Rebounding From Psychological Assault Of Internalized Racism: Ten Flashes Of Light For The Journey Of Life

Dear Visible Man:

     Thank you for your eloquent response, but I think you missed my point.  I think it’s clear that racism is traumatic to African Americans and other minorities (and to white people as well), but what really perplexed me is why, even though Oprah displayed the expected behavior for black people when faced with blatant racism, is it that some black pundits and writers felt that it was important to outline the “more useful” things that Oprah could have spent $38K on?  I could understand that if Oprah wasn’t already an accomplished philanthropist, but why is she not “allowed” to be able to purchase expensive things if she has the money?  Why do we expect our black 1%ers to be more altruistic and to “give more back” than we expect of others?

Patti, Bellevue, WA

Dear Patti,
     I appreciate having the opportunity to respond to your question.  In my earlier response I failed to explore the fundamental questions that you were asking which are the internalized racism and expectations of the African-American community.  First, in regards to the concept of internalized racism, there are those who would argue that African-Americans are “incapable” of having internal racism because either we lack economic power or that the community is weakened due to constantly rebounding from the external assaults of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment.  This argument will not hold due to the factor that internalized racism is not about economic power, it is about psychological power or as in this case, psychological dis-empowerment.
     It is difficult to fully understand the personal agendas of those who found it necessary to comment and create controversy on how Oprah chooses to spend her hard earned & legally obtained funds. It is interesting to point out that the controversy within the African-American community minimizes the impact of racism upon this particular individual.  It is even more intriguing that the same controversy would lead to such an uproar, forcing Oprah to publicly apologize for verbalizing her feelings regarding racial discrimination and insidious traumatization.
     However, let’s explore the similarities between two of America’s well-known richest people, Oprah Winfrey & Bill Gates. Both are:

·       Billionaires
·       Are accomplished philanthropists
·       Have established foundations serving either poverty, educational, medical or scientific causes


·       Ethnicity- Winfrey (African-American), Gates (Caucasian)

·       Gender- Winfrey (female), Gates (male)

·       Marital Status- Winfrey (single no children), Gates (married, one child)

     Unlike Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates may never experience outright denial, rejection and psychological assault based on his gender, race, ethnic origin or marital status.  Where is the public outcry from the black media and pundits as to how Bill Gates spends his money?  There is none.  Why?  Perhaps, due to the perception of expectations that lies within the African-American community.  Unlike Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and other black 1%ers will always be held to a different standard, which is higher for them due to the fact that she and other 1% are black.
     Frankly speaking, there will always be those who will be unsatisfied as to either how Oprah spends her money or gives to the many causes of which she is known to be a benefactor.  The real issue is how we within the African-American community feel about ourselves.  For example, if we explore our economic or financial potential, we would learn that standard of living and gross earnings i.e. income makes the African-American community the wealthiest population of African descent in the world.
     However, all of the economic wealth means little or nothing when the community is psychologically embroiled in self-hate or self-defeatist attitudes or activities, such as these psychologically damaging attacks upon Oprah, who is the only African-American billionaire of either male or female gender.  These psychologically dis-empowering behaviors are strategies that those lacking in positive self-esteem and self-concept employ to attack and weaken others.  Its success is clearly shown when Oprah is forced to make a public apology for having publicized the traumatic incident of her racial assault.
     Rather than keep the focus on Oprah, take this opportunity to learn from this incident the power, the strategies and objectives of these pundits and understand how these individuals are easily threatened by “your success.”  Understand from what you may have learned and conceptualize the following:
     Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

·       To be successful with workplace politics: decide after careful consideration who to trust. Then trust with caution and consistently verify.

·       Respect all, love all, yet remember trust is earned, not given away to the undeserving.

·       Once burned, we learn. If we do not learn, we only assure ourselves that we will be burned again and again and again until …we learn.

·       “To err is human” is a common expression, yet we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error.None.

·       When a person exposes their true self to you, embrace the action and treat it as a gift.

·       Betrayal is based on intent. A true friend will never betray you; a betrayer can never be a true friend.

·       When the relationship/journey is over, it’s over. Look towards the future. A new one will begin.

·       Living life can be likened to a marathon. Finish the race; don’t worry about coming in first place. Cross the finish line. Just finish the race. Finish what you start.

·       Intimate relationships should be treated like shoes at a department store; they should be placed on and discarded until there is a right fit.

·       A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes 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.


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