The Confederate Flag: Oppression Or Distraction? 

 

My Dear Readers,

The recent slaughter of nine African Americans bible study at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC has devastated the African-American community and shocked the nation.   In response, national and state leaders have called for the removal of the Confederate flag or emblems containing the Confederate flag from state and local government buildings.

This week, I am going to explore the possible reasons as to why both the African-American community and the white majority have focused on this, an issue that has been debated for over 150 years.

Currently there are debates, legislation, and pitched battles on whether to remove the Confederate flag, which is a symbol of racism and hatred for some, and for others, a symbol that honors their fallen ancestors who stood for states’ rights vs. federal law and fought for a cause they believed was the right one.

In the midst of this conversation, Brittany “Bree” Newsome, a Columbia, SC black female activist, was arrested for climbing the 30-foot flagpole at the South Carolina state capitol building, and removing the Confederate flag that flies there.

Opponents of the flag, including celebrities, politicians and civil rights activists, used social media to applaud Newsome for her actions.  The filmmaker Michael Moore has offered to pay her legal fees, an advocacy group has launched an online petition calling for the legal charges to be dropped and an online fundraiser has been set up to pay for ongoing legal fees, as the intent is to pursue this issue all the way to the US Supreme Court.

It is without doubt that both trials—that of Dylann Roof, who has been photographed flying the Confederate flag as a symbol of his white supremacist beliefs, for the church shooting in Charleston, and that of Bree Newsome for taking down the Confederate Flag in Columbia, will captivate the nation.

However, is the most effective response to the church shooting and the surfacing of violent white supremacists really about the Confederate flag?  If the flag truly is the issue, then why is it being raised now? The Confederate flag, following the ending of the Civil War, has stood over many southern state capitals for 150 years, and for 150 years African-Americans have viewed it as remnant of slavery, segregation, racism, oppression and discrimination.

For those same 150 years, the majority has either remained silent, or voted in referendums to keep the flag as a symbol of what they stand for.  Retailers have realized sales of hundreds of millions of dollars for carrying merchandise displaying the countless ways the Confederate flag has been displayed.

During this time, the US Supreme Court in 1896 in the landmarked case of Plessy v. Ferguson upheld that segregated institutions were legal.  This ruling was a death blow to the aspirations of millions of recently freed slaves, ensuring segregated institutions and activities including schools, restaurants, water fountains, movie theaters, public transportation, hospitals and cemeteries.

During this time, state governments passed numerous “Jim Crow” laws further eroding the civil liberties of African-Americans.  During the 150 years following the ending of the Civil War, thousands of African-Americans were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, and the federal government, under multiple presidential administrations, including those of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, ignored the pleas of African-Americans to pass anti-lynching laws or bestow executive orders protecting black citizens.

For many decades, the white majority in the North has pointed the finger towards their Southern brethren with distaste regarding the negative treatment by southern whites of African-Americans.  However, where the Southern white majority was clearly vocal in their segregation and their need to control African-Americans, specifically males, the Northern white majority simply sat on its hands.  Surveys taken in 1943 show that 96% of Southerners and 85% of Northerners supported segregation.

So since this system has been maintained and supported by the silence of the white majority for so many years, why is there so much sudden interest in removing the Confederate flag?

The same question applies to African-Americans.  Why are we seeking to have the flag removed?  Following the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in which African-Americans achieved “equality,” freedom in the form of “integration,” we have tolerated the flying of the Confederate flag over state capitols.

Yes, African-Americans have marched, boycotted, and sought legislation to remove the flag and in most situations, these attempts have failed.  African-Americans have continued to participate in legislative, judicial and governmental processes in the same states in which the Confederate flag continues to be flown.

We continue to send our children to state universities where the flag is flown.  African-American faculty and students continue to teach at and seek admission to institutions where their Presidents are active members and supporters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“Saying the flag isn’t about slavery is like saying the swastika isn’t part of the holocaust.  It is a symbol of white supremacy, hatred and oppression—that’s way it’s used by the Ku Klux Klan and skinhead groups,” says Lonnie Randolph, the head of the Columbia (SC) chapter of the NAACP.

One could say that this tolerance of the flag comes from many of the following causes:

  • Other than the knowledge of being descendents of slaves, very few African-Americans have knowledge of collective history of slavery and segregation.
  • There is no collective teaching of African-American history within the community, and as a result, African-American communities depend on a covertly racist educational system to educate their children about their history.
  • African-Americans are unwilling to talk openly among themselves about slavery and segregation and consequently are unable to resolve the internalized despair of historical trauma.

Historical trauma is best described as the intergenerational transmission of responses to cumulative massive trauma associated with historical events that affects a given culture, group, country, religion, or ethnicity.

The area in which African-Americans differ from other traumatized groups such as Jewish people is that all African-Americans are descendents of people who were traumatized by slavery, so it is safe to say that all African-Americans have unresolved issues of historical trauma due to being descendents of slaves and the ramifications of segregation.  Both of these systems were reinforced with violence (lynching, beatings) or threats of violence (burning of crosses).

Concluding Words

The white majority lives with the knowledge of what their ancestors as a group (not individually) did in both the maintenance and expansion of both slavery and segregation.  Striking out at the Confederate flag could be a form of atonement for what was done by their ancestors and the silence they have maintained to this present day.  They may obtain temporary relief, but the traumatic wound remains.

African-Americans are, in a way, utilizing this event as an opportunity to strike out at what they see as a symbol of racism, oppression and suffering.  Like the white majority, they too may feel temporary relief, but their traumatic wounds will also remain.

There are several ways in which a sense of healing can begin and the psychological wound can begin to close.  Follow the model as set by the Jewish community in their journey of healing from the Holocaust:

  • The African-American community MUST assume responsibility for teaching of its children the history of slavery and segregation. This responsibility cannot be delegated to the public school system.
  • The white majority MUST want to enter into a dialogue within its own communities, take ownership and responsibility for their silence, and strive to heal the vestiges of slavery and segregation.
  • Both communities MUST want to enter into ongoing dialogue on a local format and work through the painful discussions of both slavery and segregation. Such discussions may be modeled after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission utilized by South Africa following the abolition of apartheid.

Bree Newsome smiled as she was led away in handcuffs, even though the symbol of hatred, racism and oppression she took down was placed back on the flagpole less than 45 minutes after she took it down.

Following the attack on Emanuel AME Church in Charleston where nine lives were taken, three black churches in North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina have been burnt to the ground in the last five days, all due to arson.  In addition, on 6/24/15, three police officers of the Baltimore County Police Department shot and killed an unarmed black man.  They cited being in fear for their lives, whereas no weapon has been found.

So while unarmed black males of various ages from children to adults continue to be killed by law enforcement throughout the United States, we choose to be distracted by a flag which has been flying for 150 years or focused on the reality that black men are being hunted, shot and killed with the approval of a fearful society.

That symbol of racism, hatred and oppression must not be prioritize over the shooting and/or killing of black males by some form of law enforcement every 28 hours in the United States.

Not all ethnic minorities are confronted on a daily basis with the threat of death or injury to their physical well-being.  In addition, the trauma and emotional abusiveness of racism is due to chronic, systematic and invisible assaults on the personhoods of ethnic minorities that are just as harmful to the human psyche as a single catastrophic event.”

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

 

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Reflection On Father’s Day: The Passing of Theodore T. Kane

Our Dear Readers:  

    This is the text of the eulogy that Dr. Kane delivered for his father, Theodore T. Kane, who passed away last Friday. As we celebrate our fathers and what they do and have done for us, Dr. Kane wanted to share his reflection on the man who did so much to shape his life. We honor Dr. Kane’s generosity in sharing this experience during this tough time. Thank you.  

— The Staff At Loving Me More

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Friday June 26, 2015

Greetings to our family, friends, comrades, and peers of Sergeant Theodore T. Kane.

My brother, former Associate Director of the California Department of Corrections Anthony Peter Kane and I, Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist and Forensic Psychologist, welcome you to share in the homegoing services of our father.  He has gone up yonder to continue the partnership he established for 61 years with our mother, Mary Kane.

Although many of you may find it strange that I would include our professional titles, we are following our father’s lead.  Every time our father introduced us to anyone, regardless of whether we’d met them before, he would say, “these are my sons, Tony, who’s a warden, and Micheal, who’s a doctor.”  Of course, this usually embarrassed us, and we would ask him repeatedly to just introduce us as Tony & Micheal, understanding that Tony was retired and I was hiding out from my patients.  Our father would say okay, okay, and then do exactly the same thing over and over.

Our father was proud of his sons and he wanted everyone to know it.  Although there were times I felt I was a show horse, prancing around, I could understand why he did so.

We were a reflection of him.  Our success was truly his success.  Without him and his sacrifices, there wouldn’t have been a Tony Kane, Associate Director of the California Department of Corrections, or a Dr. Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Psychologist.

Our father and mother truly had class!  When our mother passed away several years ago, she did so on Valentines Day, ensuring that she will always be remembered.

I guess our father decided he was not to be outdone by our mother as he joined her five days prior to Father’s Day.  In doing so, he ensured that he too would have his own special day in which he would be remembered.

Knowing how direct our father was, it is clearly apparent that he wanted acknowledgement on that day.   So as we give a warm and loving sendoff to “up yonder”, I will also utilize this time to honor him and the men of his generation and share with you what he meant to us as a father and what they meant to us as men.

We honor these men for their commitment to their children as well as the roles and responsibilities that they took on during the difficult times they lived in. These are the men who grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and lived through the difficult times of racial discrimination and domestic terrorism and great humility, and who without question protected and defended this country while serving in a segregated military during and after WWII.

This was also the generation that integrated the armed forces in the 1950’s and went on to defend this country during the Korean and Vietnam wars.  As they fought for liberty, democracy and freedom for others around the globe, they knew that they and their families would be denied the enjoyment of those same ideals in their home country.

Those men who served in France during WWII had earned the name of “Men of Iron.”  During WWII, the African-American soldiers, due to segregation were not allowed to fight in American military units.  Instead, they were welcomed to fight alongside French soldiers, fighting under the French flag.  Because these men fought with distinction and courage, their French comrades, with gratitude, designated these black soldiers with the title of “Men of Steel.”

Following their return home, these Black American troops endured domestic terrorism, burnings of their homes, businesses and churches and the loss of many lives.  Those of us who are members of the post WWII “baby boom generation” are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. It is with that in mind that we, as their descendants, show our gratitude and honor these men.

Our father came from this generation, a generation that understood the meaning of duty, honor and service. It was his commitment to duty that placed him in harm’s way.  Our father served during the Korean War and did two tours in Vietnam.

Although they were nicknamed the “Men of Iron”, in reality, their blood flowed red.  These were simply good men who sought a better life and better education for their children.

Our father and many men like him did what they could to insulate their loved ones from the ills of the world so that we could be children and just do what children do.  Although we spent our developmental years growing up during segregation, our father did what he could to give my brothers and I a normal life.  During his military service we went abroad, living in countries such as France and Germany.

Our father and other fathers of his generation were giants in our eyes.  He was always looking sharp in his carefully laid out uniform, laden with military decorations.  Whenever he gave or returned a military salute, it was done with precision, pride, and self-respect.  We were always proud of him and wanted him to be proud of us.

Our father was proud of his “Kane Boys.” We went on to became successful in our adult lives, serving in roles as non commissioned officer in the armed forces, a doctor of clinical psychology and lastly the associate director of a state corrections department.  None of his sons got into trouble with the law.  No, we were not angels and yes we were mischievous, but as an elderly Southern woman would say to my father, “your boys were raised right.”

It was with great sadness that his eldest son died ten years ago, succumbing to his wounds received while serving in combat during the Vietnam War. For the first time, we saw our father devastated by the responsibility of burying his son.

Tony and I made a covenant that we would spare our parents the grief of burying any more of their children.  Instead we would do what children must do in life, which is to escort their parents to their final resting spot. And as you can see, we are here we today, keeping that covenant.

The only time we can recall seeing disappointment on our father’s face was when the military failed to follow through on their commitment to promote him to the next grade.  This was a promotion that he had worked hard to obtain.  As one would expect, our father rebounded, retired from military service and went on to continue working in public service by become a federal police officer, a position which he held for 20 years.

The nickname “Men of Steel” suited my father and his peers very well.  They were truly brothers.  They came together not just to party and socialize; they were there for each other during dark and difficult times.  However they never, ever shared a word with the children regarding the racism and discrimination they themselves were struggling with.

As Men of Iron, they kept their feelings within themselves.  It was not until I wrote a book on complex trauma that I discovered what my father and the men of his generation had endured so that the children of the baby boom generation could have and enjoy the life that they themselves did not or could not have.

It was only during this time that I realized that these men suffered from internalized depression and anxiety.  It was during this time in which I came to understand the depth of complex trauma, which the men of this generation and f generations to follow were vulnerable to. They suffered from psychological stress and due to cultural beliefs, these men, kept quiet. They suffered in silence.

In my book, Our Blood Flows Red: Trauma and African-American Men in Military Service, I wrote about men who, like my father, responded to the call of duty during a time in which their courage and ability to fight was always questioned due to their race.

Our father never brought the ills of the world home.  At home, he was Daddy.  He was playful at times and he was strict at other times.  He encouraged us in our academics and sports activities.

He had high expectations of his sons.  He believed in tearing up that behind when we earned it.  He was fair in his treatment of others and known as a good man, a good friend to all.  As his sons, we know that he was proud of us as men, and the accomplishments we had achieved both professionally and personally.

He, like the men of his generation, was a good provider.  No doubt these men had problems in their marital relationships, but like the others, he did not believe in divorce, so he and our mother worked out their differences.  As a husband he was an excellent role model.  He taught us that a marriage was a lifelong commitment and he led by example after being married to our mother for 60 years.

He loved our mother dearly. Every time you saw one of them, the other was not far away.  I attributed his example as a key cause of the longevity of my and my brothers’ marriages.  Following the passing of his first wife to which they were married 15 years, Tony met Brandi, and has been married to her for 10 years.  As for myself, prior to the passing of my Linda two years ago, we were married 28 years.

As to the term daughter in law, the word “in law” was not a word used in his vocabulary.  To him all of us were simply his family.  He loved us and we loved him. Daddy was all about touching.  We grow up hugging and kissing and nothing changed when we became grown men. I only wish more grown black men could experience the quality and type of love that we received from our father. We are left with great memories of tight hugs, warm feelings and wet cheeks.

Our father was a good man from the streets of Harlem New York.  From humble beginnings he rose.  He had a good life.  He had a full life. He was truly a Man of Steel and a man of love.

We will miss you Daddy.  Give our regards to Mom, Bev and my Linda.  Keep smiling down on us, as we will be looking upward and smiling up at you.

In closing I have a quote that I would like to share with you.  This quote speaks to the heart of what our father was all about:

“If you love something, love it completely, cherish it, say it, but most importantly, show it. Life is finite and fragile, and just because something is there one day, it might not be there the next.  Never take love for granted.

Say what you need to say, then say a little more. Say too much.  Show too much. Love too much.

Everything is temporary but love,

Love outlives us all.”

We love you, Daddy.

Your sons,

Anthony Peter Kane, Associate Director of the California Department of Corrections

Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Black And White: When Male Privilege Does Not Exist

My Dear Readers,

I just finished reading an article that, among other things, points out that I am “part of rape culture” simply because I am a male, and that it is useless for me to state denials and objections to this newly gained status.  For all intents and purposes, it is what it is now, and it’s best that I accept it and simply move on to work towards the prevention of rape.

According to Marshall University’s Women’s Center’s website:

“Rape culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

So, if I am assumed to be a member of “rape culture” simply because I am of the male gender, does that mean that white people are members of a racist culture, simply because they are white or European ancestry?  Following that logic, we could say:

“Racist culture is an environment in which racism is prevalent and in which racial violence against blacks is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Racist culture is perpetuated through the use of racist language, the stereotyping of black people and the willingness to remain silent and thus be accepting of racial violence, thereby creating a society that disregards the civil rights, liberties and safety of black people.”

The writer of the article points out the following:

“I saw how my desire for a woman to satisfy me ran deep. Even my curiosity, a trait that always made me proud, was marred with the same sort of male-centric presumption that fuels rape culture. I expected to be satisfied. That attitude is the problem. I started reading and kept reading until I understood rape culture and my part in it.”

The writer points out the following behaviors that contribute to rape culture:

  • Blaming the victim (“she asked for it”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (boys will be boys”)
  • Sexually implicit jokes
  • Tolerance of sexual harassment
  • Inflating false rape report statistics
  • Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
  • Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
  • Assuming only promiscuous women get rape
  • Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
  • Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

With some changes, these could just as easily be examples of racist culture behavior.  Doing this, however, perpetuates the idea that mandatory inclusion in either culture solely based on gender or race is valid and ignores the disservice it does to the individual who, regardless of their gender or race, does not subscribe to the behaviors attributed to either culture.

The writer, a white male, takes the position that he is a member of “rape culture” and being so, makes it his mission to make women comfortable while he is in their presence.  For instance:

“When I cross a parking lot at night and see a woman ahead of me, I do whatever I feel is appropriate to make her aware of me so that:

a) I don’t startle her,

 

b) she has time to make herself feel safe/comfortable, and

 

c) if it’s possible, I will approach in a way that’s clearly friendly, in order to let her know I’m not a threat. I do this because I’m a man.”

Any male can choose to initiate these behaviors or actions as indicated.  In doing so, he is voluntarily taking on the responsibility of recognizing the woman’s vulnerability—something he can do without the risk of personal loss or potential harm to himself.  However, if the male in this situation was black, his presence may actually serve to heighten the woman’s fear, and in doing so, increase the risk for that black male.

I will provide an example of incident in which a black man attempted similar actions of creating comfort for the woman:

“While leaving my office in the late evening, I found myself walking behind a white woman.  I made my presence known by humming a tone. As she got into her vehicle I continued to walk past her.

Two minutes later, I found myself surrounded by police cars and spread over a patrol car.  The woman, although aware of my presence and safe in her vehicle still called the police on me, claiming that she was in fear for her safety.”

In contrast, the writer of the article describes his actions when he comes into contact with a woman who is unknown to him:

“Basically, I acknowledge every woman I meet on the street, or in an elevator, or in a stairway, or wherever, in a way that indicates she’s safe. I want her to feel just as comfortable as if I weren’t there. I accept that any woman I encounter in public doesn’t know me, and thus, all she sees is a man — one who is suddenly near her.  I have to keep her sense of space in mind and the fact that my presence might make her feel vulnerable. That’s the key factor — vulnerability.”

In this statement, the writer acknowledges the power of male privilege, and his focus on having a woman feel comfortable in his presence is an affirmation of both his willingness and ability to be able to let go of power should he desire to do so.

A black male doing the same would place himself at risk of being accused of setting the stage for a sexual assault of another type of crime—because the woman’s assumptions about the man because of his race would trump the efforts of the man to make her comfortable from a gender perspective . To prevent both the accusations and targeting, it would be in the best interests of the black male to avoid visual or verbal contact with the female as well as maintaining a safe distance.

The argument of mandatory culpability because of gender or race is that the designation serves to victimize and takes away any empowerment of the individual to either transform his specific behavior or to advocate for transformation to a gender and racial equity society. Essentially, regardless of what he does or does not do, he will be viewed as threat to another’s “vulnerability.”

Furthermore, the designation serves to blame potentially innocent men and boys for actions that may not be under his individual locus of control. If black males did as the writer chose to do—acknowledge that because of his gender, he is a member of “rape culture,” they would be affirming already held stereotypes about black men and thereby setting themselves apart to be targeted and victimized.

It may be that what theorists have conceptualized as rape culture, is actually a different way of viewing male privilege.  The common theme between rape culture and male privilege is that males are holders of the privilege that is used to inflict psychological and physical wounds on women—one of the most powerful of these being rape.

Male privilege can be defined as a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to individual as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class.  While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being male, benefits from male privilege.

Although the writer makes a big deal of “letting go of male privilege,” it is clear that he can, at any time, restore that privilege, and he knows it.  As a result, the designation of “belonging to the rape culture” would have minimum consequences for him and for people in his same class and racial societal group.  However, such a designation for black males would only provide support for stereotypes and have long term consequences as well as targeting by factions of the dominant majority, such as law enforcement, the judiciary, and legislative bodies.

I am not suggesting that black males do not maintain male privilege; on the contrary, black males enjoy male privilege within the boundaries of the African-American community. However once the black male steps outside of his community, he loses his comfort zone, and like females, he too is at risk, but this time, by giving credence to the racial assumptions held by the dominant majority.

Concluding Words

The willingness of the writer to accept the designation of being a member of “rape culture” is comparable to the publication of the nonfiction book entitled “Black Like Me.” The 1961 publication is based on the story of John Howard Griffin, a white journalist living in Dallas, TX.

Under the care of a dermatologist, Griffin underwent a regimen of large oral doses of the anti-vitiligo drug methoxsalen.  In addition he spent fifteen hours daily under an ultraviolet lamp to darken his skin to that of a black man.

In doing so, he spent six weeks traveling on Greyhound buses throughout the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  The objective was to pass as a black man and in doing describing his experience.

It appears that Griffin’s experience of living as a black man for six weeks was traumatic.  Following the publication of the book, he received an outpouring of letters of support from sympathetic whites, helping him to get through the “stress of the experience”.  Furthermore, his exposé of racism and hatred towards the black male resulted in such hostility and intense death threats to his family that he moved his family to Mexico for several years.

The traumatic experience of Griffin passing as a black male for a limited time, as well as the hostility and death threats which followed his publication, all illuminate the impractical nature of generalizing a group for their gender into mandatory membership of rape culture.  Furthermore, it affirms that blacks and whites as it relates to maleness, do not share privileges of gender equally.

The writer of the rape culture article is able to conceptualize himself without penalty as a member of rape culture.  The consequences of a black male being held to mandatory membership will, by its nature, have severe and even deadly results.  Furthermore, Griffin’s exposé of black male life shows that male privilege, as true today as it was then, is nonexistent outside the boundaries of the African-American community

One can only imagine the relief that Griffin, a white man, felt after his six weeks of “passing” as a black man was over, and then imagine the horror he felt as the hostility and death threats towards his family for his actions began.

We wear the mask that grins and lies

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

We wear the mask.

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

 

White Privilege: Aversive Racism And The Nature of Denial

“I am not a racist…I am a church going guy.”

My Dear Readers,

There are times when we take actions that may be harmful or traumatic to others, even though it is beneficial to ourselves. Racial matters often fall into this category.

Aversive racism—a form of racism where an individual denies racist intent, but still acts in ways that are racist—is especially insidious and harmful to the individuals who are impacted. Because of the overt denial of racist intent, the target person who appraises the behavior as racist may then be labeled as over-reactive or paranoid in the shared interpersonal environment, leading to further marginalization.

In recent writings, I have explored the concept and impact of male privilege, but in this writing, I want to explore the concept of white privilege and its impact on the privileged person as well as the victims of that privilege.

White privilege can be defined as a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to individuals as a race due to the perception of institutional power in relation to individuals of a different race or ethnic group. Similar to male privilege, where every man, by virtue of being male, benefits from male privilege, the same can be said about white privilege.  Every person who is white experiences privilege differently due to his/her own individual position in the social hierarchy, but every person by virtue of being white benefits from white privilege in some way, shape, or form.

The common theme in aversive racism is the denial of racist intent.  In the psychological realm of interpersonal relationships, however, we must not only consider the intent, but we must also remain mindful of its impact on society.

Below is such a story…..

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Dear Visible Man,

A friend of mine who reads your blog  suggested that I write to you regarding something that happened to me recently, so here I am.  A few days ago, while talking with my friends, I asked the new guy, who is black, a few questions about race.  I was surprised that he got upset and filed a complaint against me.

This resulted in a hearing where I was labeled as a racist.  That’s not fair—I was only asking questions.  He is light skinned, nearly white, and I asked him how he got along with the dark-skinned blacks.

Although I say the N word from time to time, I did not call him a nigger.  I merely asked him why he and his people could use the N word, yet if whites use it, they are called racist.

Instead of answering my question, he got quiet, got up, and left the room.  He didn’t say anything, but the other guys in the room and I could tell he was angry.

Next thing I know, he has snitched on me to human resources, and I had to attend a hearing with him.

I do not understand why he was so angry or even if he was, why he didn’t speak to me directly.  Like I said, I was only asking questions.  I don’t come in contact with any black people regularly, and he is the only black guy at work.

He seemed to be an okay person, so I felt it was okay to ask him racial questions. If he didn’t want to answer, then he should have just let it go instead of being a snitch.

As a result, I have to take a racial sensitivity class and there is a stigma being placed on me.  I hope he is happy now.  Because of him, the atmosphere at work is really cold and not as relaxed as it was before.  People don’t talk to him out of fear he is going to file a complaint.

I only want to find out more about him and his race.  I feel that if it is okay for blacks to use the word nigger, then it should be okay for us white people to do the same.  I feel that our freedom of speech is being taken away from us while black people are being treated special.

He’s cooked his own goose, if you ask me.  He gets all the jobs that we don’t want to do.  I hope he gets the message that what he did to me was not cool.  We let him in and accepted him as one of us and in return, he acted like a bitch by snitching.

I am angry that I have to attend a race sensitivity class. I don’t understand why black people get so angry and over small issues like race.  I am hoping that he will read this and realize he isn’t wanted here and quit.

I am not a racist.  I am a church going guy.  I should not be penalized for asking questions. Hell, I bet you don’t even have the balls to post this.

Really Pissed Off, Grays Harbor County, WA

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Dear Privileged,

I begin my writing by addressing you as privileged due to your callous attitude towards this issue, which is a sensitive and uncomfortable subject to many people, not just African-Americans, given the nature of the historic interactions (including, but not limited to, slavery and segregation) between races in the United States.

In your letter, you state that you were merely asking questions to enhance your understanding of African-Americans, but the tone of your letter implies that you have another agenda.

It feels like you are using sexually offensive language (“he’s acting like a bitch”) and challenging me as to whether I “have the balls to print this” in an attempt to gain an reaction.  So, I will provide a response that I hope will be educational.  As I stated earlier, race is a sensitive subject and uncomfortable subject for many.  In my practice, I seek to create a secure and safe venue to engage in such discussion, and this is no different.  In doing this, I hope to educate you and others whom may face the same issues.

You may be a “church-going guy,” but neither that, nor your intentions exclude you from expressing inappropriate comments, which can reveal your racist tendencies.

Consider this:

  • Having no prior personal relationship or rapport with the “new guy,” why would you ask him questions that are personal in nature?
  • What was your purpose in asking him questions about “getting along with dark skinned black people”?
  • Why would you ask these questions during a group discussion and not during a one to one interaction?

Your questions may, on their face, be harmless, but in that work environment, in a group situation, and without taking the time to develop a personal relationship with that man, asking such questions may not only have created a very uncomfortable environment for him, but may also have been humiliating for him.  After all, when did he become the spokesperson for all black people?

It is clear that you were upset that he filed a formal complaint about the incident instead of speaking to you.  You said:

“If he was angry, he should have acted like a man and spoken to me directly.”

You pointed out yourself that he became silent and left the room.  There is no “if” about how this interaction made him feel; you and the other men knew he was angry.  Consider the following:

  • None of you followed up with him or checked on him after the incident.
  • He was the new guy in the organization. What was he supposed to do?

His choices were clear and simple; either he accept the insulting behavior and humiliation, which would leave him open to more incidents, or he could file a complaint, which would create a boundary indicating the limits of what is or is not acceptable behavior.  In doing so, the offending behavior has been duly noted and has ceased.

You said that prior to him filing the complaint, you thought he was an “okay guy.”  Now, he’s a “bitch” for “snitching” on you.  Understanding that the term bitch and snitch have negative meanings, consider the following:

  • His coworkers now view him negatively because he advocated for himself.
  • If he didn’t advocate for himself, he may view himself negatively.

Given the choice of viewing himself negatively or worrying about how you view him, he chose to advocate for himself and risk the displeasure of his coworkers.  Given the outcome, he chose the path that was most beneficial for himself.

There are always consequences for our actions.  Consequences are merely responses to the actions taken.  However, in this situation, you feel that he has “cooked his own goose”. So now, the person who was victimized by your actions is now being:

  • Given the silent treatment by his coworkers,
  • Blamed for creating an uncomfortable work environment,
  • Forced to handle the tasks and assignments that the other coworkers don’t want, and,
  • Is being subjected to passive-aggressive behaviors by your coworkers to force him to resign from his job.

In essence, the black worker is now being blamed for your actions. You and the coworkers who are acting in support of you are victimizing him once again.

Your initial actions created trauma for this man whose only action was to come to work.  Now, he is at risk at being traumatized again.  This form of trauma is known as “insidious trauma”.

Insidious trauma arises when there is an accumulation of negative experiences affecting members of a stigmatized group.  Racism is considered to be a form of insidious trauma because it constantly denigrates the value of the intelligence, skills and capabilities, and the very lives of the people who suffer from its effects.

Concluding Words

Why are black people angry? We are reminded every day that due to the color of our skin that we will always have to engage in emotional and psychological warfare.

When will this insidious trauma end?  Never.  It will not end because you and people like you are unwilling to accept responsibility for your actions and behaviors.  As a result, your unwillingness to do so reinforces resentment and racial hatred towards the person you have targeted.

The claim of innocence and desire of protection for freedom of speech so that whites can be allowed to use the word nigger is preposterous.

It is a reality that the N word is an imprint of pain and sorrow, even for those who utilize the word in order to be “cool”.  To do so in ignorance or without concern only serves to add to the invisibility of the history and suffering that African-Americans and other races have endured.

It is a tragedy that anyone who understands what African-Americans have gone through would want to stand under the Constitution and defend the right to use this very heinous and destructive word.  No good can ever be made of it or come from it.

African-Americans share a common experience.  We understand the pain and suffering of slavery and segregation.  We also engage in destructive behaviors such as using the N word.  The use of word is traumatic regardless of who uses it and the purpose they use it.

We can agree on one issue, however: forcing you to attend a racial sensitivity class is unreasonable. Knowledge can only benefit those who seek such information.  It cannot be forced upon the ignorant.  It is clear that you choose not to advance.  It is regrettable that you will no doubt continue to allow your racial hatred to consume you.

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.

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

The Visible Man

 

 

 

Bobbi’s Saga: The Body Remembers What The Mind Struggles To Forget

My Dear Readers,

The mind and body are in essence our reality. The mind is like clouds in the sky, with thoughts drifting in and out.  As we drift, we use our thoughts to escape the psychological and emotional pains of our experiences. We can play games with the mind, but there is no escape from the body, which remembers all. The body is like the oceans.  Its depths hold on to the pain and sorrow that make up the foundation of the journey of self-discovery.

Many people say that “time heals wounds,” but in reality, this is merely a trick that the mind plays on itself in its attempt to protect itself from that painful experience.

The truth is that time is meaningless when it comes to the process of emotional healing. It is not time that heals the emotional or psychological wound, but the therapeutic work one does to heal the wound.  Simply put, no therapeutic work, no healing.  Instead, one tucks the traumatic memory of the incident away only for it to surface at an inappropriate time. This is how I originally came into contact with Bobbi.

In time, the individual realizes, as Bobbi did, that the “brain dump” is just a strategy utilized by the mind to cover the pain, while the body continues to hold onto the trauma.

Dr. Micheal Kane

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Bobbi’s Saga continues…

Recently Bobbi saw her mother at the funeral of Gail, a friend of the family.  Gail was a friend who as a child, Bobbi could count on during those time prior to being placed in foster care. During those times when Bobbi was either physically beaten by her mother or forced to sleep on the porch, Gail and her parents had allowed Bobbi stay at their home.

Bobbi’s mother has never acknowledged that she received a letter Bobbi wrote to her detailing her sexual abuse history. As a result, knowing that her mother would attend Gail’s funeral ceremony, Bobbi came to session hours prior to the event. After the funeral, Bobbi wrote me this email:

Dear Dr. Kane:  

Thank you for the session this morning.  I went to Gail’s funeral.  I sat in the back.

 I found myself crying during the funeral.  I could feel the tears rolling down my face. Not only for Gail, but for the memories of playing with her as a child. I remembered her parents’ house as a place I felt safe.  I could go there when I was being mistreated at home, even at night. 

When I came into the church, I saw my mother sitting close to the front.  She turned, smiled and waved.  I waved back.  As the preacher talked about Gail’s life and the person she was and her kindness to others, I wondered if my mother thought about what he was saying.

It was a long funeral.  After the service, there was a repast downstairs in the church.  I didn’t go.  I didn’t want to give my mother an opportunity to hug and kiss me, acting like nothing was wrong and everything was perfect.

I thought about how I would handle the situation if she did approach me, and decided that if and when we do talk, I want her to make the first effort to speak to me.  I do not want to be the reason why she draws attention to herself.   I knew she would put on her best performance , since she had friends who would also attend the funeral.  

I was also tired.  My Saturday morning sessions with you are draining, and I don’t have the energy to process the feelings, think and feel my past and reflect on the possibilities of the future.  I usually give thought to my sessions for a long time afterwards.  Although I did not speak to my mother, I was holding on to intense feelings, which came out as a result of the funeral.

So, following your advice to release these feelings, I wrote a letter to my mother in my journal that I would like to have shared with her.  

 Dear Mother:

When I was twelve years old, you told me I was a prostitute and kicked me out of the house.  I was never a prostitute.  You never believed me.

You threw me out, forcing me into the foster care system.  First to a receiving home; then I went to a foster home. Then, another foster home, and another.

How did you think I felt?  I was thrown out like trash.  I felt abandoned and alone.  I had no one who cared about me. I was alone, sick and I wished for death.  I wanted to die.

I had no reason to live.  But I didn’t know how to die.  If I’d known how, I wouldn’t be here today.

You made me feel like dirt.  I missed my adolescence. I was being repeatedly raped and forced to keep my rapes secret.  When I went into foster care, you abandoned me.  I had little  clothing.  I had to purchase all of my personal items and clothing.

I was not like the other kids.   I was scared of everything.  I spent so many days crying.  My life was changed with no hope for the future.

You now deny the pain you caused me.  You also seem to forget the things that happened.  I question whether you ever loved me.

How could a person claim that they love someone and treat that person the way you treated me?  I remember all the things that happened to me. Mother, you hurt me.  You hurt me to my soul

I don’t ever remember being so sad.

Concluding Comments- Dr. Kane

Bobbi’s email is a clear indication that the emotional wounds created by the sexual abuse as well as the betrayal trauma dealt by her mother is still present to this very day, even though it occurred more than four decades ago.

Betrayal Trauma is defined as a violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Extensive betrayal is traumatic, and the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and thus, the trauma that results from the psychological wound.

There is no greater betrayal that can happen to an individual than a mother betraying her child. Even through Bobbi was reeling from betrayal and the resulting trauma, her inner child continues to seek the love and acknowledgment from the mother figure that she was never given.

When it comes to the therapeutic work, there clearly is much to do here.  Among the many concerns, there are two that are the primary areas of focus:

  • Continue to clinically treat the inner child.
  • Assist the psychological self in continuing the process of self-empowerment by healing the traumatic damage and psychological wounds.

The objective here is to reinforce the psychological self and in doing reinforce trust in her actions taken based on her feelings.  It is clear that as we look at Bobbi’s responses, these areas have been severely impacted due to the betrayal by her mother, and this is what I shared with her in my response to her email.

Dear Bobbi,

Your mother did what we expected.  She may never acknowledge your abuse.  To do so, she would have to acknowledge her role in it and the reality of her parenting skills (or lack thereof.)  Instead, she chooses to maintain a life within the fantasy world that she lives in.

Understand the differences between you and your mother.  She has chosen to merely exist, where you have chosen to truly live.  She is just waiting out her time.  You are now empowered to live your life.  Therein lies the big difference: EXISTING & LIVING.

Best regards,

Dr. Kane

As Bobbi continues to do her therapeutic work, she will be able to accept that her mother’s inability or unwillingness to discuss her own failures is an example of “unhealthy narcissism,” and thereby unable to be available to fulfill the wishes of Bobbi’s “inner child.”  With time and therapeutic work, our hope is that Bobbi will recognize her own inner strength as well as her ability to fulfill the wishes, needs and desires of her own inner child.

I invite the readership to stay tuned for Bobbi’s ongoing journey, and to watch as she continues to work towards healing.

Dr. Micheal Kane