This week there was an uproar over the racial background of activist Shaun King. The entire thing was strange to me. My American story isn’t unique for black folks. He looks more like my mother than any of me and my two siblings.
My maternal family has an interesting history when it comes to race. Therefore, not all members appear to be black during all four seasons of the year though they are indeed black.
Well, to clarify, my mother and her sister are multiracial. I recently asked my mother why she never referred to herself as multiracial. My mother explained that it was easier for her to“get in where she fit in” in order to move forward in her life.
She said sometimes you just don’t have time to deal with everyone else’s questions about your truth and existence. Folks will keep you so distracted answering their nonsense questions that you don’t have time to find the answers to your own.
Lesson: Sometimes we don’t have time to deal with questions from others about our truth. We spend so much time answering those that we never get around to answering our own.
Violence by Denial
I get that. When a person has been violated, even smart people can act really daft.
They pretend that they don’t know that going through what you have gone through may cause anyone to behave differently. React differently. Be advanced in some areas of life, but a little left behind in others.
Nevertheless, they will beat you down for it.
You get depressed and they say, “That’s one moody child.”
You have a difficult time with relationships they talk about what a horrible person you must be.
You deal with your problems in unhealthy ways and they swear out that you’re just like your “XYZ” kinfolk.
Yet, all the while, they know. They know your passport has “hell” stamped on it. You’re just trying not to slip back down there again. They know.
I’ve learned that people hear what they want to hear anyway.
Y’all remember that hit song by Prince, “Controversy”?
I have a relative who I am most fond of. She once had a colleague working with her who would have declared on her death bed that Prince was saying, “count your blessings.”
Everytime that song came on the radio, my relative tried to explain to her that this was Prince. This was the 80’s. No way. He is saying, “Controversy.”
Nope, co-worker didn’t believe my relative. This was pre-internet so she wasn’t Googling it either.
Denial, She be wicked
In psychology, denial is when a person refuses to believe something. It is a defense mechanism. Basically, they can’t handle the truth-at that time.
This can be a dangerous obstacle to victims. I recall serving as an advocate for a woman I will call Patricia.
Patricia was beaten by her husband. The police came to the home and documented the injuries. Husband was arrested. Their adolescent children who were in the home witnessed the violence and told the officers and the family that, “Daddy beat Mom.”
Nevertheless, we go to the protective order hearing. Patricia’s family is there. The husband’s extended family is there, including his Mama.
Do you know that each and every one of these people supported the husband in the courtroom?
One may say, “Well Tonya, her family may know more than you.”
True. Yet, the reasons that they supported the husband was the fact that they never saw him “be mean to her.” They stated that they had never seen him raise his voice let alone his hand to her. They knew him to be a good man.
Never mind that the children had witnessed something different for years. Never mind that the police officers had documented and photographed her extensive injuries that night. And never mind that the victim stated that she had been protecting their “happy couple” image all of these years.
I felt so horrible for Patricia. She told me she felt like she was going crazy or something. Based on the lethality assessment that I administered, I have no doubt that the family denial was going to kill this woman. I had to be honest with her and share my concerns. Information is a powerful thing.
I asked her questions like,
What did she want for her life?
Did she feel safe alone with this man?
Did she believe that it was possible that he might kill her?
Is there even a slight possibility that because she may be in danger, her children may be in danger?
Again, what was her own personal vision for the rest of her life?
Thankfully, she decided to forget about their questions and concerns and place her own in the forefront.
When people go into denial I really have to work with myself. I have to make sure that I too don’t get swept up in waves of emotion.
How can Survivors do this in their own lives?
1. First, realize that your peace is priceless and important. It is a very sad thing when people don’t support us the way that we hoped, expected, or have supported them. But if the cost is your peace, some connections are not worth holding onto for dear life.
2. Sometimes it helps to put problems in the form of a question. If you feel under attack, try to size all of the chaos down to about 5 questions.
3. Review those questions. Based on what you know to be true, have you been unethical? Have you acted illegally? Have you been harmful? If yes, take responsibility and decide what the best thing is to do about it. If not, let’s move to step 4.
4. Formulate your own questions. Use this new information that you have. Often we are so hurt about the situation and balled up in our feelings that we don’t look at the new information that we have.
For instance, when I first met Patricia was pretty certain that family was safe space for her. Now she knew differently. Better to know now than when she is running for her life and gets betrayed by someone that she thought that she could trust. We may not like the information that we get, but information is power.
Remember, in step 2, we limited them to around 5 questions. But this is your life. You get to ask as many questions as you like. What would you like to know the answer to?
5. Remember, it isn’t always a bad thing to realize that you are stuck. Maybe it is time to seek out experts or wise people in your life. This simple act can sometimes draw you out from a place of isolation or ignorance that you weren’t even aware you were in.
6. Search for the answers to your questions. Let the other people in life do their own work. If they thought about it, they really don’t have spare time to be hovering around in your business anyhow. Believe me, we all have homework.