Is It REALLY Generational Trauma?

I have a White friend who blamed child abuse by a Black mom, on generational trauma. There have been many South African skits done on the differences between White mothers and Black mothers. And in those skits, I certainly see MY mother. The one who blames you if you fall through the glass coffee table and get hurt-blaming you for breaking the coffee table, while the White mom gives hugs and kisses to her precious princess. The skits in which the Black mom unleashes a violent slap while the White mom merely grounds the naughty child… I can relate. I remember one time having something thrown so violently at my chest that I got winded and couldn’t breathe. I honestly thought, “Mom is killing me today.” And I was probably only four years old.

Needless to say, there are abusive parents in ALL races. And not all Black people were treated badly. But some stereotypes are based on majority experience. And as a Black South African nation, our experience has been violent. Violence against us, and violence against the enemy..and violence against each other. It has made us cold.

The problem is, I “grew up” seeing the difference. I was invited to White friends’ homes. I SAW for myself how White moms really are like the skits. Loving, warm, caring, talking WITH their children, not AT them. Well, at least the moms of the friends I chose! I was surrounded by that. I heard it being spoken about at school, I spent time in loving homes and it was brainwashed into me at school. I came to WANT it. I wanted to be loving and to be loved-loved THAT way.

Except the Black people around me weren’t like that. There was the superficial stuff. Trying to throw a birthday party. I couldn’t invite my school friends as there was (obviously) huge anti-White sentiment in the townships. Amy Biehl got killed where I walked!💔 But the Black girls who came didn’t bring a gift. I felt like, “Wow. Not even R2!? Yet look at all the gifts the others get.” My best friend at the time brought me a button. She tried. And though I couldn’t use it, it was the closest I’d ever get to having ‘the White experience.’ I don’t know about other Black families, but we were too poor for birthday presents. I never got any from my parents. Even cake was not done. I had to ‘share’ a cake in pre-school with another girl whose birthday happened to be a day before mine and fell on a Sunday. The tradition was to bring cake or sweets in your birthday for the class. I didn’t. So the teachers pretended that the other girl’s cake was from both our families.

But gifts are trivial. The lack of hugs. The silence when “I love you” could be spoken. The way I never told my mom when my first period started because she’d never had a personal conversation with me… That’s huge. That’s deeper than wishing for gifts. Even when I realized I needed a bra, I wrote her a letter. Same with changing type of sanitary item-I wrote her a letter asking to try what the other girls were using. I never told her I had a boyfriend. We never spoke.

When my chronic illnesses started piling up, I can’t recall if I ever had a, “How are you feeling today? Is the medication working? Is the ointment for your stiff joints helping?” I don’t recall it. I don’t recall them ever asking what symptoms I had of low iron or if they were better. But there MUST have been symptoms because they took me to the doctor. And my dad made sure I ate lots of liver (yuck) thereafter… But I can’t recall them asking if I felt better on the iron supplements? (I can’t have because my iron levels still didn’t improve.) I don’t even get a call TODAY asking how I am though they know the illnesses have piled up and know I’m undergoing various surgeries. But I do get calls asking for money or for help. So it’s not like people are unable to phone me. But we won’t go there.

My point is! Can we blame the lack of “How are you today?” on generational trauma? Can we say that our cold or abusive hearts are due to that? What if my friend is excusing the inexcusable? I go back to the Jews. Was it that because our struggle was an armed struggle, or that because we suffered for centuries, our reaction became different to theirs? Look at the stereotypical Jewish family. The mom is TOO in your face, she constantly brings you warm soup when you’re sick, and wants you to give her grandchildren.

That is NOT the direction our trauma has taken us to. I have a very close White friend, and a Malawian friend. The two are the ones who recall specific symptoms, issues, problems, and constantly ask how they are going. If I’m silent, or if I only focus on THEIR problems, they call me out. “But what about YOU!?? Don’t ignore my question!” We constantly think about each other and each others’ problems. I wish I had that kind of reciprocal friendship with South Africans. I tend to be counselor with my SA people. I even have that kind of care-kinda- from a young Zimbabwean MALE! What is missing from us South Africans? Or maybe, it’s cultural? And I grew up with the wrong culture? If I’d not been exposed to my White friends’ moms, would I desire that kind of love, the love that remembers your burdens and asks if today was a lighter or a heavier day? Or would I be content with a superficial relationship?

I don’t know. I just know that when my White mom friends feel guilty for once in a month losing their temper with their child and yelling at them, I think to myself, “You have NO clue what we Black children grew up with. What you’re killing yourself over, what you APOLOGISED to your child for, was normal for us. And never, never did our mothers apologise to us. Instead, they beat us even when we were innocent.

You’re not a monster.

Ask us what is monstrous to us!”

If it IS in our genes, I hope it gets out quickly. Normal isn’t always right.

PS. And no, I’m not giving them a pass for shouting at their children or losing their tempers. I don’t tell them it’s ok when they confess they feel bad. I have never yelled at anybody in my entire 41 years of life. I can’t relate. But I can understand. And I’ve seen worse. I’ve been a victim of worse. Worse-without remorse. They’re on the right track. They’re on the track some of us wouldn’t have minded our parents being on. (As much as we love our parents as they are.)

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