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Programmed Self-and-Other-Destruction in the African-American Family*

By Jay Thomas Willis

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway

(August 4, 2012)

Most of the well-known past and present problems of the African-American family originate from its having been assaulted—physically and mentally for over 3,000 years. This war upon Africans and their culture has brought about the phenomenon called programmed self- and other-destruction. This syndrome is manifested by the fact no matter what individuals may achieve educationally, economically, psychologically, socially, or politically, they are predisposed to act at some point, sooner or later in a manner that is destructive to themselves or others. Few escape this detrimental process, and only to a variable extent.

            Blacks were unconsciously programmed from their first contact with other groups to become destructive to themselves and others. They have continued to be programmed on a daily basis to manifest this self- and other-destructiveness. After having been programmed for self- and other-destruction, many African-Americans will either seek to destroy themselves, seek out a relationship with someone who is likely to injure them, or find a specific vice that will ultimately prove harmful.

            We also must realize that this self- and other-destructive behavior can be manifested in many different ways. For example, suicide, drug abuse, homicide, destructive relationships, violence, ethical-professional problems, gambling, perverse-sexual behaviors, and a variety of other-destructive behaviors, are just a few of the many ways in which these behaviors can be demonstrated. In many cases, these behaviors can occur separately or simultaneously for any one individual.

            The African-American story represents one of the greatest survival stories of earth’s history. For them to experience the cruelty, brutality, and wickedness they encountered, and survive the experience with any amount of collective or individual sanity is a near-miracle. However, that survival experience did not occur without its consequences. In fact, there were many long-lasting consequences which continue to affect African-Americans today.

            This self- and other-destructive programming began in Africa after the arrival of other groups. When other groups invaded Africa they took control of the various institutions and began to dismantle them. African social organizations were restructured by other groups. Africans were invaded many times, each time the invaders left the society worse off than it was previously. Other groups came to pilfer and destroy, having no respect for African culture. Once family and tribal structure became weakened, and after long periods of physical and mental abuse, Africans were automatically programmed for this destructive process.

            During the Middle Passage Africans were marched in chains across miles of difficult terrain after being apprehended somewhere in West Africa. Men, women and children were placed in chains and delivered at gunpoint to waiting slave ships. Many died en route to the coast while trying to resist their enslaver; some died during the initial stage of the voyage, and others died after reaching the Americas. They were packed in the hulls of ships like animals going to market, chained and stacked three and four abreast on iron cots with little air, water, food, or appropriate clothing. The treatment during the Middle Passage only added to the self- and other-destructive process that we are witnessing today.

            Slavery was a cruel, harsh, and devastating process. The experience of pain, cruelty, and deprivation was rampant. There was oppression of the spirit, loss of hope, loss of self-respect, and loss of dignity experienced by the slaves. Personal choice was nonexistent; there was no protection under the law. All this was sanction by religious, judicial and military powers. In order to develop an effective slave system, the self-image, self-concept, as well as family structure had to be destroyed. The family structure was weak, marriages were illegal, and there were no laws to protect the sanctity of slave relationships. Treatment during slavery programmed the African-American to have low self-esteem, to feel dehumanized, and to be dependent. This system disconnected the slaves from their culture and their heritage. This situation furthered the self- and other-destructive syndrome.

            After slavery, the shadow of slavery continued to cast a reflection over the land, affecting the daily lives of all African-Americans. Economic exploitation, racial oppression, political domination, and disfranchisement are still ever present realities in the African-American’s experience. Since the so-called demise of slavery, the African-American’s experience has been filled with many dilemmas. Only now are we beginning to sense the burden placed on African-American children by a nation which does not want them to grow into mature men and women.

            There are examples of this syndrome too numerous to mention. But a few noted ones are Mike Tyson, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Marion Barry, Michael Jackson, Wilt Chamberlain, Max Robinson, etc. If this syndrome affects individuals who apparently have everything going for them, imagine how it affects those at or near the bottom of the class structure.

            To rid ourselves of this programming we must admit that we’ve been programmed, understand history, get control of our institutions, and develop a concept of unity.

            Each day we see evidence of how our families, communities, and institutions are deteriorating. This is because the African-American community is at war, and it won’t get better simply by doing nothing. The time for action is now! Each family member must be responsible for deprogramming his or herself. Contrary to popular opinion, things have not improved a great deal for the masses of African-Americans

            A large percentage of our families are presently experiencing very serious difficulties, similar to those experienced during the first invasion of Egypt centuries ago. Things have improved for a few individuals, but the system is designed that way.

            We must ensure that the overwhelming majority of our families are strong for the twenty-first century. Without a strong and viable family, we cannot expect to have well-functioning individuals. Without well-functioning individuals, we cannot expect to have strong and viable families.


*The above is on the Black Paper lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE. Mr. Willis is the author of twenty-three books, fifteen professional journal articles, a number of magazine articles, and over 300 newspaper articles. His books can be reviewed at www.jaythomaswillis.com .  Email him at jaytwillis@gmail.com  or MSTnews@prodigy.net or BlackInfoHwy@prodigy.net . Also, travel on the Jay Thomas Willis lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE at www.blackinformationhighway.com . Black Papers are presented as thinking pieces and studies to stimulate dialogue and; therefore, do not necessarily reflect any editorial stand of the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune. Welcome, Travelers!






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