We Are Not Oppressed Because We Remember by Chasity Jones

Many questions are asked of us as a community, but the answers which are so complex that we should be commended for even attempting to answer, are heard- if they are not interrupted- but rarely understood. As a Black mother and wife, I have accepted the fact that no one will understand my struggle outside of other Black mothers and wives. After being asked questions about how my community relates to slavery, I am convinced that no one outside of my Black American community will ever understand how slavery has impacted our lives, identities, family structures, trauma, and deaths. Furthermore, it has yet to be understood how the past of slavery continues to impact these areas as a people.

Firstly, although slavery has left an immense imprint on our racial memory, the Black community is not stuck in slavery simply because we bring it up. It is brought up because it is a part of our story and we should not be made to feel ashamed of it. Just because you are tired of hearing about it or uncomfortable does not mean that Black Americans should be made to feel as though should avoid speaking of our history. Some many pro-Black groups and movements emphasize and celebrate the achievements of Black Americans before, during, after, and despite slavery. However, these movements threaten the dominant culture, and much of their achievements are ignored or perceived as threats and terrorism. It is hard to educate ourselves and our children about our ancestor pre-enslavement because our legacy, history, sacred knowledge, and culture were destroyed and our memories were erased and replaced with the bible and colonialist interpretations of scripture. Many of these scriptures are interpreted to justify slavery and are still used to justify police brutality, mass incarceration, and psychological warfare on Black Americans. Nevertheless, we do what we can to celebrate ourselves and our heritage. In doing so, we cannot ever forget slavery.

According to Cedric C. Johnson, “The term Maafa (pronounced Mah-ah’-fa) is Ki-Swahili. It means the ‘great disaster, calamity or catastrophe.’ Increasingly, it is the preferred term used to reference the enslavement, sustained dehumanization, and disenfranchisement of Africans in America. The motto for the Maafa Commemoration is “The Way Out is Back Through.” The victims of any kind of trauma cannot heal, Rev. Youngblood asserts, until they fully acknowledge what they’ve been through, every traumatized community needs vehicles that facilitate “organized grief work.” In our country, there has never been a formal acknowledgment, apology, or reparations for the atrocities witnessed, experienced, and passed on through intergenerational trauma. Thus, Black Americans have not had the opportunity to confront their pain and heal.

Johnson clarifies intergenerational trauma, “Several documented cases verify that collective traumas linked to particularly inhumane atrocities return to “haunt” the group’s descendants.2Studies have also shown that if trauma has not been sufficiently spoken of and acknowledged at the time of its occurrence, traces of it can remain and surface in the family 50 or 100 years later. Remembering the trauma story includes a systematic review of the meaning of the event. “[1]

It is brought up that enslaved Africans were not the only ones enslaved, which is a tool of dismissal. We are constantly told that we are somehow oppressing ourselves by remembering our previous subhuman condition. Black Americans have never once said our ancestors were the only ones who have experienced enslavement. Slavery is in the Bible. The Israelites are liberated from slavery in Egypt and they are instructed by God to never forget that part of their story. It emphasized over and over again to remember NEVER FORGET their time in Egypt as well as how the Lord delivered you, and to be sure to teach your children. “Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God redeemed you from your slavery. That is why I have given you this command.” (Deuteronomy 24:18). When you are around Black Americans and they bring this up, consider it an honor that you get to witness the holy act of remembering and grieving.

We are told that we shouldn’t be angry with the white slave masters but the African chiefs and kings who sold our ancestors into slavery in the first place. Firstly, not all that were enslaved were given by African chiefs, some were snatched, stolen, ripped from their homelands. Secondly, the attempt to overlook this fact is perhaps Black Americans extending Africans grace as we see them as our family, regardless. But perhaps this is a foundation of the turbulent relationship between Black Americans and Africans, each group believing that they are hated by the other. I cannot speak for Africans, but perhaps the animosity from the Black American community comes from African people coming to this country and adopting the same language, concepts, judgments, and conclusions about Black Americans that are consistent with a dominant culture influenced by white supremacy and colonization. In many cases in my experience, their conclusions, judgments, language, and concepts are a result of misinformation,  ignorance of the context, experience, and history.

To clarify, Black Americans do not use slavery as an excuse to see ourselves as inferior or hinder progress as a community. We see our bondage as an example of how far our people have come and how far we have yet to go. We are not in the streets protesting because we are angry, but because we see ourselves as equal and demand accountability. It is shameful that the truth of a collective is diminished by how it is expressed and delegitimized because our cries for justice are interpreted as whining. Amazingly, we are told to forget the Great Catastrophe because it was so long ago when the effects of slavery slap us in the face every day whether you believe it or not. We are not oppressed simply because we remember.


[1] Cedric C. Johnson, Race, Religion, and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 101.

Bio

Chasity is a Louisiana native and from a conservative, Evangelical background until moving to Seattle, WA to be a community organizer (young adult missionary). It was here she began to challenge traditional mission work in the context of colonialism and began her own process of liberation (decolonization). For the last two years, as a Master of Divinity student at Boston University School of Theology, she has focused her degree on exploring various Liberation Theologies including Black Liberation, Womanist, and Decolonization Theologies.  

She has recently launched Fourth Wave Revolution in an attempt to educate as well as decolonize! For the last five years, she has done this through various ways: sermons, adult Sunday schools, workshops, individual and collective consulting, yoga and mindfulness, support groups, and more!  It was her hope to one day give birth to a movement that would transform the way we engage in anti-oppression and anti-racism work while maintaining and in some cases recovering ourselves. According to Decolonial theorist Albert Memmi, racism is a symptom of colonialism (The Colonizer and the Colonized, 69-70). Therefore, we must reach deeper and address as close to the root as possible to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Fourth Wave Revolution is committed to digging deeper.

As a new mother, Chasity is also thinking into conscious parting as well as how to transmit the core of feminist, womanist, and liberation theologies to children. To stay updated on upcoming events, follow our Facebook page by clicking here!



Categories: Ancestors, Family, General, Race and Ethnicity, womanism, Women's Voices

Tags: , , ,

13 replies

  1. Chastity, I am not tired of listening. I am not tired of learning. I can’t live your experience except through your words. I’m a white British person and I know a lot of white people are very, very defensive – in a way I don’t fully understand. But some of us are changing our perspectives and learning how the world looks from other perspectives.

    Like

    • Yes Jackie!!!!!!! I feel such a deep and spiritual connection to First Nations people and their past, current, and future struggles. My grandmother’s grandmother was born on a reservation in Louisiana and maybe that is why I always felt that connection. I would love to see a better relationship and more solidarity between the two communities. It would make my heart happy!!! It has happened in history before in Peru with Tupac Amaru emancipated the enslaved Africans in Peru and they ruled a revolution against the colonizing forces of the Spanish!!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. These are powerful words of truth ” In our country, there has never been a formal acknowledgment, apology, or reparations for the atrocities witnessed, experienced, and passed on through intergenerational trauma. Thus, Black Americans have not had the opportunity to confront their pain and heal.”

    I am not Black. However I do have Indigenous roots and we have experienced the same kind of silencing – our lands were stolen – our women raped we too were taken into slavery.

    Oppressed peoples are not equal, and we need to live in the truth of what is.

    Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes Jackie!!!!!!! I feel such a deep and spiritual connection to First Nations people and their past, current, and future struggles. My grandmother’s grandmother was born on a reservation in Louisiana and maybe that is why I always felt that connection. I would love to see a better relationship and more solidarity between the two communities. It would make my heart happy!!! It has happened in history before in Peru with Tupac Amaru emancipated the enslaved Africans in Peru and they ruled a revolution against the colonizing forces of the Spanish!!!!

      Like

    • Yes Jackie!!!!!!! I feel such a deep and spiritual connection to First Nations people and their past, current, and future struggles. My grandmother’s grandmother was born on a reservation in Louisiana and maybe that is why I always felt that connection. I would love to see a better relationship and more solidarity between the two communities. The relationship was very strong a long time ago in Louisiana. It would make my heart happy!!! It has happened in history before in Peru with Tupac Amaru emancipated the enslaved Africans in Peru and they ruled a revolution against the colonizing forces of the Spanish!!!!

      Like

  3. Thank you, Chastity, for this piece. So powerful and clearly-written!

    Like

  4. I am a white Brit. I am listening, I am learning, I am so aware that I get to live in a world that has allowed me to just see my own dominant point of view for the bulk of my life. I also know so many white people who find this incredibly challenging – to just listen and not to to impose our own narrative onto things.

    This is a powerful articulation of a story that needs to be told and heard in equal measure.

    Like

  5. Thank you, Chastity, for this enlightening post. I always learn so much from your posts and I so appreciate your writing and sharing them. I love that you include photos of you and your family. It was very poignant and meaningful reading this post and then seeing all of you.

    Like

    • Thanks so much Carolyn!
      That’s exactly why I chose them! I represent so much more than myself!! My community is what motivates me to write, speak, and yell to the top of my lungs!

      Like

  6. Thanks for this awesome piece. I appreciate the topic and it’s too sadly relevant. I have an African-American friend who didn’t tell her son about slavery growing up. He told me he learned about it later in school and was completely shocked. I understand that she wanted to preserve his self-esteem. But I’m curious about what you think about this. Myself, I recognize my family owes its midd-class advantages due to enslaved people. I grieve that I cannot find their ancestors although I have 3 first names.
    Reparations are still due. Personally and universally.
    This journey is far from over.
    As an abolitionist, anti-racist I take my direction from you and your colleagues.
    Many thanks for this missive.

    Like

  7. Beginning as a young boy watching the original release of the 1977 TV miniseries ‘Roots’, I can recall how bewildered I’d always get just by the concept of Black people being brutalized and told they were not welcome — while they, as a people, had been violently forced here from their African home as slaves! And, as a people, there has been no “reparations” or real refuge here for them, since. In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the narrator notes that, like the South, the Civil War era northern states also hated Black people but happened to hate slavery more.

    As an international news consumer since the late-1980s, I have found in this often callous/cruel world that a very large number of people, however precious their souls, can be considered disposable to a nation. And when the young children of those people take notice of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin perceiving themselves as worthless. When I say this, I have in mind Black Americans (and Canadians, though perhaps to a lesser degree). However, while their devaluation as human beings is basically based on their race, it reminds me of the devaluation, albeit perhaps subconsciously, of the daily civilian lives lost (a.k.a. “casualties”) in protractedly devastating war zones and sieges. At some point, they can end up receiving just a couple column inches in the First World’s daily news.

    Like

  8. Yes, Yes, and Yes! Thank you for your voice, Chasity!
    We have a long way to go in healing our wounds and confronting our past. Every conversation like this inches us forward. #NeverForget

    Like

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