Because I am a scholar/artist/writer/feminist/trauma survivor, I struggle in my work, partly because I was taught to think (and write) in reductionistic, linear ways. Being a statistics nerd does not help any of this either.
For example, you have point A and A has an effect on point B. We then seek to analyze the relation and strength of the effect that A has on B. We determine that the correlation between A (.45) and B (.45) is a positive .90. In other words, if we know the value of A we can also determine the value of B, because the two variables correlate very highly.
While we know the relationship between the two variables, we do not know how much A effects B. In order to know this, we can take the correlation, and then if we multiply these variables we can then know how much of A contributes to the effect that we are interested in, in B. So for example, if the correlation between A =.50 and B = .50, if we multiply these by each other we come up with .25. So we learn that 25% of the variance in B can be attributed to the effect of A. We do not know .75 of what else may be influencing the effects on B, nor the relationship between other variables, C, D, E and so forth that might also have an influence on B.
How we think is rooted in this type of empirical thinking. However, thinking in these reductionistic and isolative ways, we often marginalize the effects and influences of the other possible variables that comprise the 75%.
In both africentric thought and my feminism philosophy, one of my aims is to bring into my way of knowing and thinking the other parts of myself. In my writing for example, I want to illustrate the interconnectedness between all of these variables because they affirm a larger picture. I want to move beyond simple linear relationships between two variables, and to understand lots of other variables and how they relate and interact.
Writing In Curvilinear Fashion
To find a creative way, a form of experimental writing that acknowledges the multiple identities that I hold and its intersectionality is a writing goal. To assert a writing approach that expresses my forms of intersectional theorizing, so that my sets of knowing, those things that continue to inform each other might also broaden how we think of coexisting, simultaneous inter-generational and historical trauma.
Ways of knowing do not always have to be understood as a singular function but can also understood as multiplicative, that knowledge sets can relate and inform the other.
I want to engage in a form of jazz like writing that includes known notes but include a differing presentation of new notes, ones that acknowledge that there can be different and complimentary sites of knowing. That in many ways multiple forms of truth can co exist and entangle, and that this synergy can be captured even in writing.
The Writing Experiment: Two voices at once, one academic and the other abstracted, non-time limited.
In the following example below I try to give simultaneous voice to these sides of myself, those in italic are my voices of everyday knowing and culled from those who I know and love, and the words that are not in italic are those I might use in an academic presentation. Each voice connects and informs each other.
Trauma is not an evenly distributed phenom.
The chains broke through their skin…the rust poisoned the enslaved who were shackled all the way through the middle passage as the salt water stung the wounds.
Although our clinical treatment, theorizing, and research often talks about trauma as if it is an objective event, one that can be separated from time, space, history, and fixed geographic locations.
They use to beat us to make us do the work and now they house many of us in so called prisons for non-violent drug use, and petty things.
To suggest that our theorizing should not incorporate our awareness of the multiple, fluid identities that we hold, and to not provide space for intersectional identity theorizing about trauma holds us locked into gender and racial binaries.
I am or could be a black transwomen who is non-binary. You can not constrict me with a box or a label, and I want my human experience of all of me to be respected and loved.
Our current models of human change processes have mostly been based on White women and White men–and these are incomplete in addressing the needs of all of our citizenry.
And I am not engaging in oppression olympics in my critique but rather advance a central idea that not locating both the perpetrator and the victim in the dynamics of interpersonal and personal violence minimizes the influence and collapsing that White supremacist ideology often does. White supremacy mutes complexity, and lumps us into strict, non-moving categories.
They treated my great great grandmother as property. They coerced her into subjugation and when she did not submit they raped and or killed her. Spirit murder, yes, spirit and attempted soul murder.
When we seek to integrate intersectional identities into our theorizing. The fact, that people are oppressed and targeted for holding multiple simultaneous identities, and these identities often lead to extreme violence and death, our theorizing must evolve with this new set of knowledge.
You can only treat me when you see me, anything less should be considered experimental and tepid. There has to be space, a curvilinear space where point A does not have to lead to point B. Point A may connect to point D and then connect to point B, after understanding that all of it functions under X or Y or Z. And before you say that we can’t do that in the field of psychology or counseling or mental health training, know that google and other search engines employed by facebook, twitter, and pinterest already parse and are searching for complex relationships based on time of entry, our prior searches, our age, our gender and so forth.
Researchers and trauma clinicians, many of whom engage in various forms of perpetuating racialized stereotypes (for example, black, low income boys as victims, while not even thinking about the impact of trauma and abuse on black low income girls), because of the government promulgation of lineal thinking—black boys as deserving of treatment and black girls having to wait.
We had brothers keepers way before we even thought about black girls.
“In addition to terrifying events such as violence and assault, we suggest that relatively more subtle and insidious forms of trauma—such as discrimination, racism, oppression, and poverty—are pervasive and, when experienced chronically, have a cumulative impact that can be fundamentally life-altering.” (http://www.nonviolenceandsocialjustice.org/FAQs/What-is-Trauma/41/).
This perspective relegates those transwomen who were killed as subtle and insidious, and relegates discrimination and oppression to the periphery. This minization is a form a micro agression implicit in the construction and treatment of people who suffer from immediate harms because of the multiple identities they hold.
There are things that happen to us that are connected to our identities, some of these things are so painful that we don’t speak about them. If we do it is mostly to those who we feel close to. If you are a woman, or queer, or trans, or different in some other way that is not White and male, having membership in these groups is often synonymous with living with existential forms of and actual violence. This is a historical fact and you only need to google, women and violence (295 million results), queers and violence (399,000 in google), and transwomen and violence (381, 000) to see what I mean.
We don’t speak because we don’t want to be blamed for what happened, and making others uncomfortable by drudging up “our” painful, traumatic memories of what we have seen that become etched into our collective consciousness.
Do we protect them with our silence because we do not want them to carry the shame, even though the ways that they have protected us might best be described as precarious. As a person of color we often shoulder differing forms of existential violence, due to the pain of living in a white supremacist and racist society. This requires constant negotiations with trauma narratives and these negotiations often promote an environment of silence that is used as a way to avoid and marginalize our pain.
My life, as I know it and experience it fits into a non-space, a contested and tension filled space.
I am black, gay, feminist,licensed clinical psychologist. I am not religious per se and the closest thing to religion is my oddly shaped spirital-buddhism-blend. I am also 57, which now may place me as old in the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet being wise and having lived through all I have brings me a measure of peace.
Where do I belong?
Will anti-racist spaces support me? Will my maleness, with all of its acknowledged privileges and ties to patriarchy create a social chasm that then hinders me in finding a space with my feminist comrades. Will the only community space I find be one where I must first answer 20 questions before I can be trusted and allowed a seat at the table? Will I die an artistic,social activist, nomad without any place to call home?
So I try to speak up and out but I fear that my writing might come across in cryptic or muted ways. The more I think about the silence and shame I carry, the more that it doesn’t make sense. I know them both too well, and if I don’t really fit anyplace or anywhere, then the question is why do I care so much?
Holding the silence and shame is what I know, even though I know they will never hold me.