Do black stories retraumatize us?
A friend and I were chatting about the need to create black stories that are diverse in experience and don’t only focus on the sad parts. She brought up the idea that some of our stories, to watch them, have a traumatizing effect on us. I agree. Personally I watch as many black shows and movies as I can provided I don’t feel like they are playing into what feels like unnecessary stereotypes of oversexualization or violence. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more sensitive to these things because of my awareness of stereotypes so I try to imagine the show or movie with characters of a different color to see if it still bothers me.
I have friends that refuse to watch movies that depict black people as slaves or in roles of servitude because there have been so many. I can understand their perspective and why they would want to avoid such movies that seem to place black people into familiar stories. While for some the thought of these movies can be infuriating, depressing and violent reminders of the past, others may be inspired and motivated. When we consider the historical barriers that were initialized during and at the end of slavery it’s a miracle we are where we are and speaks to our resilience as a people. The pain of the past and present makes it hard to watch these unnerving stories played out and could also have a role in retraumatization. Could there be too much negativity in some stories?
What is the purpose of such movies? Although there have been a few present day stories created on tv that I’ve decided that I won’t be watching since they seem like pointless stories of brutality and cruelty. I’d like to think that even some of the worst stories and when I say worst I mean hard to hear and watch, have a purpose. Some of the stories are not created for us. They are made to bring awareness to others and teach them about our experiences. We need people to see and understand the struggles we’ve faced- The things that have taken place and are happening to us currently. When others perceive these stories it creates empathy. Also, some of these stories are for the younger generation who may not understand their history. This is necessary in order to move us forward.
The stories created for us, as horrific as they may seem, could also give voice to our unheard cries creating an opportunity to give words and images to some of the experiences and feelings individual black people have. There are those that have had trauma and situations that they could not express. Some stories are reminders so that the pain is never forgotten or shouldn’t be brushed over. These stories connect our experiences, they connect us. Those stories are the expression of untold and misunderstood circumstances that were never spoken aloud. Seeing it played out may provide revelation or insight that could be healing in some way.
Our stories have made us laugh and cry and caused us pride. What has been your experience with black stories? Have you found them comforting, traumatizing or educational?