Toxicity in Black Families

This is a topic I wasn’t sure if I wanted to discuss because I was afraid someone would take it too personally or I feared I would hurt someone’s feelings. I thought long and hard and even had several discussions with my boyfriend and others about this problem. What really gave me the courage to go ahead and write about this was when I went to God to ask for direction on this idea−and since then I’ve had friends and others confess to me how they have toxicity in their families or how they know people who struggle with it.

     Lately, many African-Americans of this generation have been open and honest about their experiences in having very toxic family members and how it has affected them long-term.  This list ranges from parents (guardians), grandparents, aunties, uncles, and even siblings.

     Some people are aware of which toxic friends need to be let go of, but it can be difficult when you’re dealing with toxicity inside of your own family.  

     Growing up, some of you may have heard these similar quotes before (or you may still hear them):

“Keep on crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

“Fix your face or I’ll fix it for you.”

“Keep it up and I’ll go and get my belt.”

     You may have heard this come from your parents or guardians’ mouth while growing up and it may have been said with a lot of anger, aggression and followed by physical harm . Honestly, this isn’t okay and it’s not, “good-parenting”. A lot of you may ask, “Well what’s the problem with that? It’s okay to show children discipline because they can be bad.” It is okay and possible to show children discipline without being so angry, aggressive and demeaning. Constantly threatening, harming, and yelling at children can create a lot of fear, long-term mental health and behavioral problems.  

    Living with your relatives for so long, they may think or have thought that they have you all figured out. They may think they know what type of person you are, who you like to hang around, what you like to do, know you have a bad attitude or you’re lazy, but they really don’t know half of what they’re talking about. Your relatives may only know you through what they choose to pay attention to or how they choose to control you.

     Sometimes parents and guardians have a way of drawing  you as this doodle when you are in fact a, bright-beautiful vibrant painting. They may never ask how your day was in school or if you’re having any problems in school. Some children can be afraid of their parents if they aren’t doing so well academically in fear of being yelled at−or being bullied in fear their parents just may tell them to, “toughen up.”

     Emotions can become bottled up inside for a long time and can create behavioral problems such as bullying, distance, constantly always in fights. It can affect mental health long term as well when children feel like they have no one to discuss their problems to and someone to lean on, emotionally.

    Lack of emotions in black families is quite common. Denying pain and hiding emotions to not look “weak” eventually will become hard to cope with later on because it does build up. Many parents and even their parent’s, parents are in a cycle of bottling up emotions from emotional damages they never recovered from, from their childhood and sometimes−unknowingly project it on to their children. That’s why some parents/relatives are verbally abusive, physically abusive, and emotionally unavailable. Their problems were never addressed or dealt with so it’s difficult for them to address their child’s problems.

     Just because you were treated a certain way growing up or may still be treated like that now does not define you. You are more than how anyone chooses to treat you. Therapy/Counseling does help and many people, especially young black people are choosing to take that step to get help before it reaches way into their adult years. Therapy is for any one and doesn’t just stop at a certain age or race.

     Of course, I didn’t write this blog to bash some black families for being toxic, but to make people aware they aren’t alone if toxicity does exist in their families and if it’s taking a toll on them and their loved ones.

    It’s okay to seek professional help, it’s okay to give yourself self-care, it’s okay to cut off or distance yourself from unhealthy relationships−whether it’s a bad friendship or relationship with a family member. Take control of your life because you’re the only one that decides your future.

It’s never too late for anyone because we still have the power to overcome anger, hurt, neglect, frustration, abandonment and replace it with love, reassurance, confidence, strength, and honesty.

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