On her most recent visit to Oakland, “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome” author Joy De Gruy expounded on two areas of American history that impact the way Black – and other people- think about the original and lingering impact of the institution that shaped the U.S.
The First Congregational Church of Oakland was packed to capacity on Fri., Sept. 13, 2019, as guests heard from DeGruy, now an internationally renowned speaker and researcher.
Hosted by the City of Oakland Department of Race and Equity, and entitled ‘The Town Talks About Racial Equity’ series, DeGruy shared her compilation of 20 years of research in a slide presentation.
She calls the result of generations of abuse in America and Africa PTSS (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome), while illuminating the conditions that led to the Atlantic Slave Trade and allowed racism and repression to continue through to the present day.
From the Statue of Liberty in New York to the Middle Passage starting on the Cape Coast, she unearthed truths and the great lengths the establishment exercises to hide facts.
“Most people are totally unaware that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States to celebrate the freedom of African slaves in America,” said DeGruy. “Can you imagine how this information, if taught in schools, would impact our Black youth?”
DeGruy explained that the statue (Liberty Enlightening the World), commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, was originally sculpted with broken chains on the wrists and ankles of the statue but the artist was pressured to modify it. DeGruy says as a result of her putting the truth out, the Department of the Interior reached out to her and asked that she train the guides on that truth about the statue.
“So, as of 2016, the chains and the truth are a part of the tour,” she said.
DeGruy also shared some details about the prisons in Africa where millions of captured Africans were held prior to being placed on ships as cargo headed to the Americas, stacked 18 inches apart on voyages that lasted months, a journey known as the Middle Passage.
DeGruy said when the slave dungeons in Ghana were transformed into a museum; builders were unable to level the floor. “Leveling the floors was a challenge because it was two feet of human feces and excrement. Since it was never removed, our ancestors were literally wading in two feet of human excrement 18 inches apart, awaiting their fate packed on a ship before being enslaved in America.”
Some audience members gasped, while others wiped tears from their eyes, no longer able to hide outrage and shock of facts hidden throughout history.
“Many intellectuals like to debate me and want to minimize slave brutality in America.” Disputing the critics, DeGruy shared quotes from slaves and medical data of a condition only found in slaves – proof that slaves had been worked so hard that the muscle detached from the bone.”
For DeGruy, the cognitive dissonance (the act of behaving contrary to factual evidence) in the United States must cease.
“That’s like breaking a person’s leg and then getting mad at them for limping,” she said. “White supremacy has brain-washed people into seeing Black and Brown people as ‘other.’ And when you relabel a person as an ‘other.’ you can justify your mistreatment of them.”
According to DeGruy, most Americans aren’t truly protected by the Constitution. “It was “created for wealthy white landowners.” “In order for us to even begin to work toward racial justice and equity; we have to have an honest conversation about the past.”
Darlene Flynn, director of the Department of Race and Equity with the City of Oakland said the series is intended to bring communities together to bring about social change. “Dr. DeGruy offers great insight into our history and when you understand the past you can change the future.”