Health & Wellness: The Burden of our Blackness and our Role in the Pain.
As a life coach, I have the privilege of being part of a worldwide community of health and wellness practitioners. However, one can’t help noticing how overwhelmingly White the popular speakers and national experts are for healing, wellness and joy.
While one would clearly be wrong, it’s easy to wonder if health and wellness in this country is a ‘White thing.’ The fact is, I know from both observation and experience, how much Black folks are in desperate need of effective healing and sustainable joy, wellness and health, individually and collectively. I also know that Black people possess an enormously deep and amazingly powerful well of resources for the capacity to be and support healing, for themselves and for each other.
So, why the disconnect between our pain and our healing? I believe the disconnect lies in ‘the burden of our Blackness.’
‘The burden of our Blackness’ refers to both the negative interactions that occur between and among Black people (the negative ways in which we do ourselves and each other) AND our silence on these experiences. It is the pain we inflict upon one another in our personal and professional lives, which we rarely discuss; and, too often suffer in isolation and silence.
Any cursory review of so-called ‘reality shows,’ celebrities’ lives, our workplaces, churches, communities, families and ourselves easily confirms: Black people are in tremendous pain — pain we hold on to; pain we won’t or don’t know how to let go of; pain we allow to define us and chart our living; pain we won’t admit to, deal with nor resolve; pain we transfer and inflict upon each other; pain we recycle throughout all aspects of our lives, personal and professional; pain that seemingly never ends.
This is true at a time when we attend church at higher rates than any other ethnic group; when we hold college and graduate degrees at higher rates than we have in the past; when we are in positions of organizational and public leadership and power more than ever before and when our representative percentages in the middle and upper classes and among the wealthy are higher than ever before.
Yet, we constantly live with and exhibit this disturbing irony of pain and progress.
At the same time as we live this irony, we do not hesitate to give voice to the myriad issues of pain we may experience at the hands of others. The burden of our Blackness is wedded to the fact that we do not give anywhere near the same energy, space, voice, focus or unrelenting pursuit of justice when the pain we experience is at the hands of those who look like us.
When the truth of how we experience each other is not fully told; when we are unprepared for the reality of who and how we are to and with each other; when the truth of the pain Black people inflict upon each other in the workplace and in our personal lives serves as more of an obstacle to our success and advancement than anything we experience from discrimination or racism AND when the reality of this fact is not allowed the recognition of the space it occupies in our lives, this is the burden of our blackness.
As the saying goes ‘hurt people, hurt people.’ And, the professional and personal violence we inflict upon each other is the result of nothing more than unhealed pain. Acknowledging the burden of our blackness is an opportunity for us to open up a much needed dialogue with each other to create honest and safe spaces for us to give voice to and tell-truth about how we experience each other; the truth required to address our tremendous pain and to use the resources of our community, which we apply so effectively when the source of our pain is external to ourselves, to bring the desperately needed healing to the pain we suffer when the source of that pain is us.
There is a cry coming through the souls of Black folks, from a very deep part of our collective being, just begging for us to STOP the unspeakable things we do and say to each other so that we can start healing. It’s time to look at ourselves, to acknowledge the pain we carry and inflict upon one another and to do something about THAT! Through healing our own pain we can effectively, and in love, hold each other accountable to the ideals we give voice to so strongly so that we can be walking, talking examples of healed spirits going out into the world being healing presences for ourselves and others.
It is time for us to focus our energies and intentions on our own healing; to resolve the ironies and hypocrisies in the ways in which we live and treat each other; to commit to a collective healing that will achieve the real, sustainable health, wellness and joy that we deserve; and to transform the burden of our blackness into a healing presence of blackness that will take its place and have a transformative impact on ourselves, each other and the world.
It is time for our blackness to no longer be our burden.