Are black people in American suffering from a collective unrecognized and untreated mental disease caused by slavery, reinforced by Jim Crow and perpetuated by institutionalized racism?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
After years of continuous war, most of us are familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this reaction is changed or damaged. PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
During a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from August 23 to 28, 1973, while their captors negotiated with police. During this standoff, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, rejected assistance from government officials at one point, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal.
This phenomenon has come to be known as Stockholm syndrome, a psychological disorder in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. A similar psychological trait may lie behind battered-wife syndrome, military basic training and fraternity hazing.
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome
Sister Souljah's intro to her 1995 recording, "Final Solution: Slavery Back in Effect", which imagines a police state where blacks fight the re-institution of slavery, stated:
If your white great-great grandfather
KILLED my great-great grandfather
And your white great grandfather
SOLD my great grandfather
And your white grandfather
RAPED my grandmother
And your father stole, cheated, lied and ROBBED my father
What kind of fool would I have to be to say,
“Come, my friend!” to the white daughter and son?
What happens to a group of people when they have been subjected to more than two centuries of slavery, another century of slavery by another name, and then a half century of institutional prejudice and oppression?
Dr. Joy de Gruy Leary makes a compelling argument, which is roughly a connection between PTSD and Stockholm Syndrome to explain some behaviors of Black Americans who have suffered almost 400 years of trauma under slavery, Jim Crow, systemic racism and negative media imagery.