Like most Black people, I know that racism is real. I know the truth about the traumatic history of our people and the ongoing assaults on our dignity. I feel a sting from implicit, explicit bias, and each racist act. Yet I was unaware of how racism planted seeds that inflicted racial trauma, which exhausted my mind, body, and spirit. I once avoided conflict with people who were in denial about the killing of Black folks by the police, the immoral immigration crackdown, and the rise in white supremacy. However, their denial and my avoidance meant they did not really have to see my people nor me. When they questioned my gifts and abilities, they marginalized me. When they refused to listen or told me to “get over it,” they wanted to silence me.
This has been the reality for many of us as we have navigated predominately white spaces. We are like those spoken of in Psalm 126:6 who; “go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing.” Once hopeful and excited to plant seeds for a promising future, we soon discover that another kind of seed was planted alongside. These are the seeds of racism and systemic oppression that have been sown within communities of color. The seeds produce weeds that create extensive damage because they spring up when least expected. The weeds mature, and if unaddressed, they choke out the seedlings of hope and resilience. The weeds communicated a message to me about how I did not belong, and my hope and future were uncertain.
I bore several symptoms of racial trauma, two significant ones were silence and denial. I also learned this from my ancestors for whom silence and denial meant survival. For many years I silently tried to cope with the racism and microaggressions. Yet over time, my heart became like the rose of Jericho or the resurrection plant. During a dry season, the small gray branches of the plant curl up, forming a ball that covers its seed pods. It is one of a few plants known for their ability to survive desiccation. The plant can actually survive this way for years. It looks like it’s dead; however, when it receives water, it leaves quickly turn green and produce tiny white flowers.
I am resurrected and resilient.
When I finally allowed the Lord to attend to my wounds, I experienced such a revival. I lamented in prayer and grieved all that had been lost and stolen. Psalm 126: 5 says, “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” As my tears flowed, I remembered that my real home is found in Jesus. I understood how I am truly a living, breathing miracle. I am resurrected and resilient.
So I will acknowledge racial trauma, but I will also celebrate Black love and joy. My people have kept the faith, continue to aspire for a brighter future, and powerfully minister in our churches and communities. Amid tragedy and trauma, we love, work, thrive, and struggle, and the Lord continually saves, brings grace, new life, beauty, and justice.
Although I will undoubtedly face racism in the future, I hope to rely on the Lord and others to process and pray through racist incidents, microaggressions, and racial trauma. Recently across America, thousands of people have taken to the streets. Some were once in denial, ignorant or had minimized the realities of racism, police brutality, and systemic oppression. Yet as I survey this diverse mass of people protesting, I am encouraged. I know that a protest is only the starting point, but it can help usher in change. I’m especially heartened by the believers marching, writing, serving, and prayerfully scattering good seeds.
Now that I have reclaimed my voice, I will continue to share the stories of my people and me. I want to plant good seeds that proclaim how “Black Lives Matter.” And the promise of James 3:18 that; “those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness and justice.” This is my hope and prayer.
Click HERE for Sheila’s interview with Psychology Today.