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Grief In African American Slaves

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Many beneficial beliefs and practices for the mental and spiritual health of Africans in Africa have the opposite effect when used by Black people dominated by a European society. To illustrate, on the one hand, in their efforts to live a Ma'at life (spreading Love unconditionally) Ancient Africans believed living require a struggle (e.g. grief, sorrow, and suffering) to gain correct living experiences serving to guide them to their ultimate liberation in heaven. On the other hand, experiences of free Africans in Africa being captured by fellow Africans and then rapidly going through one terrible ordeal after another prompted every conceivable negative mindset. There were the deepest of bad emotions, hopelessness, despair, and Grief stemming from walking hundreds of miles from the point of capture to the barraccoons (Slave holding prisons); from the final walk off the Mother Land onto the ships taking them to some God-forsaken place; from the Middle Passage journey over 6 to 12 weeks when packed together like sardines in a can; from being "Seasoned" (cruelly having their spirit beaten out of them). Then family members were split up on the auction block and each was inhumanely treated by evil and sadistic Europeans on plantations. To philosophically cope with these mental devastations and their "forever hopelessness" a tremendous number of Slaves adopted a new attitude version of "It's my fate!" Instead of having the African belief of their "trials and tribulations" being a purifying process necessary to reach the "heaven Afterlife," concepts inside the Slaves' belief of "It's my fate!" were the result of a grief reaction powered by total hopelessness and despair.

Nevertheless, conceivably the sense of personal tragedy and private misfortune each Slave possessed was further diluted and "globbed" with each new insult. As the heaviest of the mental burdens progressively increased, the entire "glob" was pushed out of awareness and on into the inner recesses of a given Slave's mind. This helped blunt the intensity of a Slave's spiritual and emotional pain. Eventually for many, as a result of unending philosophical and psychic traumas, their pains were converted into numbness of spirit and indifference to living. This process drove a given Slave into the void called Despair--a void which became bottomless when all fear was gone. Since nothing seemed real and nothing the Slaves did was personally purposeful (a sense of "uselessness") there was nothing more to fear. Hence each next insult could be met with phlegmatic indifference. The surrender of their spirit and the will to numbness was in its own way a choice of death (Huggins, Black Odyssey p49). Contributory to this was believing the worst that could happen had already happened--a reason today's struggling Black youth cannot be "scared straight."

During this process physical destruction was going on inside the bodies of the Slaves. The fact of every Slave resorting to the use of their Instinct and Omnibus Brains caused their "Alarm Center" to trigger a surge of norepinephrine and a host of other stress hormones which prepare one for "fight or flight". Because of a constant state of living in horror these temporary increased sympathetic nervous system survival measures became permanent--accounting for hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, and premature death. Furthermore, for the Slaves and their today's descendants who carry the permanent "Alarm Center" mindset constantly undergo a weakening of their immune system, making them less capable of fighting off infection and more susceptible to getting cancer. Prolonged muffled suffering and unexpressed grief greatly complicates these effects (Bailey, Special Minds; Self-Protection Syndrome). Meanwhile, the Negro priest, wrote DuBois, "early became an important figure on the plantation and found his function as the interpreter of the supernatural, the comforter of the sorrowing, and as the one who expressed, rudely, but picturesquely, the longing and disappointment and resentment of a stolen people.


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