Reclaiming Our Rightful Place in the Circle of Humanity
I am a mother in the long line of Black mothers who have, over the course of the last 600 years, brought our precious children into a world that profoundly devalues Black lives. Today, I am writing through my tears to ask and answer the question why? Why such inhumanity towards Black people?
Jacob Blake’s mother cried out, “Where is the humanity?’ His sister declared, “He was not treated like a human that day, but like a foreign object that did not belong.”
By the grace of God, Mr. Blake is still fighting for his life and we pray that he will survive the seven bullets fired into his back at close range as his children looked on in horror.
Why Such Inhumanity?
It is because, more than 600 years ago, Africa and its people were essentially cast out of the circle of humanity. Before that, Africa and African people were fully part of the human family. The inhumanity will continue until we acknowledge what happened and work tirelessly to reclaim our rightful place in the circle.
Africa is where humanity originated. It is the home of humanity’s common genetic ancestor, Mitochondrial Eve. It is where human beings evolved, began to build communities, and create art, culture, and technologies. It is the home of the most ancient of civilizations, which in the words of the historian Henry Louis Gates, “were just as splendid and glorious as any on the face of the earth.”
As a continent rich in natural resources, it was an active trading partner with the Greeks and Romans. But its immense wealth also made it a target for exploitation.
The Dehumanizing Lie
By the 1400s, Africa’s rich history was disrupted by the telling of the lie of White superiority and Black inferiority: the most powerful weapon ever formed against Black people.
That lie was devised by Europeans, led by Prince Henry, the Navigator, of Portugal, to justify the enslavement of Africans and the economic exploitation of Africa. It paved the way for the immense enrichment of the Western world—and the impoverishment of Africa and its people—on the Continent and across the African Diaspora.
Europe erased Africa’s rich history and replaced it with the lie. According to the lie (which over time became embedded in every societal system—from religion to law to academia to medicine to psychology to literature and more, and which was reinforced with relentless terror and violence), everything European—everything White, would henceforth be deemed superior. Everything African—everything Black—would be deemed inferior.
Enslavement is as old as humanity itself. But the enslavement of Africans was different. It rested on marking an entire continent—and its people—as inferior.
African human beings were deemed to be property—bought and sold. They were objectified, commodified, and dehumanized.
The lie essentially cast African people out of the human family. The result has been a systematic, multigenerational degradation of Africa and her children—continuing unabated.
A 2008 study led by psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt at Stanford University found a consistent association between Black people and apes. It found no such association for White people or other non-Black people. According to Eberhardt, “there is an old race battle we are still fighting…That is the battle to be recognized as fully human.”
The whole world is trapped in a Euro-centric narrative grounded in the dehumanizing lie of White superiority and Black inferiority. That lie is the reason why driving, buying coffee, eating ice cream in your home, sleeping in your bed, jogging, or breaking up a fight, or doing anything while Black, can be dangerous and even deadly.
The lie is at the root of the gross disparities between Black and White people in health, education, income, wealth, policing, incarceration, and nearly every area of life.
The lie has taken its toll in the form of multi-generational trauma, with serious adverse psychological and physical effects that stalk Black people everywhere we find ourselves in this world.
For the past 600 years, Black people have been born into a world in which we are all too often deemed to be ugly, unlovable, incompetent, worthless, dangerous, animalistic–not really “like the rest of us.” For all of those 600 years, whiteness and proximity to whiteness have conferred tremendous human value and quality of life–and blackness and proximity to blackness have dramatically diminished human value and quality of life.
Mobilizing to Reclaim Our Humanity
This condition is no longer tolerable—and the only way to end it is to extinguish the lie.
But consider this: Every single step that Black people have taken, every single Black achievement over that period of time has been made with the heavy weight of the lie on our shoulders. Just think how much more we and our children will be able to achieve when we, Black people, finally free ourselves and the world from the lie—reclaiming our dignity and humanity as African people—and our rightful place in the human family.
That is what Community Healing Network is about. Since 2006, CHN has been developing a range of initiatives to build the global grassroots movement for emotional emancipation—for complete freedom from the lie. We are mobilizing Black people across the Diaspora to escape from the narrative grounded in the lie of Black inferiority and write our own narrative driven by the truth of Black humanity.
Since 2012, we have been working with our colleagues at the Association of Black Psychologists. Six years after CHN was founded, we reached out to ABPsi to ask for its help in ensuring that our signature initiative—the Emotional Emancipation Circle—was psychologically sound and culturally grounded.
After more than six centuries of anguish, Black people must go through a process of emotional detoxification and renewal in order to heal from the trauma and free ourselves from the lie.
Emotional Emancipation Circles are safe, intra-racial, spaces, for emotional healing, wellness, and empowerment in which we share our stories, learn essential wellness skills, and work together to develop strategies to free ourselves and our children from the lie once and for all.
CHN is leading a journey toward healing and renewal, and we believe in setting deadlines for ourselves. We are intent on making 2020-2030 the Decade to Defy the Lie of White superiority and Black inferiority and Embrace the Truth of Black humanity.
One: We are deepening the conversation and analysis by focusing with precision on the lie of White superiority and Black inferiority as the root cause of the dehumanization of Black people. Instead of talking in general terms about racism and anti-Black racism, we focus on the lie.
Two: We are intent on telling the story of how Black people were cast out of the circle of humanity and why we have to frame this struggle as much more than a matter of racial justice and civil rights. It is a matter of reclaiming our rightful place in the human family.
And three: We are insisting on lifting up, as of central importance, the work of healing from the profound trauma caused by the lie.
The world stands at a crossroads. The road ahead is in terrible shape as a result of the damage caused by the lie. If we truly want change, we have to do a lot more than just patch the holes. We have to recognize the depth and breadth of the problem, and we have to choose an entirely new direction. We have to get off the road gutted by the lie of White superiority and Black inferiority and build a new road grounded in the truth of Black humanity.
Our children—and our ancestors—are waiting.
By Enola G. Aird, CHN Founder and President
Photo credit: Performance by Children of the Sun, 2019 Valuing Black Lives Global Summit, Richmond, VA.