By LaNail R. Plummer, Ed.D
In 2004, I gave birth to my first child. I was 23 years old, a recent college graduate, an officer in the United States Army, and a graduate student earning my master’s degree from Howard University.
I was common and uncommon. Where I come from, it’s normal to have a child in our early 20s and maybe even younger. But, amongst my friends from college, my professors, and mentors, I was quite uncommon in choosing to bring forth life without having fully lived. However, it was my decision and I was ready. Again, it was my decision.
Since that time, I’ve had two miscarriages and a live birth with my son. I also elected to have an abortion too– all, my decisions.
For Black women, our historical and generational trauma includes being forced to have children that we did not plan, did not want, or could not care for but had to keep because someone said so. Historically, that “someone” was the slave master that owned our bodies or the government that owned our economy, or our religion that claimed to own our souls. We were told that our purpose was to give birth and work. Nothing more. No dreams, aspirations, goals, hope, or even a sense of self. Just a baby-making machine that took precedence over our real (or additional purpose).
And then the 60s came and we began to fight in new ways for an outcome that included acknowledgement and legal support of our civil rights. And then the 70s came, and women’s liberation was at an all time high. And then the 80s came, and our very own, Alice Walker, began calling us Womanists instead of Feminists and we had an established term that matched our identity as Black women that fight for….Black women. And our mothers and grandmothers started teaching us new things… things they once dreamt of for themselves but were still confined by the systems, ideology, and mindset that raised them and kept them imprisoned. They taught us from the incarceration of their imposed limitations and told us that we have a choice. We can choose. We can make decisions. We can live life. We can…be.
And, so we began. We began to choose careers that aligned with our interests, found lovers and partners that gave us passion, and had babies that we wanted…when we wanted…and aborted when we were not ready. We had power of self. We had a sense of self. We had self.
And then the overture of Roe vs. Wade occurred. The mere fact that it occurred reminded us, as women, that our bodies are pawns in a political game of chess with our uteruses, wombs, and birthing minds as vessels to be controlled. Ah, and as Black women, it triggers our generational trauma, and memories that don’t belong to us, but to those elders, ancestors, and spiritual guides, whose bodies and minds were once physically and psychologically controlled by a slave master. Our ancestors cry out the shame of the overture, in fear of who we may be forced to come and worry about who our future daughters and sons will be.
So, while we sit and encourage girls to participate in STEM programs, create hobbies, learn skills, and be independent, let us acknowledge the contradiction by also telling them that they have no choices, no decisions, and no control over their own bodies. Let us acknowledge that Black women have always been treated as a contradiction– except for that short period of time, when we actually had a choice.
Let us acknowledge that the shift in access to our own personal decisions is a mental health question. It creates triggers of generational trauma, the onset of anxiety-based symptoms, the confusion that can lead to depression, split in thought that can lead to cognitive distortions, and the uncertainty that leads to a paralysis of feeling, thought, and action. In short, the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, can and will lead to mental health implications that will be felt and experienced by women and men, alike. And, this awareness, acknowledgement, and acceptance can lead to prevention…or destruction. We will have to choose.
LaNail R. Plummer, Ed.D is the CEO and founder of Onyx Therapy Group.
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