Cynthia's Interests

The world as it unfolds - told from an African American woman's perspective...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Slavery's Legacy - Part II

In the past few decades, there has been an increase in same sex relationships in the black community that wasn’t there in the past, at least not to the degree it is observed now. And, Atlanta has become known as the black gay Mecca of the U.S. The justification for this post is to explore at least two reasons for this phenomenon. One hypothesis has its roots in slavery, the trauma that was experienced by our ancestors were past onto future generations (effects of intergenerational trauma), while the other has its roots in modern times, the increase in hormones in the food is thought to be feminizing men and masculinzing women. In order to understand the premise behind both arguments, each topic will be discussed separately although I think the latter hypothesis is related to some extent to the former.

Slavery and the effects thereof is a topic that is a tough subject (too many painful memories) for many people to talk about in America (black or white), at least in a truthful and meaningful manner. African people were shackled wrist-to-wrist, ankle-to-ankle, and stuffed in the bottom of a ship for up to four months in thick intense heat. On the four-month voyage, the smell of feces, blood, urine, and death rendered the air too foul to breathe. Yellow fever and smallpox spread rapidly. And that was only the beginning of the plight of our ancestors.

It is a well-established fact that white slave masters routinely and systematically raped black women , and there are many references to this on the Internet. However, what is not well known are the rapes of black men, boys, and young girls. This information is hidden, yet many know that it occurred. The movie Goodbye Uncle Tom, (English and Italian versions) is based upon historical accounts of what really happened during slavery and unapologetically talks about the brutal rape of women, girls, boys, and men. One of the reviewers said this movie makes Roots look like an episode of the Jeffersons. Perpetrators are still using rape as a tool to exert control over their victims. And homosexual rapes of black men by the slave masters were no difference, a tool to control, humiliate and to make them become docile by challenging their masculinity. They would routinely chain black men, strip them, and rape them repeatedly in public while people watched and cheered. A natural outcome from this forced dehumanizing act was shame, docility towards the slave master and oftentimes hostility towards the black female and the perpetuation of the dehumanizing acts upon the children. Since children emulate parents, we were in essence stuck in a perpetual loop of depravity forced upon us by outsiders.

This type of sex was strange to our African ancestors. Although homosexuality exist today in Africa and there is a debate as to when it was started, it is outlawed for men in at least 29 countries and for women it is outlawed in 20 countries, which suggests this practiced is not indigenous to Africa or Africans. From all the research that has been done by Dr. Patricia Newton and other African scholars - prior to slavery, Africans didn't engaged in these types of relationships since they are an abomination. Therefore, some people believe that what is seen in the African American community is a learned experience, a backlash so to speak of slavery, a behavior that was simply emulated from the European or American slave masters. These violent acts against black people also suggest that homosexuality was entrenched into the psyche of the captors. Unfortunately, these same dehumanizing acts are occurring in the Sudan to Black Africans men and boys by Arab and now African Muslims.

Before I explain the premise behind this theory - Post Traumatic Slave Disorder (PTSD), it would help to see a list of things people experience under extreme trauma, which African Americans have experienced for over two and a half centuries and some can argue rightfully so that the trauma is ongoing, and can be seen in the high incarceration rate of blacks compared to their white counterparts and the poor health of blacks compared to whites.

- A serious threat or harm to one's life or physical integrity
- A threat or harm to one's children, spouse, or close relative
- Sudden destruction of one's home or community
-Seeing another person injured or killed as a result of an accident or physical violence
-Learning about a serious threat to a relative or a close friend kidnapped, tortured, or killed
-Experiencing intense fear, terror, and helplessness
-The stressor and disorder is considered more serious and will last longer when the stressor is of human design

According to Dr. Bruce H. Lipton, the environment that you live in will determine which biological mechanisms that will be expressed. His hypothesis is this, since the human genome project uncovered approximately 34,000 genes, this suggests that our genes do not control who or what we are, but, we are a direct result of which proteins are expressed based upon the external forces that are predominant in our particular environment. These environmental signals then provide the necessary cue for the regulatory proteins (epigenetic control) to stop protecting the DNA and allow a specific gene to be transcribed into RNA and then that RNA is translated into the behavior element (the protein) based on the environmental stimulus that is needed. For instance, if a person is traumatized, they will express proteins that allow them to have the skills that are necessary to protect themselves' similar to the flight or fight response. Once this mechanism is in place, it is in place at the expense of other stimuli that are necessary for the growth and reproduction stage. This flight or fight response prevents the proper development of the brain. Therefore, if we are in the protection mode because of trauma, your system is closed to any type of growth and development forcing you to deal with only the rudimentary levels of existence. The premise is this, you will be unable to adequately deal with higher order thinking, reasoning, and spirituality, and the outcome is those traumatized individuals are fixated on satisfying or cultivating their carnal or lower order desires. It is interesting to note, this type of stress and trauma will prevent the body from replacing much needed nutrients giving rise to a weakened immune system and a host of other physical and developmental problems.

Researchers like Allan N. Schore and others corroborate this claim. These researchers believe the earlier the trauma occurs in an individual, the damage to the brain is more severe. Because of this, people are unable to parent effectively, which give rise to a propensity for the learned behavior of the traumatized victim to past onto the next generation the act that was traumatizing. Many scientists believe that prior to ovulation - genomic imprinting occurs and the brain of the growing fetus is affected by the attitudes of the parents. If you are in a perpetual traumatized and stressful mode, it will result in an offspring with a less developed (smaller) brain and a more muscular (developed) body than an offspring in a less stressful and traumatized situation. In addition, the traumatized animal/individual passes any undesirable behaviors they experience throughout their lifetime to their offspring. In others words, that old saying, be careful what you say and do because your children will mimic your behavior (good or bad) has been proven a scientific fact.

It is against this backdrop that Dr Patricia Newton's research has led her to postulate that the increase in homosexuality in the African American community is a direct result of the physical manifestations of slavery, which caused severe psychological damage to the psyche of the African mind in America. This learned behavior has manifested itself in an increase in sexual abuse of children in the African American population. Her research has shown that 7 out of 10 men she studied in Baltimore have been sexually abused while 8.9 out of 10 women have been sexually abused. If we extrapolate her data to the wider African American population, then it is plausible that the increase in homosexuality in the African American population is a direct result of the effects of PTSD (intergenerational trauma that is still being passed on).

Although I think this theory may explain why homosexuality exist in our community, I’m not convinced this is the only reason for the increase, which leads me to believe there are other external factors that are acting upon our bodies to produce a desired outcome, which will be discussed at a later date.


1. Black people are suffering from PTSD.

2. Our development may be stunted due to the effects of the trauma lingering from slavery.

3. It appears many African American men and women are sexually traumatizing their children.

4. We need to come out of denial and disbelief.

5. We need psychological healing from the trauma.

6. There may be other environmental factors responsible for the increase in same sex relationships in the African American community.

7. If Atlanta is considered the Black Gay Mecca and Baltimore has this many people who were sexually abused, you really have to wonder what is going on in Atlanta.

8. If there is an increase in AIDS in the African American community, it is highly possible that stress and trauma are causing our body to react to environmental factors/cues that are affecting negatively on our immune system that are independent of HIV and the negative effects are reversible if the trauma or stress no longer exists.

9. If there is an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African American population because of bi-sexual men, then the same increase should be seen in the white American population because bi-sexuality originated in that population.

10. The Africans that stepped on that boat are not the same Africans that stepped off that boat.

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