In Our Corner: New Pain From Old Wounds

“This too shall pass.”

-Idiom

“Failure is not an option.”

-Gene Kranz, NASA flight director of Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.

“Evil people will surely be punished… children of the godly will go free.”

-Proverbs 11:21-25

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My Dear Readers,

Recently, it was reported that a 15-year old boy, living in a state supervised residential facility for troubled youth was sexually assaulted by four of his fellow residents, with a staff member looking on, and beyond belief, laughing and even shaking hands with one of the attackers. It is also alleged that the following the incident, the victim confronted the adult and was in turn physically assaulted by the adult.

The excitement created by the media coverage is over. The perpetrators of the assault will be punished. Racist and stereotypical beliefs will be reinforced. Both the black minority and white majority communities will remain silent and life will continue in its drudgery as both victim and perpetrators slip quietly into oblivion. That is, until the next time.

Evil people will surely be punished… children of the godly will go free.

In all actuality, they will simply be forgotten.

Yes, we can be assured that legal accountability is be initiated and severe consequences will no doubt be assigned to the perpetrators of these criminal acts. Felony convictions, incarceration within adult institutions, and lifetime registration as sexual offenders, are certainly possible in this situation, and Florida’ s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) stated:

“DJJ does not tolerate this type of behavior rand the contracted staff person involved in the incident has been terminated. Their actions are inexcusable, and it is our expectation that they be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Still, it remains too easy to treat this as an isolated incident. Research shows that 20% of men behind bars have been forced into sex. However, the unreported estimate is 50 to 80%. These statistics are not unknown. Instead it has been the norm to ignore the atrocities that happen within juvenile residential and adult correctional facilities until something shocking as what occurred in this Florida residential facility becomes public.

This Too Shall Pass… No, It Won’t

This is complex trauma, and without therapeutic intervention, these children, both the perpetrators and the victim, will continue to experience repercussions from this incident and the conditions that led to it. These young men will soon become adults, seeking employment, creating intimate relationships, and starting families, and they will bring the memories and unresolved suffering with them, potentially adversely impacting their partners and their children.

Failure is not an option.

Yes… it is. Failure is an option. In many cases, it is an expectation, especially when we, without hesitation, continue to travel the same roads and expect to arrive at a different destination. In essence, we fail by asking the wrong questions:

  • Why did this happen?
  • Why did the system fail?
  • Why would four juveniles rape a fellow human being?
  • Why would an adult stand idly by, laughing and observing the sexual assault?

Why” questions invite answers that circle back on themselves and as a result, they do not lead us to a full understanding of the foundation of the issue. A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead. Specifically,

  • What experiences are rooted within the adult and juveniles’ actions and behaviors?
  • What specific roles or models have the adult and juveniles observed and integrated within their developmental core?
  • What family resources and community systems do these individuals currently have? What family resources and community systems will be available to them as adults when they return from an institutionalized and repressive penal system?

Anger: The Common Thread in Pain

The four assailants and victim are in the midst of adolescent development. One can only imagine the sadness that each of the five juveniles must have felt being removed from their own families and communities and placed together in a residential facility.

Typically, when male children become sad, they act out in anger, not sadness. As explained by the rapper 50 Cent, this is not abnormal:

“Everyone has feelings, but there are some people who have trained themselves over time not to be out crying and doing all kinds of shit. When someone else would cry, we replace those feelings of anxiety and get angry instead.”

There are five reasons young men allow themselves to get angry rather than feel the pain:

  • Lack of understanding of how to deal with feelings; so when all else fails, anger works.
  • The feeling of sadness reinforces the state of weakness, and anger can restore feelings of strength.
  • Anger is a more comfortable emotion for young men than sadness.
  • Sadness is a form of weakness. Anger is more aggressive and masculine and places the individual in a state of feeling “in control.”
  • Anger is strong and feared by others; sadness is weakness and manipulated by others.

What is Complex Trauma?

Complex trauma is a form of psychological stress. It is more than simple PTSD. It usually means that a person has suffered several traumatic events, often beginning in childhood and continues through adulthood.

The repetitive nature of the traumatic events often means that a person’s mental, physical and emotional states are all affected. It is often very difficult to function at work, school or in the community. It impedes and/or hinders involvement in interpersonal relationships.

Complex Trauma is the exposure to adverse experiences such as violence, abuse, neglect and separation from a caregiver repeatedly over time and during critical period of a child or adolescent’s development.

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), also known as complex trauma, is a set of symptoms resulting from prolonged stress of a social and/or interpersonal nature.

In additional to psychological damage, it can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, increases in alcohol abuse, and domestic violence, as well as inflammatory responses and syndromic symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and irritable bowel.

Complex PTSD results from events and experiences that are:

  • Repetitive, prolonged or cumulative
  • Most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploration, and mistreatment, including neglect/abandonment/ abuse by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults;
  • Occur most often at developmental vulnerable times in the victim’s life and in conditions of vulnerability associated with disability, disempowerment, dependency, age and/or infirmity.

Research shows that complex trauma is related to the following factors:

  • Age of onset
  • Type of violence
  • Relationship to the perpetrator
  • Impact on the environment
  • Degree of isolation and
  • Amount of support received following the traumatic experience.

These factors exacerbate the victim’s sense of:

  • Degree of helplessness and powerlessness
  • Stigmatization (not being good enough)
  • Betrayal
  • Sexualization (primarily for childhood sexual abuse cases)

Living With Complex Trauma

Just like any major illness, complex trauma can be intense, painful and scary. It is treatable, but only with the willingness of the impacted individuals to view it as a typical outcome when one is forced to endure traumatic experiences, and not as a character failing or an indicator of weakness.

Individuals who suffer from complex trauma are often vulnerable to emotional and psychological struggles. These individuals are encouraged to seek treatment. The individual must define what a normal life is for themselves, and then pursue that life through processing their trauma in therapy.

Society, however, must be willing to understand what ails those suffering from complex trauma, acknowledge the pain, and work to end the suffering. In doing so, the traumatized will be empowered to balance the weight of their past experiences with their current realities and truly live the lives they seek.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.” -Author unknown

My Dear Brothers,

I write for the general readership, but in my In Our Corner blogs, I want to direct my concluding remarks specifically to black men as we walk the journey of self-discovery.

The residential home in which these juveniles lived was one without love, where traumatic memories are now a permanent etching on the psychological self. It is now a place where those who lived together inflicted violence and terror on one another.

We may never know what male role models these juveniles had prior to coming to the residential facility. However, we do know what male role modeling they had while living within the residential facility. They were under the supervision of an adult who was no different from themselves.

Rather than provide guidance, mentoring, supervision and most important protection, this individual chose to add to their suffering by allowing, encouraging and ultimately reinforcing an environment that created a permanent wound on the psychological self on five youths. These wounds will never be forgotten and will be carried for the duration of their lives.

The actions and behaviors of one black adult male do not speak for the actions and behaviors of black men as group. To hold all black men accountable for the sordid actions of these individuals would play directly into the misguided and misinformed trappings of racism, stereotyping and prejudices.

However, as black men, we must want assume the collective responsibility of questioning the environment that would lead to this adult participating in the psychological wounding of those juveniles who were placed in his care.

Without having any information regarding the background or history of this adult, the indifference in his actions suggests that he too may have suffered from complex trauma in the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence. If so, what we see here are the consequences of what occurs when psychological wounding and pain goes untreated.

What would be a positive outcome in assuming collective responsibility? Well, we can be honest in our self-reflection that many of us have endured complex trauma and could benefit from the process of healing the psychological wound.

Psychological wounding and pain seek, no…demand relief. Relief will be achieved via self-medication with drugs, sex or violence. Or, relief can be achieved through psychotherapy, positive role modeling etc. You must choose. One way, or another, human beings will find relief.

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Complex trauma does not go away by

Simply pushing it to the back of your mind.

It is a thief that lurks around until finds an open door. It flashes. If screams as it leaps into my soul.

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

Enough is never enough.

It steals and steals and steals.

It plucks and sucks the life, slowly from me.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time, Remaining…In Our Corner.

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In Our Corner: Living The Dream, or Existing In The Illusion?

“Flattery will get you nowhere.  Flattery does not work.”  -Idiom

“One thing is certain in life… we will all die one day.  Thus, the focus must be on those we touch, how we live, and what we experience.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

“There is no growth without discomfort.  Being honest can be uncomfortable. It is freedom that comes from being honest.”

-Delbert Richardson, Ethno-Museologist,                                                                           American History Traveling Museum, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

In the last blog, I asked for “white people of good conscience to work within their communities as we black folk continue to work within our own.”

As I expected, I received strong responses from readers,  one in particular that was strongly critical of my direct focus on men’s issues within the African-American community at the expense of a focus on black women, or reflection about the role that I play regarding sexism within my community.

This writer, an outspoken black woman, has a good point.  She points out that having traditionally focused on white privilege and its impact on the African-American community while ignoring privilege within the community, key members continue to suffer in silence.

The writer is correct when she refers to misogynistic behavior within the African American community. It is hypocritical for a community to be united in its commitment against racism, but then remain silent regarding male privilege and misogynistic behavior.

Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women and girls.  It can appear in numerous ways, including social exclusion, hostility, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women and sexual objectification.

What lies at the root of misogyny is the conscious or unconscious habit of placing a masculine point of view at the center of one’s worldview, thereby systematically marginalizing the feminine point of view.

Without question, rampant misogyny is an issue within the African-American community, and yet it is not one that we are willing to engage with.  We speak in one voice to the role of the black woman in the family, the church and community, but we encourage silence instead of dialog when we deny actions that denigrate the women in our community.  We say we want to hear what women in our community have to say, but when the words are not flattering, the woman speaking becomes a “man-hater” and “usurper of the black man’s role in the community.”

In the blog “Showing Up As Real MEN and Leaving As Little Boys,” I shared one woman’s regarding her interactions with black men and got the following response from a reader:

“[I was]Using a Black woman (?) to spew vitriol and hatefulness, giving her a sanctimonious platform to castigate Black males. She sounded as though she had multiple issues needing immediate attention.”

The reader may have been correct that the woman had “issues” needing “immediate attention.” In my therapeutic work I have listened to numerous black women express similar feelings, sharing the impact of psychological wounds received from sexism and misogyny within our community.

In this case, however, the reader is not genuinely concerned about the woman’s health; this is an attempt to derail the conversation and distract from the role that black men can play and have played in creating these “multiple issues needing attention.”   The women who exposed their feelings may be utilizing this platform posting as a means of empowerment— something that I strongly support and encourage them to continue to do.

And, I strongly encourage black men to not just hear what is being said…  but to listen.

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Dear Visible Man,

I am writing to share my concerns regarding the sexism and misogyny that is occurring within the African-American community. I have two real examples: my lazy-ass brother and my dependent, can’t-seem-to-take-care-of-himself-uncle.

You write often about white privilege and I acknowledge and agree with you that white privilege is a major concern for black people.  However, you clearly choose to remain silent about black male privilege that is also a daily reality in the black community.

It burns me up to watch these two worthless fools come over for Sunday dinner and be waited on hand and foot by my mother and grandmother.   When I complain, these misfits shut me down, calling me a hater.

Both are living in their dreams.  My brother spends his time smoking weed and still trying to play pro basketball, which he aged out of long ago.  His backup plan is to be a rapper. Imagine how likely that is.

My uncle, on the other hand, not only drinks and smokes weed, but he spends his social security money on the lottery, hoping for that one big win.  I have a son and I don’t want my son to hang around them and pick up their shameful behaviors.

I am sick of enduring this bullshit at home and then having to deal with sexism and the racist bullshit that occurs within my workplace.

So, Dr. Kane, instead of talking about white privilege, maybe you should trying focusing on saving these privileged black men who are living off the sweat of others in their own community.

-Pissed Off Sister Who Has Seen Enough, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Woman,

I want to thank you for your remarks.  Your words are direct and speak to your experiences as a woman and mother within the African-American community. I acknowledge that for empowerment and growth to occur within our community, there must be voices raised, avenues provided, and foundations developed so that we encourage meaningful dialogue as we seek to engage on this topic.

There are some things that you described that I want to directly respond to:

  • The behaviors of your uncle and brother
  • The concern regarding your son mimicking or modeling his male relatives’ behavior

First things first: my goal in this work is not to “save” anyone, and I apologize if anything I have written implies that.  As a clinical traumatologist, I serve as a companion and guide walking with those who are seeking the journey of “self-discovery.”   Rather than to save, my role is to assist those who want to empower themselves.

I agree that a sense of privilege is deeply implanted within the African-American community.  However, the actions and behaviors of your male relative you have identified are not examples of that privilege.  Those are  the actions and behaviors of people who are existing and surviving.

The difference is this: within the Journey of Self Discovery, there are The Five Levels: existing, surviving, driving, striving and thriving.

  • Existing-The journey is bleak and lifeless for the individual. Life is barely lived, let alone enjoyed or even experienced.  Nothing is produced or gained by the individual at this level.
  • Surviving-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.  There is little gain, but not that much for the individual at this level.
  • Driving-At this level, the search for empowerment begins. The individual wanders, seeking direction, and in doing so, learns balance and reinforces the psychological self.  At this level the individual learns the importance of empowerment.
  • Striving– At this level, the individual has a solid hold on their life and is fully experiencing their psychological self. The individual lives with their fears, and is successfully implementing empowerment strategies in their lives.
  • Thriving- The individual has attained full realization of the psychological self and completed the Journey of Self Discovery. The individual has mastered their self-empowerment strategies, and can use this knowledge to support others and as a foundation for future journeys.

It appears that your uncle is simply existing, where your brother is surviving.  I understand your frustration and concern for the welfare of your male relatives, but these are your frustrations and concerns, not theirs.

Your uncle and brother are not living their dreams at all.  Dreams are workable hopes and desires that can be made true.  Instead, your brother and uncle are just two of the many African-American men who are, by their inaction and destructive behavior, “living in their own illusions.” Furthermore, their behavior may be a way of medicating psychological wounds through the utilization of alcohol and drugs.

This isn’t to say that you should just accept their behavior, especially when it is truly unacceptable and impacts your household.  And yes, in recent history, black women have been taught to give men benefits of the doubt that many do not deserve.  However, this appears, from my experience, to be something quite different.

The questions to be placed before your uncle and brother are the following:

  • What do you want for the psychological self?
  • What are you willing to do in order to achieve what you want?
  • What is your motivation? What are your ultimate goals before you close your eyes forever?

I would recommend that you allow your uncle and brother to serve as role models for your developing son.  The definition of a role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by young people.

However, role models can also examples of failures to be observed, learned from and not to be emulated by young people.

  • Interact with males who behaviors you want your son to model. Consider conducting comparison and contrast situations with male relatives (or non-relatives) whose behavior you deem appropriate for your son.
  • Consider the psychological and emotional damage you can inflict on your son by shielding him from this and not being there to help him understand the difference between “dreams” and “illusions.”
  • Create a space where your son can be open and vulnerable with you so that he can openly discuss feelings associated with his observations.

One of the most important responsibilities of a parent is to prepare the child for their entry into the adult world.  Under your close guidance, there are lessons and experiences that your son and others can gain, and in doing so, add to their developing foundation and psychological self.

As for your uncle and brother, it is never too late to learn new skills or transform their behavior.  However, to do so is based on their desire to do so, and not your concerns or your needs.  Staying within an illusion is a choice; one you may not agree to and yet one you must want to respect.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” 

-Edwin Louis Cole

 

My Dear Brothers,

I have no flattering remarks for you.

I write for the general readership, but in my In Our Corner blogs, I want to direct my concluding remarks specifically to black men as we walk the journey of self-discovery.

Regardless of our social status, education and achievements, black males for the majority are not valued by white society.  However, this is neither an excuse nor an explanation for the psychological wounds we inflict on the members of our own community, specifically black women.

There will be those among us who, due to their own psychological wounds and lack of self-concept, will be unable to look within themselves, and would rather focus on questioning my personal motives. This is expected, but not productive.

Transformation can only begin with embracing acceptance and letting go of denial. There are those who are not ready to transform themselves, so their journey of self-discovery will not be complete until they accept themselves, the roles they have played, the mistakes they have made, and the impact those things have had on others.  For some, that journey is a short one.  For others, it never began.

If you are angry after reading this, I invite you to be with that anger.  Feel it out and inquire of yourself why you feel that way. Accept that anger as a natural part of you but get curious about what you have experienced that has triggered that in you.  Transformation and self-discovery can only occur by exploring the depth of your feelings and finding the root cause of it, instead of mindlessly finding a way to just dull the symptoms of it. Be willing to walk the journey of self-discovery with yourself, warts and all.

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Searching for meaning is like drawing

Etching for life.

Asking for direction can bring

Breath for tomorrow

Risk taking has its challenges

Earning another opportunity to

Endure which bring wisdom.

Zest is what it’s about

Experience the Journey of Self-Discovery

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

Until the next time,

RemainingIn Our Corner.

At The Crossroads: White Privilege And The New Normal

“People can be slave ships in shoes.”

-Zora Neale Hurston, Author

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

-George Santayana (1863) philosopher/novelist

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

-Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet

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My Dear Readers,

In Northern Ireland in the late 20th century, an ethno-nationalist and religious conflict that developed into a low-level war between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland became commonly known as “The Troubles.”

In America, we are waging a low-level war against children of color seeking protection from debilitating gang violence in Central America. Since early May of this year, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the southern border into the U.S. seeking asylum, as part of a policy from the Trump administration that has generated a public outcry. In all, over 10,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are being held in detention facilities across the United States. Currently, the US Department of Defense is planning to house 20,000 children on military bases across the country.

My heart is heavy. This is who we have become. “The Troubles“ of the British are now our own.

The Cries of Children

The world is watching as our country continues to spiral into state sanctioned child abuse and cruelty to children, and this was not an accident. This was part of a new immigration strategy by the Trump administration that was designed to deter further illegal immigration, but this approach has prompted widespread outcry.

No racial group understands the impact of complex trauma in children and the separation of families more than African-Americans. African-American families continue to feel the impact of historical and inter-generational traumas associated with slavery, segregation, the Jim Crow era, and the horrors of lynching men, women and children.

Even today, complex trauma continues to be endured in silence by those who as children, individually integrated white schools following the US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.   Since then, legislation has been passed and judicial battles have been won, but these children and subsequent generations continue to be psychologically impacted and their social mobility blocked.

How are the words “Land of the Free” defined? Immigrants coming to this country understand that in the United States of America we claim to be the land of the free because men are free to do whatever they wish. However what is really meant is that white men are free, not others.

Although segregation has formally ended as a means of control, it has been replaced by the subtler white privilege.

What is white privilege? 

White privilege is a societal benefit that favors people whom society identifies as white. White privilege confers passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which makes it different from and harder to address than overt bias or prejudice.

How does privilege differ from segregation? 

White privilege is voluntary and reinforced by societal norms and beliefs, where in comparison, segregation was reinforced by local and state laws. Once a person becomes aware of their own white privilege, they have the opportunity to change how it shows up in their lives and their interactions with others.

How does the utilization of privilege benefit the individual?

White privilege includes cultural affirmations by the greater society of one’s individual worth at the expense of other cultures, presumed greater social status, and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely without intimidation. There is no tangible benefit; only an ease of going about their lives that people without privilege do not experience.

How are non-whites harmed by the denial of privilege or the utilization of privilege?

The negative psychological and emotional effects of white privilege on people of color can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts. Because white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, the experiences of others who do not operate in the same way can result in marking those people as “other,” “different,” or “less than” while perceiving oneself as “normal” or “superior.”

White Privilege: The New Normal

It is unlikely that white people of good conscience would disagree that slavery, the Jim Crow/segregation era, and lynching were evil. Yet, these evil acts repeatedly occurred because white people of good conscience chose not to intervene and remained silent instead.

Today, the new normal of white privilege is an outcome not only of the lack of action and silence, but also the “power of choice” in which white people of good conscience will focus their attention (i.e. moral outrage, political organization and financial resources) elsewhere. Without the sunlight of attention, micro- and macro-aggressions that did not receive attention before will continue to emotionally drain and psychologically impact communities of color across the country.

This may be the “new normal,” but it serves only to pit communities of color against each other in times of desperation and trauma to compete for the attention of those white people of good conscience.  Broad media coverage is given to Hispanic infants and children being separated from their parents at the border while limited media coverage is given to the East Pittsburgh police shooting death of a unarmed African-American adolescent. Meanwhile, media coverage and empathy has all but evaporated in North Dakota where Native and Aboriginal people continue to fight for their land and water rights.

In white privilege’s New Normal, communities of color fear the loss of hope, abandonment and the return to suffering in silence.

Using the Power of Choice

White privilege is not a derogatory term or an epithet. It’s simply a term for the things that white people don’t have to worry about as they go through life that people of color, particularly black people, do, because of the racial prejudices that are common in our society.

White people of good conscience have consistently bombarded communities of color with questions that have the following common thread:

  • What can we do to resolve the problems of injustice, inequality and racism?
  • How can we help?
  • How can we work together?

Despite their good intentions, communities of color continue to be psychologically impacted by problems of injustice, inequality and racism. So, the question remains… what can white people of good conscience do?

  • They can take a stand within their own communities.
  • They can STOP seeking out communities of color for answers. You already have the answers. Do something!
  • They can utilize and apply the clinical concept of RACE (responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment) in working within their respective communities.

Responsibility:  End your silence.  Injustice, inequality, and racism all thrive because the unaffected majority places their interests above all others. This inaction reinforces the foundations of inequality and racism. Simply put: when you see injustice, inequality, and racism, speak out. I am responsible.  I will respond.

Accountability:  Understand that you are accountable. Accept that having privilege means that you gain when someone else suffers. Accept the personal accountability that comes along with those gains. I will be accountable.

Consequences: Understand the impact of your action and inaction. Be willing to balance your intent with the outcome of a particular act.  I accept the consequences of my action or inaction.

Empowerment: Transform your community. Acknowledge that you possess the tools and resources to transform your community. Stop wanting more and then settling for less. I will work towards transforming my community.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

A white ally who I consider to be a brother recently half-jokingly and half seriously remarked in one of his pieces:

“I am starting to grow bored with the “Ally” role. I want to explore the possibility of becoming something of a Co-Conspirator.” 

Those holding the privilege can best help end inequality, injustice, and racism by working within their communities as we continue to work within ours. Otherwise, the words amount to little more than intellectualizing the suffering of others.

I also want to assume my own responsibility by balancing my intent with the outcome of my actions. I have often been criticized for generalizing my language. I have been informed that in saying “all white people do ____,” the outcome is that some white people will feel uncomfortable. They would prefer that I use language such as “some” or perhaps, “more than not,” instead.

I can understand the discomfort with the generalization. This is a great opportunity to see where white privilege becomes an issue. These white people are asking to be viewed as individuals, and not as a group– but that is the heart of white privilege. As a black man, I do not have the ability to be viewed as an individual. Everything that I say and do are seen as representations of my entire race and culture. Because white people have always had the privilege of being judged by their individual merits, they miss that privilege when it is no longer extended to them, and feel that it is their right to be seen that way. The key here is for white people to demolish that status as “privileged” by fighting to see that all people are able to be judged on their individual merits and not based on generalizations based on what race they appear to be.

In using the term “white people of good conscience,” I seek to address two concerns:

  • I am asking white people to take the opportunity to look within themselves, holding themselves accountable by asking themselves: am I engaging in micro- or macro- aggressive behavior?
  • I am fearful that only speaking of “some” white people will result in no white people examining themselves and their own behavior, because they will count themselves as not part of the “some.” White privilege benefits all white people. Therefore, all white people must be aware of the role it plays in their lives.

As I seek to understand the differences, I reflect upon the following quote:

“Don’t try to understand them; and don’t try to make them understand you.  For they are a breed apart and make no sense.”

-Chingachgook, Chief of the Mohican People

Last of The Mohicans, (1992)

The history of silence from well-meaning white people in the face of atrocity and trauma has left the African-American community with a lot of anger. There are many who feel that the white people of good conscience abandoned the civil rights movement after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, choosing to believe that their work of civil rights for the black community had been done.

Michael Harriot, writing for The Root, states that these well-meaning white people, due to their silence, are cowards. He utilizes strong quotes such as this one by Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

What has been the reaction of reaction from whites of good conscience? More silence. The words of Chingachgook ring loud and true. Yes, they are a breed apart and make no sense. However, we all live on the same planet. We breathe the same air. Therefore, we share the:

  • Responsibility- to create understanding among each other.
  • Accountability- to hold each other accountable to what we say and do.
  • Consequences- to understand the impact of our actions and inaction.
  • Empowerment- to work together to transform our respective communities

I choose to believe that white people of good conscience default to the same behavior or inaction as people residing in communities of color for the same reasons… they are living in fear. Both communities live in fear of each other. The fear is based on stereotypes, biases, guilt, shame, denial and a host of many more reasons not mentioned.

The question in our respective communities is this: what do we do with our fear? The answer is that fear is simply a feeling. Because it is your fear, then:

  • Take ownership of your fear.
  • Embrace your fear.
  • Be willing to take action, walking with your fear.

The land of the free is in danger and put at risk by those who now lead our country. We stand at the crossroads. WE and not them must choose the direction.

Safe journeys…

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“Choose your leaders with wisdom and foresight.  To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.  To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.

To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.

To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

-Octavia Butler

Until the next crossroads…  The journey continues…

In Our Corner: The Silence of Black Suicide

Do you ever wonder
That to win, somebody’s got to lose
I might as well get over the blues
Just like fishing in the ocean
There’ll always be someone new
You did me wrong ’cause I’ve been through stormy weather                                                      And the beat goes on.

-“And The Beat Goes On,” The Whispers, R&B Vocal Group

“Very few suicidal people want to die; they just don’t want to live the way they’re living.”

-Althea Hankins, MD, FACP, Director, Germantown Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA

“Every year, without any treatment at all, thousands stop suffering from depression.  Because it kills them.”

-Dr. Paul Greencard, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Medicine

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My Dear Readers,

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

In the past week, the world was shocked to hear of the suicides of two celebrities: fashion designer Kate Spade and food critic/chef Anthony Bourdain.  Following the deaths of Spade and Bourdain, the Washington Post reported that suicide is being viewed not only as a mental health problem, but also as a public health problem.  Specifically:

  • Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in the United States in 2016 –more than twice the number of homicides
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 34
  • In half the states, suicide among people ages 10 and older increased more than 30%.

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the US Center for Disease Control observes:

“The data is disturbing.  The widespread nature of the increase, in every state but one, really suggests that this is a national problem hitting most communities.”

Professional health care organizations are frustrated by the lack of action by governmental agencies.  Nadine Kaslow, a past president of the American Psychological Association, states:

“At what point does it become a crisis?  Suicide is a public health care crisis when you look at the numbers, and they keep going up.  It’s up everywhere.  And we know that the rates are actually higher that what’s reported.”

So, what is the impact of suicide in black communities across the country?  The American Association of Suicidology reports the following:

  • African-American women are more likely than African-American men to attempt suicide.
  • Firearms are the predominant method of suicide, followed by suffocation.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for blacks of all ages and the third leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 24.
  • The number of suicides for black boys ages 5-11 have doubled in the last 20 years.
  • Hanging deaths among black boys have nearly tripled while suicide among white youth has declined in the same category.

The research shows that black males and females have similar suicidal behavior to whites including:

  • Serious thoughts of suicide
  • Making suicide plans
  • Attempting suicide and
  • Needing medical attention for attempted suicide

In essences, if a tree falls in a forest, who hears it depends on which community it has fallen in.

In white communities, two well-known individuals committed suicide quietly and alone—yet, the world erupts in shock and devastation.  There are fears that copycat suicides will follow, like the 2,000 deaths in the four months following Robin Williams’ 2014 suicide.

It is not the case in the forest of the black community.  Eight black men per day commit suicide across the U.S., and all we hear is the weeping of family members and the deafening silence from the media.

Recently in Spokane, WA, a young black man, a loving father and beloved son, legally brought a firearm, went into the bathroom of his home, and shot himself to death.

Like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, this young man was alone when he took his life.  He too leaves behind grieving family and friends.  The difference is that unlike the focus on suicide prevention following the deaths of Spade and Bourdain, the silence continues in the black community… and life goes on.

Are black people disinterested in the welfare of their loved ones? If they do care, why do they respond like this?

In past writings, I have suggested that “why” questions invite answers that circle back on themselves and as a result, they do not lead us to a full understanding of the foundation of the issue.

A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead.  Specifically,

  • What has been the view of mental health and suicide in the black community?
  • What creates distance between black and white communities when it comes to working together on the issues of mental health and suicide?

What has been the view of mental health and suicide in the black community?

Stoicism- the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.

Historically and inter-generationally, African-Americans have created specific internalized methods such as “grin and bear it” and “quietly handling one’s business” to protect themselves during times of suffering. However, such methods create hurtful roles that African-Americans are expected to live up to, such as “the strong black woman,” and expecting men to “man up,” by not expressing emotion.

These methods serve only to reinforce the perception that mental health and suicide are “white people issues”.  It creates pressure to maintain “face and image” within the community, even as they suffer in silence.  Needless to say, these methods are psychologically destructive.

What separates the black community from the white community on the issues of mental health and suicide?

 “The truth is that I can’t go anywhere.  And let’s get real: With the whites in the white coats and it’s mostly us getting sent to the loony bin, I don’t have much of a choice.”

-Anonymous

Racism. Most African-Americans believe that racism and stereotypical beliefs held about African Americans prevents the establishment of trusting relationships with white healthcare professionals and the white community.

A recent study on racial empathy gaps found that people, including medical personnel, assumed that black people feel less pain than white people. The researchers concluded that people assume that “blacks feel less pain because they faced more hardships relative to whites.”

The lack of black professionals in the mental health field exacerbates the lack of trust.  Although African-Americans are 12% of the population, in the mental healthcare nationwide, they are only:

  • 2% of the psychiatrists,
  • 2% of psychologists, and
  • 4% of social workers.

The dearth of black healthcare professionals reinforces the misbelief that mental health and suicide are “white people issues.”

What Can Be Done Regarding Mental Health in The Black Community?

“Not everything that is faced can be changed.  But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

-James Baldwin, Author

Normalize Suicidal Ideation

There are times in life when we feel hopeless, helpless and overwhelmed with emotional pain.  Suicidal thoughts can result when a person experiences too much pain without having enough resources to cope.  The emotional pain never seems to stop, and it seems impossible to resolve when all other ideas and possible solutions to alleviate it have been exhausted.

For others, suicide may be a way of punishing others, or letting them know how much pain you are in.  However, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Given time and work, more and clearer options and alternatives can arise.

Those Thoughts Can and Will Pass

Depression, the basis of these suicidal thoughts, often feels permanent, even though the suicidal thoughts are temporary.  Depression can and does come and go.

Suicidal thoughts are a temporary crisis and are your psychological self’s attempt to stop emotional pain.

 Helping Those with Suicidal Thoughts

  • Ask the person if they are thinking about killing themselves. Ask directly, even though the question may seem awkward.
  • Let the person know that you are concerned about them and the situation they are in.
  • Find out if they have a specific plan, and if so, how far the person has gone to carry out the plan.
  • Let the person know the importance of getting help, and that treatment can really help make a difference.
  • Get the person professional help immediately. Contact a suicide prevention hotline, hospital emergency room, local crisis center or dial 911 for assistance.
  • Make an agreement with the person that they will not commit suicide.
  • Check in with the person to find out how they are doing.
  • Encourage the person to seek follow-up care.
  • Keep in mind that a quick recovery from suicidal thoughts and feelings may be the person’s attempt to deny, consciously, or unconsciously, the intensity of the depression.
  • Understand that suicidal thoughts and feelings may return.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t assume that the situation will take care of itself.
  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy.
  • Don’t act shocked or surprised at what the person may say about their thoughts and feelings.
  • Don’t challenge, dare, or use verbal shock statements.
  • Don’t argue or debate moral issues.
  • Don’t offer alcohol or drugs to cheer up the person

REMEMBER:

You are not responsible for the actions of others.  You can encourage a friend or loved one to get professional help, but you cannot stop someone who is intent on committing suicide. 

——————————————–

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

In my academic scholarship, forensic and clinical practices, I have found that African-Americans react and respond to 13 different types of traumas and 10 forms of racism daily. It is not surprising that suicidal thoughts arise in people who consistently withstand the intense psychological pressure from this constantly hostile external environment, and that anyone under such pressure may consider suicide to escape or relieve themselves of such intense emotional or psychological pain.

Suicidal thoughts, attempts and completion are not evidence of one’s weakness.  These are the reactions and responses to pressure that has brought the individual to the brink of termination.

We must seek to end the silence of mental health and the denial of suicide in the African-American community. In doing so, we embrace and normalize our pain so that we are no longer isolated and exposed to the pressure that our environment visits upon us.

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

“When truth is replaced by silence, the silence becomes a lie.”

-Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Russian Poet

“Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 Until the next time.  Remaining…In Our Corner.

 

We Live In Interesting Times: White Fear and Black Skin

“It is extremely unsafe to send our boys to the home of any family that we don’t know in this predominantly white neighborhood.”

-Sean Carter, writing in a viral Facebook post about why he refused to allow his adolescent sons to re-deliver a package that was erroneously delivered to his home

“You’ve got to live your life, but when you are living your life, you’re cognizant of the fact that things you do that other people might do, non-people of color might do, could end up differently.  At the end of the day, when I take the suit off, I’m still a black man underneath.  And it’s a daily reality.”

-Darren Martin, former Obama aide, accused of being armed and burglarizing the apartment he just moved into

“They called it, they called it right.  We’re doing our job.  If you done nothing wrong, you’re good to go.”

-Anonymous Police Officer

“I had become a nobody, a thing without meaning or purpose.  I am invisible.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

—————————————–

My Dear Readers,

There is a Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times.”  Although it is generally taken positively, it is actually a curse, not a proverb.  Correctly translated, it means:

 “May you experience much disorder and trouble in your life.”

This “curse” is analogous to the depth of psychological trauma that marginalized people have endured.  In recent blog postings, I have focused on conceptualizing the psychological impact of micro-aggressions upon black and African people from white and European people in America.

A micro-aggression is a statement, action, or incident regarded as an indirect, subtle, or unintentional discriminatory act against members of a racial or ethnic minority group. Micro-aggressions are everyday verbal, non-verbal, and environmental slights, snubs or insults that communicate negative or hostile messages to marginalized people.

A macro-aggression is open aggression towards racial and ethnic minorities on a larger scale.  Unlike micro-aggression, which is covert, macro-aggression is overt physical violence towards those of a different, race or culture.

This week, our focus will be on bringing into understanding macro-aggressions and in doing so, expanding our definition of “A Starbucks Moment,” named after the April 2018 incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks store where a white manager contacted police to have two black men removed from the premises.  No charges were filed, and the two men were eventually released, but the incident was still publicly humiliating and psychologically traumatic for the two individuals involved.  It has also struck fear within the psychological self of black men for themselves and the black community in general.

Starbucks Moments occur in many aspects of commercial, professional, societal and community aspects of American life.  These incidents demonstrate the powerlessness of the black community as a group, and clearly outlines the danger to black people of any white person’s sudden fear, desire, or whim to seek the removal of a black person from public premises.  These incidents are more of a statement about how black people are viewed by white people in this country.

There are some historical and inter-generational themes deriving from slavery, segregation and domestic terrorism that echo in the interactions between both groups.  These themes involve:

  • Power versus the lack of power
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship
  • Dominance versus non-dominance
  • Privilege versus lacking privilege
  • View & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement

These underlying themes illustrate the difference between a micro-aggression and a Starbucks Moment, which is a macro-aggression.

The willingness of white people to utilize the police to relieve their discomfort around black people becomes a covert way of gentrifying and removal of black bodies from spaces in which they would otherwise be welcome. It truly is aggression on a larger scale—a macro-aggression. It is the willingness of whites to utilize physical and possibly deadly force to effect the removal of the black person from the vicinity.

This is intensified by the willingness of white individuals to allege that the black person is engaged in criminal activity or may be armed and dangerous when it is not true.   In doing so, the responding police officers arrive on the scene prepared and expecting to use physical violence or deadly force to effect the removal.

Consider the following questions:

  • What would possess a white person to see a black person and from that observation have an emotional reaction? Answer: SHOCK
  • What would cause a white individual to seek out protection from the police? Answer: FEAR
  • What would cause a white person to be deceitful and manipulate the police to believe that the black man is armed and dangerous? Answer: TERROR

The immediate reaction of shock, fear and terror is an indication that the white person is also psychologically impacted when faced with their own internalized perceptions. This happened to myself and a patient of mine recently in my office building.

As my patient and I were walking down the hallway, passing the restrooms, a young white female child comes running out the restroom, promptly followed by her father.  The father sees us, two black men, in the hallway, is startled, and moves protectively towards his daughter. He cautiously leaves the area.  In his body language, I observe the following:

  • Shock– There is two black men in this professional building. They clearly do not belong here.
  • Fear-There is two of them and only one of me.
  • Terror-They are going to rape and kill my daughter.

My patient and I nodded to each other.  We were both keenly aware of and psychologically impacted by the father’s reaction.  Through no fault of our own, we were subjected to the unwitting assumptions and fears of the white man in the hallway, and as a result, we were all at risk of that Starbucks Moment—the police being called on us for simply being the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Interestingly, the only person not impacted psychologically was the little girl herself, who went prancing along, singing in the hallway, oblivious to the emotional turmoil of the adults around her.  However, it is only a matter of time before she will learn the fear that overtook her father in that moment, and she will choose how she will react in her adult life.

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Concluding Words Dr. Kane

I am continuing to evolve the Starbucks Moment as a concept.  In its current incarnation:

A Starbucks Moment can occur when a white person, due to emotional reactions possibly due to shock, fear, terror, feeling threatened, may use deceit or manipulation; for a minor reason or infraction, utilizes the police to seek the investigation, removal and/or arrest of a black person from a space that they would otherwise have every right to occupy.

 One of my patients recently shared her experience and humiliation as four police officers questioned her in a grocery store parking lot near her home in a predominantly white community.   An unknown accuser observed her and contacted the police.

White fear of black skins is an inherently dangerous form of racism.  Just as it combines micro-aggressions   (statements, actions, or incidents) with macro-aggressions (threat of physical violence), it also combines modern racism (beliefs and attitudes) with aversive racism (engaging in crazy-making interactions with African-Americans).

Recent examples of crazy-making incidents include a white woman calling the police on a black family for BBQing on Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA , or a Black Canadian was stopped and questioned by the police as he was sitting in his car, reading.  A white woman had called in stating he had been acting “suspiciously.”

There is the reality that the majority of black people are psychologically impacted by these events in the following ways:

  1. Those who have been psychologically impacted by racially profiled resulting in police contact;
  2. Those waiting with uncertainty and without notice to be racially profiled and psychologically impacted
  3. Those preparing themselves for the next opportunity of racial profiling by a white accuser resulting in unwanted contact with law enforcement.

When a black individual is impacted by white fear, what can they do to prevent the ongoing actions resulting in being questioned by the police?

“Life is a series of choices…. none of which are new. The oldest is choosing to be a victim or choosing not to.”

-The Accountant (2016)

To provide a clear and adequate answer it is important to understand how Starbucks Moments differ from other forms of macro-aggressions. This question can be answered in several parts:

  • Understanding and contextualizing the difference between fear and white fear.
  • Focusing on ownership and responsibility rather than blame and fault regarding one’s emotions
  • The willingness of the person being psychologically impacted to be proactive rather than reactive

 

Fear is an emotion. White fear is a response.

Fear is an emotion to be normalized, not rejected.  It is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  White fear of black skin is abnormal as it is an unreasonable fear based upon racist beliefs, stereotypes and personally derived perceptions.

 

Conceptualizing ownership and responsibility of one’s emotion versus than blame and fault.

White fear is a reaction without ownership. Although the person denies being racist, such feelings are deeply ingrained and because of its covert and hidden nature, the blame and fault is placed on the victim’s blackness.  If that black person had only not been in the identified place or not given the white person the perception that they were acting suspiciously, calling the police would not have been necessary. The problem with this is that no black person can control the perception of a white person who believes they are in the wrong place.

 Willingness of the person being psychologically impacted to be proactive rather than reactive. 

“They (the police) can’t be here for us.”

-Rashon Nelson & Donte Robinson, prior to their arrest at a Philadelphia Starbucks

 White fear of black skin is a powerful mechanism. Black people who find themselves impacted by these situations must want to acknowledge that they do not have the power to prevent the modern/aversive racist from calling upon law enforcement for community policing, but they are able to focus on what to do when the police arrive.

Combining the techniques of ABC (advocacy, balance and calmness) and the Five R’s of RELIEF (respite, reaction, reflection, response and reevaluation) can help in these situations. Specifically:

  • Respite-become your own advocate. Step away from the event psychologically. Inhale and exhale deeply.
  • Reactions-Take ownership of your reactions. Release your personal space to the responding police officers. Prepare yourself psychologically to be questioned, physically searched and the possibility of being detained and arrested.
  • Reflection-Bring balance to what you are thinking and feeling. Bring calmness to your internal environment.
  • Response-Maintain calmness in speech and tone. Be present, observant, and silent when appropriate.
  • Re-evaluate– Collect your thoughts, feelings and observations. Record and remember as much as you can so you can recount the incident, step by step.

I have been asked how black people fight white fear.  The answer is that it is not our fight.  We must want to empower ourselves to respond to white fear.  In that empowered response, we learn to embrace those who fear us.  Hopefully one day, white people will be able to accept instead of continuing to deny their racism.  In doing so they can begin the movement towards truly transforming America into the great diverse nation it was intended to be.

“Here is what it is.  They don’t like you.  They don’t dislike you.  They are afraid of you.  You’re different.   Sooner or later difference scares people.”

-The Accountant (2016)

“Respond; don’t react.  Reactions tend to be emotional, immediate, intense and often fueled by fear or anger.  Reactions create trouble for ourselves and the people around us because they are reflexive, rather than well thought out.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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

The Visible Man: The Toll of Invisibility

“During the second conversation, we asked members to leave per our policy noted on the scorecard, voices were raised, and the police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”

-Jordan Chronister, Co-Owner, of Grand View Golf Course, York County, PA

“I felt we were discriminated against. It was a horrific experience.”

Myneca Ojo, golfer speaking to the York Daily Record

“We did not do anything wrong and were soon asked to leave by five police officers”

-Tshyrad Oates, removed from a LA Fitness location in New Jersey

“The front-desk employee was confused and thought the member was a guest because she was not working when this member checked in the first time. Regretfully, from there our staff unnecessarily escalated the situation and called the police rather than work through it.”

-Jil Greuling, Executive Vice President of Operations for Fitness International

———————————-

My Dear Readers,

It is essential to understand that racism comes from a set of core values and beliefs that one group holds against another group. In the last blog, I explored the broad categories of attitudinal and behavioral racism. I also spoke openly about the impact of trauma created by forms of modern and aversive racism and discussed the concepts of primary and secondary group status.

In theory, all citizens of the United States are equal. However, the lived reality of people of color, particularly African-Americans, is different. Overtly racist practices and systems that supported white supremacy—the theory that whites or Euro-Americans are superior simply because of their skin color have become unpopular, but covert and passive-aggressive forms of bigotry have come to the forefront of society in new ways recently.

The example in the last blog of the two black men in the Starbucks waiting for their friend is a perfect example of this new covert style of micro-aggression that can have severe psychological impacts in the lives of African-American people. I call this having a Starbucks Moment.

A Starbucks Moment is when a white person, for a minor reason or infraction, utilizes the police to seek the investigation, removal and/or arrest of a black person from a space that they would otherwise have every right to occupy.

There are some historical and intergenerational themes that echo in these interactions that contribute to making these Starbucks Moments just as harmful to both the white and the black person involved:

  • Power versus the lack of power
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship
  • Dominance versus non-dominance
  • Privilege versus lacking privilege
  • View & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement

 

In addition to the forms of racism previously mentioned, the primary group utilizes three forms of racism to maintain superiority and control over the secondary group:

  • Individual Racism involves discrimination towards people of color. It is the belief that one’s own race is superior. It is the reasoning for a person’s behavior that maintains distance and separation from others based on perceived superior and inferior positions, but is often to the detriment of the person who considers themselves superior.
  • Institutional Racism-restricts people of color from having choices, rights, and mobility. It is the utilization of as well as the manipulation of legitimate institutions to maintain the illusion of superiority and the reality of separation from an integrated society with the intent of maintaining an advantage over others.

 

  • Cultural Racism-is a combination of both individual racism and institutional racism in that it propagates the belief that one race’s cultural heritage and history is superior over another’s. This justifies the belief that there can be no improvement or change in the status of the “inferior” group, therefore ensuring the continued perceived superiority of the “superior” group.

 

From Disagreement to Disturbance

Disagreements and disputes are inevitable between humans, and in a free society such as ours, they are bound to happen. Disagreements can be had in a spirit of friendliness, and without serious injury to the relationship, and therefore, creating a healthy environment for people to achieve a reasonable settlement to the dispute.

Recently, a disagreement is seen more as an indicator of a person’s personality and temperament—thus, any show of passion or emotion is immediately seen as a disturbance, warranting the presence of police to “keep the peace.”  In some cases, however, the disturbance is wholly made up,  and the police are now manipulated to punish the other party by removing them from the location—and given the tendency of police to use additional force with black people, the action of calling the police can become an assault via law enforcement as punishment for not complying with the first person’s opinion.

Over the past two months, there have been more of these incidents across the country.  Known incidents include the following:

  • (4.18.18) Secaucus NJ, -LA Fitness employee called police under mistaken belief that two African-American men had not paid membership fees. Upon finding that this was untrue, the police forced them to leave anyway without providing a reason.
  • (4.24.18) Grand View Golf Course, York County, PA –Five African-American women were “playing too slowly” and police were called because they refused to leave upon demand of the course owners.
  • (4.30.18) Rialto, CA–A woman called 911 about burglars at her neighbor’s house. The alleged burglars were three black women with their suitcases checking out of the house they had rented as an Airbnb. As they were leaving, they were greeted by six police officers and a helicopter.
  • (5.1.18) New York City, NY– Apartment dweller calls police on “Armed African-American Man” burglarizing a nearby apartment. Police find that the African-American man, a former Obama aide and now special assistant to commissioner for the New York City Department of Social Services, was moving into his new apartment and was unarmed.
  • (5.3.18) Charlotte NC –LA Fitness manager calls police on black male who “fit the profile” of a person breaking into lockers. The person was surrounded by four police officers, seized, taken to the police station and detained. They later discovered they had the wrong guy…it was another black person with a long criminal record and no relation to the person who was arrested.
  • (5.8.18), St. Louis MO– Nordstrom Rack employee calls the police on three African-American young males that he suspects of shoplifting; they were high school students and one college coed shopping for their prom outfits. Nordstrom Rack CEO flies to St. Louis to apologize for the incident in person.
  • (5.9.18) Yale University– New Haven CT, White graduate student calls police on black female observed sleeping in the common dorm area. The black woman was also a graduate student and was taking a nap in the dorm’s common area.
  • (5.10.18) Warsaw, NC— following a complaint by a black male regarding poor customer service Waffle House the employee calls police. The incident results in the police pushing the on tuxedo wearing male against the plate-glass window, choking him and slamming him into the ground.

 

The Toll of Invisibility: Why Would They Lie? 

Recently, while seeking to meet with a white colleague who lived in a predominantly white community, I arrived a few minutes early and waited for the arranged time.  My colleague arrived as scheduled and while we were meeting, four police officers came to the home, demanding to see my identification.  They had been told that a suspicious and possibly armed black man was seen surveilling the house.

During the interrogation, one of the police officers asked, “Why would the person lie?”  It was only after the repeated assurance of my colleague, a fellow mental health therapist, that the police were convinced that I was not a threat and I was allowed to remain in my friend’s home. 

These are some of the emotional and psychological reactions that surfaced for me:

  • Power-A person holding primary group status decided that my presence was not wanted in this community
  • My status as a secondary citizen had been confirmed by the interrogation and demand for identification
  • Dominance was established in the belief that there was no reason for my unknown accuser “to lie’
  • Privilege– based on the word of my white colleague and member holding primary group status, I was allowed to remain.
  • View & Interconnection-My unknown accuser was receiving excellent community service whereas I was receiving suspicion, misdirected questioning and intimidation.

 At the end of the day, this was psychological trauma for me.

The person notifying the police sought:

  • My removal from the environment
  • Intentionally provided the impression that I was armed and dangerous
  • Placed my life in jeopardy of serious injury or death

Sought to achieve a solution to disagreeing with my presence in the neighborhood by calling the police to remove me, forcibly, if needed.  

Like many black people, I have made the decision that in the future, I will meet white friends and colleagues in public accommodations such as restaurants, cafes or coffeehouses located in racially diverse or other identifiably safe environments for people like me—people of color.  However I still am reminded that safety and security is only a perception, and the next Starbucks Moment can be just one moment away.

 

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

 The Protection Perception

“They called it, they called it right.  We’re doing our job, “an officer said.  “If you do nothing wrong, you’re good to go.”

Law Enforcement-Black or African-American

“I had become a no body, a thing without meaning or purpose. I am invisible.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 On 04.13.18 in Rochester Hills, MI, a 14-year-old African-American boy, having missed the school bus, was shot at after knocking on a door seeking directions to the school.  The adolescent was unhurt.  The shooter was arrested and criminally charged.  Case closed? No.

Events like this make black people particularly concerned about their safety and welfare, and particularly that of black children.  As a result, black parents take extreme safety precautions and advise their children to do so as well.

One black father wrote on Facebook that he refuses to allow his adolescent sons to drop off a package that was misdelivered to his home to a neighbor’s home. He asks that the delivery service return and pick up the package and deliver it correctly, stating that:

“It is extremely unsafe to send our boys to the home of any family that we don’t know in this predominantly white neighborhood.”

Racial profiling and the utilization of law enforcement to effect the removal of undesirables remain a slippery slope that furthers the psychological wounding between the two groups.  White people see these events as isolated, and seek to punish the individuals directly responsible, where black people see these events as simply symptoms of deeper societal issues that white people seem to either be oblivious to or choose to willfully ignore.

St. Louis, MO NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt, following the Nordstrom Rack incident observes:

“These kids, they’re owed an apology, but at the end of the day, it goes down to what can we do to keep this from happening to folks.  After all of this was said and done, Nordstrom cannot fix society on its own as it relates to these stereotypes.”

At the end of the day, we are left with the statement of Darren Martin, the former Obama aide, accused of burglarizing his own apartment:

“You’ve got to live your life, but when you’re living your life, you’re cognizant of the fact that things you do that other people might do, non-people of color might do, could end up differently.  At the end of the day when I take the suit off, I’m still a black man underneath.  And it’s a daily reality.”

—————

“I am an invisible man. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination– indeed, everything and anything except me.”

–Ralph Ellison, “The Invisible Man” (1947)

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

The Visible Man: Having A Starbucks Moment

“They can’t be here for us.”

-Rashon Nelson & Donte Robinson, prior to their arrest at a Philadelphia Starbucks

“The police officers did absolutely nothing wrong.”

-Richard Ross, Philadelphia Police Commissioner

“Anytime I’m encountered by cops, I can honestly say it’s a thought that runs through my mind.  You never know what’s going to happen.”

-Rashon Nelson (speaking to AP News about fearing for his life)

“Players who have not followed the rules, specifically pace of play, have voluntarily left at our request as our scorecard states.  In this instance, the members refused so we called police to ensure an amicable result.

During the second conversation, we asked members to leave per our policy noted on the scorecard, voices were raised, and the police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”

-Jordan Chronister, Co-Owner, Grand View Golf Course York County, PA

 

My Dear Readers,

After five years of grieving the loss of my beloved spouse Linda, I am in Paris, France celebrating the year 2018 as my breakout year, the year I emerge from darkness into the bright shining light that the world has to offer.

As I depart the country, I leave behind the recent incidents of psychological devastation impacting African-American citizens. In a previous writing, I had suggested that it was time to begin a conversation regarding the impact of whites calling upon the police to intervene, eject or arrest African-Americans for believed slights or perceptions.

One of my readers, Mike Willbur MS LMHC, a colleague in the mental health profession, responded to me, suggesting that fear is the element and wanting to know where do we start.  I was intrigued and conflicted by the question.

How do we get all Americans, regardless of race, to understand the impact of fear and traumatization? How do I help to bring understanding without intellectualizing this major issue that impacts the lives of millions of people, both white and black on a daily basis? 

I choose to respond to the element of fear by seeking to further define the themes that create fear and lead to these traumatic moments.

 

What Is A “Starbucks Moment?

This occurs when a white person, for a minor reason or infraction, utilizes the police to seek the investigation, removal, and/or arrest of a black person.  This is done under the premise of community policing.

There are five themes that coincide to create the occurrence of “Having a Starbucks Moment”

  • Power versus the lack of power
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship.
  • Dominant group versus non-dominant group.
  • Privileged versus lacking privileged.
  • Views & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement

There was the now widely known incident at the Starbucks store in Philadelphia in which two African-American men were arrested while waiting for a colleague to conduct a business meeting.

There has been another incident occurring in Pennsylvania in which white golf course owners called the police to remove five African-American women members of their club because they were “playing too slowly.” Unlike the Philadelphia Starbucks, the police, upon arriving at the scene and conducting interviews, decided that the matter was not one that warranted police intervention.

The white owners of the golf course justified their actions by declaring that the five black women, in playing slowly, had failed to abide by the course’s rules and policies.  They added that they had offered full refunds, but the group refused to leave, so the police were called in to remove them.

If an arrest had been made, the following would had been the result:

  • The five black women would have been handcuffed, placed in a police vehicle, taken to jail, fingerprinted and had mug shots taken.
  • Those fingerprints and mug shots would had become a permanent record in the national computer database, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
  • Resulting in the ability to track their movements nationally and internationally through the International Crime Police Commission (INTERPOL)

The five themes leading to a “Having a Starbucks Moment is detailed in the following are detailed in the following:

  • The Power versus the Lack of Power.
  1. White Americans have power or potential access to power.
  2. Black Americans either lack power/lack access to power or are risked of being stripped of the power granted to them by those in power.
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship.
  1. Primary citizenship consists of individuals of all genders; are of the group holding power are racially white, and are identified ethnically and culturally as Euro-Americans. Primary citizenship is a status passed on between generations.
  2.  Secondary citizenship consists of individuals of all genders; are of the group lacking power; are racially black and are identified ethically lacking power are racially black, ethnically/culturally as African-American. Secondary citizenship is a status passed on through the generations. 
  • Dominant group versus non-dominant group.
  1. White Euro-Americans have dominant group status, a status passed on through the generations.
  2. Black African-American group has non-dominant status, a status passed on through the generations.
  • Privileged versus lacking privilege.
  1. White Euro-Americans are viewed with having privileged status; a status that is often fervently denied by the individuals within that group.
  2. Black African-Americans have non-privileged status and fervently seek having such privilege, which is either denied or provided on a selected basis.
  • Views & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement
  1. White Euro-Americans view the police positively and connect with them in “community policing,” which is an understanding that is passed on through the generations.
  2. Black African-Americans view the police with suspicion and connect with them in “enforcing the law,” which is an understanding that is passed on through the generations.

 

I am not a Racist, but what if I Walked like a Duck, and Quacked like a Duck?

In taking part of this conversation, white or Euro-Americans must seek to hold themselves for actions and behaviors, whether conscious or unconscious, that are racist in nature and serve to denigrate black or African-Americans.   Racism can be divided into two broad categories, attitudinal and behavioral.

In attitudinal racism, individuals or groups are denigrated because of shared characteristics.  Behavioral racism can be any act by an individual or institution that denies free and equal treatment to a person or person because of shared characteristics or ethnic group membership.  The outcome of either can result in physical or psychological stressors producing physical or psychological responses that over time can influence health outcomes of those who are impacted.

The white or Euro-American may staunchly deny or be unable to perceive their actions towards blacks or African-Americans as racist.  Those holding such beliefs may be engaging in patterns of behaviors defined as modern racism or aversive racism.

In modern racism, individuals do not define their beliefs and attitudes as racist but rather their beliefs are based on “empirical” evidence, such as news accounts, social media, movies, or television. Modern racism is insidious because those who practice this deny racist attitudes in a defensive manner, but engage in racist actions that they justify based on their supposed evidence, which usually takes the form of anecdotes or personally- based beliefs.

Aversive racism, another form of insidious racism, is a set of abstract moral assertions and beliefs impacting the lives of African-Americans.  Specifically, the aversive racist says, “I’m not a racist, but…” and may engage in crazy-making interactions with African-Americans by overtly denying racist intent while acting in ways that feel racist to their target.  Due to the overt denial of racist intent, the individual(s) targeted who appraises the behavior as racist may be labeled as “over-reactive” or paranoid” resulting from the interaction, leading to further marginalization.

The incident resulting at the Starbucks appears to be one of modern racism.  There is the indication that the white or Euro-American manager for whatever reasoning did not want the black or African-American men in “her” place of business and notified the police, resulting in their arrest and removal. The flip side of this incident would have the modern racist declaring, “Well, if only they would have left, or not come in at all, the arrest would not had been necessary.”

The golf course incident is a clear example of aversive racism.  The declarations of the co-owner were simply “we allowed them in to our establishment.  They failed to obey by the rules of the club.  We asked them to leave. They refused.  The police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”

 

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

“To err is human… In some cases there is no room for error. None.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane

 We may breathe the same air but it still appears that blacks (or African-Americans) and whites (or Euro-Americans) live on two on two separate planets.   I agree with my colleague Mike Willbur MS LMHC that fear is the element.  It is my opinion that this is where we must start.

Fear is a factor deeply ingrained in both groups.  I am not a white or Euro-American.  As a black male and African-American, I acknowledge the fear that lives within me on a daily basis regarding the fact that any interaction with a white person can abruptly change the course of my life.

Several days prior to leaving for Paris, I had my own Starbucks moment at a local Starbucks in Seattle.  The incident only lasted several minutes, but it so easily could have ended badly and changed the course of my life forever.

I was in line waiting when a white woman who was in a hurry jumped ahead of me and sought to get her order in.  The white Starbucks employee took notice of what had happened and began to assist her, ignoring me.

I am a 260 dark skinned African-American male, and was one of now two people in line, the other being the white woman who demanded to be waited on. Am I now invisible?

Many thoughts went through my mind:

  • Should I say something in a polite way to the interloper and the Starbucks employee?
  • If I do, will I be perceived as being threatening by either of these women?
  • Will the Starbucks employee or the interloper call the police?

When the police arrive, the bottom line is this:

It is my word versus the word of two white women.

Here are the facts of my life:

  • I have earned a doctorate and two master’s degrees. I am internationally trained in clinical traumatology.
  • I have served on three separate clinical faculties in one of the top ten research universities in the United States.
  • I have published material which is taught in graduate schools and utilized within the US Veteran Affairs healthcare system.
  • I have served as a clinical consultant to the Black Congressional Caucus Veteran Braintrust.
  • I am a founding member of the Editorial Board for a peer reviewed journal.
  • I currently served the legal and judicial system as a forensic evaluator and expert witness on trauma related issues.

This is the reality in my life:

  • I have never been arrested, fingerprinted or jailed.
  • I am a honorably discharged veteran of military service.
  • I am the son of a police officer.
  • I am an African-American residing in a country in which there are those who either fear me or are threatened by me simply because of the color of my skin.

What could happen to me in this situation:

  • I am going to be arrested, taken to jail, fingerprinted and mug shots taken.
  • I am going to have to incur the expenses of hiring an attorney to respond to possible legal charges.
  • I am going to have a permanent arrest record thus allowing law enforcement to track my movements nationally and internationally .
  • I would have been publicly humiliated and traumatized by the experience thereby bearing psychological wounds for the rest of my life.

What I Did:

  • I chose to not speak to the interloper.
  • I brought the matter to the attention of the Starbucks employee.

The Response:

  • The employee response was “I’m sorry…what can I get you?”
  • A telephone call later to the store manager, who said, “I will look into the matter.”
  • A written correspondence to the district manager- no response as of today.

I made the best decision of a very difficult and humiliating incident.  There was no police intervention, but there was no amicable resolution either.  And, I remained alive and free and made it to Paris, the City of Light, where I am currently enjoying a well-deserved vacation before returning to respond to more Starbucks Moments!

 

The Mask

By Maya Angelou

We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes.
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts…
We smile and mouth the myriad subtleties.
Why should the world think otherwise
In counting all our tears and sighs.
Nay let them only see us while
We wear the mask.

 

Adieu from Paris!

Until we speak again…I am … The Visible Man.

The Visible Man: Every Breath You Take

“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.”

-The Police, Every Breath You Take

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

———————–

My Dear Readers,

I write to you during difficult and tense times in African-American communities and other communities of color throughout the United States arising from a feeling of being unprotected in their own country.

In 1986, social psychologists created the Terror Management Theory.  It describes a basic psychological conflict that results from the friction between the human self-preservation instinct and the rational understanding that death is inevitable and, in some cases, unpredictable.

Although social psychologists may pride themselves in naming the phenomena, African-Americans have been responding to terror management throughout the 246 years of slavery and the following 105 years of state-sanctioned terrorism and segregation, all the way to the more modern and subtle, but still insidious, experiences of police brutality and the prison industrial complex.

As explained under the Terror Management Theory, the conflict produces terror, and the terror is then managed by embracing cultural values or symbolic systems that act to provide the impacted life with enduring meaning and value.  For many diverse and under-served populations, embracing cultural values are critical to developing self-respect and self-esteem.

Below is the story of an individual who reclaimed his life by reclaiming his self-esteem and his self-respect.

—————————-

Dear Visible Man,

I’m at my limit. The police, once again, followed me as I was returning home from a long day of working as a Metro Transit bus driver.

I had my two sons in the car; I had just picked them up from school.  At one point, the police cruiser was next to me and then in seconds, he was behind me.  I immediately felt tension in my stomach.  My heart was beating fast. I became scared at the possibilities of what could happen.

As the police cruiser followed, another cruiser joined in behind.  My sons noticed their movements as well.  It was an unreal feeling.  One moment my sons were cutting up, laughing and being playful as adolescents are, then the next moment there is dead silence and a chill in the car.

I felt that my sons were in danger.  My youngest was crying and I struggled to stay calm and get them to focus on me and not the cruisers.  I informed them that we were about to be pulled over and I told them how I wanted them to behave: specifically, no quick or jerky movements.

Suddenly, the lead cruiser pulled slowly next to us, the police officer looked over us and the car, and then both cruisers turned off in the opposite direction.  The joyful mood that we had was gone.   My eldest was angry and shouting, but he became more upset when he realized that his younger brother had urinated on himself.

Upon arriving home, both boys went straight to their bedrooms. They didn’t want to talk about it, and honestly, neither did I. I felt so ashamed and powerless to protect my children.

My wife attempted to talk to us about it, but I had nothing to say. I felt that I had failed my sons as their father.  I felt as if I was no longer a man in their eyes.

When I mentioned the incident to my crew at work the following day, the inability of my white co-workers to accept my experience shocked me. One indicated that it was not a problem because the police never stopped me. He saw my response as an overreaction. Another said that the police get behind him all the time and he doesn’t think about it.

Recently, my eldest showed me a quote from the book Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It said:

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.  When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”

My eldest son tells me that the experience made him feel invisible.  He is frustrated and now wants to bow out of attending college next year. My youngest son plays AAU basketball.  Now they want to quit their activities and hang out with their friends.

Both are good students and yet their grades are now slipping. None of my sons have ever been in trouble.  They attend church and bible study regularly.  Now they aren’t interested. I feel that I have failed them as their father.

I have decided that if the police follow me again in the future, I am going to pull over and confront them.  My wife strongly disagrees with me, but I am a man and self-respect and the respect of my sons are important to me.

As a strong black man, I know that I will find agreement with you on the issue of respect.

–Profiled No More,  Seattle WA

——————————–

My Dear Sir,

I cannot imagine the psychological pain you are going through during this difficult time.  However, I cannot support you confronting a police officer that you may suspect of racial profiling in order to appease your sense of self-respect. 

Stopping and confronting a police officer while he is carrying out his legal duties, even if you suspect him of racial profiling is not courageous. It is foolhardy, placing oneself at risk of arrest, injury and possible death.

Instead I suggest that you utilize the Five R’s of RELIEF.  Specifically,

  • Respite-take a breath and emotionally step away from the traumatic event
  • Reaction-accept ownership of your feelings of anger, shame, and humiliation
  • Reflection-bring balance to yourself by processing your feelings and thoughts
  • Response-having owned your reactions, now communicate the appropriate response to the external environment
  • Reevaluate-finally, be willing to reconsider, review and revise the actions taken.

As you initiate this process, resist the emotional urge to ask questions in the “why” format.  Such questions provide responses that circle back to themselves, and as a result, they do not bring us full understanding of the foundation of the issue being questioned.  A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead:

  • What did I do to protect my sons from danger?
  • What could I have done to reduce the traumatization of my children?
  • What can explain the responses of my coworkers?
  • What can I do to prevent the reoccurrence of the same experience?

 

What did I do to protect my sons from danger?

Your actions indicated following the ABC model, which is Advocacy, Balance, and Calmness. Specifically:

  • Advocacy-you got your sons’ attention, warning them of the potential danger ahead,
  • Balance– you were afraid, but you balanced those feelings with the thoughts around how to behave to leave that counter unharmed, and,
  • Calmness-during the time in which the police cruisers followed and did the slow drive by, you maintained tranquility in your external world.

Under such difficult circumstances you may have felt helpless, but your actions actually empowered you and resulted in your ability to get your children home safely.

 

What could I have done to stop or reduce the traumatization of my children?

You cannot protect your children from their feelings, which may include traumatization.  Calmly bring the subject up with them. As you are protective of your children, your children may seek to be protective of you by not wanting to share their experiences in fear of creating “bad feelings for Dad.”

However, “bad feelings,” or trauma, is already settling within the psychological self of you and your boys.  You can assist your children in processing this experience by sharing the impact the incident had on you, thereby modeling and encouraging similar behavior and actions. Seek counseling or therapeutic intervention if and when necessary.

Remember–  if you shut down or become silent, your actions become the “unconscious” model for your children when responding to situations like this in the future.

 

What can explain the responses of my white coworkers?

In speaking to your white coworkers, you are attempting to obtain understanding and compassion regarding an experience that is completely outside the world in which they live. They may live in a world where they receive community policing and therefore view the police as “protectors”.

Assuming that this is their reality, the experience you had is a completely  “abnormal” experience for them, even though it is an uncomfortably “normal’ experience for you. There is a saying: “You can’t understand someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes”.  Clearly, the brands or types of shoes you wear are unknown to your white colleagues.

—————————————————-

Concluding Words—Dr. Kane

What can I do in order to prevent this happening again?

Nothing.   You do not control what lies deep within the psychological self of another person. Governmental legislation, city ordinances and police departmental directives against racial profiling may influence the decision making of officers on the street, but those officers have power, and that training may not be enough to compel them to deter the racism and/or stereotypes that lies deep within their belief system, if it is there.

You lack the power to prevent incidents of racial profiling by the police from happening to anyone. The traumatic incident that impacted you and your sons occurred because a police officer with the lens of racial profiling observed three black males in your vehicle.  It was his “truth” that a vehicle of three black males could only be engaging in “bad things”.

Following procedure of responding to “dangerous situations” a police officer with the lens of racial profiling called for backup with the intent of making a “vehicle stop.”  It was only after the police officer with the lens of racial profiling did the slow drive by and looked through your window that he was able to remove his lens of racial profiling and see the real truth that a man and two children were in the car.

The police officer with the lens of racial profiling now removed having successfully confirmed no criminal activity, is now able to return to his regular patrol duties. It may be the perspective of not only the police officer, but of your white co-workers as well that since there wasn’t a stop, and there was no harm inflicted on you or your children, that no harm was done.  However, this perspective fails to take into account the impact that the psychological trauma has on you and your family and its status as a microaggression in the form of racial profiling.

DO NOT confront the police in the streets.  You will not win.  The police will not allow you to win.  The power that they have is comprised of the authority granted by a fearful society that is historically accustomed to turning a “blind eye” when it comes to control and law enforcement of black men.

Remember that the police can do no more than the society that commissions them to do.  The police may have power, but individual black people can be empowered in dealing with them if they choose to be.

When faced with such situations, trauma can be impacted or reduced by utilizing the clinical tools of

  • Five Rs of RELIEF
  • ABCs — Advocacy, Balance & Calmness
  • Empowerment– document…document and document. Report police misconduct to the department’s internal affairs unit.

Remember, your empowerment can never be taken from you …unused, you merely are giving it away.

“Play the game, but don’t believe in it- that much you owe yourself…

Play the game, but raise the ante.

Learn how it operates, learn how you operate.”

-Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

“Life is a marathon

After you learn the game

Learn to run the race,

Focus on crossing the finish line

Run smarter, not harder.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until we speak again…I am…The Visible Man

Bobbi’s Saga: The Trap Of Gratitude

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

-Chinese proverb

“If you refuse to look into the darkness of your past, your future will never become bright.”

-Anonymous

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

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

It is simply my responsibility to make this life

About… Self. “

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

—————————————–

My Dear Readers,

We return to Bobbi’s Saga as she continues her journey of self-discovery and struggles with the concept of gratitude in the achievement of her work with her psychological self.

Bobbi in her own words…

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

It is typical for Dr. Kane to conclude our therapy sessions with the question “Who gets the credit for your work”?  I always say, “We do.”  Expecting me to say “I do” is like asking me to call Dr. Kane by his first name, Micheal.  

I always think about that question for a while.  If I could have done this by myself, I would have.  If I could have reduced or lightened the guilt and shame, I would have.  There are so many things I have learned from Dr. Kane, like:

  • The flashbacks will never completely go away
  • I am not at fault or blame for the sexual assaults
  • The shame and guilt are not mine to bear.
  • Suicidal thoughts may come and go.

It is because of Dr. Kane that I have moved towards knowing that:

  • I should love myself
  • I should put myself first or consider what I want.
  • I have the right to say no. I used to believe I did not have that right.

I feel I will be able say “I do” to Dr. Kane’s question when my self-esteem and my self-image increase.  I have lived not believing that I had any worth at all!  When I am told positive things about myself, I have a hard time believing and accepting the compliments.  It is easier for me to believe positive things about other people.

How does a person believe positive things that are said to them?  Especially when they only heard bad things and feel bad about being abused?  The result is they feel like a bad person. 

Being told you are bad and feeling like you are a bad person makes it easy to believe and accept that I am a bad person.  I would like to feel like I get the credit.  I just don’t feel I have earned it or that I deserve it.

I have recently passed the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.  I have been thinking about how mean she was to me. I have always wondered why I seem to forget some of the bad things she did to me.  She was a terrible mother.  As an adult, I tried so hard to please her, but it did no good.  As a child, I tried to be good and stay out of trouble.  It also did no good.

I am shocked as to how I have reacted to her death.  I always thought that when she died, I wouldn’t be affected.  I was wrong.  No matter what she has done to me, I have always wanted love from her.   I see this as another example of one of my unrealistic beliefs.

I want to thank Dr. Kane for his support, care, and guidance on this journey, keeping me alive, helping me feel safe enough to reveal my secrets to him.  He has helped me to believe that the flashbacks and pain will become lighter.  It is also because of him that I know and understand that I deserve to have a good life… a life filled with kindness and affection.

Today, I have an appointment with Dr. Kane.  Before I see him, I like to think about what I want to talk about.  There are times I focus on feelings of guilt and shame.  Sometimes I leave my session feeling lighter, other times I leave with the thoughts weighing heavily in my mind.  I hope the intense thoughts will calm down and be replaced by pleasant thoughts.

There are some weeks that I leave disturbed or think about the session all week long.  I think of how long I’ve had the problem, and what are the solutions if any, and what I can do to lessen the fear, pain, guilt and shame. There are times when my flashbacks take over and we process to where I remain balanced and achieve calmness in my external environment.

The sessions are always helpful and thought provoking.  Often, traumatic memories come up in the session.  I think that is because the session is a safe place.  It is the only safe place I have.  There is nowhere else I can express my pain, shame and guilt without being judged or have the fear of people viewing me as strange, weird, or troubled.

Mother’s Day is soon arriving.   Despite my siblings’ prodding, I have decided not to visit my mother’s gravesite.  Instead of honoring her, I will spend the time focusing on me and doing what I want for me.

Today is a good day.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

——————————–

Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In Bobbi’s writing, she seeks to acknowledge the therapist for her successes in therapy.  Notice the ongoing struggle she “endures” with me as I continue to question who gets the credit for her work.

It would be normal to ask ourselves:

  • Why are Bobbi and the therapist struggling over “who gets credit for the work done” in therapy?
  • Why won’t Dr. Kane simply accept her appreciations and cease making gratitude an issue?
  • Why won’t Bobbi call Dr. Kane by his first name? Why won’t Dr. Kane encourage this?  Why not create less formality in the doctor-patient relationship?

I have often written that “why” questions provide responses that circle back to themselves, and as a result, they do not bring full understanding of the foundation of the issue being questioned.  A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead:

  • What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?
  • What is the desired outcome of trauma informed treatment?

 

What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? 

Bobbi is living in fear of the possibility of obtaining her objective of a normalized life, and that is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy.   Bobbi has placed the psychological self in a psychological no man’s land that is left unoccupied due to her fear and uncertainty when it comes to claiming ownership of her life and her psychological self.

Currently, this is comfortable for Bobbi because she is in conflict.  Consciously, she seeks relief from the internalized hell of complex trauma.  Unconsciously, however, after many decades of living with complex trauma and its “secrets,” she lives in fear of the unknown life that she could have outside of the complex trauma that she has experienced.  In doing so, she has reinforced this well dug in position.

Bobbi has unconsciously created an insurmountable barrier for herself preventing the ability to take credit for her achievements in therapy by tying the goal to an inappropriate cultural norm of addressing me by my first name.  Notice that there is no internal or external pressure being exerted to do so.  However, by tying both together, she has attached a rule to her own development that she never wants to break, which is an artificial limit that she is putting on her own healing.

So what does she do?  She returns to therapy twice weekly where she is safe to explore the areas of complex trauma devastated by sexual assault, physical abuse, abandonment and isolation.  Consciously, she continues to heal where unconsciously, the psychological self continues to hold its position.

 

What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?

Bobbi is an amazing woman.   She is the epitome of a woman who has survived horrendous abuse, and withstood abandonment and isolation enough to be able to educate herself, marry wisely, and successfully raise three children.  However, the illusion of amazement abruptly stops here—and what we see in therapy is a woman who has repeatedly sacrificed herself at the behest of her mother, siblings and children.

Historically, Bobbi has held firmly to the belief that she is unworthy.  Although she can give compliments, she is unable to receive compliments.  Specifically, Bobbi is willing to acknowledge the commitment and the work of the therapist, yet she is unwilling to accept the same words about her actions.  She maintains the well dug in position that she could not have obtained the current state of growth and healing of the traumatic wound without me.

Therefore, she seeks to “hand over” credit of her work and accomplishments in therapy to the therapist and not to herself.  It is my belief that psychotherapy is a journey of self-discovery.  The roles of the therapist is to be a guide and companion for the individual as they navigate key areas of their journey.  It is for the therapist to facilitate the process of therapy, to be available to assist in the interpretation of materials as such arises from the journey and in being present provide safety from an isolating journey.

Accepting credit for her work would fly in the face of Bobbi’s belief that she lacks the ability to walk alone, even though she already has.  This is simply another step towards achieving her objective of living a normative life following her successful work in healing the traumatic wound.

What are the desired outcomes of trauma informed treatment?

There are five desired outcomes:

  • Safety (physical and emotional safety)
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency (meaningful sharing of power and decision-making)
  • Choice (voice and agency)
  • Collaboration & Mutuality (partnership and leveling of power differences)
  • Empowerment

The desired outcomes are achievable when the S pathway can be made available to the individual seeking to heal the traumatic wound.   The S pathways consists of providing a safe secured space to search within and to speak; ending the silence and releasing what lies submerged below. The result is that Bobbi can sustain security in self and reinforce her self-esteem and self-conceptIt is during the process of self-discovery that the individual can learn advocacy for self, balance within the psychological self and calmness within the external world.

Bobbi continues to do well in healing her traumatic wounds.  She understands that the traumatic experiences are permanent etchings on the psychological self and may never fully go away, but that the objective is to learn how to normalize her life and be able to balance the weight of the traumatic experiences. Although she remains in conflict regarding her self-esteem, her belief that she is not worthy has lessened.

This is evidenced by her refusal to continue sacrificing herself, specifically in her refusal to visit her mother’s gravesite, choosing instead to spend time with the psychological self.  Furthermore, Bobbi is now willing to “share credit” of her therapy with the therapist instead of issuing outright credit to the therapist.

It will be the objective in therapy to continue to work within the S pathways to where she will one day move to full actualization by holding full credit and therefore move successfully from no man’s land to self-assurance in walking her journey of self-discovery.

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

In Our Corner: Erik Killmonger and the Inner Pain Of African-American Men

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.”

-Paul Dunbar, We Wear The Mask

“I want to return to the scene of the crime.

I do not want to go back.

Going back can only bring pain, suffering and unresolved memories

Returning, I am armed with wisdom and knowledge, which I can take into my future.

I am empowered.

Whatever I was, I am no longer.

The past is what is what it was.  It cannot be recovered.

I live today, to understand and uncover.

I seek tomorrow.  To explore and discover…

Self.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Returning to the Scene of the Crime

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My Dear Readers,

In the previous blog, I wrote about the  the unconscious messages of betrayal and loyalty within black male and female relationships in the movie Black Panther.   I observed that in the movie, black women were portrayed as being loyal, committed and unquestionably trustworthy, while black men were characterized as being deceptive, disloyal, and therefore, untrustworthy.

The responses to my commentary on the portrayals of the film’s depiction of male betrayal and trustworthiness were immediate and wide-ranging, from hostility and suspicion, to questioning my motives, to accusing me of taking the movie too seriously in my analysis.

All of these response types have one common underlying theme: fear.  It is normal for an individual or a society as a whole to fear what they do not understand.  In this case, the film itself and my analysis of it may have exposed  feelings that are generally unconscious until one is faced with something that challenges black men to look within their psychological selves.

Charles from Fort Lauderdale, FL writes:

“Your article Black Panther got me to think about my own betrayal of relationships throughout my life.  As I sit here typing, I am allowing myself to feel the trauma as well.

I can see now that I don’t trust women but tend to use women, which I believe is the root of my own pain.  So now I have learned not to ask the why question but rather, the what is the foundation question.  I just would like to say thank you for walking with me on this journey.”

In this, our third In Our Corner post,  we return to Black Panther, which has now grossed over $1B.   This week, we will focus on the villain Erik Killmonger.

  • Why is Erik Killmonger a key representation of African-American men?
  • Why is he cast as a dark, yet sympathetic villain?
  • Why is he being depicted as an angry black man, raging out of control?

I have written before that why questions provide responses that are circular back to themselves, so as a result, they do not help us to understand the foundation of the question we ask, which often gives us a more useful answer than simply why one thing or another happened. So, we ask:

  • What is it about the character of Erik Killmonger that he captivates the audience as the sympathetic villain?
  • What is the impact of the pain, the hurt, anguish, and the rage that lives within Erik Killmonger?

Erik Killmonger’s appeal to African-American audiences comes from his character being a clear and direct representation of the generational and psychological trauma of the North Atlantic Slave Trade, but not as a depiction of being sold into slavery and the ensuing centuries of racism, discrimination, and oppression, but as the result of that sordid experiment—generations of people who were, despite that severe adversity, able to thrive and become successful.

In this respect, Killmonger’s is a story of his success in gaining education and skills, mastering the cruelty that he was shown as a child, and wielding it with an efficiency and glee that surpasses even the most evil slave master.

However, this is not how he was born; this is what was crafted by King T’Chaka abandoning young Erik in America after killing his father, and Killmonger is who he had to become in order to survive: to emotionally detach from himself as a human being, and the feelings associated with that, evident in his comment to his father N’Jobu on the ancestral plane, when N’Jobu noticed that Erik shed no tears for his memory.  Erik, a dry-eyed child, simply said:

 “People die every day.  That’s just part of life around here.”

What motivates Erik Killmonger? A frighteningly rational and focused hate for King T’Chaka’s and Wakanda’s traditional stance of non-intervention in the face of the profound suffering that he and other African descendants of the ones who were taken have experienced, feeding into a righteous anger. Where Wakanda could have helped, yet did nothing for generations, Killmonger, knowing his royal lineage and having prepared for ritual combat and to take the throne all his life, is more than willing to use what he has to help those that he knows suffer throughout the world.  In essence, by killing T’Challa, the last of his line, in ritual combat, he kills Wakanda’s apathy of the suffering of Africans in the entire diaspora.

“I lived my entire life waiting for this moment.  I trained a lot.  I killed in America, Afghanistan, Iraq… I took life for my brothers and sisters right here on this continent!  And all this death just so I could kill you.”

But, it’s not all just an altruistic desire to liberate Africans around the world.  Killmonger, the abandoned child of Wakanda, is different from most African-Americans in that he actually knows what country he is from, and knows for sure that they abandoned him intentionally, and in that, there is a desire, also coldly rational, within Killmonger to inflict the same or greater harm on those who inflicted such catastrophic harm on he and his family, and to put an end to anyone else who would have adopted that same philosophy that harmed so many.

“The world took everything away from me.  Everything that I ever loved!  But Imma make sure we’re even.  Imma track down anyone would even think of being loyal to you! And Imma put their ass in the dirt, right next to Zuri!”

What is Erik Killmonger?  He was a little boy who lost his father.  He was a child who was abandoned by his family.  He is the psychological self, seeking attachment, belonging and connection.  He has the words and actions of a villain, yet he has many redeeming qualities, and a more than valid ax to grind against the other members of Wakanda’s royal family.  Still, he is dangerous: he is the “angry black man” who cannot be reasoned with, he is believed to “lack control,” and he must be destroyed.

In the final fight scene, many will question why T’Challa offers to heal Killmonger and save his life—this is because T’Challa sees the error in his father’s (and in Wakanda’s) attitude towards the world and specifically, those who were taken from African countries and their plight, and sincerely wants to make a change.

But, Killmonger rejects the gesture—his inner pain and the fact that he failed in his life’s mission means that he truly has nothing left. He can’t use vibranium to liberate the Africans outside of Wakanda that he wanted to help.   He couldn’t possibly live in the society he tried to destroy as a citizen, much less as a prisoner who murdered both Zuri and a member of the Dora Milaje. (His attempted murder of T’Challa was done through ritual combat, so it wouldn’t count as a crime towards him.)  Rather than be locked up, Killmonger responds:

“Nah. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships because they knew that death was better than bondage.”

That quote made me and many others in the theater gasp upon first hearing.  Of course, this is who we as African-Americans would have wanted to be, right?  The ancestors who chose death over bondage?  Who kept their dignity instead of succumbing to generations of rape and murder and cruelty?

But there is something different here.  Our ancestors jumped into the ocean to get away from unjust, barbarous chattel slavery.  Killmonger, on the other hand, simply doesn’t want to face punishment for using the colonizer’s tools and tactics to murder two of the African people he claims to want to lead.  The African-Americans in his mother’s lineage who survived slavery enough to create him as a descendant would have something to say about death being better than bondage when they had to endure bondage to ensure that their bloodline, which led to him, survived.   Surely we can revere those who endured as much as we can revere those who refused, right?

This isn’t to say that the lessons of Killmonger cannot assist us in our own journey of self-discovery.  They can.

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Concluding Words- Dr. Kane

My Dear Brethren,

I write for my general readership, but as with all In Our Corner blogs, I want to direct my concluding remarks specifically to black men as we walk the journey of self-discovery.

Black Panther is an excellent movie, and both its conscious and unconscious messages are breathtaking and worthy of uninterrupted discussion regarding psychological trauma in the African-American community.

For those who question my motives and intentions, I seek to influence the intellectual mind by keeping it balanced with the psychological self.  These discussions are incredibly important for the African-American community, and specifically for black men in that this film allows its black male characters to have rich emotional lives, and they are not simply heroes and villains—they are real, complex people, in real, complex situations.

A clear yet unconscious message in Erik Killmonger is that he was abandoned by family, he utilized the country he was left in to transform himself into a stone cold assassin, and used that unimaginable strength to impose his will on the country that abandoned him. While his success is admirable, the pain in the psychological self that drove that success also contributed to his failure and eventual demise because he never integrated that pain and transformed it into something that served him better.

You can hear Killmonger’s psychological self screaming when he talks about the pain he grew up in, and the pain he feels for other Africans in the diaspora.  This is a result of complex trauma, a myriad of 13 separate types of traumas that African-Americans face on a daily basis, which can be draining and overwhelming.

Mark, age 32, describes his trauma:

“I get on and off the mat every damn day.  Every day I go in and face people who either ignore or disrespect me.  At the end of the day, I feel alone and abandoned.  Every day I trudge forward.  Every day.”

Trauma is a permanent etching on the psychological self.  The memory of the incident at point of traumatic wounding or injury will never ever go away.

However, in choosing to opening up to others, such as friends and loved ones, and when wanted, seeking counseling or therapy, the individual can learn to balance the traumatic wound or injury achieving advocacy, balance and calmness in walking the journey of self-discovery.

Steppin’ Into Tomorrow

We cannot step back into our past,

Nor must we want to.

It is our fear of the unknown that chains us.

The future holds new possibilities

We can journey into the future

Holding onto Belief, Faith and Trust …

In Self.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time…Remaining In Our Corner.