How to develop mental resilience and strength to overcome racism by Cornelius Brown

“Hear this! The days are coming – this is the declaration of the Lord GOD – when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east, seeking the word of the LORD, but they will not find it” (Amos 8:11, Holman Standard Bible).

Has there been, perhaps, a famine of ‘hearing of the words of the Lord’ in the 21st century? How else do you explain the following scenario?

‘He has come to set the captive free’ is a phrase that often rolls off the tongues of many a preacher and laity alike. However, social issues are usually off the menu on Sundays, and the psychosocial impact of the daily micro-aggression, down to outright racial assault, has had subliminal lasting damage on the psyche of the average Black Christian. This manifests in different ways. 

A couple of years ago, a middle-class African Christian brother said to me: “When I meet the Lord, the first question I will ask Him is: ‘Why did you create me Black?’”

While some may cringe at the absurdity of this question, the frustration has resulted in someone of this young man’s calibre and intellectual ability coming to the conclusion that his struggles as a Black person are ‘God-made’. It’s important to mention my response to this question. I have no doubt that the ‘Black man’s burden’ is man-made, because the Bible says: ‘God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth’ (Acts 17:26).

IGNORED TRAUMA

The sudden upsurge in the ability of our community to open up about past and present hurts is proof we are harvesting the fruits of ignored trauma. 

Dr Candace Pert, author of ‘Molecules of Emotion’, says: “The emotions that you are able to experience can bring a recollection (memory) to the surface. Feelings that are suppressed, however, can bury that same memory far below your awareness, where it can affect your perception, decision, behaviour and even health unconsciously.”

I am in no doubt that this phenomenon has caused lasting physical and psychological damage.

SUGGESTIONS FOR MANAGING THE IMPACT OF RACISM

• Individually and collectively, we need to become self-aware, and create safe spaces to openly express our feelings. Interestingly for Christians, our safe spaces should be in church.
• Understand that trauma is represented in the brain physically as real estate, and has coloured every aspect of your life negatively.
• Tell your story. Healing begins when you tell your story, which you can write in unedited poetry or prose.
• Reappraise the experience in an attempt to re-script it. This gives the brain the perspective that the event was in the past. (Unfortunately, for the
average Black person, racial profiling, etc, is not a one-off experience.) There are a number of ways to deal with this under professional guidance.
• Be proactive, because as soon as you finish with one intervention, you may be hit with a barrage of other abuses.
• We underestimate the ability that we have in Christ to counter these toxic assaults. The Amplified Bible describes faith in Christ as: ‘The leaning of your entire human personality on Him in absolute trust.’ It goes on further to describe it as: ‘Confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness.’
• Now is the time to make this attribute (of leaning on Him) your Default Mode Network – a neuronal network that stops the fiery darts of the racial attack. 
• Engage in a formal creative activity. “Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life” (Pablo Picasso).

Re-scripting and expressive writing are techniques taught at the Mind Café, and feature now and again in our weekly workshops. These are transferable skills, along with a myriad of other interventions that can be useful in ameliorating our trauma. It’s our time to be healed.

Cornelius Browne is the co-founder of The Mind Café. Email info@mindcafeonline.com for more information.

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