Psychic costs

In order to protect people who might not want their names to appear in my blog, I’ve excised the name here, but the following was written by a scholar and academic to a slavery listserv frequented by scholars. My comments follow.
The discussion of losses is very interesting, but I want to only point out that
the psychological trauma for all three groups, African Slaves, Native Americans,
and White Planters have been the most costly and the most difficult to correct.
It is unfortunate, for example, that America seems to perceive of itself as
above a Truth and Reconciliation exercise, which would do much in healing the
festering wounds that effect all groups negatively. The greatest loss for
everyone has been a loss of self-respect. This has contributed to continuing
racism, victimism, guilt, and feelings of displacement and loss. The high
proportion of depression and psychological disorders in our society can
partially be attributed to the disjuncture between our historical realities, our
inability to face these realities, and trying to live in a society that attempts
to ignore those histories, for all concerned, including the decendents of white
planters and Native Americans. The adroit emotional leaps we have to make on a
daily basis in order not to confront this unfinished business may cause
situations that could yet be more costly than anything we have imagined so far.

I am not a scholar and so seldom contribute to the listserv, but I couldn’t help but notice your post on the psychic trauma produced by losses. I had just this week explained to a friend how I found the American exceptionalism idea to extend to the very wiping out of our colonial past. It was when I was teaching Spanish and going over the history of Latin-America that I noticed the similarities between our society and theirs and thought, “Of course, we all were founded as colonies and as slave societies.” Only recently has the stranglehold of Southern White scholars from Virginia been broken when they could not cope with the blow to Jefferson’s reputation by the Sally Hemmings story.(my interpretation of events around DNA testing and Gordon-Reed’s work).
My point in writing to you is that I am not aware of anyone besides you who looks directly at the link between pathology in both White and Black communities (and Native American, as you point out) and the decisions people had to make during slavery and its aftermath. My wife’s great-grandfather was a slave for many years and the pastor that influenced her life so much had a father who had been a slave for 25 years. A close friend of my wife broke down in tears one day, saying she had always been so ashamed b/c she knew her own grandfather had owned slaves. So if she was carrying that around in such a personal way, your suggestion that the formation of personal interaction and psychic development was stongly affected by the dynamics of a slave society offers an underlying bedrock for such formation.
If no one else has made this connection so directly, I would hope you continue along this line in your work.
Pat Barrett

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