The Visible Man: Holding Space for Others & Responding to Privilege

“It might do well to read the details before falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism.”

– Tyler Arms, Gavin de Becker & Associates (GDBA), in response to a posting by Dr. Micheal Kane criticizing the shooting death of a black man by a white police officer in Atlanta, GA on 6/12/20, LinkedIn, June 14, 2020.

“Malcolm X asked, what does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.? He answered: A nigger with a Ph.D.”

– George Yancy, ‘The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor in America’, The Chronical Review, April 29,2018.

“I did something good.  I made it famous. I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event; it’s an important time. But nobody had heard of it.”

– Donald Trump, President of the United States, ‘Trump talks Juneteenth, John Bolton, Economy in WSJ Interview’. Bender, Michael C., The Wall Street Journal. June 18, 2020.

“What the hell, racism is a thing of the past. Why do we have colored ball players on our club? They are the best ones. If you don’t have them, you’re not going to win.”

– Calvin Griffith, Owner Minnesota Twins, 1978

“Asked repeatedly to say, ‘Black lives Matter’, Mike Pence (Vice President of the United States) says, ‘all lives matter’”.

– Carvajal, Nikki. ‘Asked repeatedly to say, ‘Black lives matter’, Mike Pence says, ‘all lives matter’, CNN politics. June 19, 2020.

 

My Dear Readers,

Several days have passed since the celebrations in honor of Juneteenth but this year, due to the coronavirus, I have decided to commemorate it rather than celebrate, as I stay hunkered down at home.

After months of treating patients through what is understood to be an unprecedented time in our history, I find myself experiencing waves of what is known as Vicarious Traumatization or, Compassion Fatigue. Vicarious trauma, in its textbook definition, can be described as:

 “The emotional residue of exposure that therapists have from working with people as they are hearing their trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured” (Perlman & Saakvitne, 1995).

This definition fits the work of the typical white or Eurocentrically trained therapist while working with Black, Brown and, Indigenous Persons of Color (BBIPoC) because it, not only defines what vicarious trauma is, but it also explains the continuous failure of the white or Eurocentrically trained therapist to fully understand the impact of their patients’ trauma experiences.

The wording in the definition of vicarious trauma, “…while they are hearing…” allows the white or Eurocentrically trained therapist to recover quickly from vicarious trauma impacts because they have the freedom to eject the majority of what is being said (in one ear and out the other),  and not internalize it.

Of course, many if not most of my colleagues who are either white or Eurocentrically trained would assertively deny this, claiming that they “hear” what is being said but, the process of hearing, allowing the information to pass through you, is unconscious and it serves to protect the receiver of acutely difficult or traumatic information.

On the other hand, the BBIPoC therapist listens rather than just hears and in doing so becomes much more at risk for vicarious traumatization.  There are times in which micro-aggressive assaults directed at the therapist from outside sources impact the therapist-patient relationship, creating wounding for both individuals.  So, what is the response?

This is one such a story…

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

Journal Entry

Dear Dr. Kane,

 I am a middle age black man residing in the Seattle area.  I recently read a response to a writing you did.  This person, this asshole verbally attacked you.  In his response he basically stated that you were an intellectually dumb lazy nigger.  I was expecting fireworks.  I was expecting an immediate response.

 For two days, you said nothing.  And then when you did respond, you thank him. WTF?! Thank him for what?  This asshole insults you and you thank him?  Do you realize the damage you have caused by your actions or should I say lack of actions?

 You are an educated man. People look up to you.  I look up to you.  And you let me down. I feel shattered.  You speak about walking the landscape.  What, with your head hanging down? This is not the landscape I want to walk.  Disappointed in you, Dr. Kane.

Upset, Renton, WA

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

My Dear Young Man,

I understand that you were psychologically impacted by what was said and how you interpreted this writer’s words about me.  Furthermore, I understand that you were emotionally injured by what you believed to be an inadequate response by me but understand, I was psychologically impacted by the writer as well.

There will be times, and this is apparently one of them, when my writings or responses will fail to meet the standards of others.  My stance as a writer is one of sharing.  I write with passion for the work I am committed to do.

There will be those who may agree or disagree with my views.  However, the focus for me is to listen and to be listened to.  We are all here for a short time and while I am here, I will walk my landscape and live the life that I want and not the life that others may need of me.

I will take this as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

As I continue to “walk my landscape”, in this blog, I will utilize the following three clinical concepts:

  1. Walking the Landscape
  2. The Five R’s of RELIEF
  3. The I Factor

I will seek not to defend my words or actions.  Instead I chose to advocate for self, seek balance within and calmness in my external environment.

 

Walking the Landscape

All decisions have consequences”

 

My Dear Young Man,

First, we want to understand what Walking the Landscape means.  The landscape is life.  One of the essential realities of life is that death is a certainty.  What remains uncertain is:

  • How we live our lives?
  • What we experience during our lifetimes.
  • The memories we leave with the individuals who we meet.

The term walk refers to what we do with our lives.  As we walk the landscape, we will have many different experiences. It is within the walk that we have crossroads or interaction points where barriers, challenges, experiences, and opportunities are presented.

It is within the offending writer’s words that you and I have reached an interaction point.  It is here where the following occurs:

  • Choices are presented.
  • Decisions are made and directions are chosen.
  • Consequences for choices and decisions are foreseen.
  • Wisdom is gained, lessons are learned, and both can be utilized for future experiences.
  • Transformation through Self-Empowerment is achieved.

So, my dear young man, this is where are we were act and so are the differences in our actions.  With the choices before us, you decided to react in anger, dismissing him with profanity and seeking an upcoming battle of words.  I decided upon a different path. Response.

The consequences of our actions are also different. The reader of your words will know that you are angry, and no doubt dismiss your reaction and relegate you to nothing more than the “angry black man, exhibiting out of control behaviors”.

On the other hand, my preference is to assist the reader in opening their minds and reaching the depths of the emotional self, leading to greater wisdom and transformation.

There is none provided in your reaction.

Those deaf ears will remain so as they continue to discount you and continue to live in fear of you as they have been for the last 400 years. As I continue this writing, I seek to offer to you a different option.

 

The Smugness of White Privilege

“What does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.? A nigger with a Ph.D.”

 

My Dear Young Man,

In your entry you wrote concerning Mr. Tyler Arms’ comment:

“In his [Mr. Arms’] response he basically stated that you were an intellectually dumb lazy nigger.  I was expecting fireworks.  I was expecting an immediate response”.

Before addressing how Mr. Arm’s comments have psychologically impacted you, it is essential to provide the readership with more information and clarity.

Here is Mr. Tyler Arms’ comment (said in disagreement with my statement regarding the recently of killing of Rayshard Brooks, a black male by a white Atlanta police officer):

“It might do well to read the details before falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism.”

Did Mr. Arms actually call me, Dr. Kane, an “intellectually dumb lazy nigger”?  No, absolutely he did not. Can one infer that he called me an “intellectually dumb lazy nigger”?

Yes, absolutely.

In his actions Mr. Arms is using his white privilege.

What is “white privilege”? Compare the two definitions below:

  1. The inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.
  2. “It’s the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it were suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place” (Emba, Christine. ‘What is white privilege?’ The Washington Post. January 16, 2016).

A white person wrote the first definition whereas a black person wrote the second.

The first definition is composed of intellectualized jargon, words or expressions that are used by a particular group and, for some, are difficult to understand. The second, is grounded in experience and observation.

Mr. Arms is asserting his white privilege, (his advantage in not only in feeling like his views are seen as the norm in society but his freedom in telling others how they should respond to an incident) to inflict psychological injury and then state it vaguely enough attempt to hide any racist intent but Mr. Arms’ intention and message is very clear.

His statement is a tactical projectile that impacts any and all black males who would dare to consider the actions by the police office to be an act of racism. Though I was the one targeted, the psychological injuries that being experienced by other black men is the collateral damage.

 

Microaggression

Plausibility & Believability

 

 My Dear Young Man,

The statements made by Mr. Arms are acts of microaggression.

Psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce coined the term microaggression in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals that are inflicted by whites upon African Americans.

This term was later redefined by Columbia University professor and psychologist Derald Wing Sue as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership. The persons making the comments may be otherwise well-intentioned and unaware of the potential impact of their words”.

Was Mr. Arm’s comment well-intentioned and unaware? Did he not think that others may perceive his words as racist, patronizing and could be interpreted as “get the fact rights before you write, you intellectually lazy nigger”? Possibly, but as with all microaggressions, their real meanings are always shrouded in innuendo.

 

The Five R’s of RELIEF

Relief Along the Landscape

 

My Dear Young Man,

It is apparent that the statements made by Mr. Tyler Arms triggered you.  Indeed, I was triggered as well.  Imagine a scenario in which you are the only black male in your office, where you, without warning or preparation, are subjected to microaggressions on a daily basis.

      • What do you do?
      • What do you say to your assailant(s)?
      • What are your feelings? How do you release these feelings?
      • How will you handle the situation tomorrow? The next day or the following week?

In your letter to me, you stated the following:

      • “This person, this asshole verbally attacked you.”
      • “I was expecting fireworks.”
      • “I was expecting an immediate response.”

If you would have handled the situation in the way you expected me to with Mr. Arms, you would have been immediately terminated from your employment.  If “expecting fireworks and an immediate response” means physical or verbal combat, you would be risking arrest and criminal and/or civil charges. Now, with no employment and an inability to use your former employer as a reference, consider the following questions:

      • How would you support your family?
      • How would you buy groceries? Pay your monthly bills? Your mortgage or rent?
      • How would you pay the newly incurred legal fees?
      • Despite your excellent work skills, how do you explain your termination to perspective employers?

Besides death and taxes, there is a third reality in the life of a BBIPoC, that people like Mr. Tyler Arms are lying in wait to become an obstacle, barrier, boulder, or roadblock in your “Walking the Landscape.”.

In the clinical concept of Walking the Landscape, the elements of choice, decision, consequences, wisdom, and transformation are steps that only you can take.

 

Reaction vs Response

Your reactions as indicated in your response may lead to jail time as well as introductions to the judicial, probation or correction systems. Before walking in that direction, I recommend the clinical concept of Five R’s of RELIEF.  When confronted with a psychologically destabilizing situation, try to employ the following:

  1. Take a Respite. Allow yourself to step away emotionally form the situation. Do so for as long as you feel the need. Breathe deeply.
  2. Embrace your Reactions. These are your feelings and yours alone. Understand the fullness of your feelings.
  3. Reflect. Balance your thoughts with your feelings. Let go of the desire to control what you think and feel.
  4. Respond. Combine your now balanced thoughts and feelings to present a response that will serve you best on your journey of walking the landscape. Keep your initial reactions within.
  5. Revaluate. Be willing to take continuous reviews of your choices, decisions and responses made. Evaluate what you have learned and what could had been done differently to achieve the desired outcome.

 

The Gift & The Thank You

Rather than provide the “fireworks” and “immediate response” you so desired, I decided to do what was best for me and use this not as retribution but rather as a teaching moment to both you and my readership.

As you may recall in my response to Mr. Arms, I stated:

Hmm, Interesting.  Someone who was obviously asserting his white privilege inserted himself to “whitesplaining” in defending the actions of the police in the killing of a black man as I compared the outcome of similar situation whereas the white male was safely taken into custody.”

In his response, Mr. Arms accused me of “falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism” without thought or consideration to the subject at hand, he jumped to attacking me, and not the fact that an unarmed man was shot in the back and killed by the people who were trusted to protect and serve.

Thank you, Mr. Arms for exposing the readership your smugness, your arrogance, and your lack of humanity and compassion regarding the death of black man who, at the time,  was not a threat to the police officer’s safety.

 

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

 

 The “I” Factor

Hearing vs Listening

 

My Dear Young Man,

I began this writing by speaking towards the difference ways the white or Eurocentric trained therapist and BBIPoC therapists respond and recover from vicarious traumatic impacts.  There is a similar common thread or theme regarding people holding privilege and those who do not.

Privileged individuals such as Mr. Arms are duplicitous. On one hand, they seek to have you as a black man listen to and internalize the idea of your inferiority while on the other, they seek to have other whites hear them as innocent of racist intent.

Please understand, it is the internalized idea of inferiority that creates the reaction that he and those like him are anticipating and are actively seeking from you.

In response consider the clinical concept of the “I” Factor:

  • Information. Calmly collect data regarding the challenges and obstacles you are facing.
  • Involvement. Thoroughly process the information you have collected. Focus on understanding what the information tells you about the journey
  • Integration. Compare the information with your overall path and objective. Let it inform your decision.
  • Implement the plan, course of action or decision
  • Impact. Evaluate the outcome of the actions taken. Consider what could have been done differently.

I will encourage my readership to determine whether the “falling to the intellectually lazy assumption of racism.” exists.

Again, thanks for exposing your truths. Mr. Arms.

 

New Possibilities

Life is a journey filled with new possibilities.

And sometimes because of the person that you are or have

become, You find yourself in the right

place at the right time for …. new possibilities. 

– Micheal Kane

 

 

White Privilege II

Pulled into the parking lot, parked it
Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers
In my head like, “Is this awkward?
Should I even be here marching?”
Thinking if they can’t, how can I breathe?
Thinking that they chant, what do I sing?
I want to take a stance cause we are not free
And then I thought about it, we are not we
Am I in the outside looking in,
Or am I in the inside looking out?
Is it my place to give my two cents?
Or should I stand on the side and shut my mouth?
No justice, no peace, okay, I’m saying that
They’re chanting out, Black Lives Matter,
But I don’t say it back
Is it okay for me to say?
I don’t know, so I watch and stand

In front of a line of police that look the same as me
Only separated by a badge,
A baton, a can of Mace, a…

– Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_rl4ZGdy34

 

Until We Speak Again… I Am, The Visible Man

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