On November 2nd, a day after the death of Migos rapper, Takeoff, Academy Award winner and musician, Questlove, took to Instagram to write about his thoughts on the struggle of healthy expression of emotions as a Black person in America.
The Black community has historically been conditioned to keep pushing forward rather than dwell on losses, life’s complications, and inconveniences.
Using slavery as an example, Questlove explains the lengths slaves had to go to suppress natural feelings, dunking their heads in “laughing barrels” of water while they release any feeling other than contentment, whether that be laughing, crying, or screaming he writes, “Emotions were not allowed ever in our lives: if you express anger you were a threat. if you cry you an emotional ass biatch. If you laugh you were sassing/getting smart/showin off——all 3 punishable.” We are taught that emotions equal consequences.
According to the American Psychological Association Black men are less likely to take the healthy route of seeking mental health services as a means to cope, “For example, only 26.4% of Black and Hispanic men ages 18 to 44 who experienced daily feelings of anxiety or depression were likely to have used mental health services, compared with 45.4% of non-Hispanic White men with the same feelings (NCHS Data Brief No. 206, 2015).”
And as we see more and more Black people dying at the hands of violence, there is a need more than ever to seek therapy and other outlets to release the feelings that could damage us in the long run.
Instead of seeking those healthy outlets, we have met violence with more violence, but to ourselves. We have resorted to concerning “barrels” Questlove writes, “Today the new barrels are: alcohol, pills, sniffing, shooting, sex, smoking, cutting, gambling, food (either overeating/bulimic—-really familiar w this one), overworking (another top 10 hit of mine), risk behavioral actions (the cousin/bff you pray doesn’t get face tattoos or their 30th piercing—-this is an emotional scars side effect) even time management (tardiness) falls in.”
Every week it seems like another beloved Black person, famous or not, is dying in gruesome ways, and expressing that grief without fear should be allowed. Questlove writes that we invented “cool” to hold back and save face, but where has that gotten us? Not far. Violence in the Black community whether it’s from other races or within our own community is not new, but the way we respond to it has to be normalized in a healthy form.