The Case for Emotional Reparations, Part 2
According to the great James Baldwin, “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”
Let’s talk about how to get ourselves out of the trap; and about why this year, 2019, is of singular importance to our escape.
Last month, I wrote about the fact that for 600 years, we, as people of African ancestry, have been living our lives according to a narrative written for us by Europeans to serve their interests. At the heart of that narrative is the lie of Black inferiority. The lie is what led to the profoundly negative stereotypes that cast Black people, and give other people permission to treat us, as “less than.”
These stereotypes have adversely shaped the world’s perceptions of us and our perceptions of ourselves for generations. The result has been that every Black person born over the last six centuries has entered life with a taint that generally marks us as ugly, unlovable, incompetent, worthless, and not really part of the human family.
Every Black child born almost everywhere in the world has entered into, and has had to make the best of life living under, an emotionally damaging, anti-Black, European narrative.
It is amazing how much we as a people have been able to accomplish while being trapped in this European version of history. But we’ve had to fight hard for every inch of ground. The price we’ve paid for this constant struggle has been enormously damaging emotionally.
In order to be emotionally repaired, to be made emotionally whole, and to stay emotionally healthy, we as a people cannot continue to just make the best of living under the emotionally harmful narrative imposed upon us by Europe’s cultural imperialism. We must find a way to escape it and create a narrative of our own making.
The movement for emotional emancipation is mobilizing Black people to plan and successfully execute our escape from the European version of history—and pave the way for the creation of a new African narrative. In my view, genuine “emotional repair” is about freeing ourselves and our children from the toxic European narrative driven by the lie of Black inferiority, and devising a new African narrative defined by the truth of Black humanity.
We need to start by understanding our history, not as filtered through European mis-education, but as understood through our own learning—a history that must include African values and philosophies as they existed before the horrors of the Transatlantic Trafficking of Human Beings and its aftermath. That “saving” history is trapped in us, and it holds the keys to establishing a much-needed new African narrative.
At CHN, we see this year, 2019, as a crossroads. August will mark the 400th anniversary of the first recorded forced arrival of Africans in what would become the United States—an event that occurred in the colony of Virginia. We have the opportunity to honor our ancestors and our children by using this occasion, not just to remember the past, but to make a decisive break with the lie–that aspect of the past that caused our ancestors, and is still causing us and our children, so much pain.
CHN has declared 2019 to be the year we release ourselves from the lie. We are spreading this message through our Global Truth Campaign and Tour. We and our primary ally, the Association of Black Psychologists, will be in Richmond, Virginia, in August for our 2019 Valuing Black Lives Summit to draw the line between a past shaped by the lie and a future defined by the truth.
As people of African ancestry, we can keep walking down the road paved by the European narrative or we can peel off, and join the journey toward emotional emancipation and the creation of a new African narrative for us, by us.
Our children–and our ancestors–are waiting.
By Enola G. Aird
CHN Founder & President