I remember the sound of shattered glass breaking our complacency the day a member of my family pushed me through a window. As middle-class students, we were both used to physical violence, to beating each other fiercely, which often left me with bruises.
The language of the #MeToo movement helped me understand that the sexual trauma I experienced as a child was another form of violence. An adult in my life did not force himself on me, but frequently masturbated in front of me. Given my limited understanding of the motivations and mental disorders of abusers, at age 11, I could only deduce that I deserved what was happening to me. I imagined that if only I was stronger I could have stopped everything. I could have won the physical fight against my physical abuser, and I could have said to the sexual abuser in my life “no, that’s wrong”.
Yet, in the same way that a child without power cannot expect to win against a powerful abuser, one cannot expect black parents in the United States to fight the overwhelming constraints that access. limited to mental health services imposed on their lives at home. Lack of access to these services hampers their ability to protect their children from violence at home and in society without government intervention.
In March, progressive members of the US Congress introduced a bill to create Medicare for all, a massive government-run health insurance program. While efforts to pass such legislation continue, congressional support for universal health care has yet to be institutionalized.
However, failure to implement Medicare for all could perpetuate untreated mental disorders that correlate with disproportionate abuse of black children.
As a 36-year-old black sociologist, I have spent the past three years learning to incorporate traumatic experiences into my life as a writer, anti-racist educator, and advocate for social justice. But for most of my adult life, I didn’t have access to insurance that allowed me quality mental health care from a licensed provider. I grew up believing that my trauma was something that would be healed through church practice and welfare books. Since I had no example of trauma victims in my life who had the resources or perspective to seek approved help, I have seen people I loved struggle to keep their traumatic experiences from devastating. their relationships and their chances in life.
Once a high paying job provided me with quality mental health care, I was able to get two months sick leave, life coaching, psychotherapy and creative arts therapy on an unusually consistent basis – there were a few weeks where I literally spoke with my therapist every day. day. But it wasn’t until I zoomed out and put my experiences into a larger social context that I began to understand the political constraints that make the stories of my trauma so common, but the stories of my healing. so rare for black childhood trauma survivors.
It should be noted that research conducted by Mental Health America indicates that black Americans are not more likely than whites to have mental health issues. On the contrary, their researchers find that “the historical experience of blacks and African Americans in America has been and continues to be characterized by trauma and violence more often than for their white counterparts and has an impact on health. emotional and mental health of young people and adults. ”
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), data from the US Census Bureau shows that “in 2005, African Americans were 7.3 times more likely to live in very poor neighborhoods with little or no access to health services. Mental Health”. The 2016 report of the United States Commission on the Elimination of Victims of Child Abuse and Neglect noted: “African American children make up about 16% of the infant population in this country, but 30% of child deaths. victims of abuse and neglect. ”
Although scholars of the “culture of poverty” have in the past postulated that black communities are pathologically violent and sexually imbalanced, research published by the National Library of Medicine argues that broader social forces and policies shape neglect and abuse of black children.
Historians have no evidence to support the idea that blacks are culturally predisposed to create broken homes. Corporal punishment of children existed in pre-colonial African societies, but according to an article written by Stacy Patton and published by the APA: “Colonization, slavery and genocidal violence make the lives of these groups harder, parenting practices have also intensified.
Patton also reflected on her own abuse as a black girl in her 2017 New York Times installment “Stop Beating Black Kids.” She pointed out that corporal punishment in black families is rooted in European Judeo-Christian beliefs explaining: “It is a European idea that children are ‘born in sin’ and should be defeated by the devil with a ‘stick. correction ”. This brutality reverberated on other cultures through slavery, colonialism and religious indoctrination.
Black families alone cannot break a cycle created by an imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist and patriarchal society that is by definition too powerful for a group to be overcome on its own. As I learned through diligent therapy, I never just healed from child abuse, I said what all black trauma survivors need to say to themselves to move forward in their lives: “This cycle ends with me.”
A new generation of blacks is healing in a society that denies its complicity in the formation of intergenerational trauma. But the alarming rates of abuse and neglect caused by political indifference will continue until universal health care is implemented and the US Congress joins black survivors in saying, “This Cycle Ends with us.”
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.