Policing Your Emotions In The Just World

“A white prospective patient enters my office, seats himself, and upon seeing the numerous educational and professional achievements, including a doctorate and two masters’ degrees hanging on my wall, asks, “Are you any good?”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

To be a Negro in this country and be relatively conscious is to be in rage all the time.”

-James Baldwin Writer

“You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity.  When it happens, sometimes we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up.  Sometimes we don’t know what to do when adversity takes over.  And I have some advice for all of us.  I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune.  And it sounds like what you are supposed to say when you have that kind of problem.  It’s called mercy, mercy, mercy.”

-Cannonball Adderley “The Cannon” Jazz Musician

A true story:

I was alone in a hotel lobby in Cleveland Ohio.  My husband and children had just returned to our room to retrieve something that somebody had to have before we left for my sister-in-law’s wedding. 

I had gone to a lot of trouble shopping for the children and myself.  My tailored emerald-green silk dress was made from fabric my husband had brought from Thailand, and my shoes were dyed to match.  My nails and hair were done, and my outfit was topped off with a brand new mink jacket that my husband had worked hard to buy for me.  I was sharp. 

As I waited for the elevator to return my family to me, two young white men came out of the hotel bar and headed my way.  When they got within earshot, one of them loudly exclaimed, “She must cost at least $100!”  His companion laughed as they walked past what was left of me.  

 I looked at my clothes, trying for a minute to determine what was it about me that had given them the impression I looked like a hotel hooker and not simply a well-dressed wife and mother.  My tears gleamed on the fur as I stood there with my head bowed.  

I knew that I had to pull myself together.  I knew that my husband would be furious if he heard my story and would want to confront the men who had left me feeling so devastated.  My children would be upset if I was upset.  Our day of celebration would be spoiled. 

When the elevator finally arrived, I looked shaken, but I managed to blame it on my excitement.  It wasn’t until the end of the day that I told my husband about the experience, and he was as angry as I’d anticipated. 

I never wore those shoes or that dress again.

 -Dr. Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, clinical psychologist and Author, Stolen Women (page 27-28)

My Dear Readers,

Dr. Wyatt, like many of us, was raised to believe in the three tenets of the Just World Theory:

  • The world is benevolent
  • The world is meaningful
  • The self is worthy

It is these values that give rise to the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It affirms the belief that the individual is capable of anything, that hard work pays off, that what goes around comes around, and that buying into the moral precepts and rules of behavior imposed by the greater society will keep the uncertainties of life at bay.

In all respects, Dr. Wyatt succeeded at all of these things, and for the most part, reaped those benefits.  However, just in that short encounter at the elevator, she became a victim of a complex trauma known as Just World Trauma.

Just World Trauma occurs when the rules and guidelines put forth by the greater society for success are then violated by that very same society.  The patient, in believing that they would be treated justly by the world whose rules they have been following, would be betrayed—not by a particular individual, but by all of society.  

 Just World Trauma is one of 13 subtypes of complex traumas African-Americans can be exposed to cumulatively on a daily basis. In this case, Dr. Wyatt suffered:

  • Race based trauma-being viewed as a prostitute because of the color of her skin
  • Micro aggressive assault trauma– the sexual comments were verbalized loudly with the intent to be heard and inflict emotional damage
  • Invisibility Syndrome Trauma– the role of mother and spouse was denied of her

Dr. Wyatt’s reaction to this encounter are typical of African-Americans who are subjected to this trauma:

  • Reaction– She reacted by emotionally trapping the traumatization within and questioning what she had done (her behavior, her dress) to deserve such treatment and to be viewed as a prostitute
  • Response-She chose to remain silent. She made the decision to “pull myself together” and not tell her family.
  • Sacrifice-She sacrificed her psychological self to protect her family by being silent about the encounter at first. She stated “my husband would be furious” and “my children would be upset if I was upset.”

Dr. Wyatt took the hit for the good of the family; she chose not to have their day of celebration be spoiled.  Interestingly enough, Dr. Wyatt’s decision not to tell her husband immediately may have saved his life.  As a woman who knew what her man would or would not accept, this was clearly unacceptable.  Had her husband confronted these men, there may have been a more tragic and psychologically devastating outcome.

Suffering in Silence

 African-Americans have historically understood the need to be silent even in the midst of great suffering and powerless, in order to survive.

I was compelled to stand and see my wife shamefully scourged and abused by her master; and the manner in which it was done, was so violently and inhumanly committed upon the person of a female; that I despair in finding decent language to describe the blood act of cruelty.”

-Unknown contributor

The survival of black Americans through their silence has changed little from slavery to the modern day.  It is through black silence we have learned to adapt in the following ways:

  • Learn to behave one way, even if you felt another
  • Never discuss the kind of abuse you were experiencing
  • Live with a sense of dignity in spite of the abuse

 Today, these adaptations have resulted in African-Americans:

  • Feigning submission, happiness and complacency in spite of whatever emotion the individual may actually be feeling.
  • Experiencing trauma that may result in sleeplessness, fears of impending doom and flashbacks that won’t go away
  • Using coping mechanisms such as dissociation in order to maintain emotional distance from the psychological wounds impacting one’s life.

The ABC’s of Empowerment: Ending Black Silence.

  •  A (Advocacy)- End the silence, speak for the psychological self (“I will accept that only I can advocate for my mental wellness.”)
  • B (Balance)-Seek balance of feeling and thoughts (“Only I can bring balance within me as to what I feel and think.”)
  • C (Calmness) Expel calmness to the external world (“I can and I will bring calmness to my external environment.”)

 

Concluding Words

 “African-Americans have shown the endurance to survive and achieve during times of hardship and adversity.  Now we must demonstrate the ability to run the race smarter, not harder.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Our parents in their wisdom have taught us that to succeed we must learn the rules and play the game.  We have tended to our psychological wounds with silence and other substances like food and alcohol for decades. Now, we must combine learning the rules and playing the game with running the race smarter, not harder.

To those who may be curious as to my response to the micro-aggressive assault, i.e. the question, “Are you any good?”

My response was simple: I asked the individual to accompany me to the building’s waiting room, where I suggested he seek an appointment with one of the white therapists in the building.  In leaving, I remarked, “I choose my patients. If you were not sitting on the couch, someone more deserving of my assistance would be.”

I will not allow someone to take from or minimize what I have worked so hard and sacrifice so much as I walked my journey of self-discovery.  I will advocate for me, obtain balance within my psychological self and in doing, achieve calmness in my external world, and I encourage all others to do the same.

“Life is like a marathonFinish the race; don’t worry about coming in first place.  Cross the finish line.  Just finish what you start.”

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life , www.lovingmemore.com

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

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Black Shame, Black Silence

 

Silence is golden.”

-A proverbial saying, often used in circumstances where it is thought that saying nothing is preferable to speaking.

“It is the false shame of fools to try to conceal wounds that have not been healed.”

-Quintus Horatius Fiaccus, Roman Poet

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion.  It is the fear that we’re not good enough.”

-Brene Brown, Scholar

“When you go through a traumatic event, there’s a lot of shame that comes that comes with that.  A lot of loss of self-esteem.  That can become debilitating.”

-Willie Aames, Actor & Screenwriter

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a 54 year-old African-American male.  I have a good corporate job, I am married with two kids, one beginning college and one left in high school.  I have a lot to be thankful for. However, I have been carrying a lot of mental baggage that I just can’t seem to get rid of.

My father was a career military officer who wanted me to follow in his footsteps.  As a child, I was sent to a military academy to complete my high school studies and thus prepare to attend college and seek military service.

My time in school was traumatic. I was taunted by white students about slavery, and I was constantly on the receiving end of other racist comments and practices which were ignored by the teachers and administration.  My parents were of no help. They couldn’t hear my pleas over their constant boasting to their friends about me attending a prestigious high school.

I attempted suicide when it became too much for me to handle.  The school covered it up, sending me home and terminating my placement, stating that I was not a good fit for the school.   My father never mentioned one word about the incident to me.  My parents and extended family treated the incident as if it never happened.

Every day, however, when I looked into his eyes, I could see the shame he carried because of my failure.   My father has since been dead for 8 years and yet, the shame in me remains as strong as ever.  I simply cannot go on like this.

I have isolated myself of late.  I have distanced myself from my wife and sons.  I now sit in front of the television drinking the pain away, but it always returns.  This is not living.

Please tell me how I can conquer the shame that is within me.

Desperate in Seattle

—————————————–

My Dear Readers,

I am often lauded when I write about the negative impact of racism, oppression and discrimination upon African-Americans.  Others cringe when I shine the light on the psychological injuries we inflict upon ourselves.  Our silence is one of the most damaging of those psychological injuries.

White blindness may be the societal disease that severely disables and impacts transformation for the dominant culture, but we can see the same impact of silence on our own African-American communities.  It is in our silence that we show that we are willing to sacrifice the health of our most viable resource, the self.

We as African-Americans have made numerous contributions and achievements to this country in the 400 years since the first slaves arrived on a Portuguese slave ship from Angola at Jamestown in 1619, and yet, we are a shame-based people.  Shame can be defined as the following:

  • A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace (e.g. felt shame for having dropped out of school)
  • An act that brings dishonor, or dishonor, disgrace, or public condemnation (e.g. brought shame on the whole family)
  • An object of great disappointment
  • A regrettable or unfortunate situation (e.g. being born into poverty)

Healthy shame is an emotion that teaches us about our limit.  Like all emotions, shame moves us to get our basic needs met.”

-John Bradshaw, Educator, Motivational Speaker

This is wrong. There is nothing healthy about shame, particularly in the way that it impacts African-Americans in this country.

Shame is mired in humiliation, and humiliation is defined as the infliction of a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves a deep, long lasting wound within the psychological self. 

The painful experiences of humiliation are vividly remembered for a long time.  This includes:

  • The enforced lowering of a person or group, a process of subjugation that either damages or strips away a person’s pride, honor or dignity.
  • A state of being placed, against one’s will, in a situation where one is made to feel inferior.
  • A process in which the victim is forced into passivity, acted upon, or made to feel helpless.

The concept of “healthy shame” as a mechanism to “get our basic needs met” fails to account for the humiliation that accompanies shame. This concept effectively punishes African-Americans repeatedly by psychologically reinforcing the maintenance of life at the level of survival and in doing so, prevents and/or restricts the individual’s or the community’s collective movement towards self-empowerment or self-actualization.

As African-Americans are a shame-based people, mired in humiliation and impacted by 13 different subtypes of cumulative complex traumas on a daily basis, it behooves us to understand how humiliation differs from shame:

  • Humiliation is public, whereas shame is private.
  • Humiliation is the suffering of an insult. If the person being humiliated deems the insult to be credible, then he will feel shame.
  • One can insult and humiliate another, but that person will feel shame if his/her self-image is reduced. Such actions requires the person who is being humiliated to “buy in” that is, agree with the assessment that shame is deserved.
  • A person who is secured about their own stature is less likely to be vulnerable, to feeling shame, whereas the insecure person is more prone to feeling shame because this individual gives more weight to what others think of him than to what he thinks of himself.

The writer seeks assistance from me to “conquer the shame that is within.”  I will not assist him in this endeavor.  My clinical orientation is based on self-psychology and healing the wounds that lie within the psychological self. My ethical belief is “to do no harm.”  I will not be a tool to either conquer shame or cause further psychological wounding to this dear man.

Furthermore, despite repeated or desperate attempts, he will not succeed in eradicating the shame he has carried for 40 years.  This shame, which is mired in humiliation, is supported by cumulative complex traumas including micro-aggression, invisibility syndrome and race-based trauma.  Complex trauma is a permanent fixture within the psychological self.  It will never, ever go away.

At this point, the writer is struggling with the traumatic memory of the devastating experience he endured, but survived.  He was shamed and humiliated, and then, endured the silence of his family.  In order to progress, he must seek to honor his survival.

He can achieve this by embracing his shame and humiliation.  He must seek to embrace his experience of emotional and psychological duress. To do this, he must accept that this happened to him, that it has had the impact that it has had in his life, and that he still is acceptable and worthy of his life despite it.   Once he does this, instead of bearing the weight as a burden, he can learn to carry and balance the weight as a part of himself.  As he begins and continues to succeed at this, the weight of those experiences will become lighter and the psychological self will become calmer.

Concluding Words

“Slavery is something that is, all too often, swept under the carpet.  The shame doesn’t even belong to us but we still experience it because we’re a part of the African race.  If it happened to one, it happened to all.  We carry that burden.”

-Lupita Nyong’o Actress & Filmmaker, Academy Award Winner 2014 “12 Years A Slave.”

True or False: African-Americans are responsible for their pain and suffering created from 400 years of slavery, segregation, domestic terrorism and racial profiling and the resulting emotional and psychological duress responding due to complex trauma?

Believe it or not, this is true. The mistake that is repeatedly made is to confuse or integrate the concept of blame within the concept of responsibility.  It is ludicrous and serves no legitimate purpose to engage in re-victimizing behaviors by blaming African-Americans for the emotional and psychological damage done to them in the fulfillment of the dominant group’s agenda.  However, the first steps that are necessary to respond to the emotional and psychological duress is to end black silence by:

  • Acknowledging the existence of the emotional and psychological duress
  • Accepting responsibility for carrying the emotional and psychological duress
  • Viewing the emotional and psychological duress for what it is: pain and suffering.
  • Understanding the consequences of pain and suffering; it impacts both the physical body and the psychological well-being of the individual
  • Finally taking action; seek mental health wellness through psychotherapy or other forms of mental health treatment

“The African-American community consists of two parts: those who choose to remain uninformed, maintaining their silence by living in denial, and the others who seek knowledge, awareness and when necessary, mental health treatment in the pursuit of mental health wellness.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

“The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”

-Marcus Garvey

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues..

 

Racial Silence and Fear of the Unknown

“Still waters run deep.  Shallow waters run dry frequently.”

-Thomas County Cat, (publication Thomas County, Kansas 1890)

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

-Toni Morrison, Author and Nobel Laureate

“Rain is a blessing when it falls gently on parched fields, turning the earth green, causing the birds to sing.”

-Donald Worster, Author, Meeting the Expectations of the Land, 1984)

 

My Dear Readers,

The proverb “still waters run deep” typically means that a placid exterior often hides a passionate or subtle nature.  In the past, however, it also served as a warning that silent people are dangerous.  This week, we will explore the silence between white and African-American communities in America, and how it reinforces the danger.  The outlying issues are the fear and distrust beholding both communities who share the well.

One of the respondents to the “Transcending White Blindness” blog shared:

“Thank you for putting this person in his/her place.  Obviously they have no clue what it is like as an African-American (Black) man or woman in this society today or yesterday.  They don’t know what it is like to deal with covert racism when the smile is in your face and the knife is in your back.”

I responded to that letter the following week in the blog “Responding to White Blindness,” but I want to specifically address this comment.  I can understand the anger and pain being endured by the writer, but my intention was and remains to utilize the blog writings as a means to provide information that hopefully will serve as a resource for building a solid foundation as they continue their own journeys of self-discovery.

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part or worse, European-Americans and African-Americans are bound together. Our common bond is our silence.  White blindness is a societal disease that continues to shackle the dominant majority.  For African-Americans, it is weathering the daily and cumulative impact of 13 different subtypes of complex trauma, while not taking steps to heal the psychological wounds due to negative cultural views against mental health treatment.

People in both groups want better lives for their children.  However, along with their silence, they pass fear, intolerance, and lack of acceptance inter-generationally to their children who, in turn, pass the same to their children and so on and so on.

We speak of better lives for our children, and yet, we don’t model those better lives for them because of our ignorance and our fear of the unknown.

A recent example of that ignorance and fear of the unknown comes from Wyckoff, New Jersey.  An internal investigation by state authorities revealed in 2014 that then police chief Benjamin Fox had sent departmental emails stating that racial profiling “has its place in law enforcement.”

Specifically, Chief Fox stated:

“Profiling, racial or otherwise, has its place in law enforcement when used correctly and applied fairly.  Black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff.  That’s why we check out suspicious Black people in white neighborhoods.

It would be insane to think that the police should just “dumb down” just to be politically correct.  The public wants us to keep them safe and I am confident that they want us to use our skills and knowledge to attain that goal.”

The response from monitoring organizations was swift and pointed.  The ACLU stated, “Racial profiling has no place in policing New Jersey.”  The Bergen County Prosecutor and the State Attorney General issued a joint statement, declaring:

“On its face, the email appears to be a clear violation of the Attorney General’s policy strictly prohibiting racial profiling by police officers.  We are conducting a full investigation and will take all appropriate measures.”

Translation: “The chief of police who we ALL trusted got caught doing a very bad thing.  As the overseers of law enforcement, “we are on it” and will take the appropriate steps to see that this does not happen again.”

As of last week, his comments resulted in a 180-day suspension without pay and a demotion to patrolman.

Problem solved, right? African-Americans can now take a small amount of comfort that they will not be racially profiled in the city of Wyckoff, N.J.  However, given that there are 12,501 local police departments within the United States, there is another message these 765,000 sworn and commissioned officers may be receiving.

“The community (white) wants us to protect them when suspicious people (blacks) in come into their neighborhoods.  Yet these same people (whites) are silent when we get caught doing what they demand of us.”

Ignorance is defined as the lack of information. Former Chief Fox is not being punished for his ignorance, but more for saying what he said in public, and running the risk of embarrassing his fellow officers around the country.  In doing so, he brings into the light a fear in which those reacting to white blindness seek desperately to keep hidden.

Ignorance.  Fear of the Unknown.  

While white blindness continues to be an issue, there is also a blindness that pervades my black brothers and sisters.  In my 30+ years of providing mental health services to the African-Americans community, one belief has remained firm: the silence and the unwillingness to acknowledge the impact of negative mental health outcomes and their link to the impact of substance abuse, domestic violence, high unemployment and other social maladies in our communities.

 And still, we remain silent.

Yes, African-Americans have made significant achievements in the areas of commerce, science, education, medicine, the arts etc.  Yet, these contributions have not come without significant negative consequences. There are reportedly 13 subtypes of complex traumas, which are cumulative and can impact African-Americans on a daily basis.

And still, we remain silent.

As African-Americans continue to view mental health care as a negative and continue to accept the dysfunction that arrives with non-focused mental health care, our silence reinforces the belief that mental illness is a weakness and a handicap.  Instead, we must want to see it for what it truly is: a condition that is a response to one’s societal environment.

Concluding Words 

“Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.  Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”

-Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

 Information can be treated like rain.  As it falls upon you, allow that information to enter and to bring light to what that was once darkness.  Let us return to our respective communities and do the work that can be done as we learn to live with our fear instead of in our fear.

“Some people feel the rain.  Others just get wet.”

-Bob Marley, Musician

There will always be those among us, regardless of race, who will choose to live in denial.  Among the 12,501 local police departments throughout the country, many may be inspired to make change by Chief Fox’s actions, whereas others may stay within darkness, being silent when racial profiling occurs within their departments.

There will also be those within the African-American community who will continue to disavow mental health care and minimize mental health treatment for those who could benefit.   We all have work to do in our respective communities.  Silence like white blindness begins with the individual, and from there, flows within and throughout the society, and stepping away from that behavior begins with the individual too.

“We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish together as fools.”

-John Lewis, US Congressman & Civil Rights Activist

 

Until the next crossroads….the journey continues…

 

 

 

 

Responding to White Blindness

“The impulse to dream was slowly beaten out of me by experience.  Now, I surge up again and I hunger for books, new ways of looking and seeing.”

-Richard Wright, Native Son

“Unfortunately, history has shown us that brotherhood must be learned, when it should be natural.”

-Josephine Baker, Dancer, Singer & Actress

“I want history to remember me not as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, nor as the first black woman to make a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”

-Shirley Chisholm, US Congresswoman, Unbought and Unbossed

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

Thank you for putting this person in his/her place.  Obviously, they have no clue what it is like as an African-American man or woman in this society either now or in the past.  They don’t know what it’s like to deal with covert racism when the smile is in your face and the knife is in your back.

They don’t have to walk into a restaurant wearing a $500 suit and not be served simply because your skin is black, while a white man or woman with the same or similar $500 suit would be served with a smile, no less.

I’m so sick and tired of white people telling black people to “let it go.”  Why should black people let it go?  How can black people let it go?  White people haven’t let it go.  They remind African-Americans every day that in their eyes, we don’t exist.  That’s “white blindness.”

I am right there with you Dr. Kane, with the sadness, frustration, and the tiredness.  I applaud your posts for opening up the eyes of all Americans.

Mad as Hell, Seattle WA

—————————————————-

My Dear Readers,

I have received so many responses to last week’s blog Transcending White Blindness that I felt a follow-up post would be warranted.

The responses I received fell into three camps:

  • The feeling that I misunderstood the writer’s intent
  • Apologizing for the writer
  • Mad as Hell (at the writer and interestingly, a few at me for stating that I was not angry for what had been written).

 

Misunderstanding the writer’s intent

It is entirely possible that I may have misunderstood the writer’s intent.  It appears that he wanted to dialogue with an educated black man with whom he could feel safe.  It was apparent that through my blog writings the writer found me to be low-key, well-mannered and conciliatory.

Non-threatening, “safe” black people are the type of black people that white people who suffer from white blindness feel most comfortable interacting with—the stereotype of the “good Negro.” This would be the type of black person that a person suffering from white blindness would hold up as an example of how black people are expected to act in order to get the respect, regard, and human rights that they ask for.  What makes this part of white blindness is that these are the things that are afforded white people, regardless of their tone, their attitude, and their manners.

 

Apologizing for the writer

 “I am so, so, sorry. I want to apologize. I feel terrible about the statements he made.”

I got quite a few responses from people who did not write the letter apologizing for the statements put forth.   This comes from the well-meaning and potentially accurate concern that I had personally suffered a psychological wounding due to the micro-aggressive assault of the letter. However, as well-intended as it is, the apology neither soothes the pain nor heals the wound.

The issue here is that the apologist discounts the belief system and the white blindness of the original writer. By apologizing, the respondent is trying to negate the trauma and minimize the impact of the pain that has occurred—not for my sake as the recipient, but for their own guilt and shame in sharing a skin color with the original writer.  At the end of the day, we must all accept the words of the original writer for what it is.  Only when we see these things for what they are, can we truly derive benefit from discussing it.

 

Mad as Hell

There were many who responded similarly to “Mad As Hell,” sharing their anger at the original writer for his blindness and insensitivity, but there were also a number of respondents who directed their anger towards me—I was called an Uncle Tom in one memorable message—for not being angry enough in my response to the original writer.

As I stated in the previous blog, ignorance is merely the lack of knowledge.  It is not helpful to me or anyone else to reward the lack of knowledge with shame for the lack of knowledge.  If I were to be angry with this writer, he wouldn’t learn anything—he would simply reinforce his erroneous beliefs about African-Americans.

 

Why are African-Americans “Mad as Hell” regarding white blindness?

 Trauma. To restate from the previous blog, African-Americans are susceptible to 13 different subtypes of complex trauma, which   are cumulative and can appear daily and suddenly.

The subtype of complex trauma impacting this group is known as “The Invisibility Syndrome.”  Invisibility traumatization occurs within the psychological self as an inner struggle with the feelings that one’s talents, abilities, personality, and worth are not recognized and valued because of prejudice and racism.

Societal white blindness supports and reinforces the invisibility, refusing to acknowledge the achievements of the individual and instead stereotypes and ignores, targeting them as a group.

Regardless of achievement or accomplishment, the wounding created by the trauma of invisibility has long lasting impact on the psychological self.  Below is an example:

At a recent community group meeting, one of the attendees “hijacked” the presentation away from the facilitators by constantly inserting his views and himself while not sharing the discussion with the other attendees.  This individual was so enamored with himself and his own expertise, he did not notice that the other attendees grew exasperated every time he spoke.

 Although he interrupted others, seeking to control the discussion, he became incensed when he was interrupted.    At one point he jokingly stated he should be addressed as “Dr.” Was he joking?

No, he was not.   The actions forespoken are indicative of an African-American professional person who has an extensive history of being shunned, ignored and silenced by white blindness.   At the meeting, he found an environment where he could project the true essence of his long-denied self, and in doing so, he could finally be listened to and for once, valued and validated—regardless of the actual responses of his audience.

 

How does the individual respond to the trauma of Invisibility Syndrome or the other remaining 12 subtypes of complex trauma? 

One, come out of the darkness, stay into the light.  Acknowledge the trauma, but realize that you are wounded, not broken.  You can heal, and you are not beyond repair.

”I am wounded, but I am not broken.  I can heal.  I want to heal.  I will heal.”

Two, follow the therapeutic model Five R’s of RELIEF (respite, reaction, reflective, response and reevaluation).   When struck by a subtype of complex trauma like micro-aggression or invisibility syndrome, seek the following:

  • Respite-step away from the incident (e.g. take a breath, short walk, listen to music, read)
  • Reaction-own your feeling e.g. (anger, disappointment, frustration)
  • Reflection-seek calmness (e.g. balance your feelings and thoughts
  • Response-share your response with the external world (e.g. the person who created the situation, family, friends/peers)
  • Reevaluate-explore the actions and behaviors taken (e.g. what did I learn? How will I response to a similar situation next time)

 Three, Stop looking outside the psychological self for awareness, acknowledgement and most of all…acceptance.  Focus on loving the self and afterward…love me more.   It is a reality that the societal disease of white blindness cannot thrive without those it seeks to either deny or ignore constantly seeking validation of those who suffer from that blindness.

 

Concluding Words

I am a “child of segregation.”  As a child of eight, I was thrust into the battleground of the fight for civil rights.  I was snatched from the warmth of a “colored school” and made to attend an integrated school of which I was the only black male in my class.  It was then that I became fully aware of the impact of white blindness whereas for two years as my white classmates ignored the “nigra”.

Today I continue to be traumatized by invisibility and victimized by white blindness. Am I angered by it? Yes.  However, anger is merely an emotion that must be harvested, balanced, and redirected.   Hence I write, processing my feelings and in doing so, hopefully educating my beloved readership.  If one person benefits from my writing, then I have achieved my goals.

White blindness is a societal disease, which, like fear and intolerance, is passed down inter-generationally.  This disease can be treated and eventually eradicated.  However, it begins with the individual, and from there, flows within and throughout the society.

And yes, we are ALL Americans.

 “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Until the next crossroads…. the journey continues.

 

 

Transcending White Blindness

“Blacks have no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”

-Roger Taney, Chief Justice US Supreme Court (1836-1864)

“The negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.  He is to be bought and sold as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it”

-Roger Taney, (Dred Scott decision, 1857)

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see… When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”

-Ralph Ellison, Author, Invisible Man

“White folks just don’t realize how dangerous it is for a black dude to ride around in a nice car.  Total white blindness.”

-Anonymous

Dear Dr. Kane,

I am a white male who reads the articles you post on LinkedIn.   I want to commend you for the low-key, well-mannered and conciliatory tone taken following the aftermath of the slaughter of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge by black thugs supporting the black lives matter movement.  It is ironic that in the killing spree, they killed one of their own.  So much for “black lives matter.”

It is difficult to talk to black people about these issues.  They come off being so angry and that turns me off to where I don’t want to engage in a meaningful discussion.  I get it; your people are angry. However, that is no justification to shoot cops who are only doing their job to protect all of us.

As an educated man, maybe you can explain why black people, particularly males, refuse to follow directions when stopped by the police for a traffic infraction.  It is simple common sense; don’t break the law and consequently, you won’t have to be concerned about being pulled over by the police.

I understand.  Believe me, I get it.  This country has a sordid history due to bringing blacks here as slaves.   But when are they going to let it go?

So Dr. Kane, from one educated man to another, please write something that will help increase communications between black and white people.  Regardless of our differences, we are ALL Americans.

-Anonymous

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My Dear Readers,

After reading this letter, I had to take a long, deep, breath. It’s hard to describe the combination of frustration, sadness and tiredness I felt.  Interestingly enough, I am not angry.

But then again, why should I be angry?  After all, the writer commended me on “the low-key, well-mannered and conciliatory tone” of my writing.  I guess I should be pleased by his validation, right?

I want to believe that my readers are people of good intentions, who may either be misinformed, uninformed or are simply ignorant.  Ignorance isn’t stupidity—it is simply the lack of knowledge on a specific subject.

The writer’s words conceptualize one of the main problems impacting communications between black and whites.  Known as white blindness, this is defined as when white people don’t realize the presence of institutional racism or subtle discrimination.   White blindness not only adversely impacts the ability to communicate on race relations , but also slows movement towards social transformation, and has many whites believing that African-Americans are making excuses for lawlessness and overstating the problems of racism.

One way for ethnic minorities to deal with white blindness is to provide factual information on issues impacting African-Americans.  For instance, the term “trauma” is often misunderstood—it is often generalized, when in all actuality, there are 13 subtypes of traumas that African-Americans can be exposed to.  As a clinical traumatologist, I have focused on the treatment of African-Americans who have been exposed to repeated incidents of complex traumatization.  I feel that it is my duty to ensure that others understand how this may color the ways that African-Americans communicate about these recent events.

These traumas are actually cumulative and can occur at any time throughout the life of an African-American in America.  Two trauma subtypes that impact African-Americans on a daily basis are Micro-aggressive assaults and Macro-aggressive assaults.

Micro-aggressive assaults are:

  • Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicates hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the targeted person or group. (e.g. a black person being told he/she may not fit into a predominately white school)
  • Behaviors or statements that do not necessarily reflect malicious intent, but can still inflict insult or psychological injury. (e.g. a white person saying…”I don’t see you as black.”)
  • Subtle, but offensive comments or actions directed at an ethnic minority person or group that are often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype (e.g.-“I thoughts all blacks grew up playing basketball.”)

In contrast, macro-aggressive assaults are open, not subtle and have a wider impact on the individual and society. Macro-aggressive assaults are:

  • Actions that reinforce fears of physical violence or death (e.g. A police officer maintaining a position of readiness to use lethal force when questioning a black person)
  • Large scale or overt aggression toward those of a different race. (e.g.-the internment of 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII)
  • Legalized acts of racism towards everyone of that race. (e.g. the Three-fifths Compromise Clause of the US Constitution reinforcing slavery)

White blindness—the willful refusal to see where these causes can influence current events—serves not only to severely impact the ability to communicate on race relations and movement towards social transformation, but it also reinforces the complex traumas that African-Americans face every day.

 

Slavery, slavery, slavery.  When are they (African-Americans) going to let it go?”

 “Letting it go” is a process.  It begins in a journey of self-discovery.  It is not unrealistic for all Americans to comprehend the devastation of slavery, or what white America at that time called “The Peculiar Institution.”  The term “peculiar” in this case means “one’s own”, referring to something distinctive to or characteristic of a particular place or people.  Now 400 years later, white Americans expect, and in some cases, demand that African-Americans “move on and let go” of what is essentially trauma and psychological destruction that has never been healed, and  that continues every day.

Letting go of the trauma of slavery and guarding against continued micro- and macro-aggressions is a generations-long process, and to ask that to happen immediately shows how white blindness and the privilege that it comes from essentially erases the pain and the trauma that African-Americans have gone through and go through today.  Progress has been made, but much more must be done.  Would we tell rape victims or victims of murder to simply “let it go?”

 

Why break the law?  Why not become law-abiding citizens? To avoid negative interactions with the police, don’t break the law and consequently, you won’t have to be concerned about being pulled over by the police.   

The question assumes as true the stereotype that African-Americans as an overall group are not law-abiding citizens.  Such stereotypes serve only to reinforce white fear of black people, and serves as the basis of support for the racial profiling and targeting law enforcement of African-Americans, specifically males.

White blindness takes the actions of individuals and labels the entire group with inclinations towards that behavior, thereby subjecting other individual (and often innocent) members of the group to pre-emptive acts of macro-assault, such as  threats of physical violence or death— in the most recent cases, by law enforcement officers who subscribe to these erroneous beliefs.

 

How does white blindness impact the perception of law enforcement?

White blindness essentially affirms individual accountability for white people.  As a result, white audiences provide unswerving loyalty towards law enforcement, which tends to be predominantly white, regardless of video evidence of police abuse.

However, the fact that this loyalty is unswerving means that those who subscribe to it also deny and devalue the historical and current experiences of the African-American community.  It is this same perception that ignores and dismisses another factual reality—that is, that African-Americans are also God’s creations and deserving of protection, by and from law enforcement.

 

Concluding Words

The deaths of the police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge are not the acts of thugs.  Instead, these were acts of domestic terrorism.   The officers, six Caucasians, one Hispanic and one African-American across both cities, were targeted for two reasons; being members of law enforcement and their dedication to serve and protect the communities of which they were committed to.

It was President Obama that said:

“We, as a nation, have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.  Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.”

White blindness and acts of domestic terrorism not only severely impacts the ability of individuals to communicate with each other on race relations but also slows movement towards social transformation.  However, the journey of self-discovery for the individual, society, and the nation must continue.

“We focus on the journey, not the destination.  It is what we see and experience along the way.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…