Living in a closed system is slowly quietly sucking out the life and killing us, one by one.
-Micheal Kane, Psy.D, Clinical Traumatologist
Author, Our Blood Flows Red
“Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
My Dear Readers,
I typically make a habit to re-post my blogs on a listserv focused on black social workers and mental health providers. Recently, one of my blogs, The Yearly Celebration Is Gone: Is Black History Over? was, to my surprise, deemed “inappropriate” by the moderator and consequently, was rejected for publication. No other explanation was provided, and no one else commented on the situation.
Since there aren’t any stated guidelines on posts, I was confused as to why this arbitrary decision was made, and no other remarks were made. I will never know what was “inappropriate” about this blog entry.
I believe that this was an act of censorship. Censorship can be defined as the following:
“The suppression of speech, public communication, or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient by groups or institutions.”
Hmm…Have my writings this year met the standard for censorship within the African-American community? In my recent writings, I have advanced the following points:
- The African-American community is responding to ongoing cumulative incidents of complex trauma. Not only is this trauma psychologically wounding, but individuals who experience complex trauma continue to remain vulnerable to the impact of these experiences.
- The African-American community is a closed system. Generally, closed systems are isolated and not economically sustainable, relying on a small labor force that is dependent on a more open system. As a result, closed systems can be particularly susceptible to psychological wounds arising from the experience of complex trauma.
- The African-American community engages in avoidance and denial behaviors. Avoidance is the act of dodging, shunning or turning away, where denial is the failure to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion. It can also be the refusal to accept the reality of an event or the reliability of information received.
I acknowledge that these assertions may be met with strong disagreement by those who read it, but censorship is a weapon of silence. Where avoidance can prevent something from happening and denial comes from an event that is too uncomfortable to accept or reject, censorship effectively removes the threat or controversy from view and in the silence that follows, creates the illusion to the community that the threat or controversy never existed, and therefore, the balance or harmony within the closed system remains untouched.
The listserv functions as a media platform, but it can also stand as a microcosm of the African-American community. When communities like the one on this listserv become vulnerable to censorship, it, like the African-American community it serves, becomes a closed system. Its members are descendants of generations upon generations of people who have endured 400 years of horrendous acts of racism, oppression, and discriminatory treatment.
By censoring “inappropriate” posts, the moderators not only suppress information, but they reinforce complex traumas inflicted on its readership. During the time of segregation, many of us who have experienced the denial or limiting of access to information firsthand.
Censorship of information by media platforms due to arbitrary decisions and lack of formal allows people, communities, and organizations to live in fear. When we live in fear, we allow our fears to take over our lives and dictate the limits of our possibilities.
When we live in fear, we often use that fear as a hindrance and an excuse for not accomplishing what we are working to accomplish. Instead, I suggest that we can learn to embrace our fear, and respond to it in a way that allows us to thrive within an open flourishing system.
The pain of operating in a survival mentality in a closed system allows us to clearly see the benefits of transformation to an open system. By doing this, our communities and organizations can transition from serving its own agendas by controlling the flow of information, to providing clear guidelines targeted towards the service and enhancement of the people it serves.
Closing Remarks-Dr. Kane
The issue here is not the power of the moderator, but the silence of the community. When a community accepts censorship, it reinforces its own isolation and encourages individuals to adopt the survival mentality in its closed system.
Media platforms dedicated to black audiences throughout many African-American communities across the country are designed to be “non-activist,” meaning that its role is to pass along information such as regional legislative agendas, job announcements and research opportunities. Meanwhile, “activist” issues such as those below continue to add to the complex traumatization of our community:
- In 2016, a CDC study determined that 50% of all Gay African-American males will contract HIV in their lifetime. Gay and bisexual Black males have a have a one in two risk of contracting HIV in comparison with one in 11 for white males.
- The same study found that one in 48 black women are likely to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime compared to one in 880 white women.
- Only 10% of 8th grade black males in America read proficiently.
- 1 in every 16 African-American men is incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white males.
- One in every three black males can expect to be to prison in their lifetime.
- Black males were three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists.
- African-American males are twice as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.
There is much more that these media platforms can do to assist in the empowerment and psychological wellness of African-American communities across the country. Maintaining a non-activist stance will only reinforce the current state of survivalist mentality and not move us towards empowerment.
- Media platforms must encourage a range of discussion regarding issues impacting the psychological wellness of the African American communities throughout the country.
- Media platforms must establish specific guidelines and structures defining the appropriateness of submitted articles
- Media platforms must provide notification of regional and national conferences focused on the wellness of black communities, such as the National Association of Black Social Workers, whose conference is taking place this week in New Orleans.
Finally, let us not ignore the dangers of silencing through censorship. The Russian poet & dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:
“When truth is replaced by silence, the silence becomes a lie.”
I will continue to submit my truths for publication to all media platforms, including the one that silenced me. I will allow my actions, rather than the acceptance of silence, to speak on my behalf. I encourage those who disagree or have different perspectives to voice them for all to listen. This is the benefit of residing within an open system and democratic society.
Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…