“Mama, I’m through. Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. [I need] water or something. Please, please. I can’t breathe, officer… I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.”
- George Floyd (his final words, calling to his mother who died two years ago)
“What we saw was horribly, completely messed up. This man’s life matters. He was someone’s son, someone’s family member, someone’s friend. He was a human being and his life mattered.”
- Jacob Frey, Mayor, City of Minneapolis
“We heard his repeated calls for help. We heard him say over and over again that he could not breathe. And now we have seen another horrifying and gut-wrenching instance of an African American man dying.”
- Amy Klobuchar, US Senator, Minnesota
“It was nine minutes on his neck. Just imagine what George Floyd endured for those nine minutes, begging for breath, begging for life.”
- Benjamin Crump, Attorney representing the Floyd family
“We cooperate, we die. We run, we die. We fight back, we die. We beg, we die. We lie down, we die. We put our hands up, we die. We mind our business, we die. We’re unarmed, we die. We’re detained, we die. Tell us, what the HELL are we supposed to do to keep the cops from killing us?” #icantbreathe#GeorgeFloyd
- Gary Hussain Goodridge, twitter contributor
My Dear Readers,
My soul is numb. There are no tears remaining. Recent deaths of African American men on public streets in broad daylight as well as the killing of an African American woman in her home, in the middle of the night while she was sleeping by members of law enforcement have left me psychologically impacted and traumatized my family and community.
Recently, my sleep was interrupted by a late-night call from my daughter who simply wanted to hear my voice. She was in tears, shouting “I can’t do this anymore.” She had also called her sister. Her intention was to seek reassurance that law enforcement had not killed her 67-year-old father and 5-year-old nephew.
Just imagine, the fear, uncertainty, and hopelessness that is occurring in the hearts, souls, and minds of millions of black and brown people throughout our country. For 400 years, we have endured domestic terrorism including lynching, cross burnings mass destruction of our communities and so on but now, during the post Obama era, a time when racism supposedly over, we are again being traumatized by domestic terrorism being freely displayed by those whose purpose is to “serve and protect”.
I encouraged my daughter to relax and assured her that I was safe in my home. But am I safe? Am I a well-known and respected member of my community… Am I safe in my neighborhood?
- Will I be roused from a deep sleep and riddled with bullets?
- Can I take a walk in my neighborhood, my home for the last 20 years without being viewed with suspicion, without the police being called?
- Can I enter my home without the police being called and having to show identification that I do live here and in fact, own this nice home?
I have spent the last three months responding to the pandemic. Recently the death-toll from COVID-19 passed the 100, 000 with 25, 000 being African Americans. Now, in addition to that, I am also responding to the fear of possibly losing a loved one just simply leaving the home for a daily activity. The fear of loss from police violence is just as insidious and real as the fear of loss from the COVID-19 virus.
There are those in my community who fear the mental health and the trauma work that I do. Being vulnerable, exposed and trusting, expressing one’s pain and suffering in order to heal is not seen as of value. Instead the expectation is to be resilient, keep quiet or wait upon pastoral leadership. As a result, the community continues to suffer in silence.
And then another death happens… Jogging while black, (Brunswick GA), sleeping while black (Louisville KY), simply breathing while black (Minneapolis MN). The result, a raging bonfire that is at risk of exploding throughout the country.
Here is a story of one person being directly impacted by the unrest.
Dear Dr. Kane
I saw a man die the other day. I watched the video of a police officer with his knee on a black man’s neck for five minutes, crushing the life out of him. I can’t get it out of mind. I wake up in the middle of the night screaming. I get up constantly checking my two son’s bedrooms to ensure that they are safe. I am afraid for their safety. I am afraid that the police will stop, shoot and kill them. I am overwhelmed that I am unable to protect my children.
I realize that you do not know me however I am very familiar with your work within Seattle’s African American community. I currently work for a Pacific Northwest governmental agency in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, with the focus being on social justice. Like you, I am an African American man.
I am writing to you because the recent shooting /killings of black men in Chicago, Brunswick, and now Minneapolis have left me twisting in anger, frustrated and lacking in belief in the mission of the organization I work for. I have come to realize and accept that regardless of a black man’s socioeconomic status, level of education, achievements or “good citizenry”, one’s blackness, the color of one’s skin will be used as a weapon against you.
When I talk to my white peers, colleagues and acquaintance, I am met with the attitude of disbelief, that this is the post Obama era and that “You are making it up” or comments that indirectly ask “what about black on black crime?” I know they really don’t care; they are really just saying “don’t you niggers kill each other every day? So what is the big deal?”
And interacting with black folks is not any better. Black professionals keeping their heads down and collecting their paychecks while worrying whether they will be alive to greet their families or be viewed in a casket. These same individuals will sit on their asses; take to social media, protesting as Twitter fingers, Facebook feeders and Instagram instigators yet publicly remain silent.
And what about you Dr. Kane? How do you do this and feel no pain? How do you get to a place in which these events do not affect you? You have a way of getting through this without resulting to anger, using alcohol or marijuana to cope.
What is the trick? What’s the mumbo jumbo you use to get through? It doesn’t seem to affect you as it does others. I want to be like you. Or is it that because you have made it in the white world, they give you a pass and the police leave you alone?
I come from a Christian background of “love thy neighbor.” After being mistreated by the cops and dealing with racists all my life, I have developed a serious hatred for white people. Although I know some good ones, I am being to look at by them all with suspicion. I can’t help it.
I feel hopeless. Damn, like a flying duck waiting to be blown out of the sky. But, like the duck, I’ve got to fly though. Like the duck, I feel there is nothing I can do to stop from being hunted down and killed. Summer is coming and I am unable to protect my children as they leave the home.
Do you have any answers for me? I hope you have time to respond and take my concerns seriously. My pot has just about boiled over.
Between Simmering, Steaming & Smoking Hot in Seattle, WA.
My Dear Young Man,
Prior to responding to your comments, I want to get down on my knees and thank God for the following:
- I was able to sleep through the night without my front door being smashed and my home invaded by the police and killed by the police (Breonna Taylor-Louisville, KY).
- I was able to walk in my neighborhood without strangers seeking to abruptly stop and kill me (Ahmaud Arbery, Brunswick, GA)
- Following purchasing groceries, I was able to walk out of the store, without having a police officer place his knee on my neck, while other police officers stood by, doing nothing, watching me die (George Floyd, Minneapolis, MN)
- While sitting in my residence and having to protect my children from a mob of 15 white men looking for a black suspect (Monica Shepard, Pender County, NC)
Trauma(s) & Racism(s)
“Angry is good… Angry gets shit done.”
- Mr. Nancy, American Gods movie (2017)Young man,
Regarding your experiences, you are entitled to your anger. From my viewpoint as a clinical traumatologist, it is apparent that you may be responding to a combination of subtypes of trauma and various forms of racism, specifically:
- Trauma(s) (subtypes) – including (historical, inter-generational, just world, invisibility, impostor syndrome, racial profiling, micro-aggression, and macro-aggression.
- Racism(s) (forms) – including attitudinal, behavioral, individual, institutional, modern, and aversive
The main question is what will you do? Will you do allow your anger to be used or manipulated to create havoc within you or your community? Or will your anger be constructively utilized to assist you in walking your landscape; your journey, and benefit your life, your family and the welfare of your community.
Surviving the Hunt
It is clear from your comments regarding hopelessness, inability to protect your children and the resulting night traumas, that you are in midst of survival. Take to heart that you come from a long line of survivors.
- Your ancestors arrived in the New World, shuddering in fear as they were sold the American slave blocks into slavery. They survived.
- Your great-grandparents dodge the slave catchers, law enforcement, Black Codes and the self-proclaimed “patrollers” who kept “nigras” in line. They survived.
- Your grandparents endured racial segregation, lynching, burning crosses and churches, murder and rape. They too survived.
- Your parents lived the civil rights movement, forced busing and integration. They lived to see the first black man to be elected president of the United States. And they along with the rest of your generations also…survived
- And now during the post Obama era where racism is supposedly a thing of the past, you face racial profiling, being viewed with suspicion due to the color of your skin and be granted the white privilege of wearing a “facemask” into a place of business. As like those who came before you; you too will survive. And in doing so, you will teach your children like the parents before you … the art of survival.
The art of survival is intergenerational, having been passed down through families over 400 years. The art of survival has been taught by parents, has been reinforced by the family, the church, the school system and other institutions within the African American community. The foundation of this survival is “fear”. This fear is the blood trauma carried the heart and the mind of the individual.
Walking the Landscape: Empowered & Alone
So, you want to be like me? Well, there are three reasons that is not possible:
- You cannot be a follower. You must not be afraid to walk your landscape.
- You cannot let the words and feelings of others be more important than what you think and feel about yourself
- You must not allow the lack of belief, faith, and trust in self to carry over and negatively impact those around you.
- Be sure that envy, insecurity and lacking in empowerment does not destabilize any foundation that has been built within you.
- You don’t know how to love yourself. All of your life you have been taught to reach out… to love others and to receive love from others but not to focus on self.
- There is a lacking in self-validation. This has been dismissed, diminished, and sacrificed for the wellness of others.
- The self-importance is not a priority and viewed as selfishness
- This concept is fear-based and reinforced via the family, church, school, and community.
- You cannot medicate your psychological wounds with alcohol and marijuana to respond to daily impacts of traumas and racism.
- Self-medicating reinforces the behaviors of living in fear and removes the want to live with
- The family and the community are divided and, in their silence, condone and reinforce your feelings of inadequacy.
- Imagery and illusions sustain your existence whereas the lack of belief, faith and trust reinforces your survival mentality.
The Trick, Mumbo Jumbo & The Get-Out Free Card
On the first day of school, every year, groups of African American men gather at local elementary schools to welcome the girls and boys returning for a new school year. These men are well dressed in suits or the uniform of their professions or occupations.
The protocol is usually the same: form two parallel lines and applaud the children as they pass between them and enter the school building with some groups, some even staying for a short time either in the hallways, lunchrooms, libraries or classrooms.
However, the ending is always the same, they vanish; disappear only to reappear next year to repeat the same performance. The children tend to be excited only to be disappointed as these “role models” exit. They are therefore left alone to endure another year of psychological impacts from adults who for the majority don’t look like them or understand their experiences.
The reality is, for the majority of these men, in returning to these schools, they are reliving their own psychological traumas they experience as children in similar environments. Many of them continue to suffer from such memories and are relieved to leave and needing only to return the following year to provide their “community service”.
Consequently, due to the ongoing psychological traumas and abuses suffered by many African American, these men have become today’s legion of walking wounded and as a result, these men have limited their abilities to be vulnerable, exposed and trusting of others.
The objective for you is to be proactive rather than be like Dr. Kane.
Running the Race Smarter not Harder
- Be willing to walk your landscape created by your path and not the road that has been engineered by others
- Learn new concepts; focus on prioritizing yourself in deference to your community and in doing so, loving the self, you will find that your family and community will benefit more.
- Learn to listen to the “inner self” to achieve belief, faith, and trust in yourself. You can stand alone and empowered. By doing so, you will find that your family and community will benefit more.
Stop reducing the concepts of therapy or counseling to “mumbo jumbo” and stop seeing those who seek it as crazy, weak, or unfit. Therapy can actually be very beneficial.
- As African American men, we can routinely face 14 subtypes of traumas and 12 forms racism. As a result, we are often at risk of being repeatedly impacted both psychologically and emotionally.
- It can provide safe spaces where men can bond, risk vulnerability, expose their inner pains and work towards developing trusting relationships
- It can help you create personal goals and objectives that will assist in “shaking things up” thereby allowing you to unlock your full potential
“The Get-Out Free Card”
There is no “get-out free” card. There is no level of education or accomplishment that precludes you from experiencing trauma, as Malcolm X asked during a recorded exchange, “What does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.?” He answered, “A nigger with a Ph.D.”.
I recalled during the WTO protest in Seattle (1999) Richard McIver, the only African American Seattle city council member at that time, complained of being mistreated by the police as they failed to recognized him and subsequently sought to drag him out of his car roughing him up. He stated, “They treated like I was some nigger.”
Yes, to them that is exactly how they saw, and so consequently, treated him; because like the dominant group they too are unable to individualize black men and can only contextualize us by the color of our skin.
Concluding Words-Dr. Kane
My Dear Young Man,
I go to bed tonight not knowing whether the police will be battering down my door or whether I will receive the dreaded phone call announcing that one of my loved ones has been involved in an “unintended” police shooting.
The Flying Duck
This becomes transformative once you, as an individual, are able to realize that the duck is a sitting duck whereas you can avoid falling into hopelessness by following the ABC’s, achieving, believing and conceiving, when “Walking The Landscape.”
To do so, seek to redirect, reframe and refocus.
- Redirect your hate. Transform the negative energy into empowerment
- Reframe your foundation to rebuilding. Prioritize your wants balanced with fulfillment of your needs
- Refocus on you. Learn to listen to yourself. It is the first step of building belief, faith, and trust in yourself.
Choosing to Walk the Landscape
People are going to talk no matter who you are or what you do. The question is what are you doing for self? As you move closer to the finish line, are you running the race smarter, not harder? Let us move forward both individually and as a community.
Let the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery become beacons and not bonfires. Walk your landscape, live your life. Be assured, there will be barriers set by those who seek to stand in your way but, empower the self and, in doing so, love you more.
Dr. Micheal Kane
Until We Speak Again… I am, The Visible Man.