*WARNING this post contains graphic images*
Do you know what gas-lighting is? Gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse that people face at the hands of calculating abusers. Gas-lighting is a covert form of manipulation and aggressive behavior that seeks to persuade the victim to doubt their reality. The sanity of the victim is at stake because the perpetrator uses misinformation and various nuances to create doubt in the perceptions of the victim. "I don't think you are remembering correctly," you might hear a victimizer say to their victim. Distorting the perception of the victim ultimately leads to the victim taking on responsibility for whatever offense that was committed against them by someone else.
Sociopaths and individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are the more famous users of the gas-lighting technique. The most insidious feature of gas-lighting is the projected reality the perpetrator creates for the victim to live in. The perpetrator convinces the victim: you are dreaming up the danger, it doesn't exist... what does exist is your judgmental heart. The thing about gas-lighting, though, is that the mind is so resilient. The victim's mind will continue to relay the message that something isn't right in their world. The logical functions within the victims mind will weigh agains what they've been told, what they believe, and who they trust. This constant psychic distress can lead to, what some call, a nervous breakdown.
Black America is having a nervous breakdown.
We've been gas-lighted. We've been told that we have a Black president, we are making money, we have sitcoms, and news anchors, and look-look- look at all this progress! We've been told all these things while simultaneously living in communities that don't seek to protect our interests. We've been told to calm down, we are perceiving it wrong, while officers cut off our airways. When we buck the system and start to see things for the way they are, like Chris Rock pointed out, the gas-lighting returns. Our ruffled feathers get smoothed down by those around us and people start talking about Black Respectability Politics. Like the battered wife who is told if she would act the way her partner wants her to, she would get hit less we are made to endure debates about how we can be less worthy of being hit. Black Respectability discussions are discussions that shift the blame to the victims: a form of gas-lighting. Some of us drink deeply of the respectability cup because we've succumbed to the gas-lighting. We've divorced ourselves of our own perception and experiential proof and entered into the narrative that the abuser has provided for us. "... the primary premise in which respectability politics are grounded is that Black American culture – and Black Americans themselves – are broken and need to be fixed."
So how do you recover and guard against gas-lighting?
We must trust our own stories despite what others say about what we experience.
#BlackTwitter is a great example of this kind of intervention agains the racial gas-lighting Black people are experiencing. #Alivewhileblack and other hashtag trends have helped to create a climate where we are taking ownership of our own narratives. We are saying THIS is how life has really been for me.
We must take back our agency.
Agency means we have the right to not debate about identity and lived experiences. Free agency, more importantly, allows us the power to create counter-stories when others engage in patterns of gas-lighting. Constantly reminding others of our reality means that we are no longer allowing others, or ourselves, to be lulled back into the opiate state of "everything is just alright." We get to say, "THIS is the suffering your blind eye is allowing!" We get to validate our reality. The most valuable aspect of allies who fight beside us is how they validate our reality. True allies walk alongside us and empower our agency and amplify our stories.
[Creative Commons Wikipedia]
The most powerful thing we can do to eject ourselves from the racial gas-lighting dynamic is RESISTANCE.