Today’s guest blog is from Tolaya Geredine, NCC, LPC. I actually approached her to write this blog post because I saw her activity on Instagram and thought she would make an excellent contributor. You can follow her at @Mental.Health.Major.Key or visit her blog The Urban Therapist. I really want to share thoughts and stories from various perspectives on this website and so I thought Black History Month would be a good start. However, I definitely want to commit to this year-round and not just in February. So if you are a member of the Black community, I would really like to hear from you about your experiences with mental health. Or any member of a marginalized community. I am open to anyone contributing because I feel that each person has a unique view that deserves to be heard. Check out Tolaya’s post below and let us know what you think in the comments!
First off, I’d like to say that I am honored to Guest Blog for Slay Girl Society! SO In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to share some tidbits that I have observed, felt, and learned as a Mental Health Therapist and more importantly; as a human being.
Black History Month began as Negro history week in February to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass. It also was to shed light on the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans, as they were (& often still are) largely excluded from syllabi. This week long observance was expanded to a month and officially recognized by the U.S. Government in 1976; only ten years before I was born.
Why do I put this in perspective, you may ask? Because I’m really hear to walk you through an experience!
As a therapist, when you are facilitating group therapy, for best practice, you do not view the group as individuals, you view the entire group as one. This helps build cohesion and not only makes for a better group experience, but it helps in conceptualizing or understanding the group’s identity and experience.
With that being said, take a walk with me! Not to be exclusive, but for the sake of time, let’s go into a black & white world. The history for most blacks in America, we are told, begins with slavery.
Check-in with yourself. That word, the “S” word. It might have done something to you. I’m willing to bet that it elicited some type of response in your brain. The fact is that the remnants of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade have affected us all.
What is it doing to our mental health and ability to form relationships? The interpersonal affects are some of the most damaging. I have heard people say they experience, feelings of guilt, or anger that it keeps being brought up, or sadness, or distance because they feel it doesn’t affect them at all. I have also heard people say that it brings about feelings of anger, sadness, shame, and even pride. I left out who said what, because in this context, while we will be breaking down black and white, I wanted the focus to be on humanity as the individual.
Transitioning to how it effects the two siblings, black and white let’s zoom in on one. African Americans have been disproportionately placed in jail, murdered, and institutionally discriminated against even after slavery ended.
Blacks were often seen as inhuman, portrayed this way in the media, and treated this way for years; even within the law. The Virginia Code of 1705 read:
“And if a slave resist his master, or owner, or other person, by his or her order, correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction, it shall not be accounted a felony; but the master, owner and every such other person giving correction, shall be free and acquit of all punishment and accusation for the same, as if such accident had never happened.”
But that was so long ago, you may say! Remember, we are conceptualizing a group as one individual though. And the very foundation of psychology, professes it a fact, that your childhood affects your adulthood. & if this individual was dehumanized as a child, why wouldn’t they grow up with an underlying (or blatant) distrust in institutions or in the people that have historically demeaned them? So in the “childhood” of blacks in America, lies horrors and abuse, evidenced in many forms in the African American race today, from rioting, to impoverished neighborhoods, incarceration, and more. On the positive side you’ve got people trying to become more educated and dig out of a hole, doing well for themselves, refusing to go “back”, and people like myself, trying to educate the masses on what has happened from a mental health perspective. Both sides, are fighting against a horrendous past.
I’ll speak for myself when I say that the line of the Virginia code of 1705, still runs through me and feels applicable today. There have been many cases in the recent media of African Americans being murdered by police without just cause, and it has been handled by the law “as if such accident never happened”. I had to log off of social media and take some time to mourn. I was so tired of signing on and seeing someone else fatally shot and murdered by police, or by his fellow brother! So tired of my heart dropping. So tired of thinking of a mourning parent, or family. So tired. So tired of “Blue lives matter”. Police are not disproportionately killed by civilians…so why do you need a movement? So tired of being seen as and told I’m so “strong” and can handle anything, to invalidate my need to grieve for people that look like me, going through a rough time in America.
Although I speak for myself, many share these sentiments. And many share opposing sentiments, as they experience things on the opposite side. I am looking to share, this perspective is not to invalidate any one else’s.
All of us are descendants of those of the past, whether we are descended from the oppressors or the oppressed. So, while Black History Month is dedicated to the strength, resiliency, beauty, and contributions of the oppressed, this story, their story, our story, belongs to all of us. We can learn so much about social advancement, how not to repeat the same mistakes in altered ways, and about celebrating diverse experiences. Most appreciably, for the relevance of this environment, we can start validating & honoring our own experiences as well as others by listening and learning with an open mind (My personal suggestion is a book titled “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” by Joy DeGruy, I’m open to suggestions by readers as well!).
So with that being said; Happy Black History Month to you!