Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Blindness for the crimes of parents can be found in all ethnic groups
Tuesday October 25, 2005

My name is AMC. I am a black, 55 year old female and I have been published on a few on-line websites. My initial interest was understanding my temperament, that of the Highly Sensitive Person. I found a book (or it found me) authored by Dr. Elaine Aron and it helped me understand why I felt so uncannily aware and sensitized to my environment, the people in it, and life in general. I was born to a mother who was book smart, but human dumb. She happens to be 85, has a masters degree in education and recently threatened the life of her live-in caretaker. My father died of Alzheimer's Disease in 2000, although his severe depression was something I had been aware of for many, many years. Sadly being black and highly sensitive creates a double-edged sword for me to handle. I cannot deny that there are many ignorant people in the world who stereotype, create disproportionate circumstances for som, and that I am keenly aware of them. I can't not know about these situations. I could not know about my mother's oftentimes cruel behavior to me, and my father's hurtful, spiteful moods either. There I was. Stuck. But, being a soul who constantly needed to understand, I sought out books in my early forties which helped me understand a bit more the behavior of my family. I realized that I wasn't crazy, or undeserving or love - I just happened to be born to two people who were unable to love me, nor themselves.

There is a belief that many black people suffer from what is known as Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome. I happen to share that belief - and wish it wasn't the source of so much denial by people of color. The life on a plantation, subjugation, exploitation, forced inhumane treatment to women, men and children has seeped into our psychology so deeply - that we repeat it to this very day. We beat our young children as if they were tied to poles, trying to escape cotton fields and a life of drudgery. We call them "bitches" and dare them to talk back to us. We tell them we'll really give them something to cry about if they don't stop crying! How often were black young men beaten on plantations because they tried to escape, and put the others on the plantation in danger. If you did not go along with the "man" you were a troublemaker, and you were beaten. Women were constantly raped by their so-called masters, sometimes infront of their husbands, lovers, and sometimes not. They were vessels for pleasure, if attractive - and even if not attractive - they were still valueless. When Oprah Winphrey produced Beloved, the scene of her murdering her daughter stayed with me. To kill you child rather than have her face a life of oppression such as this was the most horrifying sacrifice anyone should ever have to make.

But, I digress. I am finally at a point in my life where after years of therapy, I have found a psychiatrist who has helped me allow the truth of my mother's meanspiritedness to be heard, validated and understood. I have become a warrior. My life has turned around because I refused to live the lie that my mother was a good, just woman - and she did more for me than I did for her. She almost killed me emotionally, and I saved my own life through my own hands. I searched out books, therapists, programs of any kind that would allow me to express my anguish and unspoken anger at this woman, and her husband. I don't forgive either one of them their unkindness to me - but I forgive them their inability to be better people. They both gloried in their abusiveness. It was their power trip.

Thank you, Dr. Miller for bringing your words to me. Somehow I found your website - and I need to share with you how happy and filled with admiration I am for the work you are doing. That Fourth Commandment is a source of pain for many - because they feel trapped into believing it. If they don't - they think that they are not obeying God. Well, the God I believe in wouldn't want me to honor those who harm me. My God would want me to spread love, loving words, loving actions and condemn to the extent that I could - those who would give credence to abuse. I cannot tell you how much your words have inspired me to write these lines to you. Thank you again, so very much.

Sincerely,

A.M.C.

Subject: Submission for essay material on the significance of negative childhood events on adults.
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 13:14:15 -0400

Dear Dr. Miller,

Although I wrote a short essay yesterday, I would like you to consider this piece as my submission for your consideration.

My life has begun only recently, in terms of enjoying who I am and who I can be. Although I am fifty-five years old, I have spend most of my years experiencing depression, anxiety, unhappiness and a general malaise due to physical and psychological abuse by both my parents. My story may not be unique, but the fact that I am a Black woman has played an additional note to my abuse, because of the cultural behavior in terms of discipline that Black people generally exhibit. My race, being one of strong religious roots, has not only taken the Fourth Commandment to heart - but spare the rod and spoil the child is the rule of discipline maintenance. Beating one by switches, wet with water so that they would really sting - an old Southern punishment - was and still is spoken of by many older Blacks fondly. Sad, no? To remember being hurt and physically violated in the name of teaching you a lesson being spoken of with pride. My own mother, who I reject as someone I love, indeed came to my school when I was a young girl to beat me with a belt infront of my classmates during class. The teacher, a White woman, stopped her. She wouldn't allow it. My transgression had been no more than talking during class, and my mother felt that I needed to be taught a lesson. I can only imagine what I would have felt if she had been allowed to humiliate me in this way. My father, a weak man who sufffered from his own depression, came along for the beating. But, as I said - the teacher drew the line and said, "No." So, of course when I got home I was beaten anyway. Just not in front of my classmates.

One would think that if people of color simply noticed the inherent aggressive behavior so many of them present, a bell might go off that says, we repeat what we are taught. But, sadly Blacks are more concerned in blaming others for their problems than looking to themselves as the reason for many of our problems. I am a Black woman, I am proud to be who I am, but I am more than ashamed when I hear mothers and fathers disrespect their children in myriad ways. If I speak out about it, I am told, "since you don't have any children, mind your business. You have no idea how annoying these kids can be." But above and beyond that, how do we explain the vile language we use in front of them, and to them. How do we explain denigrating our young women and men through rap song verses that demean us. Why do we demean ourselves by using the word "nigger" as if it's the word, "brother."

It is my belief, along with some other noted writers that there is a phenomenon known as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. The reality of young men, in particular, being beaten by their own parents or other slaves was widespread. It was done because the reality of these men attempting to escape brought punishment upon the other slaves. So, they had to pay the price for wanting what was already their's by birthright, their freedom. Being sold by Africans to traders is so sickening to comprehend. Greed, pure greed created a society of people who to this day feel distrust for each other. Self-hatred is something that most Blacks won't admit to - but just pay attention to who many Black men marry when they feel they have "made it," so to speak. Black is still not thought of as something to be proud of - and we perpetuate that notion day after day after day - in so many, different ways.

My words may anger many Blacks - I simply don't care any longer. I know that I suffered through a childhood that was wrought with disrespect for my feelings and my person. It was done by a woman and man who finally felt some power - and misued it against a child who was highly sensitive, and uncannily aware of their sickness. Far too many Black children suffer this type of life every single day, and it needs to be owned, addressed and then stopped. Take responsibility, Black people, for what you do to yourself - and one day you can take responsibility for your growth.

A.M.C.

AM: Thank you very much for your letter. I think that we need much courage to gain the emotional honesty and awareness that your letter shows. It is true, black people have had so much to suffer from the cruelty of white people that the solidarity with their families gave them probably a kind of protection. But the blindness for the crimes of parents is by no way smaller among other ethnic groups. It is the same all over the world, among Europeans, Chineses, Japaneses, Christians, Moslims. In all religions it is forbidden to have autentic feelings and to feel rage towards the abusers, it is instead allowed to take revenge on the small children, to beat them, and to teach them the lie that cruelty is "for their own good". Very early most of these children believe as adults in beatings and don't know that they are stuck forever in their eternal fear of their parents. They remain scared children their whole life instead of becoming adults who can be respectful of their offspring.
Concerning Prozac and other medication I think that they may help us to feel better but can block the experience of emotions stored up in our body. However, it is exactly these emotions which give us access to our history, so that in long term we can feel better.

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