The Art of Letting Go, Part Two- Sometimes the personal is not political at all
Most of what people struggling with in terms of letting go are painful childhood memories; physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and the physical feeling and the fear that comes with having no food in the cabinets.
Painful experiences and memories happen within group and cultural contexts. For example, when an African American boy is abused there is a cultural context that has to be considered. He may believe that his personal rights, for example, are subsumed under a large rubric of patriarchal, hypermasculinized, blackness. In other words, his individual response to abuse and trauma can often be minimized within the context of larger black trauma and existential pain. The rubric goes something like this, from a historical perspective Black people were treated badly by some whites, and so part of learning what it is to be black is to expect injustice, unfairness, and inequity.
If this is true, then his lived experience as an African American will be about living with unfairness and pain, and then, who can he talk to about his own personal pain?
Boys in general but particularly black boys are supposed to be rough, tough, and know how to take care of themselves. When bad things happen to black boys, some of us learned to either run away or to physically fight, this is what blackness meant to me.
This way of being limits the coping responses.
From a cultural perspective, abused African American boys have additional hurdles in disclosing abuse. The first hurdle is that he was not tough enough to take care of himself and second, he still has to deal with the shame, guilt, and stigma associated with his physical or sexual abuse.
There may be no space, no sliver of feeling safe in his life where he can talk about it.
Next up: The Art of Letting Go:
Part Three- All pain is not the same