In fear or with fear? You must choose.
In the “At the Crossroads” writing, A Black Man’s Worst Nightmare: Living with a Bulls-eye on your Back “No Protection for your Complexion,” I gave an example of my experience of dealing with the police who were suspicious of me due to being out of place (at night walking in a white community). In the telling of my experience, I provided recommendations to others as to how to handle themselves should they find themselves in a similar situation.
I recently received some feedback from an African-American colleague who had read the article. In her response she shared the following:
“You were talking about the experience where you were not guilty or intending anything negative, but where you were ‘out of your expected place’ and therefore appeared to be a threat.But what about all the young males and black men who are seen as a threat ‘in place’? What about the young black males who have teachers that show fear of their disruption when they are in their schools? What about those who are stopped and questioned on or near their playgrounds, on the blocks, where they live or while they are playing in front of their homes? What about those boys? Does it make it easier to take and accept if the unfounded suspicion only comes in other settings?”
My colleague’s remarks have encouraged me to examine the concept of fear. There is a huge difference between being a 57-year old man who is “out of place” and an 11-year-old boy on the playground or sitting in his yard.
Is it easier to accept when the suspicion comes in other settings than it is for a child who experiences his teacher showing fear of him? The writer has raised strong points. It is possible that one can provide recommendations as to what society, community, family and black men can do to assist resolving this issue of “no protection for my complexion on the playground or in the front yard”.
My preference as a clinician is to focus on the individual. The goal would be to teach the young child or adolescent skills that would reinforce self-esteem, self worth, self-validation, self-regard, self-confidence and self-competence. The objective would be to create a sense of healthy narcissism, that being the understanding, acceptance and commitment to the following belief and value of “as much as I love you, I love myself more. More.”
The 57-year-old African-American man walking in the white community and the 11-year-old boy playing either at the playground or in his front yard share several variables in common.
· We live, work and play among people who fear us for the color of our skin and our gender.· We are being taught to either dislike (hate), devalue and distrust ourselves.· We are trained that the wants of others such as the community, church and family are prioritized over our own.· We are taught to love others. We are not taught how to “love the self.”
We learn these lessons from within our community. These are constantly being reinforced at school, work, television, movies and involvement in day-to-day activities. We are looked upon with fear, suspicion and distrust by those who teach us and later work among us. We learn our lessons well when we succeed in maintaining similar fear, suspicion and distrust among ourselves.
Out of these lessons come the one mighty variable that keeps the oldest and the youngest of us in the state of survival, which is the art of learning to “live in fear”. We make the common mistake of focusing on those in positions of control such as teachers and police and give them undeserved importance based on their apparent authority. As we focus on “them” we succeed in reinforcing their power and in doing so, we are successful in not focusing on “us” and building our “empowerment”.
In assisting our young men and women to empower themselves, we must want to accept the realities that others will for one reason or another always be suspicious and fearful of the psychological self that lives within us. We must want to understand and accept that their suspicion and fear is about “them” and how they feel. We must want to relieve ourselves of the pressure and frustrations that work to consume the psychological self and in doing so take away the opportunities for self-empowerment.
We must want to learn to “live with fear.” As I have stated in earlier writings, fear is good. We have been taught that fear is bad, a statement for the weak and therefore, fear is to be avoided and denied. Yet fear is just another emotion. Fear is just another feeling.
To be able to live with fear, one must be willing to own his/her feelings of fear. One must want to embrace fear because… my fear is mine and mine alone. No one but me can touch it or feel it. Specifically, it is up to the individual as to how he/she conceptualizes his or her fear.
To be successful in this endeavor, the individual must want to “transform” the teachings of society, community and family in prioritizing loving the self first. The larger group (i.e. family, community, society) will frame this as “an act of selfishness.”
It is essential for the individual to understand that he/she and not the larger group holds the keys towards empowering and maintaining one’s psychological and emotional health and well-being. If living in fear or living without acknowledgement that which lies within is not a priority of the larger group, then we must be willing to question why.
This writing is not suggesting that we should not be afraid or let go of our fear. To let go of one’s fear would be tantamount to slicing away a part of the psychological self. Fear, as with happiness, joy or sorrow is nothing more than a feeling or an emotion. To suggest to someone to simply “don’t be afraid” would be similar to forcing the individual to maintain a falsehood.
The focus on this writing was in one way to respond to the lack of empowerment that a child may feel when being viewed as a threat within his community, school or neighborhood. The words expressed by my female African American colleague reflect the frustrations of many others regarding a sense of hopelessness or powerlessness as young boys and adolescents prepare to enter a world that fears them – not for an action, just for being male and black.
What we can do as individuals is teach young boys and adolescents the concept of living with fear instead of accepting the common thread of living in fear. This can be achieved by understanding the concept of healthy narcissism and its sub concepts, which include prioritizing loving the self.
It has taken this writer the willingness and wantonness to explore this path and in doing so experience the journey of self-discovery. I have found that with living with fear I have come to truly understand the concept of loving the self and in turn, loving me more.
Living in fear or living with fear. The choice is yours.Loving the SelfAs much as I love youI love me more.Loving me more does not meanI love you less.It only meansI love me moreMore…
Until the next Crossroads.
The journey continues….