Paternalism

Recently, I reconnected with an older cousin of my mother’s generation. It had been quite the while since we last shared time and space.

At an impromptu moment in a larger review of our hereditary history, I spoke of my longtime ambivalence about family; largely due to the dynamics of my formative household where parental, particularly paternal nurturance took the form of near-constant direction (dictation!) of who I was to be and what I was to do. In a word, rarely was I seen and accepted as myself (my self).

My cousin, nodding, echoed my experience. Our mutual affirmation was an entrée to our deeper discourse, acknowledging the rigors of our fathers’ era. They lived in a time when and where they, daily, by dint of the societal irrationality and enmity about race, suffered the misfortunes of the deferment and denial of their dreams and, at times, their economic and psychic emasculation as providers.[1] In part, in reaction, they, in an effort to manufacture a better future for their sons, often sought to dictate our choices and, thus, the content and course our lives.

It has taken years and much internal work of self-realization for me to behold the good in my father’s intentions. For, at the time and long after, I chiefly felt the anguish and anger of the suppression of my individual identity.

This awareness leads me anew to recognize what I term “generational trauma” when the ills of one epoch carry over, at times, in quite inestimably damnable ways, to the next.

This renewed, even deeper consciousness is a key of liberation from the fetters of my longstanding and, at times, seemingly interminable grief.

© 2022 PRA

Photograph: Paul Roberts Abernathy (c. 1956)

#generationaltrauma #racialdisenfranchisement #findingandacceptingmyself #racism #family #father


[1] The times have changed less than great social changes may suggest. For, I believe, that inextricably embedded within the soil of 21st century America are the still active landmines of a variety of disenfranchisements; racial marginalization being among them. In this, I think of the proverb attributed to the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808-1890): “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (“The more things change, the more they stay the same”).

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