How Unresolved Slave Trauma Affects How We Handle Money

I graduated with a degree in History (how I ended up in tech is a loooooong story) and I studied the effects of the trans-atlantic slave trade on Caribbean and Latin American communities. Since getting my degree, I’ve come back to studying how the trauma of slavery shows up in our relationship to each other and to money.

Here’s something that came to me…

During slavery, black bodies were treated harshly. Black bodies were dehumanized. But the effects of slavery on our connection with money needs a closer look.

How other communities heal around money won’t work for Black folks. The reason is that money is associated with harm. The very thing that slaves could not touch was the very thing controlling their freedom.

Let me explain…

Slaves were required to perform tasks on the plantation without pay – at least not monetary pay – and under extreme acts of violence.

Those who benefited from the free physical labour of slaves were plantation owners, overseers and those who traded slaves. They grew rich off the misery of slaves.

Slaves never held the very thing that kept them in bondage. This invisible thing controlled their movements, their family patterns, even their culture.

If you can’t hold the very thing that controls your agency, chances are when it finally shows up, you don’t want it. You will do everything not to have it in your presence.

And since we carry an imprint of our ancestors’ trauma in our cells (see the science of epigenetics), we pass on this distaste for money generation to generation.

This is similar to how the humans reacted to the Cylons on New Caprica…

Stick with me here! This is probably the best analogy I could think of to describe this phenomenon.

On the show called Battlestar Galactica, the humans’ homeworld was destroyed by the Cylons in a matter of hours. Billions of humans died in the attacks. The only humans to survive were the ones who were in ships in outer space, which totalled just under 50,000 people.

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The Cylon destruction of Caprica City

Here’s the thing – most of the humans have never seen a Cylon…

The Cylons were created by the humans. They were robots created to make life on the Twelve Colonies (the name given to the human homeworld) easier.

But then, the Cylons rebelled. They wanted their freedom. They fought against their human masters. After a few years, both sides wanted peace, so they arrived at a truce. The Cylons would get their freedom, but would have to leave the Colonies. And so they did.

They went away for 40-years…

That means an entire generation grew up never setting their eyes on a Cylon. Sure, the older folks had stories about the Cylons. But after a few decades, the stories get old. Tired. And they end up sounding like fables, myths.

So, for the almost 50,000 humans who are on the dozens of ships fleeing into deep space, most have not seen the very thing that has destroyed their lives, their family structure, their homes, and practically their very existence. Most hate the Cylons for what they did, yet most have never laid eyes on one.

Such rage directed at something never seen, held, or touched… 

The Cylons chase the survivors throughout space for months. The humans hide, but are always found. Finally, the exhausted humans find a new planet which is hidden from the Cylons. They call it New Caprica and exit the ships to start to rebuild their civilization.

Unfortunately, about 380-days later, the Cylons find them. The Cylons land on the planet and march through the human settlement on New Caprica. Many humans are now seeing with their own eyes the very thing that has robbed them of their happiness. They can reach out and touch the very thing that has caused them so much pain. For the first time.

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Cylons marching on New Caprica with humans watching on the sides.

How would you react?

First, you’d be shocked. You’d probably be thinking “Wow! They really do exist!” You may even look at them in awe and wonderment, trying to figure out who the Cylons are. Because, maybe if you could understand them…

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Humans on New Caprica watching the Cylons with awe and disbelief.

And then you’d snap out of it…

You’d remind yourself that the Cylons are disgusting and ugly. That because of them, you have been living in a virtual prison since they destroyed everything you once knew. You would most likely rebel. Do anything you can to get as far away from the destructive Cylons.

You see this formally intangible, invisible thing as evil and demonic…

If this thing could cause you so much grief before even seeing or touching it, you want to have nothing to do with it now that it’s here. You find no beauty in it.

You want to rid your space, your thoughts, and your soul of the very thing that destroyed your family, your culture, your home, your peace, and your self-confidence.

Perhaps there are even messages from the sacred scrolls that help to justify why this thing is evil and demonic.

This is how those who have unresolved slave trauma view money…

We do things to get rid of money quickly. Because in our slave-based history, money destroys families. It separates mothers from their children, husbands from their wives, and breaks down the family structure (back then, families were separated when a slave owner died or when a slave trader needed to make money).

I have to work twice as hard to get money and when I finally get it, someone else has already taken their share (back then, it was the slave traders and slave owners; today, it’s the government and employer through federal & state taxes, plus other deductions).

I can’t think of the future because I’m so busy meeting my financial obligations today (back then, a slave could be sold or killed at a moments notice; today, many Black families don’t have insurance, or can’t do wealth planning because there’s not much left over after rent and other living expenses are paid).

Traditional healing patterns around money will not work for those who have a history of slavery in their bloodline. It takes a different approach.

First, you need to acknowledge that you even have unresolved slave trauma in your bloodline. There is quite a bit of shame around the history of slavery. Black folks feel shame that their ancestors were even slaves; white folks feel guilty that their ancestors did such horrible things as slave traders and slaver owners. So, unless you are willing – and ready – to stare this evil in the face, your command of money will forever be faulty.

Second, you need to get in touch with the emotions and feelings that your ancestors may have felt during this time. This work is equally painful. To imagine yourself as a slave on a plantation with no rights, and with no one advocating for you, is tough. But you need to do it if you want to break the cycle. So, get your journal out, and write down what you’re feelings and seeing.

Finally, ask yourself how the trauma shows up in how you treat and speak about money. Write down the words. Write down your actions. Then, as you digest the words, write the opposite expression – a more positive one.

These steps are the work I do in what is known as The Trauma Tree

I discovered this through the work of Lindsay Kinney of Progressive EFT. She incorporates tapping with her work around helping people release traumatic childhood events.

I have to admit – tapping doesn’t really work for me. Not sure what the block is, but I’ve done it three times and it’s just not my cup of tea.

So, I’ve incorporated The Trauma Tree (which I call The Breakthrough Tree because trauma sounds so ugly) to help my clients breakthrough the blocks around money.

In addition to using The Trauma Tree, there are three books that helped me with resolving the slave trauma in my bloodline…

  • Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry – I have to admit, this book nearly made me an atheist (there’s a chapter on the effects of religion on Black women’s identity and it made me mad). Aside from that, this book helped me see how the various stereotypes about Black women (Jezebel, Mammy, The Matriarch, The Angry Black Woman, The Independent Strong Black Woman) have been used since the time of slavery to justify the assault on Black women’s bodies, political discourse, and agency.

If you’re not able to get the book by Dr. Joy (the hardcover is $113 on Amazon), watch this amazing video she did where she teaches about post-traumatic slave syndrome.

And if you need help in resolving the historical trauma in your bloodline so you can finally innovate your income…

Reading is one thing, but having someone hold your hand through this process is another. I’d be happy to help. Fill out the contact form and let’s get you scheduled for a Discovery Session with me.