“Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life… Number two, I am the least racist person.”
–Donald Trump, President of the United States of America
“Calling for a ‘peaceful ethnic cleaning,’ my dream is a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.”
-Richard B. Spence, Director, National Policy Institute
“Every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence, every telegraph pole in the South should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag.”
–Steven Bannon, former CEO of Breitbart and current White House Chief Strategist for President Donald Trump
“The NAACP is un-American. They do more harm than good when they were trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”
–Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, from the 1986 confirmation hearing for appointment to the federal court
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
My Dear Readers,
I am returning once again to blogging at Loving Me More after taking a much wanted and desired five- month respite from publishing weekly over the last three years. I took the respite at a difficult time for many of my African-American male patients who were feeling targeted due to the large number of police involved shootings of black males nationwide.
In the blog “Choosing To Live Empowered,” I shared the common theme of attempting to survive while living in fear. One that I call “Dead Man Walking,” stated:
“When I am out driving, I got my 9mm lying on 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.”
Since then, “Dead Man Walking,” now known as “Alive & Well,” is no longer riding with his 9mm. He and the other six males, ranging from the ages of 16 to 68, have armed themselves with a weapon that is invisible to the naked eye and yet only understood by them: empowerment strategies focused on the care of their psychological selves.
In this week’s blog, I will focus on the shameful attempts of those individuals seeking to use the concept of unconscious bias to hide actions based on covert racism.
In earlier years, the Ku Klux Klan hid their acts of overt racism and domestic terrorism by wearing bed sheets. Today, instead of burning crosses, these young, middle, and older age men and women wear business attire, carry briefcases, and work in many of America’s corporate boardrooms and other leadership positions. This is exemplified in the recent annual conference of the National Policy Institute in which 200 attendees, led by Richard Spencer, saluted President-Elect Donald Trump in a Nazi style salute: “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”
Below is a story of a young African-American male responding to the pressures associated with the “changing face of modern day racism.”
Dear Dr. Kane:
I am a 34-year-old black male working in a corporate position in a nationwide online giant located in Seattle. Recently, during Black History Month, I attended mandated diversity training with my coworkers. As usual, I was one of the very few African-Americans in the room.
My company sponsored a talk by a scholar from one of the local universities. His basic premise was that racism does not exist and in its stead is unconscious bias. He then pointed directly to me, to himself, and finally to the entire audience, stating:
“He and I have unconscious bias, you have unconscious bias…we all have unconscious bias.”
The person making this statement was also African-American. I was stunned. I just sat there and said nothing. I didn’t know what to say. My white colleagues sat there, staring at me and nodding their heads in affirmation.
I did not want to be singled out and have my employment be placed at risk. I am concerned about what my colleagues think about me. They don’t look at me. I feel invisible to them. It is impacting the quality of my work. My supervisor has mentioned the drop in my work performance. I am drinking more so I can relax and sleep.
Wherever I go and whatever I do in corporate America, I stand out. I feel alone…all alone.
There is nothing out there but me & Jesus.
My Dear Young Man,
Let’s begin by clarifying a few terms. Unconscious bias refers to a bias we are unaware of, and which happens to be outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and happens when our brain makes quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.
Unlike unconscious bias, racism is both conscious and intentional. It can occur within several venues:
- Individual racism-involves discrimination towards people of color. It is a belief that one’s own race is superior. It requires behavioral enactments that maintain superior and inferior positions.
- Institutional racism- restricts people of color from having choices, rights, and mobility. It is the utilization of, as well as the manipulation of, legitimate institutions with the intent of maintaining an advantage over others.
- Cultural racism-is a combination of both individual racism and cultural racism in that it propagates the belief that one’s race’s cultural heritage is superior over another’s.
Racism is intentional and directly impacts the lives of those being targeted. The presenter’s premise that racism is nonexistent allows those who have racist beliefs or intent to minimize, deny, or avoid responsibility for the outcomes of those beliefs.
It may be strategic of the organization to invite an African-American scholar to perpetrate the view that unconscious bias has replaced racism. The goal may be to insure credibility by utilizing an African-American to proliferate its views.
However, the overall objective may be to reduce the impact of negative emotions (i.e., guilt, shame etc.) for those who maintain racist feelings and behaviors. This is known as symbolic racism, and it is a form of modern racism. Symbolic racism is more subtle and indirect than more overt forms of racism such as Jim Crow laws and Sundown towns (i.e., all white towns in which African-Americans were not allow to remain after sundown).
Symbolic racism develops through socialization and its process occurs without conscious awareness. An individual with symbolic racist beliefs may genuinely oppose racism and believe he is not racist.
To contrast overt racism such as Sundown towns with symbolic racism, consider the following editorial written in 1916 with statements made in 2016 by Richard B. Spencer:
“Within a few years, experts predict the Negro population of the North will be tripled. It’s your problem, or will be when the Negro moves next door. With the black tide setting north, the southern Negro, formerly a docile tool, is demanding better pay, better food and better treatment. It’s a national problem now. And it has got to be solved.” (1916 editorial, Beloit, Wisconsin)
“America was, until this last generation, a white country designated for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
-Richard B. Spencer (2016).
The symbolic racist hidden under the casing of “unconscious bias” will continue to hold to the following themes:
- African-Americans no longer face much prejudice or discrimination
- The failure of African-Americans to progress results from their unwillingness to work hard enough.
- African-Americans are demanding too much too fast.
- African-Americans have gotten more than they deserve.
As one can see, by the statements of Mr. Spencer in 2016, very little has changed in the last 100 years; symbolic racism remains the most prevalent racial attitude today.
My Dear Young Man,
A few words of concern and caring;
- First, you are not alone. There are other African-American men and women who share your feelings. As you appear to be a person of spiritual faith, remember, Jesus is with you and will always be with you during the difficult times of your journey.
- Second, realize that you have the psychological self. You must want to listen to the self and act in a manner that reinforces advocacy, balance and calmness.
- Third, work towards abstaining from using alcohol to medicate your emotional pain.
Your actions can only lead to being susceptible to joining the long line of psychologically wounded African-American men who are wandering aimlessly among the American landscape. Instead, work towards maintaining belief, faith and trust in the journey we know as life.
In my earlier comments, I referred to the empowerment strategies and the psychological work of “Dead Man Walking” and the six black men. Like you, these men felt invisible, targeted and lacking in voice within environments lacking and consistently questioning of their worth and value.
These men became successful in responding to the overt and symbolic racism being targeted towards them by adapting empowerment strategies such as the ABC Model: Advocacy, Balance and Calmness. Consider the following:
- Advocacy-Become an advocate for yourself. Only you can truly speak on your behalf.
- Balance-Be reflective of your actions. Make sure that your thoughts and actions are balanced and aligned with your inner self.
- Calmness-The environment around you mirrors your internal environment. When you achieve calmness in your inner self, it is reflected in your external environment.
“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
The respite was timely and it feels good to have return to my readership. For the purpose of self-care the blog will be published twice monthly. For additional information regarding Dr. Kane, please visit http://www.lovingmemore.com
Until the next crossroads… the journey continues…