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My mother was a light skinned woman, a mulatto as mixed-race blacks were labeled by slave owners, or “high yella” as darker skinned blacks sneered of them. Progeny of the master’s unbridled lust, they were favored as house slaves and reviled by the master’s wife. Life was easier in the house than the field but it was no less, if not more, debasing. I have no doubt my mother’s complexion played some role in my father’s attraction to her. Her father was a tall, very light skinned, slender man. As a young man he probably passed for white. He was a dapper soul in his black gabardine suit, bow tie, flat-brimmed straw hat with a cane hanging on his arm. Women must have loved him as was evidenced by the number of children he sired out of wedlock. His parents were most certainly as fair or fairer than he. And so on into the darkness of missing records and denial of how so much Caucasian blood now resides in me.

My father was of moderate skin color far from the Nubian blackness of our far distant past and evidence of some “mixing” along the journey. He served in the Army Signal Core as a lineman during WWII. He was good enough at his job to be pictured in Stars and Stripes atop a telephone pole in Italy keeping the lines of communication to the Front open saving the lives of those “brave enough” to face the enemy. But upon returning home after his wartime service, he was denied jobs that would have capitalized on the skill and expertise he had acquired. Those jobs were reserved for the “Greatest Generation.” He never lost his love for that work. He tinkered with fixing anything that was electronic and was among the first to buy a new electric gadget if the needs of a wife and family, supported by the low pay of a hog splitter in a meat packing plant, allowed.

Yes. I come from a long line of survivors who after more than 247 years of slavery endured sharecropping, the KKK, lynching, Jim Crow and the unabashed subversion of their “unalienable rights” to deliver me here. 

Who am I? I am black. I am white. But I am also invisible.

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As a result of twelve years of quantitative and qualitative research Dr. DeGruy has developed her theory of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and published her findings in the book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome – America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing”. The book addresses the residual impacts of generations of slavery and opens up the discussion of how the black community can use the strengths we have gained in the past to heal in the present.

P.T.S.S. is a theory that explains the etiology of many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African American communities throughout the United States and the Diaspora. It is a condition that exists as a consequence of multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of chattel slavery. A form of slavery which was predicated on the belief that African Americans were inherently/genetically inferior to whites. This was then followed by institutionalized racism which continues to perpetuate injury.

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