Intergenerational Trauma and the news

This week, the focus on Instagram has been on intergenerational trauma. The effects of this trauma are passed down from parent to child and even beyond. The sad reality is that trauma doesn’t exist in a bubble. The sad state of our country in the way that it deals with racial issues shows us this as well as an attitude by many that focuses on law over gospel even in the Church where this is clearly the opposite of the message shown to us in the life of the same Jesus that died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). 

But our own standing before God is all too often forgotten when we look at the life of a George Floyd. His time of grace was cut short by law enforcement. And, some of us don’t see a soul Christ died to save. Instead, what’s looked at are his crimes. But, what good is the gospel if it’s not for sinners? What good is the hope of the gospel if it’s only for those whose lives aren’t marked by the effects of trauma? If we make this claim, what are we saying except that the gospel is a message meant to divide us across racial and cultural lines? The history of the religion in the US would seem to say that for itself. 

And moments like the one where Elon Musk was called America’s richest African American would seem to give an amen to ideas from this earlier time. That African Americans or blacks only have value as long as our struggle “proves true” a point someone in office wants to make. There’s a definite difference between the struggles of people of color and white people within American society even still today, some of these same people overlook these differences in struggle. They don’t see a problem with using a white African American to prove their point about possibilities for blacks living in the US. They don’t see the hypocrisy in minimizing these differences, these struggles. And this lack of understanding leads to virtue signaling. 

One group signals virtue by claiming Lincoln as their patron saint. Another group signals virtue by claiming racial inequity as their cause and, in the process, pushing aside the people who are actually harmed by inequity. And communities of color are left wondering, “When are you going to get out of our way so we can heal, and be empowered, and embrace the freedom God wants us to have?”

Many generations have passed since slavery. And some of us still wonder: When will we be free? It’s this lack of freedom, the pressure of living in a society that, at times, doesn’t allow this freedom, the constant pressure of having to represent the best of a racial group, and even the stigma surrounding mental health that, to some extent is another result of intergenerational trauma, that leads to tragedies like what happened with JStash and other tragedies we don’t see because of the lower social profiles of the people involved. This isn’t just something that happens in black communities either. 

The reality of these pieces is something that we need to sit with. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But it’s in the space of the uncomfortable where growth happens. Yes, it will take time. But all the best things do. And, in the middle of that time, we get to understand more fully what it means that Jesus walks with us and what he calls us to as we walk in love with those who are hurting.