Growing Different: The Bearings of the Past on the Present in a Post-Slavery World

While random African and Caribbean brothers might be receptive towards one another in their continent and countries, it might not be the most common thing to see random brothers in the diaspora connect on that same level. Dr. Joy Degruy chronicles this in her book (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and healing). She shares a personal experience: an encounter with a young boy and her own son, Nadim.

She had just been back from South-Africa and trying to readjust to the Portland atmosphere when this happens:

A young black boy wanting to beat up her son, Nadim.

Why? Because Nadim was staring at him.

It seemed so trivial, so simple, yet it caused her to think deeply about the psychological implications of the situation.

One way or the other, the young black boy felt threatened by Nadim’s gaze and though his actions seemed to be in the offensive, it was really defensive. His esteem was so fragile he couldn’t withstand a stare from a fellow black brother. And so he burst out in anger to make up for some emptiness he felt on the inside. Naturally, though unspoken, he perceived that there was something within him- so dark, so vulnerable, so fragile- that no one should see and Nadim was prying that space.

This is but one event, but it tells the story of the disconnection that can exist between a lot of black brothers born in slavery. It does in fact exist among people of color in the diaspora.

The feeling of oneness is rare among children of slavery and even if it exists, loyalties are expressed only to trusted groups that these children have over time come to grow comfortable with.

In Africa or any other black community, though separated by tribes, cultures, and ethnic groups, the feeling of brotherhood is still very much preserved. It is not to say that there are no grades of distance between the folks that have never left their black communities but this gap seems somewhat pronounced among their counterparts. It is in fact something of a trend among folks- not just brothers- born into slavery.

It is this subtle difference that tells the tales of the scars slavery leaves on its victims: the enslaved and the benefactors.

But why is it important to recognize these behaviours? Because healing can only begin when we accept there are injuries that need to be tended to.

Only after acceptance can we take the steps to embrace the painful but highly rewarding healing process.

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