“You just got to go for it.”Payton Gendron age 18, shooter (livestreamed video statement following the killing of 10 and wounding of 3)
“It was a straight up, racially motivated hate crime.”John Garcia, Sheriff, Erie County
“The shooter was not from this community. In fact, the shooter traveled hours from outside the community to perpetrate this crime on the people of Buffalo.”Byron Brown, Mayor, City of Buffalo
“I assure everyone in this community, justice is being done right and justice will be done.”John Flynn, District Attorney, Erie County, New York
“It strikes at our very hearts to know that there is such evil that lurks out there. It is my sincere hope that the suspect will spend the rest of his days behind bars.”Kathy Hochul, Governor, The State of New York
“My message is to make sure that we recognize that this is an individual. This was not a white man from our community. This was not a white man from Buffalo. This is a white person who was evil.”Darius G. Pridgen, President, Buffalo City Council & Senior Pastor, True Bethel Baptist Church
”Fear is here forever. It never left…. It has always been here, and it will always be here.”Dr. Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist
My Dear Readers,
I write to you during a very difficult time. My community, the African American community, has once again suffered from a great loss of innocent life. And less than two weeks following President Biden’s words of “no more” … another horrific mass killing of the innocent has occurred: 19 children and two adults slaughtered in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. This time, the horror impacted the Mexican American community. Once again, another “tsunami” of massive psychological impact, bringing a mountainous wall of grief, devastation, and unrelenting fear upon us.
The term “tsunami” is often used to describe a long, high sea wave caused by an earthquake or other disturbance. It can also be described as an arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities or amounts.
Over 2,500 miles separate Seattle, WA from Buffalo, NY. On Saturday, May 14, 2022, a white supremacist, traveling 200 miles from his residence to Buffalo, NY; entered a supermarket in a predominately African American community and opened fire, killing 10 and wounding 3, bringing that “tsunami” to African American communities in Seattle and in cities across the country.
The initial impact was thunderous then, and shockwaves remain with us today. African American communities across the nation are traumatized, grief stricken, and psychologically impacted by this instance of racial hatred, just like they were seven years ago, following a similar incident in Charleston, South Carolina in which another young white male supremacist entered the Emanuel AME Church and after being welcomed into Bible study, slaughtered nine African Americans, including the Senior Pastor.
For those who are not familiar with my clinical work, my focus as a clinical traumatologist is on the psychological impacts of clinical traumatology and racism. In 8 years of postdoctoral study and running a clinical practice for over 30 years, I have identified 17 subtypes of trauma and 16 forms of racism which African Americans are vulnerable to and exposed to daily, on which I have published, lectured and acted as a keynote speaker and clinical consultant for the Black Congressional Caucus conference.
And here I am today, utilizing the SELF™ Protocol for my patients daily: providing and holding a safe, secure space for those in emotional pain to either sit in silence or to release the substances surfacing on their landscape.
For me, it is a privilege and an honor to hold “space,” listening to the release of such emotional pain and suffering. I define this as my “WOW” practice: Waiting (patiently), Observing (listening) Witnessing (Serving humanity).
Below are excerpts of darkness being lifted into the light….
Please help me. Please. I have no other place to turn. I am afraid all the time. I can’t leave my home. I can’t eat or sleep. My babies need food. I need to see you. Please text me.M. (Seattle)
My husband has armed himself. He does not trust the police to protect him as they are always targeting him. I am afraid that should he be pulled over; they will kill him. He won’t listen to me. What can I do? Will you talk to him?C. (Tacoma)
My name is J. I am sick and tired of this shit. I feel that I am a target waiting to be killed. I am the only Black teacher in my school. I see them whispering when they are around me. I stay to myself. You may think I am paranoid, but I feel I’m next up. Keeping on the face is tearing me up inside. Got any time to see me?J. (Tukwila)
I just got off the phone with another black therapist. I can’t get in. Same damn story. Everyone is full. Can’t talk to a white therapist; did that already; besides not being able to get it, the last one wanted to talk to me about my anger and being paranoid. Is he fucking serious? Can you fit me in on your schedule? Please call me back.V. (Bellevue)
So, what are the common themes? Fear, Hopelessness, Lack of control.
The answer? Learning to live with fear and not in fear… Walking one’s Landscape with Hope, letting go of control and focusing on achieving balance.
From a clinical trauma viewpoint, repetitive psychological impacts during the last 403 years and counting, including slavery, emancipation, reconstruction era, segregation, Jim Crow, Black codes, race riots and massacres incited by Whites, civil rights movement, housing rights, voting rights, and so much more…are the reality that Black folks have existed and survived through while others such as White folks have strived and thrived throughout.
Economically and politically, African Americans enjoy higher living standards than any other people of African descent worldwide and yet, continue to live in fear of racial violence and terror, seeking protection from a law enforcement apparatus that is historically rooted in “slave catching” and even today, still views its African American citizens as second-class citizens.
For 403 years, African Americans have struggled against staunch resistance to achieve what many White Americans are born into: acceptance into what is identified as the fabric of America. African Americans, after all this adversity, continue to achieve and will not be denied.
Yet, how does one continue to want to advance in the face of psychological decimation? How does one walk their life’s landscape in the face of fear of harm/death to one’s loved ones or self?
Concluding Words- Walking the Landscape: Alone & Empowered
“You can run but you can’t hide.”Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber” World Heavyweight Champion 1937-1949
My Dear Readers,
I originally wrote this piece after the Buffalo shooting but chose to rewrite this in light of the Uvalde shooting—that’s how quickly one followed the other. Gun violence due to unrestricted and easy access to weapons has resulted in the loss of 21 lives including 19 children and two teachers at Uvalde.
This tragedy follows the mass loss of life in 2019 in which 23 persons were killed by a White supremacist in El Paso Texas. Similar to the Buffalo mass murders, the White supremacist in the El Paso Walmart shooting drove an extended distance (580) from his suburban community of Allen, TX to El Paso with the specific intent to target ethnic minorities i.e., Mexican Americans. Like both the Buffalo, NY and Charleston, SC shootings, all three of the White supremacists were young (18, 21, 21), were able to purchase the weapons legally, and were strongly invested in the Great Replacement Theory, a racist, sexist doctrine being pushed in far-right circles.
Another similarity is the murder of 8 persons in Atlanta GA of which 6 were Asian women. Although there is no evidence at this time that the killing of the 21 individuals in the elementary school of Uvalde, TX have racial overtones, the common theme are the young ages of the shooters and easy access to firearms legally sold at the age of 18 years old.
Ethnic minorities have consistently voiced their outrage and concern regarding threats of physical harm and psychological impacts due to factors of white supremacy, easy access to weapons and the threats coming from young, radicalized individuals. These communities have been labeled “paranoid” and “mentally ill” regarding micro-aggressive assaults (deliberate and intentional slights such as, name-calling, avoidant behavior, and purposeful discriminatory actions) and macro-aggressive assaults (large scale or overt aggression leading to bodily harm, physical injury and/or death).
And now, these same devastated and impacted communities are being asked to believe that the system of laws, which is only there to protect itself, will protect them from the fears that those systems have labeled as paranoia and mental illness.
Protection for ethnic minority communities is long overdue. Yet, the three branches of federal governance appear immobilized, incapable and mired in competing agendas that appear to ignore the concerns of these communities.
- The Judicial Branch is in disarray preparing to overturn Roe v Wade. The focus of the dominant group is abortion and not the interest of “Black Lives Matter.”
- The Legislative Branch (Congress) took 120 years to pass a federal anti-lynching law that was regularly introduced on a yearly basis. 4,000 children, women, men young and old were lynched while they debated the issue.
- The Executive Branch– In 2015, President Obama came to Charleston, South Carolina to extend his condolences regarding the murders of 9 church members by a young white supremacist. In 2017 during the racist march in Charlotteville, VA in speaking about white supremacy, President Trump stated “There were very fine people on both sides.” In 2022, President Biden came to Buffalo, New York to extend his condolences and stated
“White supremacy is a poison…and it’s been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes.” … “No More.”President Joe Biden
We send our children out every morning to school, vulnerable and exposed to the same or similar overt and covert racial experiences that have psychologically impacted us and still scar us to this very day. Yet we are “shocked” and in disbelief when our children returned home psychologically impacted.
In Uvalde, Texas, 19 children went to school one morning and due to easily accessible and legal ownership of firearms…they did not come home. They are lost forever. The psychological impacts of mass shootings in a supermarket in Buffalo NY and an elementary school in Uvalde, TX have long lasting ramifications to our children and leave their parents with being psychologically impacted and hopeless in protecting their children. Below is such an indicator.
I am at work today. My son H, called me from school sobbing, stating the white classmates have been told by their parents not to play with him because they could be killed in a drive by. My son is 8 years old! And he is asking me, “why do White people hate me? What do I say? I am in tears. I got to work with these people. I can’t tell them this. I can’t let them see me like this.-Corporate Lawyer (Seattle)
Who is the patient? The mother or the eight-year child? (Answer- both…individual, play, family, group therapies)
Where do they refer to? (All the Black therapists in the local area are full. White therapists? Lacking in understanding the Black experience? Lack of cultural competency? Lack of trauma focused training & experience?).
What do they do? (They continue to survive, suffer in silence, wear the “face” or the “mask” and wait… wait .. for the next shooting.
WHAT CAN WE DO? We can empower ourselves to by considering the protocol of The Five Elements of Embracing Aloneness, and maintain situational awareness in being vigilant in public places.
SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: HOW TO BE VIGILANT IN PUBLIC PLACES
- REDUCE AND AVOID DISTRACTIONS. …
- ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. …
- MAKE YOURSELF A DIFFICULT TARGET. …
- TRUST YOUR GUT. …
- PRACTICE PREDICTING POSSIBLE INCIDENTS. …
- SITUATIONAL AWARENESS IS OBSERVING YOUR SURROUNDINGS. …
- CARRY ITEMS FOR SELF-DEFENSE.
As Joe Louis stated, “You can run but you can’t hide.” Or you can stop running and empower your children and yourself.
“You either live the life you want… or continue to live (exist) in the life you have.”Dr. Micheal Kane
Standing Alone…Empowered … The Unspoken Truth