Dealing With Black Trauma

This past month has opened my eyes to see things in ways I did not see them before. This month has also felt like a never-ending cycle of bad news. Every time I see a new racially motivated attack/shooting I find myself not even being able to react. The word I would use to describe my emotions is defeat. It feels defeating knowing that every 2 steps forward are another 30 steps backwards.  There has been so much uncertainty and unrest within the Black community but there is one thing I have learned, and I know for certain: It is okay to be angry. It is okay to want to scream or cry or shut everyone out. I would even advise that young Black people take time for themselves to process all that has happened or talk to people who can relate. 

Every new headline of a racially motivated crime came with an overwhelming sadness in the bottom of my heart. I tried to put up a front after events like the death of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Aubrey, but there were days that I walked around with a heavy heart and a smile on my face. There were nights I could not sleep but I would stay awake hearing George Floyd calling out for his mother seeing my friend or my brother or my family member in him, or picturing Ahmaud Aubrey fall to the ground. The unrest that I felt and still feel thinking about Adam Toledo is so loud in my mind that it hurts. Unfortunately for a long time I thought that the pain I felt was unjustified. 

Talking to my fellow Black friends made me realize that I was not the only one who felt burdened by all the things happening around me. I also was not the only one who felt that they weren’t justified in feeling those things. I felt selfish for feeling that way, that I should just be grateful that it was not me or my loved ones, I felt that I had every reason to cherish the life I still had, and my despair was unwarranted. Discussions with other people showed me that every other Black person around me felt the same way. It was sort of a unanimous pain within the heart of every Black person I spoke to. The same “survivors’ guilt” took control of their lives too. Some of my Black friends mentioned the trauma they endured just by watching the events caught on camera. 

It is okay to not want to watch racially motivated deaths. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to feel drained or feel tired or feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. It is okay to not want to talk about these things if they are too much to handle. It is okay to be scared and uncertain. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to feel that you have experienced trauma despite not going through those events yourself. It is okay to still feel unrest even after “justice has been served” like in the case of George Floyd. 

Most importantly it is okay to let your emotions be seen. Like Petiri wrote about in her recent article, we must end the “strong Black woman stereotype,” and this also applies to men, to any Black person out there. It’s okay to not be okay. With everything that has happened, I can say without a doubt that we have every right to not feel strong or empowered sometimes. 

I encourage everyone- young Black boys and girls alike to take time for yourselves if necessary. Do not feel obligated to always be on the front lines fighting so hard to breathe at every moment. Your trauma is valid and real. Do not try to be strong for others, but do so for yourself. Love and care for yourself even when it seems as if others would not do the same for you. 

Art Credits: Melissa Koby, @mkoby_ on Instagram

To engage further with this topic, please be sure to check out “Being a ‘Strong Black Woman’ Dehumanizes Me” by Petiri Ira, also published here on Dear Dark Skinned Girl.