Black Does Crack

19905255_480710992280250_7441731849441199542_nWe’ve bought into the lie. The one that tells us that “Black don’t crack.” Oh yeah, I know what’s meant by that – it’s meant as a quasi compliment that we … us…black folks manage to retain our youthful, unwrinkled, line-free skin well past middle age and into our senior years. “Black don’t crack” has long been the unified mantra of our black women to each other when we see a woman who is older than she looks: “Girl, you look so good. Black don’t crack!” We’ve even taken it further as we often declare, “Lord, I thank you that I don’t look like everything that I’ve been through!” Yet another statement shouting our victorious “win” over visibly aging and looking worn, weather-beaten or tired due to stress, worry, anxiety, grief, or numerous other situations.

Yes, we black folk are certainly a resilient bunch. Did I mention how we are also the most forgiving and accepting human beings on the planet? No? You don’t think so? Consider this shit: Who else but us will get on television, or anyplace else, and tell the person who has just maimed us or murdered our loved one whose body isn’t even cold yet that “I forgive you…just turn yourself in.” When do we get a chance to process the devastation, the loss? The burden of forgiveness before we’ve had a chance to sit with our loss and grief and profound sorrow is a detriment and insult to our being. Who but us accepting and embracing black folks readily take everyone into our “fold” and families and love and accept them regardless…  We have forgiven much. But maybe not forgiven and embraced ourselves as merely flesh and blood mortals with no super powers. We’re simply human beings.

We sing praises to God and turn our burdens over to Him. During times of strife and trouble, we declare that “God’s got it!” We tell our friends and family who suffer from depression or mental illness that these “demons can be prayed away.” We tell ourselves and others: I have to pray harder. I can’t afford to have a mental breakdown. Those horrible things happened to me, but I’m turning them over to God. Fix it Jesus! Oh honey, you don’t need to see a psychiatrist, just pray about it.

Ours is a culture deeply rooted in the black southern churches of our ancestors. They connected with an idea of a God who would deliver and protect us from all evil – physical and mental. There was no need to consult anyone else about the things that troubled you…tell it God and all is well. I do not dispute that, for many of us, prayer and a personal relationship with our Creator is essential in our daily lives. Of course, not everyone feels this way and I respect that. I am a believer in the prevailing presence of the Most High God. I simply HAVE to believe in something bigger than me and the things of this world.

I also believe that BLACK DOES CRACK. Black folks may have a built-in anti-aging blessing called melanin, which gives the skin elasticity and longevity against the outer elements. HOWEVER, there is NO melanin on the inside – where the soul and emotions reside. There is no extra protective coating around our hearts and minds. Inside, we are all equal. Inside we crack like everyone else. The difference is: culturally we do not own these type of cracks. We see them as weaknesses or a lack of diligent prayerfulness. “Pray without ceasing,” as Paul commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Does that mean that when things get tough and we are discouraged, confused, traumatized, depressed or mentally ill, that we are to simply pray about it? Are we to simply pray about sexual or physical abuse as well?

I believe that prayer works. I also believe that mental health counseling and/or medications work wonders, as well. I believe that together, prayer/meditation and seeking professional help is a necessity to our survival. Traditionally, black folks have not readily accepted or participated in the “counselor and the couch” mentality. “Don’t be telling people our business!” they’d say. Or, “You just got to stay prayerful and ask God to cast that demon out of you!” Why is it not okay for us to falter, to be mentally or emotionally vulnerable and seek professional help? Isn’t seeking help a sign of strength and not weakness?

We continue to cover the cracks on the inside with the smooth, unwrinkled and unlined surfaces on the outside and we continue to smile through our madness while the silent inward screams become louder. And then one day it really does “crack” and Uncle Roy or Granny Mavis are sitting in a back room in the house or on a porch in a rocking chair with vacant eyes, hollow souls and remnants of who they were are all that remain.We feed their bodies, but their minds continue to deteriorate and despite the prayers, they remain lost and void. Or we walk into a bathroom and find that our husband or wife or sister or brother have opened their wrist with a razor or put a hot piece of steel through their own head.

There is no shame in mental illness. Black men and women suffer from Bipolar,  psychotic disorders,  post traumatic stress, sexual and gender disorders, depression, dissociative disorders, anxiety,  and many other mental health illnesses.  We are no less likely to be affected by these disorders than any other race. However, we are less likely to seek help for them because of a lack of knowledge, resources or shame. Get the help that you need for yourself or for a loved one. Talk about the things that consistently sabotage your joy or the things that haunt you and steal your peace. There are trained, non-judgmental professionals who can help. Seeking their help is not an affront to God, but an act of kindness and love for you or your love ones.

Black does crack – from the inside out…

“You are not the reflection of those who can’t love you. Find comfort in knowing you have only loss those who did not deserve to stay.”                           -/

Artist Credit: Lionel Smit

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