Published April 7, 2016 by sheezacoldpiece

Dr. Joy DeGruy gave this year’s Black History Month keynote presentation, entitled “Post Traumatic Slave Disorder: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.” DeGruy is a renowned researcher and educator who specializes in mental health, using a psychological perspective to analyze race relations in American society. In her presentation, DeGruy addressed the multi-generational impacts of slavery and offered a few suggestions for how to help heal this trauma.
Starting the speech on a humorous note, DeGruy stated that the presentation would be like a “condensed 10-week graduate level course: intense and heavy.” DeGruy gave a broad historical account of slavery and events after abolition in order to explain the deep-rooted context for the development of what she called the “slave syndrome.”
Throughout her presentation, DeGruy used the idea of cognitive dissonance to illustrate how science, religion, politics and law served as a part of the legitimized system of the dehumanization of black people. DeGruy mixed historical facts with contemporary anecdotes in order to illustrate the psychological continuity which exposes what she calls the symptoms of pathology from slavery to the present day.
“You cannot fix what you don’t understand,” DeGruy said, pointing out on the necessity of keeping the conversation alive. She noted that the issue has been hidden, saying that “by erasing the issue, you erase me.”
“Denial was huge. That denial turns into something that says, ‘Not only can’t I hear what you are saying, I need to stop you from saying it,’” DeGruy said. “So it gets deeper than that. I need to silence you. This injury reflects itself in things like ‘I don’t see race,’ or ‘I don’t really care what color people are.’ So you have all of these pathologies that show up because people aren’t dealing with reality.”
After the presentation and a short Q&A, DeGruy was available for brief individual talks and gave autographs. Overall, DeGruy’s presentation was well-received.
Baseme Osuampke from Houston, Texas, found that DeGruy’s talk was thought provoking.
“I still want to read up on this stuff, not because I don’t believe it, but because there’s so much that I might have missed throughout the speech that I would want to learn and spread to the rest of my community,” Osuampke said.

Christine Ohenewah ’15 and Obiele Harper ’17 found that much of what DeGruy spoke about resonated with them.
“She was very unapologetic, and I think that that discourse really [has] not always [been] brought to the light, because for some it seems controversial, even though it is an experience that is experienced by many,” Harper said. “Sometimes we forget that those [racial issues] still exist, but there’s a new form of slavery, which actually puts more people as a whole in bondages. The more you put someone in bondage, the problem perpetrates over and over again.”
Ohenewah made a connection to the intergenerational psychological continuity of the legacy of slavery to explain the racialized difference in perception of the issue.
“Where you find us having a more heartfelt reaction to such things is because of our blood. We are haunted by our history, and we do feel the ghosts of various black women. Their grief gets passed on through our genealogy,” Ohenewah said. “The same is not occurring with white people.”
“I felt like Dr. DeGruy did such a fantastic job of giving her points, and did not hold back at all. It’s something that needs to continue to be taught, especially at the institution, like a liberal arts college,” Ohenewah said. “We cannot back off of such issues, we have to keep embracing different narratives, different epistemologies so that we can enact change. We don’t enact change by staying away from reality.”

Watch her speak on the topic below….

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