Here’s the latest from our columnist, transformational counsellor and blogger, Lisa Bent. Check in with Lisa each month, right here, where she’ll be writing about personal development, mental health, social issues and a whole lot more…
I recently watched the first episode of the Roots Reboot which was broadcast on the BBC. As soon as it finished I checked into Facebook to post what become a mini essay. As a result, it makes up a large part of this months theme which I have called Letting go.
Roots and other films with the slave narrative will always be a hard watch. I believe accompanying this well-casted remake should be a history lesson or documentary. Without it, it feels like just another slave narrative amongst many untold stories. Usually, after a tough storyline in a soap drama, there is a helpline number to call if anyone is distressed, yet this type of aftercare does not seem available for dramas based in fact.
Some of us have looked and processed. Many of us have cried and relived the experience again and again and are tired; and some if not many, would prefer to avoid. The historical past has profoundly affected the majority of us; the exact ways will never be truly known.
There is a saying, “Tell someone who they are enough times and they will believe it”. If the same narrative is always shown, what are we unconsciously believing about ourselves? Director Steve McQueen said the below in an interview with the Guardian in 2014;
“The second world war lasted five years and there are hundreds and hundreds of films about the second world war and the Holocaust. Slavery lasted 400 years and there are less than 20 [films]. We have to redress that balance and look at that time in history.”
The only film I have seen about the Holocaust is Shindler’s List and it is the only one I will ever watch. Why? It was made and told very well and it is too traumatic for me to (want to) see again. World War II, is seen as a triumphant event in history. Although many lost their lives, the Nazi regime collapsed thanks to the UK and their allies. I would say it is easier to look at things openly when you are not considered the enemy. Therefore, the problem for me isn’t the lack of films, it is the lack of willingness for society to have an open conversation about the factual past.
Each year special effects in film get better and better and Roots has been made to the same visual level as a feature film. In the first episode, there is a moment where the camera lingers on a whip with has spikes at the end. As the white man swings, we see each lashing across Kunte Kinte’s back. The camera zooms in and each crack of the whip is visible until the lines become one shredded mess. It is only when Kunte accepts ‘Toby’ as his new name that the whipping stops. How many slavery films do we need to see with similar and other traumatic actions? Personally, I have seen enough now.
It is uncomfortable for those whose ancestors were whipped and for those whose ancestors held the whip. This is not about blame, none of us were alive at that time. It is about an acknowledgement of what happened before and the willingness to look at the impact then and the impact today. Silence brings unspoken emotions; whitewashing hides in an attempt to erase or withhold the truth. However the hidden always finds a way of surfacing and it does so by leaking into society through projections, irrational fear, unconscious and conscious bias, micro-aggressions and so much more.
Our traumatic past is intertwined with white history and we need to untangle ourselves. Our job as individuals is to stop carrying everything. Take the load off our shoulders, look at the bags and collect only what we identify as ours. True healing takes place when the very thing you are avoiding is looked at, processed and worked through.
I invite you to look at your feelings around slavery without fear or avoidance. Cry, paint, write, do whatever to let it out and then when ready, choose to not keep relieving the pain and anger. This way of being keeps us stuck in a cycle like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and every film with this narrative will re-ignite a dormant feeling in you.
Research shows that “Whilst Black don’t crack” Black women are ageing faster inside. I do not doubt that the day-to-day stresses we internalise, coupled with celluar memory or Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome plays a major part in this. I am not inviting you to forget, I am asking you to let go, to stop reliving.
Thankfully, other narratives are being told and told on various platforms. The impact of this means we can tell untold stories, entertain a diverse range of themes and create new possibilities of who we are and how we see ourselves.
Although this article was written as a trigger to Roots, what I have expressed applies to anything that you are holding onto that may be informing who you are today and unconsciously or consciously holding you back. Process it, join the dots, make peace and let go, to become so much more.
Good luck on the journey back to (true) self.
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