Limiting our history to the slave narrative
Popular culture and the media have centered much of the historical Black experience around the institution of slavery. While important, it is only one chapter in the rich history of individuals from the African continent. Additionally, by only focusing on the slave narrative, the experience of Black people is reduced to that of a victim, being helpless, or inferior. However, the history of Black people predating slavery spans multiple continents, thousands of years, and numerous generations. In 2020, lets truly embrace the concept of Sankofa and learn from our past. A past that not only includes slavery but stories of innovation, exploration, and affirmation.
Seeking approval and validation from White people
In 2019, we sought to soften the White gaze on Black bodies through acts of forgiveness and calls to bear witness to our humanity. However, this effort has compromised our voice, reduced our desire to act, and has made us complicit in our own oppression. In 2020, we must look from within our communities for affirmation, support, and validation. The cost will be less, the benefits will be more, and our search will not end in compromise or conflict. We cannot seek from others what we first must receive from within.
The “crabs in a bucket” mentality
2019 saw many of our brothers and sisters achieve significant economic, educational, and career success. However, for each rung that they climbed up the ladder towards greater achievement, there were ten people seeking to pull them back down via the greatest tools of haters, manipulation, gossip, and sabotage. Robert Ingersoll once said that, “We rise by lifting others.” In 2020, we must return to our collectivist roots and seek to rise together in the face of prejudice, racism, and discrimination. Another brother or sister’s success should not be a judgement of our own failures. Success does not have to be an either/or perspective. Instead we can both celebrate each other’s successes AND lift each other up during times of trouble.
From skin complexion to hair texture many of our brothers and sisters have bought into White norms for beauty, intelligence, speech, behavior, and gender performance/expectations. Furthermore, we have a created a significant in group/out group effect where we attempt to police those who adhere or do not adhere to White norms. This phenomenon has contributed to self-hatred, increased vulnerability to racial trauma, and cultural isolation from one another. Not realizing that we are fighting each other based on someone else’s rules using standards not designed for us in the first place to keep us distracted from the various systemic challenges facing our communities. In 2020, we must conquer the enemy within in regard to our internalizing and subsequent gatekeeping of White norms and behaviors that has manifested in the form of internalized racism.
Stigma about seeking mental health services
2019 saw a rise in suicides and depression for Black individuals that was exacerbated by racial trauma, financial difficulties, housing insecurity, education challenges, and chronic loss. However, during a time when more and more of our brothers and sisters should be reaching out for social and emotional support, the stigma associated with seeking help has continued it’s prominence in our communities. In 2020, we must reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health services by naming and addressing the mistrust of mental health professionals, increasing access by networking and sharing our list of Black providers, and sharing accurate information about the therapy process.