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 Posted August 27, 2012

Blacks, Stress, and Mental Issues*

By Jay Thomas Willis

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway

I remember taking a course in college called Introduction to Psychology-101. The professor made the comment, “Mental pathology is directly proportional to the amount of stress, though it usually has a genetic component.” But what causes one person’s mental problems may not be sufficient to cause problems in another. Individuals vary in their vulnerability to mental breakdown. Stress also builds up over a period of time.

            If stress is allowed to build in any system it will eventually cause the system to breakdown. One can be doing fine and making progress, and all of a sudden have a breakdown. It’s because this stress has finally caused the breaking point. Stress can accumulate in such a manner that Blacks can experience mental problems any place in their development, anywhere, and anytime.

            With respect to Blacks, we have been collectively accumulating this stress in our conscious and genetic systems over the many years. It has been said that the stress that Blacks experienced over the years, that has become part of their collective conscious and genetic memories, causes many of them to breakdown at some point. They have experienced so much stress over the generations in a collective fashion that the stress builds over the generations.

            From the time the first groups came to the shores of Africa we have experienced trauma and devastation enough to cause us stress at any point in our lives. This stress is sufficient to at some point cause many of us to breakdown psychologically. This stress began in Africa over 3,000 years ago and has continued to be part of our lives. Some of us are more vulnerable to this stress than others.

            When other groups invaded Africa, they took control of the various institutions and began to dismantle them. African social organizations were restructured by these groups. They were successful at instigating infighting among the various tribes, before long they had control over the land, and held much of the power. Commodity exchange and materialism now became attractive incentives for Africans to kill and help capture other Africans. While the tribes were fighting each other, these groups took total control of the people and their resources. When these groups took control they instituted their own values. A new standard was set for the Africans.

            This caused a breakdown in the African social, economic, political and marital institutions. After confiscating the natural resources, manipulating the men and women, replacing the African God, and inflicting a severe blow to the language and culture, Africans were left with nothing to sustain themselves and their culture. This experience left us devastated. We were totally confused, chaotic, and disorganized; and made it possible for the slave trade to meet with little resistance. This experience let us devastated.

            During the Middle Passage Africans were marched in chains across miles of difficult terrain after being apprehended somewhere in West Africa.  We were delivered at gunpoint to waiting slave ships. Many of them died en route to the coast while trying to resist their enslavers, some died during the initial stage of the these voyages, and others died reaching the Americas. There were reportedly no accurate figures of how many Africans actually died during the Middle Passage.

            We were packed in the holds of ships like animals going to the market, chained and stacked three and four abreast on iron cots with little air, water, food or appropriate clothing. The heat was overwhelming, and some slaves died of suffocation while remaining chained to those yet living. The living had to lie in the excrements of the dead. Diseases were often fatal. Those who lived through these experiences passed on the memories to future generations. All this became part of their genetic memories.

            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. Personal choice was nonexistent; there was no protection under the law. All of this was sanctioned by religious, judicial, and military powers. In order to develop an effective slave system, the self-image, self-concept, as well as the family structure was destroyed. Men could not be fathers to their children, nor protectors of their spouses. They were used as studs and mainly kept on the move from plantation to plantation.

            This treatment caused 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. The experience caused further breakdown in African-American culture. This experience impaired us psychologically, socially, economically, politically, and educationally; and built up a collective amount of stress in our conscious and genetic memories.

            The shadow of slavery is still casting a reflection over this land, affecting the daily lives of most African-Americans. The Black family has not completely recovered because many factors and behaviors from the slavery experienced continue today. Economic exploitation, racial oppression, political domination, and disfranchisement are still ever present realities in the African-American’s experience.

            African-Americans have been and continue to be affected by their history. This has to do with the build up of stress collectively over the generations. By having to work harder than other groups just to survive, it only increases the amount of stress and promote further breakdown.

            Our past history was enough to impact our genetic memories for many years to come. Also, the fact that we as a people are currently under a great deal of stress only adds to our problems. This affects us in such a way that some of us might experience problems at any time, no matter where we are in time, or what we have accomplished.


*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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