In Our Corner: “Please Do Better”

“We want an immediate arrest because we don’t think there should be two justice systems in America – one for black America and one for white America.

– Ben Crump, Attorney for the Arbery family

“Until this country can truly acknowledge the ills of its system, we will continue to see black blood drain our streets. “

– James Woodall, President, Georgia chapter of NAACP

“Stop, stop, we want to talk to you.”

-Gregory McMichael (words spoken to Ahmaud Arbery moments before killing him)

911 Call Proceeding the Death of Ahmaud Arbery

Caller: “There is a black male running down the street.” 

Police Dispatcher: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”

Caller: …

Minutes later Arbery was shot and killed

“I saw my son come into the world. And seeing him leave the world, it’s not something that I want to see, ever.”

– Wanda Cooper Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother

“It’s just heart wrenching for him that he has to look at his other son and daughter and try to make sense of it. He really thinks that his son was lynched.”

-Ben Crump, Attorney speaking of Ahmaud Arbery’s father

“It’s hurtful.  I just got to be strong for the rest of my family. I got to be strong for my two children.  I just got to be strong for their mama too.”

-Marcus Arbery Sr., father of Ahmaud Arbery

“Your neighbor at [redacted] Satilla drive is Greg McMichael. Greg is retired Law Enforcement and also a Retired Investigator from the DA’s office. He said please call him day or night when you get action on your camera. His number is [Redacted].”

– 12/20/2019 text message from Glynn Police Officer Rash to homeowner, Larry English regarding contacting Gregory McMichael.

My Dear Readers,

I find myself awake at 4:00 am on Memorial Day morning contemplating the state we, as a country, find ourselves in. By the time this blog is published, the American death-toll due to the COVID-19 health crisis will have surpassed 100,000 people. 

Just as the deaths due to COVID-19 seem to have no end in sight, the same can be said about police involved and police related shootings, abuses of authority, and actions taken under the assumption of white privilege that have impacted, ravaged and traumatized black and brown communities across this nation.

During the time of COVID-19:

  • In Brunswick GA, while jogging in his neighborhood, a young black man was stopped and fatally shot by a retired police officer/district attorney’s office investigator.
  • In Louisville, KY, an African American woman was shot eight times, while asleep, by the police executing an arrest warrant in the middle of the night. The deceased was an EMT.  Her offense: None.  The police had the wrong address.
  • In Chicago IL, police officers are under investigation for shooting a young African American male in the subway system. His offense: jumping between train cars.
  • In Pender County, NC, a group of armed white men, led by sheriff’s deputy (who was outside of his jurisdiction), broke into and entered the home of an African American mother and her 18-year-old son.  Their offense: None.  Mistaken identity.
  • In Miami, FL a black physician in front of his residence and family is handcuffed by a police officer.  His offense: Loading tents in his van to give to the homeless and responding to the pandemic.
  • In Wood River, IL, two young black adult males were observed being escorted out of Walmart store under the watchful eyes of a police officer grimacing, gripping his weapon and holster.  Their offense: refusal to remove their facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than focus on these outrageous actions and inflicted horrors tolerated and condoned by the silence of the dominant group,  I have chosen to focus on the behaviors behind inaction by black and brown people who continue to experience violence while a nationwide pandemic unfolds. 

Watching the Sleight of Hand Trick & The Puppeteer

In this writing, I will avoid diving deeply into the “sleight of hand” trickery being played out by the dominant group acting against communities of color but, it must be addressed in order to understand why these communities, who consistently experience unspeakable violence, have remained quiet in the face of the acts listed above.

Government leaders, many of whom are members of the dominant group, give press conferences and release statements that are filled with language they think the impacted communities want to hear. They try to appease the people; they create the illusion that, this time, steps are being taken to prosecute those involved and prevent other incidents from happening in the future, when in all actuality, they are doing this in hopes of containing the reaction of the impacted community long enough for the all too short communal memory to kick in and these victims names are lost to history. For a bonfire to burn out, simply don’t feed it any logs.  Just stand by in silence, and watch the flames flicker down and burn out, then wait until life returns to normal.

Common Thread-Watching the Bonfire

With these types of incidents, there is a common series of actions that occur once they are brought to light. Black and brown communities:

  • Express public outrage through demonstrations, marches and, protests
  • Put pressure on public officials for statements of condemnation
  • Demand public investigations, both state and federal
  • Demand disciplinary actions, terminations, arrests
  • Call for criminal trials leading to incarnations
  • File civil lawsuits against local municipalities resulting in either depositions, legal settlements, or long, enduring, court room trials that are covered in social media

Although the writing will be centered on the tragedy of Brunswick GA, in which a black life was tragically taken, this is my story.  

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

My Dear Readers,

Recently in a LinkedIn posting, I reviewed an article in which two black men working as subcontractors for FedEx in Georgia, were fired for posting a video on social media showing a customer racially abusing them.  Among the comments, one stated:

“Good thing they weren’t jogging lol.”

The comment was “liked” by two others as well as viewed by seven including me. Initially I was struck by the insensitivity, understanding that another young black life had been lost not too far from where the racially abusive actions had occurred.

I responded to the individual with the following (the name has been changed to protect their identity):  

“Robert, a family is grieving, and black and brown people are traumatized.  Parents are fearful of seeing their children for the last time as they go out and engage in activities.  Empathy and compassion are warranted and appreciated.  Please do better.  Be heartfelt, not heartless.”

I received the following from “Robert”:

“That wasn’t supposed to be funny, that was a serious statement.  But you work with the cops, so I don’t expect you to understand.  Please do better!!”

Initially, I was disturbed by the young man rudeness and sarcasm.  After clarifying my work responsibilities as well as explaining that I do not work for the police, I stated:

“It may be a generational issue however, upon reading your comment, I was unable, especially with the ‘lol’, to understand that you were making a serious statement. It may be that your statement is more of a reenactment of the “survival mentality” that African Americans have become accustomed to utilizing when feeling hopeless following a repeat of traumas that are forced upon our community. I do take seriously your comment, ‘Please do better.’ I will seek to do better as I will be writing a blog posting on LinkedIn in which among other feedback, I will feature the psychological impacts of your ‘Good thing they weren’t jogging lol’, comment. I will of course notify you when the blog is posted. I would be most interested in your feedback. Thank you for sharing.”

Keeping in mind a fellow writer on LinkedIn, Curtiss, who stated, in not so many words, “every experience ain’t about you”, I have taken a moment to breathe and use one of my own clinical models.

The Five R’s of RELIEF

In my clinical practice I have taught my patients the clinical model of the Five R’s of RELIEF:  Respite, Reaction, Reflection, Response and Reevaluation, which encourages proactive strategies and actions.  Looking at the situation through this lens, I began to realize that there was some truth in the young black man’s sarcastic retort of “Please do better!!”.

I was able to realize that if I responded defensively or in kind to the statement, that I would be furthering the sleight of hand trick being played by the “puppeteer”, the dominant group, and the “audience”, members of the marginalized group that maintain the status quo, would be focused on the argument between myself and the young man and not on the life tragically lost “jogging while black”.

The “I” Factor: I heard you…. But are you listening?

In the end, whatever message I sought to communicate would have been minimized by being only heard and lost because it was not listened to and understood. What is the difference? Simple.

When only hearing, words enter one ear and exit through the other.  Listening, using the following elements of my clinical model “The “I” Factor”, requires information, involvement, integration, implementation, and impact to lead to understanding.

So, with the focus on listening, I say that the comment of the young man with the initial reaction of laughter and the sarcastic retort of “Please do better” is not the main issue. It’s rather an outlying issue of how we treat or view each other within the African American community. 

Pointing the Finger… Black Silence

And what about “black silence”?

In response to the LinkedIn comment, “Good thing they weren’t jogging, lol” two individuals showed their support by “liking” Robert’s statements and another four individuals contributed their own comments to the main article. Yet none, other than I, responded to Robert’s words. There is no evidence that more than seven individuals even saw the article. 

But what if other African Americans saw Robert’s words. And, what if, after doing so, they simply chose to dismiss, ignore, and not respond?

Simply asking “Why did they choose to be silent?” is circular and we learn nothing from it.

The real question is…What is the foundation of the fear response causing the dismiss, ignore and be silent behavior?

Three answers:

  • Survival
  • Resilience
  • Lacking in post-traumatic growth  

Survival Mentality: “Good thing they weren’t jogging, lol”

Robert’s flippant response following the tragic killing of one of his community paired with his adamant claim that it was a serious, not sarcastic, statement shows that he may be living in fear. This could be an example of how black people respond to these violent events.

The response can also be an example of his survival mentality (believing that you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive), that was passed down to him inter-generationally from his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents and taught to him by his church, his school, and his community to use humor to dull the pain of repeated trauma.  

With that survival mentality, it allows you to see the fact that they weren’t killed as a victory and not as a symptom of the underlying malaise of race relations in America.

 The use by the dominant group of law enforcement as a weapon, individuals professing the right to stop and interrogate blacks and simply white privilege is not new.

Resilience: The Art of Surviving to Thriving

The western origin of the definition of resilience is a person’s mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness, or depression.  Therefore, resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity. Bending rather than breaking under pressure.

The assumption is that the resilient person is strong, and that strength gives a person the ability to overcome. The dominant group has placed the African American individual on the pedestal of being resilient and therefor able to withstand any number of abuses and traumas.

 In return, African Americans have internalized the belief of resilience regarding their ability to survive actions of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment in hopes of one day reaching identifiable symbols of success in order to try to exert control over the incidents of violence and oppression.  

Existing, Surviving, Driving, Striving & Thriving- The Illusions vs. the Truth

The African American community consistently fails to recognize the “sleight of hand” trick being played by the dominant group. The path, as I developed in the Five Stages of the Journey of Self Discovery, which begins at existing, is omitted by the dominant group.

 The focus by the dominant group is intentionally placed on surviving to thriving.  Thriving will consistently be denied to you because the stages of driving (empowerment) and striving (direction and pacing) are omitted. 

Furthermore, to keep the game in play, a few “chosen ones” are permitted to sit along with the dominant group however, they will never be fully accepted.  This is the “carrot” that is auspiciously dangled in order to maintain the imbalance of power between the African American community and the dominant group.

Post Traumatic Growth-Balancing & Not Overcoming Traumatic Impacts

African Americans daily face 12 forms of racism and 14 subtypes of trauma.  Although it is known that our children will continue to face regular acts or incidents that will be so traumatic and impactful that they would be carried over into adulthood, we still do not create measures to assist them to balance these traumas.  Rather, the focus is overcoming traumatic impacts through the falsehood of resilience (strength), and silence (shaming).

African Americans residing outside the land from which they originate are the wealthiest, the most educated and hold more homeownership and socio-economic status than other Africans.

Despite these accomplishments, African Americans continue to maintain a survival mentality, live in fear, and act in ways that are reactive and not proactive.

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

The bonfire created by the tragic killing in Brunswick, GA will eventually burn out. The history of African American action is one of inaction such as waiting for someone, some Black Messiah to come along and lead our people to freedom. 

Yes, there have been such individuals like, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey Shirley Chisholm, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X to name a few.  Yes, celebrities will lend their names and statuses and preachers and politicians will use this tragedy as a pulpit to keep their names alive.  Yet what will transform?  How will we transform? 

Who will be the next black person to die?

Will he or she be your child or mine?  Will she be in her home asleep only to die in a hail of bullets due to a mistaken address?  Or will he be jogging, walking or just sitting in his car in his neighborhood, one in which others have determined that he does not belong.

Dear Robert,

I want to thank you for sharing your comments.  You are right.  We must all… do better.  You have an opportunity to do so. Instead of defending, focus on the ABCs: achieving, believing and conceiving. Please do better.

Best regards, your elder, 

Dr. Micheal Kane

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

Honoring Our Heroes on Memorial Day

LT. Colonel Lemuel Penn

Lemuel Penn joined the Army Reserve from Howard University.  He served in World War II in New Guinea and the Philippines earning a Bronze Star with Valor.  Penn, father of three, was 48 years old at the time he was murdered by Klansmen.

The two Klansmen were tried in state superior court but were found not guilty by an all-white jury.  They were later found guilty of the lesser charge of “violation of civil rights” and received minimum sentences.

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

Led by its black female commander, Major Charity Adams Earley, it was the only all-female, African American battalion serving overseas in France during World War II.

At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe. The task of sorting and delivering mail was difficult due to common names, soldiers on secret assignments and wartime conditions. At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe and receiving letters from home was an important way to keep up the morale of the troops on the front lines.

These enlisted women worked eight-hour shifts, seven days a week, despite having to respond to racism and segregation while performing their duties.

Major Earley felt that reacting to racism caused more problems than it solved and insisted that the 6888th Battalion look past the prejudice directed at them by the men retuning from the frontlines. Major Earley’s efforts lead to a US recruitment tour to encourage more women to enlist and were instrumental in easing the inclusion of African Americans and women into military service.

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

“Those who try to hold on to their world views following trauma are often more fragile, defensive and easily hurt.  Their wounded assumptions are at risked of being shattered again and again.

-Stephen Joseph (2011)

Until the next time,

Remaining … in Our Corner

One thought on “In Our Corner: “Please Do Better”

  1. Another article to make me think. I really like the question: The real question is…What is the foundation of the fear response causing the dismiss, ignore, and be silent behavior? Three answers: Survival, Resilience Lacking in post-traumatic growth. Most African Americans take pride in these three things. But now, I have to rethink my position and thoughts about these three words. Thank you for a beautifully written article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s