I am so thankful that Temi has done this interview series with me. I admire her for how much she has overcome and accomplished.
This is part 4 of my interview with Temi of christianmommas.com. In Part 1 she shared about experiencing discrimination. In Part 2 she shared about hardships as an international student. In Part 3 she shared about what inspired her to write her wonderful book A Christian Mother’s Creed. Today she shares about intergenerational effect of slavery and racism.
Please explain generational effect of slavery and racism. Do you have concerns for your children?
There is a video below summarizing the content of this post. You may watch the video or simply read this post.
Do I have concerns for my children?
I do not have concerns about my children experiencing racism because I have handed this concern over to God and I make a conscious effort to meditate on the things that can go well with my children, not what can go wrong for them. Meditating on what can go wrong triggers fear.
I do not expect my children to feel the effects of slavery because my ancestors did not experience slavery. In fact, my grandfather was a prince. Humanly speaking, I am from a royal family. More importantly the Bible reminds me of my royalty as a child of God. This is what I am transmitting to my children. If Christian parents understand their royal identity, I believe they will also be empowered to help their children think and act like royalties.
Get Over It!
I will confess that I used to wonder why African-Americans cannot get over racism and slavery. I used to say things have changed and slavery is a thing of the past. I used to wonder why African-Americans could not stop worrying and expressing concerns about racism. I immigrated to the United States believing it is the land of opportunities especially for those who are citizens. It was irritating to find some citizens complaining. My American dream was to become an American citizen, I achieved it and started enjoying the benefits. So I expected African Americans to get over it, quit talking about slavery and racism as barriers.
Slavery and Racism are Traumatic Experiences
As a perinatal, infant, and early childhood mental health consultant, I constantly educate myself on things that can interfere with the development of a healthy parent-child relationship. Also, in the course of my doctoral studies, I became more aware of the intergenerational transfer of trauma. One day, it dawned on me that I never thought of slavery and racism as traumatic experiences. Trauma is the reason African-Americans cannot easily “just got over it!”
Just like child abuse, divorce, war, and other traumatic events can affect generations, slavery and racism can affect those who did not directly experience slavery.
According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is any experience that causes significant fear, helplessness, and confusion. They can have long lasting negative effects on attitude, behavior and functioning. (paraphrased)
Slavery is a helpless situation. The ancestors of many African-Americans were forced into slavery. They were helpless and hopeless. Being sold into slavery must have been confusing. Racism also causes confusion. How do you make sense of being treated less than human because of your race or skin color?
The sad thing is that these traumatic experiences can be transferred. Some studies show trauma transmission can go down three generations. While slavery and segregation ended years ago, the effects of these traumatic experiences are still being felt because parents pass trauma to their children. Racism has not ended, so the trauma is still being transmitted.
It was difficult to find several articles on the intergenerational transfer of trauma within the context of slavery and racism. However, I found several articles on the intergenerational transfer of trauma among holocaust survivors and it helped me better understand the intergenerational transfer of trauma.
If Holocaust survivors transmitted their traumatic experiences to their children and grandchildren. African-American slaves also subconsciously transmitted their traumatic experiences down their lineage.
Epigenetics and Psychological Transfer of Trauma
Studies show that trauma can be transmitted genetically. This reminds me of the saying that “it is in the blood”. While scientists are yet to completely figure out how this process occurs, they acknowledge that it exists. Even the Bible acknowledges this fact. The fall of humanity through the fall of Adam and the redemption of humanity through the blood of Jesus are perfect examples.
What about psychological transfer of trauma. As stated earlier traumatic experiences change human behavior, attitude and functioning. The way parents think about life reflects in their words and actions. Children naturally learn from parents as their first teachers. The trauma of racism and slavery can make one fearful and distrustful of those in authority.They can manifest in form of hate, resentment, feeling disadvantaged, feeling misunderstood, slavery mentality, heightened sense of racism and more.
The effects are endless and their manifestation often depend on how those who directly experienced these traumatic events dealt with their experience. Traumatic experiences impact how parents raise their children and many times, they teach their children to deal with life the same way they dealt with trauma.
So, I have presented some problems. I have provided evidences that racism and slavery have intergenerational effects parents need to be aware of.
As a perinatal, infant, and early childhood consultant, I am actively involved in breaking the cycle of intergenerational transfer of trauma. Whether it be slavery, racism, child abuse, divorce, etc. Through postpartum support, emotional and spiritual preparation for parenthood, my company helps parents reflect on things that can interfere with the parent-child relationship. We help them become aware of subconscious and inherited child rearing practices that can affect the healthy development of their children.
Please visit littleonespiecmh.com to learn how we can support your parenting journey and put an end to the intergenerational transfer of trauma.
Our children deserve the best of us. They deserve to live a trauma-free life. African-American parents deserve the opportunity to raise their children without fear of racism.
Thank you for your time.
John 8:36 (KJV)
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Lev–Wiesel, R. (2016;2007;). Intergenerational transmission of trauma across three generations: A preliminary study. Qualitative Social Work : QSW : Research and Practice, 6(1), 75-94. doi:10.1177/1473325007074167
Yehuda, R., & Lehrner, A. (2018). Intergenerational transmission of trauma effects: Putative role of epigenetic mechanisms. World Psychiatry, 17(3), 243-257. doi:10.1002/wps.20568
Denov, M., Fennig, M., Rabiau, M. A., & Shevell, M. C. (2019). Intergenerational resilience in families affected by war, displacement, and migration: “It runs in the family”. Journal of Family Social Work, 22(1), 17-45. doi:10.1080/10522158.2019.1546810