By Michelle Hollinger
If you ever find yourself asking, “why do they always _____,” or “why don’t they just ______;” or you found yourself cheering Bill Cosby’s infamous “pound cake” speech that trashed some members of our family, it’s time for you to re-think your opinions about our people. It’s essential to us saving ourselves and saving each other.
2020 has drastically snatched the scab off our unhealed wounds and the only salve with any chance of unleashing our innate collective greatness is us, Black folk, African Americans, people of regal, deeply sacred color.
This is not to absolve this country of its responsibility to correct its abhorrent behavior towards some of its citizens. Many thought after witnessing the public lynching of George Floyd, the mainstream was finally convinced that Blacks’ cries for justice were true, but then Rayshard Brooks was assassinated in a Wendy’s parking lot after spending more than half an hour peacefully conversing with his assassins. The cold blooded murderers of Breonna Taylor are still free and we all recently gasped in horror as not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven bullets were pumped into Jacob Blake’s back in front of his children, resulting in his completely avoidable paralysis.
Yes, the demand for justice must continue. Gutting murderous police departments that provide water to armed white boys and Burger King to white mass murderers but choke an unarmed Black man to death as he pleads to breathe is non-negotiable.
But here’s the thing. While the nation’s systemic assault on Blacks’ worthiness is rectified, we’ve got to get in formation and handle our own business. That business is healing, reconnecting to our innate worth and reminding our brothers and sisters of theirs.
A couple of years ago, Black Panther swelled our chests with excitement and pride because it reminded us of our worth. The movie’s beauty, strength and celebration of blackness flowed right into a deep void in our hearts and minds we didn’t know existed until Ryan Coogler masterminded a cinematic therapy session.
Chadwick Boseman’s death has re-opened our wound. The way bruh moved through the world. His elegance and grace. His choice of acting roles and decision to bring King T’Challa to life helped us believe we could be, do and have whatever we desired – even in this country.
But as long as “the least of us” are judged, not only by the systemic forces with its knee on our necks, but also by their brothers and sisters who have managed to escape the inner city, our Band-Aid covered wounds will continue to fester.
Now ain’t the time to be that “educated Negro” Carter G. Woodson warned us about. Now ain’t the time to harp on that, “but what about Black on Black crime” argument; and now ain’t the time to wax poetic about how things used to be back in the day without at least attempting to understand why we do what we do today.
Dr. Joy Degruy has convincingly made the case that we’ve all been afflicted with Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, some more than others. She makes it clear that the adjustments our ancestors made in order to survive the unspeakable brutality white folk inflicted upon them for more than 349 years were never treated. Never treated and the trauma continued beyond the end of slavery, through peonage, lynchings, Black codes, Jim Crow… And witnessing and learning about the murders of unarmed Black people, in addition to all the other racist shit we endure in this country, piles new trauma on top of the old.
Brothers and sisters, we have not healed! And guess who has to be in charge of our collective healing? You got that right! We do. And it begins with compassion. For ourselves and for each other.
It helps to understand why we do what we do. It helps to consider that some of the behaviors that made perfect sense when our people were trying to survive slavery have been passed down through generational patterns and, epigenetics now proves, through DNA. Like disparaging our children in front of others or using an extension cord to whip them. The former is a result of parents’ efforts to sully their child to an eager slave owner who might sell or rape a son or daughter. The latter stems from parents whipping their rambunctious boys so that their public behavior in the presence of psychotic white racists would not end in death for antics considered normal for white children.
What made sense then, no longer serves us now, but understanding where it comes from can help us eradicate it – as long as we’re not approaching people as that “educated Negro” who doesn’t realize he’s advancing the oppressor’s agenda by putting his people down.
In “Bigger,” Beyonce released an eloquent reminder that this country does not define us. Sis celebrates who we really are and urges us to open our minds, not just for ourselves, but for each other. Imagine saying these words to a young brother who has lost his way. Or a young sister searching for herself in the wrong places.
If you feel insignificant, you better think again.
Time to wake up because you’re part of something way bigger.
You’re part of something way bigger.
Not just a speck in the universe.
Not just some words in a bible verse.
You are the living word, ah.
You’re part of something way bigger.
Bigger than you, bigger than we.
Bigger than the picture they framed us to see.
But now we see it. And it ain’t no secret, no.
Understand the truth about that question in your soul.
Look up, don’t look down and watch the answers unfold.
Life is your birthright; they hid that in the fine print.
Take the pen and rewrite it.
Step out your estimate.
Step in your essence and know that you’re excellent, rise!
The spirit is teachin’,
Oh, I’m not just preaching,
I’m taking my own advice.
Michelle Hollinger is the author of Sis, You’re Worth it: Seven Ideas for Manifesting Your Best Life. She is also the president and CWO (Chief Worthiness Officer) of The Institute for Worthy Living – https://theinstituteforworthyliving.com.