"About Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder"
BY Larry Higgenbottem, The Osiris Group
As one of the authors who wrote Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder, I want to take a moment to let you know why Sekou Mims M.Ed, MSW; Omar Reid, Psy.D and I got together to write this book. After much discussion about what was working and what wasn't working among the African-American youth and adults we were counseling, we were finding patterns of behavior that we concluded were consistent with an orientation in the institution of slavery. Our primary reason for writing this book was to begin the process of bringing about a psychological healing through discussion, training and teaching. The information was too vast to put into any other form of presentation, that could be shared with the public.
This book was designed to create a new lens for our peers, client's, educators and youth workers to assess and counsel self-destructive behaviors.
After several years of working with large groups of youth and adults at the Mattahunt Community Center, Roxbury Boys and Girls Club, Department of Social Services (DSS), Department of Youth Services (DYS), Roxbury Court Clinic, Dorchester Counseling Center, Roxbury Comprehensive Methadone Clinic, the Boston Public Schools and Youth Opportunities Boston; it became clear that traditional methods of assessing behavior were inaccurate.
Youth were being misdiagnosed and universally placed in Lab Clusters, Special Education Centers and Alternative Schools where they were being systematically stigmatized, medicated and put into DSS, DYS and other containment facilities where those additional interventions also did not work.
Upon close examination we found that a large percentage of inaccurate psychosocial assessments had taken place. Two different psychological developments had occurred and they were clashing when they came together.
On the one hand, abhorrent behavior being displayed by youth (and adults) was really inappropriate cultural and social grooming. We found that ill manners and other negative behaviors displayed by youth ( and adults) had a direct origin from the acculturation of the slavery process.
The negative symptomatology (combined symptoms of a disorder) that blacks display today has its origins in the institution of slavery-which was never addressed for remediation.
On the other hand inaccurate diagnosis were continually being formulated from clinicians who were socially groomed from a Euro-Affluent acculturation. Sigmund Freud never intended what we know today as psycho-therapy to be applied to the masses. Freud's methods were designed for affluent people who were socially and culturally groomed to inter-reflect with a cognitive awareness of moods and affect.
This inaccurate diagnosis also stemmed from the institution of slavery which promoted a sense of superiority of intellect when it came to the 'white' psyche.
We (academically educated clinicians, counselors, social workers, social psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. of all colors) were being asked to take a Euro-American, suburban, middle class, experience and superimpose it on an Afro-American experience.
We published Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder because we wanted to present our material as a curriculum to body of professionals who have been working in the trenches for years with our people: who know the traditional diagnosis are not working and, who need to have an alternative lens from which to diagnose current symptomatology. We believed then, as we do now that if the elder members of the Black Social Workers connected with our assertion then these social workers would understand that there has never been a period of mourning, grief, remorsefulness or regret for the physical and psychological violence on the psyche of African people; and that this unresolved psychological trauma is still enduring. There has never been an effort to start the psychological healing. We presented Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder before five-hundred (500) Black Social Workers in attendance at the 2002, New Mexico symposium. This group of black professionals more than validated us, they encouraged us to take our message directly to the black community so that this process of healing could begin to take place. Since then, we have presented Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder to smaller audiences at Simmons College; Roxbury Community College; The Roxbury Action Program. In addition, we have presented Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder before local, national and international television and national talk radio.
As we begin to start the healing process we must confront and examine the conditioning we were subjected to in the past, which is still a part of our present psyche. The Willie lynch letter a remnant of the extreme disregard of the human sanctity of the mind, spirit and body used by slave owners. It is important to understand where the disintegration of the mind, body and spirit of African-People began in order start to reconstruct the psyche of an entire people. As difficult and offensive as the language in this letter may be, I use this letter not to incite emotions, right or wrong or even good verses evil, but simply to understand from a human development perspective the degeneration process the African psyche has undergone to arrive in its current condition. The Willie Lynch letter is an excellent tool to help clinicians and the black populous as a whole begin for the first time to understand the tremendous psychological violence the psyche of our people has been subjective to. More importantly I believe it is a blue print for understanding the conditioning we were and currently are subjected to which needs to be undone to bring us toward healing. Please refer to the Willie Lynch letter.