I recently ran across talk show host Funky Dineva’s YouTube video that was so eloquently titled: Black People Have Alot of Unlearning To Do! There, in the thumbnail, was a picture of a Black woman and two small children. Intrigued immediately, I clicked on the link and the message that was conveyed hit harder than the beat to your favorite Drake song.
Funky Dineva basically broke down the harsh truth that, while Black culture is so preoccupied with “breaking generational curses”, there is an additional factor that our culture also needs to normalize unlearning negative habits.
Now, listen, breaking generational curses is cool – I get it. Be the first to start that business, be the first to go to college… heck, be the first to travel the world; however, there are also other aspects that we, as a people, seem to ignore and simply label being part of “the culture”. Due to refusing to unlearn what we have been taught, breaking generational curses is infinitely impossible.
While growing up, the core beliefs within my life were religion, family and education. That’s it. I was told what religion I was at a young age, I was told family was set above all else, I was taught elders are always right and I was taught that education is the only way to succeed. I was not taught financial literacy, I was not exposed to investing my money, I was not exposed to openly communicating my thoughts and ideas (as it was seen as disrespectful and being “smart”).
Get this: I didn’t attend my first therapy session until January 2021 (at 32 years old). For years, I never attended for fear of being “judged” by my peers. When I told my mother I was attending for the first time, her response was “You don’t need therapy. You’re okay. Just pray about it.” I was livid.
The Black culture is chock full of hidden negative habits that we either: a) protect and low-key support or b) are fearful of actually confronting the root of the issue. Black culture is notorious for “sweeping” things “under the rug”. We hide painful truths, yet we constantly question why we cannot progress and move forward beyond our current state. Quick refresher:
For some Black single mothers, their children are taught that their fathers don’t matter. Unlearn it.
For some Black families, anger is the key to success. Cuss out and fight everyone who counters you in life. Unlearn it.
For my Black men, working hard in a blue collar job is frowned upon because the money isn’t fast and the life isn’t glamourous. Unlearn it.
For my Black women, displaying any kind vulnerability is damned. Unlearn it.
And, those are just a few examples…
Unlearning is difficult. It’s a painful process that requires retrospection, accountability and acceptance. Add on a lifetime of cultural beliefs and it’s like pulling teeth to dismiss such ideas from your life. Unfortunately, I cannot give a concrete answer on how to successfully unlearn what has been instilled within you; however…
… look around your family, your friends and your colleagues, take note of who you surround yourself with. If your friends are miserable, you will be miserable. If your family is constantly scrutinizing and criticizing, you may not fall too far behind. It’s just another case of the blind leading the blind. Take note of what you know needs to change and proceed from there.
Photography Credits: Gebrina Campbell-Yusuf
“It’s up to us to break generational curses: when they say ‘it runs in the family’ you tell them ‘this is where it runs out’. “