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There is a strange paradox to the coming of spring in communities like North Lawndale. Everyone looks forward to warmer weather, the trees, bushes, and flowers blooming with new life. Yet, they also know that warmer weather brings more people outside and, unfortunately, more possibilities for conflict, shooting, and death. It is the sad reality of many poor communities where poverty and trauma raise levels of anxiety and depression.
The gun industry and the NRA have managed to convince everyone that they need a gun to protect themselves from others who have guns. It is also where the gun industry has managed to provide as many, if not more, illegal guns as legal guns with tacit support from powers outside of the community who benefit directly from sales or eventually from the fallout of a deteriorating community and the profit of regentrifying.
Over the last few years, there has been a big focus on Black-on-Black crime, seeking to cast the Black community as more barbaric and prone to violence. In reality, U.S. Department of Justice statistics show white-on-white crime is equally as prevalent as Black-on-Black crime. Yet, the harsh reality of violence in poor Black communities must be recognized as the result of years of historical, generational, and systemic trauma inflicted on Black bodies.
The many levels of trauma Black bodies, Black minds, and Black spirits endure raises the likelihood that some form of verbal, physical, or sexual violence will inevitably occur unless that trauma is appropriately grieved and healed from.
I recently read a fascinating and insightful book by Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LCSW, SEP, titled “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies.” In his book, Menakem discusses the forces of historical, generational, situational, and racial trauma.
He distinguishes between body trauma in Black and white individuals and police officers. Menakem addresses each one in its unique historical, generational, and situational manifestations within the very fabric/DNA of the body.
He highlights ways for each group to acknowledge, address and heal the trauma that our bodies, minds, and spirits have incorporated within us, like cancer that infects our whole being. This cancer can be cured!
In particular to police body trauma, Menakem explains a number of forces that affect police officers. Besides their generational trauma, police regularly “witness other people’s trauma and tragedy and, as a result, experience their own secondary trauma. Most law enforcement officers are not trained in how to discharge the excess energy that remains in their bodies after a traumatic event.”
In Black neighborhoods especially, residents have repeatedly traumatized bodies confronting constantly traumatized bodies, complicated with an us-versus-them dynamic rooted in generations of systemic and individual racism and a policing system that is less and less about protecting, serving, and keeping the peace.
Menakem says that all of this is based on racism, “but, in many cases, it is not cognitive. It’s reflexive and reptilian. To many police bodies, even many Black ones, African Americans are foreign bodies that need to be corralled, controlled, damaged or destroyed.”
As a pastor rooted in an incarnational faith where we believe God gave us His Son to embrace and bless humanity in body, mind, and spirit, it is essential to embrace and promote a holistic approach to faith and a faith community. We must be concerned about everyone who God loves — body, mind, and spirit — so we need to make sure we are talking about the forces that threaten this ‘holy trinity of the human person.’
We also need to be offering counsel, compassion, compassionate challenge, and resources to our congregations and those who live in our community to acknowledge and heal from the many levels and forces of trauma that all too often ravage our minds, spirits, and bodies. In the Christian tradition, this includes EVERYBODY, EVERY MIND, EVERY SPIRIT, what we call collectively the Body of Christ.
Opinion by Father Larry Dowling
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Featured and Top Image by Keenan Beasley Courtesy of Unsplash – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Jason Swaby’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image by Tim Mossholder Courtesy of Unsplash – Creative Commons License