by Shelby Williams
Within the historical context of black and brown bodies being present in post-colonial United States, the country’s political, social and economic development was primarily based on the institution of slavery. In 1619, slavery was first introduced in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia by Dutch ships that brought twenty African slaves.
The intent of implementing slavery was for the use of an inexpensive and efficient labor system. Due to the harsh environmental conditions of the North Americas, settlers relied on the use of African slaves, Native Americans and some European indentured servants to industrialize North American colonies. After a successful agricultural economic revolution, the American Revolutionary war, a political and militant retaliation toward the British monarchy took place, which resulted in the creation of a U.S. political system.
Although the thirteen American colonies were victorious in solidifying their sovereignty, the system had failed in many of its promises to preserve civil rights for all encompassing members of the state. The creation of the U.S. initial constitution recognized the black slave population as three-fifths of a person. As a result of this state recognition, black slaves were for the purpose of taxation and representation in Congress and for guaranteeing the right to repossessing any “person held to service or labor.”
The intent of the three-fifths amendment was to tighten the institution of slavery and restricting the socioeconomic conditions of black and brown peoples. The institution of slavery, as understood by its application, is the exploitation and economic captivity of human bodies that undergo inhumane, physically debilitating forms of labor.
In application of the institution of slavery, the ongoing social, political and economic developments of the institutions environment will continue to influence its former participants. Reason being the institution of slavery is applied towards enslaving a collective body of people, typically racialized to be encompassing of one ethnic/racial group, to perform specific behavioral practices. In its practice, the institution of slavery performs methods of suppression that consistently instills a specific mental and social conscious into the mindset of enslaved participants.
The mental and social conscious that is developed, as consequence of slavery, will showcase patterns of depression, hopelessness and self-destructive behaviors. As defined by Dr. Joy Du Gruy’s “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing,” Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome “details the maladaptive behaviors that originated as survival strategies passed from generation to generation long after losing contextually effectiveness.”
PTSS, as defined by Dr. Joy, is set to impact the Afro populous within the U.S. for centuries due to the atrocities that occurred during the initial application of slavery. However, the presence of PTSS within the U.S. is comparatively different than its presence in other Afro populous’ across the international community. In the U.S., PTSS is continuously enforced instead of being a historical consequence of imperialism.
PTSS has transformed into an engraved behavioral consciousness within the Afro community due to the American government’s consistent implementation of racialized oppressive systems, such as mass incarceration, colorism, ethnic/racial socioeconomic class division, police brutality and environmental racism. In its continuous practices of oppressive systems, the living experience of black and brown bodies is heavily rendered to being in defense of the political system’s attacks.