Insidious Trauma And The Rich And Famous

“What do you call a credentialed, highly educated and accomplished black person?

Dear Visible Man,
One of the things that troubles me about the coverage of the recent Oprah story by African American pundits and media is that the coverage focused more on what Oprah can do with the $38,000.00 that she was planning to spend on the handbag rather than the incident itself.  Why do we, as African Americans diminish the impact of racism on people like her just because she has made it into the top 1%? Is Oprah not supposed to be hurt over a racist encounter because the incident involved her desire to purchase an expensive handbag?
Please excuse my language but consider the old cruel riddle: “what do you call a credentialed, highly educated and accomplished black person . . . a nigger.” This “joke” is something that my middle class family members always used to remind each other that despite our achievements, we will never get away from the perceptions that some have about us despite our accomplishments.
The Oprah incident illustrates this point.  Additionally, the response to the Oprah controversy by our own community and media outlets tells me that it’s fine for less wealthy black people to acknowledge and display frustration with  this reality but those of us who have means and are on public display must be forgiving, understanding and graceful in these circumstances and never acknowledge or mention the injustice of it all.  And I think that’s wrong.
Patti, Bellevue, WA
Dear Patti,
You have raised some very interesting points.  (For those who may be unaware of the situation Patti is referring to, the Associated Press on August 10, 2013, reported that “Oprah Winfrey the billionaire media mogul was denied the opportunity to view a purse she was interested in purchasing while visiting a boutique in Geneva, Switzerland.”  The Associated Press reported that the sales clerk refused to show Oprah a $38,000.00 handbag, telling her that she could not afford it.)
The article goes on to state that apologies were quickly offered and that the incident was a “huge misunderstanding and a communication problem.”  It appears based on the following social media buzz that there are some who feel that Oprah should have been graceful and without complaint, should have smiled and thought nothing about the incident.  The reasoning being the due to her billionaire status she should have nothing to complain about.  She isn’t one of the little people who deal with such blatant racism (oops, my mistake, “huge misunderstandings and a communication problems”) on a daily basis.
Why should Oprah complain?  When the common African-American gets psychologically stabbed as a result of such outrageous behavior, he/she has the right to be traumatized but not Oprah, because of her wealth, she must rise above this minor infraction.
WRONG.  Oprah is no different than the rest of us who get up every day, go to work, pay our taxes and take care of our families.   She was doing what many of us do from time to time . . . she was shopping.  She saw a handbag that she no doubt felt would go well with an outfit or two and asked the sales clerk to remove it from its glass casing so she could see it just like you or I or any other customer would have done.
This is where everything went wrong.  This is where Oprah the billionaire media mogul became invisible.  The sales clerk refused.  Oprah became someone unworthy, someone who could not afford it, someone with poor credit, someone to fear, someone who is a threat and someone who may commit grand theft and run out of the store with a stolen $38,000.00 handbag in tow.This sad story made international headlines because this racist and psychologically impactful event happened to the world’s wealthiest African-American woman.  The truer and saddest part of the story remains untold, that being that this tragic incident is being repeated thousands of times a day to African-Americans throughout the United States.  Yet there are no international or even national headlines about those incidents.  Why?  Because we have learned to “accept” and normalize this traumatizing and impactful behavior.

So Oprah is to “model” for us the desired behavior that we should display in response to this type of “huge misunderstanding and communication problem.”  Oprah is not supposed to verbalize her outrage or emotional pain that results from this form of psychological trauma.  If Oprah can show that she, indeed is the better person by ignoring such a minor incident, then who are we, the little people to complain when such incidents occur in our lives on a daily basis?

The specific psychological trauma that impacted Oprah that day is the same trauma that impacts thousands of African-Americans every day and is called “insidious trauma”.  It refers to the indirect exposure between stigmatized groups (ethnic minorities) and societal institutions.  Insidious trauma arises when there is a culmination of negative experiences affecting members of a stigmatized group that are directly traumatic.
Racism operates as a form of insidious trauma by constantly denigrating the value and lives of those of African descent without regard for their intelligence, skills and capacities. An example of this insidious trauma manifests itself through “racial profiling.”  Racial profiling can be defined as the identification of suspicious behavior attributed to a specific racial group.
Racial profiling has resulted in numerous African-Americans being held to a “different” or more intense standard of scrutiny. This would include:
·       Being viewed with negative assumptions
·       Being followed or under undue suspicion in places of commerce
·       Having to show identification while making purchases with a credit card while others are not
·       Being inexplicably questioned while engaging in simple everyday acts
All of the above examples of increased scrutiny can and do result in psychological trauma.  The emotional distress can be insurmountable due to the energies required for the maintenance of vigilance by the individual as to not knowing when to expect the next incident when he/she will have to endure the indignation of such unwarranted scrutiny.
Oprah’s detractors suggest that in stating her indignation of such treatment she failed to provide the “proper model” of how to react to such undeserved scrutiny.   For others who understand her plight, it is a clear indication if not confirmation that regardless of the skills, education or success of the individual, there will always be stereotypes that will trump the individual’s accomplishments.  Those such as the sales clerk in Oprah’s situation and the apologists who can more identify with the sales clerk’s mistake can easily opine and readily believe that it was simply a “huge misunderstanding and a communication problem.” This is because this perspective is encased within their internalized fears.
On the other hand, those who are on the receiving end of these incidents have experienced this repeatedly and therefore see the trend as it is applied to them and cannot excuse it away so simply.  For example, the referenced riddle asking “what do you call a [whatever credentialed], highly educated and accomplished black person” is merely an attempt by African-American parents to create safeguards for their children to ward off the emotional distress and psychological abuse created by the insidious trauma of racism that based on their own experience, the parents know their children will certainly face the same.   It is the old adage that if one is able to laugh at the trauma, either it won’t hurt or if so, not as much.  Yet this adage does not hold true.
Pain, be it psychological or physical is PAIN.  Racism hurts. Insidious trauma has lasting effects on the individual’s psyche.  It strikes without mercy.  It impacts the young, the old, the wealthy, the middle class and the educated.  One can run and yet one cannot hide.
The psychological self remembers what the mind seeks desperately to forget.The Visible Man

Remembering The Forgotten: The Men Of The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

This writing reflects those individuals who were deemed to be unworthy or sacrificial for the “good and progression of science.”   In 1932, these men were literally transformed from men to representational “guinea pigs” for the purpose of human experimentation.
So why is this an issue today?  Why is the “Visible Man” bringing this up for discussion now? It has been 81 years since the inception of the study and 31 years since the study was terminated.  What has happened?  What has changed?
Answer: NOTHING.
To review, the intent of this writing is to provide a safe place and/or voice to those who may be responding to conflicts as they deal with the concept of invisibility in a society or community in which they may not feel valued, validated, appreciated or wanted.
What has happened to the African-American men involved in the infamous United States Public Health Service (PHS) Tuskegee Syphilis Survey?  The study lasted 40 years, beginning in 1932 and was terminated due to public outcry and outrage in 1972.
The study focused on 600 men, observing the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men who were of the understanding that they were receiving free health care from the United States government.
Why were physicians and other healthcare professionals, many who had taken the Hippocratic oath swearing to practice medicine honestly and uphold professional ethical standards, able to create and maintain a human experimental program lasting 40 years? The Hippocratic oath contains two verses that are germane for this writing:
·      I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
·      If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all humanity and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my life.
During the course of the Tuskegee Syphilis Survey human experimental program, the Nuremberg Trials following WWII revealed the horrors of Nazi experimental on Jewish people.  The individuals involved in conducting the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment verbalized indignation and were horrified as to what was done by their colleagues in Nazi Germany.  However they were unable to reach the same conclusions regarding the experimentation on African-American men.
The question becomes why?  Why were these men of medicine and science unable to see the harm they were doing?  Did they conceptualize that they were violating the “do no harm” oath that they had sworn to uphold?
We can only theorize why these educated men and women of medicine and science were able to ignore their responsibility regarding providing care for patients and their oath to do no harm.
·      First, the men being used for experimental purposes were identified as “research participants” instead of patients.  In doing so despite their obvious physical human appearance, the men and women of medicine and science intellectually transformed them into guinea pigs thereby shielding themselves from the responsibilities of patient care as demanded by the Hippocratic oath.
·      Second, the overt racism of that era and lack of interactions between educated, upper class white physicians/scientists and the uneducated poor, black rural men, mostly sharecroppers made it appear that the oath was not applicable in this situation.
·      Third, unlike the horrifying experimental programs identified in Nazi Germany, the Tuskegee Syphilis Survey focused on the natural progression of untreated syphilis.
So if one considers the third point, one could understand the indignation of physicians and scientists such as Dr. John H. Heller who served as the director of PHS Division of Venereal Diseases for the US Public Health Service (PHS) from 1943-48 who made the following declaration:
“There was nothing in the experiment that was unethical or unscientific.”
Yet there were those outside of medicine and science who observed the issue differently. The national commenter for ABC News, Harry Reasoner expressed bewilderment that that the government:
“ used human beings as laboratory animals in a long and inefficient study of how long it takes syphilis to kill someone.”
So what became of the 600 African-American men of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment?
·      In 1969, as many as 100 had died as a direct result of complications caused by syphilis.
·      Others developed serious syphilis-related heart conditions that may have contributed to their deaths
·      In 1974 there were a fewer than 120 known survivors.
Jones (1981) in his publication “Bad Blood” states:
“The Tuskegee Study had nothing to do with treatment.  No new drugs were tested; neither was any effort made to establish the efficacy of old forms of treatment.  It was a non-therapeutic experiment, aimed at compiling data on the effects of the spontaneous evolution of syphilis on black males.”
Gratitude is due to Peter Buxtun and James H. Jones.  It was Peter Buxtun, a Caucasian public health social worker, who originally exposed the study.  He openly questioned the ethics and morality of the Tuskegee Syphilis Survey and tirelessly and continuing kept the issue alive until the story broke into the press in 1972, triggering numerous and ongoing congressional investigations.
James H. Jones is the author of the publication “Bad Blood: the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment- a tragedy of race and medicine (1981).  The book is balanced, well written research examining American medicine, race relations and public policy.
And yet the most gratitude is due to the 600 men of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.  The inhumanity they endured and the sacrifices that they and their loved ones made did not go did not go unnoticed.  The revelation of the existence of the 40-year study led to congressional investigations and a complete revamping of federal regulations on human experimentation.
The new guidelines created specific criteria for research projects involving human subjects.  It was a direct consequence of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study that regulations exist today for the protection of human subjects.
Today, as with the passing of time the 600 African-American men of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study have long since died.  However it is for us to remember the occurrence of the study.  It is said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.
Billy Carter, an attorney for the survivors of the study, echoes this.  He states referring to the descendants:
“The sad thing is that it could happen all over again.  These people could just as easily be conned as their fathers and grandfathers in the syphilis study.”The Visible Man

Knocking At The Door: Bisexuality Within The African-American Community

Silence… Pretend… Ignore… Avoid… Deny…

The Seattle Times recently published an article regarding the lack of acceptance of bisexuality by both straight and gay/lesbian communities. (“Study: Most bisexuals still haven’t come out” 7/22/13)
The article highlighted a photograph of an African-American woman, her male Caucasian spouse and their handsome biracial child.  However there was a discrepancy between the article and the photograph in the failure of the article to provide any information regarding the status or African-American bisexuals  “coming out” or responding to rejection from either their community or the majority population.
The article brought forth attitudes held by both members of gay/lesbians and straight communities as well as startling statistics regarding the impact of rejection upon bisexuals.  The article suggests that both communities are distrustful of bisexuals, holding onto stereotypes that bisexuals are indecisive or incapable of monogamous relationships.
It was found in a Pew Research study that as a result of rejection by both communities that a time in which many gay and lesbians are “coming out” asserting their civil rights, most bisexuals have chosen to remain closeted or hidden from public view.  Furthermore the research study developed the following findings:
·      Only 28% of bisexuals said that most or all of the important people in their lives knew about their sexual orientation, compared to 71% of lesbians and 78% of gay men.
·      Only 11% of bisexual people said most of their closest co-workers knew of their sexual orientation, compared to 48% of gay men and 50% of lesbians.
·      Bisexuals were less likely than gay men and lesbians to say their workplaces were accepting of them.
The article goes on to state that as a result bisexuals suffer from isolation. Studies have found that
·      Bisexual people are at greater risk of emotional distress than gay/lesbian or straight people.
·      Bisexual women are more likely to binge drink and suffer depression.
·      Bisexual people are more likely than gays/lesbians and straight people to harm themselves or endure suicidal thoughts
Although I find the research to be startling as it provides proof that due to rejection, bisexuals are forced to reside in two separate closets: a straight one and a gay one.  The research also indicates that bisexuals are responding to the absence of a clearly defined community and the psychological stress of having to hide their sexual orientation.
However what I find most interesting is the photograph featuring of a African-American woman, her male Caucasian spouse and their handsome biracial child yet the article fails to provide any research or documentation regarding the impact of rejection being dealt with by bisexuals of ethnic minority communities.
In essence the photograph appears to serve as a prop adding “color” to an article that focusing on the psychological impact on bisexuals belonging to the “majority.”  Historically ethnic minorities have been cited in such articles as an “afterthought.” In this situation, the article does not even bother to attempt to hide its use or rather misuse of ethnic minority bisexual people.  Clearly this is one of those situations in which “they are seen, yet they remain invisible.”
In the article the biracial family “exists” for the enjoyment of the reader.  The reader attains internal satisfaction, observing the ethnic diversity of the mother and father as they are beaming with smiles as they hold their child.  However their “story” is not being told.
As the article clearly points out the rejection that Caucasian bisexuals are facing in both gay/lesbian and straight communities, it fails to provide information which is widely known that bisexuals of color and bisexual ethnic minorities are often responding to rejections from three communities: gays/lesbians, straight people and their own ethnic minority community.
Furthermore, where Caucasian bisexuals are responding to rejection due to sexual orientation, ethnic minority bisexuals are responding not only to the same rejection by the gay/lesbian and straight communities as a result of their sexual orientation, but to the rejection by their ethnic community, which denies them a source of protection and a safe harbor from the racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment that they face day to day due to the color of their skin or ethnic origin.
Whether the photograph serves its purpose in “selling” the article” is not of concern. The real issues are those of invisibility, manipulation and the failure of the article to tell the story of the people in the photograph.”  The article used this family in a manner that is a disservice and in doing so reinforces the perception of “invisibility” for ethnic minority bisexuals.
There is interesting research that has been developed among the topic of bisexuality within the African American community
·      Due to homophobia within the African-American community, African-American bisexual youth are often reluctant to disclose their sexuality
·      In a large sample of behaviorally bisexual men, it was found that African-Americans were much less likely to disclose their sexual orientation to their female partners than whites
·      Two major predictors for disclosure among African-American men were current age and age at initial engagement in sexual behavior, with older and more experienced men being more willing to disclose their sexuality.
There continues to be a wall of silence and ignorance (lack of knowledge) within the African-American community regarding bisexuality.  To provide clarification, the use of the word bisexual as a label and identity varies from group to group and from bisexual individual to bisexual individual. To provide some understanding to the question of what is bisexuality here are a few of the more popular definitions currently in use:
·       Someone who is capable of feeling romantic, spiritual, and/or sexual attraction for either male or female gender.
·       A person who loves despite gender.
·       One who loves individuals first and genders second.
·       An individual open to sexual or emotional exploration with two genders.
This African-American bisexual individual does not merely exist.  He/she is not invisible. They are alive.  They live vibrant and meaningful lives.  Their presence brings a picture of diversity of the human tapestry that is among us.  They have a story that deserves to be told.
Members of the ethnic minority bisexual community are knocking at the door.   The public, viewing and listening have a right to hear their story.
The Visible Man

Suffering in Silence: The Pain Of Domestic Violence

What the hell?! This is a story, a novel, right?

      “The son wishes to remember what the father wishes to forget.”
                  Yiddish Proverb
I recall a time many years ago about a man living downstairs in my building who would come home and physically beat his wife.  Although this was a time in which one “minds one’s business,” my father, after hearing the fighting day after day, one day asked him why did he hit his wife.  The man’s response was that “if I didn’t beat her, she would feel that I did not love her.”
I remember the nights of placing my hands over my ears to muffle out her screams as I attempted to sleep.  I remember my parents acting as they had heard nothing.  I remember the gossiping of the ladies as they talked about the beating Harriet got that night.
I remember the silence of the men folk who shunned the person doing the battering.  I would ask my father why did the men not come together and talk to him.  He would tell me to hush; it was not their business.  Yet I could feel his anger and shame.
These distant memories of a time long ago are reawakened by a book I’m re-reading. The novel Mama, published by Terry McMillan in 1987, tells the story of Mildred, mother of five, black and dealing with the jealous rampages of her husband, Crook.
I had barely begin reading and was in the midst of chapter one when Crook, in a drunken state as he is beating his spouse Mildred with a belt, states:
      “Didn’t I tell you, you was getting too grown?”  Whap. (The sound of the belt). “Don’t you know your place yet, girl?” Whap. “Don’t you know nothing about respect?”  Whap. “Girl, you gon’ learn.  I’m a man, not a toy.”  Whap. “You understand me.”  Whap.  “Make me look      like a fool.”  Whap. (p.8)
I am shocked.  I want to put the book down and yet I choose to continue.  I must continue. As I read on, I see that Crook has thrown the belt onto the floor and collapsed next to Mildred on the bed, going to sleep.  Now, I am really just amazed.  This man has just given his spouse a stiff ass whipping and he is brazen enough to lie next to her and go to sleep?  What the hell?  This is a story, a novel, right?
Reading on I see that Mildred gets up and heads for the kitchen.  I say to myself, there is going to be hell to pay; the devil is going to get his due.

She yanks the black skillet out and slung the grease into the sink.  Before he knew  what was happening, Mildred raised the heavy pan into the air and charged into him,    hitting him on the forehead with a loud throng.  Blood ran down over his eye and he      grabbed her and pushed back into the bedroom.  The kids heard them bumping into the wall for seemed like forever and then they heard nothing at all. (p.9)

The kids?!  They did this with the children being present or within distance to hear? Everything?  What the hell?  This is a story, a novel, right?

Freda hushed the girls and made them huddle under a flimsy flannel blanket on the  bottom bunk bed.  “Shut up, before they hear us and we’ll be next” she whispered      loudly.  She tried to comfort the two youngest, Angel and Doll, by wrapping them inside her skinny arms, but it was no use. They couldn’t stop crying.  None of them understood any of this, but when they heard the mattress squeaking, they knew what was happening.(p.9)

Let me see if I understand this.  The drunken husband, Crook beats his wife.  Mildred in turn hits him on the forehead with a skillet causing blood to run.  Both are now in the bedroom engaging in sexual intercourse.  The children are in the next room traumatized and listening to their parents engaging in sexual intercourse. What the hell?! This is a story, a novel, right? And what about the impact on the children?

Money ran from his room into Freda’s.  When Money couldn’t stand it any more, he   tiptoed back to his room.  He flipped over his mattress, because the fighting always made   him lose control of his bladder.  He would say his prayers extra hard and swear that when he got older and got married he would never beat his wife; he wouldn’t care whatshe did.  He would leave first.(p.9)

Wow.  The boy is so traumatized that he loses control and wets the bed?  Then he prays extra hard.  The behavior continues to repeat itself.  There is no change.  Is God listening?  What the hell?! This is a story, a novel, right?
Damn.  What about the other children?  Freda, and her little sisters.  Angel & Doll, they are babies.

The girls slid into their respective bunks and lay there, not moving to scratch or even    twitch.  They tried to inch into their separate dreams but the sound of creaking grew louder and louder, then faster and faster. “Why they try to kill each other, then do the nasty?” Bootsey asked Freda. “Mama don’t like doing it,” Freda explained.  “She only doing it so Daddy won’t hit her no more.”

      Sounds like she like it to me.  It’s taking forever,” said Bootsey.  Angel and Doll didn’t     know what they were talking about. “Just go to sleep,” Freda said.  And pretty soon the     noises stopped and their eyelids drooped and they fell asleep.”(p.10)
So what do the children learn from this experience?  After fighting with your husband, you force yourself to have sex with him.  You do this so you can avoid being beaten again. What the hell?! This is a story, a novel, right?
Yes.  This is a story.  A true story, which is occurring everyday within the African-American community.  Below are a number of statistics that speak to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the African American Community. This information is made available through the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community (IDVAAC).
·      In a nationally representative survey conducted in 1996, 29% of African American women and 12% of African American men reported at least one instance of violence from an intimate partner.
·      African Americans account for a disproportionate number of intimate partner homicides.  In 2005, African Americans accounted for almost 1/3 of the intimate partner homicides in this country.
·      Black women comprise 8% of the U.S. population but in 2005 accounted for 22% of the intimate partner homicide victims and 29% of all female victims of intimate partner homicide.
·      Intimate partner homicides among African Americans have declined sharply in the last 30 years.  Partner homicides involving a black man or black woman decreased from a high of 1529 in 1976 to 475 in 2005, for a total decline of 69%.
·      Intimate partner deaths have decreased most dramatically among black men. From 1976-1985, black men were more likely than black women to be a victim of domestic homicide; by 2005, black women were 2.4 times more likely than a black male to be murdered by their partners.  Over this period, intimate partner homicides declined by 83% for black men vs.55% for black women.


Intimate partner violence among African Americans is related to economic factors, and happens more frequently among couples that:
·      Have lower incomes.
·      Where the male partner is underemployed or unemployed.
·      In couples where the male is not seeking work.
·      In couples that reside in very poor neighborhoods, regardless of the couple’s income.

Relational Risk Factors

·      Alcohol problems (drinking, binge drinking, dependency) are more frequently related to intimate partner violence for African Americans than for whites or Hispanics.
·      As with other abusive men, African American men who batter are higher in jealousy and the need for power and control in the relationship.
·      As with women of other races, among African American women killed by their partner, the lethal violence was more likely to occur if there had been incidents in which the partner had used or threatened to use a weapon on her and/or the partner has tried to choke or strangle her.
·      Among African American women killed by their partner, almost half were killed while in the process of leaving the relationship, highlighting the need to take extra precautions at that time.
·      Among African American women who killed their partner, almost 80% had a history of abuse.


Black women who are battered differed in the following ways than black women without the history of abuse in that they often:
·      have more physical ailments,
·      have mental health issues,
·      are less likely to practice self sex
·      are more likely to abuse substances during pregnancy
Black women who are battered are at greater risk
·      for attempting suicide
·      of history of being abused as a child
·      for being depressed
·      suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Domestic violence re-occurs.
·      In a large sample of battered black women, in about half the cases in which abuse happened, the violence did not happen again.
·      However, over 1/3 of women reporting abuse had at least one other incident of severe domestic violence in the same year
·      And one in six experienced another less severe act of domestic violence
Women attempt to leave abusive relationships.
·      Seventy to eighty percent of abused black women left or attempted to leave the relationship.
Women in abusive relationship need the support of friends and family.
·      Battered black women who reported that they could rely on others for emotional and practical support were less like to be re-abused, showed less psychological distress and were less likely to attempt suicide.


Teen Dating Violence
Black youth are over represented as victims of teen dating violence.  In a 2003 national study of high school students
·      Almost 14% of African American youth (vs. 7% of white youth) reported that a boyfriend or girlfriend had “hit, slapped or physically hurt them on purpose” in the last year
·      Boys (13.7%) and girls (14%) were almost equally likely to report being a victim of dating violence
Concluding Remarks
With some many new and current publications by African-American writers, it is unclear for me as to why I chose to return to the past to read Mama again. I feel truly blessed that I did pick up the book and continue to be captivated by the pain and suffering that occurred during my childhood as well as the reality that the same pain and suffering continues today.
During my parents’ day, the mindset was keep to your own business. That was the norm back then.  Shame on them.  There can be no justification or excuse for intimate partner violence.  Furthermore, there is no justification or excuse for YOU to do nothing if you observe or know that this unacceptable behavior is occurring to a friend, coworker or family member.
It is great news, a true blessing that the number of partner homicides in the African-American community has dramatically decreased 69% (1529 in 1976 to 475 in 2005). However, one death from partner homicide is one too many.  One child traumatized, and having to go throughout life without a parent due to the homicide by the other parent is simply more than our community can bear or tolerate.
Take action.  Speak up.  Follow the framework as developed by Dr. Micheal Kane.  Do the RITE Thing!

                  The RITE Thing

R = Recognize- The person is in danger.
I   = Intervention- Provide assistance. Identify   resources.
T  = Transform- Take action.  Ensure safety.
E  = Empowerment- Look towards the tomorrow.    Plan and work towards the future
For more information regarding domestic violence victim services and treatment services for batterers that may be available within your local community contact:
·      The local domestic violence hotline
·      The local community crisis clinic
·      The local United Way agency
·      The local state office responsible for the welfare of children, youth and families.
·      The local police or law enforcement agency
It was in my parent’s generation and those preceding them that they were taught to mind their own business.   Today is not that day.  We can and we must do different.
A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, make corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.  (Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life, Micheal Kane).


To end the suffering
We must no longer be silent.
If we do not speak,
It is a certainty that no one will listen.
Words will never arise from silence
—Dr. Micheal Kane
Empower.  Empower her.  Empower him.
                  Empower Self.
The journey continues…..

Victory at the London 2012 Olympics: Is It All About The Hair?

Well after a seven-month hiatus, I am returning to writing Crossroads.  I took time off to respond to major transitions in my life including the passing of my mother and refocusing my clinical work from the University of Washington to practice private.  The change in work now allows for time to provide healthcare to my beloved spouse, my Linda.

The death of my mother was a great loss to me.  She was one classy lady.  She passed away early this year on Valentine’s Day.   In her lifetime she saw the integration of African-American women and men in the armed forces (1948).  Furthermore she lived to observe African-American women achieve history by being first in various categories.  In the decades beginning from her birth (sunrise) to her death (sunset) she was able to observe the following achievements:

·    Otelia Cromwell, first African-American female to receive a doctoral degree from Yale University (1926)
·    Mary McLeod Bethune, first African-American to head a federal agency, National Youth Administration (1938)
·    Hattie McDaniel, first African-
American to win an Academy Award, Best Supporting Actress, Gone with the Wind (1940)
·    Leontyne Price, first African-American to appear in a telecast opera, the NBC’s predication of Tosca (1956)
·    Patricia Roberts Harris, first African-American woman Ambassador of the United States, Luxemburg (1965)
·    Shirley Chisholm, first African-American to campaign for the US presidency in a major political party and to win a US presidential primary,  Democratic Party New Jersey primary (1972)
·    Vanessa L. Williams, first African-American to win the crown of Miss America (1983)
·    Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American woman astronaut, Space Shuttle Endeavour (1992)
·    Condoleezza Rice, first African-American woman to be appointed National Security Advisor to the President of the United States (2001) and first African-American woman to be appointed Secretary of the US State Department (2005)
·    Michelle Obama, first African-American First Lady, wife of the first African-American President of the United States (2009)
Unfortunately, my mother did not live to see the 2012 London Olympic Games in which Gabby Douglas became the first African-American to win the gold medal in the gymnastics category of “Women’s Individual All-Around Final.”
I know had she lived to see this great occasion, she would have been proud of Gabby.  She would have understood the challenges and sacrifices that this young woman made when in her early adolescence, she left her family and moved 1500 miles away to live with a Caucasian family to pursue her dreams of becoming an Olympic competitor.
My mother, in remembering sending her own children off to battle during the integration of white-only schools, would have understood the sacrifices and struggles Gabby’s mother had to endure so her daughter could attain a moment never before achieved by a female of her race.
Although my mother missed this great moment in history, I am glad she was not here to witness the embarrassing and shameful behavior of African-Americans who chose to humiliate Gabby by focusing not on her great achievement, but rather on downgrading her because of their “lack of satisfaction” with how she wore her hair.
My mother would have been shocked (as I and many others were) that people were focusing on Gabby’s perceived “bad hair” or “lack of hair grooming.”   Having resided in the southern United States, my mother would had chalked this up to “ugly, ignorant talk” and the ravings of “racist folk” attempting to keep a “hard working sista” down.
My mother’s face would have frozen in utter disbelief to find out that such negative ugly words and behavior came from African-Americans.   The question being asked by many is why?  Why would we engage in such behavior?
In discussions with African-Americans regarding this incident, I have heard opinions that the hair comments were ignorant, stupid and without class, etc., made by individuals who hide behind the anonymity of the internet and therefore they should be discounted.  Yet, the hair comments have served to emotionally wound one courageous woman and have the potential to hinder others who seek to follow their dreams and passions.
African-Americans historically have been under pressure to succeed.  We have fought for the right to serve and die in our nation’s military even if it meant the humiliation of serving in segregated units.  We have fought for the right to contribute and be represented in all sectors of American life and society.
Today’s generation of African-American youth represents past and present commitments to accept the challenge of “being the first”, “affirming the race” and “representing us” at all times.   Many of us are grateful and appreciative of these valuable commitments.
Regretfully, there will always be those who will look for the negative and search for reasons to put another person down instead of identifying the positive and lifting the person up.  Those who feast on the bandwagon of negative imagery will find the taste to be either bland or bittersweet.  Substance will always reveal beauty and character.
I know if my mother would have been alive to witness Gabby’s accomplishments, she would have embraced her and lifted her up as if she were her daughter.  Because she is.
She is our daughter, our sister and our Gabby.   We are extremely proud of her.
By the way, no, it is not all about the hair.  It is about commitment, hard work and dedication of the athlete, her family and her community.
It is about Gabby and her success.
Go Gabby go!!
Until the next Crossroads.

White Privilege And Invisibility: Betrayal Trauma Within The Juror Selection Process

Is Lady Justice really blind? Or maybe she is selective when it comes to the race of the potential juror.

The Washington State Supreme Court recently sidestepped a golden opportunity to bring to an end to the use of peremptory challenges in jury selection.  A recent article in Seattle Times Northwest used the following headline: “State justices seek protections from racial bias in jury selection.”  The article explained:
While considering the murder conviction of a black man, the justices expressed concern that race is often a factor –conscious or unconscious – when lawyers use their peremptory challenges to dismiss potential jurors from cases. (8/2/13).
The case before the court involved the appeal of a murder conviction in which the convicted individual alleged that the prosecutors singled out the only black person in the jury pool for additional questions about her views on the role of race in the justice system. Utilizing the peremptory challenge the prosecutor ultimately dismissed her from the jury pool.
To understand the institution of peremptory challenges in jury selection, the article explains the following:
When lawyers question members of a jury pool in Washington they can ask prospects (prospective jurors) to be removed for cause, such as some evidence the juror would not be able to sit impartially on the case.   They are also allowed three peremptory challenges, by which they can have jurors for no reason at all, as long as the effect is not purposeful discrimination.
While the justices voted to uphold the murder conviction several expressed “concern” for what they described in persistent bias in jury selection.  So what is the outcome of this concern?  Nothing. What changes will be made?  No changes. None.
The justices acknowledged that the system of peremptory challenges, developed in England during the 13th century and adopted without debate by the Washington’s territorial legislative financially overburdens and lacks any evidence that it is effective.
One justice, Justice Steven Gonzalez stated the following in his written opinion:
Peremptory challenges are used in trial courts throughout this state often based largely or entirely on racial stereotypes or generalizations.  As a result, many qualified persons in this state are being excluded from jury service because of race.
Justice Gonzalez, the only ethnic minority member of the Washington State Supreme Court called for the immediate elimination of peremptory challenges in jury selection.  However, even though as many as seven justices wrote 110 pages of opinion acknowledging racial impacts on jury selection, none were willing to join Justice Gonzalez in calling for the immediate elimination of peremptory challenges.
The justices apparently did not find that the impacts warranted any direct action to eradicate racism within the jury selection pool.  Here are samplings of their comments:
·     Justices Owens/Wiggins: instead of making sweeping changes, the court (State Supreme Court) could create new rules regarding jury selection.
·     Justices Madsen/Johnson: we are concerned about race, yet the court should stick to the issues within the stated appeal.
·     Justice Stephens: concerned about race however the challenges are enshrined in state law.
This is the basis of white privilege.  Whereas good meaning people can engage in legalese and academic minded questions, knowing that a 150 year-old tool of an antiquated system that was adopted without voter approval is not only financially burdensome, but also openly discriminates against its citizens.
So while the State Supreme Court is engaging in a lively discussion about how a 150 year-old legal trick used to exclude prospective jurors based on race, there does not appear to be a focus or concern for the psychological trauma that may be impacting the prospective jurors.
Just imagine the African-American woman who receives the “jury summons” and is ordered to fulfill her responsibility as a law abiding, tax paying citizen to report for jury duty.   Let’s imagine that this woman is proud to perform her duty and fulfill her oath to her country.  Let’s also imagine that this woman is forced to interrupt her daily schedule or even forsake possible travel plans.
She gets up early in the morning; goes downtown to the courthouse, sitting in a bullpen with other strangers just like herself.  She may sit there in this bullpen for several days without being called.  Finally when she is called to participate in what is known as voir dire – the questioning by attorneys to determine the competency of a juror,  she, unlike the others is asked additional questions about her views on the role of race in the justice system.  She is asked race questions because unlike the other prospective jurors, she shares the racial or ethnic identity with the defendant or alleged victim.
She may be shocked, surprised, frustrated and humiliated when she is told by the trial judge that she is being excused from jury duty for no specific reason (peremptory challenge) and told to return to the jury pool where it is possible that she can be subjected to the same humiliation again if the defendant or alleged victim in the next trial is also African-American.
Let’s assume that this woman spends the entire week sitting in the bullpen without being called for another case.  How is she going to respond to this humiliation?  How will this humiliation impact her self-esteem? Her self-concept?  What does she tell her family?  Her coworkers?
How is she to respond the next time she receives this “wonderful invitation” (i.e. jury summons) giving her another opportunity to be humiliated again?  Betrayed, perhaps?
If summoned again, perhaps she could act differently to try to fit the “subjective criteria” in order to be selected for jury trial.   Whoa!  What criteria?  Well that would depend on the whim or stereotypes and racial bias of the individual that day who is making the decision of whether to assert one of the peremptory challenges.
Let’s assume that in the previous jury selection in which the peremptory challenge was used, this black woman has already utilized the strategy of “self racial profiling” to make herself appear acceptable for selection on jury.   Within this strategy the black woman paid particular and specific attention to detail of the following factors:
·    How to behave
·    What to wear or not to wear
·    What to say or not say
And yet in doing all of the above, she was voided, rejected, told to go away and indirectly told she is not trustworthy of being impartial in the criminal proceeding of a person she does not know or has never met, simply due to the color of her skin.
Being dismissed, the black woman disappears returning to the jury pool.  The legal system with the assistance of the trial judge has served to reinforce her invisibility.
Professor A.J. Franklin of the City University of New York (CUNY) defines invisibility as “an inner struggle with the feelings that one’s talents, abilities, personality, and worth are not valued or recognized because of prejudice and racism.” In support of his thesis, Dr. Franklin cites from Ralph Ellison’s heart crushing 1947 novel, Invisible Man:
I am invisible.  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.
So how does this woman feel following this experience?  It is fair to say that she may feel rejected, anger, betrayed and most importantly, traumatized.
Betrayal trauma can be defined as the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Extensive betrayal is traumatic and the closer the relationship, the greater the degree o betrayal and thus of trauma.
In this situation, the African-American woman, a neutral person seeking only to fulfill her civic responsibility is in facto “placing herself in the hands” of the trial judge as the overseer of the judicial proceeding to protect her from abuse as she is being placed in a “tug of war” game between opposing attorneys.
Whatever belief, faith or trust she may have had in the judicial system evaporated when the trial judge failed in the responsibility to protect the potential juror from abuse. Assuming the judge is White, how does White Privilege factor into the equation. White privilege?  What is white privilege?
White privilege refers to the set of societal privileges from which White people generally benefit to a significantly larger degree than ethnic minorities who reside and work within the same social, political or economic spaces. The term denotes both the obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that White individuals may not recognize they have which distinguishes white privilege from overt bias or prejudice.  This would include
·    cultural affirmations of one’s own worth;
·    greater presumed social status
·    freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely
·    the perception of one’s own experiences to be normal whereas, others are different or exceptional
Or as Tim Wise puts it:
For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.
White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay
White privilege is being able to go to a prestigious prep school, then to Yale and Harvard Business School (George W. Bush), and still be seen as an “average guy,” while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and then Harvard Law, makes you “uppity” and a snob who probably looks down on regular folks.
White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.), and that’s OK, and you’re still cut out to be president, but if you’re black and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can’t be trusted to make good decisions in office.  (see also other blogs and videos from Tim Wise regarding White Privilege)
Concluding Remarks
White privilege allows the honorable members of the Washington State Supreme Court to engage in a stimulating debate as well as intellectual exercise worthy of academic merit and review.  However this judicial body blinked at the opportunity to either set new law or establish new rules that would eliminate an antiquated system that is 150 years-old and clearly built for the enjoyment and benefit of the majority culture.
This judicial body, which due to changes demanded of more current times, reflects gender diversity including five female members, including the chief justice.  Has the esteemed bench forgotten that there was a time in our history when white women were treated as second-class citizens and were prevented the opportunity to serve on juries?
Justice Gonzalez, the only ethnic minority member of this prestigious body has called for the elimination of a system that excludes qualified persons from jury service because of their race. However he is but one voice and one vote.  He cannot do this alone.
Meanwhile, perhaps the African-American female juror will return home feeling humiliated and betrayed.  Maybe she will rethink her civic responsibilities the next time she receives a summons “inviting” her to serve on a jury.
Perhaps the Washington State Supreme Court will be willing to answer (and not play dodge ball) why it is difficult to find ethnic minorities to serve on juries.  If there is no protection from racial discrimination in something as fundamental as jury service, why should ethnic minorities participate in a process that is constructed in a manner that places them in psychological duress?
The Washington State Supreme Court had the opportunity to provide directives to trial judges, or at the minimum create recommendations for the state bar association or extend a challenge to the State Legislative or office of the Governor.
This supervisory judicial institution had the opportunity to show that it can balance the rights of the accused for a fair trial as well protect the potential juror from abuse.  Instead it verbalized its concerns, excused itself from the role of empowerment for change and blinked.
It appears that the title of the newspaper article “State justices seek protections from racial bias in jury selection” was in error.  Talk without action is simply talk.
The Seattle Times article provided informed the reader that the “justices expressed concern that race is often a factor –conscious or unconscious”
I would remind the justices that racism delivered whether it is conscious or unconscious, spiced or unsweetened, or delivered in the package of a “peremptory challenge” is still traumatic. Furthermore, I would submit that when it is delivered by the officers of the court, a prosecutor, defense attorney or trial judge, the racism appears legitimized by those who take oaths to uphold the law and therefore can be perceived as a “betrayal of trust.”
The research has identified seven distinct forms of trauma that ethnic minorities may endure on a daily basis.  Betrayal trauma due to its nature of vulnerability and exposure in extending violations of implicit and explicit trust has been deemed the most psychologically detrimental.
Regardless of his or her darker complexion, each potential juror deserves protection from the psychological trauma that a peremptory challenge can have on a person trying to honor his or her civic duty.
Significantly, in order to legitimately explore and make judgments about racial bias for potential jurors of color while completely ignoring the potential for racial bias for potential jurors who are White, one would have to incorrectly assume that White jurors are color blind and jurors of color are not.  This is White privilege.
The Washington State Supreme Court should stop blinking and take another look.

The Visible Man

The Zimmerman Verdict And The Shattering Of The Invisible Contract: We Must Want To Run The Race Smarter, Not Harder

The Contract That Never Existed

The psychological self of many Americans, particularly African- Americans has been severely wounded by their realization that the “contract” with America or rather the “unwritten agreement” or rather the “understanding” was only an illusion.
A contract can be defined in one or several of the following manners:
·      An agreement between two or more parties, especially one that is written and enforceable by law
·      A legal document that states and explains a formal agreement between two different people or groups
·      The written form of such an agreement
The Zimmerman verdict has created nightmares, chaos and traumas across the land for the majority of Americans regardless of race or ethnic origin.  For generations parents have taught their children the strategy of “self-racial profiling”.  This strategy consists of:
·      How to behave
·      Places to avoid
·      What to wear or not to wear
·      What to say or not to say
In exchange there was an “assumption” of an unwritten contract with America.   This “contract” assumed that America would be able to tell the difference from the “good” i.e. well behaved, polite, well mannered from the “bad” i.e. loud, profane and unruly.  It was also assumed that the “good” i.e. “my child” would be left alone while others hunted down the “bad” (i.e. the television shows COPS and Scared Straight are examples).
This illusionistic understanding penetrated deep within the psychological processes of Americans, particularly African-Americans.  The killing of the innocent i.e. Trayvon Martin and the resulting acquittal of Zimmerman has shattered the invisible contract with America.  It exposed the reality of the illusion that the contract never existed.
Historically, there have been countless examples given that the invisible contract either never existed, or the terms of the contract were in constant flux and subject to revision without warning based on the degree of America’s deeply rooted fear of African-American men.
Yet Americans, particularly African-Americans have consistently maintained the illusion. As stated before the contract and its illusion have now been irrevocably shattered.  As a result hopelessness, misguided anger and the loss of direction as to how to protect their children now prevail.
The Zimmerman verdict has exposed the psychological wounds of many Americans. Currently, the psychological self of Americans is under psychological distress and consequently responding to a specific trauma known as “just-world” trauma.
The just-world model of trauma is conceptualized within social psychology.  The model asserts that people need to believe in a just world; one in which they get what they deserve and deserve what they get.  The just-world theory corresponds to the principle of “goodness”, and that the goodness of the individual is a primary factor in determining his or her lot in life.
Trauma shatters the just-world hypothesis because the traumatic response occurs as a result of an out-of-the-ordinary event and is directly experienced as a threat to survival and self-preservation.
This is implicit in the occurrence of a average kid walking to his residence within a gated community is accosted, shot and killed while in the process of returning from the store with candy and soda in hand and in plain sight.  This “out-of-the-ordinary event” has shattered the just-world hypothesis for many Americans.
Regarding the “contract with America” Professor Bryan Adamson in an OP editorial for the Seattle Times (7/30/13) writes:
      The Zimmerman verdict shreds that   agreement and replaces it with a kind of  hopelessness which to paraphrase Marvin Gaye, makes you wanna holler. Even a man of color’s benign behavior     won’t save him.
So what can Americans do during these times of great peril and distress?  They will turn to the federal government to create more laws for their protection.  Yet withstanding the power of law, history has repeatedly shown the inability of government to legislate the fear that resides deeply rooted within the self of another human being.
Where do we go from here?  Who do we turn to for aid or assistance?  What institution do we call to gallop in for the rescue?  The answer is simple.  The self.  Empower the self.
We can replace the sense of hopelessness with empowerment.  We can transform from living in fear to living with fear.  We can teach our children, adolescents and young adults standardized self-empowerment strategies.
For example we can follow the model of law enforcement.  Without regard to community, across America they maintain the same standardized policing strategies.  We can move from existing and surviving to create a foundation of driving and striving.
The deep-rooted fear that Zimmerman and others like him hold about African-American men is in reality more about themselves.  It will continue to hold them and eventually drown them.
Despite their fear we can achieve thriving.  Yet to do so, we must stop waiting for someone or the government to decide to advocate for us.  We have not and will not respond to the Zimmermans of the world with violence or civil disobedience. We can and must want to learn to run the race smarter, not harder.
Professor Adamson summarized his OP editorial on Racial Self Profiling in writing:
      I cannot calibrate my life, every piece of clothing, accouterment, every twitch, tweak or tic to what’s comfortable for the George Zimmermans of the world.
      I cannot make sure my hand is not at  my waist.  I cannot promise not to get lost. I cannot let it rain and not put my hood over my head.  I cannot stop the night from falling.  I cannot stop the rain   from falling.
      I cannot stop the rain from falling.
Professor Adamson sums up the sense of feelings of African-American men acknowledging one’s inability to control environment that contacts him to physical space. Some may view this as a statement of hopelessness, a statement of despair.  I would disagree.  It is simply a statement of fact of the reality of living as a man within a fear based society.
And I say the following:
      I will not live in fear.  I will live with fear. I will empower the self to be the driver.  I will set the pace as I strive. I will thrive. I will run the race not to win, rather to finish.  I will run smarter not harder.  And I will succeed. I will finish what I have   started. I and I alone, will be the master   of my destiny.”
As one means of empowerment strategies in the coming months, I will provide a two part training program entitled “How to Deal with the Police: The Do’s and Don’ts. The program will be accessible via the Internet.  The focus will be to assist individuals on how to interact and respond when dealing with law enforcement.
Yesterday is gone.  Today is fading.  Tomorrow is not promised. Live, work and build from this moment.
 Empower the self.  Strengthen from within; learn to balance the fear that exists externally with empowerment that derives from self and builds internally.
Focus on the journey, not the destination.

The Visible Man