In Our Corner: Casual Racism and the Lives We Live

“Harassment will not be tolerated.”

-“Golfcart Gail” calling 911 on black man who was cheering for his son during a soccer game.  She claimed he was “exhibiting threatening behavior.” (10.17.18)

“Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason,” one deputy said of the call. “We’ll respond.”

– St John’s County Sheriff Deputy

“It is what it is,” he tells Lewis. “Do you understand?”

-Police Officer, providing an explanation to the black male being racially profiled and detained by the police while providing childcare to two white children

“That’s false and heartbreaking,” she said, telling KTVI that she’s legally married to an African-American man. “Those are words that cut deep.”

-Hilary Thornton, on being vilified online as a racist for blocking a black man from entering his own apartment. (10.12.18)

“Being racially profiled…I feel like I am in a can with the its top…sealed.  I’m being suffocated.  I can’t take it any longer.”

-William age 30

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My Dear Readers,

In this 100th blog posting, it is fitting that we listen to the experiences of African-American men who are psychologically impacted by repeated incidents of racial profiling.  I will examine four recent incidents of racial profiling occurring just this month, October 2018.  My objective in doing this is to:

  • Utilize these incidents as teaching moments for African-American males in understanding how to react and response when racial profiling occurs
  • To encourage individuals to accept responsibility for achieving and balancing their own emotional and psychological wellness
  • Educate the readership on the dangers of “casual racism” and the psychological impact (trauma) that racial profiling has on the person who has been so victimized.

We begin with the stories of Calvin and William (names changed to protect their confidentiality), who shared their experiences with me in session.

 

The Impacts of Racism & Trauma

 “It Pierced My Heart”

Calvin is a 41-year old man married, two children. He is employed as a community college instructor. Calvin spoke of his feelings of a recent incident in which he felt racially targeted and profiled.

“It was a great day, I was feeling good and I had stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things.  As I was going down one of the aisles, picking up items, I passed by this middle age white woman who upon seeing moved her handbag from her cart, sharply securing it under her arm.  

She stared at me as if in fear, following my steps as I passed her.  She continued to stare intensely at me as I turned to walk down the next aisle.   It did not impact me physically, but I felt sad, frustrated and angry. I wanted to blow up (yell, scream) on her. 

 In the 41 years I have been alive, racial profiling has happened to me hundreds if not thousands of times.  And yet I am still impacted by it.”

 

When Emotions Are Running High

William is a 30-year-old single engineer employed by a corporate firm in Seattle. William spoke of his feelings of being racially profiled.

“I am tired of the adult way of dealing with this shit i.e. (racial targeting).  Sometimes I just want to punch them in the face and yet I know that if I do so, I am the one who is going to lose out. 

I realize when I fucked up.  I desired and prayed for freedom.  I went to school, got a degree and then got a good paying job. My mistake was that I did not define what freedom meant for me and what I was willing to do to get that freedom. 

Women ask me all the time when I am going to get married, settle down and have kids.  No way do I want to bring children into this shit.  I would never want to pass on inter-generational trauma to my kids. 

I feel like I am in a can with the top sealed.  I’m being suffocated.  I can’t take it any longer. The Five R’s of Relief go out the window when I am in this state of anger.  I know that to them, I am expendable but Doc, right now, I simply do not care.”

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Clinical Summary-Dr. Kane

Calvin and William have anxiety and depression.  They have been impacted by repeated incidents of racial profiling, which have resulted in them becoming psychologically overwhelmed.

Both men have been victimized by three forms of racism: attitudinal, behavior and individual. Specifically:

  • Attitudinal racism – an individual belonging to a certain group is defamed due to characteristics they share with their group, such as skin color.
  • Behavioral racism-an individual is specifically denied fair and equal because of characteristics they share with their group or visible ethnic group membership.
  • Individual racism the belief in the perpetrator that their own race is superior. This requires actual behaviors perpetrated on the victim that express and enforce the belief held by the perpetrator that the other person is inferior because of their racial characteristics or membership in a different ethnic group.

In addition, two sub-types of trauma have psychologically impacted both men:

  • Micro-aggressive assaults the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to individuals based solely upon their race or group membership.
  • Just World Trauma People have a need to believe in a just world, one in which they get what they deserve and deserve what they get. For non-white individuals, however, the trauma of racism shatters the just world hypothesis—they are subjected to behavior that they did not deserve, which would generally be an “out-of-the-ordinary” event and is directly experienced as a threat to survival and self-preservation. As these events become more ordinary, however, the individual’s belief in a just world begins to erode, increasing the trauma.

Calvin is in conflict and denies both his feelings and the psychological injury that he has suffered.  He admits to having experienced similar acts of racial profiling “hundreds if not thousands of times,” but he is angry not only at this particular woman in this particular incident; he is also angry at himself for believing in the “just world” and allowing himself to vulnerable and exposed to once again be impacted by the act.

William, on the other hand, is not only angry and disenchanted at being racially profiled, he is angry at himself for believing in the “just world;” that through obtaining success via an education and employment he could “escape” and obtain freedom from traumas associates with such incidents.

Both men, well educated, employed and successful in their careers remain at risk if they stay in the “survival” stage of living. In this stage, it is difficult to consistently draw upon the internal psychological resources to advocate for the healing of their wounds, and to gain balance in their internal worlds, which then leads to facing these incidents (or the potential for these incidents) with calmness, and thus, finding empowerment.  William acknowledges this in referring to the empowerment strategy of The Five R’s of Relief—in his state of anger the strategies “go out the window.”

Both men view their situations as outside their control and themselves as powerless to stop them.  Both men have the desire to “strike out” physically at their oppressor, but both also realize the very real consequences that will follow, mainly being negatively labeled an “ABC” (Angry Black Man out of Control) and the consequences that will result: police intervention, arrest and banishment.

Historically, the solution for men like Calvin and William has been to quietly stuff their psychological wounds (and in doing so, create more distress for themselves,) and seek other means to medicate themselves, such as educational, material, and economic success, or via alcohol or drug use.

Although neither Calvin or William currently use these self-harming methods to medicate their psychological wounds, unless they initiate self-love and self-care empowerment strategies, they remain at extreme risk.  Calvin has already made the decision to deny himself the joy of birthing a child due to his fear of duplicating inter-generational trauma.

The form of racism that has been normalized and accepted by the dominant society and has impacted African-Americans like Calvin and William is known as casual racism. Casual racism is not a scientific term, but it is used to refer to society’s or an individual’s lack of regard or concern for the impact of their racist actions or behaviors upon another person.

In recent days, casual racism has become more insidious as it has become expressed through white comfort and discomfort.  We have seen numerous examples of law enforcement being called by white women on African-Americans doing things that would be considered normal if done by white people.  Because the presence of an African-American makes an individual uncomfortable, they call law enforcement to police that behavior.   This is seemed in the recent incidents of racial profiling by white women against black men during October 2018.

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Lessons of Emmett Till: White Women Enforcing Power & Control Over Black Men

 “Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason,” one deputy said of the call. “We’ll respond.”

-St. John’s County deputy, responding to incident alleging harassment (10.17.18)

In 1955, 14-year-old African-American adolescent Emmett Till was kidnapped, brutally beaten, and lynched in Mississippi based on the word of a white woman alleging he had “disrespected” her.  An all-white jury acquitted the white men accused of his murder.  The white woman recanted her accusation in a recently published book.

In general, racial profiling is not limited to gender. We focus today on this particular dynamic because of the historic association of the fear of black men taking advantage of white women and stereotypical beliefs regarding black males regardless of their age.

 

Babysitting While Black

(10.10.18) A white woman calls 911 on a black male who is driving two white children he is babysitting.  When the white woman demands that the black man allow her, a stranger, to question the children, she follows his vehicle to his home and calls police.  The police detain the man and after questioning and releasing him, an officer told him: “It is what it is. “Do you understand?”

 Cheering While Black

(10.17.18) A white woman calls 911 on a black man who was cheering on his son at a soccer game.  The woman told him “harassment would not be tolerated”.  Even though the man offered to leave the area, the woman called 911 because of her concern that he was exhibiting “threatening behaviors.”  Following being detained by the sheriff deputies, the man was let go.  Regarding the 911 call, a sheriff deputy is quoted stating: “Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason. We’ll respond.”

Being a Child While Black

(10.10.18) A white woman calls the police on a 9-year old black child she accused of sexual assault. The child, is seen on video crying, fearing he is going to jail for something he did not do. Two days later, surveillance video footage shows that the boy’s backpack had accidentally brushed up against her. The woman issued the following apology through the media: “Young man, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry.”

Going Home While Black

(10.18.18) A white woman sought to deny entry to the black male tenant that she claims that she did not recognize. Even through the tenant provided evidence of his keys, she followed him into the elevator and sought to enter his residence.  She contacted 911 stating that she felt threatened, although the video footage taken by the man showed that he did not approach her at all. Following the social media outcry, she stated in an interview that since she was legally married (now separated) to a black man, she could not be racist and that the accusations that she was were “words that cut deep.”

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Clinical Analysis-Dr. Kane

“Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason. We’ll respond.”

Unfair criticism has been directed towards law enforcement for responding to incidents that are founded on racial profiling.  However, law enforcement, due to its primary mission of public safety, is responsible to respond to all calls seeking emergency assistance.  Clearly the responsibility lies upon the dominant society, which has been silent and unwilling to examine its biases, stereotypes and fears of black males.

In three of the racial profiling incidents the victimized men are quoted stating

  • “In 2018 prejudiced people exist. We are still being judged.  We are still being discriminated against.”
  • “I was kind of blown away, shocked, and, like, wow,” it’s sad that what happened to him is “something that is recurring in America.”
  • “All because I got two kids in the backseat that do not look like me, this lady has taken it upon herself to say that she’s going to take my plate down and call the police,” “It’s crazy. … It’s 2018 and you see what I’ve got to deal with.”

Despite the expectation of being treated equally, this society continues to undervalue or invalidate black males based on their race and gender. Black males, regardless of age, must take on the responsibilities of empowering themselves to respond to and minimize psychological wounding and traumatic injury.

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Empowerment Strategies Vigilance-Preconditioning to Racial Profiling

ABC’s– Advocacy, Balance, and Calmness

  • Advocacy accept that you may be alone; be alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Balance maintain balance within during stressful times; accept that you are being observed.
  • Calmness– keep your focus on your responsibility to exit the incident and return home safe to your loved ones

 

Five R’s of RELIEF

During stressful times i.e. pre, during or post incidents of racial profiling:

  • Respite-take a breath, close your eyes and mentally step away from the incident.
  • Reactions-embrace your emotions. You have a right to feel what you feel. Give yourself permission to experience these emotions. This is where healing begins.
  • Reflect- process, bring your feelings and thoughts into balance.
  • Response-using your inner voice, speak to the psychological self, then calmly share your words with those individuals occupying your external environment.
  • Reevaluate-Review the steps and process taken. Explore lessons learned from the experience.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

My Dear Readers,

I close with questions regarding casual racism:

  • Who is the holder of beliefs supported and reinforced by casual racism?
  • Are they villains? Evil?
  • Filled with hate, disease and disgust?

No.  They are simply people who live in fear of change.

A good friend recently aided me with the following wisdom:

“To live is to deal with change.  Our fear of change is about failure.  We fear if we fail we won’t recover.  Don’t be afraid of change.”

-Crystal Cooper Siegel, MPA

I only disagree with the part “don’t be afraid of change.”

Humankind has always been afraid of change.  And yet, with or without humans, change has and will continue to occur.  I would suggest and hope for the following that instead of change that we can focus on transformation—that is, transforming our country into respecting itself and the diversity that makes up this nation.  In doing so, I hope we can be willing to live with our fear and not as we currently do now:  in fear of one another.

 

********************************

Suffering in Silence

To end the suffering

We must no longer be silent

If we do not speak

It is a certainty that no one will listen

Words will never arise from silence

Speak.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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Until the next time,

Remaining …….. in Our Corner

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