Choosing To Live Empowered

 

“I want this gorilla off my back!!”

-Patient screaming in session, referring to his fear

“Panel discussions on the news (media) and talk shows are useless.  Same old shit.  The feds claim there will be thorough investigations, and the police still keep killing black men.”

-William, 37, high school teacher

“Yet white folks get upset when we riot.  What the hell are we supposed to do…stand around and smile…wait calmly while they kill us?”

-Julian, 16, Student

“When I am out driving, I got my gun lying in my lap…. waiting for the cops.  I am not going out like a bitch with my hands up.  If my car breaks down, and they are going to take me; I am not going out alone.”

-Anonymous

“Man, I am so angry.  I tried talking about the shooting in Tulsa with my white coworkers.  They immediately changed the subject.   White folks don’t care about what or us we feel.  It’s been that way for hundreds of years.”

-Robbie, 46, city employee

“I wanted to talk to my pastor.  Hell, he cancelled church services, saying it was too dangerous to for a black man to be out after dark.” 

-Tim, 28, transit worker

“I tried talking to a white therapist about my feelings.  He sat there looking at me.  Do you know what that fool says, he asks how does the incident make you feel?  I start yelling.  He tells me I need anger management and refers me to see you.  Now what do you have to say?”

-Kevin, 31, laborer

 

My Dear Readers,

Enough.  I have simply had enough.  I have been writing these weekly blogs for three years following the death of my Linda, my beloved spouse.  Last week, I realized that I was burnt out and made a commitment to “take care of self” by taking a break from the weekly blogs. Clearly, a respite was in order and the intention was that the previous week’s writing would be my last for an extended period if, in fact, I decide to return.

Well, today I broke the commitment I made to my psychological self.  The sounds of too much pain and anguish from my patients broke me, and I had listened to enough.  The very last clinical session was the tipping point.  In that session, I saw an African-American veteran suffering from PTSD from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His safety, he believes, lies with him carrying his concealed weapon.  He is fearful of being pulled over by the police and mistakenly being shot, but he is adamant about his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

I was able to convince him to leave his weapon at home, but the fear of death at the hands of the police remained. He continues to hold to the illusion of a legal and constitutional right that is published as applicable to all American citizens, but in practice, is only really safe for white men to exercise.  When he walked out of my office, I admit, I thought of him as a “dead man walking.”  As he disappeared down the stairs, I saw in him what the majority of black males today in America are doing, feeling and experiencing: living in fear.

Living in fear is not living; instead living in fear is about surviving or simply put, just staying alive.  So how does a black man in this situation live?  By riding around with a gun lying on his lap?  Waiting for a confrontation with the police?  Nope.  That’s just another black man waiting to die.  Might as well call it suicide by cop.  Yes, this poor wretch will go out in his blaze of glory, stereotyped as another crazed black man who had to be killed.

There is another way.  Rather than living in fear that reinforces the desperation to survive, we can move towards transforming fear into empowerment. We can focus on hopelessness, helplessness, and powerlessness by seeking empowerment of the psychological self.  Specifically, we can attain empowerment through utilization of the clinical models ABC (Advocacy, Balance and Calmness) and Taking Care of Self (VETING).

  • Advocacy– Become an advocate for yourself. Know when to hold or show your cards.  Know when to speak and what to say.
    • Don’t expect others who have not lived the experience of being a black male in America to emotionally understand your feelings or experiences.
    • Understand that white blindness (the desire to ignore racial oppression) and black silence (the propensity of black people to remain silent in the face of oppression) is a factor in daily living, but that there are empathetic and compassionate allies both within and outside of law enforcement who are aware of what is occurring and also seeking an end to the violence being directed towards black males.
  • Balance-Remember that your power lies within you, and cannot be taken from you without your consent. Balance your anger with your wisdom.
    • Remember, being stopped/pulled over by the police is outside of your control. However, the way you handle (balance) the situation is up to you.
    • Follow the police officer’s instructions. Show by your actions and behavior that you are not a threat.  Never ever run from a police officer. Remember the Five R’s of RELIEF:
      • Respite-take a breath (breathe slowly)
      • Reaction-own your feelings
      • Reflection-balance your feelings and thoughts
      • Response-decide what appropriate actions you may want to take (if mistreated, file a formal complaint)
      • Reevaluate– the experience, lessons learned and how to respond the next time (accept the possibility that this may happen again)
  • Calmness-Use your balance and your inner empowerment to project calmness to the outside world. Use this to defuse the situation.
    • Do not allow your pride to speak for you.
    • Allow the police officer to control the situation. Remember although the police officer maintains legal authority (power,) empowerment lies within you.  One’s empowerment is a self-driven gift.  It cannot be taken, only given away.

Empowerment: Taking Care of Self (VETING) 

(V) Vulnerability- Be open to support.

  • Communicate with other black men who are experiencing similar feelings.
  • Seek to identify allies who are empathetic and have compassion for the emotions you are experiencing.

(E) Exposure-be open to your internalized experience.

  • Reveal what is truly going on within you.
  • Have the willingness to be in touch with your pain, suffering and experiences.

(T) Trust-Maintain an ongoing level of trust in the journey you have chosen.

  • Focus on reliance and confidence of your own value, truth and self-worth.
  • Focus on the knowing that in your life, space and meaning that you are truly the priority.

(ING) ING-The constant state of “doing” and “being”

  • Taking care of me.
  • Looking out for me.

Recommendations in Seeking Mental Health Assistance

Although the race of the mental health provider may be a factor to you in seeking assistance, remember:

  • Do not allow concerns about race to inhibit, prevent or deter you from achieving mental health wellness.
  • Look for a mental health provider who is an empathic compassionate listener.
  • Have the willingness to allow yourself to fully explore and express the emotions that are internalized.
  • Work towards the development of a comfort zone that allows the “fullness of you” to be expressed.

Don’t ignore the feelings of your loved ones

  • Embrace your loved ones when departing and returning home.
  • Do a daily check in by phone with spouse and family.
  • Be in regular contact with extended family especially when they reside outside the local area.
  • When away in the evenings, alert spouse and family members of the estimated time of arrival to your destination and/or any stops before arriving home.

Concluding Words- The Meaning of the Content of One’s Character

A fellow colleague recently asked me what it was like being a black man in America.

I am the son of a police officer.  I have also served my country during military service.  I am educated, a homeowner and have raised my children.  I have spoken before the US Congress, and have authored a publication which has been utilized as a teaching tool for graduate schools and clinicians working in the area of complex trauma. In my lifetime I have been stopped and questioned by the police for the following reasons:

  • Driving while black
  • Walking while black
  • Waiting for the bus while black
  • Standing outside a business while black
  • Drinking coffee while black
  • Eating while black
  • Reading while black
  • Waving my arms while black (threatening gesture)

Now due to the recent fatal shooting of the motorist in Tulsa OK, I now have to be concerned with “vehicle trouble while black.” Or, based on what happened to Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, NC, “reading while black.”

I live with the knowledge that the color and darkness of my skin is more important to others than my achievements and contributions to society and my community.

As a result of the legacy of police shootings, white folks talk among themselves, black congregations pray, and local police departments throughout the country nervously patrol the streets.  We slowly dance the dance of caution, as we fear the worst and hope for the best as the nation awaits the outcome of the formal investigations of the shootings.

Are the police to blame for the shootings?  Nope.  It is not about blame. Yes, the police culture needs to transform—they are sworn to protect and serve the communities they are in. In fact, the police culture, in its resistance to transformation reflects the values, the stereotypes and prejudices of all of us.

As we seek transformation within law enforcement and the policing of our citizens, the same citizens must want to seek transformation by ending their own white blindness and black silence that is paralyzing the country and our communities.  Until that occurs, black people will continue to be at risk while being either interacting with or under the control of police authority.  Meanwhile, the local police officer will continue to feel that he/she is being tossed under the bus as they continue to go out every day to serve their communities.

 “Should the police shoot me during a brake light check, I just hope I live.  If I don’t make it, Dr. Kane, please tell my wife that I love her, don’t live with hate and raise our sons to be good men”. 

-William, 39, Engineer

 “Black lives matter.  Blue lives matter.”    

“At the end of the day, we all want the same goal, that being to be able to live our homes for the purpose of work, school or enjoyment and be able to return safely to our loved ones.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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A final word:

Martin Luther King Jr. in his I Have a Dream speech stated,

 “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

 “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

 The dream remains unfulfilled.  Can it be done? We can together to take the dream and make it into a reality.

 Gone again on my respite… See you next year.

 Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

 

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When Cops and Robbers Is No Longer A Game

 

“Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying.”

-Marvin Gaye, Singer

“Death during adolescence feels unfair.  We are young.  We are invincible.  Death is supposed to come with old age.  When death breaks into our lives and steals our innocence, it leaves us unnaturally older.  There are too many elderly young people.”

-Sara Shandler, Author

“A flower bloomed, already wilting.   Beginning its life with an early ending.”

-RJ Gonzales, Author

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

Here we go again… another black boy shot dead by a white cop in Columbus, Ohio.  It’s eerily similar to what happened to Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about this.   I lay awake in terror as I worry about my two young sons.   I want to protect them, but how can I? I can’t watch them 24 hours a day.

How can we get white people to understand that black lives matter, particularly young black lives? I am sick and tired of living in fear of the phone call where someone tells me that one of my boys has been murdered.  Recently, my pastor came by for a visit, and I broke down, screaming hysterically, thinking he came to deliver the news that one of my sons had been killed.

Although I was relieved to know that my children were fine and that he’d stopped by to see my husband on unrelated matters, I still found myself angry at the pastor, my husband, my sons, at God, at the world, and at life. I stay frightened when it comes to the possible involvement of my sons with the police.  What do I do?

-A Frightened Mother, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

The writer, an African-American mother, has fears that reflect the fears of parents across this nation who are concerned about their adolescent children coming into contact with members of law enforcement.  It’s no wonder, considering the recent police-involved shooting of 13 year-old Tyree King in Columbus, OH this past Thursday; a police shooting that is reminiscent of the murder of Tamir Rice two years ago.

While we take into account the concerns of the Black Lives Movement regarding interactions between law enforcement and African-American males, it is essential that we in the African-American community wait before concluding that the current shooting was based on race. Although both incidents involved white police officers and young black males, the facts and what is alleged to have occurred is different. Specifically:

  • In the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, he was shot by a rookie officer investigating a report of someone pointing a gun at someone pointing a gun at people in the vicinity of a recreation center. Tamir was immediately shot by the police officer after exiting his police cruiser.
  • In the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Tyree King, it is alleged that the police officers were following up on a report of an armed robbery committed by three males.  It is alleged that one of the males ran away during the field investigation and as the officers gave chase the individual pulled a gun from his waistband.  The officer involved in the shooting of Tyree King had nine years of experience.   It was later determined that the weapon was a BB gun that appeared real.

In the case of Tyree King, attention is being placed on the statements being made by one of the individuals, age 19, reported to be who is alleged to be involved in the incident.  The news media has reported the following comments he made following his arrest”

  • “I was in the situation. We robbed somebody, the people I was with.
  • “(King) got up and ran. When he ran, the cops shot him.”
  • “I didn’t think a cop would shoot. Why didn’t they Tase him? ”

This is not a game of cops and robbers. If what is being reported is true, it is alarming that these young people are treating it as such.  In doing so they are placing their lives at risk.

  • Brandishing a weapon, robbing someone
  • Failure to follow directions
  • Running away from the police creating a foot chase.
  • Pulling what appears to be a firearm from one’s waist band

African-American parents can reduce their fear by empowering their adolescents to make good decisions when interacting with police officers.  Specifically, should she/he be stopped by a police officer:

  • Know that the police officer will ask for identification and it is legal for the police officer to do so.
  • Know that your identity will be verified in a computer database to identify any warrants.
  • Know that the police officer will be looking for suspicious behavior or activity.
  • Be prepared for a possible stop and search of your personal space and belongings

Empowerment of The Self-What Can I Do?

  • Immediately inform the officer: I am unarmed. I am not a threat to you
  • Always comply and follow the police officer’s instructions. Speak in a respectful tone.
  • If you are under the age of 18, inform the police officer of your age.
  • If you are under the age of 18, be sure to request that your parent, legal guardian, or legal representative be present.
  • If you choose not to speak, inform the police officer of your intent to remain silent until you have representation. After that, immediately stop talking.
  • Use your power of observation. Document the incident and any concerns regarding any behavior during the encounter.
  • Remember relevant information such as the date, time, location, the license plate/vehicle number, badge number and the police department of which the police officer is a member.
  • If needed, file a complaint with the local sheriff or police chief’ office.
  • Never, ever run from a police officer. Again, always comply and follow the police officer’s instructions.
  • Remember that the police officer is entitled to use deadly force if he/she feels physically threatened.

 

Concluding Words 

“It’s a struggle for every young Black man.

You know how it is.

Only God can judge us.”

Tupac Shakur

   It is a struggle for every young Black man.

  • The youth unemployment rate nationwide is 59%.
  • The high school dropout rate is 40%.
  • The homicide rate among black youth is 28.8 per 100,00 in comparison to whites, which is 2.1 per 100,00.
  • African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests

Consequences are defined as the outcomes and effects of actions taken by an individual.  As the result of the killing of a 13-year-old, a city is in turmoil, a family grieves the loss of a child, and a police officer must live with the knowledge that even though it may have been justified, a young life was taken.

Now, African-American communities throughout the nation and local police departments once again conduct the “dance of caution and fear” as both await the outcome of the formal investigation of the incident.

Black lives matter.  Blue lives matter.  At the end of day, we all want the same the goal, that being to be able to leave our homes for the purpose of work, school or enjoyment and to be able to return safely to our loved ones.

Until the next crossroads… the journey continues…

“If you can’t fly

Run

If you can’t run

Walk

If you can’t walk

Crawl

But by all means

Keep moving.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Social Media And The Transformation Of Silence

“Keeping your mouth shut is a great virtue. As in don’t tell anyone else about it—Silence is golden.”-American proverb (1848)

“Silence is of great value? Not to the victims who suffer in silence.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”- George Bernard Shaw

Dear Dr. Kane:

I find it distressing that you are personally attacking the institution of the church within the black community.   If you are going to write about us, I would appreciate that you focus on the good things we do and not publicly air our dirty laundry.

There is a saying: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Unmoved Churchgoer, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers:

George Bernard Shaw once said: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

There are those within the African-American community who, due to their unwillingness to transform, will view my writings as attacks on the institutions that they are seeking to protect.  For some, silence can be a beautiful thing, for others, an ongoing nightmare.

Historically, church elders and others in leadership positions within the African-American community have been willing to silence the voices of those among us who have been sexually victimized out of the fear that the impact of such disclosure will injure the reputation of the community and institution the assailant may have been associated with.

The recent church scandal in Seattle, where a local pastor sought to cover up acts of sexual assaults by the church’s youth minister, is an example of this. The youth minister was ultimately sentenced to 22 years in prison, and the church and its pastor agreed to a financial settlement out of court with several of the victims, but to this day, the pastor and the church leadership continue to maintain their silence on the subject, both in terms of their own experience, and on the issue in general.

There was no community discussion of this sordid incident.  The only information that was available to the public came from local and national media sources. Meanwhile, the ten male victims were relegated to invisibility by the community’s silence, and remain there today.

Judy Jones, associate director for a survivor network for those abused by members of the clergy, acknowledges the importance of discussion and sharing for victim recovery:

Your silence only hurts, and by speaking up, there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.”

And yet, many of these victims, now young adults or just beginning to enter adulthood, remain silent.  Why?  In understanding the impact of complex psychological trauma, there are several reasons they would refrain from talking about what happened to them:

  • The lack of community validation or the possible loss of their social support system
  • Feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation that are not processed due to the silence
  • Being held partially or entirely responsible for the harm that befell them.

Consequently, these children grow up feeling alone and isolated.  As adults, they may experience a degree of medical and psychological problems including

  • Insomnia
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD

When will the African-American community cease ignoring the pain of these victims?

Now. Social media has arrived, and times are changing. Young people are now empowering themselves by taking action and forcing the issue of sexual assault into the light.

One recent incident involves two students from well-known and elite black colleges in Atlanta, Georgia: Morehouse College and Spelman College. Both are single-gender colleges—Spelman is female-only, and Morehouse is male-only—and they are known for the development of leaders in the corporate and political settings.

Media reports indicate that a Spelman freshman was raped by four Morehouse students.

  • The student reported the incident to the Spelman’s Public Safety Department and was sent to the hospital for a rape kit.
  • However, it took the college a month to respond and when they did, the victim was asked whether she was drunk and what had she been wearing during the attack.
  • The victim states that she was encouraged to “let the action go,” due to the relationship between the two schools. As a result, she left the college.

The action (or, in this case, inaction) by both schools created a firestorm of controversy that the school administrators could not control.  There have been ongoing student protests and commentary in social media, under the hash tags #RapedByMorehouse and #RapedAtSpelman.

The students are seeking to achieve the following:

  • An acknowledgment of the nature of rape on college campuses
  • Push college administrators to do more to address sexual violence on campus
  • Foster discussion of the unique dynamics that make it difficult to report sexual assault by black men

Both Spelman and Morehouse have responded to the firestorm controversy.

The colleges have stated they are conducting ongoing investigations, but the Atlanta Police Department, which has jurisdiction over both campuses, states that it is not investigating any incident of rape at either college.

Will there ever be a criminal investigation of this incident?  Hopefully the students will keep the pressure on both college administrations.  The relationship between the two elite schools must play a backseat role when it comes to the protection and welfare of its students.

Concluding Words

What will it take for the black community to acknowledge and openly address the impact of sexual abuse in our midst?

Transformation. Dramatic movement is beginning now with our younger generations.   The Spelman freshman left school because of being pressured by administrators and the lack of support.   Students at both colleges, using social media, forced the issue into the open, keeping it alive and not allowing the school administrators to blame the victim.  Instead, they are seeking answers around the safety and security of their campuses, and the respect of the school in managing and investigating those times when they fall short.  Most importantly, they are seeking an open dialogue regarding the unique and changing relationships between women and men.

The rape victim at Spelman will not become invisible. Rather than close their ears to the suffering, the students at the two colleges embraced the victim, keeping the incident alive via social media and seeking change within their community.

The history of slavery, segregation and domestic terrorism are key factors in the behavior of both the church leadership in the first case, and the school administration in the second. Shame, humiliation, and learned powerlessness are historical factors, which are well known within the African-American community.  For many, the focus was to survive their circumstances, and in order to do that, they had to keep their heads down, and do nothing about the harm to others that occurred around them.  This behavior has been passed down from generation to generation.

However, today we can empower the psychological self.  We can speak out when we see wrong is being done.  We can embrace those who are suffering and create options that will impact their recovery and the recovery of our own communities.  We can and must want to do more and stop settling for less.

I see the beginning of this transformation with the words of Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College:

We are a family and we will not tolerate any episode of sexual violence.  No person should ever have to suffer and endure the experience she or he has recounted on social media.”

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“In the end,

We will remember not the words

Of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

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Until the next crossroads…. the journey continues…

The Shaming of Our LGBTQ Children

 

“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”

-Socrates, classical Greek Philosopher

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

-James Baldwin, African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic

“Fear is the only true enemy born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate.”

-Edward Albert, film & television actor, Golden Globe winner, 1972

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a 34-year-old black male, and I belong to a black church that my family has attended for four generations.  My great-grandfather was one of the founding members, and my grandfather and father have served faithfully as deacons for years.

I attend church services regularly, I pay my tithes, I play the piano for the choir, and I sing.  I am also gay.  I am in a loving monogamous relationship, but my family has asked that I keep this quiet from other church members.  As a result, when I attend church services, I do so without the person who brings joy to my life.

I have accepted the fact that they don’t want to see me as gay.  My parents and their church community are traditional and conservative people, and I know that there is nothing I can do about the way they think.

Recently, however, I encountered a news report about an act of hatred that has devastated me. One black man poured boiling hot water on two other young black men while they were lying in bed together, asleep.  He said he did it because they were gay.  Both men were terribly disfigured, and they showed the pictures. I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to my family, the pastor and the church’s deacon board with the hope that the church would speak out against this act of hatred within the black community, reach out to them in public prayer and offer them financial assistance from the congregation, but I was stunned by the response.  My family was silent; the pastor said he would pray privately for their salvation, but nothing public, and the deacon board decided that taking an offering for the victims was not within the guidelines of the gospel.

I continue to read and hear about the horrors these men have endured.  That could have been me—asleep one moment, and then awake and screaming in agony the next.  It plays over and over again in my mind, and I can’t sleep.  I have nightmares that the same thing could happen to my partner and myself.  I can’t eat, and I have taken time off from work to stay in bed.

I have spoken to my pastor, but I feel he has now forsaken me.  What would you recommend I do?

Sleepless and Invisible in Seattle

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My Dear Readers,

Lupita Nyong’o, in her acceptance speech for her 2014 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film 12 Years A Slave, observed:

“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.”

Slavery was about exploitation, the buying and selling of human being as chattel.  However, it was also about hatred and the despicable acts we can do as one human to another.

And today?  Although African-Americans are legally free and among the most successful members of the African Diaspora, we psychologically remain traumatized; a shame-based community hidden in black silence.

The story being told here is an excellent example of this.  Here, we have a young man who is traumatized by an act of hatred and the horrendous suffering that has ensued. According to reporting by the Associated Press:

  • On 2.12.16 Martin Blackwell, a long-haul trucker who stayed at the home with his girlfriend, the mother of one of the victims, when he was in town, walked in and saw the two men sleeping next to each other.
  • Blackwell went into the kitchen, pulled out a pot, filled it with water and set it to boil. Moments later, he poured the scalding hot water over the men.
  • Then Blackwell allegedly yanked one of the men off the mattress, yelling “Get out of my house with all that gay,”
  • In the police report, he stated “They were stuck together like two hot dogs…so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out.” He added,” They’ll be alright.  It was just a little hot water.”
  • Both men were severely burned. One must now wear compression garments 23 hours a day for the next two years and attend weekly counseling and physical therapy.  The other male was burned even more severely, was placed in a medically induced coma for several weeks, having 60% of his body burned.  He will have to undergo skin grafts surgery to repair damage to his face, neck, back, arms, chest, and head.
  • The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Blackwell guilty of eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Mr. Blackwell deserves to be punished for what he did.  Imagine the premeditation of the act, placing water on a stove, as it boiled, watching the two young men as they slept, peacefully in each other’s arms and just as calmly pouring hot scathing water upon them as they screamed out in pain and agony.  Mr. Blackwell committed a despicable act.  He deserves our contempt.

Instead, the community rewards him with silence.  We see ourselves as helpful neighbors, as in the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” but in this situation, as well as in hundreds of black churches throughout this country, we openly and consistently reject and shun those in our community who are gay and lesbian.

In the same breath that we seek to hold white people, the dominant racial group in our society, accountable for their abuse of the rights of people of color afforded them by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, we consistently deny those same rights to our own children if their sexual orientation does not mirror our own, or what we have come to believe is “natural,” or “right.”

The same 13 subtypes of cumulative complex traumas that African-Americans experience due to our race/ethnicity are the ones we inflict upon those in our own racial and ethnic groups because of differences in gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Specifically:

  • Macro-aggressive assault-threat of violence/death (e.g. pouring scathing boiling water on two sleeping men)
  • Micro-aggressive assault-brief, daily insults and dismissals (e.g. derogatory name calling)
  • Invisibility Syndrome-being unseen (e.g. feelings that one’s talents, personality and worth are not valued or recognized)
  • Just World-the shattering of the belief of the Goodness Principle (e.g. “I do good things, I deserve goodness and I will be rewarded with goodness.”)

 

And then there is Betrayal Trauma…..

One can only imagine how our gay and lesbian children must feel when the people they trust the most—their parents, siblings, extended family and church community turn against them upon learning of their sexual orientation.

Betrayal trauma is the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Betrayal in general is traumatic.  However, the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and therefore the more devastating the traumatic impact.

In the situation of our writer, his situation is even more appalling.  His trauma was increased as he visualized the same horrendous act occurring to him.  He was psychologically wounded.  He went to those he trusted to provide assistance for these two men whom he identified with, and instead, received silence from his family, private acknowledgement from the pastor, and rejection from the deacon board.  In all three ways, they unknowingly abandoned him when they abandoned the two men who were attacked.

To add further hurt to a psychological wound individual, the family and church still wants him to remain committed to attending the church and not only contributing his tithes, but also as a choir member and instrumentalist. In essence, they want him to share his life and talents with them, but only those aspects that they have chosen.

I recommend that our writer:

  • Seek individual psychotherapy or other forms of mental health treatment
  • Heal the psychological wounds: understand that trauma is a permanent fixture that can be carried and with work, can become lighter
  • End the shackles of invisibility: become your own advocate, bring balance into your internalized self and calmness to your external environment
  • Finally, should he desire to stay as a member of the church congregation, be out and free completely. “I’m gay, I’m here and I am not going anywhere.”

 

Concluding Words

As stated earlier, there are 13 sub-types of cumulative complex traumas that can impact African-Americans on a daily basis.  Of these, betrayal trauma can be the most devastating due to the vulnerability and the open exposure of the victimized individual and the nature of implicit and explicit trust.

As a clinical traumatologist, my consistent message has been that trauma is a permanent fixture within the psychological self.  The psychological scars may eventually heal, but the experience and the proceeding trauma is forever.  It will never ever go away.

Betrayal trauma is devastating, and healing and recovery from it is extremely difficult.  However, healing and recovery is possible.  The individual must want to embrace the trauma and in doing so, own and honor the experience.  The result can be a life in which the incident lightens and becomes carried by the sufferer, instead of a weight that lies upon his back.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence by the good people.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…