. I vividly recall an episode where two men, both actors, were told to sit on the ground in a very highly populated park area and cry while looking helpless and despondent. One man was black while the other was white. Now, there were a number of people that just walked by both men, but when someone did finally stop to help or ask what was wrong, it was only for the white male. The black male who was weeping openly had zero people stop and inquire about his condition. Even another young black male kept right on walking while the black actor sat on the grass in a state of obvious duress.
While many black people talk a good game, it’s almost as if we have preconditioned ourselves to agree wholeheartedly with the majority white mindset and that is our feelings don’t matter. As a matter of fact, I think we train ourselves to not even show emotion, that we have to be ‘hard’ and badass or else, the dominant culture will run us over.
Much as I can somewhat understand the place where that mentality comes from, it doesn’t stop it from being a shitty one. You mean that you have hardened yourself to the point where you won’t even stop and ask another black person if they need assistance or be disgusted and judgmental when they explain the reason why they will never again to go a dentist? Just like the issue of mental illness which is never treated in the black community with any kind of seriousness, it’s just another chance to make snide jokes and hate on each other which makes being black all the more traumatic.