Effects of slavery persist, says author speaking at EvCC

Let the healing begin.

With those words, author and educator Joy DeGruy closed a challenging, thought- provoking talk at Gustavus Adlolphus College. Her 2011 lecture at the Minnesota college delved deeply into the most painful aspect of American history.

That subject is slavery.

DeGruy’s scholarship brings the injustice and inhumanity of slavery in America out of the history books, making connections to today’s social ills. A faculty member at Portland State University, DeGruy is the author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.”

The very word makes people uncomfortable, DeGruy said in her talk at the small college. “Just the title, I wondered why I was experiencing such push-back,” she told her audience.

Today, DeGruy will address the legacy of American slavery at two free Black History Month talks at Everett Community College. Her talks, at 11:30 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. in the Wilderness Auditorium of the Henry M. Jackson Conference Center, are free and open to the public.

In her work, based on social science research, DeGruy has developed a theory linking the troubles many black Americans experience today to multigenerational traumas resulting from slavery. Symptoms she believes date back to slavery and the institutional racism that followed abolition 150 years ago include depression and self-destructive behaviors, anger and violence, and what she calls internalized racism.

With master’s degrees in social work and clinical psychology and a doctorate in social work, DeGruy is an assistant professor at Portland State. Her talks here are sponsored by EvCC’s Student Programs Board, Black Student Union, Community Advisory Committee and Outreach and the college Diversity &Equity Center.

DeGruy has taught a graduate course called “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” and in 2011 said that “people of color walk in at the 600-level.”

Nigel Lindsey, 20, is president of EvCC’s Black Student Union. He hopes DeGruy’s talks today raise awareness of black history and help people see that racism still exists.

Raised in south Seattle, Lindsey was a student athlete at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon last year. And last year, he said, he heard racial slurs several times while shopping at a nearby Burlington mall.

“We do have an African American in the White House. It’s a step, like many steps,” he said Tuesday. “Racism and discrimination are still alive. It’s little comments, how people react to you. I know firsthand.”

Now living in Everett, Lindsey feels welcome on the EvCC campus. He said about a dozen people regularly attend Black Student Union meetings. “It’s a place for open-minded students. We like to have African Americans there, but it’s open to people of all colors to come together,” he said.

The group is a comfortable place to talk about “touchy topics,” Lindsey said. “No matter how ignorant you think you sound — we’re all ignorant in some ways. I have come to realize that I have discriminated, and have been discriminated against.”

Rickey Mason, 27, a Black Student Union officer last quarter at EvCC, is glad DeGruy is coming to campus today. “It’s important. It’s an opportunity to bring awareness to the college in a compelling way,” Mason said.

Black history “is a vital part of American history,” Mason said. “As Americans, we’re in a very interesting time now. If we want to move forward as a country, some of these things should be brought out.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Author at EvCC

Joy DeGruy, author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing,” will present two free Black History Month lectures today at Everett Community College. She will speak from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and at 6 p.m. today in the Henry M. Jackson Conference Center Wilderness Auditorium on campus, 2000 Tower St., Everett. Parking free for evening lecture, and there will be a 5:30 p.m. reception.

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