All posts by Tobias Mann

Noted Professor Joy DeGruy Speaks on Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome at WSU

By: Van Grinsven & Mann

Post-traumatic slave syndrome is still significant in today’s society, according to a speaker at Winona State University Wednesday night.

The WSU Inclusion and Diversity Office, KEAP Center and Council, Black Cultural Organization and Minnesota State Southeast Technical College hosted Dr. Joy DeGruy on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in East Hall. Her seminar was titled “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.”

DeGruy is an international speaker, presenter, author and researcher. Along with her novel, DeGruy has published a number of articles and spoken at various locations, such as Oxford University, Harvard University and Columbia University.

Before DeGruy spoke, Director of Inclusion and Diversity, Alexander Hines, voiced his frustration with the complaints he had received regarding the topic of that nights program.

“I said I wasn’t going to do this, and I never do this,” Hines said.  “When I’m in my office and I work with faculty and staff to put on programs like this, I get little nasty emails of ‘Why would you do post-traumatic slave syndrome? And black history month?’ I guess I get a little bit frustrated with the topic that’s still relevant today being micro-assaulted, micro-invalidated and micro-excluded from the conversation.”

He added, after apologizing to DeGruy for voicing his frustrations, “Black history month, African American history month is every month.”

DeGruy began by explaining how she came to the topic of post traumatic slave syndrome. She was struck by how people responded to the issue of slavery even today.

“I was very curious about why it was that people had such a visceral response to slavery,” said DeGruy describing the unusual response that peaked her interest in the topic.

“When I would walk around and talk about the book and tell people the title, there was a visceral response,” DeGruy said. “Slavery, really, who are you trying to blame. What excuses are you people trying. You know I wasn’t there. I never owned slaves and you’re free now aren’t ya.”

“Post traumatic slave syndrome is multi-generational trauma,” she said, adding that post-traumatic slave syndrome is not the same thing as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I kind of wish it was because it’s treatable. There are medications, talk therapy, all kinds of things you can do. But post-traumatic slave syndrome requires a whole lot more than that.”

DeGruy described post traumatic slave syndrome as the result of generations of people who suffered from trauma.

There was a great deal of trauma going on in those 339 years that American chattel slavery was going on, said DeGruy. “The likelihood is a lot of people had stress related illness, a lot of people had PTSD.”

To solve more than 339 years of traumatic injury, DeGruy suggested beginning with with how children are educated.

DeGruy said that it is crucial to include all of the slavery history that elementary schools don’t normally teach about, like the details about slave ships.

“How many Jews died during the Holocaust?” DeGruy asked the audience. “6 million that we know at least died. And you’ve been taught that, it’s in the text.  But you’ve never been given this information. You have no idea how many died, just en route? The lowest figure on record is 9 million.”

Tricia Angus, a junior studying business administration, said she believes DeGruy made a lot of good points during her seminar and that students at WSU could learn a lot from the presentation.

“I think students can take a closer look at how they handle diversity in their everyday lives,” Angus said.  “Hate is something that can completely be avoided at this university and in the U.S. in general. People can accomplish that by keeping an open mind and learning more about different cultures.”

According to DeGruy, the best way to solve PTSS is through social justice and teaching young African-Americans, who are affected by it, to love themselves in today’s society.

DeGruy closed her speech with an African proverb, “If you wish to go fast than go alone, but if you wish to go far go together. Lets go together.”