Does black psychology today need to be focused on slavery?

Why would different people need different therapy?

Psychology is the study of the mind. Black psychology is the study of the minds of black people in the same way that child psychology is the study of the minds of children. A few of the questions that anyone who wants to understand black people in America might ask are these:

  • How are black people different?
  • What do they feel or need more or less than whites, Asians, Latinos?  
  • How did a family history of slavery alter their emotions, self esteem, relationships and instincts?
  • How has being treated differently in the US shaped their (our) ability to experience success, happiness, and safety?

The elephant in the room

This is the “elephant in the room”, and especially in the therapy room, when we look at black life in America.  How is it possible to heal completely from one wound, when you’re getting a thousand tiny cuts at the same time? – and those tiny cuts aren’t being treated or protected against? 

The past, its tail – the future, its trunk

Black psychology today has the task of  identifying how the above questions should be answered.  Along with that, black psychology today must incorporate the added dimension of addressing the unidentified and usually unspoken vestiges of the past, of slavery and the African Holocaust. Could you imagine working with refugees without addressing their experiences? Or working with a jewish teen without determining how the Jewish  Holocaust affected their parents and grandparents? In mental health as has been documented in other medical care, this may be another example of black people not getting equal care.

So, in order to go forward, we, as a people, need to go backward and recognize not just the devastation that our forefathers suffered, but the true heritage, innate resilience, creativity that our ancestors passed on to us.

We wonder, don’t we, how much we know instinctively from the enslavement of our ancestors over a century ago? We are influenced by what our parents tell us, how they caution us and how they did or didn’t prepare us for life in a society where color impacts how people think about us- and treat us. Our mothers tell us what their grandparents told them, passing on much of that wisdom from one generation to the next. Surely, the parents & substitute mothers of our mothers’ grandmothers did the same, carrying the words of our ancestors. After years of doing therapy, we question what  portion of instinctive knowledge is genetic and what is learned.

Films like 12 Years a Slave,  Django Unchained and Roots provide pictures to which we might attach feelings. Were the feelings there already? Where did they come from? What is attributable to some genetic memory and what to instinct? And what to some other dimension of our connection to God that we may not be consciously aware of?

When a parent says, “You have lost your mind”, what are they really referring to? When a therapist asks what’s bothering you, it’s okay to talk about racism without being fearful of being thought paranoid. Once you identify it, you can understand it and then reduce its effects and take ownership of the life and full destiny that the Creator brought you here for!

Find a black therapist, black counselor or African American psychologist near you