The Waking Nightmare Of Diasporic Racial Trauma

crazPhoto by Rob Tol on Unsplash

Grief jumps through generations. Our griefs of today resonate with those from centuries long gone leaving us wondering why we are so sensitive. Grief gets lodged deeper than emotion, beneath the bone, to somewhere like the metaphorical cord which links our spirit and flesh. That cord is severed at death, so naturally grief would reach all the way to those borderline deeps.

Transatlantic slavery happened in the past, as did each of our births, but the effects of those will be with us till the day the cord which links our spirit and flesh is severed. Slavery was not the birth of Blackfolk, but history would tell you otherwise and we should be forgiven for feeling, thinking and acting like we plopped onto the world’s fresh face with the irons already around our necks.

Blackfolk’s trauma is so vivid it’s dreamlike, and when we don’t know how the trauma affects us we walk around as if in a nightmare. Because our ancestors did live through oppression far worse than what most of us could imagine using even our most terrible nightmare as comparison. They were not given time or space to heal their trauma which, like grief, jumps through generations, compelling us to act as if that past is our present.

So we respond to the failed job application as if it means we’ll be soon be cast back to the plantation your great great grandmother was on, to the silence between us and the white woman as if she has lied to her slavemaster husband that you touched her so he will soon come to kill you, to the workplace disciplinary as if we are soon to be lynched like our our mentor’s grandfather was, even though things are pretty equal these days. I mean, you can see real-life Blackfolk in every major city!

These paragraphs seem loosely connected, and the words flow sort of disjointed like a dream. The meaning is definitely there but it’s a wonder as to whether you’ve picked up the right one. That’s what so many Blackfolk experience in our diaspora communities. Our experience of life gets disjointed by the spanners that the racist system sadistically throws in our works, the patches in our memories from traumatised dissociation and historical ignorance both self-enforced and externally imposed, the nauseating dissonance between the veil of inclusivity and the unavoidable realities of racism, feeling sure something’s wrong but ourselves being the only constant in our lives we tend to lean upon conditioned beliefs and blame ourselves.

We aren’t blameless any of us for our individual experiences of life, for that would reduce us to mere victims of circumstance. But the individual experience of diasporic Blackfolk is often simple maneuvers gone maddeningly wrong because a snake bit us while walking from the ground to first floor of your new job while the newer younger less experienced more stupid white person gets put on the sixth floor via the glass lift nobody told you about. And you live in England where there’s rarely a snake around, and hatred. Behind smiling faces. Telling you hatefully to get some rest, enjoy this coffee, have a good day, smiling, smiling, and yet always hating. Hatred.

No one is better than white people at lying to themselves. Sweeping generalisation, I know, but is it less offensive for me to say no one has more incentive to lie to themselves than white people? Grief and trauma jump through generations, as does the oppressor’s guilt, especially when you live more comfortably as a result of the oppressor’s evil actions. Oh you thought you’d go five minutes on the internet without being told to check your white privilege?

A whole lot of Blackfolk are so angry at Whitefolk the rage makes us physically sick. A whole lot of Whitefolk hate Blackfolk so much you can see murder flash through their eyes no sooner than they lay upon your melanated skin, even if that skin is only half-melanated like mine! I know the looks fall far harsher upon more wholly-melanated bodies. You can be black and still check your light-skin privilege, just remember it ain’t white privelege, cus you is not white.

You catch that look of hatred before they even know they’ve cast it, a lifetime before usually, because they are white and that comes with the natural ability to suppress racist thoughts and emotions from all but the most impenetrably isolated dungeons of consciousness, while being black comes with the natural ability to be so good at faking being cool with white people that we forget we aren’t Yah and that therefore the chronic one two, one one two* punch of sinisterly subtle and opaquely obvious racism is, erm, not actually our fault?

Making everything our fault and nothing our responsibility is another of our naturally abilities, unless of course the responsibility is for white people’s emotional expressions. We’ll do mental gymnastics nonstop for years to turn a deadpan facial greeting into a fake smile, then keep from seeing that fake white smile give way to the dreaded line of confusion or even worse the “I’m disappointed” look as the whiteperson too forgets they are not Yah and interprets their anger at you as a sign that they’ve been let down by their child, pet or other form of personal property, of legal chattel. Transatlantic slavery happened in the past, but so did each of our births.

*edit ones and twos sequence as necessary to represent your lived experience




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Gem Bay

Gem Bay

Cultivating Black mental health, sociopolitical awareness and self-knowledge. Trained in Psychology and Neuroscience. All praises to Yah.