REPOST: A Black Man’s Worst Nightmare: Living with a Bulls-Eye On Your Back. “No Protection For Your Complexion”

Originally posted on June 20,2013. 

——————————————————————————————————–
A B C (Angry, Black & out of Control) or Advocacy, Balance & Calmness?
Times have changed.  Or have they?  It used to be that the old and young were deemed “neutrals” or “innocents” from those seeking the thrill of the hunt?  The hunt?
Summer is here.  It is that time of year.  More of “us” will be out & in the open.  It’s open season– otherwise known as “get black males” documented and placed into the national computer database i.e. NCIC otherwise known as the National Crime Information Center.
Summer is right around the corner.  Summer is in the air.  Can you feel the changes of the seasons? Fear is here too.  Look around yourselves.  Maybe you can’t smell it. Nevertheless, it is there.
Who do we fear?  Who are they? Answer:  Those who are sworn to “protect & serve.” Protect whom?  Serve whom?  Well that may depend on the following variables:
·         The gender of police officer.
·         The location of the incident or situation.
·         The gender, physical size and color of the individual being questioned by the police officer.
Notice that the variable of age was not included.  Age is not a criteria that determines whether an individual will be deemed a citizen worthy of protection and service or determined to be a possible suspect or perpetrator.
In a recent Seattle Times article (3/26/13), a New York City police officer admitted that he had “taunted” an African-American potential suspect who turned out to be an innocent 13 year old teenager.  The officer had detained the boy under the New York Police Department’s program of stopping, questioning and frisking people on city streets.
The officer, called as a witness in a civil rights case, conceded that he had told the handcuffed teenager to stop “crying like a little girl.”  Another officer involved in the civil suit testified that the teen was stopped because he was walking alone at 10:00 at night. The officer further testified that the teen “reached for his waistband as if he had a gun.”
One of the officers testified when he stopped the teen he “assumed” he was much older because he was tall for his age and out on the street without supervision.  The officers also claimed they could not “recall” the teen’s objections to being stopped.  However, the officers do selectively “recall” the following:
They claim the teen was “jaywalking” and when stopped, started “yelling and making a scene” and “fighting” when they (the officers) tried to “frisk” him.
The officers handcuffed the teen and in their “legal search” did not find a weapon.  The teen was then taken to the police station where he was placed in the police computer database while he waited for his parents to “retrieve” him.
So, it seems like the story has a successful ending if one doesn’t count the fact that the teen sued the city and the police for civil rights violations.  The bright side:
·         The suspect was not hurt.
·         No weapon was found.
·         The police were doing their job, securing the suspect without injury or harm to themselves.
·         Another suspicious person has been documented and placed into the database for further follow-up in the future.
·         A potential crime was averted.
·         The “citizens” of the city can move around comfortable knowing that they are being “protected” and “served”.
Wait!!  The story does not end there.  The teen’s father who arrives to retrieve his son turns out to be a retired police officer.
Somewhat upset, as reported in the article the father got into an argument and “tussle” with the police officers at the station. (As an aside, have you ever wondered why when police officers have altercations with each other, it is referred to as a tussle yet altercations between a police officer and civilian is an assault on a police officer?)
One would wonder why the father may be upset with his fellow brothers/officers when they were simply carrying out their duties? Imagine that?  Perhaps the father felt that his status as an “law enforcement officer” extended to his son to some type of special protection or privilege freeing him from being stopped like any other African-American male.
I too am the son of a retired police officer.  I remember the pride he had when he put on his uniform and went out to protect and serve the community.  I also remember the sense of powerlessness he felt when, due to our complexion, he could not afford the same protection for his children.
Let’s return to “fear is in the air.”  The fear that I am writing about is based off of stereotypes.  In a previous At the Crossroads i.e. “Men of Iron Can have Tears Too” a stereotype was defined as:
“A widely held, but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. Realistically speaking, stereotyping only serves to reinforce the fears that are maintained by the “larger group” i.e. family, community, and society.”
Let us be clear about fear.  Fear is nothing more than an emotion. Fear is no different than any other emotional response, i.e. happiness, sadness, joy, fright etc.  The real issue is how emotions are integrated (internalized) and expressed (externalized).
We must want to understand that fear is here.  Fear is here forever.  Forever.  We have choices of whether we “live in” fear or “live with” fear.  It is up for the individual to choose which path he/she will take.
Fear has been given a bad rap.  I conceptualize fear as a blessing.  In my personal life as an adult male, spouse and father and in my profession as a psychotherapist, I want fear. However, I want to be able to live with fear and not be forced to live my life in fear.
One may say “that Dr. Kane must be out of his mind.” How in the world can fear be viewed as a blessing? As stated before, fear is here.  Forever. In understanding this, the individual must want to learn how to “utilize” fear, rather than have fear used against him/her.
Fear provides the individual with the following understanding:
Alone – The individual once outside the residence is “alone” and vulnerable.
Abandon – The individual is at risk of being “abandoned” by the larger group if (when) singled out.
Aware – The individual must want to be “aware” of his surroundings and physical environment.
Alert – The individual must want to be “alert” to presence of others, i.e. personal and emotional safety.
Alive – The individual in following the first four components has improved his or her chances of returning home safe and unharmed.
The police referenced in the Seattle Times article likely represent the thinking of  many police departments throughout the United States.  In turn, the police departments are in themselves representing the voices of the communities in which they protect and serve.
At any point, the African-American male can be targeted as suspicious or suspect or perpetrator.  Again, age is not a factor. The larger group i.e. society lives in fear of the African-American male.
This fear is perpetrated by the stereotypes that are reinforced by the society at large. The idealized society “living in fear” creates indirect permission for African-American men to become “fair game” and vulnerable at any time to being stopped, questioned, searched, handcuffed and jailed, without regard to guilt or innocence.
As I stated earlier, age is not a factor.  Two years ago, three police officers viewed me with obvious suspicion when late at night following a dinner engagement I stood outside a coffeehouse in the University Village, a predominately white community in Seattle.
Instead of walking out together each officer followed the other in single file 15 seconds apart as to provide “cover” for each other.  As each walked passed me, they all gave me the full stare accompanied with their hand on their weapon “at the ready.”  Regrettably, a year or so earlier an African-American male shot and killed three police officers as they sat in a coffeehouse.
The officers’ behavior towards me that evening demonstrated that they were living in fear. It was also clear to me that without any fault or actions of my own that my life was now at risk.   Furthermore, my behavior or the actions I was to take in the next few seconds would determine whether I was able to come home safely to my loved ones.  As the officers passed me, I took the following actions:
·         I did not physically move.
·         I had both hands outward away from my body.
·         I minimized the amount of direct eye contact.
·         I relaxed my personal space and allowed them to “control” the situation.
As the police officers passed by me, not a word was verbalized.  They moved slowly towards their vehicles, entering and drove away.  I believed my actions either saved my life or prevented me from involvement in a tussle by another name had I made any movement that the officers felt placed them at risk.
I was not armed nor have I ever carried a weapon with the exception of military service.  In serving my country I provided a sense of security for others to be able to walk free without fear of police intimidation in their communities; a freedom that I continued to be denied 40 years following my honorable discharge from military service.
 The fact that at the time, I was a 57 year old, gray haired and balding University of Washington lecturer across the street from where I stood was not a question, concern or factor.  The main fact was that I was “out of place” in the wrong community (white) and at the wrong time (late night) and therefore, it was determined that I was of the complexion that did not warrant protection – yet, viewed as though others may have needed protection from me.
By “playing the game smarter and not harder,” I was able to come home safely without being bruised, shot or jailed.
In considering “Fear as A Blessing” I propose the following framework to assist the individual to be able to “live with fear”.  It is called The Five R’s of Relief.
·         Respite -step aside,(step aside, not back) and take a long deep breath.
·         Reaction-it is “your” reaction; the individual must “want to” own it.
·         Reflection-internalize, process, (ie think & feel) what is going in within your internalized self.
·         Response- is what you share with the externalize world.  The reaction you have (own it) and response you provide (share it) “must” not be the same.
·         Review- refers to the formal or informal assessment or examination of the incident and/or actions taken.
·         For additional information regarding this framework please view the Beacon “The Five R’s of Relief: Unmasking Fear at the Crossroads, Responding to the Imposter Syndrome.”
The teen’s civil rights law suit as referenced in the Seattle Times may or may not be resolved in the young male’s favor.  A financial award in his favor may compensate him for the incident.  However, it will not soothe the pain, nor replace or erase the memory of the traumatic experience.
What is real is that he will have to live with the experience of being traumatized, taunted and harassed by law enforcement who most people are taught to trust and respect. This young adolescent learned the same valuable lesson that is learned by thousands of other adolescents of the same complexion.  Being no longer a child, “I am no longer cute or handsome.  Due to no action of my own, I am to be feared.”
We must not want to buy into the stereotypes of another.  Nor do we want to live our lives “in fear”.  We can choose to live with fear.  To do so, we must want to play the game “smarter” not “harder.”
It is our choice whether we are the Angry Black man, out of Control, or the assertive Advocate, psychologically Balanced and able to achieved Calmness.  It is up to the individual whether to focus on the journey and not allow others to impede his right to achieve one’s destination.
“I’m a kid.  I’m going home.  Leave me alone.”
As stated earlier, fear is here.  Forever.
At the next Crossroads:  Playing the Game Smarter not Harder.
The journey continues…
Advertisements

Men of Iron Can Have Tears Too

[originally published on March 21, 2013]

My Dear Readers:

Can a Real Man Express Emotions other than Anger?

     One of my favorite actors is Ving Rhames. I have enjoyed his real life hard-hitting spoken lines in the action movies in which he has been featured.  He is currently starring in the drama series, Monday Mornings, as Dr. Jorge ‘El Gato’ Villanueva, the chief of trauma surgery at a fictitious Portland, Oregon hospital.  Ving Rhames plays the role of Dr. Villanueva with the same intensity and strength he is known for in his other roles.  However, after viewing a recent episode, Rhames’ portrayal of Dr. Villanueva left me significantly disturbed.
     In this episode Dr. Villanueva’s son appears at the hospital with a butcher knife protruding from his stomach cavity.  The trauma team members immediately go into action to save his life.  The scene that sent off my alarm occurred in the intensive care unit while Dr. Villanueva’s son is recovering after many hours of intense surgery.  This is the first time Dr. Villanueva has an opportunity to see his son, after a butcher knife was removed from his stomach and the surgical team worked to try to save his life.  A potentially monumental scene if you consider all that had just come before it.  However, upon waking up from surgery to find his father standing over him, Dr. Villanueva’s son, a young adult male, simply tells his father “don’t cry, okay?”  In response Dr. Villanueva stands there silent, emotionless and staring back at his son until the program breaks for commercial.
     Wow!  What a powerful scene.  Can you imagine?  One’s child hovering between life and death following the surgical removal of a huge butcher knife from his stomach, and no emotions are expressed?
      What a strong portrayal for an African-American actor.  No doubt there are many African-American men who would be praising Ving Rhames for his portrayal of Dr. Villanueva in that specific scene.  Just closing my eyes and listening I can hear the echoes of men, old and young, saying “I want to be like that; hard, strong and silent.  A man of iron. Now, that’s what it is like to be a man, a real man.”
     Really? A man of iron?  Or just another stereotype of African-American men created by scriptwriters?   In a way the portrayal reminds me of Shaft, Superfly and other “cool brothers” being portrayed on the screen in the 70’s & 80’s.  Strong, tough, silent and cool.  The difference being that the African-American actor has been “promoted” from private detective or drug dealer (violence) to chief of trauma surgery (educated and professional).
      We have much to thank the scriptwriters for.  In casting Ving Rhames in the role of chief of trauma surgery, the African-American male character although still menacing and feared by colleagues and patients alike is a “good guy.”   Times have changed.  Or have they?  The role taken on by Ving Rhames is a combination of (a) that which is expected and predictable by some, i.e., menacing, strong and fearsome and (b) that which is desired by others, i.e., professional, competent and educated.
      Stereotyping is as “old as water and twice as young.”  A stereotype can be defined as a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.   Realistically speaking stereotyping only serves to reinforce the fears that are maintained by the “larger group” i.e. family, community and society.
      In the dramatic scene with Ving Rhames’ characters’ son, the dialogue and lack thereof reinforces in African-American men that despite whatever horrifying circumstances (what could be more horrifying than surgery to remove a butcher knife protruding from your child’s stomach?) a “real man” does not cry.   No, as stated in the scene, a “real man” stands there and “takes it.”   Takes it?  Takes what?  What the hell does that mean?
      A “real man” stands his ground.  To express tears is to be weak.  A real man does not express his tears nor expose his “weakness.”  Wow!  That was a powerful scene by Ving Rhames.  That was a powerful message that is being sent to African-American men and the young male adolescents following in their footsteps.
      Let us not minimize the power of visual and words as both can strongly impact human behavior.  In recall of the sensational role of Sidney Poitier as Detective Tibbs in the 1967 dramatic movie In the Heat of Night when Detective Tibbs is being questioned by the racist police chief Bill Gillespie (played by Rod Steiger), when asked by the police chief, “what do they call you boy?” In defiant and assertive response, Sidney Poitier replies, “they call me Mr. Tibbs.”
       Living in the segregated South during the time of the film’s release, I recalled how life was during those solemn times.  The racism that African-Americans endured was within itself humiliating and overwhelming.  That one short statement in my opinion served as a lighting rod and energized a disempowered community.
       I recalled grown men speaking among themselves with a combination of tears in their eyes and grins on their faces when speaking about that specific scene in the film.  That one sentence gave hope to those who felt there was none.  That one sentence confirmed and echoed the downfall of segregation as it was known at that time.   The film and its powerful dramatization went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The point being, once again, to illustrate the visual impact on the consciousness and sub consciousness of the viewer.  A powerful message can serve to persuade others of specific behaviors not only to be desired, or wanted, but most importantly, to be expected.
      As I stated earlier, Ving Rhames is one of my favorite actors.  It is unlikely that he performed the scene with the thought in mind of setting the “bar or standard” as to how African-American men are suppose (or not supposed) to respond to their emotions.  I have no doubt that he may be an excellent role model.  He cannot be held accountable for the choices of others to place limitations on their own emotional responses.
      It is my concern that the dramatic expression by Rhames (and similar other examples) will be used as a justification, excuse or affirmation as to why we as African-American men are or should be aloof from our emotions.  It is unrealistic to believe that if this had really occurred that Ving Rhames would have been as stoic and tough in the scene as the scriptwriters were portraying Dr. Villanueva.
      The scene is so hard, tough and stoic.  No doubt Ving Rhames will receive lots of positive feedback for the strength in his betrayal of an African-American man in a professional role.  Yet, I would have wished him to appear at the end of the episode to remind the viewing audience that this was merely a script and not the way he would have reacted or responded had it been a real life situation.
      However as we know, this is “entertainment” that cannot risk being compromised with a dose of reality at the end of the show.  Fat chance.  Having Ving Rhames appear at the end of the episode stating “it’s all part of the act” would defeat the purpose of the scriptwriter’s portrayal of the emotionless African-American man and likely confuse those from the viewing audience who have already unconsciously accepted the stereotype as true.  Professional and educated; yet, menacing and intimidating.  Controlled fury, yet stoic.
      Yes indeed.  Stereotypes are old as water and twice as young.  We as African-American men will continue to be stereotyped as long as a dollar can be achieved in the maintenance of a “fearful viewing public.”  Sad and yet, true.
It is therefore up to the individual man to choose for himself the type of person he wants to be as well as to be okay in expressing true emotions such as fear, loss, sadness and tears.  It is for the “real men” to advocate for self and model for others, especially younger males, the true qualities of being a man and in doing so give breath and options to the Iron Men being casted before us on television and Hollywood.  We must want to define ourselves and openly respond to those images, which clearly do not represent us.
       By the way, to answer the question, yes, real men do cry…. I have had the opportunity to do so in recent days and it feels damn good.
Until the next crossroads, the journey continues.
Dr. Micheal Kane

The Year 2014: As The Door Closes, Another Era Begins

My Dear Readers,

This blog marks the culmination of my blog postings for the year of 2014. As I close out the year, I want to acknowledge the experiences that I have had walking my journey of life this past year.

In addition, I want to provide insight as to what the readership can expect in the upcoming year as Loving Me More moves forward.

My memorable 10 experiences of 2014:

  • I am grateful that throughout my travels in and outside the United States, that despite numerous contacts with various members of law enforcement, some of which were psychologically traumatic, I emerged from all of these interactions physically unharmed, and not arrested or detained.
  • I am blessed that my adult children are safe. Every night I pray for their safety with specific emphasis on my son, who is a just and good man.
  • I am thankful that I rise every morning without the dreaded notification that my son was either in police custody or dead due to an encounter with law enforcement.
  • The 30th anniversary of my marriage to my beloved Linda passed on December 11, 2014. She passed away at home two years ago.  She was kind enough to wait for me so I could come home from working my private practice so I could be with her as she took her last breath. She was always there in partnership, walking with me by my side for 28 years.  There can and will never be another. I will continue to keep our marital covenant.  In doing so, I will walk our daughter down the matrilineal aisle.  I will stand by my son as his union is blessed. I will hold our first grandchild.  Then and only then will I be free to once again to be with my Linda by her side in the kitchen, laughing and working together again.
  • In May 2014, I transitioned from my previous place of employment to working full time in my private practice. I did experience some trauma, but in retrospect, it is and was the best thing that I could have done for myself.
  • In August 2014, with the assistance of Jamian Smith and her consulting firm Arcana Solutions, I launched my third website, Loving Me More. (lovingmemore.com).  The focus of the website is both clinical and educational, exploring “the art of healthy narcissism and the fully realized self.”  The blog postings for At the Crossroads & The Visible Man have been reviewed in ten countries, on six continents, and have been translated into four languages including French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.
  • I was born “colored” in Harlem New York. In September 2014, I travelled returning to the state of Virginia, the land of my young childhood.  As a child of segregation, I attended an elementary school for colored children.  In the fourth grade, I was one of the children chosen to integrate a white school.  I spent the entire year there being “silenced”.  My return to the schools of early childhood development was the first time I stepped into the state of Virginia in 53 years. Although I left during tense times from a school with an all-white teaching staff, I returned to find that my school was now led by a principal who was a young African-American woman, leading a successful school that was diverse in both its students and teaching faculty.  I am extremely grateful for the friendship of my colleagues Dr. Paul Jordan & his wife, Barbara Jordan MA, who accompanied me on this trip and sat through what was some of the most traumatic portions of this journey.  I was born a colored boy in Harlem, New York. I returned home to Seattle WA as an African American man.
  • In October 2014, I made the decision to return to the task of obtaining my licensure as a clinical psychologist in the state of Washington. My earlier attempts to do so were overshadowed by the illness of my beloved and my commitment to provide quality care in my practice. Now that my Linda has passed on to the other side, I shall return to keeping the commitment of finishing the journey associated with my doctoral education.  I am empowered to walk this journey solo.  I expect to complete the study and examination process in July 2015.
  • In November 2014, during my attendance of a yearlong certification program in aboriginal trauma-focused therapy in Vancouver, British Columbia, my brothers of the land presented me with the gifts of the bear claw and dream catcher. I will return in January 2015 to complete the certification program as well as being honored by my peers, the “People of the Land” in a naming ceremony in which I will receive my name and hear the story that goes along with it.
  • On December 3, 2014, my daughter and I, along with another father and daughter couple had a “Daddy & Daughter Night Out” where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a waterfront seafood restaurant. It was a beautiful evening focused on two very proud African-American fathers enjoying an evening out with their very accomplished adult daughters. We concluded the night by attending the Stevie Wonder concert at the Key Arena in downtown Seattle.  He too was there with his oldest daughter, as lead singer in his group. The concert was off the chart!  It included a 40 piece band with a horn section, two groups of backup singers, and the string section of the Seattle Symphony.  The concert, which lasted past midnight was well attended, and well received by the a diverse group of attendees coming from throughout the Pacific Northwest region.
  • I am grateful for the relationships I have developed over the past year. I am saddened for the loss of those who have passed on.  I am resolved that we will meet again on the other side.
  • During this past year there has been many times I have faltered, fallen and somehow with God’s help, found empowerment within the self to get up off my knees, and not give up.  I am empowered as I step into the wind to continue the journey we call life. Despite the difficulties experienced, my human qualities remain intact.

Here is what I look forward to in my personal and professional journey, going into 2015:

  • Public misconceptions of the impact of sexual abuse and trauma upon victims and how or why they continue to hold on to the trauma for many years persists.

Beginning in 2015, Loving Me More (www.lovingmemore.com) will begin publishing 6-8 segments of the experiences of a person who was a victim of child sexual abuse.

The Journey: Bobbi’s Saga chronicles her life experiences as she moves from the status of “survivor” to “striver” of emancipation from the trauma of child sexual abuse, and will be posted the last week of each month beginning February 2015.

  • It is clearly apparent that ethnic minorities and communities of color continue to be impacted by actions resulting from racial profiling, targeting and continue to be vulnerable to ongoing and daily contact with law enforcement.

Throughout 2015, the clinical practice of Loving The Self (www.lovingtheself.com) will publish brochures relating to those topics.  The brochures will be available on http://www.lovingmemore.com and feature the following topics:

  • To Empower & Protect: SAFE Behaviors & Interactions with Law Enforcement
  • Trauma In Children and Adolescents
  • Healthy Narcissism and Loving The Self
  • Depression: Coping with the Low Down Blues
  • Rethinking Trauma: Learning To Live with Fear
  • The Unspoken Pain of Shame & Humiliation
  • Enduring Pain: Suffering In Silence
  • Dusk to Dawn: Interrupted Sleep & Nightmares
  • When Enough is Enough: The Use of Alcohol & Drugs to Reduce Stress

Concluding Words

Lastly, I want to express concerns as well as hope as we all move forward into the New Year.  We leave a year of political turmoil and civil unrest that has captivated our nation.  We have acknowledged the inability to legislate or control the feelings of fear that lie deep in the heart of the individual.

However, we can impact those feelings by working together and openly communicating our concerns as we seek to build a stronger foundation for our children.

I bid you all safe passage as we continue to travel the journey we know as life. Until the next crossroads…The journey continues.

Dr. Micheal Kane

Black Males In the Spotlight: Living Under the Bright Lights of 2014

My Dear Readers,

“Headline News: Georgia man threatens black kids at bus stop over noise: ‘This bullet has your name on it.’ ” (WTOC News 8.18.14)

As we close out 2014 and look forward to the New Year, I want to acknowledge the impact of media events pertaining to black men residing in America.  The public image of America that may be presented to the world may be of its economic wealth and beautiful scenery, but behind those scenes lies another truth: that those of us who are black males live under the microscope of America’s scrutiny.  It is through this lens that stereotypes, beliefs and perceptions are developed that color the experience of black males in America.

Racism is just as much a staple of America as apple pie and vanilla ice cream.  Its impact is both conscious and unconscious; weaved into the historical and intergenerational fabric of this country.

Racism is stressful.  The impact of racism is traumatic.  Racism not only creates false beliefs of superiority in the people who perpetrate it, but also reinforces low self-image, inferiority complexes, and other traumas for its victims as they attempt to become “acceptable.”

Where many white males are only viewed as individuals, and their actions are only considered to represent themselves, the actions of black males from childhood often are used to label the entirety of Black America.  Many of us grow up with the guidance of our parents reminding us that it only takes “one to pull the rest of us down.”

As a child, I remember getting the look— the expression that my parents gave me when I misbehaved in public that stopped me in my tracks. I remember going to the doctor’s office in my best suit, only to have to undress for my examination.  I remember my formal dining ritual while dining in public.  I was well-spoken, neatly attired and well mannered.  The message that was driven into me was simple, that I was different, so in public, I must always send the message to non-blacks that I was safe, and that I was acceptable. This message was one that continues to be repeated in many Black American households to this very day.

Although many of us refuse to admit it, like most humans, we too want to be accepted—we want to be valued and validated.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be valued as a good person, viewed as upstanding member of one’s community and validated by one’s peers, colleague or professional organization.

However, when individual accomplishments are minimized or ignored and instead, group identity is magnified, manipulated, and misused, estimations of value and validation becomes cracked and distorted.  In the interest of enlarging its viewing audience, the media feeds existing fears that eventually provide the justification for the actions of the dominant group.

Whereas the dominant group would NEVER hold its entire group responsible for the single actions of one person, it will nevertheless seek to hold the entire group of black males responsible for actions attributed to one individual.  The media is well adapted to do this—serve up distorted stories of black masculinity, inappropriate sexual behaviors and criminal acts.

Kevin Powell, in his book The Black Male Handbook, writes:

“…the negative images of Black males created by the White media makers were powerful and pervasive enough to stick in the minds of people like glue.  Over time, people of all racial backgrounds come to associate Black men with negative characteristics and negative behavior.

Black males are viewed with suspicion, and perceived as untrustworthy, violent criminals.  This perception of Black men has had a long lasting effect, and pervades the minds of millions of people around the world even to this day.”

The sensationalism, paired with the growing fear within the dominant group, has created a climate where violence against black males, regardless of age or activity, is accepted.  In just the last six months, there were the following police involved shootings and activities:

  • Chokehold Death

On July 17, a white plainclothes police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, applied what a medical examiner determined was a chokehold to an unarmed black man accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a New York City street. A videotape of the takedown of Eric Garner, who had asthma, showed him repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” while officers wrestled him to the ground. Garner died soon after, and a grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict Pantaleo, prompting daily protests and chants of “Black lives matter!”

  • Wal-Mart Shooting

On Aug. 5, a white policeman responding to a call about a man waving what appeared to be a rifle in an Ohio Wal-Mart store shot and killed John Crawford III, who was black. What Crawford was holding was an air rifle. A special grand jury decided in September the actions of Officer Sean Williams and another Beavercreek officer in the racially charged case were justified.

  • Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!

On Aug. 9, white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. Supporters of Brown’s family say he had his hands up in surrender, but Wilson has said that’s “incorrect” and he couldn’t have done anything differently in their confrontation. A grand jury decision last month to not indict Wilson sparked violent demonstrations and looting in the St. Louis suburb, and around the nation protesters have chanted, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

  • Shot obeying Instructions

On Sept. 9, a South Carolina state trooper shot Lever Jones after following his instructions of to provide his license.  The state trooper had recently been designated “fit to return to active duty” following involvement in shootout with another motorist

  • Stairway Shooting

On Nov. 20, a rookie New York Police Department officer walking with his gun drawn in a darkened stairwell of a public housing complex, shot and killed a black man leaving the building with his girlfriend. Police Commissioner William Bratton said that Akai Gurley had been “a total innocent” when he was shot and that the shooting, by an Asian officer, was under investigation.

  • Pellet Gun Shooting

On Nov. 22, a white rookie police officer, Tim Loehmann, shot and killed a 12-year-old black boy, Tamir Rice, who had been pointing a pellet gun near a Cleveland playground. Police say Tamir was told to raise his hands but reached into his waistband for the realistic-looking airsoft gun, which was missing its orange safety indicator. The shooting, captured on surveillance video, has prompted street protests, and Tamir’s family on Friday filed a lawsuit against the city, Loehmann and his partner.

  • Unarmed Drug Suspect Killed

On Dec. 1, a white police officer who authorities say mistook a pill bottle for a gun, shot and killed an unarmed black drug suspect during a struggle at a Phoenix apartment building. About 150 people upset about the killing of Rumain Brisbon marched to police headquarters, and police and prosecutors met with local civil rights leaders.

  • Fight Over Tailgate Ticket

On Dec. 4, in tiny Eutawville, South Carolina, a white former police chief was charged with murder in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man, Bernard Bailey, who had gone to Town Hall to argue about a broken-taillight ticket. Bailey and then-chief Richard Combs fought, and Combs shot Bailey twice in the chest. Combs’ lawyer accused prosecutors of taking advantage of national outrage toward police to obtain the indictment.

Furthermore, during 2014 individual behaviors and actions has been sensationalized in the media and used to demonized and create pictures of black men as a group.  These behaviors include the following:

Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

  • Jameis Winston, quarterback Florida State University had a sexual assault complaint in 2013, and was suspended for a game in 2014 for jumping on a table in student union building and shouting profanity.m Winston continues to quarterback the nationally ranked football team.
  • Bill Cosby, nationally known actor and comedian, sidestepping allegations that he drugged and sexually abused women during the early segment of his acting career. Although accusations have been made by at least 20 women Cosby continues to either deny or refuse to respond.
  • Juan McFarland, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church admits to being sexually involved with members of the congregation while having AIDS and not informing the women of his medical illness. Although voted out by the congregation, a legal battle has been undertaken due to McFarland’s refusal to step down from the pastoral role of the church.

Violence Against Women

  • Cornell McNeal of Wichita, Kansas is being held for the rape and murder of a mother of four. It is alleged that following a sexual assault, the victim was set on fire resulting in severe burns over 50% of her body.
  • Lyle Herring, the brother in law of actress Aasha Davis, was portrayed on a segment of NBC Dateline. Although Herring was convicted of second-degree murder and given a sentence of 15 years to life in prison he has refused despite pleas to provide any information regarding where the body of his victim located.
  • Ray Rice, former NFL football player, has been charged for knocking out his wife and dragging her out of an elevator. He was recently removed from long term suspension from playing in the NFL.

Cruelty & Abusive Treatment of Children

  • Adrian Peterson, NFL football player, was charged for reckless or negligent injury of a child. He is accused of beating his four year old son with a tree branch causing severe welts and bleeding on the child’s back, legs, buttocks genitals and ankles.  He is currently on long term suspension from the NFL.
  • Brian Jones of Memphis, TN is currently being held on a $200,000 bond for the prostitution of a 12-year-old girl. The victim alleges that Jones forced her to have sex against her will with several men in his apartment
  • Gregory Jean of Jonesboro, GA is being held without bail for charges of obstruction false imprisonment and child cruelty. It is alleged that Jean kidnapped his son during a custody visit in 2010.  The boy was found four years later hidden behind a false wall.

Figures in Positions of Authority

  • Al Sharpton was publicly named in April as a paid drug informant working for the FBI. He has denied this accusation.
  • The announcement in November of the death of Marion Barry, the former Mayor of Washington DC. Mayor Barry, who served from 1979 to 1991, was convicted of crack cocaine possession and served six months in federal prison before completing a political comeback by being reelected as Mayor in 1995, and serving until 1999.
  • The announcement in November of the removal of Captain Wayne Brown, commander of one of the Navy’s premier warships, the amphibious assault ship Boxer. Brown was removed for violating Navy regulations against sexual harassment and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
  • Christopher B. Epps, former Commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November regarding the privatization of prisons. Epps, one of the state’s longest serving officials, was indicated on charges of wire fraud, bribery and money laundering.

So, while these individual black males are held responsible for the behaviors of specific individuals, the dominant group is making pleas to not judge the rogue behavior of one “bad apple” as representative of the group.

One example of this is Daniel Holtzclaw, the Oklahoma City, OK police officer accused of sexually assaulting eight black women while patrolling the same community he swore to serve and protect.  Officer Holtzclaw has since been released on bond.

Concluding Remarks

Historically, police officers throughout this nation who have sworn to serve and protect their (entire) communities have consistently shown their inability to do so.  Beleaguered, feeling unappreciated and being left to fend for themselves by the dominant group, they have adopted an “us vs. them” mentality that they apply to their interactions with their communities.

It will be a while before things calm down.  Parents are concerned for the safety of their sons.  No parent wants that dreaded knock on the door or late night call from the police saying that their children have been killed.  Yet, we wait.  We hope.  We pray.  Daylight arrives.  We have made it through another day.

America is finally awakening to the fact that this isn’t, and never has been a post-racial society. Like the police, black males are feeling beleaguered, alone and are being shown that their lives are not considered to be of worth or value. We too have adopted an “us vs. them mentality,” as shown in the following headlines in the national black media:

  • Study: Police See Black Children As Being Less Innocent & Less Young than White Children (Salon 3.14.14)
  • Report: Black Males Are 21 Times More Likely to be Killed by Cops than White Ones (Think Progress 10.10.14)
  • The Village Is On Fire (The Black Star Project 12.2.14)
  • 10 Rules of Survival When A Young Black Man Is Stopped By The Police In America (The Black Star Project 12.3.14)

We respect the rule of law and order.  Yet, we will not trust the police until the lives of our children can receive the same protection for those of our complexion.

“Warming”

“Negroes, sweet and docile,

Meek, humble and kind:

Beware the day,

They change their minds”

-Langston Hughes

Until the next crossroads…The journey continues.

Dr. Micheal Kane

Breaking News: Fear and Loathing In Middle America

My Dear Readers,

I can remember having the talk many years ago with my son about safety and being responsible for his sexual behavior. While that risk still remains, new risks facing black children today require a change in that special conversation.

Today, the focus must be on the safety of our children—specifically the males, as they will have ongoing encounters with members of law enforcement.  Given the hype and influence of the media on a frightened society, our children are no longer safe even from simple activities like playing with plastic guns, as shown in the recent tragic killing of a 12 year old child by a frightened rookie police officer in Cleveland, OH.

I noticed a trend– prior to the tragic shooting in Cleveland, there was a similar shooting in New York City.  In that shooting, a young black male was shot and killed by another frightened rookie police officer.  At the time, the victim was merely walking his girlfriend up the stairs in a dimly lighted hallway.

I recently promised my daughter that I would not blog about the incidents following the refusal of the St Louis County grand jury to move forward with an indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown.  Being a black man who lives in a society where my complexion does not warrant protection, I was not surprised by the decision of the grand jury.

However, I cannot ignore my horror as these innocent lives continue to be taken due to frightened police officers being egged on by a society living in fear of black males, regardless of their age, background or station, so I have had to break that promise.  I cannot remain silent.

These occurrences support the unwritten rule that “black lives do not have value and thus, black lives do not matter.” Furthermore, American media has a history of utilizing our society’s fear of black males to encourage their repression. In this respect, the coverage of the shooting death of Michael Brown and the events which followed had a traumatic impact on an already hyper-vigilant and frightened observing audience.

Of course, it’s clear that the objective of media corporations is to increase their audiences by reporting material that they feel is newsworthy, but the recent news coverage of these events was exploitative, distorted and exaggerated in an attempt to sensationalize the situation.   It is evident that the media recognizes the obvious—that is, the fact that race, rage, and fear have strong selling capital.

This “yellow journalism” has been around for a long, long time. Unlike the climate where it originated, however, its current form is one that is well researched and well presented.

Such methods have been used countless times in this country specifically with the intent to control or suppress a specific ethnic population. This fear and uneasiness—the building blocks of conscious and unconscious racism—has historically given America the justification to openly suppress, segregate and discriminate upon the rights of those whom they fear.

Examples of such usage were the justification of the creation of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) following the Civil War and the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during WWII.  In both situations, societal fear was magnified by the media of its era, which led the dominant society to turn a deaf ear as the rights of its “citizenry of color” were trampled upon.

These unfortunate events have resulted in ongoing incidents of intergenerational and vicarious traumas that continue to this very day.  The media is very tuned into the fear that strikes deep into the being of the “American Heartland,” that being its fear, mystique and deepest doubts about black males.

The intense wave of emotion in Ferguson was on full display after the reading of the grand jury verdict. Picture after picture of businesses in flames, looting, and vandalism reinforced the fear of a frightened majority.

The media cannot stand idly by pleading ignorance of these fears.  Clearly they must be aware of the relationship the media has the continuing rise of fear of black males. Research has already shown that since the coverage of the killing of Michael Brown has been available, sales have spiked in the following areas:

  • production and sales of weapons and ammunitions
  • residential and home security alarms, cameras, and various types of locking devices
  • policing, arrests and surveillance by law enforcement

I do not question the right of a free press to operate in our democratic society.  It is important that newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations are able to report the news, express opinion and criticize the actions of government, organizations and individual citizens.

However, such reporting of newsworthy materials must also be done in a manner that is responsible and does not incite or sensationalize the story. For example, Louis Head, the stepfather of Michael Brown, was simply known as the grieving stepfather before the grand jury decision.  After the grand jury decision, CNN reports:

“Head joins her (his wife) on top of the car and embraces her for several moments before turning around and repeatedly shouting to the crowd: “Burn this bitch down!  Burn this bitch down!

CNN 11.25.14

Louis Head later apologized for his words, stating it was “a reaction to the emotional duress of the outcome of the grand jury.”  The same evening, the city of Ferguson and surrounding communities were “put to the torch.”

The video of Louis Head being overcome with emotion and shouting “burn this bitch down” was replayed numerous times on national media. However, there was no video replay of Louis Head’s apology or explanation of his emotional outburst.

Although Head is not legally responsible for the damages from the Ferguson disturbances, he is nonetheless held responsible in the court of public opinion for inciting the crowd to commit the acts they did.  On 11.28.14 the following headlines surfaced:

BREAKING NEWS Cops Michael Brown Stepfather Inciting Ferguson Race Riot is Blood Gangbanger

The article goes on to state:

Gotnews.com (11.28.14) has finally confirmed that Louis Head, the stepfather of Michael Brown, is a member of the Bloods gang.  Through text messages, a top-ranked Ferguson cop confirmed that Head and the Brown family are members of the notorious street gang.  Head called for Ferguson to riot.

A police officer named “Dan” with decades on the force and connected to Ferguson chief of police Tom Jackson confirmed that Head and the Brown Family are bloods.

Is this really breaking news?

This smells bad. There was no news report of allegations of gang affiliation during the previous three months in which the events has gripped the nation.  It reeks of eye-catching headlines, exaggerations, scandal seeking and sensationalism. Were his words accurately reported? Yes.  Were these words spoken by a grieving father overcome by emotions? Yes.

The claims that Louis Head and the Brown family are members of the gang Bloods clearly cannot be verified.  However, it may be used to fan the flames, and in doing so, reinforce not only the generalized fear of black males, but for some people, rationalize why Brown was shot the way that he was.

This results in a frightened society turning a blind eye to black on black violence, and to justify a militarized police force using harsh measures on what are, at the end of the day American citizens.

Concluding Remarks

For the media, this is a golden opportunity to exploit all sides: the fearful society at large, the angry minority and law enforcement, caught in the middle.

Following Ferguson, television networks have continuously played police and inner city action movies starring people of color, such as Training Day (Denzel Washington), End of Watch (Michael Pena), and television series  such as Blue Bloods (Tom Selleck) and the long running series COPS.

The common theme is that these are simply people who are “on the job, protecting us from the criminal element of society: Other themes are that law enforcement is:

  • Beleaguered and under attack from individuals who are underprivileged, poor or dwell on the lesser side of society,
  • Undervalued and unappreciated for the difficult job they have to do
  • The “blue line” of defense to protect society from the criminal element.

However, what have the events in Ferguson taught us?

  • We have a clearer lens of society’s belief that the life of a black man is not valued and does not matter.
  • We have learned that a frightened society will use the media as a resource to further devalue minorities and their families
  • We learned that tragic accidents such as a 23 year old black man walking his girlfriend up a poorly lighted stairway (New York) , and a black 12 year old boy playing “cops and robbers” alone by himself with a fake gun (Cleveland, OH) can be shot and killed by frightened rookie police officers
  • We learned that a police officer still traumatized from a previous shooting can be deemed “fit for duty” thus resulting in shooting of a black motorist who was reaching for his identification and insurance information after being directed by the officer to do so (Columbia SC)
  • We learned that with our black sons, having the talk is not about “the birds and the bees,” since they don’t wear badges or carry guns. We now accept the sad reality that having the talk about sexual responsibility is secondary to keeping our children alive, less traumatized and safe.

Many of us want to shout out in anguish.  However, this must be done with caution, since such shouting may lead to a more frightened and closed off society, ever more bent on purchasing more guns and ammunition as they prepare “for that fateful day.”

So what does one do? I don’t have an answer.  However, that does not absolve me of the responsibility to find one.  I can tell you what I am not going to do.  I am not going to give up.  I am not going to let go.  I am not going to surrender my humanity to fear.

In fact, I am going to transform fear.  I am going to journey towards living with fear, and not joining a frightened society in darkness by living in fear.

In looking at those marching around the country in protest against the Michael Brown shooting, the refusal of the grand jury to indict and the pursuing violence, I saw people of diverse ethnic and racial groups.  I saw young and old.  I listened to the voices of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender.  I saw the clergy of various denominations.

I believe the young will inherit this world and unlike their predecessors, they will choose not to live in fear.  They will want and will pursue justice.

“The system wasn’t made to protect us,” said one of the protesters, 17-year-old Naesha Pierce, who stayed up until 3 a.m. watching television coverage from Ferguson. “To get justice, the people themselves have to be justice.”

Black lives have value.  Black lives do matter.

Until the next crossroads….  The journey continues.

Dr. Micheal Kane