Bobbi’s Saga: Hitting a Brick Wall, Running with No Place to Hide

CAUTION: TRIGGER WARNING. Contains descriptions of sexual and physical abuse. Please read at your own discretion.

“The assault stole my soul.  I became a sneaky person.  I kept the secret of my rape. I carried the secret for 40 years before telling anyone. I was mad, ashamed, and disgusted with myself. I lived in fear that someone would find out about my secret.”

“The booze kept her demons at bay.”

–        Bobbi’s remarks about the movie Respect (2021).

“I got demons too Ree. Would you help me fight mine? …. and I will help you fight yours.”

–        Scene from Respect (2021). A plea by Ree-Ree’s (Aretha Franklin) husband following his physical assault upon her.

“There are no demons … it is the pain you have been running from your whole life.”

–        Scene from Respect (2021). Statement by Ree-Ree’s pianist to her at a highly emotional moment.

“I thought about killing myself.  I did not because of the pain I would leave behind.”

–        Bobbi’s statement restated recently which was made 10 years ago.

My Dear Readers,

In writing this blog, I want to attest, recognize, and acknowledge the recent activities of Suicide Prevention Week September 5th – 11th, 2021. There are those among us who may seek to end their lives.  They are often judged, criticized, and frequently misunderstood.  No one knows how much an individual can endure before they finally lose hope.  I choose, rather than to judge or criticized, to have empathy and compassion. Show human kindness for their long-suffered pain. It is my hope that the empathy, compassion, and human kindness shown to someone in pain becomes a model for, and appreciated by, others outside of clinical or therapeutic environments.

In writing about Bobbi’s Saga, I have sought to tell her story and in doing so provide clinical insight into the work that we have been doing.  Bobbi, a pseudonym used to protect her confidentiality and privacy, is only one of many sexual assault victims, females, and males, that I have worked with in the African American community.  These individuals, both young and old, have suffered in silence; a silence of shame and trauma that has been reinforced by the community’s demand to keep quiet and protect the image of the adults, family and community that is bonded by 400 plus years of depravation, degradation and deeply held self-hatred.

Bobbi has been my patient for approximately 10 years. I have sat with her over hundreds of hours, listening to her story as her pain ascended to the surface of her emotional landscape. There have been times in which recovery seem possible and others in which the therapeutic work seemed to hit a brick wall.  This blog is the result of hitting that brick wall.

During the last two months of therapeutic contact, namely sessions twice weekly with phone calls and emails 2-3 times per week, Bobbi acknowledged that she was at a point in which she could go no further and seriously questioned the possibility of suicide.  As the question of suicide was constant in every session for the previous four weeks, I felt that unless there was a drastic, direct, and immediate intervention, all hope for Bobbi’s possible recovery was coming to an end.

For those unfamiliar with Bobbi’s horrific saga, at the age of 4 years old, while left home to babysit her 2-year-old brother, she was viciously raped by the building’s landlord. Upon his threats of killing her mother and brother, she stayed quiet regarding her assault.  Then at the age of 9 years old and for the next three years she was repeatedly raped by her stepfather.  Once again, she kept the “secret” and it was only until after achieving her first period and being told by her stepfather that she was going to have his child, she finally gained the courage to tell her mother.

Rather than protect Bobbi, her mother physically assaulted her and threatened to blind Bobbi with a fork. Following Bobbi’s attempt to defend herself, her mother threw Bobbi out, at the age of 12, into the street and reported to the state authorities that she was “incorrigible”.  Bobbi went on to spend the next 6 years moving around the state foster care system, aging out at 18.

During her later years in adulthood, Bobbi learned the lengths her mother would go to protect her “reputation and image” within the local African American community.  Bobbi learned that her mother had gone to the state welfare authorities to “claim” the intake documents in which Bobbi identified her stepfather as sexually assaulting her.  When this was foiled, her mother began a campaign within her personal circle and church community to tarnish her daughter’s reputation, alleging she had put her out because Bobbi had defied her and attempted to strike her.

The strategy of Bobbi’s mother was well conceived.  During this time (and it continues today) African Americans were forced to tolerate a complete lack of respect from white people so the idea of not receiving respect from people within the community was unacceptable.  Furthermore, the idea that one’s child would raise her hand against the parent was inconceivable.  Therefore, in telling this one-sided story, Bobbi’s mother won “acquittal” in the court of public opinion within her community of being a “bad mother” and justified in tossing her daughter into the state foster care system.

Bobbi’s mother rejected her; the mother’s friends and the community in which Bobbi was raised also turned their backs on her.  However more betrayal was forthcoming.  Later, as an adult, Bobbi learned that her mother for whatever reason, turned against her husband and wrote a letter to the Senior Pastor of their church, formally notifying the church hierarchy of the three years of rape/incest by her husband against Bobbi.

The stepfather, at the time of the assault, was a senior member of the church’s Deacon board.  It is known that both the Pastor and the Deacon Board had knowledge of the acts and met to discuss the formal letter and took NO ACTION against the stepfather nor did they reach out to provide resources to Bobbi.  There was no formal response to the letter. Why? Why remain silent, why protect the stepfather?

Why not protect the children of the church? As a member of the deacon board, the stepfather has access to the children through church related activities. The answer is simple …. Protect the reputation of the church at all costs even at the expense of one of its youngest, most vulnerable members.

The way Bobbi was sexually abused, the physical assault by her mother and the abandonment by her community and church has triggered within Bobbi not only her downward spiral over the last 50 years it also reinforced her shame and disgust towards that nine-year-old girl who endured the sexual abuse in silence for three years.  Recently this self-disdain exploded when in session, Bobbi acknowledged she wanted to beat on the little girl for keeping quiet and not doing anything to stop the abuse. This statement, stemming from her pain, shocked Bobbi and resulted her deciding to take drastic steps to end it.

Drastic steps by Bobbi demanded direct and decisive intervention.  The traditional Western approach of having her committed to inpatient psych care would have me as her therapist following correct measures to protect Bobbi from self-harm however such action would be temporary as the main issues of self-loathing, abandonment, and the unwillingness to forgive the nine-year-old child within would continue until Bobbi had achieved a final resolution.

(The remainder of this writing is descriptive of the direct and decisive intervention part of which included Bobbi, accompanied by Dr. Kane, attended a viewing of the movie Respect (2021). It is the story of the life of Aretha Franklin. The writing will feature journal entries pre and post review of the movie, followed by clinical insight and conclusion provided by Dr. Kane)

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Bobbi’s Saga

Journal Entry: Thursday, 09.02.21

“It is the evening following the session with Dr. Kane.  He discussed our attending the movie Respect and discussed the safety protocols designed to keep me safe. The plan is to have a debriefing session following the movie at Dr. Kane’s office.  I am extremely anxious; it is now almost midnight. I have tried to keep busy, but my mind kept wondering what [will be] in the movie.  Dr. Kane thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to talk about the movie in today’s session. I appreciate all the help, support, energy, and time Dr. Kane is doing to make tomorrow’s intervention happen.”

“Today, we also talked about suicide again.  I felt like I need to hear what to do again. We went over all the steps including calling the crisis clinic.  Yesterday, suicide was on my mind so much.  I was terrified of myself.  I was disgusted, depressed, anxious, and scared I might do something bad. I have all these thoughts of ways to carry out the suicide.”

“I was feeling so ashamed.  I have so many things to be ashamed of.  I wish I could believe that there was nothing I could have done about the rapes.  I was 40 pounds, and the landlord was 200 pounds.  As to my stepfather, he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he convinced me otherwise.  I was taught to believe and trust adults.  He said my mother wanted me to do these things.  I believed him; I wanted to make my mother happy. I feel ashamed about the sensations, even if they were automatic.”

“Tomorrow is the movie.  I am anxious and don’t know what to expect.  I am going to go to bed now and pray for tomorrow.  It is going to be difficult to sleep.  I want to sleep and be rested for tomorrow.”

Journal Entry: Saturday, 09.06.21

“I am writing up yesterday’s session. I had wanted to do this last night, but I was too overwhelmed and exhausted.  I took some medication and was able to sleep for five hours.  Yesterday was an intense day.  We had a session at Dr. Kane’s office prior to leaving for the movie. He reaffirmed yesterday’s discussion that I could walk out of the movie anytime I become too anxious.  We acknowledged that walking out into the hallway didn’t mean I was ready to leave the theater; it meant I needed space or time to respond to my anxiety.”

“Dr. Kane also restated that I could leave and return home at any time. Furthermore, he had agreed that we would have a post movie session at his office.  Prior to seeing the movie, I was already so anxious as I couldn’t imagine what could be in the movie about a singer. I felt so anxious inside that my stomach was flipping.  I hadn’t been normal.  I had been crying about this.  But I was willing to the movie if it was going to help me.  I was having extreme anxiety.”

“When I saw the man in the movie say to a young Ree-Ree (Aretha Franklin) ‘We can be friends’ and then shut the bedroom door, I knew bad things were going to happen.  I can recognize scenes like that in movies before they happen.  It also sends a trigger to me of the first time I was sexually assaulted. Ree-Ree was about the same age I was when it started. She had that look of innocence.”

“The next scene in the movie in which her grandmother keeps asking her, ‘What happened? You know you can tell me anything.’ Ree-Ree still denied anything had happened.  That also was like me.  There was nothing my mother could have said to me that would have [made] me tell on the landlord.  I was protecting her and my little brother.  Loving her cemented my inability to tell what the landlord had done.” 

“Love for my mother and fear of the landlord cemented my lips.  I would keep that secret for over 40 years. The secret made me become a frightened, guilty, ashamed, isolated child. I was always afraid, alone, isolated, and secretive.  I kept the secret long after the landlord was dead.  Keeping the secret made me unhealthy and anxious.”

“When I saw Ree-Ree in the movie, you could see the changes in her following being raped.  Her childhood was gone [along] with her senses of joy, peace trust and love now replaced with guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and ongoing thoughts that it is going to happen again as well as extreme depression and questioning if life is worth living.”

“The next scene in the movie that made me gasp, hold my shawl and use it to wipe the tears running down my face.  It was the scene that Ree-Ree, a young child dressed in maternity clothes.  She looked like a child, had the face of a child but she had clothing that you could tell she was pregnant. As I saw the scene, the thought kept screaming in my head! She wasn’t singing.  Her pride and joy in herself and singing was gone.”

“I kept crying and hearing the screaming in my head ‘that could have been me, that could have been me.’ I recalled that when I told my mother that I had started my period, she had told my stepfather.  I was at the top of the stairs getting ready to come down. He said “Your mother doesn’t want to have any more children.  Now you and I can have a baby.”

“I didn’t reply.  That was the worst thing to hear.  I quickly walked down the stairs.  I was terrified.  I remembered thinking no one would believe me.  I knew that no one would believe the baby was his.  He will deny it.  I knew I had to leave before it happened.  I knew I had to go.  I didn’t know where.  I had no one who loved me.  Not even my mother.”      

“I cried through a lot of the movie.  Dr. Kane asked me repeatedly if I was okay and if I wanted to leave.  I said no.”

“The movie goes on to Aretha as an adult.  She had severe depression and often thought of the abuse as a child. It affected her adult life. She called the past thoughts, her demons.  They invaded her life and made it sometimes impossible to sing.  Her songs had lyrics of abuse and sadness. Some songs lyrics were full of what she wanted and yet did not have in her life.”

“Aretha’s father controlled her life.  He controlled what she sang, how she dressed and her behavior.  Her first husband who was a copy of her father did the same thing.  She eventually found the strength to speak up and stand up for herself….to love herself.”

“I felt so sorry for little Ree-Ree (Aretha).  All this time I didn’t think of being sorry for the little girl in me.  The little girl that had all the pain and shame; having to keep it a secret.  Being scared, the young part of her life that someone would find out and think and see her differently.  Then scared later in life that someone would find out and her shame would increase. Being fearful, that people would think she was a bad person, and it was her fault.”

“On the ride returning to Dr. Kane’s office for the post-movie session, I still had tears rolling down my face.  I kept thinking of the scenes in the movie that reminded me of my life. I kept reflecting on the rape, pregnancy, demons following her.  I kept thinking about the depression, the changes after the rapes and the demons that followed her for most of her life.”

“At the post session, Dr. Kane restated the progress note questions.  Then we discussed how my life reflected the movie.  I cried and talked about my pain, flashbacks, and memories.

  • I spoke of the memories of having objects pushed inside me
  • Being forced to do oral sex with his hands held behind my head
  • Being forced to gag as he pushed his penis down my throat 
  • Being told by him to rub my chest daily to make breasts grow
  • Trying to scream while the landlord was covering my mouth
  • Thinking I was going to die, wanting to die
  • Suicidal thoughts and old thoughts of how to commit suicide.”

“I left the office after a short talk about the paintings and artwork in Dr. Kane’s office. When I got home and started thinking of Ree-Ree again, I started crying again.  I told my husband if he wanted to talk about today, he should ask me tomorrow as I am too exhausted now.  Today, he never asked or mentioned it.”

“I am still thinking about the pregnant little girl and how that could have been me.  I am still anxious it is over 24 hours.  Feeling such empathy for Ree-Ree has made me think about myself differently. I questioned ‘how could I have such empathy for a movie character and not have empathy for myself?’”

“I understood why Dr. Kane used the movie as a teaching tool.  I have had empathy for others but been extremely hard on myself. All these years I have been thinking that it was my fault.  Having a disconnect between feeling it was my fault and I now know there was nothing as a small child I could do against a grown man.”

“Now I hope I can control my intense suicidal thoughts.  I still feel depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.  I know now that it is worth living.  I do not want to let my rapists win.  If I take my life, they will win long after the rapes happened.  I want to remember the flashbacks as demons. Panic attacks… I think I have been having panic attacks for the last two weeks.  I am having periods of rapid heartbeats, rapid breathing, and repeated sobbing.  I worry about my flashbacks as these can last for hours.”

“Dr. Kane made a comment in the session prior to the movie that he feared that I was slipping away.  I wonder what he meant by that.  I will ask him during the next session. One of the things I told Dr. Kane was I had never heard of loving yourself until I started therapy.” 

“Thank you, Dr. Kane.”

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma does not go away by

Simply pushing to the back of your mind

It is a thief that lurks around until it

finds an open door, a crack.  it flashes. It

screams as it leaps into your soul.

It is a thief that steals in the day or in the night

Enough is never enough

It steals and steals and steals

It plucks and sucks the life, slowly from me.

– Dr. Micheal Kane

Clinical Analysis – Dr. Kane

Intervention Guidelines

There are three audiences to which my comments are directed: 1) those who have endured sexual abuse; 2) the lay community who has interest in the topic of the psychological impacts of trauma regarding sexual abuse; and 3) colleagues, peers and students who are engaged in or seeking to engage in this important work within the Black, Brown, Indigenous and People of Color (BBIPOC) communities.

Attention has been given to balancing and contextualizing content and language so those not familiar would be able to follow the dialogue as well.  The clinical concepts, interventions, and protocols are based on my education, clinical training, consultation and most importantly the transformation (and not integration) of Western theoretical and therapeutic approaches into one that is based on a combination of feminist and multicultural orientations which are focused on the work of self-psychology and the self-relational psychotherapy.

As I begin the analysis, it is essential to state that the only changes made in Bobbi’s journal entries are the bullets points highlighting her sexual abuse from her 9/06/21 entry. This was an editorial decision made to give the reader an understanding of how the abuse impacted Bobbi.

The objective of my analysis is to provide clarity as to the intended outcome of the intervention as well as to address comments made in Bobbi’s journal entries. Bear in mind that this was not a traditional method of treatment but, it was one that was felt would benefit the patient and help her through her crisis allowing her an aid in processing her thoughts and feelings.

This method of intervention was chosen based on several factors such as:

  • What was the history of this patient’s life?
  • What was the impact of the sexual assaults, abuse, abandonment?
  • What has shaped the patient’s life to this very day?
  • What was the perceivable outcome of the current actions internalized by the patient?

These factors are unique to this patient and have been partially addressed in the introduction to Bobbi’s Saga and her current journal entries.

To ensure that the methods use were within the standards of ethical behavior, patient care and confidentiality was maintained and the following protocols were devised and followed.

  • Documentation of all levels of the intervention are recorded in the progress sessions notes
  • Mini mental status examinations were conducted prior to and following the intervention – viewing the movie Respect (2021).
  • Therapy sessions were conducted twice, within the confines of the known therapeutic environment prior to the intervention and immediately following. In addition, two following up telephone calls were in placed in conjunction with the follow up sessions
  • Protocols as to patient safety were devised (as follows):
  • The patient was informed of having the choice to remain or decision to leave the theater at any time
  • There were several means provided for the patient to communicate distress –
  • Numbering: One finger displayed (safe), two fingers displayed (concern), three fingers displayed (distress).
  • Verbal cues: Green (safe), Yellow (concern), Red (distress),
  • Verbal Statements & Movements: leaving the theater, relaxation exercise in the hallway or outside the theater or exiting temporally or permanently. All at the patient’s discretion.
  • Discretion of the therapist to stop the intervention due to either over stimulation or distress of the patient.
  • Patient confidentially was maintained.  No information or designation of clinical involvement of the patient.
  • Due to the intervention being a teaching method outside the confides of the therapeutic environment there were no fees charged.  Furthermore, the costs of the admissions for the intervention were paid for by the clinical practice.  Receipts and ticket stubs are clearly documented in the patient record.
  • Consultation via the consulting Trauma Group will be noted in the patient record.

Case Specifics

Bobbi’s case is complex. She is an African American female in her 60’s, she is responding to numerous traumas inflicted upon her during the developmental stages of early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood and old age. Specifically,

  • Early childhood – raped by an adult at the age of 4 years old
  • Middle childhood – raped by stepfather from the ages of 9-12 years old
  • Adolescence – physically assaulted and abandoned by her mother, church, and community, placed into the state foster care system at age 13.
  • Early adulthood – aged out of the state foster care system at 18, disconnected from her family, marriage
  • Middle adulthood – raising her family; rapes and traumas left untreated, maintenance of the “secret” for 40+ years
  • Old age – grown children, parenting issues no longer the focus, rapes left untreated. Begins treatment.

The mistake that is often made is the assumption that trauma is simply trauma.  The reality is that there are 17 subtypes (along with 15 forms of racism) of trauma that people of African American descent are vulnerable to and can be exposed to daily and Bobbi has been exposed to the following subtypes during her life:

  • Intergenerational Trauma
  • Historical Trauma
  • Insidious Trauma
  • Racial Profiling
  • The Imposter Syndrome
  • The Stereotypical Threat
  • Betrayal Trauma
  • Micro-Aggression Assault
  • Macro-Aggression Assault
  • Just World Trauma
  • The Invisibility Syndrome
  • Complex Post-Traumatic Stress

Major psychological impacts resulting in extreme wounding of the psychological self, occurred during early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence.  As Bobbi got older, she continued to carry the secrets of her abuse while simultaneously battering the inner child trapped at those three developmental stages. 

In the 40+ years that Bobbi has maintained the “secret” she, because of family and cultural mistrust of the medical community, has never sought treatment.  This may have been wise due to the likelihood of being misdiagnosis with a dissociative mental illness if she sought help from a professional who was not well versed in treating members of the BIPOC community.  (Dissociation can be defined as a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories and or sense of identity.) 

On the contrary, Bobbi has not lost connection.  It is the connection with her thoughts, feelings and memories that has been the foundation of her survival.  The one constant theme of Bobbi’s belief is that the child/ adolescent within all three development stages, could have done something to prevent the sexual assaults and therefore the child/ adolescent is responsible for the abuse and should carry the blame and shame associated with the sexual assaults.

During the last ten years in therapy, she has made progress through the stages along the journey of self-discovery (driving – empowerment, striving – setting pace and directions, and thriving – achievement of defined objectives and goals) and it has been my role using the clinical techniques of self-relational psychotherapy grounded in self-psychology, to be the guide as she progresses through life.  There have been times when this progress was rough and unforgiving. This is one of those times.

Towards the ending of one of Bobbi’s journal entries, she describes a comment made as:

“Dr. Kane made a comment in the session prior to the movie that he feared that I was slipping away.” 

Her comment was rock solid.  For the past ten years, I have worked alongside of Bobbi as she relived traumas, nightmares, and flashbacks.  Now that she has reached the developmental stage of “old age,” I was struggling to assist her to hold a safe place for the inner children of early and middle childhood as well as the young girl of adolescence. 

The issues here were complex. In one way, the adult woman knew that the child/adolescent was not responsible for the sexual assaults and the other abuses that she’d experienced, yet within her, were the demands of the child/adolescent to be held responsible, accountable and hold on to the shame, guilt, and blame of what others had inflicted upon her.

A major crisis occurred when recently, following weeks of consistent intrusions from the traumas and resulting psychological impacts from nightmares and flashbacks, Bobbi, the adult, begin to agree with the child/adolescent that they should have prevented the sexual assault and therefore were responsible for the acts and following abuses.

To make matters worse, following a recent session when I attempted to advocate on the part of the child/adolescent, Bobbi chided me both verbally and in her journal for being stern with her.  It was my concern that for the first time in ten years, we were going to be opposites as I sought not only to assist Bobbi during her difficult time but to aid her in finding the ABC’s (advocacy, balance, and calmness) for the three entities she carried within the psychological self.  The situation worsened when Bobbi exclaimed in session that she wanted to hurt or punish the child/adolescent for their roles in not protecting her from the sexual assaults. 

The situation then struck critical mass when Bobbi began reengaging in suicidal ideation and consequently planning for the care of her beloved animal following her death.  It was at this point I felt a sense of hopelessness that after ten years of difficult work, Bobbi was surrendering to her traumas and wounds.  In my opinion before my eyes, she was “slipping away”.

In this difficult work there are two groups of therapists, one who has lost a patient to suicide and the other who will lose a patient to suicide.  In my 35 years, I have lost two patients.  Both having done so after enduring years of extreme traumas, Bobbi would not be a third.

When working with Bobbi, there is the focus on balancing the “needs” and the “wants”.  Simply stated, needs are primal, essential for survival, fundamental. Whereas wants are secondary, grounded in growth and development.  As Bobbi is responding to “self” on three distinctive developmental stages, early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence, two clinical concepts (among others) are constantly present within the therapeutic environment; transference and projective.  These two are defined as:

  • Transference – occurs when people redirect emotions or feelings about one person to an entirely separate individual.
  • Projective Identification – is a defense mechanism in which the individual projects qualities that are unacceptable to the self

Blocks, Hurdles etc.

There were several major blocks and hurdles impeding Bobbi’s movement within therapy.

  1. The consistent affirmation that she did not do enough to prevent the sexual assaults and the need to hold the child & adolescent responsible for the sexual assaults and resulting abandonment by the family and community
  2. The internal conflict of not being able to connect her mental awareness as an adult with empathy and compassion to inner child having endured the repeated sexual assaults
  3. The consistent shame, disgust, and disdain for self-regarding the sexual acts as a child she was forced into leading to the resulting solid emplaced beliefs that “I am a bad person” all of these held firmly despite the large amount of evidence to the contrary.

Despite therapeutic interventions by both Bobbi’s therapist and psychiatrist, who provided both medication management, adapted therapeutic intervention, as well as internet searches done by Bobbi attesting to the lack of responsibility in her abuse, Bobbi was adamant about holding the inner child at a distance and targeting the self with ongoing shame, blame and disgust.  All leading to the current downward spiral.

The Film… Respect (2021)

The reason for using the film Respect as a clinical intervention tool was because there was a need to develop a strategy from which the patient could benefit, utilizing the clinical concept of the I Factor, described below, which the movie provided.

  • Information – sharing of knowledge, wisdom, experience
  • Involvement – the internal shaping of what is being shared
  • Integration – the rooting/centering of what has been taken within
  • Implementation – the movement of what has been learned and experienced
  • Impact – the transformation into new knowledge, wisdom, and experience 

The objective was to assist her to voluntarily move from a state of need (survival) to a state of want (growth).  This would entail consciously letting go of the entrenched defenses and allowing herself to be vulnerable, exposed, and trusting (VETING) to new information. The film provided that push. Understanding the impact of the push and the means to access the psychological self was built on the clinical work, belief, faith, and trust (BFT), the patent had established with the therapist during the previous ten years of involved psychotherapeutic sessions.

Process & Protocols

The process entailed meeting the patient at the office, escorting the patient to the event, and returning the patient to the office to continue in the post session. This process was implemented to ensure patient safety because it was unknown how the patient would be psychologically impacted following observing the events in the film. The immediate follow up session after the film was designed to:

  1. Achieve a mental status examination
  2. Provide an opportunity for the patient to debrief, emote and decompress
  3. Provide emotional balancing as the patient distanced emotionally from what had been observed

The process included examination of the patient’s emotional fitness via mini mental status examination (PRE) prior to the film and another mini mental status examination (POST) following reviewing the film. Safety protocols, as stated above were implemented while watching the film.

During the movie, the patient remained nonverbal, non-communicative and appeared to be consistently in dept of thought, emotion, and processing.  She appeared to be consistently oriented to “X4”. Specifically, person, place, time, and situation.  I observed numerous emotional and tearful response, deep gasps, and a consistent and tight grasping/clutching on the shawl she carried which was used to either cover her face or wipe away tears as needed. After the movie and following the protocol, there was silence during the drive returning to the office allowing the patient the opportunity to process what was seen with the either emotional distancing or psychologically integration.

The Benefits of Visual Observation

Bobbi’s method of maintaining control was conflictive. While she sought to free herself of the pain, memories, and flashbacks she also sought to hold the inner child/adolescent at a distance and responsible for failing to stop the sexual abuses which ultimate led to her abandonment by her mother, church, and community.  Upon watching the film, she was unable to maintain the entrenched defensive distancing and allowed the psychological self to be vulnerable, exposed, and open to trusting what she was seeing and experiencing.

Post-movie Comments

Referring to Bobbi’s journal entry

  1. The issue of empathy – Specifically on the following quotes
  2. “Feeling such empathy for Ree-Ree has made me think about myself differently. I questioned how could I have such empathy for a movie character and not have empathy for myself?”
  3. “I have had empathy for others but have been extremely hard on myself. All these years I have been thinking that it was my fault.”

The observations and integration from the film allowed Bobbi, in seeing the portrayal of Ree-Ree, see herself and begin having the empathy for self which she had denied throughout her life.

  1. The issue of a child being responsible for her sexual assaults
  2. (Prescreening) “I wish I could believe that there was nothing I could have done about the rapes.  I was 40 pounds, and the landlord was 200 pounds.” 
  3. (Post Screening) “All these years I have been thinking that it was my fault.  Having a disconnect between how I feel it was my fault and I now know there was nothing a small child could do against a grown man.”

Outcome – Bobbi was able to not simply reject her long held belief of being responsible for the sexual assaults, she was able to transform these beliefs, cease accountability and punishing self for the actions of her assailants.

  1. The clinical concepts of transference and projective identification
  2. “I still had tears rolling down my face.  I kept thinking of the scenes in the movie that reminded me of my life. I kept reflecting on the rape, pregnancy, and demons following her.  I kept thinking about the depression, the changes after the rapes and the demons that followed her for most of her life.”
  3. “As I saw the scene, the thought kept screaming in my head! It was the scene that Ree-Ree, a young child dressed in maternity clothes.  She looked like a child, had the face of a child but she had clothing that you could tell she was pregnant. She wasn’t singing.  Her pride and joy in herself and singing was gone.”
  4. “I kept crying and hearing the screaming in my head ‘that could have been me, that could have been me.’ I recalled that when I told my mother that I had started my period, she had told my stepfather…”
  5. “I felt so sorry for little Ree-Ree (Aretha).  All this time I didn’t think of being sorry for the little girl in me.”  The little girl that had all the pain and shame; having to keep it a secret.  Being scared, the young part of her life that someone would find out and think and see her differently.  Then scared later in life that someone would find out and her shame would increase. Being fearful, that people would think she was a bad person and that it was her fault.
  6. (Grandmother) “You know you can tell me anything.” Ree-Ree still denied anything had happened.  That also was like me.  There was nothing my mother could have said to me that would have had me tell on the landlord. 

Outcome – Bobbi was successful in holding, balancing, and redirecting the themes of transference and projection identification

  1. Holding onto to life
  2. “Now I hope I can control my intense suicidal thoughts.  I still feel depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.”
  3. “I know now that it is worth living.  I do not want to let my rapists win.  If I take my life, they will win long after the rapes happened.  I want to remember the flashbacks as demons.”

Outcome – Bobbi is now focused on control and was able to move toward the clinical conceptual stage of advocacy moving towards driving (empowerment), striving (setting pace and direction), and thriving (achievement of objectives and goals).  

  1. Demons – Placing a name on the flashbacks
  2. “I kept thinking of the scenes in the movie that reminded me of my life. I kept reflecting on the rape, pregnancy, demons following her.” 
  3. “I kept thinking about the depression, the changes after the rapes and the demons that followed her for most of her life.”

Outcome – Bobbi was able to firmly designate, naming the flashbacks as demons.  In accepting Aretha Franklin’s story, she is understanding that the demons are lifelong.  Accepting this makes it more possible for Bobbi to develop the “want” i.e., empowerment to balancing the demons and in doing so bring calmness into her life.

One week following the clinical intervention, I received the following email from Bobbi:

“Hello Dr. Kane,

I don’t know [what] you thought of the movie.  I believe it is making a difference.  I appreciate you taking the time, doing the planning, time, support, caring, thoughtfulness, money, and extra sessions.  I am feeling lighter, and the demons aren’t beating me down as much.  I know I will win this battle with your support.

Thank you,

Bobbi”

“In walking the landscape known as life, the terrain can be rough and unforgiving.  We focus on the journey and not the destination.  It is what we observed, experience and embrace along the way.”

–        Dr. Micheal Kane

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

In Search of … self.

The space you are looking for

Escape

Is within

Self

You can run,

And yet

You cannot hide

From Self

Explore. Allow me to …

Find you.

– Dr. Micheal Kane

At the beginning of the analysis, I said that in the conclusion I would state the motives for accompanying Bobbi to viewing the film “Respect” and utilizing the film as a form of clinical intervention.  Ironically, this interaction began at the start of National Suicide Week. It was a concern that despite 10 years of vigilant work by Bobbi, she was soon to be lost to suicide and thus disappear. I took a bold gamble, created protocols and processes to protect my patient and stepped out of the private therapeutic environment. 

Would I do this again or recommend such actions to another colleague?  I would say no. This approach worked because of the ongoing, ten-year therapeutic relationship developed with Bobbi. For novice or newly minted therapist-client relationships there is too much risk of patient safety, possible malpractice claims and possible occurrences outside the control of the therapist to be used as a consistent treatment method.  I would recommend this action as a clinical intervention understanding the specific circumstances and needs of the individual only if conducted within the confines of the therapeutic environment.

I also want to address concerns both professionally and personally about the film.  I felt the film gave an accurate portrayal of sexual assault, domestic violence, and male/female relationships within the African American community.  I believe that my patient was able to see within the film examples of the shame, blaming and psychological impacts evident in her own suffering.  Furthermore, she was able to see the secrecy held in the family, church and community regarding the sexual abuse, pregnancy, childbirth and rearing of Aretha Franklin and her children. 

The film, as stated by Bobbi’s journal entry, portrayed Ree-Ree’s (Aretha) father and her first husband in the following context “Aretha’s father controlled her life. What she sang. How she dressed and her behavior.  Her husband #1 did the same thing. She selected the first husband like her father.  She eventually found the strength to speak up and stand up for herself.  To love herself.”

I am reminded by words within Bobbi’s journal entry when she states, “One of the things I told Dr. Kane was I had never heard of loving yourself until I started therapy.”  This is the essence of the psychological wound reinforced by repeated trauma within the family, church and community portrayed in the film and mirrored in the actual family, church and community in which Bobbi lives.  The psychological wounds of the family, church and community hides its secrets to protect its image and to do so is willing to sacrifice its children.

I reflect on the words of Ree-Ree’s friend and pianist who told her “There are no demons … it is the pain you have been running from your whole life.” I believe that he was partially incorrect.  There are demons. For example, Bobbi’s father was a senior deacon in his church.  He was hiding in open sight.  Both the Pastor and the board of Deacons had knowledge of the sexual assaults and yet took no action. The demons are the pain, and it is the pain, that the family, church, and community seek to hide to protect its image and, in the process, keep running from their responsibilities to the members of the community.

The film portrayed the lead male characters, Aretha’s father and first husband as violent, controlling, manipulative and emotionally as well as psychologically abusive.  The lead and co-lead female characters Aretha, her sisters, grandmother, and father’s girlfriend are portrayed as struggling to survive and banding together gaining strength and independence from these men. Some may suggest that the community is “broken” and that would not be true. As portrayed in film, following the death of Marin Luther King Jr, people are waiting for a leader (male) to appear. The community, rather than be broken, is psychological wounded.  The repair and healing of the wound can begin by teaching and reinforcing techniques of “loving the self” and “loving me more”. 

Until then, as a father, I fear the future of our children epically our daughters. Currently in Texas, men have passed laws seeking to control women’s bodies and access to healthcare. One woman, Denise Pitcher, Executive Director of Caribbean Centre for Human Rights, recently wrote “Men should not be making laws about women’s bodies.”

The film “Respect” affirms my response. “As long as men seek to hold the reins of power and privileged, women will never be free of their desperate grasping for control.”  Insecure men need, seek, and fight for power through which they manipulate.  Secure men let go of the want for power, seeking to empower the psychological self.  In doing so, share resources in a way that benefits all.”

African American men, have work to do.

Therapy… anyone?

The Undiscovered Territory

The past is what it was.

The present is what it is.

In the future lies what is to be uncovered.

It is the undiscovered territory

Waiting for you.

Experience the Journey of Self Discovery.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

*****************************************************************************************************************************

Family Secrets

The road to hell begins with this statement…

“What happens in this family stays in this family.”

Solution: Cut a new path

Take care of self.

As much as I love you…

I love me more.

More.

– Dr. Micheal Kane

*****************************************************************************************************************************

Welcome My Brothers the Consumer

Welcome!

We welcome you among us.

Stay as long as you would like.

We have a revolving door policy.

The lights stay on 24 hours a day.

The only darkness in the cells are the inmates.

And the beat goes on.

Welcome,

And be consumed.

– Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time … Bobbi’s saga continues ….

Bobbi’s Saga: Vivid Memories

*WARNING – GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT*

“Dark eyes…. with a grin… he was enjoying it… raping me.”

“Your mother wants me to do this… It’s going to hurt.”

“I trusted him…. I called him… Dad.”

“I was so confused.  I didn’t know what to do.  I believed him.  I believed she knew and didn’t want to talk about it.”

“I worked so, so hard to bury it (my memories). I felt unloved, uncared for and unwanted. I dug a hole to bury it. I thought I did a good job of burying it.”

My Dear Readers,

As our country and the international community continues to try to recover from the death, sorrow, and loss created by COVID-19, we are also responding to the other deaths, destruction, and psychological impacts from the collapse of the condominium in Miami and the assassination of the President of Haiti resulting in turmoil and uncertainty for its citizens.

Recently, intense media attention has also been given to the controversy surrounding the release of Dr. Bill Cosby, whose sexual assault conviction was overturned on a legal technicality and vacated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Much fervor has been casted about this outcome many see as black man being able to receive “justice” in a legal system that has historically been silent when it comes to black men. 

Ironically, if we accept Senator Scott’s assertion that “America is not a racist country”, then why does the race of this individual become the issue? Why has the release of Dr. Cosby been constantly compared to the acquittal of OJ Simpson other than the fact that they are both black? White America wants to believe that it is not racist and yet is consistent in pointing out that these two black men “beat the system”.  While, on the other hand, there are African Americans who rejoice, albeit quietly, that a black man, compared again to OJ Simpson, finally received “justice”. As both groups engage in countless hours of debate over the cases of Dr. Cosby and OJ Simpson, they fail to appreciate the one commonality that both men share with yet another group – the rich. While Senator Scott seeks to hide racism for political manipulation and America seeks to deny racism even exists, the reality is simple though race is the central topic when discussing these men in social circles, both men used their money to manipulate their way through the legal system.

Victims of sexual assault across the country were rightfully indignant about the ruling that allowed Dr. Cosby to be released from prison, but it must be stated that his release does not absolve him of his actions. (I address him as Dr. Cosby because the American media, against Senator Scott’s assertion, routinely refuses to acknowledge his educational achievements) Yet as we listen to the voices of his victims who have been denied vindication or justice, others who were also sexually victimized, scrape by in the shadows either ignored or simply suffering in silence.

In my role as a clinical traumatologist and psychotherapist, I have been working with one such individual on a weekly basis for 10 years.  I have listened to her ongoing stories of childhood sexual abuse, despair, abandonment traumas, and psychological impacts occurring at the age of four when she was raped by the landlord of her residence and then repeatedly raped by her stepfather from the ages of nine to twelve. It was at the age of twelve, upon reaching her first period and her stepfather insisted that she have his child, that she had the courage to tell her mother and to her shock, her mother physically assaulted her, using a fork threaten to blind her and forced her into foster care under the label of “incorrigible”.

The story that I am about to share doesn’t involve celebrities, and will not be highlighted in the local, regional or national media.  This is story of one person who to protect her confidentiality I have named “Bobbi”.  There will be those who will question the relevance of both writing the details and listening to her story. There may be those who will be left impacted by her words and her experience. And there will be those who want to turn their heads, close their eyes, minds, and ears to the pain she has suffered.

Her story told thorough her journal writings deserved not to only be heard, but her story deserves to be listened to and understood.  Bobbi speaks for the many Bobbi’s who have, regardless of race, ethnicity, or origin, lived in the shadows of America ignored and who are now, no longer silent.

Trauma is impactful and permanent.  It intrudes without notice, creating flashbacks from the simplest observations reflecting or challenging memories. Trauma is a permanent etching on the psychological self. It is a testimony of the horrific moment experienced by the individual.  Trauma never, ever – I repeat, never, ever – goes away. It is the objective of the work of self-relational psychotherapy to learn how to balance the trauma experience (psychological intrusion and impact) and in doing so, learn to live and not just exist or survive so the individual can have the life they want and not be forced to live the live they currently have.

I will conclude with an analysis of my work with Bobbi.  It is my honor to present Bobbi’s Saga …. this is her story.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

07/05/21

“I had a difficult session with Dr. Kane today.  We talked about SWIPE.  At one point Dr. Kane noticed my hands were shaking. I hadn’t noticed I was shaking.  I was feeling scared, anxious and the feelings from the past were coming back.”

(*NOTE- SWIPE is an acronym divided into three components Spacing (S) as in creating emotional space from the disturbance; the process of “Work In Progress” (WIP) as the focus is on the work utilizing time and “Empowerment” (E) movement toward the attainment of achieving the desired objectives of walking the landscape.  It is technique used to momentarily distract, relax and subsequently normalized the process as the individual continues to manage the subjects that arise from the traumatic experience.)

“I could feel his penis being rubbed all over my body while he called out instructions for what he wanted me to do.  When I remember that it makes me cringe. Me below him while he moved himself over my body. He would be on his knees above me.  I hated the way it looked and felt.  Why didn’t I do something? I could have bitten him hard or screamed as loud as I could.  Why didn’t I tell in the beginning? Why did I wait until I was being beaten and was so depressed and sick?”

“When I did yell it to her (mother), she didn’t believe me.  She called me a liar and continue[d] to beat me [with] the broom.  When I think back, my behavior had changed.  At 8 years old, I was afraid of getting into trouble.  Once the abuse restarted with Bennie (stepfather) my behavior changed as I was still scared from the first rape (Bobbi had been raped at age four by the landlord) and then Bennie started. It increased my guilt and shame.”

“How could 2 different men want me?  What was I doing wrong? Was I giving out the wrong vibes? How could I have stopped this? I was still following the rules. And I was so mad.  Mad at my mother.  She was my mother. Why was she so mad at me? Why didn’t she believe me? I was so mad.  She was supposed to protect me. Instead, she believed him.  Instead, she called me bad names and accused me of doing bad things and being a whore. Telling me about having sex with boys and telling me I was going to get pregnant.  Telling me I had to go, if I got pregnant…. that, no fast pregnant kids were living in her home.  She said when you old enough to have babies, you are old enough to live on your own.”

“I left Dr. Kane’s office feeling low, disturbed, and depressed.  The memories seem so close.  The smell is so strange.  I am not sure why. These memories, thoughts, and flashbacks are rising up.  I buried them so deep.  They haven’t risen for years.” 

“Last week, when I became overwhelmed with the feelings, I thought I couldn’t take it any longer.  Sometimes, the only way out is to relieve the pain by suicide.  I told Dr. Kane I wanted peace.  I wanted a few moments of not being scared, ashamed or feeling guilty.  Dr. Kane said what I call peace by another name is freedom and freedom is not free!”

“I have so many emotions now; shame from [what] happened and bad guilt from what was happening.  I also feel guilty because I had weird body reactions to what he was doing to me.  Why would this happen?  What is wrong with my body?  I didn’t choose or want this.  Why is my body feeling strange? This is really making me feel like a bad person.  How could this happen? Why is my body doing this?  I don’t understand at all.”

“I am breathing hard and fast.  My heart beats rapidly.  I am crying.  I feel so low, dirty, and shamed.  I have no self-esteem. I don’t know what to do.  I am not going to call Dr. Kane.  I am shaking.  I feel so bad. I feel like I am swimming in pain. I feel like I am drowning.  I am going to bed. Why are these feelings rising?”

07.07.21

“Today I woke up thinking about Bennie and my abuse.  I want these feelings to become lighter.  I feel these feelings have control of me.  I closed my eyes and clenched my hands into fists.  This is not how I wanted to start my day.  During the day, I had intrusive thoughts.  I had no suicidal thoughts.  I want this to continue becoming lighter.  I feel like I am struggling now.”

“Bennie was so cruel.  I had thought of him as a father.  Even though he was my stepfather, he was the only father I ever had.  We called him dad.  He took us to fun places.  My mother was happy because of him.  To have a person I had trusted turn into a monster, destroyed my sense of self.  I lost the small amount of self-esteem I had.  I already felt bad about myself at 9 years old.  I didn’t know what was happening.  I also been taught to obey adults.  This was so hard.  I was so confused.  I didn’t know this didn’t happen in all families.”

“Then one day at school when I was 12 years old, they taught us sex education.  They said your body belongs to yourself.  They said not to let anyone touch you in that way.  Then I became really confused.  My mother was not protecting me.  I thought she knew.  Why did she hate me so much?”

I knew I had to leave home, but I was 12 years old; where would I go?  I knew no one would believe me.  I was scared, depressed, and wanted to die; I didn’t know what to do. All my fears turned into depression and anger.  I was angry because I had no choice. I couldn’t tell any of the teachers.  I wasn’t a bad student.  I didn’t feel any of the teachers cared.  I was lost.”

“Even though it has been over 50 years, it still feels so close. I will be glad when it becomes lighter.  I know these flashbacks and memories will never go away.  I want balance in my life. Balance, that will allow me to have a vivid flashback and not have it take me away from reality.  I am working with Dr. Kane to make this happen.  I know unless I continue to work with Dr. Kane, the vivid memories will rise up like a fire blowing dragon.”

Analysis – Dr. Kane

The usual Eurocentric treatment modalities were not helpful in providing relief for this patient.  Typically, she would have been diagnosed with PTSD, recommended for a medication evaluation for prescriptive medications, therapeutic interventions of group therapy and a nominal number of individual therapy sessions and labeled as a “survivor of sexual abuse”.  Bobbi would have failed to comply with these reasonable “recommendations” and in her no show and/or lack of compliance, she would have been designated either “resistant” or a ‘failure” in treatment.

Everything above is a setup for failure.  First, she would not have had any appreciation for the full impact of the diagnosis.  Second, understanding the mistrust African Americans have of white physicians following decades of mistreatment, it would be unlikely that she would have agreed to psych meds. Third, the concept of therapy within the African American community carries the stigma of being for the “crazies” or the “weak minded”.  The idea of sitting with a therapist, a stranger, particularly one who is white and ignorant of her culture, history or background or sitting in group sessions with other “survivors of sexual abuse” would be is unfeasible.  Lastly and most dangerously is the labeling of Bobbi as a “survivor”.

Bobbi is in her mid 60’s. She has been struggling with the trauma of being raped repeatedly for 9 of her most formative years. The inaccuracy of Eurocentric treatment modalities while treating African Americans is its failure to take into consideration, with the difficulties that African Americans face in this country, labeling someone as a “survivor” is not a badge of resilience and strength. It can, in situations such as these, reinforce victimization, hopelessness and powerlessness.

In the Eurocentric methodology, the clinician given the limits of one’s training, may have hasten to diagnosis Bobbi with simple or uncomplicated PTSD.  Symptoms of uncomplicated PTSD include avoidance of trauma reminders, nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, mood changes and changes in relationships. In making such a diagnosis, the clinician would had made a most grievous error.  It is only through a clinical examination utilizing survey instruments designed to gather from psychological, social, and cultural perspectives that Bobbi can be correctly diagnosed and only then be encouraged to involve herself as a full participating partner in her clinical treatment plan.

Rather than uncomplicated PTSD, Bobbi is responding to complex PTSD.  This relates to an individual having suffered numerous traumatic events often beginning in childhood and continuing through adulthood.  The repetitive nature of the traumatic events often means that a person’s mental, physical and emotional states are all affected.  It is often very difficult to function at work and impedes and/or hinders involvement in interpersonal relationships.  Complex trauma is the exposure to adverse experiences such as violence, abuse, neglect, and separation from a caregiver repeatedly over time and during critical periods in a child’s life.

Having provided context to the specifics that Bobbi continues to endure, more must be stated on several other traumas that have created psychological impacts.  Specifically:

  • “Just World” Trauma – People have the need to believe in a just world, one in which they “get what they deserve and deserve what they get”.  The just world theory corresponds to the principle of “goodness” and that the goodness of an individual is a primary factor determining his or her lot in life.  Trauma shatters the hypothesis of the “Just World” Theory because the traumatic response occurs as a result of an “out-of-the-ordinary” event and is directly experienced as a threat to survival and self-preservation.

In the circumstances surrounding Bobbi she is confused, the inner child is a good girl, she follows the rules, does well at school, is obedient and in return, she is brutally raped by two men once at the age of four and then repeatedly by her stepfather.  There is the back and forth of blaming herself for not doing enough to resist, scream or fight off her stepfather coupled with questioning as to what she was doing “wrong” and whether she was sending off vibes resulting in self blaming and seeking to hold herself accountable for the repeated rapes she endured.  There is Bobbi, balancing the emotions of both the matured yet emotionally wounded and psychologically traumatized adult seeking to view the world through the lens of the child, helpless, powerless, abandoned who was casted into the unknown world for actions not of her doing.  As the adult she knows that being either a 4-year-old or 9–12-year-old, she was being controlled and manipulated by adults.

As the child, she seeks to believe in a just world and yet as the adult she knows from the 50+ years of carrying her pain, she knows the “Just World” does not exist.

  • Betrayal Trauma – is a violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Betrayal trauma that extends over time is traumatic and the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal.  In the circumstances surrounding Bobbi, this occurred at several stages in her life; the first being at the age of 4 when she was viciously raped and threatened with death by the building’s landlord, second stage when she was repeatedly raped by her stepfather, the person she honored as “Dad” and the third stage occurring at the age of 12 when finally,  upon the fear of pregnancy from rape, mustering up the courage to tell her mother about the repeated sexual assaults, she is rejected, physically assaulted, threatened to be blinded and abandoned by her mother.
  • Intergenerational Trauma – also known as “Blood Trauma” occurs when trauma leaves a chemical mark on a person’s genes which then can be passed down is transmitted genetically.  The symptoms of intergenerational trauma include lack of trust of others, anger, irritability, nightmares, fearfulness and the inability to connect with others. All of these symptoms are descriptive of the actions and behaviors of Bobbi’s mother.  Bobbi’s inner child is confused, angry and resentful as she even as the adult today continues to question Why? …. Why did this happen to me? Why does my mother hate me?  It is normal for the child to seek, to demand, and to want the love of the mother.  Yet in this situation, the mother cannot provide for Bobbi the love that she never received from her mother.  It can be hypothesized that Bobbi’s grandmother, likewise, was just as lacking in trust, angry, fearful, and unable to connect with her daughter.  Bobbi, now as an adult, can grasp the concept that her mother’s actions stemmed from self-hatred and therefore she was unable to provide to Bobbi the love that she, herself, never learned.  Yet there remains the conflict of the inner child still seeking …love.
  • Impostor Syndrome – can be described as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that routinely challenge positive information that the psychological self holds to be true.  Individuals who suffer from this experience profound self-doubt.  Because these wounds are self-inflicted, it is also psychologically destabilizing, as the individual is essentially attacking their own psychological self.  In Bobbi’s circumstance, shame, blame, and guilt are viewed through her lens both as a child and today as an adult.  Although successful in her marriage, family and career, Bobbi is consistent in her lack of belief in herself and the minimization of her successes, competency, and skills.  This destabilization can be directly linked to her traumatization beginning in childhood and endured throughout her life.

Understanding the complexities of the traumas impacting her life, Bobbi has made remarkable improvement and achieved successes in improving her emotional and psychological wellness. Ten years into treatment, she consistently, works to uncover (validate the experiences) discover (process its psychological impacts) and recover (the continual healing of the wounds).  She has partnered with the “psychological self” in learning ways to advocate for self (advocacy), focus on internal balance (balancing) and seek to achieve peace (calmness) in her external world.

When Bobbi first engaged in intensive outpatient therapy with me, she was a survivor spiraling out of control.  In fact, she was the verge of suicide.  Today, she has achieved the stage of driving (empowerment).  Whereas before she lived IN fear of her traumas and its pursing nightmares and flashbacks, today she is able to live WITH fear and not IN fear.  She understands that the traumas are permanent, but she has learned to walk her landscape, empowered, balancing her feelings, and managing the occasional suicidal thought.

Bobbi’s work is predicated on the ability to gain maximum utilization of the community-oriented methodology of the SELF Protocol: Self-Empowerment Leaping Forward. 

In this method, as Bobbi walks the landscape known as LIFE, the therapeutic environment becomes a safe and secure space to either sit with silence or speak openly about secretive (hidden or rooted), submerged (unresolved), substances (materials), surfacing (arising) upon the Self’s psychological landscape.

In closing this section, I want to extend my gratitude to Bobbi for the willingness to allow me to be her guide and companion on her “Journey of Self Discovery.” She consistently stated that it is because of her therapist that she is alive today. She seeks to give credit to me, but I have to respectfully disagree. It is her work and determination in moving forward on her journey that has helped her. Though it is my honor to walk along side her, she deserves the credit.

I remember the early days. Therapeutic sessions three times per week rotating phone calls 2-3 times a week.  I remember the anguish and tears she would express.  And in every session there the same damn question she would ask that I never shy away from: “When will the traumas, the flashbacks and the pain be over?”.  My response was always the same…. Never.

Over the toll of 10 years Bobbi has integrated in her belief system that trauma is permanent. She now accepts that though it will never go away, she understands that she is driving (empowered) and advocating for self.  She is now working towards striving (pacing) in balancing so she can live with her traumas and flashbacks and moving towards thriving (personal achievement) in lightening the impact of the traumatic intrusions.

In “Walking the Landscape,” Bobbi has full appreciation and understanding that “freedom, peace … is not free”.

Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

“There is a system for white people and a system for black people.  This is what we face every day.”

– Scott X Sedale Connecticut State NAACP President (03/18/18)

I do not agree with the assertion of the US Senator from North Carolina, Tim Scott, that “America is not a racist country.”  On the contrary, 400 years plus years of institutionalized, structural, and systemic racism has been woven into the fabric of America.  There are numerous African Americans and other members of communities of color who like Bobbi are either denied, rejected or unable to access mental health treatment due to the lack of culturally responsible care.  When culturally responsible care is not a priority for those dominating the power structures and hierarchies, it will not be a priority in professional, graduate, or medical school or training. Subsequently, mental health professionals will be ill-equipped and unable to assist these ever-growing communities resulting in the failure of the system to provide treatment and continued victimization.

“Black folks in this city have never had anything to call their own except humiliation and despair.  We need you Coach Boone; you are the answers to our prayers.”

Movie “Remember the Titans (2000)

This well acted dramatization of a black high school football coach in Alexandria Virginia arriving to save the African American community from humiliation and despair is currently being played out in real life in the availability of African American mental health providers to treat their community.  African Americans make up 13% of the US population.  Yet of the 41,000 psychiatrists in the country only 2% are African American. Furthermore, of the 171,500 psychologists in the US only 5.3% are African American. Women of color make up less than 5% of all psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers combined.

African American are vulnerable to being exposed to the psychological impacts from a minimum of 12 forms of racism and 15 subtypes of traumas daily with multiple racisms and traumas often occurring simultaneously. 

Unlike the dramatization of Denzel Washington, in Remember the Titans where he heroically saves the day and wins the championship, highlighting achievements for the community, mental health and wellness is individual and should be a priority for the community seeking survival in the face of those in positions of power and control.

It is Bobbi’s hope that her journal entries will assist others who suffer in silence and want to empower the psychological self in walking their landscape to seek mental health treatment that is culturally responsible. 

Remember Freedom…. Is not Free.

Complex Trauma

Dr. Micheal Kane

Complex trauma does not go away by

Simply pushing it to the back of your

mind

It is a thief that lurks around until it

Finds an open door.  It flashes

It screams as it leaps into my soul

It is a thief that steals in the day or in the

night

Enough is never …. Enough.

It steals and steals and steals

It plucks and sucks the life, slowly

From me.

Until the next journey…. Bobbi’s saga continues….

The Unspoken Truth: The Pain We ALL Live – Unmasking Racism & Trauma in America

“Hear me clearly; America is not a racist country.  …. And it is wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

– Tim Scott, Republican Senator, South Carolina

“I have experienced the pain of discrimination; I know what it is feels like to be pulled over for no reason and to be followed around a store while I’m shopping.”

-Tim Scott, Republican Senator, South Carolina

“To be African American is to be African without any memory & American without any privilege.”

James Baldwin, Writer, Orator & Civil Rights Activist

“We should stop arguing about whether or not this is a racist country. It is not.  A racist country would never elect Barack Obama president or Kamala Harris vice president.”

– Jim Clyburn, House Majority Whip, Democratic Representative , South Carolina

My Dear Readers,

Once again, I find myself writing during difficult and adverse times.  Not only do we as Americans, continue to deal with the ravages of COVID-19 that has sickened 32,842,140 people and claimed 583,210 lives, but the disease is now spiking in other nations including India where a recent 7-day average jumped from 65,211 cases on April 1, 2021 to 371,041 cases on May 1, 2021.

As the nation continues to respond to the medical, economic, and governmental issues related to COVID-19, our attention has once again been redirected towards an issue that has plagued America for the last 400 years and counting – racism.  It arrived on American shores more than 400 years ago and has planted its seeds of discourse, depravation, division, and destruction ever since.

Tim Scott, the junior Republican Senator from South Carolina, in his response to President Biden’s address to the joint chambers of Congress, ignited a firestorm when he proclaimed, “Hear me clearly; America is not a racist country”.  These powerful words were insightful and deliberate. They intentionally served to disavow and distract from President Biden’s message.  Make no mistake, Senator Scott’s response was not buffoonery. It was well planned and strategic. It deflected from the political issues President Biden wanted to focus on and forced Democratic politicians, many of them African American, to agree with him if only for their own reasoning and to avoid pointless political battles. Essentially, they had to agree for political survival. 

Unfortunately, Sen. Scott’s statement has provided openings for those less scrupulous members of state legislatures to write laws to restrict voting and seek to limit access to the truths of American History.

Idaho has outlawed the teaching of Systemic Racism in its public schools.  In Tennessee, State Representative Justin Lafferty, stated that the Three-Fifths Compromise, an article in the Constitution that counts enslaved people as 60% of a human being is “unfairly maligned.” He goes on to state, “By limiting the number of [the] population in the count, they specifically limited the number of representatives that would be available in the slaveholding states, and they did it for the purpose of ending slavery”.

This of course is false and an attempt to revise history. Joanne Freeman, a professor of history and early American studies at Yale said, “the three-fifths compromise had nothing to do with ending slavery” but “quite the opposite… it gave the slave-holding South an outsized representation in Congress and enabled them to dominate the national government for decades”.

“It enabled Southern slaveholding-states to count enslaved people who they considered to be ‘property’ — people excluded from their polity — in their count for representation.” According to Freeman, “It embedded slavery into the Constitution… and thereby [allowing Slave holding states] to dominate the government to preserve slavery and their hold on power. Yes, Southerners wanted to count the entirety of their enslaved population — their ‘property’ — in their count for representation. The fact that they got only 3/5 of that count hardly counts as a blow against slavery.”

Without the Three-Fifths Compromise, it is unlikely the slaveholding states would have agreed to create a unified federal government. With his woefully inadequate grasp of history, Lafferty is sponsoring an education bill that would withhold funds from school systems that include concepts like critical race theory or systemic racism in their curriculums.

Critics suggest that the proposed law is designed to shut down discussion about the role of race and racism in American history. 

Though troubling, these stated issues are outside the purview of this blog.

Senator Scott’s explosive remarks have psychologically impacted African Americans who now are being bombarded with questions from white Americans on the “nonexistence” or eradication of racism in America. 

Below is the story of one such individual who states being psychologically impacted by events following Senator Scott’s rebuttal.  I will begin by sharing his story and my response to him.  Then I will share my insight.

Here is his story.

Dear Dr. Kane,

I currently live in the same city I grew up in.  I am accustomed to being of one of the few Black families living in a racist closed-minded city. My mother taught me, imprinted upon me to be gracious and to save others from harsh feelings. It was always about being kind to others no matter how much you have been beaten physically or psychologically by words of hatred. It was her belief that as long as you were kind, you would be rewarded.

I am writing to share frustrations I have felt following the bombshell delivered by Senator Scott stating that “America is not a racist country.” Who did he talk to or consult with before making such a broad statement?  Now I have White people at my job seeking my opinion, basically saying “you see, just what I thought, you people are overacting and playing the race card …again.”  This is batshit crazy, it’s like one black man speaks, and all white people want to listen to him and ignore all the racist shit, black people have been put through all their lives. Can’t they see that Scott is a politician and an opportunist? The only thing missing in the picture was him kissing babies! 

And to add more wood to the fire, I have this “friend” from the past who I haven’t heard from in over 20 years.  He’s white and guess what? He wants to know what I think of Tim Scott’s speech, specifically “America is not a racist country.” No in-depth communication in 20 years! My question is why? Why [do] their feelings have to be my burden?

Among this “friend” and others like him, I grew up being called “Buckwheat” [and] the many times others called me the N word … he kept silent. Not to mention the many times I was forced to stand outside his home while the other white kids were allowed in to play.  I remember the time he sneaked me into his house, only to have his father order me out.  I remember his words to this day “I told you, [not to have] them people in the house.” The other kids laughed. I was so embarrassed, humiliated, and ashamed for being black. The next day at school, he acted as if nothing had happened. He never said a word.  He never apologized. He went on as if it was just another day.

For some reason, I continued to hold and value the friendship. Maybe there is something I can get from him.  I just don’t know. Why [do] I carry the weight of the relationship? What do I want? Is it compassion or understanding?  I just don’t know. I know that it is hard for me to be friends with white people. I don’t want them to get inside of me with their intellectualizing questions, playing with my emotions.

I have not heard from him in 20 years and now he calls me before I am getting out of bed, not even had my morning coffee. What does he want? I believe he is seeking to justify his racism and wanting to hold that America is not a racist country.  I am conflicted with what I was taught by my mother and what I want for myself.  I am not his negro.  I am not going to give to him the words that will make him feel better about himself. I am not going to talk to him about racism. He and others have already taken my childhood; I am not going to let them have more…of me.

Not feeling good about myself Dr. Kane. There are times that I simply do not want to live. I want to be in the driver’s seat and yet I am barely holding on.  I know I must be boring you or perhaps you do want you do because you are paid well.  I need to see a therapist.  I think that would help.  Thanks for listening.

No Name

My name is not …. Buckwheat

Bellingham, WA

My Dear Young Man,

I want to start from the very last words you said and then I will provide my insight.

I have always had an extreme dislike for the phrases “I want to be heard” or “thanks for hearing me”.  People who are hurting want to be listened to. Hearing or being heard is no more than sounds entering one ear and exiting out the other, little to nothing is retained.  I very much appreciate your stating “thanks for listening” because I have taken in the information you have provided and shaped and integrated your words. Allowed them to take root; immersed them into the orbit of my understanding and now, upon impact, I want to share with you my conclusions based on my knowledge, clinical skills, and experience.

You have shared a very powerful, gut wrenching and painful story from your life.  You have shared the pain of your internalized conflicts stemming from the teachings of your mother, the psychological torment of your childhood and adolescence and now the pressure you are feeling as an adult. As I read the ending of your writing, I see an attempt to distract from your truths. No, I do not view your words as “boring”.  Also, I see your attempt to detour, suggesting I am focused on a financial incentive for the work that I am called to do, the work that I have passion and commitment for.

Regarding the conflict between the teachings of your mother and the life you live today, I urge you to understand that you as an adult are responsible for the landscape know as LIFE that you are currently walking.  On this journey, you have the following elements in front of you: choices, decisions, consequences, lessons learned (wisdom) and transformation which can lead you to empowerment.

Choice – There are two choices before you. You can continue to go the “old way” waiting for uncertain future rewards or, you can go in a different direction, one in which your life becomes the essential factor. 

Decision and consequences – Should make the decision to choose your life as the essential factor, it puts you in the driver’s seat. You do not owe the tormentors of your past any explanations or insight regarding the validity or value of Senator Scott’s words or beliefs.

Wisdom – The lesson learned from this is the ability to explore what it is that locks you into a relationship that is deeply rooted in psychologically painful memories and suffering. Are you attempting to obtain validation and value from him? Is it possible that he is attempting to use Senator Scott’s words to release and absolve his own conscience regarding the psychological pain and suffering he now realizes he subjected you to as a child? Either way, the only one who can provide you with the validation, compassion, and understanding you want is you. 

You are correct in your words… “I am not his negro.” It is not your responsibility to share anything about yourself.  Your decision to not talk to him about racism on any level relating to Senator Scott is your decision and one you must want to embrace as you continue to walk your landscape.

Transformation – The last element, transformation, is the one that can be the most difficult.  As your mother is a woman of faith, think of the story of Lot (Genesis 19). Stories like this one, where his wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back longingly at the burning city, could have instilled in you a fear of looking back into the past.

I believe there is another interpretation that could release us from the fear of looking back.  One can look back and see what has been left and how far one has come may it be in distance, experience, or wisdom. One can look back without wanting or longing, instead one can look with the understanding that there is no going back and rather there is only going forward.  This is what we call transformation.  You are in the driver’s seat.  You can empower the SELF to return those who created the psychological pain and suffering to where they belong, dust under your feet.

Lastly, the issues raised by Senator Scott’s words are not your weights to bear.  Your responsibility to SELF is to walk the landscape known as life with the understanding that there are those who are committed to being obstacles along your journey of self-discovery.

Finally, words transform the view that you have of therapy. Attempt to see it as a want and not a need.  Remember those in need are always focused on survival whereas those who want are seeking growth, development, and empowerment

Best wishes,

Dr. Kane

*********************************************************

My Dear Readers,

The words of this young man who has been asked to respond, answer, defend, or reject words that are not his own, can be multiplied a million times and repeated all throughout the nation.  Senator Scott succeeded where many have failed; by sticking a dagger deep into consciousness of white America, he has distracted and derailed the issues of the impacts of systemic racism into simply “America is not a racist country”.  He has given those who seek salvation, justification, acknowledgement, atonement, or forgiveness, the protection to return to the simple lives they lived, covering up the sins that made this country what it is today.

The worst thing one can do today is not calling a person a racist, but simply having himself believe that he is being called a racist.  An example comes from a LinkedIn post I recently responded to. A white man who had questioned the believability of another writer (also a white man) who was sharing his views regarding systematic racism based on the number of teeth he displayed while he was talking… “he needs more teeth to be believable”. I objected to his remarks replying the following,

“Your comments are hurtful and just as psychologically impactful as racism.  This was mean on your part.  We all deserve more than the pain you give.  Please do better.”

In return, the writer now upset, questioned “Are you calling me a racist.”

Really?  I do not know this person.  I have not met this person.  The key issue here is that I used the example of racism in comparing the impacts of his comments on the other man. I said that they were “hurtful and just as psychologically impactful as racism”.  Was this person being racist? Highly unlikely, especially since he, as a white man was commenting about another white man.  However, there are other words to describe his actions:

  • Privileged – that as a white male he felt he had the privilege to publicly humiliate another person.
  • Fragility – that he would jump the conclusion that he was being called a racist
  • Entitlement – that it was okay for him to crush the spirit of another person who was merely seeking to educate others who clearly had racist ideas or racist feelings.

Privilege, Fragility, and Entitlement (PFE). This was coming from a person who, from his profile, considers himself to have liberal views and was educated at one of America’s finest universities.  However, what this person is unable or unwilling to see is how his whiteness (PFE), when misused, can create psychological harm and impacts for others.  Was there an intent to humiliate the person because of his teeth? Or is there a more relevant point which his power of whiteness was focused on. Possibly it was focused on inflicting psychological harm or devastation through those actions. 

The person being attacked provided the readers something that Senator Scott in his declaration that “America is not a racist country” failed to do, statistics and factual information. He stated,

  • Black people are incarcerated at a rate that is three times higher than white people for the same crimes.
  • Black people are shot by police at a rate that is three times higher than white people.
  • A traditional black name on a resume receives a callback five times less than a traditional white name.
  • White people, unlike black people, are not victimized by racial profiling, redlining, and gentrification.

Returning to the story of the young black man. His story is one in which his white friend may actually feel that even after 20 years of no contact, that they are truly friends.  After all, they played together, went to school together and grew up together.  Of course, in the white man’s eyes, they were true friends.  But from the perspective of the young man, the white friend never advocated for him, kept silent while he was being racially taunted by peers and never treated him as an equal.  When the young man was tossed out of his friend’s home, because he was one of “those” people, his friend later acted as if nothing had happened and therefore expected life as they both knew it to continue as before.

These are the stories of many African Americans whose experiences have been negated by white friends who choose what they wanted and did not want to see.  Like the black colleague who went to visit his white friend following surgery and upon entering the room, the attending nurse (white) looked up, saw the color of his skin, and shouted out in a loud, disrespectful tone “wrong room”.  Or while in an airport in a southern state, standing at a Starbucks counter, the barista intentionally goes around the black customer who was next in line to serve the white customer behind him. The situation only being rectified when the white customer, seeing and understanding the racism that was occurring, asserted his privilege and calmly stated to the barista, “I believe this gentleman was in front of me”.  By the way, the barista was a young black woman. 

Senator Scott asserts that “America is not a racist country”.  What he failed to state or clarify in later remarks is America is a country that is riddled with racism.  In his statement, he gives people such as the “friend” who did not defend; the father who does not allow “those people” in his house; the nurse who attacked; the patient who sat silently by; the barista who purposely ignored, and the privileged customer, who spoke up but not out, an excuse. A way to avoid confronting the issue of race in America.  Although it is clearly written in the Constitution, America remains unwilling to engage in the hard talk about racism.

We Wear the Mask

By Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes — 
This debt we pay to human guile; 
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile 
And mouth with myriad subtleties,

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs? 
Nay, let them only see us, while 
     We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile 
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise, 
     We wear the mask!

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

I have cited the poem, We Wear the Mask in its entirety.  I cited it with the hope that that young man residing in Bellingham, WA would know and understand that there are many who share his experience and his pain.  I also cited this poem because now, in my later years, I am walking my landscape called LIFE and in examining MY choices, decisions, consequences, lessons learned (wisdom), and transformations, I refuse to wear a mask. I refuse to sacrifice the psychological SELF for the benefit of others.

I am the one who was humiliated on the ward at the hospital as I stood there with my degrees and was told “wrong room”. I was the one who was at the airport, standing in line for a cup of coffee; overlooked and made to feel less than by one of my own.  I was the one who 40 years ago, due to a senior white male faculty member’s suspicions of my high grades, wanted to know whether I was providing sexual favors to the white female students for help.  I, just like that young man, was the one who following an argument with a white friend was ordered out of his home, only to be treated as if the occurrence never had happened.

And yet the same people who discount people of dark skin, want to debate, intellectualize, and declare that “America is not a racist country”? 

The young man from Bellingham stated something that rings true in black relationships with whites: “I know that it is hard for me to be friends with white people”.  When one does not question and ignores the truth laying in front of their eyes or chooses to remain silent during times of distress, urgency, and strife that occur daily in the lives of people with dark skin, it makes it difficult to be friends. When people with dark skin express their fear for their lives and especially the lives of their children from those who are sworn to “serve and protect” and they get attacked, it makes it difficult to be friends.     

The young man questioned himself as to what he holds or values in the friendship.  He also questioned what he wants.  In his declaration of “I don’t want them to get inside of me with their intellectualizing questions, playing with my emotions”, he has reached the element of the lessons learned and approaching wisdom. That to white people, he and his emotions are invisible.  He may conclude that to most whites, in their eyes, he is and will always be a N.O.T., a Novelty, Oddity and Token.

Promise King, President/CEO, League of Minority Voters stated the following:

“There are implications, lingering systemic impacts and implications of racism on black and brown families. We deny the oblivious. But occurrences that jolt our convenient escape from realties continue to put lie to our denial.  How do we ever begin inquires and dialogues on race, if a sizable segment of our leaders don’t want to understand or subscribe to the existence of systematic racism.  Am I the only one wresting with this issue.?”

Is “America is a racist country”?  This is the pain and the life …we live.

Enduring the possibilities of 12 forms of racism and 15 subtypes of psychological traumas, every single day, it brings to mind the words of James Baldwin, writer, orator and civil rights activist. “To be African American is to be African without a memory and American without any privilege”. When compared to those of Senator Scott, “America is not a racist country,” which person’s voice and words resonate truth regarding the current and past experiences of African Americans? 

The truth, however painful, does not lie. The lie, however manipulated, is still and will always be, a lie.

Dark skinned people live daily not knowing the WHEN or from WHOM the action of psychological impact and trauma will come but we know and understand the WHY is RACISM.  The question is WHAT WE, the American people living in a country impugned by racism are going to do to enforce full protection and equality for ALL of it citizens.

THE PAIN THAT THIS GIVES, IS THE LIFE THAT WE ALL LIVE!

Sympathy

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!

When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,

And the river flows like a stream of glass;

When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—

I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing

Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;

For he must fly back to his perch and cling

When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;

And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars

And they pulse again with a keener sting—

I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—

I know why the caged bird sings!

Standing Alone….. The Unspoken Truth

The Unspoken Truth: Waiting Your Turn at the End of The Line

“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” 

Captain Jay Baker Director of Communications, Cherokee County, GA, Sheriff’s Office (describing the bad day of the shooter following the killing of 8 people including 6 women of Asian descent)

“All of us have experienced bad days. But we don’t go to three Asian businesses and shoot up Asian employees.”

Ted Lieu Congressman, California

“Love my shirt! Get yours while they last,”

Facebook post featuring shirts created by Captain Jay Baker, Director of Communications, Cherokee County, GA Sheriff’s Office that appears to echo former President Trump’s characterization of COVID-19 as the “China Virus” and the “Kung Flu”.

“To see the post is both disturbing and outrageous. It speaks to the structural racism that we’re all up against. Coupled with the comments coming out of the news conference, it does not give community members confidence that our experiences and the pain and the suffering that we’re feeling are being taken seriously, at lease by this particular person.”

Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director, Chinse for Affirmative Action

“It does not appear race was his reasons for allegedly shooting multiple people at three massage parlors.”

Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (interview with National Public Radio two days following the shootings)

My Dear Readers,

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog. Twice in a matter of one week, our nation has been dealt enormously traumatic blows, two mass shootings by individual gunmen. One occurring in the greater Atlanta, GA area, taking the lives of eight and the other occurring in Boulder, CO, taking the lives of 10. Both occurring as we continue to respond psychologically to the loss of 547,000 Americans and the infection of a further 30 million more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are differences in the ways in which both mass shootings are being publicly reported, public outcry, and the governmental response. First, let us identify the differences in the facts of the cases. In Atlanta, the victims where all ethnic minorities whereas in Boulder, the victims were Caucasians. In the Atlanta shooting the shooter is Caucasian while in the Boulder shooting, the shooter was a person belonging to an ethnic minority.

During times of great suffering, it sounds disingenuous to tag “race” in these matters and yet how does one ignore the impact or consequences of race when living in a time that systemic and structural racism is tolerated, accepted, and encouraged? African Americans and Asian Americans although living in the United States for different lengths/periods and brought to this country for different reasons, share common themes of psychological impacts and traumatic wounds derived from racism and/or race related stressors. As it has always followed in past events, the psychological impacts of what occur with the majority population will overshadow the suffering of the ethnic minority population. It is for that reason that I have chosen, during the month of International Women’s Day, to focus on the killing of the six Asian women in the mass shooting of 8 people in Atlanta GA.

I choose to share the words from an email I received from a current a patient. Her identity has been changed to protect her confidentiality. Cynthia is an early 30’s, Korean American woman, who was educated on the east coast at one of the Ivy League universities. She has resided in the Puget Sound area for 10 years and is employed by a local technology firm. Below is a recap of her feelings associated with the Atlanta shooting in which all of the Asian women were either Korean American or Korean nationals.

Dr. Kane,

I am so sad. I feel that I am not allowed to share my suffering. I feel that what is being inferred to me regarding my pain is that I should get behind others; that I should get in the back of the line. It hurts me that I cannot express to others how I honestly feel and if I were to take the chance and express my true feelings, I fear I would be opening myself to be targeted and shot down.

I feel that I am invisible to others and that I can’t put a name to this out of fear that if I speak out that I will once again be minimized. I have worked hard in therapy to find and claim the Psychological Self.  I don’t want to do that to the Self. I want to live life with fear and not in fear.

It is upsetting to me that other people, particularly African Americans, don’t see me as an ethnic minority but rather as a white person who looks Asian. In this view, I am treated like a white person where I am automatically distrusted, distanced from, and treated with overt anger and hate.

As an Asian American, I have benefitted from the struggle of African Americans as they have sought to obtain civil and equal rights and I have stood with them in racial and social justice issues. Following the murder of George Floyd, I actively marched and spoke out against his murder. Yet, now, I don’t see African Americans joining with me or other Asian on the frontlines demonstrating against Asian hate.

It is as if my pain doesn’t matter. No one at work, white or African American, has asked me about how I am doing following the killing of Asian women in Atlanta or the violence against Asian people throughout the country. I expect white people to be silent, but it really hurts when people who are racially different, just like me, are silent regarding my pain. It’s like I said before, it’s like being told in so many words, ‘to get to the end at the line and wait your turn’. It’s like I am invisible, and my life doesn’t matter.

Dr. Kane, I want our communities both Asian and African American to heal and not be divided. Systemic racism sows seeds of distrust between our communities.

I also struggle with those within my community. There is a division between people who want more awareness and response regarding Asian hatred and those who are seeking to brush the issue under the rug in hopes that it will simply go away.

I feel so invisible.  I feel so alone.

Bye for now,

Cynthia

My Dear Readers,

As I read Cynthia’s email, I reflected on a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”.

Neither did I reach out to her to check on how she was doing. I assumed that she had a support system, and I did not want to intrude on her private space. I had planned to check-in at our next session. Well, as you can see, I was wrong. Cynthia did not have any support in her personal life or workplace. Even as a seasoned and well experienced psychotherapist, I had neglected my own golden rule: “It is not your intent that fuels the flames, it is the impact of your actions or non-actions”.

Once I became aware of her situation, I immediately reached out to Cynthia offering a heartfelt apology and in return she graciously returned the “gift of forgiveness.”. In our session, Cynthia spoke of her pain of being viewed as the “model minority” and how this perception adds to her invisibility. Cynthia was correct in her comment that “…systemic racism sows seeds to build distrust between our communities”.  

Systemic Racism and Invisibility Syndrome

Even though some would define systemic racism as subconscious or unconscious, it still adds to root the division between the Asian American and African American communities. One African American scholar, who I shall not name, defined systemic racism as:

“…systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African Americans.”

Why just African Americans? If that definition is accepted, what are the psychological impacts on those whose skin is also not white but still feels the psychological trauma of racism? In trauma work, skin color or racial origins is not a defensive mechanism to ward off psychological trauma.  When a person is denied the right of suffering from racist exposure, that individual is relegated to the status of invisibility and thus they become victimized by another trauma known as Invisibility Syndrome.

This trauma, the Invisibility Syndrome, created by AJ Franklin (1999, 2004), defines invisibility as “inner struggles with the feelings that one’s talents, abilities, personalities and worth are not valued or recognized because of prejudice and racism”.

Therefore, as in the case of Cynthia, Franklin would conclude that “following an encounter where there is a perceived racial slight, the ‘assaulted’ person may internalize their feelings and experience their manifestation…” as:

  • The lack of recognition or appropriate acknowledgment
  • The lack of satisfaction from the encounter
  • The lack of self-esteem and legitimacy
  • The lack of validation
  • The lack of respect
  • The awareness that one’s dignity has been compromised and challenged.
  • The awareness that one’s basic identity has been shaken.

The “Model Minority”

The term “Model Minority” was developed by the majority to turn racial and ethnic groups against each other. It is a type of systemic racism that was intended to divide racial groups into a hierarchy that not only pits them against one another, but it also intended to minimize the perceived impacts of race related stress on one minority racial group as seen by other minority racial groups.

What is race related stress? This refers to the conceptual model created by Loo, et al (2000).  They found three specific areas in which individuals experienced trauma due to racism:

  • Exposure to racial prejudice and stigmatization
  • Bicultural identification and conflict
  • Exposure to a racist environment

In the Loo, et al study (2000), the following generalizations can be made.

  1. The stressful effects of exposure to cumulative racism can be experienced as traumatic events and are often in response to racially prejudiced behavioral style that includes racist name calling and emotionally laden materials that exhibit hate toward a racial group such as “Hate Asians” or “Kill Asians” paraphernalia.  In addition,
  2. They are often at a constant state of hypervigilance and physiological arousal that occurs as a result of the ongoing danger and fearing possible life-threatening experiences suffered when they are singled out because of Asian ancestry. Lastly,
  3. There is trauma that results from racial stigmatization and racial exclusion, resulting in a reduction of a sense of belonging, social support as well as an increase in feelings of isolation.

In summary, the feelings detailed by the trauma studies and experienced through statements of invisibility, isolation, and exclusion by Cynthia are no different from those experienced by African Americans who also endured the psychological impacts of systemic racism. Cynthia is correct in her assertion that “systemic racism sows seeds to build distrust between our communities”.  Therefore, it would be truth and not conjecture that systemic racism is the foundation of all the systems in place that create and maintain racial inequality in nearly every facet of the lives of all people of color, not just African Americans.

Concluding Remarks – Dr. Kane

“Wait your turn … at the end of the line.”  is an acknowledgment of minority communities being pitted against each other by the majority, or by themselves, as they all struggle to achieve racial and social justice. Systemic racism is Insidious Trauma. Insidious Trauma is the culmination of daily negative incidents of marginalization, objectification, dehumanization, and intimidation affecting members of stigmatized groups and are directly traumatic. In this situation, the Atlanta killings of Asians added to the upcoming trial of the officers involved in the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, are both about to be overshadowed by the killing of 10 white men and women in Boulder CO by a person of color.  In recent national news there has been maximum coverage on the incident in Boulder, CO where there has been little to no coverage on the incidents in Atlanta or the upcoming trial in Minneapolis.

In Cynthia’s closing remarks she stated, “I want our communities both Asian and African American to heal and not be divided.”  Understanding that both communities are reeling from division within covered with years of mistrust as they both struggle to obtain the same limited resources; it is unlikely that this will be achieved on a community level in the current time.  However, we can as individuals sow the seeds of unity, collaboration, and concern during these traumatic times.  Let us all reach out and as individuals and try to begin the healing process.

In Ralph Ellison’s 1947 novel, “The Invisible Man”, Ellison wrote the following:

“I am an invisible man.  No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms.  I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquid- and I might even be said to possess a mind.  I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.”

At the time of writing this superb novel, Ralph Ellison was writing about African American people. If he was here today, I truly believe his words would be inclusive to all of us as we all bear the psychological impacts and traumatic injuries and wounds… of systematic racism.

ANTI-ASIAN RACISM – YK Hong, Keep Beyond

ANTI-ASIAN RACISM

IS LINKED TO WHITE SUPREMACY

WHICH IS LINKED TO ANTI-BLACKNESS

WHICH IS LINKED TO CAPITALISM

IMPERIALISM

ABLEISM

MYSOGENY AND SEXISM

THESE ARE ALL CONNECTED

WE CANNOT FIGHT ONLY ONE OF THESE

WE MUST FIGHT ALL OF THESE

Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

The Unspoken Truth: Bobbi’s Saga, Mary’s History

“This is the reality of black girls. One day you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”

– Amanda Gorman, Poet, featured in the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden (January 20, 2021). Sharing her experience of being racially profiled.

“What’s her name – Breonna something, I am sorry she was killed, but you know when you hang out with people with guns and shooting, you’re likely to caught in the crossfire.”

– Susan McCoy, Teacher of Forensic Sciences at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, GA. Comments made concerning the upcoming anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death. (Following her false and inaccurate comments she was called out by her students and subsequently placed on administrative leave)

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”

– Harriet Tubman, “Black Moses”, Civil Rights Activist, Freedom Fighter and Conductor, Underground Railroad.

A Tribute to Bobbi

“My empowerment is not about him, it’s about me.

I am not to blame nor is the shame mine to own.

It’s simply my responsibility to make this life.”

“About …Self.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

My Dear Readers,

Once again it is with pleasure that I return to writing and with great sadness that I extend my condolences to the families of the 543,417 Americans as well as to the families of the more than 2.6 million people worldwide who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With March being Women’s History Month, and Monday of this week being International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, I honor the significance and importance of women’s contributions throughout history. However, in the spirit of empowerment and walking the landscape of self-discovery, I disavow the purely American celebration of Women History Month.

Regarding, Women’s History Month, I will advocate from the same position I took on the subject of Black History Month; Women’s History is and always will be American History and should be celebrated daily as such.

Just as I believe Black History Month unfairly relegates the whole of a people’s history, achievements, contributions, and the immensity of their pain and suffering to the shortest month of the year, then pack it away until next year, I hold similar views regarding Women History Month.

As I stated previously, Women’s History is and will always be American History. It is in my opinion it benefits systemic chauvinism to limit the acknowledgment of their history, achievements, contributions and, the immensity of their psychological suffering to 31 days a year and then place it all on dusty shelves until next year. 

In this post, I seek to honor and acknowledge the achievements, courage, and sacrifices of two African American women.

The first I seek to honor is Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner of Monroe, NC. She is a historical figure whose accomplishments, dur to systemic racism, have been hidden from view. Subsequently, with the ending of Black History Month, her accomplishments would have gone largely ignored if it had not been for the awareness of Belinda Kendall, CEO and Founder of Promise Media Group, a strong proponent of creating awareness of African American people’s contribution to history. The second person I seek to honor is a contemporary of today. Her confidential name is Bobbi.  Bobbi has been my patient for 10 years. Bobbi is a sexual abuse “striver.” As a striver, she has pushed beyond “survivorship” and is now pushing into empowerment, as she continues to walk the landscape seeking self-discovery.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an inventor and as such a public figure. Bobbi, is mother of four children, recently retired and as such is a very private person. But what these two women share, is the accomplishment of not only surviving, but they empowered themselves to strive despite the systemic racism they endured as African American women in this country.

Sharing their stories are not just footnotes in Black History or Women’s History, rather they are those of American History.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912-2006)

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s legacy has been denied from her by omission and silence. She is the inventor of the Sanitary belt with a moisture-proof napkin pocket. It was the first generation of what would become the sanitary pad. This was an idea she created when she was just 18 years old, long before the modern-day maxi pad and at a time when women were still using uncomfortable and poorly absorbent materials such as cloth rags or balls of cotton during their period. Shortly after registering her patent, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s invention garnered interest from a manufacturing company but was quickly rejected once they found out that she was black. Systemic racism prevented her from experiencing any financial gain from her invention. Decades later, when her patent expired and her idea became public domain, it was taken, and copies were manufactured well into the early 1980’s without any mention of its original inventor.  

This information is significant because it transformed the lives of women. Yet, as important as it was, it was held from production and use for 30 years due to systematic racism adding to the psychological impacts and controlling the physiological trajectory of not only black women but all women regardless of race. 

As a man, and as a black man, I felt psychological impacted by this information which had been denied to me. I cannot imagine the impact this trauma has had on the lives of women. As a man, I wanted to speak out not just to be heard but to listen as well. In response to this story, which came to me by way of LinkedIn, I wrote:

“Hmm.  Interesting. WTF (frog)? Racism over sanitary pads? Racism over …WTF (frog), menstrual flow?  Good Lawd? Do I believe my lying eyes?”

I know it would be insensitive to laugh at the ridiculousness of this issue but the idea that racism found its way into something as ubiquitous as menstruation products garnered that initial response but while doing so, I recognize that it is the failure of particularly African American men to understand the psychological impacts and trauma of systemic racism as others seek to control the bodies and the normal human process of the black female body.

I had no idea of either this racist occurrence or that a black woman invented sanitary pads. This is the consequences when others holding hatred of dark skin, seek to control not only access, the credit for the patent, but then hiding their actions by limiting the information being shared and the timing in which the information is being disseminated.  

A black woman’s body being psychologically impacted by systemic racism and yet where do we as black men stand? What do we say? How do we educate our sons? What supports do we provide to our daughters?  Partners?  Spouses?

“So, you didn’t know? – Now, you do. What? Not your problem?  Really? It’s traumatic. – Make it your concern. Black Lives Matter… 365 including February. Uncovering the unspoken truths. Discovering and sharing what is learned. Recovering and healing the psychological wounds.”

– Dr. Michael Kane, clinical traumatologist, LinkedIn (published 03.08.21)

“Bobbi”

In the past I have shared excepts from the journals of Bobbi’s saga. Unlike Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, Bobbi didn’t invent or patent items which transform the lives of others.  Instead, Bobbi’s saga, the life of one Black woman, represents the silence of the many whose voices have not been heard.

At the age of four, Bobbi was viciously raped by the landlord of her family’s home. Threatened with the deaths of her mother and sibling, she bored the silence of this traumatic physical and psychological injury. Between the ages of nine to twelve, she was repeatedly raped and sodomized by her stepfather. Following being told of his intent to impregnate her, she summed up the courage to tell her mother. 

Her mother reacted by physically beating her and threatening to blind her with her fork. When Bobbi resisted, her mother forced her into the foster care system then spread lies about her in the community and church saying, “she raised her hand to me.” By doing so, her mother kept her social image and bearing intact while destroying her daughter’s.

And what about Bobbi? Sexually assaulted by her stepfather, physically assaulted, and rejected by her mother, abandoned by extended relatives, and shunned by her church and community. By the age of 12, she was alone in the foster care system. Bobbi remained in foster care, residing in four different homes until she aged out at 18. She went on to have a successful career in public service, married and raised four children. She was intent on protecting them from experiencing the same abuse that she had endured. She succeeded.

For 50 years she kept the stories of her life to herself, suffering in silence and then following her children reaching adulthood, her world suddenly crashed, and she began psychotherapy. That was eleven years ago.  Eleven years of:

  • Uncovering the Unspoken Truths
  • Discovering and sharing what was learned
  • Recovering and healing the psychological wounds

And this writing today is a continuation of Bobbi’s Saga.

March 1st, 2021

“I had a session with Dr. Kane today. I spent the whole session reading my journal and talking.  Dr. Kane said it is getting lighter. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. When I buy things for myself, I would feel like I deserved them because of all I went through in the past.  I know whatever I buy won’t relieve the pain, but it would make me feel better for a while.” 

“I was glad that I survived all the pain I went through. The pain also isolated me from others. I thought the pain would never go away. Only if I could had shared what happened to me with someone else. I remember when I first told my story to Dr. Kane. I was shocked that the pain didn’t go away or lighten.”

“I couldn’t tell anyone else. My husband was closed off and didn’t understand my pain. I didn’t share this with my kids. I thought others might think and look at me differently. I was so ashamed. I don’t think anyone understands how ashamed and dirty I felt. I felt that way for a long time.”

03.01.21 (evening)

“I remembered to call Dr. Kane tonight. He realized that today’s session was a difficult session.  I am still thinking about today’s session as the pain makes me want to isolate. It reminds me of how much I wanted from my mother. I wanted the love that she wasn’t able to give. I then married a man who loves me but isn’t able to show it.”

“I feel anxious and depressed tonight. I appreciate Dr. Kane talking to me on Thursday and Sunday nights. I haven’t had a suicidal thought in over a month. I hope they stay away. In talking with Dr. Kane, we talked about my experiences in foster care. Being alone, having a bedroom for the first time, food rationing, having to eat from 100 pounds of beans and 100 pounds of rice and no meat for a month. The other foster kids not wanting me there.”

“Me trying to kill myself in a receiving home by smoothing myself with a pillow but not being able to. How lonely I felt in foster care. Feeling that no one loved me or cared about me.  Living in intense pain knowing that I was in foster care being cared for as a source of money.”

“It is sad that Black people are not often foster care parents for the right reason. I decided when I was twelve that I would a foster parent when I grew up. I wanted to be a foster parent for babies or teenagers. I wanted to give back what had been given to me. I wanted to select the two ages that was most difficult to take care of. I planned on doing this when my kids became older.”

“When I told my husband what I had wanted to do and how important to was to me, he stated he wanted no part of it. I tried to explain to him why I wanted to be a foster parent and how long it had been a dream for me. He didn’t want to discuss it. He just said no. That hurt me. It meant the end of a dream. I had wanted to give back some of what was what was given to me.”

“I watched Meghan Markle on a special with Oprah tonight. Meghan said there was a point where she did not want to live. She went to the royal family and asked for help. She was told no, that wouldn’t look good. Oprah asked her ‘are you saying you were suicidal?’ She said yes and I was scared. She told her husband. He said he didn’t know what to do either. She had asked multiple people for help and was unable to get it.”

“I thought about my own suicidal thought and also about being scared. Meghan said she had thought every moment of the day.  I remember being like that. It said to me that it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It is the amount of pain you have and how much you can stand. Too much pain makes everything impossible to bear.” 

“People who haven’t had immense pain can’t imagine life not being worth living or the depth that pain can’t get to. It is difficult to explain that to others. One of the things Meghan said was she was so ashamed for having the thoughts. People without the pain can’t imagine being ashamed.”

“I am so relieved that the suicidal thoughts have been gone for two months. That makes me feel safer and not so alone. I told my husband and in telling him it was a relief to me. Tonight at 10:30 I was thinking about suicide and reflecting how those periodic nightly phone calls to Dr. Kane kept me alive. I appreciated those phone calls as they let me know that I could live another day.” 

“I recall the promise I made to Dr. Kane to call if I was going to commit suicide. I could never imagine making that phone call and I had promised. I am alive. I am still here. I will live to see another day.”

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

“If you always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

– Maya Angelou

I never met Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner. I wished there had been that opportunity to sit with her and listen to her story, her struggles, defeats, and achievements. One could say that she was a powerful black woman who overcame the psychological impacts of systemic racism, achieving a patent over a product that is beneficial in the lives of women around the world. I remember as a boy buying sanitary pads for my mother and my embarrassment in doing so. As a husband and father, I recall buying sanitary pads for my spouse and daughter, watching the female cashier hurriedly placing the items in a covered bag and just as quickly myself removing the items and proudly carrying them in arms for all to see.

There is no embarrassment or shame. No one can make you feel something that is not there.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner deserves recognition and appreciation in American history and on International Women’s Day and not to be isolated or forgotten on a dusted shelve following Black History Month or Women History Month.

Bobbi’s Saga

Bobbi is my hero.  Sexually abused at an early age. Betrayed by her stepfather, assaulted, and rejected by her mother and shunned by her church and community, Bobbi struggled, surviving in a state foster care system in which she knew no love and understood she was nothing more than a means for income for those taking care of her.

Shamed, feeling dirty and used by others, she graduated from high school while in foster care, aging out of the system.  For 50 years feeling she would be judged harshly, she never said a word to anyone about the terrible things that happened. Instead, she married, raised four children with the commitment to provide to them the protection in childhood and adolescence that she was denied.

Although she states it was her lifelong dream to become a foster care parent, clinically speaking, in reality, this was her identity and her “saving grace”.  Following her children, aging-out into adulthood, Bobbi was devastated by her spouse’s refusal to support her “dream” of becoming a foster parent.

Being a parent and seeking to foster parent was Bobbi’s way of not only protecting vulnerable others, but it was also a means of insulation from her own traumas which she had carried in silence for 50 years. With her children, grown and now denied the opportunity to provide a shield to others, she was left to face her traumas alone.

I believe in life things happen for a reason. Like in the story of the phoenix, the mythical creature that bursts into flames only to rise out of the ashes, Bobbi’s saga and the weight of silently carrying the psychological impacts for 50 years coupled with the devastation of no longer having others to protect, created a fiery inferno of hopelessness, powerlessness and impending death by suicide.

Her actions led her to psychotherapy, medication management and the desire and commitment to live. Bobbi rose from the ashes and is now actively involved in walking her landscape and in doing so, “living the life she wants and not the life she lived.”

Imagine, sitting in psychotherapy 2-3 times per week for 11 years, following the SELF (Self-Empowerment Leaping Forward) protocol.           

Placing oneself into

  • A safe and secure…
  • Space to either…
  • Sit in silence or…
  • Speak openly about…
  • Secretive (hidden and rooted)…
  • Submerged (unresolved)…
  • Substances (materials/impacts)…
  • Surfacing (arising) upon…
  • Self’s psychological landscape

Bobbi is not only my hero, she is my blessing. Where others may see courage and strength, they failed to see her empowerment. Where others would doom her to the status of being a “survivor” she has become empowered.

She has empowered her SELF to become a “striver,” setting her pace and direction as she continues to seek self-discovery and to walk her landscape.

Bobbi’s Saga, like Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, is a story of American history. And like Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, she too deserves recognition and appreciation in American history and on International Women’s Day and not to be isolated or forgotten on a dusted shelf following Black History Month or Women History Month.

Black Lives Matter… 365 including February. 

Uncovering the unspoken truths. Discovering and sharing what is learned. Recovering and healing the psychological wounds.”

Dreams -Nikki Giovanni

in my younger years

before i learned

black people aren’t

suppose to dream

i wanted to be

a raelet

and say “dr o wn d in my youn tears”

or “tal kin bout tal kin bout”

or marjorie hendricks and grind

all up against the mic

and scream

“baaaaaby nightandday

baaaaaby nightandday”

then as i grew and matured

i became more sensible

and decided i would

settle down

and just become

a sweet inspiration

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

The Unspoken Truth: Their Lives Matter: Honoring Our Unknown Heroes

“It’s important for us to also understand that the phase ‘Black Lives Matter’ simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed. It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter.  It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability.”

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

“I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” 

– Langston Hughes, Writer/Poet

“We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

– Jesse Owens, World Record Setting Olympic Athlete

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.” 

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pastor, Civil Rights Activist

“Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.”

– Carol Moseley-Braun, former US Senator from Illinois, 1st African American Woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate (1992)

“The hate you give is the pain we live.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

My Dear Readers,

It is my deepest pleasure that I once again return to writing. It is also with great sadness that I extend my condolences to the families of the 470,705 Americans and the families of the over 2 million people from around the world who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

I sincerely apologize for not posting a new blog for the past several months. As much as I enjoy writing, my number one priority has been and will always be to the psychological care and mental wellness of my patients. My patient calendar has been stretched to its limits. My clinical practice has grown to an average of 45-55 patients per week, more than double the 20-25 patients that other private clinical practices may treat in the same amount of time, so I had to temporarily step away.

Today, the African American community faces not only the devastation due to COVID-19 but also the cumulative traumas of systemic racism and ongoing psychological impacts because of societal issues such as police brutality, judicial abuse, and mass incarceration.

In addition to the pandemic, the nation has been psychologically stunned by the January 06, 2021 breaching of the US Capitol Building by a mob of predominantly white insurrectionists who sought to overturn the lawful election of the 46th President of the United States. These treasonous actions resulted in vandalism, theft, destruction, and desecration of the halls of Congress. These people spread urine and feces on the walls and floors in the seat of power of the United States of America, the country they claimed to love.  

However, as a treating clinician, the greatest psychological impact that I have been asked to respond to has come from my African American patients: the sight of the confederate battle flag being waved in the House of Democracy. In the same house where, on January 1, 1863, Congress ratified the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free”.

I listen to the repeated words of my patients as they watched the Capitol Hill police officers treat the insurrectionists with kid gloves, taking selfies and allowing the hundreds if not thousands involved to simply walk away and return quietly to their homes, work, and communities. It was traumatizing, plain and simple.

In the end, five people had been killed including one officer, and many more police had been seriously injured. Property had been destroyed, hundreds had trespassed and physical assaulted government employees, domestic terrorist, insurrectionists had threatened and planned to take the lives of elected officials to the point where they were armed, carrying zip ties, and had constructed gallows to execute the Vice President of the United States and they were simply allowed to walk away. They were allowed to walk away while black men and women get executed for selling cigarettes, jogging, or simply fitting a description.

As I return to writing and thinking about how black Americans have been treated in this country, I am reminded of a picture I once saw. It was of a black soldier who had just returned from battle. He was exhausted, sitting on a stump holding his rifle. His back was whip-scarred, physical evidence of a life lived as a former slave. The picture was captioned “We’ve Loved America More Than It Ever Loved Us.”  These words are ever so painful and …ever so true.

(The picture was a composite image that combined art from the cover of issue # 6 of the Loveless graphic novel drawn by Marcelo Frusin and an interpretation of a quote from “Doc” Rivers, former NBA player and the current head coach of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.)

‘I don’t want a Black History Month. Black History is American history.”

– Morgan Freeman, Actor, Academy Award Winner (2005)

I agree with Morgan Freeman. Black history is American history, but I do feel that Black History Month is necessary. The reason why we have a Black History Month is to counteract the intentional actions of white historians using racist systems and ideologies to deny the accurate telling of African American history and allow it to be truthfully and honestly explored.

Ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge. Whether it is willful, intentional, or unintentional, the impact and outcome on a people when their community is denied the truth is psychologically devasting. Even though African American history is American history, it has been denied its rightful place in antiquity. African American history, its teachings, information, and knowledge has been relegated to the 28-day month of February and once March 1st arrives, African American History disappears until the following year.

“Hate is too great a burden to bear.  It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.”

– Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Activist

I was born in Harlem, NY but my developmental years were spent in the segregated south. As much as I admire Coretta Scott King, I must disagree with her conclusion that hate is more impactful on the “hater” than on the “hated”. I agree that “hate is too great a burden to bear” but for me personally and professionally, the destruction, devastation, the psychological effects, and the trauma that hate creates for the “hated” far outweighs the burden it supposedly imposes on the “hater”.

The “hater” can ignore, minimize and justify their actions. As we have seen so many times, this allows them to eventually forget what they have done leaving their actions unknown by future generations. 

I recently wrote in LinkedIn about a story of a black Coastguardsman, Charles Walter David, Jr. who served as a mess attendant aboard the Coast Guard cutter USCG Comanche during WWII.  At the time, the Coast Guard was segregated and the only occupations available for black men were menial work in ship kitchens or maintaining the officers’ quarters.

At 12:55 a.m. on February 3, 1943, while the USCG Comanche was escorting three transport ships off the coast of Greenland, one of the transport ships, the USAT Dorchester, was torpedoed by a German submarine. Nine-hundred men were forced into the frigid waters. Witnessing the crisis, David and several other men voluntarily climbed down into the lifeboats where they helped lift their fellow service men up onto the Comanche’s deck. Even though David was one of the lowest ranking men on his ship and his shipmates and country considered him to be a second-class citizen, he willingly put his life at risk to save fellow Americans.

When the Comanche’s executive officer fell overboard, David, without hesitation, dived into the frigid waters to save him.  David also saved another shipmate who had grown too weak to swim and lifted him back into the cutter. In addition to the two men whom David single-handedly saved, he and his shipmates successfully rescued 93 survivors from the Dorchester.  Shortly after his heroics, David contracted pneumonia and succumbed to the illness. The Coast Guard posthumously awarded David the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, its third highest award for bravery under fire from enemy action.

                              Wait… the story does not end here.

Following the torpedoing of the USAT Dorchester, four Army chaplains – representing Methodist, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic faiths guided soldiers trapped below decks to escape hatches.  The chaplains passed out life vests and when the supply ran out, they gave their own to men who had none.  Finally, they linked arms to pray and sing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.

These men of faith became known as the “Four Chaplains”.   The impact of the chaplains resulted in memorials and media coverage. Each of the four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Purple Heart.  They were nominated for the Medal of Honor but were found to be ineligible as they had not engaged in combat with the enemy. Instead, Congress created a medal for them, called the Four Chaplains Medal (1960), with the same weight and importance of the Medal of Honor.

As of a result of their heroic actions, two documentaries, five publications, nine artistic pieces and numerous pieces of music were created in their honor. A commentative US postage stamp was created to honor their sacrifices. In 1998, February, 3 of that year was established as “Four Chaplains Day” to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the sinking of the USAT Dorchester and subsequent heroism of these men.

A national foundation, the “Four Chaplain’s Memorial Foundation”, a 501(c)(3) charity was established to honor the legacy of the Four Chaplains.  Its official mission statement is:

“… further the cause of “unity without uniformity” by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people.”

Furthermore, the organization states it “achieves its mission by advocating for and honoring people whose deeds symbolize the legacy of the Four Chaplains aboard the USAT Dorchester in 1943”.

“Truth is powerful, and it prevails.”

– Sojourner Truth, American Abolitionist & Woman Rights Activist

And so… What about the honors or recognition for black Coastguardsman Charles Walter David, Jr. who sacrificed his life saving the lives of 95 of his fellow crewmen including his executive officer?  What is the reason that he received the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, the third highest award for bravery whereas the Four Chaplains received the Distinguished Service Medal, the nation’s second highest medal for bravery?  What is the reason that Congress has failed to enact recognition for Seaman David’s bravery and sacrifice and bestow upon him a Congressional medal equal to that that was bestowed upon the Four Chaplains? 

What is the reason that Senate has not passed a resolution for a “day” acknowledging the actions of Seaman David saving the lives of 95 men during the same actions resulting in the sinking of the USAT Dorchester and the loss of the Four Chaplains? Where are the publications, documentaries artwork, music, commentative postage stamps and memorials honoring Seaman David who repeatedly dove into frigid waters, saving the lives of 95 men and sacrificing his own?  Reflecting on the earlier statement of the Union solder and former slave, exhausted from battle, remembering the words, “We’ve Loved America More Than It Ever Loved Us.”  Where are the honors, recognition and glory, due to black Coastguardsman Charles Walter David, Jr.? These words are frozen in time as they continue to be … ever so painful and ever so true.”

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

– Thurgood Marshall, first African American US Supreme Court Justice

Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr., a black man, volunteered to answer the call of duty and served his nation during wartime. Due to hate, racial prejudice and bigotry, he was treated as a second-class citizen; relegated to duties of mess attendant, cleaning and attending to the living quarters of white officers aboard his ship, he nevertheless volunteered and contributed strongly in the efforts to save the lives of white soldiers, sailors and coastguardsman.  In return for his heroic deeds, and the sacrifice of his life, he is denied in death the same if not similar acknowledgments given for bravery, valor and courage that were bestowed upon others. The only difference being of military rank, occupation and most importantly, the color of his skin. It is his race and the color that makes him invisible and allows others to abuse him today and forget about him tomorrow.

The Black Man… The Invisible Man

“I am an invisible man. – No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. Yet, I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the floating heads you see in circus sideshows surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me”.

– Ralph Ellison, Writer

Concluding Words – Dr. Micheal Kane

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face realty. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

– Malcolm X, Civil Rights Activist

My Dear Readers,

On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists, blinded with delusions of patriotism, breached the US Capitol Building. Regardless of their beliefs, their actions were wrong, and history will hold them to account. As Malcolm X has clearly stated “Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”  It was wrong of America to deny Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr. equality in recognition of his bravery, courage under fire and supreme sacrifice with the “Four Chaplains”. His accomplishments, unlike the “Four Chaplains’” are unknown to many and his memory lies in obscurity.

 In White America, there is acknowledgment for heroism. These heroes are permanently memorialized in the hearts and minds of those who sacrificed their lives for their country. The African American community should also be allowed to memorialized its hero of that fateful event. The wrong that was done cannot be undone however, as a nation, as Thurgood Marshall once stated, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute”.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the changes that we seek.”

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Noble Lauriat

Ignorance can be the lack of knowledge. However, once we have knowledge and awareness, we are empowered to create transformation. As we are within days of the 78th anniversary of Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr. heroic actions and subsequent death, I am committed to begin a writing campaign that will address this wrong and allow the proper acknowledgment and honors that his actions warrant and for which he is truly due. I will be writing to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Honorable Members of Congress, The Secretary of Defense, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commandant of the US Coast Guard.  I invite the readership to join with me by contacting their representatives in Congress as well as sending emails to me affirming your support of this endeavor. If you would like to join me, my email address is drkane@lovingmemore.com.

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

– Langston Hughes (Writer/Poet)

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

– Desmond Tutu Human Rights Activist

 “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” 

– Nelson Mandela

Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

The Unspoken Truth: Finding Inspiration In Black Lives

“Shout out to the people who haven’t felt okay recently but are getting up every day and refusing to quit.  Stay strong.” – Unknown

“Fill your life with stories and experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” — Anonymous

“The only bird that will peck at an Eagle is the crow.   He sits on his back and bites his neck.  The eagle does not respond or fight with the crow. It doesn’t waste his time or energy.

It simply opens its wings and begins to rise higher in the sky.  The higher the flight, the harder it is for the crow to breath and then the crow falls due to lack of oxygen,

Stop wasting your time with the crows.  Just take them to your heights and they will fade.”- Unknown

“Don’t fake your lifestyle for anyone.  It is okay to be broke, scared, lost, struggling, blessed, happy and grateful at the same time.  That’s life on life’s terms.” -Anonymous

“When someone tries to trigger you by insulting you or by doing or saying something that irritates you, take a deep breath and switch off your ego.  Remember that if you are easily offended, you are easily manipulated.” – Unknown

“There is light at the end of this road.” -Unknown

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My Dear Readers,

As usual, I will begin this blog by acknowledging those who due to COVID-19 are no longer with us.  Tragically, as of September 28, 2020, 204,033 Americans have died from this dreaded disease.  At the same time, 7,059,087 people have been diagnosed with 311,102 new cases occurring within the last seven days. And there remains no end in sight. 

These numbers have names and their lives have meaning.  They include Shirley Bannister, age 57, of Columbia, South Carolina, who was the chairperson of the nursing department of Midlands Technical College, and her daughter Demetria Bannister, age 28, who was an elementary school teacher. Demetria died several weeks ago, just a few days after testing positive for COVID-19. Shirley died on Sunday, September 27, 2020.

In addition to the devastation created by COVID-19 this has been a week of remembrance psychological impact and loss. In this writing, I want to acknowledge the deaths of four of these individuals and focus on one brave soul in particular.

In the Media-BLM:  Does Black Lives Matter?

CNN reports that a majority of adults–55%– said this month that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, but it is a notable drop from the 67% who said the same between June 4 and 10.

The report by the Pew Research Center show that “Among respondents who say they strongly support the movement, support dipped to 29% between September 8 and 13 from 38% about three months ago.” (CNN 09.22.20)

If the support for the BLM movement is waning, what does that mean for the overall support and concern by the dominant group for African Americans?  If one examines the dominant’s group’s history regarding the impact of macroaggression against black people, we know that those memories fade rapidly.

While the kind of domestic terrorism that brought America 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 may be forever memorialized,  very little attention is given to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963.  In fact, The Seattle Times acknowledged the act of domestic terrorism in a paragraph consisting of three lines, treating the tragic event as “un-noteworthy.”

Although minimized in media reporting, the incident is worthy of mentioning in this blog writing.

  • 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins,  14-year-old Cynthia Wesley, 14-year-old Carole Robertson, and 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. 
  • The bombing was the third in Birmingham, 11 days following the federal court order to integrate Alabama’s school segregated school system.
  • It is believed that the girls were intentionally targeted due to the 15 sticks of dynamite was planted directly under the girls restroom.
  • The bombing occurred at 10:19 in the morning and the resulting blast not only killed the four girls, but severely wounded 20 others church members.

Klan members were indicated for murder, but as later revealed, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover blocked their prosecution and shut down the investigation without filing charges in 1968. It was not until 2002, 39 years following the bombing, that the domestic terrorists were convicted of the bombing.

One World, Same Country & Two Realities.

Understanding & Knowing Your Place

In a homecoming reception in New Orleans for Black veterans returning from the military service in France during WWI, the following speech was given by a White city official:

“You niggers are wondering how you are going to be treated after the war.  Well, I’ll tell you, you are going to be treated exactly like you were before the war; this is a white man’s country and we expect to rule it.” (Barbeau & Henri 1974 p.174)

When I come across items like the motivational quotes shared at the beginning of this blog entry, I often wonder who the target audience is for such messages. I tend to question the relevance of these quotes to the life I live as a Black man and the experiences I have had while  “Walking the Landscape” otherwise known as Life. In this writing, I will restate the quote and apply it to the experiences of a Black man who continues to “Walk the Landscape” during these most difficult times.

In Plain Sight and Out of View

“I am the invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone; fiber and liquid-and I might be even said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.” -Ralph Ellison

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Quote #1

“Fill your life with stories and experiences, not things.  Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – Anonymous

Black people in America have had lives filled with experiences for over 400 years, and yet, neither our stories nor the “stuff” we have to show for that history have mattered. If my skin were white, would society hear the stories I have to tell?

However, my skin is black and because of the landscape I have walked and the experiences I have, there are many stories to tell and lots of things and stuff to show.

The experiences and things obtained in walking my landscape, my stories and my stuff although not important to many are important to me.

Black Lives Matter.

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Quote #2

“Shout out to the people who haven’t felt okay recently but are getting up every day and refusing to quit.  Stay strong.” – Unknown

Excellent points, “shout out to the people…. and refusing to quit.”. 

However “Stay Strong”? Really? Absolutely not.

Young people, my generation was also told to stay strong. We integrated all white schools. We were kicked, spat on, hit, ignored by teachers. We were the brave bunch.

Every day brought a new battle, new psychological impacts, and more trauma. And our parents kept telling us to “stay strong.” We did not have the resources to balance these impacts that we needed, namely the resources, counseling, individual and the group psychotherapy opportunities that would allow us to navigate these obstacles while still supporting our psychological selves.

We came up during the time in which counseling and therapy was frowned upon and only for “crazy white people.” We still suffer in silence today, many of us still subscribing to the same self-defeating beliefs, continuing to “stay strong.”

Young folks, instead of following your parents’ road, littered with worn out bodies and devastation; create your own path. Instead of strength, seek balance.  

Empower yourselves by balancing your strengths and weaknesses. Before you get overwhelmed and shut down, reach out, allow yourselves to be vulnerable, exposed and trusting to seek professional help.

You decide… choose to focus on strength and holding it in, or create your own path on your own landscape.


Black Lives Matter.

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Quote #3

“The only bird that will peck at an Eagle is the crow.   He sits on his back and bites his neck.  The eagle does not respond or fight with the crow. It doesn’t waste his time or energy.

It simply opens its wings and begins to rise higher in the sky.  The higher the flight, the harder it is for the crow to breath and then the crow falls due to lack of oxygen,

Stop wasting your time with the crows.  Just take them to your heights and they will fade.”- Unknown

I have opened my wings and have flown higher in the sky. And yet the crow is still on my back pecking away. Damn. How high do I have to fly before he fades away?

Apparently, he just being what he is … insignificant and yet an obstacle to contend with. Maybe that’s his message.

My message is simply this:  “We are not giving up, not giving in, and we are not letting go. 400 years plus one and counting.” Enjoy the ride, Crow, peck away. 

Oh, and about the traumatic experiences and wounding caused by the pecking? That’s what counseling and psychological assistance is for.

Heal the wound, create space for further traumas (i.e. more pecking) and achieve mental and emotional wellness. Keep flying.

Black Lives Matter.

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Quote #4

“Don’t fake your lifestyle for anyone.  It is okay to be broke, scared, lost, struggling, blessed, happy and grateful at the same time.  That’s life on life’s terms.” -Anonymous

So, let’s assume that a large number of African Americans are ok about being broke, scared, lost and struggling…. does that mean that they are “at the same time, blessed, happy and grateful?”

Is this really “life on life’s terms,” or is this simply an illusory concept created on a foundation of warmth and comfort? Black people have been here for 400 years plus 1… and counting… yet, it is hard to find any that are broke, scared etc. and nonetheless, still feel blessed, happy and grateful at the same time.

Just because some people are slurping down the Kool-aid doesn’t mean we all have to drink from the same straw.

Walking the landscape on our own terms. Now, that’s living life on life’s terms.

Black Lives Matter.

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Quote #5

“When someone tries to trigger you by insulting you or by doing or saying something that irritates you, take a deep breath and switch off your ego.  Remember that if you are easily offended, you are easily manipulated.” – Unknown


“Take a deep breath” & “switch off your ego?” Really? And then do what? Black people have been taking a deep breath and switching off the ego for 400 years plus 1…. and counting. Black people understand what it is to be easily offended and manipulated.

Actually, those are “western or Euro meditation” movements that would encourage black folks to accept this supposedly Eastern philosophy which seems to offer “peace and tranquility.” 

However, what is really being offered here is a “carrot” on the road to “nowhere”. This well used road is littered with the bleached bones of worn out African Americans and devastation.

Instead of the “carrot,” we can choose our own path, that being one of advocacy, balance and calmness. The real question is whether we have belief, faith and trust in self, or do we continue to munch on the delicious carrot that is so willingly being offered?

Micro aggressions are here to stay, and so are we.

Instead of the “carrot,” mental wellness through counseling or therapy can be our path. You decide.

Black Lives Matter.

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane 

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

My Dear Readers,

The referred quotes are without a doubt well intended, meaningful and expressed with the intent to inspire and motive individuals.  But which individuals? What population? What experiences are being taken into consideration?

While well intended, these quotes, especially when used to address the pain that some individuals experience, can be psychological impactful and lead to emotional devastation. 

The last quote in its true “innocence” and well-being states .

“There is light at the end of this road.”

The question of “this road?”  Whose road? Why this road? Why can’t I choose the road that is best for me?  If one looks squarely at the quote it removes from the individual the “right of self-determination.”

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Quote #6

“There is light at the end of this road.” -Unknown

Hmm Interesting. Good points. The major one being “don’t give up.” Now, about that road…this is where I choose a different way. Yes, for those who choose to follow it,  there is a “light at the end of road.” However, is there really a light? For me? 

My reality is simple. The road, which is spoken of, was built by somebody or someone else. To get to the end… it will be by seeking or meeting the expectations of those who built the road. 

Consequently, the light at the end of the road can become nothing more than an illusory “carrot” created to trap the seeker.

Young people, instead of following another’s road, create your own path. Instead of settling for the light at the end of the road, look beyond and “walk the landscape.” 

The landscape is open, vast and wide. More important, the landscape is “yours”. The landscape is LIFE. 

For many BBIPOC, the road is littered with the bleached bones of the forgotten and devastation. Have belief, faith and trust in self. Walk your landscape.

Stand at the crossroads. Make your choice.

Black Lives Matter

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Do Black Lives Matter? 

According to the research studies, support from white people is fading.  The bombing in Birmingham Alabama, which snuffed out the lives of four black girls, was an occurrence, not just in African American history, it is American history, which also has faded away from white public interest.

Yes, Black lives matter.  Black lives are no more precious than white lives or blue lives.  Yet Black lives have been under siege since they were brought here in chains in 1619.

Black lives have fought ALL of this nation’s wars and have protected this nation from its enemies….and yet Black lives have returned home to segregation, systemic racism and fueled hate. And still Black lives defend the Constitution that once upheld that Black lives are worth 3/5 of a white life.

During the women’s suffrage movement, Black women were consistently denied a sit at the table by White women who hypocritically were demanding their right to vote and full equality to men while at the same time denying the same rights and opportunities to Black women.

Black Lives Matter.

“To be African American is to be African without any memory & American without any privilege.” -James Baldwin

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” -Zora Neale Hurston

“I say “Black Lives Matters” because “All” didn’t cover Black when they said “All Men Are Created Equal.”

I say “Black Lives Matters” because “ALL” didn’t cover Black when they said ”With Liberty and Justice For ALL”

I say “Black Lives Matters” because they’re still struggling with the definition of “ALL”

-Black Lives Matter Movement

The Unspoken Truth….. 400 years plus 1 and …counting.

In Our Corner: Responding to Microaggressions in the Pursuit of Self-Acceptance

Sticks & Stones (Variation #1)

Alexander William Kinglake, 1833

“Sticks and stones may break my bones

But words will never hurt me”

Sticks & Stones (Variation #2)

The African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Christian Recorder, March 1862.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.”

Sticks & Stones (Variation #3)

Absent Friends, 2004.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can tear me apart.”

Catch A Nigger by His Toe

A Children’s Counting Rhyme (1888)

“Eeny, meena, mina, mo,

Catch a nigger by the toe,

If he hollers let him go,

Eena, meena, mina, mo”

“So, let me try to understand this video. Here are a group of young Black men who are wearing baggy clothes with their pants hanging off their waists acting like human beings. Go figure? Gentlemen, you make your families proud. Outstanding!!!!”

  • George Saint Louis. Writer, LinkedIn, July 28, 2020

My Dear Readers,

At the time of this writing, as our country continues to struggle with COVID-19, 6.09 million Americans have contracted the disease with over 185,000 deaths. That is the national toll, tangible numbers signifying the trauma that we all as Americans have experienced in the last six months. What is not as easily visible yet has also been widely experienced are the microaggressions suffered by black, brown, and Indigenous people of color (BBIPOC) at the hands of others.

Microaggressions are those common, daily, often brief, verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative prejudicial slights and insults towards any group, particularly culturally or racially marginalized groups.

The words of George Saint Louis quoted in the opening of this blog are an example of these microaggressions.

Recently, I saw a video showing compassionate assistance given to an elderly white couple by a three, young-adult black men.  The elders were both nearing 100 years old. The men, upon seeing that the husband was unable to get his wife into their vehicle, assisted them by physically placing the woman into the vehicle and then helping the elderly man into the driver’s seat as well.

This video was viewed over 4.5 million times on Facebook and now was being shown on LinkedIn.

George Saint Louis’ statement was in response to this video.

His words were racist, sarcastic and demeaning. They were hurled with the intent to ridicule and inflict psychological harm on a group of young black men.

Instead of asking why George Saint Louis chose to respond in that manner, I ask what about the young men?

What follows after the psychological assault? How are they impacted as individuals? Are such assaults expected to be forgiven and forgotten? Are they expected to simply ignore the words and actions and brush them aside like the “Sticks and Stones” rhyme taught?

During America’s slave period, the whip also known as the “lash” was utilized to shame, humiliate and psychologically intimidate enslaved people into submission. Its impact was further increased when other enslaved people were required to observe the lashing of their peers to heighten the shame of the ordeal. Today, the observance and similar outcome is achieved via social media as seen by the 4.5 million Facebook viewers of the three young black men seeking to assist an elderly white couple.

The injuries endured from microaggressions remain permanent wounds embedded upon the psychological self that never, ever go away.  All African Americans have memories they could share of psychological trauma created by microaggressions.

For example, I remember as a child growing up in the segregated South, being told to leave the homes of white playmates for no other reason than for the color of my skin. I can attest that the psychological pain from incidences like that is everlasting and the wounds from these will reopen and bleed when such microaggressions occur later in life.

This continual reopening of wounds is due to the vulnerability of never knowing when, where or from whom, the comment, action, behavior or seemingly innocent question would be coming from.

In another example from my life, as a graduate student early-on in my program, one of my professors questioned whether white female students were writing my papers in exchange for “sexual favors.”  Evidently, the quality of the research work I was doing was “suspect”.

African Americans, like others in this country, walk the landscape of life. During the walk, there will be challenges, roadblocks, and obstacles made by others.  Some of these will be based out of fear, some out of ignorance, others out of jealousy and the remaining are simply from hate.

I currently spend dozens of hours, weekly, with African Americans engaging in a deliberate strategy that my white colleagues due to a combination of training, western orientation/approach or ignorance are unable to do… listening. Many of my colleagues simply hear and the information travels in one ear and out the other. In listening, I seek to provide a safe space for the expression and release of pain and suffering.

Yet, among patients, there is a common theme: avoidance, denial, rejection of what has been experienced, the few who choose to self-medicate through alcohol or drugs, or those who seek to hide in big houses, expensive cars and flashy clothes while suffering silently.

The questions often asked include the following:

  • How do I avoid these feelings?
  • When will the pain of hurtful words go away?
  • What tricks can I use to just forget about it?

Avoidance? Distancing? Tricks? Self-deception?

Following is a story of a man, who, while walking the landscape, has found his path blocked not only by others but by himself. Here is his story.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

 I am writing because I have lost my way.  I have read your writings and hope you can help me.  I am an African American male who has lived my entire life in white America.  I am responding to the trauma of whiteness and their power that is overwhelming me.

 I feel that my life has been one of surrendering my power to white people.  I grew up learning that they were always right and that I was wrong.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a predominantly white town that has now become a mid-sized city.  My family was one of the very few black people in the area.  My playmates, classmates and friends were all white. 

 All through school I was known as Black Joe.  Not Joseph, my given name, or Joey or just Joe, but rather Black Joe.  When I was in the third grade, a white classmate called me a “nigger” and everyone laughed, and pointed fingers at me. At the time I did not know what a “nigger” was, but I knew from the way it was said and the laughter that followed, it was a bad thing.

 My parents did not speak up for me.  In fact, they remained quiet as I took the abuse.  They, just like the white people around me, never felt that I would be successful.  I went on to prove them wrong. I was smart, I knew I was going to be successful.

 My mistake was that in focusing on proving myself acceptable to them, I gave them my power.  As an adult, I paid a terrible price for my success. I had the high paying job, expensive car, and a big house but I also have had a series of extramarital affairs resulting in divorces, not being on speaking terms with my adult children, and a strong dependence on alcohol.

 I wanted to take back my power, so I made the commitment to attend a local Alcohol Anonymous meeting that was conducted via video conferencing due to the coronavirus outbreak.  For the first time, I spoke out about the pain of being a black man living in a white town. 

 I got a lot of positive feedback and I was feeling really good until someone spoke over the receiver, at first calling out my name and then repeatedly saying “nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger.”  The facilitator shut off the microphone, but it was too late.  I felt humiliated and ashamed.

 I felt so betrayed. I never returned to another AA meeting.  What was really telling was I had completely forgotten about the incident of being called a nigger in the 3rd grade but the incident at the AA meeting took me back to that time.  I am still drinking heavily to this very day. I am drinking an average of two half-gallons of scotch per week.

 I have sought acceptance from others and have failed to obtain this.  As I write to you, I don’t know what I want and yet, in your response, I hope to find wisdom that will show me the way.

 Bless you Dr. Kane,

Wandering Alone Mount Vernon, WA 

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My Dear Readers,

His story is similar to many African American men and women who have suffered emotionally while seeking to climb the “ladder of acceptance”. What they never really understand is that this ladder is an illusion.  Acceptance by others may never be achieved. And if it is, it may be withdrawn or snatched away without hesitation, justification, or notice.

The 3R’s & The Survival of the Fittest

Psychological trauma has been a key factor in the lives of African Americans beginning in early childhood.  Where their white peers are allowed to just learn the lessons of the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) without the concern of racial bias, black children are abandoned in the white educational system and, barring strong parental interaction or oversight at school, they are left to navigate the educational landscape alone, expected to survive exposure to racism, rejection, and rebuke without support.

“I have sought acceptance from others and have failed to obtain this.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Acceptance and Understanding

“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.”

McLeod, Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. Psychology Today. March 20, 2020.

Once the physiological and safety needs are met, Maslow states that “the person… will hunger for affectionate relationships with people in general for acceptance into the group.”

Although acceptance can be defined as the action or process of being received by the group as adequate or suitable, it is also defined as the internalized need to be accepted as you are.  The desire to be accepted as you are, can also lead to the willingness to tolerate difficult situations.

It is the nature of human beings to want to be accepted, valued, validated, and viewed with esteem from a desired group. Problems develop when the value, validation and esteem is one sided or focused in one direction.

The Reality of Black & White

“We are still living in a society where dark things are devalued, and white things are valued.”

  • Margaret Beale Spencer, 2010

Due to the way that education system set up, and values are learned, the idea that they are superior is consciously reinforced to the white children while the idea that BBIPOC people are inferior is subconsciously, unconsciously, and continually reinforced to black and brown children. Nearly 67 years following the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and 12 years after the election of the country first black president, white children have an overwhelming white bias, and black children have a bias towards white (Spencer 2010).

The Willingness to Tolerate Difficult Situations

The trap that sucks in many African Americans is the willingness to tolerate difficult situations in order to gain acceptance.  In many cases, these situations are traumatic and psychologically wounding, often resulting in emotional and mental scarring.

The problem is that consciously we know that acceptance is not something that can be forced, yet subconsciously and unconsciously, there is a willingness to tolerate the difficult situation until acceptance has been achieved.

The Myth of Sisyphus: The Story of African Americans Being “Played”

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus is forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.  Sisyphus was undeterred; he pushed the rock right back up every time it rolled down.  He refused to surrender to gravity.

The moral of this story is we must learn to embrace our purpose (the rock) in life. Once we accept it as the objective of our being, we should give everything it takes to achieve it.  Most importantly, no matter how much we lose in our quest, we must never back down until we fulfill our potential.

So, what is the bottom line we learn from Sisyphus?  Embrace the rock. Be persistent.  Work hard.  Never give up.

Now, let’s apply this to African Americans struggling to be accepted by a hostile group who view themselves as superior and those seeking “acceptance” are inferior.  In this modern-day uphill struggle, the “rock” is the acceptance African Americans seek to achieve from the dominant group.

The reality (and not moral) of this story is that African Americans are being played. They are allowing themselves to be believe the illusion that they will ever be acceptable to the dominant group.  Yet, as they continue to do so, to seek acceptance from others, they continue to embrace the rock. To be persistent.  To work hard.  To never give up.”

“You’re Fooling You

“Ah tell me who’s fooling who.

You ain’t fooling me.

You’re fooling you.

You’re Fooling You, The Dramatics (1975)

 The Golden Rule: “You Have To Be Twice As Good As Them”

Rowan: “Did I not raise you for better? How many times have I told you? You have to be what?”

Olivia:   “Twice as good.”

Rowan: “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they have.”

Scandal. ABC. 2012-2018.

For whites, there is a saying: “Whoever has the gold makes the rules”. For black people it is a statement of exclusion and survival. Variations of the preceding quote have been drummed into the minds of African Americans by their parents inter-generationally since slavery over 400 years ago.

An Unequal Playing Field

The effects of these parental demands upon black children is not only mentally taxing but can be emotionally overwhelming as well. They leave the children vulnerable to believing that striving for acceptance and eventually for personal success is like Sisyphus, rolling the rock up the mountain in order to “get half of what they have”. But before they even get there, they must first roll the rock up the mountain known as “acceptance.”

Self-Acceptance

It is known that acceptance and understanding are emotional needs to feel alright and to know that others accept you as you are.  However, this can be a slippery slope for African Americans who prioritized the “acceptance by others” over the acceptance of self.

Acceptance is an entity controlled from within the individual. Acceptance is an entity that cannot be forced.  Self-acceptance is an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself, and it is a necessity for good mental wellness.

Self-acceptance, unlike acceptance by others, is an “alone” entity.  It involves self-understanding and a realistic, subjective awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses.

In conclusion, self-acceptance is extremely important. If a person does not accept themselves for who they really are, they will continuously create ongoing problems within their own life.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

“I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see”

My Dear Young Man,

I appreciate the sharing of your story.  It is one to which many African Americans can relate.  Yours is a story of endurance, pain and suffering.  It is also a story of accomplishments and socio-economic achievement.

However, as you sought like Sisyphus to reach the top of the mountain, you fell for the trap of seeking their acceptance instead of seeking self-acceptance.  The acceptance of others may or may not ever come.  And yet, you ignored the cries, pleas and calling of the person most important in your life, the Self.

It is true that you have gained success and wealth yet, look at the price you paid for it. In trying to self-medicate, you are consuming a gallon of alcohol per week. If you continue on this road traveled by so many black men before you, it will only lead to your demise. The black community will have lost another valuable soul… taken too soon.

Your landscape can be open, vast and wide.  Or you can continue to slip quietly away filled with bitterness.  Though it didn’t seem like it, the person who hid in the darkness during the AA meeting calling out “nigger, nigger, nigger” gave you a gift. The gift of exposure. It showed you that that environment was not a safe place for you to be.

Five R’s of RELIEF

Instead of drowning your anguish in the darkness of alcohol; reach out and take a respite (step away), embrace your reactions, be reflective (balancing feeling & thoughts), be responsive to self (talk to me), and constantly reevaluate what occurred and how it was experienced.

The Impact of “Time Heals Wounds”

Historically black parents, so focused on their children’s success, have neglected protecting them from the psychological wounding of microaggressions.  We have been told that “time will heal wounds.”  This is not true.  Time does not heal, it is the work we do in therapy, over time that will heal the wounds.

What is true is that microaggressive wounds lie deeply in the hearts of the victims. Such words or actions can come from strangers, coworkers, family members and friends you may have known for many years.  The objective is not to either ignore, react, or to rise above the insult. The objective is to understand that the traumatic impact remains, but the wound will heal to the point that the traumatic impact will be lighter and have a much smaller influence as you walk your landscape.

As for myself, I remained psychologically impacted by the racially and sexually charged statement leveled at me in graduate school.  I remembered those words as I spoke before the United State Congress in 2008 as the Clinical Consultant in Clinical Traumatology for the Congressional Black Caucus. Those words were painful but, because of my own acceptance of self, I was able to continue my journey of self-discovery despite their influence.

Now, what will you do? Continue down the road well paved with the souls of many lost black men or will you walk your landscape and seek your journey of self-discovery? If you choose to seek self-discovery, the first step is prioritizing self-acceptance over acceptance by others.  In doing this as you interact with others; allow the following statement to guide you along the way.

Loving the Self

As much as I love you, I love me more.

Loving me more doesn’t mean I love you less.

It just means I love me more.

More.

Focus on the journey… not the destination.

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“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

  • John Robert Lewis (1940-2020), Former US Congressman and Civil Rights Activist

 

Until the next time,

Remaining … in Our Corner

The Visible Man: The Inequity of “Protect and Serve”

 “On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions.”

– Law Enforcement Oath of Honor, 2020.

“I [patroller’s name], do swear, that I will as searcher for guns, swords, and other weapons among the slaves in my district, faithfully, and as privately as I can, discharge the trust reposed in me as the law directs, to the best of my power. So, help me, God.”

– Slave Patroller’s Oath, North Carolina, 1828.

“The history of police work in the South grows out of this early fascination, by white patrollers, with what African American slaves were doing. Most law enforcement was, by definition, white patrolmen watching, catching, or beating black slaves.”    

– Sally Hadden Author, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, 2001.

“We are the hunters.  We hunt, that’s what we do.”

– Police Commander, (encouraging younger officers (2018).

“The video of George Floyd being slowly suffocated by a police officer on the streets of Minneapolis while three fellow officers looked on is sickening. It represents a disgusting abuse of power, and all four cops should go to jail for murder. I think it’s safe to say that most of the world agrees. People are marching in the streets across the country and around the world in the name of George Floyd. The outrage and anger is understandable, but blaming all police officers is not. The overwhelming majority of cops are good people doing a dangerous job. They became police officers to serve and protect, and 99.9 percent honor their duty.”

– Russell Kent, Columnist, Galion Inquirer, June 10, 2020.

“The wolf has somehow convinced the sheep that the sheepdog is the dangerous one and that he must be removed.  I pray for the sheep [when] the wolf has all the sheep to himself.”

– Maggie D., Detective Sergeant 

“There have been wolves masquerading as sheepdogs for 400 years. Now the true sheepdogs are paying for their silence for turning a blind eye while the wolves in sheepdog’s uniforms ravaged the sheep that they are sworn to protect and serve. Maybe the sheep have had enough or perhaps they should be patient and wait…. another 400 years?”

– Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

 

My Dear Readers,

In years past, I was repeatedly asked by white people variations of the question: “Why do black people…”

  • Distrust the police
  • Fear the police
  • Hate the police
  • Are paranoid about the police

The answer is as simple as it is complex.

 

Imagery & Reality

When it comes to the police, the imagery white people are taught focuses on community service, self-sacrifice, and the idea that the policeman next door is the thin blue line standing between the good-guys and bad-guys.

Black people live in the reality where community policing turns into law enforcement.  The police do not live next door.  Instead they act as hunters, barreling through neighborhoods seeking to punish and subdue. Black people, no matter guilt or innocence, young or old, minor infraction or major crime have been deemed “bad-guys” who deserve swift and ruthless punishment.

Our nation’s history and the well-documented experiences of black people in this country teaches police officers exactly why the relationship between them and the black community is so adversarial. It is about power and control.

The police have been given the power and the black community must be controlled and its males rendered powerless.

When speaking of policing, the lines are distinctively drawn. Strict belief systems serve to force people into diametrically opposed camps: strongly supportive or strongly against the police and their tactics.  In light of recent events, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery by active and retired officers, police have been trying to sure up their image through reiterating their supposed commitment to their “Protect and Serve” oath and be on their best behavior in the communities where local policing actually exists. But cracks are beginning to spread and the image will soon fall away exposing the reality underneath.

 

Dominance & Control

The definition of dominant group is a group with power, privilege, and social status.  It is the social group that controls the value system and rewards in a society.  The dominant group is often in the majority but not necessarily.

The definition of minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage when compared to members of the dominant social group.  Minority group membership is typically based in observable characteristics such as ethnicity or race.  They are easily targeted as they have relatively little social power.

The message that is consistently given by law enforcement and its supporters is the following:

“The overwhelming majority of cops are good people doing a dangerous job. They became police officers to serve and protect, and 99.9 percent honor their duty.”

 – Russell Kent Columnist, Galion Inquirer, June 10, 2020.

And yet there is no doubt of the impact through violence, trauma and psychological injury created by the 0.1 percent of the police officers who misuse their badges, dishonor their oaths and create distrust among the people they swore to “serve and protect.”

 

Fear: The Tool of Serve & Protect

Then there are the questions surrounding those who are serving and protecting:

  1. Who is being protected and from whom do they feel they need protection?
  2. How can the police officer serve and protect those who feel they are being targeted, profiled and look upon as suspects?

Which community, the dominant group or the minority group, holds a historical relationship with policing in the United States?  Answer? Both.  Historically the police have been used and manipulated by whites to enforce the laws created by the white community by whatever means necessary to control the black community and monitor the movement of its members, particularly males.

It is a historic stereotype created by the white community, is that black males are inherently violent and therefore require a heavy hand by those who know and understand their brute strength and wild animal nature.  Policing is the manifestation of that heavy hand historically used against blacks to control and monitor.

For many police officers today, the mandate remains the same. Police, once viewed as the scum of white society were needed to control those they feared, black males, but soon came to benefit the greater society leading to the formation of the symbiotic relationship between the Police and those who empower them.

 

Symbiotic Relationship: Serve & Protect

A symbiotic relationship is one in which people exist together in a way that benefits them all.  It is a relationship, each provides for the other the conditions necessary for the relationships’ continued existence.

There has been a symbiotic relationship between those who enforce the law (police) and the dominant community. That relationship embodies what the “serve and protect” oath was meant to be.

 

Inverse Symbiotic Relationship: Law Enforcement

An inverse symbiotic relationship is one in which, while interacting with one another, one member of the relationship becomes larger or stronger while the other becomes smaller or weaker. It is a relationship which is opposite or contrary in position, direction, order, or effect.

There has been an inverse symbiotic relationship that has existed historically between African Americans and the police since slavery originated in the American colonies.  The foundation of this relationship remains unbalanced and based on fear and intimidation to this day.

 

The Slave Patrollers or “Paddyrollers”

Historically, policing originated in the American South in South Carolina and Virginia as slave patrols (Sally E. Hadden, Slave Patrols. 2003).  They were created in the late 17th century and continued through to the end of the Civil War. County courts and state militias formed the patrollers and they were the primary enforcers of codes governing slaves throughout the south.

These patrollers were created due to whites living in constant fear of slave rebellions.  The responsibilities of the slave patrols were to control the movements and behaviors of the enslaved populations.  Slave patrols served three main functions:

  1. To chase down, apprehend and return to their owners, runaway slaves,
  2. To provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts and,
  3. To maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside the law.

Typically, slave patrol routines included enforcing curfews, checking black travelers for  permission passes, catching those assembling without permission, visiting and searching slave quarters, inflicting impromptu punishment, preventing any form of organized resistance and occasionally suppressing insurrections.

Through these actions, the slave patrols inspired well-justified fear on the part of the slaves.  The fear was reinforced as the “patrollers” generally made their rounds at night, with their activity and regularity differing according to time and place.

“Patrol duty” was often compulsory for most able-bodied white males.  Some professions were exempt, but otherwise avoiding duty required paying a fine or hiring a substitute.

As stated earlier, slaves lived in fear of the patrollers.  Sally E. Hadden cites a 1937 WPA interview with W.L. Bost, former slave:

“The paddyrollers they keep close watch on the pore niggers so they have no chance to do anything or go anywhere.  They jes’ like policemen, only worser.” (p. 71).

Hadden notes that the patrollers did face social and legal checks on how harshly they behaved, because slave owners “did not take kindly to excessive or unnecessary damage to their human chattel.”

 

Pleading: Protection from Policing

On December 3, 1865, after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the end of the Civil War in April of 1865, a group of Black Mississippians wrote the state’s governor demanding respect for their newly won freedom.  They stated:

“’All we ask for is justice and to be treated like human beings.’ They recalled vividly ‘the yelping of bloodhounds and tearing of our fellow servants to pieces by slave patrols’. They call for an end to these violent abuses.”

Take notice that even though the Civil War had ended and their freedom legally authorized, the slave patrols were still being used by white groups to enforce control and perpetrate violence against the now former slaves.

 

Common Themes of the Past & Present Symbiotic Relationship

Whites have consistently lived in fear and suspicion of blacks from slavery to this current day.

  • Whites have, using federal, state and local laws, restricted the movement and activities of blacks.
  • Whites have used policing as a method to control, impose restrictions upon and sanction the actions and behaviors of blacks.
  • Similar to the slave era where violent methodology was permitted or ignored as long as the patrollers did not commit “excessive or unnecessary damage to their human chattel,” today’s dominant group ignored or remained silent about violence perpetrated by police as long as they deemed the violence being done as “not excessive”.

 

The Coronavirus, Black Lives Matter, & Social Media: A Perfect Storm & The Loss of Control

COVID-19, which has sadly taken the lives of over 142,000 Americans, has played a major role in what has become an enormously effective movement for change. Hundreds of millions of Americans were quarantined in their homes with nothing more to do than watch TV and peruse social media. While doing so, the actions of the police in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked worldwide protests and showed the white community exactly what the black community had been experiencing under the guise of protecting and serving.

The white community could no longer deny the injustice that had been occurring since the 17th century.

 

The Sleight of Hand-We Have Been Played

The media, including print journalism and even entertainment companies, have teamed with the police to play up the image of the good cop chasing the bad guy.  Television shows showcasing the “hero cop” such as Dragnet’s Sergeant Joe Friday, are portrayed as honest, hardcore, fact-driven professionals who methodically gather evidence without prejudice or bias.

One memorable quote by Sgt. Friday best describes the perceived plight of the common police officer:

“You’re a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law… they call you everything, but never a policeman”.

The first run of Dragnet had 100 episodes airing from 1951 to 1959 then revived for a second 98 episode run from 1967 to 1970 on NBC. This was by no means the only pro-police television program.

Cops, a television program filmed in a documentary/ reality style, ran for 31 seasons showing 1100 shows, sometimes 15 to 20 times a day inundating the viewing public with a false idea of what policing was. Dan Taberski, creator of the Running from Cops podcast stated:

“[The Cops television show] consistently presented bad policing as good policing, tasing people when they shouldn’t be tasing, using illegal holds, siccing dogs on people without proper warning – just over and over.”

 

Eight Minutes 46 Seconds: The Thin Blue Line-Crumbling

“George Floyd is not a wake-up call.  The same alarm has been ringing since 1619. Y’all just keep hitting snooze.”

The moment by moment replaying of the eight minutes 46 seconds that a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on the neck of George Floyd while three fellow police officer stood idly by protecting the police officer from concerned onlookers psychologically traumatized the dominant group. The callous disregard for life shook the foundations of who and what they were taught the police were. This was the first time they saw that “protect and serve” was not the same for everyone.

 

The Breach of the Symbiotic Relationship

The symbiotic relationship between the police who enforce the law and the dominant community they serve has been damaged and the people psychologically impacted. Now that black and white communities share in witnessing these events, they may bring them to a common understanding; trauma and fear of those who offer community policing to one and exert law enforcement upon the other.

 

Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

“He can run, but he can’t hide “

 – Joe Louis “The Brown Bomber” World Heavyweight Champion (1937-1949)

My Dear Readers,

White America, you knew about police treatment of black people.  You knew of the racial profiling.  You knew about their suspicious and negative feelings particularly about black males.  Be honest. Look in the mirror and embrace your truths.  You knew.  You had to know.  You heard the complaints of African Americans. You have listened to the whispers and read the stories.

The police have been living by the unwritten contract demanding they protect you from them.  From the time of slavery, whites have feared their slaves.  They have used the patrollers to control and monitor them.  The slave master stayed out of the way of the violence and abuse, being silent and only speaking up when the police went too far and “damage or destroyed” his property.

Following the freeing of the slaves, whites feared the former slaves even more.  They created laws, black codes and sundown ordinances and, once again, used the police to maintain order, surveillance, and control. The silent agreement was to ignore black peoples pleads for protection so that they could continue to exist willfully ignorant.

Unfortunately for both the police and white America, the death of George Floyd, just as in the days of slavery, this time, went… too far.  White America could not unseen it. White America may not have believed it could happen, yet it did. You and the world saw, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a police officer press his full weight onto the neck of black man and watched that man take his last breath. The brutality could no longer be denied.

As for black America, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are a continuation of the brutality exhibited by the patrollers from the slave days. Breonna Taylor, as she slept in her bed, was killed by police. The patrollers would come into the homes of slaves during the night unannounced, with actions that could lead to death of the slave. Ahmaud Arbery was killed by a retired police officer and his son who felt they had the authority to stop and question him while jogging. The patrollers or any white man had the authority to stop and question a slave or freedman and that person was at risk death as a result of the stop.

During the funeral services of George Floyd, Reverend Al Sharpton made the call for “change”.  I strongly disagree.

African Americans have endured change in this land for 401 years.  We have changed from slaves to freedmen and women.  We have changed during segregation, discrimination and, Black Codes.  We have changed through civil rights laws, voting rights legislation, equal housing and fair employment decrees.  We have changed through having to endure 12 forms of racism and 14 sub-types of traumas. We have seen change that contributed to high unemployment, high incarceration, high dropout rates, and high rates of addiction, mental illness and suicide.

However, what we have not seen is TRANSFORMATION.  In transforming there is no going back.  With transformation, we can only go forward.

***************************************

Loving Father & Creator,

I want to walk the landscape called life.  The landscape is open, it is vast, and it is wide.  The landscape is mine. Grant me transformation.  Let me go, my blessed Lord, so I can live the life I want and see more and achieve more than the trauma that is before me.

“I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people, I don’t judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you. Try to forgive me. I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work. Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly.”

 – The final words of Elijah McClain.

He died on August 3, 2019 by physical restraint. A knee on his chest. During a police encounter as he was walking home.  The police stopped him due to a report of a black man acting suspiciously with a hoodie over his head.

 

Until We Meet Again… I am the Visible Man.

In Our Corner: The Seen, The Unseen and the Dimming of the Bonfires

“Once a profound truth has been seen, it cannot be ‘unseen’. There’s no ‘going back’ to the person you were. Even if such a possibility did exist… why would you want to?”

– Dave Sim, Cartoonist & Publisher

 

“Our police force was not created to serve black Americans; it was created to police black Americans and serve white Americans.”

– Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

 

“I know people get tired of hearing it but black people have got to keep saying it, throwing our conditions up into these people’s faces until something is done about the way they have treated us. We’ve just got to keep it in front of their eyes and their ears like the Jews have done. We’ve got to make them know and understand just how evil the things are that they did to us over all these years and are still doing to us today.”

– Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography

 

“I can hear you say, “What a horrible, irresponsible bastard!” And you’re right. I leap to agree with you. I am one of the most irresponsible beings that ever lived. Irresponsibility is part of my invisibility; any way you face it, it is a denial. But to whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me?”

– Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

 

My Dear Readers,

Well, the “walking back,” has begun.  The explosion of anger and outrage following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer that ignited protests and riots across the nation is waning, and the bonfires of action lit within the dominant group have begun to die out.

Still, the process is working. The people are finally being heard. State legislation regarding police reform is being passed and laws are being enacted.  Even President Trump, after a protracted silence, got involved and signed a watered-down executive order that, on its face, pretended to alter police policies but ultimately left it up to the agencies to enact.

The white liberal progressives are also adding their support. One social work organization is urging its members to pressure their representatives into acknowledging that Trump’s executive order is not “as strong as the organization would wish, but it is a start” and suggest that we work together in the “spirit of collaboration”. Really?

 

“In the Spirit of Collaboration”

This statement is loaded with catch phrases that signal that it is time to return to normal. “Not as strong as the organization would wish”, and “It is a start…” is language that coddles those in power into thinking that their half-hearted attempts at pacifying the enraged masses is “a step in the right direction” as if an actual effort was made. Working together “in the spirit of collaboration”, means nothing more than a return to the old normal with flowery new language and more black blood in the streets.

On June 12, 2020, another black man, Rayshard Brooks, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Atlanta, GA. Four days afterward, on June 16, 2020, Trump issued the Executive Order “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”.

Less than a week later, on June 21, 2020, an NYPD police officer was suspended without pay following video showing him using an illegal chokehold on an African American man.

Are the police uninformed or is it a return to business as usual?

 

Intellectual Knowledge vs Experiential Persecution

Knowledge of racism, microaggressions, and macroaggressions can be learned about academically or experienced; known intellectually or lived through and felt.

When racism has only been observed from afar, its impacts can be rationalized down to…

“Privilege is the right to remain silent when others can’t.”

– Richie Norton, Author

But when it is lived through repeatedly, statements like…

“Every time the neck of a black man, woman or child is pinned to the ground by the knee of a police officer, every time a black man, woman or child is chased down in the street and shot simply for being there, every time a black man woman or child is judged purely because of color, every time a white individual crosses the street to avoid walking past a black man, woman or child, avoids sitting beside a black man, woman or child on public transport or says or does nothing when a black man, woman or child is being subjected to abuse is, in itself, a modern day lynching.” 

– R. Patient

Capture the depths of what is routinely being experienced.

The words of Norton, a white author, are no less true than those of Patient, but there is a difference. Norton only knows of the brutality and injustice, while to Patient, it is known and felt emotionally.

Today the dominant group can speak intellectually and rationally about the need for police reform however, having not experienced this, they cannot feel the trauma of police brutality and oppression. They cannot conceive of the suffering that comes from the understanding that policing arises from slavery and is intended for the control and oppression of black and brown people, today’s descendants of slaves.

Below is such a story…

*************************************************************************************

Dear Dr. Kane,

I am feeling helpless.  And I am so angry. I am a black man working in the corporate world.  I have had to put up with microaggressions all my life living in the Pacific Northwest. 

 I lived my life and shouldered my aches and pains with no one giving a damn.  I remembered one incident while walking with my white peers to lunch being stopped and questioned by the police.  They said I resemble a person of interest. 

They detained me, “handcuffing me for my safety” and after a few minutes and checking their computer system, let me go. Those bastards gave me a warming to be good and stay out of trouble.  There was no apology. 

 All this happened with my peers standing right there. They did nothing. They did not come to my aid. I was so humiliated. I graduated, top of my class gaining my MBA, and these bastards, the police tell me to be good and stay out trouble.

  It was a supposed to be a networking lunch.  No one said a word; I sat at the restaurant in silence.  I got up twice to go to the restroom to collect myself.  I was so angry, but I couldn’t scream or yell.  All I could do is cry like a girl. 

 Finally, I made an excuse and left, going home for the day.  When I got home, I got drunk and stayed drunk for two days calling in sick.  I know they knew the truth.  When I returned to work, they all pretended nothing had happened.

 Now some time later, George Floyd gets killed on video and now they are concerned about my welfare.  I am so sick and tired of the “I had no idea” or “is it really is that bad?” or approval of “Black Lives Matter.”  This is all bullshit.  They knew.  How could they not know?  My life wasn’t important before and now it is?

I am so confused and conflicted.  I want their help. Black lives do matter.  I am tired of being afraid when I see the cops driving behind me.  I know they are running my plates.   I get these aching feelings in my chest and stomach.

 I know we cannot succeed without their help.  White people and people of color have got to come together to make changes and undo racism.  But I am afraid that they will walk away like they have done so many times before.  I know the history.

 Now that I’ve got visibility, I don’t want to lose it.  I want change. What can I do besides drinking my pain away?

Covering Up Pain, Seattle WA

 ************************************************************************************

My Dear Young Man,

You are seeking something from me that is beyond my skill to provide. I cannot make your pain go away. As a black man in America, no matter who you are, rich, poor, educated etc., your blackness will be weaponized against you.

Black men in powerful positions within government such as Cory Booker, US Senator of New Jersey, and Eric Holder, former Attorney General of the United States, have been racially profiled and stopped by local law enforcement.  Black women are not exempt from such microaggressions either. In July 2017, Aramis Ayala, state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, was profiled and pulled over in a stop occurring in the same county that she is the top prosecutorial official.

 

The Exhausting Toll: The “Black Tax”

There is a hidden tax that you pay for your freedom to be a black person in America.  It is not a formal tax, it is not listed in any of the local, state or federal tax codes.  It is a tax that is demanded by any white person with privilege at any time against a black person simply for being assumed as suspicious or by creating arbitrary rules on the basis of the color of one’s skin.

Bryant Gumbel, Real Sports host said it well,

“…It’s about the many instances of disrespect and incivility your color seems to engender, and being expected to somehow always restrain yourself, lest you not be what white Americans are never asked to be, a credit your race.”

To add clarity to his words, Gumbel provides the following examples:

“It’s about your son getting arrested for doing nothing more than walking while Black.”

“It’s about having to be more concerned than your white friends and associates for the safety of your grandkids.”

“It’s about the day in and day out fatigue of trying to explain the obvious to the clueless.”

“It’s about being asked to overlook blue failings and white failings so they can be conveniently viewed as Black issues.”

“It’s about being asked by so many what they should do or say about race when the easy answer lies in the privacy of each person’s heart. It’s the ‘Black tax.’”

 “It’s paid daily by me and every person of color in this country, and frankly, it’s exhausting.”

– Bryant Gumbel, https://people.com/tv/bryant-gumbel-explains-black-tax-hbo-real-sports/

 

My Dear Young Man,

To restate Bryant Gumbel, “It’s exhausting.” Many have crumbled under the weight of the burden of the black tax.  Many have failed due to the lack of belief, faith and trust in Self and gambled on the hope that others will rise to their aid.

You stated that your peers stood silently by while the police were humiliating you.  You added that you “cried like a girl” and went home and got drunk over two days…

How did that work out for you?

Did the alcohol resolve your problems?

Did the short term “feel good” resolve the long-term problem?

Did the black tax suddenly cease to exist?

 

The Journey of Self Discovery

My Dear Young Man,

Your failure in your actions was looking for others to speak up for you and when they didn’t, you became angry and disappointed in both them and in yourself.  You looked to them to support you and your safety and then when they failed, you drowned the wounded Self in alcohol and pity, then found when you returned to work, life had gone on as if nothing ever happened.

Those who hold the privilege have the choice to utilize it as a resource for good in helping others or as a tool of manipulation in which the benefit remains with the privileged.

“We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rather than drown the injury with alcohol, make the choice of healing the wound while you seek to empower the psychological Self.  Rather than view your tears as a gendered weakness, have the insight to view them as a normal human response to your injury, as representation of your essence and your quality of being.

 

The Five Levels of The Journey

My Dear Young Man,

The journey of self-discovery is yours and yours alone.  You restrict or inhibit your journey by holding to destructive cultural and gender norms such as “real men do not shred tears” or expressing emotions is “validating weakness.”  Such internalized of beliefs will trap you in a mental and emotional enslavement that is now being maintained by the dominant group.

I will not validate the concept of resilience nor will I touch-on the concept of the shield, spear, and fire.  For all are illusionary for a Black male seeking Self while walking the journey of self-discovery.  It is within this frame that I suggest the following clinical concept: The Five Levels of The Journey to self-empowerment.

 

Self-Empowerment

In this walk we encounter five levels of experience:

  1. The journey is bleak and lifeless for the individual. Life is barely lived, let alone enjoyed or even really experienced. Nothing is produced or gained by the individual at this level.

 

  1. The focus of the journey is to remain alive and breathing. The individual attaches minimally to life, lives in fear, and is in a constant state of desperation and upheaval.  There is little gain for the individual at this level.

 

  1. At this level, the search for empowerment begins. The individual wanders, seeking direction, and in doing so, learns to balance and reinforce the psychological self.  The individual understands the difference between living in fear and living with fear; and is balancing and implementing empowerment strategies in their life.

 

  1. The individual has gained balance within their life and is fully experiencing the psychological Self. The individual has internalized the concept of living with fear and is successfully implementing empowerment strategies in their life.

 

  1. The individual has obtained both full realizations of the psychological Self and transformation through self-empowerment has been achieved.

 

Transformation &The Reflection in the Mirror

My Dear Young Man,

In my work as a clinical traumatologist and psychotherapist, I serve as a companion and guide to those seeking to Walk the Landscape.  It is my personal and professional opinion that the therapeutic process is of value when we embrace both my role and the process as a whole.

Though I could ask where you think you fall along the five levels as identified above, would you:

Speak the truth as to what you need to see?

Speak the truth as to what you want to see?

Speak the truth as what is actually being reflected in the mirror?

Interestingly enough, your words are an indicator of what level you are.  You said,

 “I want change. What can I do besides drinking my pain away?”

This is an indication that you are teetering between existing and surviving with clear signs that as black man, you are dealing with unhealed wounds from previous psychological injuries.  Furthermore, there appears to be a lack of Self who desires or wishes for the support of others to be whole. As these desires or wishes have not been met, there is the relief sought via alcohol.

 

Walking the Landscape

My Dear Young Man,

First, stop seeking change. What you are currently doing is “change.”  The change you are involved in is oscillating between existing and surviving.  Instead, seek to reframe and refocus and move toward transformation in which there is no going back. Movement is forward.

Consider the five elements of Walking the Landscape:

  1. Choices are presented.
  2. Decisions are made and directions are chosen.
  3. Consequences for choices and decisions are foreseen.
  4. Wisdom is gained, lessons are learned, and both can be utilized for future experiences
  5. Transformation through Self-Empowerment is achieved.

In your specific situation:

  1. Choices: There are two paths.
    • Continue the path of consuming alcohol to medicate your pain and continue to be one of numerous black men who exist and survive as the “walking wounded”. OR…
    • Choose an alternative path; seek individual psychotherapy. Cease looking to others to provide support or wholeness.
  1. Decisions: Make and Embrace your decision.
    • Accept your reality and continue to suffer, medicating your psychological injuries with alcohol. OR
    • Work toward developing empowerment strategies. Learn to stand alone as you develop belief, faith, and trust in self.
  1. Consequences: are your reactions and responses.
    • Allow your reactions (anger, disappointment, disillusionment) to be your response. OR
    • Embrace your reactions, learning (anger, disappointment, disillusionment) and developing as well as sharing your response.
  1. Wisdom: the foundation for the future.
    • I am a failure. I cannot succeed. The world is against me. OR
    • I am solid. I am good.  I will achieve, despite the barriers and obstacles being placed before me.
  1. Transformation
    • I am defeated. I have accepted my path. OR
    • I am empowered. I have achieved self-discovery and continue Walking the Landscape that is mine and mine alone.

So young man, which path would you choose?  It is your landscape, your choice and most importantly…. your life.

 

Concluding Remarks – Dr. Kane

 My Dear Young Man,

I am now left with the difficult task of tying together the themes from my beginning statements directed to my beloved readers and the comments in response to your letter.

In my statements to the readership, I said:

“…the “walking back,” has begun.  The explosion of anger and outrage following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer that ignited protests and riots across the nation is waning, and the bonfires of action lit within the dominant group have begun to die out.”

Also…

“The white liberal progressives are also adding their support. One social work organization is urging its members to pressure their representatives into acknowledging that Trump’s executive order is not “as strong as the organization would wish, but it is a start” and suggest that we work together in the ‘spirit of collaboration’.”

 

White Liberal Intent vs Impact

The white, liberal, and progressive leadership within the dominant group know that the core of white America has grown tired of governmental and public health restrictions due to COVID-19. This has led to a willingness to forego adhering to CDC guidelines (face masks and social distancing), even as case numbers and deaths rise, in favor of forcing an ill-timed “economic recovery”. Under this pressure, the dominant group is reluctant to continue adopting sweeping and decisive actions to protect the public health.

This same story is playing out with the Black Lives Matter protests.

The white liberal and progressive leadership see that the bonfires of action lit within the dominant group have begun to wane. That the Black Lives Matter protests may soon no longer be a priority for those involved. Now, in the “spirit of collaboration”, the white, progressive leadership is willing to bargain away the lives and liberties of black and brown Americans in favor of getting what they want while they can. People of color have once again become commodities.

They can do this out of pure, arrogantly used white privilege. The same white privilege shown by signers of the Declaration of Independence, of which 34 of the 47 (including John Hancock, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson) were slave owners. The idea that they can and will make decisions about and for you without consulting you.

The reality of white privilege is simple; it can either be used for manipulation and the reinforcement of trauma of others or it can be utilized as a resource to assist others to achieve the quality of life they are entitled to.

Though they intend to use it to assist, I hope, ultimately, that the arrogance of white privilege does not blind the progressive liberals from seeing the impact of carnage they are about to create.

I appreciate the message from Sheryll Cashin to those holding privilege.  She states:

“If you are white, you have an obligation to at least understand where the concept of whiteness comes from and to decide how you will proceed with that knowledge. I hope your journey will include an intentional choice to acquire dexterity.” 

 

Standing…. & Standing Alone

Now, in response to you…

 

My Dear Young Man,

In your letter, you concluded with the following:

“I know we cannot succeed without their help.  White people and people of color have got to come together to make changes and undo racism.  But I am afraid that they will walk away like they have done so many times before.  I know the history.”

For a person to act as if they are sightless and place his belief, faith, and trust in the hands of others, leaves him to wander and stumble without direction, existing and surviving as he creeps along the landscape.  You can see.  Open your eyes.  Regardless whether you stand with others or you stand alone, be empowered, and walk your landscape. It is yours and yours alone.

“If you believe in a cause, be willing to stand up for that cause with a million people or by yourself.”

– Otis S. Johnson, From “N Word” to Mr. Mayor: Experiencing the American Dream.

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I Just Want to Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIuSLBX74Ac

I’m a young black man

Doing all I can

To stand

Oh, but when I look around

And I see what’s being done to my kind

Everyday

I’m being hunted as prey

My people don’t want no trouble

We’ve had enough struggle

I just want to live

God protect me

I just want to live

I just want to live.

Song by Keedron Bryant (2020)

 

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Until the next time, Remaining … in Our Corner