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