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How Black People Have a ‘Trauma Bond’ With America

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

Black Americans are traumatized by the American community, the socio-economic structure, the justice system, the educational system, the banking system and more. I see us in a trauma bond with The United States of America. A trauma bond is “a strong emotional attachment between an abused person and [their] abuser, formed because of the cycle of violence.”

The Dreams of Black Americans

Broadly, Americans believe in the American Dream, which Investopedia defines as: “… the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. The American Dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance.”

As a Black American, I am fraught with how I obtain the American Dream for myself and my community. Blacks are so beaten down by our society that it is hard to imagine that we can have access to this Dream. The Dream is held out by our society as the ultimate goal, but how are we supposed to access it when there is housing discrimination, banking discrimination, pay discrimination, workplace discrimination, educational discrimination and so much more. How do we feasibly access this dream?

The Trauma Bonding Process

The reason I talk about our trauma bond with America is that we still believe in the Dream regardless of whether it is feasible or not. We are periodically thrown a few scraps, no chokehold laws, the Civil Rights Act, Criminal Justice Reform talk, Affirmative Actions — but these are drops in the bucket. America has effectively said, “no you cannot have it,” but still we persevere as if America will relent and give us access to our basic needs and Dreams.

We hope the violence will stop if we give of ourselves to the abuser unconditionally.

This has borne out not to be true. Just like when the Black soldiers went to World War I fighting and giving their lives for America and came home to the violence and discrimination they had left. They were not seen as heroes but still as a Black person who deserved no dignity or respect. Black soldiers went back and served in World War II and subsequent wars and nothing has changed. 29% of the women in the military are Black and almost 17% of the men in the military are Black, but we only make up 13.3% of the American population. Why do we continue to enlist and put our lives on the line for a country that still does not honor our service?

Taking on the Abuser

America has set up a system that will be hard to dismantle. Whites have decided to march next to us these past few months, but are they ready to sacrifice what they must give up for us to have access to the Dream? They blatantly feel the Dream is obtainable for everyone. Their own hard work has paid off, so why not for Blacks, too? They think there is something fundamentally wrong with Blacks that we cannot get ahead. This is not true. There are so many obstacles to the Dream that it is nearly impossible to obtain without great sacrifice to self and psyche, and even then, the Dream is elusive.

So, what are whites willing to give up to share the American Dream and give us fair access to it? Do they want affordable housing in their neighborhood? Do they want to bus their kids out of their neighborhoods? Do they want to share their property tax money with underperforming schools? Do they want to pay higher prices at the grocery store so farm hands can get paid a living wage? Do they want to share their wealth? Do they want to pay higher taxes? All of this is what would need to happen and more.

Trapped Inside with the Abuser

Blacks are trapped. We joke about leaving the country, but we are somewhat serious. We are scared. Where would we go, we wonder? Where would we be welcome? We cannot go home, so to speak. Our culture has been ripped from us so that we do not even feel welcome in the place of our ancestors. Where on earth do Blacks have access to a fulfilling dream? Our home does not welcome us. We are orphans.

The Fight Is Real, and We Have No Choice

So, we stay here and fight like hell for scraps. Our country did not turn its back on us because the country never faced us face-to-face. It always had it in for us, yet we held onto a promise that we could get ahead. That we could make a way for our children. That we could somehow, someway get access to the Dream; if we just placated our hostage taker they would relent, and we could come out of our bondage.

At every turn, the American public — our captors — said no, stay in your place. We are relegated to the margins and that is where we stay fighting for justice for our people and future, still with our hand out to the power structure.

We are damned but we must not give up. We do not owe them anything, but they do owe us, and we must continue to fight for justice in the spaces they allow and do not.

For more on the Black Lives Matter movement, see these stories from our community.

Getty Images photo via dmbaker

Originally published: October 5, 2020
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