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 

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

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.

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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…

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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

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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.

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

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

The Visible Man: Holding Space for Others & Responding to Privilege

“It might do well to read the details before falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism.”

– Tyler Arms, Gavin de Becker & Associates (GDBA), in response to a posting by Dr. Micheal Kane criticizing the shooting death of a black man by a white police officer in Atlanta, GA on 6/12/20, LinkedIn, June 14, 2020.

“Malcolm X asked, what does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.? He answered: A nigger with a Ph.D.”

– George Yancy, ‘The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor in America’, The Chronical Review, April 29,2018.

“I did something good.  I made it famous. I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event; it’s an important time. But nobody had heard of it.”

– Donald Trump, President of the United States, ‘Trump talks Juneteenth, John Bolton, Economy in WSJ Interview’. Bender, Michael C., The Wall Street Journal. June 18, 2020.

“What the hell, racism is a thing of the past. Why do we have colored ball players on our club? They are the best ones. If you don’t have them, you’re not going to win.”

– Calvin Griffith, Owner Minnesota Twins, 1978

“Asked repeatedly to say, ‘Black lives Matter’, Mike Pence (Vice President of the United States) says, ‘all lives matter’”.

– Carvajal, Nikki. ‘Asked repeatedly to say, ‘Black lives matter’, Mike Pence says, ‘all lives matter’, CNN politics. June 19, 2020.

 

My Dear Readers,

Several days have passed since the celebrations in honor of Juneteenth but this year, due to the coronavirus, I have decided to commemorate it rather than celebrate, as I stay hunkered down at home.

After months of treating patients through what is understood to be an unprecedented time in our history, I find myself experiencing waves of what is known as Vicarious Traumatization or, Compassion Fatigue. Vicarious trauma, in its textbook definition, can be described as:

 “The emotional residue of exposure that therapists have from working with people as they are hearing their trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured” (Perlman & Saakvitne, 1995).

This definition fits the work of the typical white or Eurocentrically trained therapist while working with Black, Brown and, Indigenous Persons of Color (BBIPoC) because it, not only defines what vicarious trauma is, but it also explains the continuous failure of the white or Eurocentrically trained therapist to fully understand the impact of their patients’ trauma experiences.

The wording in the definition of vicarious trauma, “…while they are hearing…” allows the white or Eurocentrically trained therapist to recover quickly from vicarious trauma impacts because they have the freedom to eject the majority of what is being said (in one ear and out the other),  and not internalize it.

Of course, many if not most of my colleagues who are either white or Eurocentrically trained would assertively deny this, claiming that they “hear” what is being said but, the process of hearing, allowing the information to pass through you, is unconscious and it serves to protect the receiver of acutely difficult or traumatic information.

On the other hand, the BBIPoC therapist listens rather than just hears and in doing so becomes much more at risk for vicarious traumatization.  There are times in which micro-aggressive assaults directed at the therapist from outside sources impact the therapist-patient relationship, creating wounding for both individuals.  So, what is the response?

This is one such a story…

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Journal Entry

Dear Dr. Kane,

 I am a middle age black man residing in the Seattle area.  I recently read a response to a writing you did.  This person, this asshole verbally attacked you.  In his response he basically stated that you were an intellectually dumb lazy nigger.  I was expecting fireworks.  I was expecting an immediate response.

 For two days, you said nothing.  And then when you did respond, you thank him. WTF?! Thank him for what?  This asshole insults you and you thank him?  Do you realize the damage you have caused by your actions or should I say lack of actions?

 You are an educated man. People look up to you.  I look up to you.  And you let me down. I feel shattered.  You speak about walking the landscape.  What, with your head hanging down? This is not the landscape I want to walk.  Disappointed in you, Dr. Kane.

Upset, Renton, WA

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My Dear Young Man,

I understand that you were psychologically impacted by what was said and how you interpreted this writer’s words about me.  Furthermore, I understand that you were emotionally injured by what you believed to be an inadequate response by me but understand, I was psychologically impacted by the writer as well.

There will be times, and this is apparently one of them, when my writings or responses will fail to meet the standards of others.  My stance as a writer is one of sharing.  I write with passion for the work I am committed to do.

There will be those who may agree or disagree with my views.  However, the focus for me is to listen and to be listened to.  We are all here for a short time and while I am here, I will walk my landscape and live the life that I want and not the life that others may need of me.

I will take this as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

As I continue to “walk my landscape”, in this blog, I will utilize the following three clinical concepts:

  1. Walking the Landscape
  2. The Five R’s of RELIEF
  3. The I Factor

I will seek not to defend my words or actions.  Instead I chose to advocate for self, seek balance within and calmness in my external environment.

 

Walking the Landscape

All decisions have consequences”

 

My Dear Young Man,

First, we want to understand what Walking the Landscape means.  The landscape is life.  One of the essential realities of life is that death is a certainty.  What remains uncertain is:

  • How we live our lives?
  • What we experience during our lifetimes.
  • The memories we leave with the individuals who we meet.

The term walk refers to what we do with our lives.  As we walk the landscape, we will have many different experiences. It is within the walk that we have crossroads or interaction points where barriers, challenges, experiences, and opportunities are presented.

It is within the offending writer’s words that you and I have reached an interaction point.  It is here where the following occurs:

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

So, my dear young man, this is where are we were act and so are the differences in our actions.  With the choices before us, you decided to react in anger, dismissing him with profanity and seeking an upcoming battle of words.  I decided upon a different path. Response.

The consequences of our actions are also different. The reader of your words will know that you are angry, and no doubt dismiss your reaction and relegate you to nothing more than the “angry black man, exhibiting out of control behaviors”.

On the other hand, my preference is to assist the reader in opening their minds and reaching the depths of the emotional self, leading to greater wisdom and transformation.

There is none provided in your reaction.

Those deaf ears will remain so as they continue to discount you and continue to live in fear of you as they have been for the last 400 years. As I continue this writing, I seek to offer to you a different option.

 

The Smugness of White Privilege

“What does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.? A nigger with a Ph.D.”

 

My Dear Young Man,

In your entry you wrote concerning Mr. Tyler Arms’ comment:

“In his [Mr. Arms’] response he basically stated that you were an intellectually dumb lazy nigger.  I was expecting fireworks.  I was expecting an immediate response”.

Before addressing how Mr. Arm’s comments have psychologically impacted you, it is essential to provide the readership with more information and clarity.

Here is Mr. Tyler Arms’ comment (said in disagreement with my statement regarding the recently of killing of Rayshard Brooks, a black male by a white Atlanta police officer):

“It might do well to read the details before falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism.”

Did Mr. Arms actually call me, Dr. Kane, an “intellectually dumb lazy nigger”?  No, absolutely he did not. Can one infer that he called me an “intellectually dumb lazy nigger”?

Yes, absolutely.

In his actions Mr. Arms is using his white privilege.

What is “white privilege”? Compare the two definitions below:

  1. The inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.
  2. “It’s the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it were suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place” (Emba, Christine. ‘What is white privilege?’ The Washington Post. January 16, 2016).

A white person wrote the first definition whereas a black person wrote the second.

The first definition is composed of intellectualized jargon, words or expressions that are used by a particular group and, for some, are difficult to understand. The second, is grounded in experience and observation.

Mr. Arms is asserting his white privilege, (his advantage in not only in feeling like his views are seen as the norm in society but his freedom in telling others how they should respond to an incident) to inflict psychological injury and then state it vaguely enough attempt to hide any racist intent but Mr. Arms’ intention and message is very clear.

His statement is a tactical projectile that impacts any and all black males who would dare to consider the actions by the police office to be an act of racism. Though I was the one targeted, the psychological injuries that being experienced by other black men is the collateral damage.

 

Microaggression

Plausibility & Believability

 

 My Dear Young Man,

The statements made by Mr. Arms are acts of microaggression.

Psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce coined the term microaggression in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals that are inflicted by whites upon African Americans.

This term was later redefined by Columbia University professor and psychologist Derald Wing Sue as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership. The persons making the comments may be otherwise well-intentioned and unaware of the potential impact of their words”.

Was Mr. Arm’s comment well-intentioned and unaware? Did he not think that others may perceive his words as racist, patronizing and could be interpreted as “get the fact rights before you write, you intellectually lazy nigger”? Possibly, but as with all microaggressions, their real meanings are always shrouded in innuendo.

 

The Five R’s of RELIEF

Relief Along the Landscape

 

My Dear Young Man,

It is apparent that the statements made by Mr. Tyler Arms triggered you.  Indeed, I was triggered as well.  Imagine a scenario in which you are the only black male in your office, where you, without warning or preparation, are subjected to microaggressions on a daily basis.

      • What do you do?
      • What do you say to your assailant(s)?
      • What are your feelings? How do you release these feelings?
      • How will you handle the situation tomorrow? The next day or the following week?

In your letter to me, you stated the following:

      • “This person, this asshole verbally attacked you.”
      • “I was expecting fireworks.”
      • “I was expecting an immediate response.”

If you would have handled the situation in the way you expected me to with Mr. Arms, you would have been immediately terminated from your employment.  If “expecting fireworks and an immediate response” means physical or verbal combat, you would be risking arrest and criminal and/or civil charges. Now, with no employment and an inability to use your former employer as a reference, consider the following questions:

      • How would you support your family?
      • How would you buy groceries? Pay your monthly bills? Your mortgage or rent?
      • How would you pay the newly incurred legal fees?
      • Despite your excellent work skills, how do you explain your termination to perspective employers?

Besides death and taxes, there is a third reality in the life of a BBIPoC, that people like Mr. Tyler Arms are lying in wait to become an obstacle, barrier, boulder, or roadblock in your “Walking the Landscape.”.

In the clinical concept of Walking the Landscape, the elements of choice, decision, consequences, wisdom, and transformation are steps that only you can take.

 

Reaction vs Response

Your reactions as indicated in your response may lead to jail time as well as introductions to the judicial, probation or correction systems. Before walking in that direction, I recommend the clinical concept of Five R’s of RELIEF.  When confronted with a psychologically destabilizing situation, try to employ the following:

  1. Take a Respite. Allow yourself to step away emotionally form the situation. Do so for as long as you feel the need. Breathe deeply.
  2. Embrace your Reactions. These are your feelings and yours alone. Understand the fullness of your feelings.
  3. Reflect. Balance your thoughts with your feelings. Let go of the desire to control what you think and feel.
  4. Respond. Combine your now balanced thoughts and feelings to present a response that will serve you best on your journey of walking the landscape. Keep your initial reactions within.
  5. Revaluate. Be willing to take continuous reviews of your choices, decisions and responses made. Evaluate what you have learned and what could had been done differently to achieve the desired outcome.

 

The Gift & The Thank You

Rather than provide the “fireworks” and “immediate response” you so desired, I decided to do what was best for me and use this not as retribution but rather as a teaching moment to both you and my readership.

As you may recall in my response to Mr. Arms, I stated:

Hmm, Interesting.  Someone who was obviously asserting his white privilege inserted himself to “whitesplaining” in defending the actions of the police in the killing of a black man as I compared the outcome of similar situation whereas the white male was safely taken into custody.”

In his response, Mr. Arms accused me of “falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism” without thought or consideration to the subject at hand, he jumped to attacking me, and not the fact that an unarmed man was shot in the back and killed by the people who were trusted to protect and serve.

Thank you, Mr. Arms for exposing the readership your smugness, your arrogance, and your lack of humanity and compassion regarding the death of black man who, at the time,  was not a threat to the police officer’s safety.

 

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

 

 The “I” Factor

Hearing vs Listening

 

My Dear Young Man,

I began this writing by speaking towards the difference ways the white or Eurocentric trained therapist and BBIPoC therapists respond and recover from vicarious traumatic impacts.  There is a similar common thread or theme regarding people holding privilege and those who do not.

Privileged individuals such as Mr. Arms are duplicitous. On one hand, they seek to have you as a black man listen to and internalize the idea of your inferiority while on the other, they seek to have other whites hear them as innocent of racist intent.

Please understand, it is the internalized idea of inferiority that creates the reaction that he and those like him are anticipating and are actively seeking from you.

In response consider the clinical concept of the “I” Factor:

  • Information. Calmly collect data regarding the challenges and obstacles you are facing.
  • Involvement. Thoroughly process the information you have collected. Focus on understanding what the information tells you about the journey
  • Integration. Compare the information with your overall path and objective. Let it inform your decision.
  • Implement the plan, course of action or decision
  • Impact. Evaluate the outcome of the actions taken. Consider what could have been done differently.

I will encourage my readership to determine whether the “falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism.” exists.

Again, thanks for exposing your truths. Mr. Arms.

 

New Possibilities

Life is a journey filled with new possibilities.

And sometimes because of the person that you are or have

become, You find yourself in the right

place at the right time for …. new possibilities. 

– Micheal Kane

 

 

White Privilege II

Pulled into the parking lot, parked it
Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers
In my head like, “Is this awkward?
Should I even be here marching?”
Thinking if they can’t, how can I breathe?
Thinking that they chant, what do I sing?
I want to take a stance cause we are not free
And then I thought about it, we are not we
Am I in the outside looking in,
Or am I in the inside looking out?
Is it my place to give my two cents?
Or should I stand on the side and shut my mouth?
No justice, no peace, okay, I’m saying that
They’re chanting out, Black Lives Matter,
But I don’t say it back
Is it okay for me to say?
I don’t know, so I watch and stand

In front of a line of police that look the same as me
Only separated by a badge,
A baton, a can of Mace, a…

– Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_rl4ZGdy34

 

Until We Speak Again… I Am, The Visible Man

The Visible Man: When There’s No Place to Run and There’s No Place to Hide

Lessons of yesterday, conversation between a father and son

Son: “Daddy, what do you call a black man who doesn’t know his place?”

Father: “Hmm… uppity.”

Son: “How do you deal with him?”

Father: “Hmm… give him a carrot, a seat at the big table.”

Son: “And if that doesn’t work?”

Father: “Remove it.”

Son: “Remove the seat?”

Father: “No, the table, it’s an illusion; it was never there.”

– Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist, “The Sleight of Hand Artist & the Carrot.”

 

“He can run, but he can’t hide.”

   -Joe Louis “The Brown Bomber” ( said prior to the title fight with Billy Conn)

 

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts”

– Donald Trump, President USA

 

“What is the value of a black life? Not much. Black Lives Matter? Not really.  To white America all lives matter… Just ask Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.”

– Anonymous (Patient)

 

My Dear Readers,

Following the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbrey, (GA), Breonna Taylor (KY), and George Floyd (MN), I sit here tonight writing this blog, thinking of the fact that I was able to wake up this morning without my front door having been kicked in because of poor police work and a no- knock warrant. That I was able to begin my day without my family having to stand traumatized on local television pleading for answers from the shaking heads and “no comment at this time” folks, realizing this simple act is something that has been denied to so many for no reason other than the color of their skin.

I watched the skies turn red as cities across the country burned, including our nation’s capital, and felt the pain and anguish of so many of its citizens. The crisis was so traumatic that even the President, Donald Trump, who intended to pour gasoline on the flames by encouraging violence, momentarily sought safety in a secured bunker.

As a clinical traumatologist, my responsibility is to provide a safe space for people to voice their feelings and to offer a psychological toolkit to empower them in responding to an often bruising, hostile and unwelcoming environment.  This space, called the S Protocol, is a safe and secure place to either sit in silence or speak to the secrets or unresolved issues affecting them on their journey.

As we assess the smoldering and looted ruins of downtown Seattle, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and other cities around the country, I am reminded of the “Night of The Broken Glass” also known as the Kristallnacht in which, on November 1, 1933, the Nazis began a reign of terror and violence throughout Germany against Jews.

In just two days:

  • Over 250 synagogues, were burned,
  • 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted,
  • Dozens of Jewish people were killed,
  • And Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, and schools were destroyed.

The police and fire brigades stood by and did nothing.

The traumas created by the “Night of The Broken Glass” demonstrated acts of unbridled hatred instigated by the governing body, the Nazi Party, against its citizens, whose only alleged crime was their ethnicity and religion.

In my lifetime, African Americans have experienced victimization and brutal treatment by law enforcement authorized by the dominant group.  Legislation, black codes, sundown ordinances and curfews have been enacted to control and oppress citizens for the alleged crime of having black or brown skin.

I was seven years old when the Watts Riots occurred.  It lasted six days causing

  • Involved 34,000 people,
  • Resulted in 34 deaths and 1,032 injuries,
  • 4,000 arrests,
  • With the destruction of 1,000 buildings and
  • Over $40 million dollars in damages

Twenty-one years later, the LA Riots centered around the brutalization of Rodney King occurred.  It resulted in:

  • 50 people dead
  • 2,000 injured
  • More than 1,000 buildings damaged or destroyed and
  • 1 billion in damages

Today, I find myself busy responding to a full calendar of angry, scared, traumatized, and disillusioned patients seeking answers and a safe place to offload their fears about their children being profiled and killed by police. Then there is the uneasiness about what tomorrow will bring. Will the fires, looting and rioting continue? Will the entire country become embroiled in the unrest and will that cause the police to become even more brutal to try to regain control?

In addition to my patient’s therapeutic needs, I have the opportunity to read their journal writings and stories and listen to their oral traditions that formed them into the people I see every day.  Below are one individual’s words:

 

Dear Dr. Kane

I am a 35-year-old black man raised in Los Angeles, CA.  I work for a small tech company in the Puget Sound (Seattle) area.  I am the only African American in my company.  I am also a military veteran having served in Afghanistan.

I essentially live and work in a white world.  I like my work; my coworkers and I make a good income.  Yet, I feel so angry and so alone. At work there are times in which my coworkers make me feel like I am invisible.

Like others, I have repeatedly watched, George Floyd calling for his momma, taking his last breath and dying. The man was begging for his life and the cop had his knee on the man’s neck and no one, cops or bystanders watching would do anything.  There were black people watching and not one person did a goddamn thing!

 George Floyd’s life was taken from him, for what?  I feel numb, guilt and shame. I feel imbalanced like can’t show any emotion to the world.  All the whites in my group are talking about this but I don’t feel like I can.  And the riots, the looting and fires… it’s Los Angeles 1992 all over again.  I feel like I just want to go somewhere and hide.

 I remember the LA riots.  It is a trauma that I, as much as I try to, will never forget.  I remember when it first started; I was at a friend’s home.  Because there was so much death and destruction on the streets, it was nine days, before I could get home.  Not being able to contact my parents, they did not know whether I was dead or alive.

 After not hearing from me, my parents assumed the worse, contacting emergency rooms and the county coroner.  I had never seen my father cry.  When I walked through that door, he went down on his knees and all his anguish poured out. I will never ever forget that day.  Now I too, am a father and I fear for my children’s safety.

I can’t talk to my white coworkers.  I am in pain.  They are good people, but I know that they don’t understand that each time, they ask me if I am okay, or want to express their feelings about George Floyd, I am in pain.  I am living in fear.  I am numb.

I feel like I am going to explode and snap on someone.  I don’t know what to do. I feel like a fraud. I don’t know what to say to my coworkers, or how to protect my children.  I fear that my sons will be racially profiled by whites and at risk of being harmed by the police. I am living with fear so I keep them close.  I want to overcome these feelings.

 Please help me find the answers. When will the police stop harassing and killing us? When will racism end? What can I do to protect my family and keep us safe? What can I do?

I am so angry and I feel so lost.  I just want to go somewhere and hide.  I am praying for help. In your work you speak about belief, faith and trust.  I feel broken Please advise.

Losing It, Seattle WA

 

My Dear Young Man,

The questions you ended your writing with about police brutality, the ending of racism and protecting your loved ones have been asked by African Americans for over 400 years.

 

God’s Deliverance

Since the time of slavery, African Americans have prayed and looked for the coming of God’s deliverance. This prayer process was codified by the historians as beginning on December 31, 1862 and was realized by the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. This acknowledgment now know formally in the African American community as Watch Night services was actually an ongoing process long before the date now recognized by historians.

The common thread in the African American experience is trauma. It began upon the first arrival of enslaved people in 1619 to the Emancipation Proclamation, continuing to this very day following the election of the first African American President of the United States.

The deliverance that African Americans have wanted, pleaded and desired that arrived in the form of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 has been replaced by local, state and laws, Black Codes, Sundown ordinances and segregationist polices and values of the dominate group and reinforced by the police as the instrument of controlling and subjugating its black citizens.

 

Trauma Along the Landscape

My Dear Young Man,

Please understand that as a descendant of enslaved people, a member of the African American community, and as an individual, you are responding to not only one trauma but rather several types of trauma that may impact you daily, and without warning.

The trauma that your community has endured is historical trauma. The trauma that has been passed down from your father to you and in turn will be passed down to your children is inter-generational trauma.

The sense of invisibility that you feel at work may be trauma associated with the invisibility syndrome. The traumas of racism may be that of micro-aggressive assaults whereas the concern of safety and harm from interaction with the police may be indication of macro-aggressive assaults.

Childhood traumatic experiences, like the LA riots, in which exposure to various traumatic events of an invasive and interpersonal nature are known as complex trauma. The hopelessness you feel in your ability to live a normal life, working hard to provide for your family is an indication you are responding to just world trauma.

The fear of racial profiling that you have for your children being viewed as criminals or being questioned or harmed by the police is a form of insidious trauma.  The fact that you have served your country during war, that you have risked your life only to return to living in fear for your safety and the safety of your children may be viewed as a violation of explicit and implicit trust, which is betrayal trauma. The concerns of feeling like a “fraud” may be the response to trauma associated with the impostor syndrome.

 

Am I Living with Fear?

My Dear Young Man,

In your writing, you stated that you were “living with fear” I beg to differ. The words you have chosen and the actions you have taken are clear indicators that you are living IN fear and not living WITH fear. Furthermore, you have indicated a strong desire to conquer these feelings.

When living in your fear, you are seeking to conquer the emotions that are there to sustain you.  In doing so, you are seeking to live your life by inching your way over the gap that exists between existence and survival.

On the other hand, if you were living with fear, you would be living empowered. You would acknowledge the fear but use it to persevere. I suggest this as a healthy and positive alternative.

 

The Five Levels-In Walking Your Landscape

My Dear Young Man,

As you live your life, you are “walking the landscape”. During this process, you have the opportunity to engage in the “Journey of Self Discovery”.  In this journey there are five levels:

  1. Existence: bareness of life
  2. Surviving: desperation
  3. Driving: empowerment
  4. Striving: pacing, goal setting
  5. Thriving: objective attainment, life’s overview

Your writing indicates you are living in fear and are simply surviving. As you live in your fear, you become increasingly vulnerable to slipping into just existing where the possibilities of self-medicating with drugs, alcohol and, other means of distraction await you.

 

Cause & Effect

My Dear Young Man,

To move beyond survival, as you review the 10 subtypes of trauma and its various impacts upon you, consider Cause and Effect.  Cause and Effect is a relationship between events or things, where one is the result of the other.

Essentially, the cause is the thing that makes other things happen and the effect refers to the result of that action. As this concept relates to trauma, trauma can be viewed as the cause, the why something happened and the resulting psychological and emotional distress is the effect, or the what that followed.

 

Need & Reaction: Hiding in the Shadows

My Dear Young Man,

Your need to hide is a direct reaction to traumas (cause) resulting in distress (effect). The traumatic impact is cumulative and increases in quantity, and degree with each successive incident. Any of these traumas, may they be individual or grouped, can occur without advance warning or notice.

Following such a repetitive onslaught of traumas, it is understandable that you may want to “go somewhere and hide” but all that would be achieved is complacency bred from apathy that leaves you wedged between existing and surviving. This is nothing more than living in fear and makes you even more unwilling to step out into the unknown and move towards developing a new comfort zone.

 

The Uncharted Territories

My Dear Young Man,

The alternative to hiding away is to develop strategies that are proactive and allow you to achieve the three progressive phases of The Levels of the Journey of Self Discovery, driving (empowerment), striving (pacing, goal setting), and thriving (objective attainment, life’s overview).

Your concern for your children is understandable but it is important that you empower yourself first so that you will be equipped to model strategies and behaviors for them.

One such empowerment strategy is The ABC’s, the gateway to The Uncharted Territories:

  • (A) Advocacy: Become an advocate for yourself. Only you can speak on your own behalf.  Depending on others to speak for you dilutes your message.  Embrace your responsibly to speak for yourself.
  • (B) Balance: Be reflective about your actions. Make sure your thoughts and actions are balanced and aligned with your inner self.
  • (C) Calmness: Be aware that the environment around mirrors your internal environment. When you achieve calmness within your inner self, it is reflected in your external environment.

 

Response: Living With Fear, Not In Fear

My Dear Young Man,

In utilizing the ABC’s for yourself and modeling for your children, you are able to transform your reaction to cumulative trauma into responses that reframe fear into its correct context; it is simply an emotion that a person has when they are frightened or worried by someone or something identified as dangerous, painful or bad.

The outcome you seek to achieve is the phase of Driving or empowerment.  Therefore, instead of reacting, “going somewhere and hiding”, you can face the fear directly and respond.  As you respond, you can embrace your fear and in doing so, understand that fear is no longer something to fight or avoid but something that can be embraced and responded to.

 

Concluding Words- Dr. Kane 

“…That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, and now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

– John Newton

 

My Dear Young Man,

Referenced in an earlier blog “The Visible Man: Choosing Between Being a Sitting Duck or Running the Race Smarter Not Harder” (June 5, 2020):

“Angry is good… Angry gets shit done.”

– Mr. Nancy, American Gods, television series (2017-)

I agree with Mr. Nancy. Angry is good, angry does get shit done, but that anger must be directed.

Right now, our country, our nation is boiling while its leader cowered in a bunker under the guise of an “inspection”.  The diverse citizenry of the United States is protesting by the hundreds of thousands in cities in every state, calling for social justice and freedom from police brutality.  Black, white, brown, Asian, Indigenous People, and many others are stating the truth that BLACK LIVES MATTER. That abuse is not OK, that policies, procedures, and ideals of this country must change, and it needs to happen now. It is their voice, their anger that is “getting shit done.”

You have stated being angry, feeling lost, wanting to hide, and being unable to protect your children. Just realize that anger is a normal human emotion and utilize strategies to transform your reactions into responses. Like the protesters, refocus you anger into clear attainable objectives. Cease settling for existing and surviving and work toward achieving the levels of driving (empowerment), striving (pacing, goal setting) and thriving (objective attainment).

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbrey may they rest in peace.

Focus on… walking your landscape and in doing so… seek to live the life you want and not continue to live the life you live.

 

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes (1901-1967)

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants’ scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!

Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!

Of work the men! Of take the pay!

Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,

The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream

In the Old World while still a serf of kings,

Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,

That even yet its mighty daring sings

In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned

That’s made America the land it has become.

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas

In search of what I meant to be my home—

For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,

And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,

And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came

To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?

Surely not me? The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay—

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—

The land that never has been yet—

And yet must be—the land where every man is free.

The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—

The steel of freedom does not stain.

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,

We must take back our land again,

America!

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

 

Until We Speak Again… I Am, The Visible Man

The Visible Man: Choosing Between Being a Sitting Duck or Running the Race Smarter Not Harder

“Mama, I’m through. Please, please, please, I can’t breathe.  My stomach hurts.  My neck hurts.  Everything hurts.  [I need] water or something.  Please, please.  I can’t breathe, officer… I cannot breathe.  I cannot breathe.”

  • George Floyd (his final words, calling to his mother who died two years ago)

“What we saw was horribly, completely messed up.  This man’s life matters.  He was someone’s son, someone’s family member, someone’s friend. He was a human being and his life mattered.”

  • Jacob Frey, Mayor, City of Minneapolis

“We heard his repeated calls for help.  We heard him say over and over again that he could not breathe. And now we have seen another horrifying and gut-wrenching instance of an African American man dying.”

  • Amy Klobuchar, US Senator, Minnesota

“It was nine minutes on his neck.  Just imagine what George Floyd endured for those nine minutes, begging for breath, begging for life.”

  • Benjamin Crump, Attorney representing the Floyd family

“We cooperate, we die. We run, we die. We fight back, we die. We beg, we die. We lie down, we die. We put our hands up, we die. We mind our business, we die. We’re unarmed, we die. We’re detained, we die. Tell us, what the HELL are we supposed to do to keep the cops from killing us?” #icantbreathe#GeorgeFloyd

  • Gary Hussain Goodridge, twitter contributor

My Dear Readers,

My soul is numb.  There are no tears remaining.  Recent deaths of African American men on public streets in broad daylight as well as the killing of an African American woman in her home, in the middle of the night while she was sleeping by members of law enforcement have left me psychologically impacted and traumatized my family and community.

Recently, my sleep was interrupted by a late-night call from my daughter who simply wanted to hear my voice.  She was in tears, shouting “I can’t do this anymore.” She had also called her sister. Her intention was to seek reassurance that law enforcement had not killed her 67-year-old father and 5-year-old nephew.

Just imagine, the fear, uncertainty, and hopelessness that is occurring in the hearts, souls, and minds of millions of black and brown people throughout our country.  For 400 years, we have endured domestic terrorism including lynching, cross burnings mass destruction of our communities and so on but now, during the post Obama era, a time when racism supposedly over, we are again being traumatized by domestic terrorism being freely displayed by those whose purpose is to “serve and protect”.

I encouraged my daughter to relax and assured her that I was safe in my home.  But am I safe? Am I a well-known and respected member of my community… Am I safe in my neighborhood?

  • Will I be roused from a deep sleep and riddled with bullets?
  • Can I take a walk in my neighborhood, my home for the last 20 years without being viewed with suspicion, without the police being called?
  • Can I enter my home without the police being called and having to show identification that I do live here and in fact, own this nice home?

I have spent the last three months responding to the pandemic.  Recently the death-toll from COVID-19 passed the 100, 000 with 25, 000 being African Americans.  Now, in addition to that, I am also responding to the fear of possibly losing a loved one just simply leaving the home for a daily activity. The fear of loss from police violence is just as insidious and real as the fear of loss from the COVID-19 virus.

There are those in my community who fear the mental health and the trauma work that I do.  Being vulnerable, exposed and trusting, expressing one’s pain and suffering in order to heal is not seen as of value. Instead the expectation is to be resilient, keep quiet or wait upon pastoral leadership. As a result, the community continues to suffer in silence.

And then another death happens… Jogging while black, (Brunswick GA), sleeping while black (Louisville KY), simply breathing while black (Minneapolis MN). The result, a raging bonfire that is at risk of exploding throughout the country.

Here is a story of one person being directly impacted by the unrest.

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

Dear Dr. Kane

I saw a man die the other day.  I watched the video of a police officer with his knee on a black man’s neck for five minutes, crushing the life out of him.  I can’t get it out of mind.  I wake up in the middle of the night screaming.  I get up constantly checking my two son’s bedrooms to ensure that they are safe.  I am afraid for their safety.  I am afraid that the police will stop, shoot and kill them.  I am overwhelmed that I am unable to protect my children.

I realize that you do not know me however I am very familiar with your work within Seattle’s African American community.  I currently work for a Pacific Northwest governmental agency in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, with the focus being on social justice.  Like you, I am an African American man.

I am writing to you because the recent shooting /killings of black men in Chicago, Brunswick, and now Minneapolis have left me twisting in anger, frustrated and lacking in belief in the mission of the organization I work for.  I have come to realize and accept that regardless of a black man’s socioeconomic status, level of education, achievements or “good citizenry”, one’s blackness, the color of one’s skin will be used as a weapon against you. 

When I talk to my white peers, colleagues and acquaintance, I am met with the attitude of disbelief, that this is the post Obama era and that “You are making it up” or comments that indirectly ask “what about black on black crime?” I know they really don’t care; they are really just saying “don’t you niggers kill each other every day? So what is the big deal?”

And interacting with black folks is not any better. Black professionals keeping their heads down and collecting their paychecks while worrying whether they will be alive to greet their families or be viewed in a casket. These same individuals will sit on their asses; take to social media, protesting as Twitter fingers, Facebook feeders and Instagram instigators yet publicly remain silent.

And what about you Dr. Kane? How do you do this and feel no pain? How do you get to a place in which these events do not affect you? You have a way of getting through this without resulting to anger, using alcohol or marijuana to cope.

What is the trick? What’s the mumbo jumbo you use to get through?  It doesn’t seem to affect you as it does others.  I want to be like you. Or is it that because you have made it in the white world, they give you a pass and the police leave you alone?

I come from a Christian background of “love thy neighbor.”  After being mistreated by the cops and dealing with racists all my life, I have developed a serious hatred for white people.  Although I know some good ones, I am being to look at by them all with suspicion.  I can’t help it. 

I feel hopeless. Damn, like a flying duck waiting to be blown out of the sky.  But, like the duck, I’ve got to fly though. Like the duck, I feel there is nothing I can do to stop from being hunted down and killed.  Summer is coming and I am unable to protect my children as they leave the home. 

Do you have any answers for me?  I hope you have time to respond and take my concerns seriously. My pot has just about boiled over.

Between Simmering, Steaming & Smoking Hot in Seattle, WA.

My Dear Young Man,

Prior to responding to your comments, I want to get down on my knees and thank God for the following:

  • I was able to sleep through the night without my front door being smashed and my home invaded by the police and killed by the police (Breonna Taylor-Louisville, KY).
  • I was able to walk in my neighborhood without strangers seeking to abruptly stop and kill me (Ahmaud Arbery, Brunswick, GA)
  • Following purchasing groceries, I was able to walk out of the store, without having a police officer place his knee on my neck, while other police officers stood by, doing nothing, watching me die (George Floyd, Minneapolis, MN)
  • While sitting in my residence and having to protect my children from a mob of 15 white men looking for a black suspect (Monica Shepard, Pender County, NC)

Trauma(s) & Racism(s)

“Angry is good… Angry gets shit done.”

  • Mr. Nancy, American Gods movie (2017)Young man,

Regarding your experiences, you are entitled to your anger.  From my viewpoint as a clinical traumatologist, it is apparent that you may be responding to a combination of subtypes of trauma and various forms of racism, specifically:

  • Trauma(s) (subtypes) – including (historical, inter-generational, just world, invisibility, impostor syndrome, racial profiling, micro-aggression, and macro-aggression.
  • Racism(s) (forms) – including attitudinal, behavioral, individual, institutional, modern, and aversive

The main question is what will you do? Will you do allow your anger to be used or manipulated to create havoc within you or your community?  Or will your anger be constructively utilized to assist you in walking your landscape; your journey, and benefit your life, your family and the welfare of your community.

Surviving the Hunt  

Young man,

It is clear from your comments regarding hopelessness, inability to protect your children and the resulting night traumas, that you are in midst of survival. Take to heart that you come from a long line of survivors.

  • Your ancestors arrived in the New World, shuddering in fear as they were sold the American slave blocks into slavery. They survived.
  • Your great-grandparents dodge the slave catchers, law enforcement, Black Codes and the self-proclaimed “patrollers” who kept “nigras” in line. They survived.
  • Your grandparents endured racial segregation, lynching, burning crosses and churches, murder and rape. They too survived.
  • Your parents lived the civil rights movement, forced busing and integration. They lived to see the first black man to be elected president of the United States. And they along with the rest of your generations also…survived
  • And now during the post Obama era where racism is supposedly a thing of the past, you face racial profiling, being viewed with suspicion due to the color of your skin and be granted the white privilege of wearing a “facemask” into a place of business. As like those who came before you; you too will survive.  And in doing so, you will teach your children like the parents before you … the art of survival.

The art of survival is intergenerational, having been passed down through  families over 400 years.   The art of survival has been taught by parents, has been reinforced by the family, the church, the school system and other institutions within the African American community.  The foundation of this survival is “fear”. This fear is the blood trauma carried the heart and the mind of the individual.

Walking the Landscape: Empowered & Alone

Young Man,

So, you want to be like me?  Well, there are three reasons that is not possible:

  1. You cannot be a follower. You must not be afraid to walk your landscape.
    • You cannot let the words and feelings of others be more important than what you think and feel about yourself
    • You must not allow the lack of belief, faith, and trust in self to carry over and negatively impact those around you.
    • Be sure that envy, insecurity and lacking in empowerment does not destabilize any foundation that has been built within you.
  2. You don’t know how to love yourself. All of your life you have been taught to reach out… to love others and to receive love from others but not to focus on self.
    • There is a lacking in self-validation. This has been dismissed, diminished, and sacrificed for the wellness of others.
    • The self-importance is not a priority and viewed as selfishness
    • This concept is fear-based and reinforced via the family, church, school, and community.
  3. You cannot medicate your psychological wounds with alcohol and marijuana to respond to daily impacts of traumas and racism.
    • Self-medicating reinforces the behaviors of living in fear and removes the want to live with
    • The family and the community are divided and, in their silence, condone and reinforce your feelings of inadequacy.
    • Imagery and illusions sustain your existence whereas the lack of belief, faith and trust reinforces your survival mentality.

The Trick, Mumbo Jumbo & The Get-Out Free Card

Young Man,

On the first day of school, every year, groups of African American men gather at local elementary schools to welcome the girls and boys returning for a new school year.  These men are well dressed in suits or the uniform of their professions or occupations.

The protocol is usually the same: form two parallel lines and applaud the children as they pass between them and enter the school building with some groups, some even staying for a short time either in the hallways, lunchrooms, libraries or classrooms.

However, the ending is always the same, they vanish; disappear only to reappear next year to repeat the same performance.  The children tend to be excited only to be disappointed as these “role models” exit.  They are therefore left alone to endure another year of psychological impacts from adults who for the majority don’t look like them or understand their experiences.

The reality is, for the majority of these men, in returning to these schools, they are reliving their own psychological traumas they experience as children in similar environments.  Many of them continue to suffer from such memories and are relieved to leave and needing only to return the following year to provide their “community service”.

Consequently, due to the ongoing psychological traumas and abuses suffered by many African American, these men have become today’s legion of walking wounded and as a result, these men have limited their abilities to be vulnerable, exposed and trusting of others.

The objective for you is to be proactive rather than be like Dr. Kane.

Running the Race Smarter not Harder

  • Be willing to walk your landscape created by your path and not the road that has been engineered by others
  • Learn new concepts; focus on prioritizing yourself in deference to your community and in doing so, loving the self, you will find that your family and community will benefit more.
  • Learn to listen to the “inner self” to achieve belief, faith, and trust in yourself. You can stand alone and empowered. By doing so, you will find that your family and community will benefit more.

“Mumbo Jumbo”

Stop reducing the concepts of therapy or counseling to “mumbo jumbo” and stop seeing those who seek it as crazy, weak, or unfit. Therapy can actually be very beneficial.

  • As African American men, we can routinely face 14 subtypes of traumas and 12 forms racism. As a result, we are often at risk of being repeatedly impacted both psychologically and emotionally.
  • It can provide safe spaces where men can bond, risk vulnerability, expose their inner pains and work towards developing trusting relationships
  • It can help you create personal goals and objectives that will assist in “shaking things up” thereby allowing you to unlock your full potential

“The Get-Out Free Card”

There is no “get-out free” card. There is no level of education or accomplishment that precludes you from experiencing trauma, as Malcolm X asked during a recorded exchange, “What does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.?”  He answered, “A nigger with a Ph.D.”.

I recalled during the WTO protest in Seattle (1999) Richard McIver, the only African American Seattle city council member at that time, complained of being mistreated by the police as they failed to recognized him and subsequently sought to drag him out of his car roughing him up.  He stated, “They treated like I was some nigger.”

Yes, to them that is exactly how they saw, and so consequently, treated him; because like the dominant group they too are unable to individualize black men and can only contextualize us by the color of our skin.

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

My Dear Young Man,

I go to bed tonight not knowing whether the police will be battering down my door or whether I will receive the dreaded phone call announcing that one of my loved ones has been involved in an “unintended” police shooting.

The Flying Duck

This becomes transformative once you, as an individual, are able to realize that the duck is a sitting duck whereas you can avoid falling into hopelessness by following the ABC’s, achieving, believing and conceiving, when “Walking The Landscape.”

To do so, seek to redirect, reframe and refocus.

  • Redirect your hate. Transform the negative energy into empowerment
  • Reframe your foundation to rebuilding. Prioritize your wants balanced with fulfillment of your needs
  • Refocus on you. Learn to listen to yourself.  It is the first step of building belief, faith, and trust in yourself.

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Choosing to Walk the Landscape

People are going to talk no matter who you are or what you do. The question is what are you doing for self? As you move closer to the finish line, are you running the race smarter, not harder? Let us move forward both individually and as a community.

Let the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery become beacons and not bonfires. Walk your landscape, live your life. Be assured, there will be barriers set by those who seek to stand in your way but, empower the self and, in doing so, love you more.

Dr. Micheal Kane

Until We Speak Again… I am, The Visible Man.

In Our Corner: “Please Do Better”

“We want an immediate arrest because we don’t think there should be two justice systems in America – one for black America and one for white America.

– Ben Crump, Attorney for the Arbery family

“Until this country can truly acknowledge the ills of its system, we will continue to see black blood drain our streets. “

– James Woodall, President, Georgia chapter of NAACP

“Stop, stop, we want to talk to you.”

-Gregory McMichael (words spoken to Ahmaud Arbery moments before killing him)

911 Call Proceeding the Death of Ahmaud Arbery

Caller: “There is a black male running down the street.” 

Police Dispatcher: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”

Caller: …

Minutes later Arbery was shot and killed

“I saw my son come into the world. And seeing him leave the world, it’s not something that I want to see, ever.”

– Wanda Cooper Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother

“It’s just heart wrenching for him that he has to look at his other son and daughter and try to make sense of it. He really thinks that his son was lynched.”

-Ben Crump, Attorney speaking of Ahmaud Arbery’s father

“It’s hurtful.  I just got to be strong for the rest of my family. I got to be strong for my two children.  I just got to be strong for their mama too.”

-Marcus Arbery Sr., father of Ahmaud Arbery

“Your neighbor at [redacted] Satilla drive is Greg McMichael. Greg is retired Law Enforcement and also a Retired Investigator from the DA’s office. He said please call him day or night when you get action on your camera. His number is [Redacted].”

– 12/20/2019 text message from Glynn Police Officer Rash to homeowner, Larry English regarding contacting Gregory McMichael.

My Dear Readers,

I find myself awake at 4:00 am on Memorial Day morning contemplating the state we, as a country, find ourselves in. By the time this blog is published, the American death-toll due to the COVID-19 health crisis will have surpassed 100,000 people. 

Just as the deaths due to COVID-19 seem to have no end in sight, the same can be said about police involved and police related shootings, abuses of authority, and actions taken under the assumption of white privilege that have impacted, ravaged and traumatized black and brown communities across this nation.

During the time of COVID-19:

  • In Brunswick GA, while jogging in his neighborhood, a young black man was stopped and fatally shot by a retired police officer/district attorney’s office investigator.
  • In Louisville, KY, an African American woman was shot eight times, while asleep, by the police executing an arrest warrant in the middle of the night. The deceased was an EMT.  Her offense: None.  The police had the wrong address.
  • In Chicago IL, police officers are under investigation for shooting a young African American male in the subway system. His offense: jumping between train cars.
  • In Pender County, NC, a group of armed white men, led by sheriff’s deputy (who was outside of his jurisdiction), broke into and entered the home of an African American mother and her 18-year-old son.  Their offense: None.  Mistaken identity.
  • In Miami, FL a black physician in front of his residence and family is handcuffed by a police officer.  His offense: Loading tents in his van to give to the homeless and responding to the pandemic.
  • In Wood River, IL, two young black adult males were observed being escorted out of Walmart store under the watchful eyes of a police officer grimacing, gripping his weapon and holster.  Their offense: refusal to remove their facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than focus on these outrageous actions and inflicted horrors tolerated and condoned by the silence of the dominant group,  I have chosen to focus on the behaviors behind inaction by black and brown people who continue to experience violence while a nationwide pandemic unfolds. 

Watching the Sleight of Hand Trick & The Puppeteer

In this writing, I will avoid diving deeply into the “sleight of hand” trickery being played out by the dominant group acting against communities of color but, it must be addressed in order to understand why these communities, who consistently experience unspeakable violence, have remained quiet in the face of the acts listed above.

Government leaders, many of whom are members of the dominant group, give press conferences and release statements that are filled with language they think the impacted communities want to hear. They try to appease the people; they create the illusion that, this time, steps are being taken to prosecute those involved and prevent other incidents from happening in the future, when in all actuality, they are doing this in hopes of containing the reaction of the impacted community long enough for the all too short communal memory to kick in and these victims names are lost to history. For a bonfire to burn out, simply don’t feed it any logs.  Just stand by in silence, and watch the flames flicker down and burn out, then wait until life returns to normal.

Common Thread-Watching the Bonfire

With these types of incidents, there is a common series of actions that occur once they are brought to light. Black and brown communities:

  • Express public outrage through demonstrations, marches and, protests
  • Put pressure on public officials for statements of condemnation
  • Demand public investigations, both state and federal
  • Demand disciplinary actions, terminations, arrests
  • Call for criminal trials leading to incarnations
  • File civil lawsuits against local municipalities resulting in either depositions, legal settlements, or long, enduring, court room trials that are covered in social media

Although the writing will be centered on the tragedy of Brunswick GA, in which a black life was tragically taken, this is my story.  

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My Dear Readers,

Recently in a LinkedIn posting, I reviewed an article in which two black men working as subcontractors for FedEx in Georgia, were fired for posting a video on social media showing a customer racially abusing them.  Among the comments, one stated:

“Good thing they weren’t jogging lol.”

The comment was “liked” by two others as well as viewed by seven including me. Initially I was struck by the insensitivity, understanding that another young black life had been lost not too far from where the racially abusive actions had occurred.

I responded to the individual with the following (the name has been changed to protect their identity):  

“Robert, a family is grieving, and black and brown people are traumatized.  Parents are fearful of seeing their children for the last time as they go out and engage in activities.  Empathy and compassion are warranted and appreciated.  Please do better.  Be heartfelt, not heartless.”

I received the following from “Robert”:

“That wasn’t supposed to be funny, that was a serious statement.  But you work with the cops, so I don’t expect you to understand.  Please do better!!”

Initially, I was disturbed by the young man rudeness and sarcasm.  After clarifying my work responsibilities as well as explaining that I do not work for the police, I stated:

“It may be a generational issue however, upon reading your comment, I was unable, especially with the ‘lol’, to understand that you were making a serious statement. It may be that your statement is more of a reenactment of the “survival mentality” that African Americans have become accustomed to utilizing when feeling hopeless following a repeat of traumas that are forced upon our community. I do take seriously your comment, ‘Please do better.’ I will seek to do better as I will be writing a blog posting on LinkedIn in which among other feedback, I will feature the psychological impacts of your ‘Good thing they weren’t jogging lol’, comment. I will of course notify you when the blog is posted. I would be most interested in your feedback. Thank you for sharing.”

Keeping in mind a fellow writer on LinkedIn, Curtiss, who stated, in not so many words, “every experience ain’t about you”, I have taken a moment to breathe and use one of my own clinical models.

The Five R’s of RELIEF

In my clinical practice I have taught my patients the clinical model of the Five R’s of RELIEF:  Respite, Reaction, Reflection, Response and Reevaluation, which encourages proactive strategies and actions.  Looking at the situation through this lens, I began to realize that there was some truth in the young black man’s sarcastic retort of “Please do better!!”.

I was able to realize that if I responded defensively or in kind to the statement, that I would be furthering the sleight of hand trick being played by the “puppeteer”, the dominant group, and the “audience”, members of the marginalized group that maintain the status quo, would be focused on the argument between myself and the young man and not on the life tragically lost “jogging while black”.

The “I” Factor: I heard you…. But are you listening?

In the end, whatever message I sought to communicate would have been minimized by being only heard and lost because it was not listened to and understood. What is the difference? Simple.

When only hearing, words enter one ear and exit through the other.  Listening, using the following elements of my clinical model “The “I” Factor”, requires information, involvement, integration, implementation, and impact to lead to understanding.

So, with the focus on listening, I say that the comment of the young man with the initial reaction of laughter and the sarcastic retort of “Please do better” is not the main issue. It’s rather an outlying issue of how we treat or view each other within the African American community. 

Pointing the Finger… Black Silence

And what about “black silence”?

In response to the LinkedIn comment, “Good thing they weren’t jogging, lol” two individuals showed their support by “liking” Robert’s statements and another four individuals contributed their own comments to the main article. Yet none, other than I, responded to Robert’s words. There is no evidence that more than seven individuals even saw the article. 

But what if other African Americans saw Robert’s words. And, what if, after doing so, they simply chose to dismiss, ignore, and not respond?

Simply asking “Why did they choose to be silent?” is circular and we learn nothing from it.

The real question is…What is the foundation of the fear response causing the dismiss, ignore and be silent behavior?

Three answers:

  • Survival
  • Resilience
  • Lacking in post-traumatic growth  

Survival Mentality: “Good thing they weren’t jogging, lol”

Robert’s flippant response following the tragic killing of one of his community paired with his adamant claim that it was a serious, not sarcastic, statement shows that he may be living in fear. This could be an example of how black people respond to these violent events.

The response can also be an example of his survival mentality (believing that you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive), that was passed down to him inter-generationally from his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents and taught to him by his church, his school, and his community to use humor to dull the pain of repeated trauma.  

With that survival mentality, it allows you to see the fact that they weren’t killed as a victory and not as a symptom of the underlying malaise of race relations in America.

 The use by the dominant group of law enforcement as a weapon, individuals professing the right to stop and interrogate blacks and simply white privilege is not new.

Resilience: The Art of Surviving to Thriving

The western origin of the definition of resilience is a person’s mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness, or depression.  Therefore, resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity. Bending rather than breaking under pressure.

The assumption is that the resilient person is strong, and that strength gives a person the ability to overcome. The dominant group has placed the African American individual on the pedestal of being resilient and therefor able to withstand any number of abuses and traumas.

 In return, African Americans have internalized the belief of resilience regarding their ability to survive actions of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment in hopes of one day reaching identifiable symbols of success in order to try to exert control over the incidents of violence and oppression.  

Existing, Surviving, Driving, Striving & Thriving- The Illusions vs. the Truth

The African American community consistently fails to recognize the “sleight of hand” trick being played by the dominant group. The path, as I developed in the Five Stages of the Journey of Self Discovery, which begins at existing, is omitted by the dominant group.

 The focus by the dominant group is intentionally placed on surviving to thriving.  Thriving will consistently be denied to you because the stages of driving (empowerment) and striving (direction and pacing) are omitted. 

Furthermore, to keep the game in play, a few “chosen ones” are permitted to sit along with the dominant group however, they will never be fully accepted.  This is the “carrot” that is auspiciously dangled in order to maintain the imbalance of power between the African American community and the dominant group.

Post Traumatic Growth-Balancing & Not Overcoming Traumatic Impacts

African Americans daily face 12 forms of racism and 14 subtypes of trauma.  Although it is known that our children will continue to face regular acts or incidents that will be so traumatic and impactful that they would be carried over into adulthood, we still do not create measures to assist them to balance these traumas.  Rather, the focus is overcoming traumatic impacts through the falsehood of resilience (strength), and silence (shaming).

African Americans residing outside the land from which they originate are the wealthiest, the most educated and hold more homeownership and socio-economic status than other Africans.

Despite these accomplishments, African Americans continue to maintain a survival mentality, live in fear, and act in ways that are reactive and not proactive.

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

The bonfire created by the tragic killing in Brunswick, GA will eventually burn out. The history of African American action is one of inaction such as waiting for someone, some Black Messiah to come along and lead our people to freedom. 

Yes, there have been such individuals like, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey Shirley Chisholm, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X to name a few.  Yes, celebrities will lend their names and statuses and preachers and politicians will use this tragedy as a pulpit to keep their names alive.  Yet what will transform?  How will we transform? 

Who will be the next black person to die?

Will he or she be your child or mine?  Will she be in her home asleep only to die in a hail of bullets due to a mistaken address?  Or will he be jogging, walking or just sitting in his car in his neighborhood, one in which others have determined that he does not belong.

Dear Robert,

I want to thank you for sharing your comments.  You are right.  We must all… do better.  You have an opportunity to do so. Instead of defending, focus on the ABCs: achieving, believing and conceiving. Please do better.

Best regards, your elder, 

Dr. Micheal Kane

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Honoring Our Heroes on Memorial Day

LT. Colonel Lemuel Penn

Lemuel Penn joined the Army Reserve from Howard University.  He served in World War II in New Guinea and the Philippines earning a Bronze Star with Valor.  Penn, father of three, was 48 years old at the time he was murdered by Klansmen.

The two Klansmen were tried in state superior court but were found not guilty by an all-white jury.  They were later found guilty of the lesser charge of “violation of civil rights” and received minimum sentences.

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

Led by its black female commander, Major Charity Adams Earley, it was the only all-female, African American battalion serving overseas in France during World War II.

At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe. The task of sorting and delivering mail was difficult due to common names, soldiers on secret assignments and wartime conditions. At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe and receiving letters from home was an important way to keep up the morale of the troops on the front lines.

These enlisted women worked eight-hour shifts, seven days a week, despite having to respond to racism and segregation while performing their duties.

Major Earley felt that reacting to racism caused more problems than it solved and insisted that the 6888th Battalion look past the prejudice directed at them by the men retuning from the frontlines. Major Earley’s efforts lead to a US recruitment tour to encourage more women to enlist and were instrumental in easing the inclusion of African Americans and women into military service.

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“Those who try to hold on to their world views following trauma are often more fragile, defensive and easily hurt.  Their wounded assumptions are at risked of being shattered again and again.

-Stephen Joseph (2011)

Until the next time,

Remaining … in Our Corner

At the Crossroads: Black Faces Wearing Masks: The Choice of Living or Dying

“Social Distancing? That’s okay now?  Really? Hmm.  The reality of the African American experience is the dominant group has been practicing social distancing towards black people for more than 400 years.  This is measured by 12 various forms of racism and 14 subtypes of traumas we have been forced to endure”.

– Micheal Kane Psy.D ,Clinical Traumatologist

“I am going to cough on you (white man) and risk it. I am not wearing a mask.”

– Anonymous

“It is risk vs. gain; when I walk into stores, I get followed and I am wearing a suit.  White people look at me with suspicion because I am a black man.  And now you suggest I should wear a mask?  Dr. Kane, have you lost your fucking mind?”

– Anonymous

 

The same people who are looking at me crazy without a mask are looking at me crazy with a mask.”

– Anonymous

 

“Not wearing a mask is advocacy for me.”

 – Anonymous

 

“It is an individual choice.  We have individual experiences. If I choice not to wear a mask, that’s my business.”

– Anonymous

 

My Dear Readers,

As you know we are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic which, as of this morning, has resulted in 1,184,332 million Americans contracting COVID-19 and 68,465 of them tragically losing their lives.

Regretfully, I have been unable to publish blogs during the past two months because my focus has been on outpatient care 10-12 hours a day 6 days per week.  I have sought to provide psychotherapy from my home via telephone or video while following the shelter-in-place mandate issued by the governor of my state, Washington.

It is essential that we continue to work together to “flatten the curve” of this dreaded disease. To limit how quickly the disease spreads so that we do not overwhelm the hospitals providing critical care to the sickest among us. We can do this by following the mandated shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain such as in grocery stores and pharmacies, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

The CDC guidelines also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

It is not uncommon to see or hear on the news or in commercials statements like:

  • We are in this together.
  • Together we are unstoppable.
  • Help our communities come back, together.
  • We will get through this together.

Wait a minute?  Hmm.  We are in this mess, this health crisis together?  So, let me get this right… the dominant group is now saying it is okay for black folks to walk into a bank, a store or anywhere wearing masks?

It is simply “wonderful” for the dominant group on the advice of the CDC to allow black and brown people to be treated like hmm… themselves, like white people.  Does this mean racism, stereotyping and discrimination is now over, and black, brown and white people can join hands together, run down the streets singing Kumbaya?!?

Nope…shucks now, that’s about as crazy as a major world leader suggesting that we inject disinfectants in our veins as a cure for COVID-19.  And of course, no one is crazy or stupid enough to suggest that.

There are three essential concerns with the concept of the “We are all in this together” mantra as well as the dominant group giving permission to black and brown people to openly wear masks in public settings:

  • The dominant group has not terminated feelings or actions of racism, stereotyping and discrimination towards black and brown people.
  • The dominant group failed to discuss the issue with black and brown people or take into consideration the psychological impacts of wearing masks in public settings.
  • The level of suspicion and distrust black and brown people have towards the dominant group concerning “We are all in this together” in the past.

The quotes at the beginning of this blog, were all comments made by patients during individual psychotherapy sessions.  The common threads, they were all black, angry and male. To the dominant group, they represent every single one their immediate fears. That these men are ABC, Angry, Black and out of Control.

 

“Let us in! Let us in tyrants! Get the rope!” Protest During COVID-19

Historically the dominant group, due to its fear of black males, either completely ignored or encouraged the use of harsh tactics to control this group while applying a light, sensitive and non-violent approach to policing their own communities. Recent media attention has shown tolerant, patient and non-violent tactics used when members of the dominant group joined with angry masked white males from white militia groups entered state capitol buildings for the purpose of interrupting legislative sessions.

Although fearful of these loud and angry protesters, many armed and masked, legislators seem either helpless, frightened or unable to intervene; one Michigan legislator stated

“Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them.  I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today.”

It is under the guise of the Second Amendment, these masked and angry individuals can “open carry weapons without interference of law enforcement”. Yet it is, the visual of a black man wearing a “hoodie” that brings the eyes of suspicion, and possible interaction with law enforcement.

The speakers of the opening quotes could be judged as “irresponsible” but, how does one judge the fitting of shoes that one has not worn? Below is the story of one such writer whose reaction to wearing a mask is anger and how he has allowed his reaction of anger to be his response.

Dear Dr. Kane,

At one time I had a lot of respect for you. But now I feel betrayed in having believed in you.  You want me, a black man to walk into the grocery store or a bank wearing a mask?

Negro, you have lost your fucking mind.  Are you in collusion with them now?  Are they paying you to say this stupid shit?  Have you forgotten what it is to be a black man in America?  Wearing a mask?  Do you want me to get killed?

And what about po-po…the police? Do you think they are going to stop hassling black men?  Did you see what happened to that black doctor in Florida who was handcuffed in front of his own home, in front of his family? Was he wearing a mask?

Oh, I get it.  We are all in this mess together.  Translation… they need me to save their ass.  I was in the store the other day and while standing in line this white woman snipped at me “you’re not wearing a mask”.  It took all the power in me not to curse her out.

No one else say anything however she felt she could use her white privilege and power to intimidate me.  I looked at her, like she was nothing.  I smiled, got my groceries and left. I got the power now.  I, not white people, will determine if I will wear a mask and I’m not wearing one.

I don’t know if I am going to keep seeing you.  I don’t know if I can trust you.  You are beginning to sound like a sellout…  I’ll think it over.

Doing it my way

Seattle, WA

 

My Dear Young Man,

Sellout? Really? I get it.  I really do understand.  Take a breath. Your anger towards me is misdirected. Work with listening to me as I too am listening to your words and your pain.  You are speaking from your experiences which are steeped in trauma.

As a black man who is constantly being judged, profiled or viewed with suspicion simply because of the color of your brown or black skin, you are now incensed that you are being directed by the same group that fears you, to wear a mask for “your protection.”

It is your right, given how you have been viewed, received and/or treated to be angry.  However in your writing, you have allowed your reaction of anger to be communicated as your response and in doing so, you are at risk of once again being stereotyped as the ABC, the angry black, out of control man and having your views subsequently dismissed.

I too share your fears.  I too am apprehensive about walking into a bank wearing a mask.  The difference between you and I are you live in your fear and I want to live with my fear.

Second, rather than share my anger with people who live in their fear of the color of my skin, I want to embrace my anger, because it is mine and mine alone, and share my response.

In sharing my response, I want to project a different form of ABC, one being assertive, balanced and on a foundation of calmness.

As it is important for others, may they be members of the African American community or of the dominant group, to understand the foundation of your anger, it is also important for you to understand the empowerment you have in choosing to wear or not wear the mask.

I will begin by exploring data regarding the impact of COVID-19 on African American communities, the psychological impacts of wearing masks; ongoing police abuses during the public health crisis and the perceptions, conscious and unconscious attitudes of the dominant group towards African Americans, particularly males wearing masks in public settings.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the African American Community Nationwide

Public policy experts stated that the African American community’s “… disproportionate impact appears to be attributable to preexisting conditions- high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and inadequate access to health care- making African Americans more vulnerable to the disease”.

In a recent CDC report, small-scale sampling revealed that African Americans made up 33% of hospitalized coronavirus while African American COVID-19 deaths were:

  • Milwaukee – Although 30% of the population, African Americans are 70% of the deaths
  • Chicago – Although 30% of the population, African Americans are 69 % of the deaths
  • Louisiana – Although 32% of the population, African Americans are 70% of the deaths
  • New York City – Although 22% of the population, African Americans are 28% of the deaths
  • African Americans account for 14.2% of the 241 million people who live in areas ravaged by the virus. This encompasses 24 states and the cities of Washington D.C., Houston, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia

Masks: Traumatic Impact on Black & Brown People

“Two black men were kicked out of Wal-Mart, escorted out by a cop who had his hand on his gun…FOR WEARING MASKS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES. Are you kidding me?”

Black and brown people in the United States, on a daily basis, can endure up to 14 sub-types of traumas and 12 forms of racism.  While the CDC and public health experts nationwide have recommended and supported the wearing of masks in public settings, there was never any mention or acknowledgment of what such recommendations would mean or how such can have traumatic impacts on the African American community nationwide.

One such impact occurred on April 7th, 2020 in the Wal-Mart store in Wood River, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.   In this incident, two young African American men were captured on video being escorted out of the store due to their refusal to remove protective masks from their faces.

In the video, which has been viewed over 122, 000 times on Twitter, a black man with a mask on is being seen with a police officer walking behind him, gripping his holster and gun.  During a media interview, one of the males stated:

“This officer right here behind us.  Just followed us in the store. He followed us from outside, told us that we cannot wear masks,” the man says to the camera, “There’s a presidential order.  There is a state order, and he’s following us outside the store.  We are being asked to leave for staying safe.”

Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells said that he was reluctant to make a statement about the incident.  He states:

“There’s not much I can say.  I backed the officer by what he tells me.  Just like anything, there is more to the story.”

 

Police Misconduct During COVID-19

 “Police just being Police”

(Privileged Statement made by white person)

On April 10th, 2020. Dr. Armen Henderson, an internal medicine physician with the University of Miami Health System, while wearing a protective mask was stopped by the police, questioned and handcuffed outside his home.  He had been on his way to hand out tents to homeless people in the city.

Seen placing the tents in his van, the officer asked him what he was doing and if he was littering.  Henderson replied he lived at the residence where his vehicle was parked.  Not satisfied with the answer, the officer handcuffed him in front of his wife and child.

He was released from the handcuffs only after his wife, in duress, rushed into the residence to show identification. Police Chief Jorge Colina acknowledged concerns and stated commitment to investigate the incident.

“It was really humiliating. Situations like this have escalated into black men being shot all across the country.”

– Armen Henderson

It is incidents like these that underscore the foundation of the distrust black communities have towards law enforcement.  According to a recent study (2016) by the Pew Research Center, only a third of blacks say local police do either an excellent or good job in using appropriate force on suspects.

Ted Miller, an economist who led the study, found that black people were more likely to be stopped by police.  He added the following comments:

“If you are black, you are significantly more likely to be arrested if they stop you. They are quick to point a finger without listening. And they’re quick to, because of racial prejudice, feel threatened in ways that make them behave inappropriately.”

Health Disparities and the Impact of COVID-19: “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER”.

“30-year old teacher dies of coronavirus after her symptoms were dismissed as a panic attack.”

Rana Zoe Mungin, a 30-year-old African American social studies teacher at Ascend Charter School in Brooklyn, New York died on April 27th, 2020 of coronavirus. Despite having a fever and shortness of breath as well as two preexisting conditions (asthma and hypertension) that put her in the high risk of developing a severe case of the virus, she was turned away from emergency rooms twice, after receiving a diagnosis of panic attack from a medical provider.

Rana’s sister, Mia, a registered nurse fought for her to receive treatment.  Mia stated

“The provider stated she was having a panic attack.  She kept saying, “I can’t breathe.” Rana Zoe was finally admitted to Brookdale Hospital on March 20th, five days after her first attempt to get treated or tested for COVID-19. She was immediately placed on a ventilator.

Mia was informed that Rana was a good candidate for Remdesivir, a drug under clinical trials as a possible COVID-19 treatment, however it was found that she was not eligible.  Mia began a campaign to get her sister included in the trial.  This campaign eventually reached the level of her senator from New York and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who appealed to the US Food and Drug Administration.  However, Rana Zoe was not added to the clinical trials and despite a valiant fight to live, she died less than a week after admission.

Regarding her sister’s medical treatment, Mia Mungin stated:

“Racism and health disparities still continue…. And the zip code in which we live still predetermine the type of care we receive.”

“When all of this is over – and as we said, it will end, we will get over coronavirus – but there will still be health disparities which we really need to address in the African American community,”

– Anthony Fauci, MD, Director National Institute of Allergies & Infectious Disease

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

My Dear Young Man,

As I have said earlier, it is your right, given how you have been viewed, received and/or treated to be angry. As a man moving among those who are fearful, not of what I have done but fearful of my skin color, I too feel vulnerable and apprehensive about wearing a mask in public settings. Although I share your concerns there are three essential differences:

  • You are making life-determining decisions purely based on emotions whereas I seek to want to make those decisions being balanced in my thoughts and feelings.
  • You seek to use your “power” in saying no to deny them your cooperation in wearing the mask. In doing so you continue to wrestle with the dominant group over control.  A fight that has been occurring for over 400 years since the black man arrived here in chains.

Unlike you, I want to be empowered.  My empowerment lies within me and can never be taken away.  I seek to stand alone, empowered, whereas your anger will “ride and die” with those who feel as you do.

  • Your anger traps you into being a survivor and forces you to live out your days in fear. I want to walk the landscape, with thirst for living and in doing so live with fear and not live in fear.

Am I under the belief that “We are in this together”?  Nope, along with four hundred years of history, there is a quote from the writer/philosopher George Santayana:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Take this opportunity to engage in the Five R’s of RELIEF: Respite, Reaction, Reflection, Response and Reevaluation, and you may come to a similar conclusion:

  • The dominant group is tossing billions of dollars towards developing a vaccine and there IS NO SUCH Vaccine in sight or on the horizon
  • The fear that the dominant group has regarding African American males is superseded by their fear of COVID-19, which has in three months killed more Americans than the total deaths of American soldiers killed during the Vietnam War.

Law Enforcement During COVID-19

“Police officers are sworn to protect and serve, and when that oath is taken for granted and an abuse of power is evident, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

– Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State’s Attorney

Regarding the incident at Wal-Mart where video shows a police officer gripping his holster and weapon while escorting two black men out of the store for wearing masks to protect themselves during the coronavirus health crisis, Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells said:

“There’s not much I can say.  I backed the officer by what he tells me.  Just like anything, there is more to the story.”

Despite the statements leading to togetherness during this public health crisis, causal racism reinforces the concept in which the dominant group is more likely to receive community policing (service) whereas the African American community, because of the fear of others, receives law enforcement (control).

Casual racism is defined as a society’s or an individual’s lack of regard for the impact of their racist actions on others. Casual racism is subtlety packaged white fear of black skin and it is an inherently dangerous form of racism.

Casual racism has become more insidious as of late. It has become expressed through white comfort and discomfort. It combines micro-aggressions (statements, actions or incidents) and macro-aggressions (threats of physical force, law enforcement) with modern racism (beliefs and attitudes) to form aversive racism (persistent avoidance of) interactions with African Americans.

Yes, my dear young man, the choice is yours; wear a mask or do not wear a mask.  You and I are similar to the two young black men in Wal-Mart and the black doctor handcuffed at home in front of his wife and child, despite the images being displayed of “Kumbaya” or “We are in this together”… Be assured and stay alive by understanding you are alone.

The differences in the two police chiefs’ responses are noteworthy.  In the Wal-Mart situation, although there is video that was viewed over 122,000 times resulting in a “public outcry” of police misconduct, the two black males are “nobodies” and therefore invisible allowing the police chief to say,  “There’s not much I can say.  I backed the officer by what he tells me.”

In the Miami incident, the black male is a physician at a prestigious hospital and therefore he is a “somebody” and therefore “visible”.  As a result, an “official” investigation will be conducted, apologies made and assurances (once again) given to stop such poor conduct with the communities “we protect and serve.”

The outcomes in both situations are the same, black men were racially profiled, traumatized and publicly humiliated as a lesson for all African American males to remember what will happen when the dominant group becomes uncomfortable or fear that “those people” are getting “out of control”.

“Me wearing a mask gives them the ability to harm me. I am not going to apologize for being me and living a life that I did not create.  These people don’t want me to wear a mask to protect myself from the virus, they want protect themselves from me.”

– Anonymous

 

Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend.

Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within.

Smiling faces, smiling faces, sometimes they don’t tell the truth.

Smiling faces, smiling faces tell lies and I got proof.

The truth is in the eye ’cause the eyes don’t lie, amen.

Remember, a smile is just a frown turned upside down my friend.

So, hear me when I’m saying

Smiling faces, Smiling Faces, sometimes they don’t tell the truth.

Smiling faces, smiling faces tell lies and I got proof.

Beware. Beware of the handshake that hides the snake,

I’m tellin’ you beware of the pat on the back it just might hold you back.

Jealousy, (Jealousy) misery, (misery) envy.

I tell you you can’t see behind

Smiling faces, Smiling Faces, sometimes they don’t tell the truth.

Smiling faces, smiling faces tell lies and I got proof.

Your enemy won’t do you no harm, ’cause you’ll know where he’s comin’ from;

don’t let the handshake and the smile fool ya.

Take my advice I’m only tryin’ to school ya.

Smiling faces, smiling faces, sometimes they don’t tell the truth.

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” – The Temptations (Sky’s the Limit, April 22, 1971)

*Re-recorded by The Undisputed Truth (The Undisputed Truth, May 13, 1971)

 

Until the next crossroads….. the journey continues

The Unspoken Truth: Achieving the American Dream- From “Super Negro” to “No Negro”

“… The American Dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work rather than by chance.”
-Adam Barone, “American Dream.” Investopedia, 21 Nov. 2019.

 

“‘Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?’ asked the young [Jackie Robinson]. ‘Robinson, I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,’ explained [Branch] Rickey.”
– Conversation between Jackie Robinson, first black MLB player and                                  Branch Rickey, baseball executive. Christopher Kline, “Silent No Longer:                       The Outspoken Jackie Robinson.” History, 14 Apr. 2017.

 

“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.”
– Blanton, Joshua E.: Men in the Making, in: Southern Workman 48                                    (January 1919), p. 20.

 

My Dear Readers,

As the month of February is winding down, I want to acknowledge Black (originally Negro) History Month. This is the time of year in which African Americans and the dominant group come together to showcase and learn about the contributions of its black citizenry.

What is psychologically impactful for many is that at the end of each February, the essential meaning of black history, its contributions, and achievements are put away, forgotten by some, and ignored by others until Black History Month arrives again next year.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing you did mattered? That about sums it up for me.”
– Groundhog Day. Dir. Harold Ramis. Columbia                                                                        Pictures, 1993.

Question…
What are the psychological impacts on black and brown children whose history is condensed and packaged during the 28 or 29 days of February then subsequently disappears only to be repeated year after year?

Question…
What are the psychological impacts on those same black and brown children who are inundated with symbols, ideologies, accomplishments, and achievements of the dominant group for the remaining 337 days per year?

Question…
What are the psychological impacts on black and brown children observing their parents, elders, and responsible others colluding with the dominant group in observance of Black History Month?

The answers to these questions are complex. Like a rooted tree that is not watered, when the psychological self is not reinforced on a consistent basis, it withers away to the point where it ceases to strive to live and is resigned to a life of existence and basic survival.

Since their arrival in American colonies, African men and women have existed in a constant state of psychological survival. They have had the similar value of a “beast of burden”, tied to the yoke and forced to plow the land for meager or no return. The “beast” plows the land in hopes of receiving the “carrot” that is placed strategically in sight and yet remains out of reach.

The “carrot” being offered to African Americans by the dominant group is the attractive and appealing American Dream. The American Dream is
the belief that “anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone and it can be achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance”.

Although the intention behind the creation of Black History Month was well conceived, a community of psychologically weakened individuals is unable to consistently reinforce their history to their children while depending upon the dominant group to teach black and brown children their historical contributions and achievements from a white perspective.

This white perspective tends to single out certain African Americans and identify them as the Super Negro. These legendary figures were usually sports figures such as:

• Jackie Robinson – MLB Hall of Fame
• Kobe Bryant – NBA Champion
• Jesse Owens – Four-time Gold Medalist, Berlin Olympics 1936
• Wilma Rudolph – Three-time Gold Medalist, Rome Olympics 1956
• Arthur Ashe – winner of seven Grand Slam singles and doubles tennis titles
• Althea Gibson – winner of seven Grand Slam singles and doubles tennis titles

However, African Americans, when viewed through the white perspective, are separated out into the best or Super Negros and all other average or unknown African Americans whose accomplishments and contributions are intentionally ignored or diminished. These every-day people are seen as having less value, therefore are not worthy or eligible to receive the “carrot”.

This group is designated “invisible” and hence becomes the No Negro. These indivisibles or No Negroes make contributions to the dominant group, but those contributions are not considered noteworthy and therefore do not become “folklore” or “legendary” and quickly fade into the dust of time and history.

Let’s examine some of the contributions and achievements of those who failed to win the praise of the dominant group and now are relegated to footnotes in history.

• Jill Elaine Brown
• The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
• The Red Ball Express
• Charles Walter David Jr.
Jill Elaine Brown

Although Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) is known as the first African American woman to hold a pilot license as well as stage a public flight in America, little has been stated about Jill Elaine Brown, who became the first African American woman to serve as a pilot for a major US airline when she was hired by Texas International Airlines at the age of 28.

Prior to this, she became the first African American female trainee to enter the US Naval flight-training program. A tireless fighter of racial and gender discrimination, she sued United Airlines after being rejected for employment three times.

Today she remains an advocate, model and mentor for women and African American aviators.
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

Led by its black female commander Major Charity Adams Earley, it was the only all-female, African American battalion overseas in France during World War II.
At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe. The task of sorting mail and delivering mail was difficult due to common names, soldiers on secret assignments and wartime conditions. At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe and receiving letters from home was an important way to keep up the morale of the troops on the front lines.
These enlisted women worked eight-hour shifts, seven days a week, despite having to respond to racism and segregation while performing their duties.
Major Earley felt that reacting to racism caused more problems than it solved and insisted that the 6888th Battalion look past the prejudice directed at them by the men retuning from the frontlines. Major Earley’s efforts lead to a US recruitment tour to encourage more women to enlist and were groundbreaking and eased the inclusion of African Americans and women into military service.

 

The Red Ball Express

This military unit was a large convoy of trucks, the majority of which was made up of African American soldiers who, during WWII supplied the Allied forces once they broke out of the Normandy Beaches in 1944. The Red Ball Express was created in August 1944 as a means of getting vital supplies to some 28 American and Allied divisions racing across France.
Each division needed 700 tons of fuel, ammo, food and other essentials every day. At the height of the Red Ball Express mission, some 5,938 vehicles carried 12,342 tons of supplies day and night.

The drivers would drive at high speeds through enemy territory to ensure the supplies would be there when needed. Up to 140 trucks were on French roads 24 hours days supplying General Patton’s Third Army 350 miles away in the east as well as the First Army 400 miles away in the south. Night driving had to be done without headlights to avoid being spotted by the enemy.

They modified vehicle carburetors, removing the governors so they could travel at speeds reaching 50-60 mph. They risked land mines and drove with shredded tires from roads littered with shell fragments and barbed wire. They drove in overloaded trucks that tipped and flipped, sinking into the mud of country roads, risking death due to enemy action and exhaustion from crashes due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel from lack of sleep.

In 83 days and at the end of the program in August 1944, about 412,000 tons of various items including gasoline, ammunition oil, food, mail and other needed supplies had been delivered by the Negro drivers of the Red Ball Express.

One British infantry brigade commander noted, “Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk to get Gen. Patton his supplies.”

 

Charles Walter David Jr.

Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. served aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Comanche during WWII. The Comanche was assigned to escort a convoy in the North Atlantic which included the troop transport ship the USS Dorchester. During the night of February 3, 1944, a U-boat off the coast of Greenland torpedoed the USS Dorchester resulting in multiple casualties. David volunteered to leave the safety of the kitchen of the Comanche to dive overboard, with air temperatures below freezing, to help rescue the Dorchester survivors.

David assisted in the rescue of 93 people, repeatedly diving into the frigid waters and personally saving the lives of three Dorchester survivors and two of his own crew members, one being the cutter’s executive officer who had fallen overboard and was unable to pull himself up by diving into the cold waters and tying him up to be hoisted to safety.

Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. died a few days later from pneumonia that he contracted during his heroic efforts to save the Dorchester’s survivors and members of his own crew. He was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the nation’s third highest medal for bravery.
The Super Negro: Worship & Rewards

Following a life of service to the dominant group during which the Super Negro has endured countless incidents of macro aggression; death threats and physical assaults, micro aggression; everyday verbal, nonverbal slights, snubs or insults, and acts of rejection, similar to Jackie Robinson, the expectation is to endure and have “guts enough not to fight back”. In exchange, the Super Negro is permitted limited access to the group’s wealth and social standing.

As a reward for service to the dominant group and endurance of many years of abuse, selected African Americans following their death are granted godlike worship and legendary status.

Take notice of the awards given to those earlier mentioned in the Super Negro group:

• Jackie Robinson – Six-time MLB All-Star, MLB Rookie of the Year, MLB Hall of Fame, MLB All-Century Team presented by Major League Baseball and had “The Jackie Robinson Award” named after him.

• Kobe Bryant – NBA MVP, Four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 18-time All-Star presented by National Basketball Association and, The NBA All-Star MVP award will be renamed the “NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award” in his honor.

• Jesse Owens – Four-time gold medalist at the 1936 Olympic Games and had “The Jesse Owens Award” named after him

• Arthur Ashe – Had “The Arthur Ashe Courage & Humanitarian Award” for Contributions Transcending Sports, presented by the ESPN, named after him.

• Wilma Rudolph – Had “The Wilma Rudolph Courage Award” for female athletes demonstrating extraordinary courage, presented by Women Sports Foundation named after her.

• Althea Gibson – Had “The Althea Gibson Cup” presented by the International Tennis Federation, named after her.

 

The No Negro: The Gaze at the Carrot & Differential Treatment

Similar to the Super Negro, the No Negro provides a life of service to the dominant group endures incidents of macro and micro aggressions with the hope of achieving the same rights and benefits of the dominant group. However, as there are too many and aren’t seen as having the same value, they can only gaze hungrily at the carrot and must fight for access to the wealth and resources controlled by the dominant group.

• Major Charity Adams Earley commander of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion and responsible for handling mail for millions of white servicemen upon her return had to stand off with the KKK with a shotgun while protecting her home and she had to fight for her benefits earned as a veteran servicing her country.

• Although black drivers of the Red Ball Express risked their lives delivering supplies to General Patton’s 3rd Army, he wrote in his dairy “I have no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race.” Upon returning home, there were numerous incidents of black veterans being lynched while in military uniform.

• Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. participated in saving the lives of 93 survivors. Approximately 672 men died and 230 from the Dorchester survived. Four men, all white received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed for heroic actions taken place under enemy fire. For sacrificing his life Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. who, because of the color of his skin was restricted to mess hall duty, received the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, the nation third highest honor.

• Jill Elaine Brown throughout her role as a commercial pilot, safely transported thousands of passengers without incident. However, although she had the training, skills and experience she was repeatedly denied, due to her race and gender, employment by United Airlines. She sued the airlines twice in federal court and lost both times.
Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

“Boy, you be safe out in the world now. Remember, you’re colored. This is a white man’s world. Mind your business, stay out of white folks’ mess.”
– Mabel Sanders, Grandmother

My Dear Readers,

I am the child of the segregated south. Although I am northern born (Harlem, NY), I am southern raised (Newport News, VA). My grandmother’s father was a slave, whereas my grandmother was born free.

Although domestic terrorism is a new concept to the dominant group, it was a well-known concept to many African Americans including my great grandfather and the generations of my family that followed. Understanding the difficult times in which my grandparents lived, her words “stay in your lane and mind your business” were fitting even though African Americans have provided cheap labor in agriculture and factories and sacrificed our sons and daughters in service of this country yet, we are still forcefully excluded from sharing in the resources of this land.

Currently, factions within the dominant group are struggling to win the African American vote as the nation enters the presidential election. Historically, the concerns of the African American community have been taken for granted, with promises made and broken. While included in the political processes, once our votes have been received, we find ourselves once again being excluded from participation into the resources held by the dominant group.

Dr. Tressie McMillian Cottom, in her 2019 book, Thick: And Other Essays, suggests that “exclusion can be part of a certain type of liberation, where one dominant regime is overthrown for another, but it cannot be universal”.

The failure of the African American community is its willingness to sacrifice the psychological wellness of its children for the carrot of economic wealth that is gingerly dangled by the dominant group. It seems to passively accept the limitations imposed on it by the dominant group by allowing them to determine the acknowledgment of its history, achievements of its individuals as well as the community’s awareness of the psychological impact of this distorted history on its children being spoon-fed stories of the “Super Negro” or omission of the achievements of the “No Negro”.

Fortunately for the upcoming generation, the black millennials, many are choosing to go in a different direction. They have decided that the American Dream is a myth that can be snatched away at any time so therefore, “chasing the carrot” is not for them. They have decided that “staying quiet and minding their own business” is not for them. They have decided that allowing their achievements to be omitted is not for them. They are instead focusing on proving their humanity and ensuring that the dominant group and its infighting political factions make good on their promises.

My grandmother’s words were right for her time and her day. However, her day has passed.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Black Millennial,
The past is what it was.
The present is fading
The future is not promised
Embrace your journey
As you walk the landscape
Walk your landscape, not someone else
Seek your dreams, not someone else
Holding the psychological self
As you embrace the unknown and uncharted….
Tomorrow

Dr. Micheal Kane

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

“How would you feel psychologically if you were stuck in one place and every year your history was displayed exactly the same reinforcing the belief that nothing you did mattered? That about sums up Black History Month for me.”
– Dr. Micheal Kane

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Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

Join us at our new website: www.lovingmemore.com

In Our Corner: Self Hate and Pressure for Acceptance

“We’re men. Soldiers. And I don’t intend for our race to be cheated of its place of honor and respect in this war because of fools like C.J.”
– MSgt. Vernon Waters (character), A Soldier’s Play

 

“Remember, you’re the first colored officer most of these men ever seen. The Army expects you to set an example for the colored troops… and be a credit to your race.”
– Col. Nivens (character), A Soldier’s Play

 

“Any man ain’t sure where he belong, gotta’ be in a whole lotta pain.”
– CJ (character), A Soldier’s Play

 

My Dear Readers,

My, oh my…what a beginning for 2020! I recently returned from a five-thousand-mile, round-trip, journey to New York over a weekend to see the Broadway theater production of A Soldier’s Play. It is a WWII murder mystery story set on a segregated military base in Louisiana.

Following my earlier trip to see Slave Play, I was anticipating a second triumphant return to Seattle having experienced a play of similar brilliance but, what I experienced was nothing like I expected.

In Slave Play, I marveled at the playwright’s utilization of race, sex and trauma to shine a light on our society’s relationship with white supremacy, but A Soldier’s Play was different. It was more personal. It told how some African Americans internalized white supremacy then weaponized against one another. The pure self-hate and internal demand for acceptance being portrayed by a black cast, simply hit too close to home.

On the surface, A Soldier’s Play is about a black man’s desire to fight for his country during WWII. Underneath, there is the picture of the ongoing internal conflict with achieving status and acceptance while struggling with self-hatred and denial of dreams and opportunities.

A Soldier’s Play is invaluable as it seeks to portray the psychological landscapes of these men who struggle to be accepted as equals by whites while battling the internalized oppression and self-hatred that flows from their psychosocial wounds paralleling, with great accuracy, the struggle black men face today.

The play identifies the good, bad and ugly within the main characters Sgt. Waters and Capt. Davenport. Utilizing quotes from the stage play, I will seek to expose common themes and how those themes impact African Americans today.
Sgt. Waters:
Sgt. Waters is an African American holdover from WWI who, due to the military’s segregationist policies of the time, feels denied his place of honor and respect.

For him, WWII presents another opportunity to gain that respect and honor he feels he is due, and he is determined not to be denied his moment of glory and recognition. In the play, Sgt. Waters shares the following story of an experience in France during WWI:

“You know the damage one ignorant Negro can do? We were in France in the first war; we’d won decorations. But the white boys had told all them French gals that we had tails. Then they found this ignorant colored soldier, paid him to tie a tail to his ass and run around half naked, making monkey sounds.

Put him on the big round table in the Café Napoleon, put a reed in his hand, crown on his head, blanket on his shoulders, and made him eat “bananas” in front of all them Frenchies. Oh, the white boys danced that night… passed out leaflets with that boy’s picture on it.

Called him Moonshine, King of the Monkeys. And when we slit his throat, you know that fool asked us what he had done wrong?”

Sgt. Waters’ words and actions are clear indications of what he is willing to do to gain “honor and respect.” Now faced with a new war and thus an opportunity to gain “honor and respect”, Sgt. Waters is driven to oust any person he views stands in his way.

He subsequently targets a colored soldier, CJ. He plants false evidence to have him arrested, telling him

“Whole lot of people just can’t seem to fit in to where things seem to be going. Like you, CJ. See, the Black race can’t afford you no more. There used to be a time, we’d see someone like you singin’, clownin’, yassuh –bossin’… and we wouldn’t do anything. Folks liked that.

You were good. Homey, kind of nigger.

When they needed somebody to mistreat, call a name or two, they paraded you. Reminded them of the good old days. Not no more. The day of the Geechee is gone, boy. And you’re going with it.”

As a result of the stress being placed upon him, CJ commits suicide by hanging himself while being held in the stockade.
Later, Sgt. Waters, drunk and physically beaten, is found fatally shot in full military uniform and casted off on a muddy dirt road in the rain. As he lay dying, he screams at his killer:
“They still … hate you! THEY STILL HATE YOU!!”

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Analysis – Dr. Kane:
It would be a mistake to misjudge Sergeant Waters or depict him as evil. He simply wants the acceptance, honor and respect that has been historically denied to him and those of his race. Sergeant Waters is a deeply conflictive man. His hatred of the white man is only matched with the hatred of other African Americans who due to their ignorant behaviors are preventing his quest for glory.

He therefore takes it upon himself to protect the black race from acts of shame and humiliation. As demonstrated in story of slitting a young man’s throat and creating false evidence resulting in the suicide of another, he shows the extent to which he is willing to go to prevent the race from being “cheated of its place of honor and respect”.

One of Sgt. Waters’ characterizations is shame-based behavior. True to form, in his shame, he is depicted as feeling unworthy, defective and empty. In acting out those feelings, he repeatedly committed acts of racism and inflicted psychological trauma and humiliation on others. Something black men have faced from previous generations to today.

Shame can be debilitating, toxic and extremely destructive. Shame works to separate the individual from the psychological self. It creates an internal crisis that attacks the inner core, triggering a shaming spiral of negative self-talk.

Shame can be defined in several ways:
• A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.
• An act that brings dishonor, disgrace or public condemnation.
• An object of great disappointment.

Another characterization of Sgt. Waters is an extreme fear of humiliation.

Humiliation is the infliction of a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves the victim with a deep wound within the psychological self. The painful experience is vividly remembered for a long time.
This includes:
• The enforced lowering of a person or group, a process of subjugation that either damages or strips away a person’s pride, honor or dignity.
• A state of being placed, against one’s will, in a situation where one is made to feel inferior.
• A process in which the victim is forced into passivity, acted upon, or made to feel helpless.

Humiliation differs from shame in that humiliation is public, whereas shame is private. Humiliation is the suffering of an insult. If the person being humiliated deems the insult as credible, then they will feel shame.

One can insult and humiliate another; but that person will only feel shame if one’s self image is reduced. Such action requires the person who has been humiliated to buy into or agree with the assessment that shame is deserved.

A person who is secure about their own stature is less likely to be vulnerable to feeling shame, whereas the insecure person is more prone to feeling shame because this individual gives more weight to what others think of him than to what he thinks of himself.

In the mind of Sgt. Waters, both individuals CJ the “singin’, clownin’, yassuh –bossin” individual and Moonshine, King of the Monkeys had to die. The humiliation was open and public, and the pain of shame was too much to bear.

It is ironic that in Sgt. Waters’ quest to avoid shame and humiliation, his death was just that, shameful, humiliating and at the hands of those he deemed unworthy.

Upon being caught his killer stated, “I didn’t kill much. Some things need gettin’ rid of. Man like Waters never did nobody no good anyway.”

These words, which may have been spoken 80 years ago, continue to be the sentiment that is being displayed against African Americans today as they continue to be impacted by racism and the resulting psychological trauma.

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Capt. Davenport:
The military hierarchy, under pressure from the African American community and fearful of a possible race riot after the murder of a black soldier where the main suspects are the local Klansmen, sends a black investigator to look into the murder of Sergeant Waters. He is the first “Negro” officer that these men (including whites) have ever seen. He has been given three days to solve the murder. He has no authority and must be accompanied by a white officer when interviewing white witnesses.

Col. Nivens, the white base commander, wants him to quickly complete his assessment and be “in and out” of the military base ASAP. He seeks a quick investigation without finding any conclusions. He states
“The worst thing you can do, in this part of the country, is pay too much attention to the death of a negro under mysterious circumstances.”

In addition to being pressured to tread lightly and not solve the case, he is reminded by Col. Nivens that he is special and different. He is the first of his kind and carrying the responsibility to represent well. Col. Nivens states:
“Remember, you’re the first colored officer most of these men ever seen. The Army expects you to set an example for the colored troops… and be a credit to your race.”

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Analysis –Dr. Kane:
The characterization of Capt. Davenport is a representation of the concept of “The Talented Tenth”. This is a term that was designated a leadership class of African Americans in the early 20th Century.

The term originated in 1886 among Northern white liberals with the goal of establishing black colleges in the South to train black teachers and elites. The term was later publicized by W.E.B. Dubois whose intent was to educate the best minds of the race and disseminate them into the greater black community allowing for the uplifting of the race.

Capt. Davenport’s character is the first Negro officer these people have ever seem. He is viewed as the “top” or ‘crème de la crème” of his race. He is given an impossible task to investigate (quietly) without solving the murder of Sgt. Waters.

He is viewed with suspicion by whites and in awe by blacks. He is given three days to complete the task and is mindful that he must represent both the Army, that enforces segregation and mistreats blacks, and try to deliver justice to the African American community which is waiting hungrily for the results.

The character of Capt. Davenport continues to permeate the psychological self of African Americans today. Following sixty years since the ending of legal segregation, the strategies of the dominant group has also transformed. Although diversity has transformed to add inclusion, equity and social justice, African Americans continue to find themselves impacted by acts of racism and psychological trauma.

Thanks to the scriptwriters in the movie “A Soldier’s Story” and the theatrical production, A Soldier’s Play, both conclude on a “positive note”. The murder is solved, the military hierarchy is happy, and the African American community nationwide can celebrate another small victory.

The African American community is left with a sliver of optimism to hold onto in hopes of a better future.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane:
In this fictional story all ends well. The murder has been solved. No race riots. No more national outcry for civil rights investigations. The peace and calm of segregation and psychological traumatization of black soldiers and civilians can one again go back to normal.

In the film conclusion, the scriptwriters offer a slightly different, more accurate portrayal of black-white interpersonal relationships, a tension that exists to this very day: In an exchange between a white officer and Captain Davenport:

Capt. Taylor: I guess I’ll have to get used to Negroes with bars on their shoulders, Davenport. You know, being in charge.

Capt. Davenport: Oh, you’ll get used to it, Captain. You bet your ass on that. You’ll get used to it.

However, what is clearly left open are the questions about the strength of self-hatred and the pressure of acceptance by others that is truly captured in the scripts and holds true for African Americans today. Specifically, CJ referring to Sgt. Waters: “Any man ain’t sure where he belong, gotta’ be in a whole lotta pain.”

It remains to be real in today’s lives of African Americans who can endure, daily, fourteen subtypes of psychological traumas and eleven forms of racism.

The concept of the “talented tenth” was constructive and necessary when developed, but today, is a concept that is ill-suited and destructive because it demands that the individual sacrifice the psychological self on behalf of the impoverished community. Rather than bolster the community, the concept’s success is dependent upon disempowering the psychological self and creates insecurity and detachment and it weakens generation after generation.

What can be done? What can we do to model for our children and future generations? We can…. Walk the Landscape.

What is the Landscape?
The landscape is life.
One of the essential realities of life is that death is a certainty. What remains uncertain is:
• How we live our lives
• What we experience during our lifetimes
• The memories we leave with the individuals we interact with.

Life at the Crossroads
Waiting at the crossroads are possible experiences, submerged materials such as incidents, situations and conflicts that may surface directly in one’s path. Such materials demand to be addressed.

Interaction Points
These crossroads are interactions points where barriers, challenges, experiences with difficult individuals and opportunities are presented. At the crossroads:
• Choices are presented
• Decisions are made and directions are chosen
• Consequences for choices and decisions are foreseen.
• Wisdom is gained, lessons are learned, and both are utilized for future experiences
• Transformation through Self-Empowerment is achieved

The Journey of Self-Discovery is actualized upon understanding that:
• All decisions have consequences
• The fullness of life is measured not just by one’s success but by failures as well.

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“We cannot think of unity with others until we have first united among ourselves. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have proven acceptable to ourselves.”
– Malcolm X

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“Be willing to walk alone. Many who started with you won’t finish with you.”
– Shaniqua King

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“Truth…it’s about Walking the Landscape and in walking, one simply exposes one’s truth.”
– Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time,
Remaining … in Our Corner

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