The Visible Man: When There’s No Place to Run and There’s No Place to Hide

Lessons of yesterday, conversation between a father and son

Son: “Daddy, what do you call a black man who doesn’t know his place?”

Father: “Hmm… uppity.”

Son: “How do you deal with him?”

Father: “Hmm… give him a carrot, a seat at the big table.”

Son: “And if that doesn’t work?”

Father: “Remove it.”

Son: “Remove the seat?”

Father: “No, the table, it’s an illusion; it was never there.”

– Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist, “The Sleight of Hand Artist & the Carrot.”

 

“He can run, but he can’t hide.”

   -Joe Louis “The Brown Bomber” ( said prior to the title fight with Billy Conn)

 

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts”

– Donald Trump, President USA

 

“What is the value of a black life? Not much. Black Lives Matter? Not really.  To white America all lives matter… Just ask Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.”

– Anonymous (Patient)

 

My Dear Readers,

Following the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbrey, (GA), Breonna Taylor (KY), and George Floyd (MN), I sit here tonight writing this blog, thinking of the fact that I was able to wake up this morning without my front door having been kicked in because of poor police work and a no- knock warrant. That I was able to begin my day without my family having to stand traumatized on local television pleading for answers from the shaking heads and “no comment at this time” folks, realizing this simple act is something that has been denied to so many for no reason other than the color of their skin.

I watched the skies turn red as cities across the country burned, including our nation’s capital, and felt the pain and anguish of so many of its citizens. The crisis was so traumatic that even the President, Donald Trump, who intended to pour gasoline on the flames by encouraging violence, momentarily sought safety in a secured bunker.

As a clinical traumatologist, my responsibility is to provide a safe space for people to voice their feelings and to offer a psychological toolkit to empower them in responding to an often bruising, hostile and unwelcoming environment.  This space, called the S Protocol, is a safe and secure place to either sit in silence or speak to the secrets or unresolved issues affecting them on their journey.

As we assess the smoldering and looted ruins of downtown Seattle, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and other cities around the country, I am reminded of the “Night of The Broken Glass” also known as the Kristallnacht in which, on November 1, 1933, the Nazis began a reign of terror and violence throughout Germany against Jews.

In just two days:

  • Over 250 synagogues, were burned,
  • 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted,
  • Dozens of Jewish people were killed,
  • And Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, and schools were destroyed.

The police and fire brigades stood by and did nothing.

The traumas created by the “Night of The Broken Glass” demonstrated acts of unbridled hatred instigated by the governing body, the Nazi Party, against its citizens, whose only alleged crime was their ethnicity and religion.

In my lifetime, African Americans have experienced victimization and brutal treatment by law enforcement authorized by the dominant group.  Legislation, black codes, sundown ordinances and curfews have been enacted to control and oppress citizens for the alleged crime of having black or brown skin.

I was seven years old when the Watts Riots occurred.  It lasted six days causing

  • Involved 34,000 people,
  • Resulted in 34 deaths and 1,032 injuries,
  • 4,000 arrests,
  • With the destruction of 1,000 buildings and
  • Over $40 million dollars in damages

Twenty-one years later, the LA Riots centered around the brutalization of Rodney King occurred.  It resulted in:

  • 50 people dead
  • 2,000 injured
  • More than 1,000 buildings damaged or destroyed and
  • 1 billion in damages

Today, I find myself busy responding to a full calendar of angry, scared, traumatized, and disillusioned patients seeking answers and a safe place to offload their fears about their children being profiled and killed by police. Then there is the uneasiness about what tomorrow will bring. Will the fires, looting and rioting continue? Will the entire country become embroiled in the unrest and will that cause the police to become even more brutal to try to regain control?

In addition to my patient’s therapeutic needs, I have the opportunity to read their journal writings and stories and listen to their oral traditions that formed them into the people I see every day.  Below are one individual’s words:

 

Dear Dr. Kane

I am a 35-year-old black man raised in Los Angeles, CA.  I work for a small tech company in the Puget Sound (Seattle) area.  I am the only African American in my company.  I am also a military veteran having served in Afghanistan.

I essentially live and work in a white world.  I like my work; my coworkers and I make a good income.  Yet, I feel so angry and so alone. At work there are times in which my coworkers make me feel like I am invisible.

Like others, I have repeatedly watched, George Floyd calling for his momma, taking his last breath and dying. The man was begging for his life and the cop had his knee on the man’s neck and no one, cops or bystanders watching would do anything.  There were black people watching and not one person did a goddamn thing!

 George Floyd’s life was taken from him, for what?  I feel numb, guilt and shame. I feel imbalanced like can’t show any emotion to the world.  All the whites in my group are talking about this but I don’t feel like I can.  And the riots, the looting and fires… it’s Los Angeles 1992 all over again.  I feel like I just want to go somewhere and hide.

 I remember the LA riots.  It is a trauma that I, as much as I try to, will never forget.  I remember when it first started; I was at a friend’s home.  Because there was so much death and destruction on the streets, it was nine days, before I could get home.  Not being able to contact my parents, they did not know whether I was dead or alive.

 After not hearing from me, my parents assumed the worse, contacting emergency rooms and the county coroner.  I had never seen my father cry.  When I walked through that door, he went down on his knees and all his anguish poured out. I will never ever forget that day.  Now I too, am a father and I fear for my children’s safety.

I can’t talk to my white coworkers.  I am in pain.  They are good people, but I know that they don’t understand that each time, they ask me if I am okay, or want to express their feelings about George Floyd, I am in pain.  I am living in fear.  I am numb.

I feel like I am going to explode and snap on someone.  I don’t know what to do. I feel like a fraud. I don’t know what to say to my coworkers, or how to protect my children.  I fear that my sons will be racially profiled by whites and at risk of being harmed by the police. I am living with fear so I keep them close.  I want to overcome these feelings.

 Please help me find the answers. When will the police stop harassing and killing us? When will racism end? What can I do to protect my family and keep us safe? What can I do?

I am so angry and I feel so lost.  I just want to go somewhere and hide.  I am praying for help. In your work you speak about belief, faith and trust.  I feel broken Please advise.

Losing It, Seattle WA

 

My Dear Young Man,

The questions you ended your writing with about police brutality, the ending of racism and protecting your loved ones have been asked by African Americans for over 400 years.

 

God’s Deliverance

Since the time of slavery, African Americans have prayed and looked for the coming of God’s deliverance. This prayer process was codified by the historians as beginning on December 31, 1862 and was realized by the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. This acknowledgment now know formally in the African American community as Watch Night services was actually an ongoing process long before the date now recognized by historians.

The common thread in the African American experience is trauma. It began upon the first arrival of enslaved people in 1619 to the Emancipation Proclamation, continuing to this very day following the election of the first African American President of the United States.

The deliverance that African Americans have wanted, pleaded and desired that arrived in the form of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 has been replaced by local, state and laws, Black Codes, Sundown ordinances and segregationist polices and values of the dominate group and reinforced by the police as the instrument of controlling and subjugating its black citizens.

 

Trauma Along the Landscape

My Dear Young Man,

Please understand that as a descendant of enslaved people, a member of the African American community, and as an individual, you are responding to not only one trauma but rather several types of trauma that may impact you daily, and without warning.

The trauma that your community has endured is historical trauma. The trauma that has been passed down from your father to you and in turn will be passed down to your children is inter-generational trauma.

The sense of invisibility that you feel at work may be trauma associated with the invisibility syndrome. The traumas of racism may be that of micro-aggressive assaults whereas the concern of safety and harm from interaction with the police may be indication of macro-aggressive assaults.

Childhood traumatic experiences, like the LA riots, in which exposure to various traumatic events of an invasive and interpersonal nature are known as complex trauma. The hopelessness you feel in your ability to live a normal life, working hard to provide for your family is an indication you are responding to just world trauma.

The fear of racial profiling that you have for your children being viewed as criminals or being questioned or harmed by the police is a form of insidious trauma.  The fact that you have served your country during war, that you have risked your life only to return to living in fear for your safety and the safety of your children may be viewed as a violation of explicit and implicit trust, which is betrayal trauma. The concerns of feeling like a “fraud” may be the response to trauma associated with the impostor syndrome.

 

Am I Living with Fear?

My Dear Young Man,

In your writing, you stated that you were “living with fear” I beg to differ. The words you have chosen and the actions you have taken are clear indicators that you are living IN fear and not living WITH fear. Furthermore, you have indicated a strong desire to conquer these feelings.

When living in your fear, you are seeking to conquer the emotions that are there to sustain you.  In doing so, you are seeking to live your life by inching your way over the gap that exists between existence and survival.

On the other hand, if you were living with fear, you would be living empowered. You would acknowledge the fear but use it to persevere. I suggest this as a healthy and positive alternative.

 

The Five Levels-In Walking Your Landscape

My Dear Young Man,

As you live your life, you are “walking the landscape”. During this process, you have the opportunity to engage in the “Journey of Self Discovery”.  In this journey there are five levels:

  1. Existence: bareness of life
  2. Surviving: desperation
  3. Driving: empowerment
  4. Striving: pacing, goal setting
  5. Thriving: objective attainment, life’s overview

Your writing indicates you are living in fear and are simply surviving. As you live in your fear, you become increasingly vulnerable to slipping into just existing where the possibilities of self-medicating with drugs, alcohol and, other means of distraction await you.

 

Cause & Effect

My Dear Young Man,

To move beyond survival, as you review the 10 subtypes of trauma and its various impacts upon you, consider Cause and Effect.  Cause and Effect is a relationship between events or things, where one is the result of the other.

Essentially, the cause is the thing that makes other things happen and the effect refers to the result of that action. As this concept relates to trauma, trauma can be viewed as the cause, the why something happened and the resulting psychological and emotional distress is the effect, or the what that followed.

 

Need & Reaction: Hiding in the Shadows

My Dear Young Man,

Your need to hide is a direct reaction to traumas (cause) resulting in distress (effect). The traumatic impact is cumulative and increases in quantity, and degree with each successive incident. Any of these traumas, may they be individual or grouped, can occur without advance warning or notice.

Following such a repetitive onslaught of traumas, it is understandable that you may want to “go somewhere and hide” but all that would be achieved is complacency bred from apathy that leaves you wedged between existing and surviving. This is nothing more than living in fear and makes you even more unwilling to step out into the unknown and move towards developing a new comfort zone.

 

The Uncharted Territories

My Dear Young Man,

The alternative to hiding away is to develop strategies that are proactive and allow you to achieve the three progressive phases of The Levels of the Journey of Self Discovery, driving (empowerment), striving (pacing, goal setting), and thriving (objective attainment, life’s overview).

Your concern for your children is understandable but it is important that you empower yourself first so that you will be equipped to model strategies and behaviors for them.

One such empowerment strategy is The ABC’s, the gateway to The Uncharted Territories:

  • (A) Advocacy: Become an advocate for yourself. Only you can speak on your own behalf.  Depending on others to speak for you dilutes your message.  Embrace your responsibly to speak for yourself.
  • (B) Balance: Be reflective about your actions. Make sure your thoughts and actions are balanced and aligned with your inner self.
  • (C) Calmness: Be aware that the environment around mirrors your internal environment. When you achieve calmness within your inner self, it is reflected in your external environment.

 

Response: Living With Fear, Not In Fear

My Dear Young Man,

In utilizing the ABC’s for yourself and modeling for your children, you are able to transform your reaction to cumulative trauma into responses that reframe fear into its correct context; it is simply an emotion that a person has when they are frightened or worried by someone or something identified as dangerous, painful or bad.

The outcome you seek to achieve is the phase of Driving or empowerment.  Therefore, instead of reacting, “going somewhere and hiding”, you can face the fear directly and respond.  As you respond, you can embrace your fear and in doing so, understand that fear is no longer something to fight or avoid but something that can be embraced and responded to.

 

Concluding Words- Dr. Kane 

“…That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, and now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

– John Newton

 

My Dear Young Man,

Referenced in an earlier blog “The Visible Man: Choosing Between Being a Sitting Duck or Running the Race Smarter Not Harder” (June 5, 2020):

“Angry is good… Angry gets shit done.”

– Mr. Nancy, American Gods, television series (2017-)

I agree with Mr. Nancy. Angry is good, angry does get shit done, but that anger must be directed.

Right now, our country, our nation is boiling while its leader cowered in a bunker under the guise of an “inspection”.  The diverse citizenry of the United States is protesting by the hundreds of thousands in cities in every state, calling for social justice and freedom from police brutality.  Black, white, brown, Asian, Indigenous People, and many others are stating the truth that BLACK LIVES MATTER. That abuse is not OK, that policies, procedures, and ideals of this country must change, and it needs to happen now. It is their voice, their anger that is “getting shit done.”

You have stated being angry, feeling lost, wanting to hide, and being unable to protect your children. Just realize that anger is a normal human emotion and utilize strategies to transform your reactions into responses. Like the protesters, refocus you anger into clear attainable objectives. Cease settling for existing and surviving and work toward achieving the levels of driving (empowerment), striving (pacing, goal setting) and thriving (objective attainment).

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbrey may they rest in peace.

Focus on… walking your landscape and in doing so… seek to live the life you want and not continue to live the life you live.

 

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes (1901-1967)

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants’ scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!

Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!

Of work the men! Of take the pay!

Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,

The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream

In the Old World while still a serf of kings,

Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,

That even yet its mighty daring sings

In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned

That’s made America the land it has become.

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas

In search of what I meant to be my home—

For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,

And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,

And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came

To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?

Surely not me? The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay—

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—

The land that never has been yet—

And yet must be—the land where every man is free.

The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—

The steel of freedom does not stain.

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,

We must take back our land again,

America!

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

 

Until We Speak Again… I Am, The Visible Man

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