december 5, 2014

While others hit the street, we are building our revolution from the inside


The original article can be found here.

I write this at about 4:00 o’clock in the morning the day after the announcement of the New York grand jury decision not to indict the white police officer who choked a black man named Eric Garner to death for selling loose cigarettes.

I am angry. I am sad. I am weary.

As a black mother, I have sustained yet another blow to my psyche. Another grand jury has told our children that their lives don’t matter. Here’s one more in a string of messages telling us that the lives of black people are not as valuable as the lives of other people.

I am not much for marching and demonstrating, but I do understand why black people are pouring out into the streets.

Yes, it is because of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and the many other black people whose lives have been so brutally cut short. Yes, it is because of the gross racial injustices of the criminal justice system.

But it’s also because it is becoming increasingly clear that the justice system is not the only system that devalues the lives of black people.

So does the educational system: witness the high suspension rates for black children, even in pre-school. So does the medical system: witness black-white health disparities.

So does the economic system: witness the gross differential between black and white unemployment. So does the political system: witness efforts to cut back on black voting rights. And so do our academic and corporate systems: witness the growing number of black people who report on the “presumption of incompetence” that follows them into classrooms and board rooms.

The message is becoming increasingly clear: at bottom, America still believes that black people are inferior.

Eight years ago when a group of us in New Haven launched Community Healing Network (CHN), we said we wanted to build a global grassroots movement for the emotional emancipation of black people — to help us overcome and overturn the lie of black inferiority. And a lot of black people thought we were crazy. “Get over it,” “it’s in the past,” “stop dredging up old issues,” we were told.

But not this year. This year, black people are telling us “yes, we see,” “we understand,” “we have to do something about this.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that at the root of so many of the challenges facing the black community is the poisonous lie of black inferiority — a lie created 400 years ago to justify the enslavement and subjugation of African people. It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot bring an end to racism unless we destroy the idea of black inferiority. Yet, most people tell me that there’s simply no way to do that.

To which I respond, the lie was created, and anything that is created, can be destroyed.

So I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who take to the streets peacefully to press for justice for black people who have been killed, and for reforms in policing and in the criminal justice system.

But I’m going back upstream to work on addressing the root cause of the killings and the injustices: the lie of black inferiority. I want to help the black community heal from the historical and continuing trauma caused by that lie and the persistent blows that it delivers to our collective psyche nearly every day, and I want to help destroy that lie.

That’s why while others take to the streets, CHN and our partner, the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), will be going inside — inside homes, faith communities, and civic organizations to create safe, nurturing spaces in which black people can come together to comfort one another, share resources for healing, and begin to develop strategies to, finally, free ourselves, our children, and the world from the lie of black inferiority. We are going inside to deal with the deadly mindset behind the killings and the injustices.

That’s why this weekend, in Ferguson, Missouri, ABPsi and CHN will sponsor workshops and a Training of Trainers for Emotional Emancipation (EE) Circles, a grassroots approach that we developed to help create spaces for healing and strategizing. Activists in our network will host simultaneous EECs here in New Haven, and in Tuskegee, Alabama, Portland, Oregon, and in California in Los Angeles and Oakland.

I stand in solidarity with the protestors, yes. But I also believe that no amount of protesting, or even legal change, will make much of a difference until we address the root cause of the devaluing of black lives.

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Enola G. Aird is the founder and president of Community Healing Network, Inc

www.communityhealingnet.org