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Bay State Banner
Thursday, November 21, 2002

  "Add to that what they’ve done to us since 
   slavery, and it’s a wonder we’ve survived."

What do you think of the idea that the effects
 of slavery still plague African Americans?

That’s the way it is. That’s the way the white man wants it to be.
                  Aretha, Dorchester
I know a lot of people who say it doesn’t and shouldn’t,
 but to a certain degree it does still affect us.
                        DeHaven Allen, Hyde Park

I don’t think it affects all of us, but it does affect some people.
               Tay, Dorchester

Just look at society. Look at the way Boston is. To me  it’s a game.
They’re shifting us out of Roxbury and  moving whites back in.
                  David, Dorchester

We’ve never had counseling. If someone is raped, they need counseling.
But we just learned to cope.  It’s something we’ve just had to struggle with.
               Isa, Roxbury

I think it does. White people get better jobs and better pay
than we do, even if they don’t have the same education.
                         Lauren Diop, South End

Post-Slavery Syndrome

Editorial, Banner Staff, 11/21/2002

Few would refute the assertion that socio-economic conditions for African Americans are less than ideal. In 2000 there were 22.1 percent of blacks living below the poverty level compared to only 9.4 percent of whites. In that year 572,900 black males were in prison, 60 percent of the total black and white male population.

If good home training is essential for progress the future looks bleak. In 1999 only 37.6 percent of black children under the age of 18 lived in two parent homes. A much higher percentage of white children, 75.3 percent, were raised with both parents. That is not to suggest that a child living with a single parent or someone else is doomed to failure, but clearly life is much more difficult.

Two Roxbury social workers, Sekou Mims and Larry Higginbottom, and a psychologist Omar Reid are writing a book in which they describe “post-traumatic slavery disorder” as the psychological syndrome responsible for the broken families, crime, drug abuse and low academic achievement common in some segments of the black community. Perhaps the general interest in reparations for slavery has induced them to look so far back for the cause of the present malaise among blacks.

One could argue quite persuasively that the post slavery period in America was even more psychologically damaging. Life under slavery was horrendous, but blacks survived with dreams of imminent freedom. With emancipation their dreams became a nightmare. Slaves were simply turned out with no possessions, no funds, and no way to earn a living. Freed slaves became the victims of bigots who were free to oppress them without fear of interference from law enforcement. Blacks with the temerity to object were often lynched.

Life for blacks was brutal and short. A black man born in 1900 had a life expectancy of only 32.5 years. By 1950 the life expectancy for a black man reached only 59.1 years, not old enough to benefit from Social Security. Those old enough to remember life before 1964 are aware of the rank racial discrimination which hindered professional advancement for even the most talented blacks. Racial oppression was so great that it absolved any black from personal responsibility for failure.

Now that there is a substantial measure of opportunity, perhaps the deviant behavior that the authors have observed is the result of a fear of failure. Many do not know how to succeed, but since others have survived racial discrimination and achieved their professional goals, that is evidence it can be done. Much of the psychological depression blacks suffer is the result of the horrendous treatment in America in the 137 years since the end of slavery.

Kudos to Benjamin