I recall a conversation with a colleague on the subject of Jewish people amongst other racial, ethnic and religious folks who were liberated from the German held concentration camps during World War II. She stated that all those people probably carry a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis. For those of us who work in the counseling field, the mere thought of facing that enormous number and its individual unique set of symptoms would be an undertaking of infinite proportions.
The horror and complexity of the liberated and their offspring throughout generations is indelibly marked in history. Depending on what sources from the history of slavery in the 1800s do we asses and determine, too, the enormity of probably Post-Traumatic Disorder to African-Americans. Let's put this in clear perspective.
Imagine yourself, the reader, being forcibly uprooted from your home, placed on a slow moving ship with few provisions for daily survival held in a hole with or friends and family until deposited thousands of miles away in an unfamiliar land. Man have already succumbed at sea. You might be separated from your family, never to be seen again. You are sold, imagine, SOLD to a stranger who tells you that for your to survive, you must work for him. The work is brutal at best in most cases with little redeeming value except that you're alive. As the years follow you may eventually be freed. Freed! Hey, you can go now! Where to? To do what? Have my rights restored? Lots of relevant questions asked with no certain answer, again in, unfamiliar land. Begin, the reader, to imagine where you go, what you do? Are your family members with you? Do you know their whereabouts if not with you? What you do know right away is you are different, not only in skin color so you can't hide. Are you given any opportunity to pursue the rest of your life with solace and freedom? History demonstrates that the answer even today is generally no.
My research on the liberation of Jewish folks from the concentration camps found a multitude eventually in America. Some chose to maintain their identity in names, others changed their name to avoid prejudice which was rampant. A survivor of the concentration camps once said to me while he lived in horror, once liberated, he could eventually integrate into the general populace. He added that his heart went out for people of color who weren't able to hide.
While we celebrate 50 years since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's famous amazing speech on the Mall in Washington, D.C., I hear President Obama and other dignitaries speak and reference the many positive changes incurred for African-Americans. Yet, enormous shameful numbers of men and women live with fewer opportunities, a populace replete with prejudice and perhaps the worst part of all ... a loss of dignity, hope and faith. Under God's eye, are we truly that different? As I once stated in an article on gays, even in our high-tech, fast paced world, socially we are primitive. Yes, many African-Americans have risen with incredible fortitude and faith to places of virtue. Yet, too many African-Americans live daily as if enslaved.
Imagine the collective burden faced daily upon the psyche. Yes, like gays and any other folks also facing prejudice, we need desperately to advance as a whole, not just for the privileged. Everyone of all ethnic, race and religious groups need to be given equal opportunity and be held with the same high esteem as anyone who already arrived. Post-traumatic stress may truly be a diagnosis. Thank you. We all have a responsibility to make ourselves better in order to accept people from all walks of a healthy life.