“I’m not jumping in after you.”
-Tempe AZ Cops as a Black Man drowned.(Oxygen News)
“Coins depicting Border Patrol agent grabbing Haitian migrant trigger investigation”(Headline, Los Angeles Times)
“New York man who was caught on camera claiming to be an ‘off-duty trooper’ while going on a racist road rage tirade has been charged with a hate crime.”(Headline, CNN)
“City Paying Cop Who Posted Nazi Symbol in Office $1.5M To Go Away”(Headline, VICE News)
“Cop Caught on Video Telling Black Driver ‘This is How You Guys Get Killed’”(Headline, VICE News)
My Dear Readers,
In writing this blog, I bring you greetings from my current travels in Paris, France and Lisbon, Portugal. While in Paris, I had the opportunity to walk the Ricki Stevenson 8-hour Black Paris Tour (led by Miguel Overton Guerrero for a record fourth time! Not bad for a senior dude from Seattle!)
During the tour, we visited the areas where Black American celebrities, including dancer Josephine Baker and writers James Baldwin and Richard Wright lived and the restaurants they visited daily for their meals and gatherings with other Black American artists and writers. I also visited the American Church where Martin Luther King preached after returning from Oslo, Norway, where he received his Nobel Peace Prize.
During the tour, I visited the famous Arc de Triomphe where, following the Allied victory over Germany at the end of WWI, African American soldiers were not allowed to participate in the victory march due to the racist segregationist polices of the American military leadership.
The tour culminated with a visit to a community within Paris known as “Little Africa,” where I was able to purchase items that would influence my clinical practice. Towards the end of my stay in Paris, I was able to secure a business contract with the world-famous Seattle-based chocolate chef Michael Poole, also known as “Hot Chocolat.” Chef Poole, also African American, was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. As we are both extremely busy individuals, it took a trip of 5,000 miles, crossing two continents, to forge a business contract for the chef to provide his deserts for the upcoming gala in July being sponsored by Kane & Associates.
I write to you now from Lisbon, Portugal. I wanted to come to Europe to get a different world perspective for this blog entry. As a clinical traumatologist, responding to the mass killings of Black people in Buffalo, NY and the 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas was psychologically impactful. As I enter July 2022, I begin the period of my professional and personal life that I have named “the Emergence”. It is in the emergence that I further my determination to walk the landscape of my life, and to live the life I want, and not continue to live the life I have.
My life began during segregation, when being labeled as “colored” restricted my access to education and other opportunities. As a child, I recall my first experiences of domestic terrorism including lynching, the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in which four little black girls were killed, and the horrors of police ordering dogs to bite defenseless protesters while firefighters used water hoses, battering defenseless children and adults.
Still, the African American community nationwide persevered, never wavering in its determination to achieve a better life for its children than the one endured by previous generations. Yet, in its determination to achieve political and economic power and “forced” acceptance into the American Dream, which was well guarded by the dominant group, the African American community failed to provide emotional protection in the form of individual, family and/or group therapies necessary to respond to repetitive psychological traumatic assaults.
Instead, the community continued to rely on faith-based institutions and family structures. Neither have been able to develop comprehensive strategies, and today, community members collectively continue to seek political and economic power, continue to suffer psychologically due to repetitive traumatic intrusions and conscious and unconsciously racist actions by members of the dominant majority, denied the true elements of walking one’s landscape: driving (empowerment), striving (setting direction and pace), and thriving (achieving goals & objectives).
Below is the story of one individual, in the trap of the American Dream…
Dear Dr. Kane,
I hope life finds you well. I have read your blog postings over the years and I hope that you can advise me. I live in Marysville, WA which is a predominately white city. I have always been a law-abiding citizen who contributes to the wellness of my community and yet, I feel very alone living here, and I have had numerous experiences where my freedom can be taken from me at a moment’s notice. When I express these feelings to my white colleagues, I am not taken seriously—rather, they laugh or say that I’m being paranoid, oversensitive or overreactive.
Recently, I had an experience that shook me to my core. I am unable to talk about it as I am concerned as to how others will see me or somehow twist the story around to make it seem as if I was responsible for what happened. I was at home when I noticed that there was someone on my property who appeared to be in distress. I came outside to see this white woman who appeared homeless, disheveled and in tears. I went to ask her how I could help her, and as I approached her, she snarled and yelled “Get away from me …nigger!” I stood there, dumbfounded, and shocked. Her next words sent a chill up and down my spine. She stated in a very calm voice …” don’t make me take your freedom.” She suddenly stood up, and with a look of disdain and defiance, left my property. I stood there in utter silence…watching her disappear down the street and to the back of my mind.
Despite my high six-figure salary, home ownership and community involvement, this homeless White woman had the power to “take my freedom,” and not only did she know it, she was willing to use it. She left knowing what I knew: that a complaint from her to the police would irrevocably change my life. At that time, she had me. She had my freedom in her hands, and all it would take is her word to unleash hell on me.
I just stood there, saying nothing as she walked away. I was ashamed and humiliated. I didn’t talk back. I didn’t call the police. I simply accepted the abuse. I don’t want to tell anyone, especially my son—he’ll no longer respect me. My son wants me to explain Juneteenth and given what happened to me, I feel unable to do so. Can you help? What do I say? How can I forget about this terrible incident? How do I get the thoughts to stop? I am now having nightmares about the police taking me out of my home. Please help.
Chained & Broken,
My Dear Young Man (& My Dear Readership),
I appreciate your willingness to write, sharing your experience with the readership and seeking consultation regarding the horrible situation in which you endured. In responding to your concerns, I feel it is best to divide my responses in distinctive areas. In my response regarding your experience, I will address my remarks directly to the readership as I’m sure that this will help other African American individuals who have experienced similar incidents and therefore can provide a proper or appropriate response.
Balancing Vigilance, Not Paranoia
Paranoia is a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance. It can also be suspicion or mistrust without evidence or justification. This young man did not go into the specifics of his experiences, but as an African American man living among a predominately white population, he has valid concerns about being susceptible to unconscious bias and vulnerable to conscious and unconscious racist actions. Such vulnerability could lead to heightened vigilance, which, given the racial predominance of the community in which he resides, can be considered normal and appropriate.
Understanding the Intrusions of Shame & Humiliation
Shame is defined as painful feelings associated with the belief that there is something dishonorable, improper, or ridiculous about the self. Humiliation, in contrast, refers to an event where unequal power in a relationship is displayed, where you are in the inferior position and unjustly treated.
Shame is an internal construct which is reinforced from within. Shame can induce the individual to:
- Feel badly about the self
- Express disapproval of one’s own actions and accomplishments
- Feel inferior or experience loss of self esteem
- Repeatedly blaming oneself for a mistake
Humiliation, on the other hand, is an external insult initiated by another person. The painful experience is vividly remembered for an extended period. Humiliation requires the involvement of three distinct parties:
- The perpetrator exercising power
- The victim who is shown to be powerless
- There is the perception of witnesses or observers to the event
In this case, the humiliation begins with the white woman’s rejection of the African American man’s empathy by hurling the racist remark and demanding that he move away from her, even though she is on his property without permission. Furthermore, the humiliation is completed when the African American homeowner acknowledges the homeless White woman’s power and his own powerlessness, coupled with his real fear of the negative consequences should she follow through with her threat to “take his freedom,” with the clear implication that she would use the police to do so.
As stated earlier, shame as an internal construct occurs when the victim reinforces his own negative self-esteem. Despite his attempts to prove himself worthy of respect through his high six figure salary and homeownership, he was deeply injured, and he is unable to repair the damage created by his mistake in not advocating for self when the incident and threat of loss of freedom occurred. Now, due to his fear of loss of validation and respect from his son, he is unable to share with his son his wisdom and experiences.
The Permanency of Psychological Trauma
“We do not have to agree…We do want to understand.”-Dr. Micheal Kane
There are clear misconceptions within the psychological self of the African American homeowner. He blames himself for not rebuking his perpetrator. He acknowledges not calling the police, but simply accepting the abuse. Not only does he fear if he should he tell his son he will lose his respect, but he has already lost his own self-respect as we listen to his words and actions. Now he seeks to have these ruminating thoughts removed and nightmares cease. Neither the thoughts nor the nightmares relating to this incident will stop.
This individual, as well as ALL African Americans, can benefit by understanding this: bad thoughts, nightmares, and incidents arising from psychological trauma do not simply go away. African Americans are impacted by 17 subtypes of psychological trauma and 16 forms of racism daily. Psychological trauma has permanency. It never, ever goes away. When faced with horrific situations, the traumatized individual must, rather than react, craft a response through advocating, (reinforcing the integrity of self), balancing (the weight of traumatic impacts} and calmness (in both the psychological self and the external environment i.e., the world).
Concluding Words-The Unspoken Truth …… Dr. Micheal Kane
“President Trump, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court today.”-Republican Congresswoman Mary Miller
“To Uncle Clarence & The Supremes …. We will not surrender. We will fight onward until victory is done.”– Dr. Micheal Kane
My Dear Young Man,
Again, I thank you for the willingness to share your situation with my readership. In closing, I want to respond to your ending and most important question: ”What do I tell my son?” My advice is simple: tell him the truth. Tell him the truth about the power of “White Tears” being expressed by White women. Tell him the truth about Emmett Till, the fourteen-year-old boy who was murdered based on a White woman’s word. Tell your son the truth about your reasonable fears regarding interaction with law enforcement, which has its historical beginnings in slave catching and overseers, working in conjunction with slave owners, government officials and federal judges.
When you speak of Juneteenth, tell him that American military commanders during WWI refused to allow African Americans to fight under the American flag and instead, gave entire segregated divisions of African Americans over to the French Army to fight in French uniforms under the French flag, and after the war, were prevented by the same American military commanders from participating in the Victory March in 1918. Tell your son that it took Congress 120 years to approve federal anti-lynching legislation and during these yearly debates, 4,000 African American children, women and men were lynched.
When you speak of the 4th of July Independence Day celebration, tell your son that the Supreme Court in 1857 ruled that the United States Constitution was not meant to include people of African descent. Tell your son that African Americans have fought in every war for their country despite being forced to into slavery, responding to Black Codes, Sundown Laws, domestic terrorism, and other threats.
I was traveling in Paris, retracing the steps of African Americans serving in France during WWI when the news came of the Supreme Court conservative majority overturning Roe v Wade. I am in Lisbon, Portugal making my way home… there is much work for us to do protect a Woman’s right to DECIDE, not simply choose. It is my decision to live the life that I want and not live the life that is chosen for me by others.
In closing I would suggest that in seeking to “Empower the Psychological Self,” that you consider holistically the decisions you make, the consequences and lessons you learn and the wisdom that flows from it all. In Walking Your Landscape, remember that you stand alone, and it is in standing alone that one embraces aloneness.
The Five Elements of Embracing Aloneness
Alertness- Balancing being watchful with a wide-awake attitude
Awareness-Having knowledge and understanding of one’s surroundings that something is happening or existing within one’s immediate space.
Arousal-The awakening or causing of strong feelings or excitement in one’s sensation.
Abandon-The understanding that one has ceased to look for support from others and course of action, a practice or a way of thinking must come from within oneself.
Alive– Continuing the state of being alert, active, animated. Walking the landscape having interest and meaning with fullness of emotion, excitement and activity.
I dedicate this poem to you.
The Darkest Hour
James Baldwin 1925-1987
The darkest hour
is just before the dawn,
and that, I see,
which does not guarantee
power to draw the next breath,’
nor abolish the suspicion
that the brightest hour
we will ever see
occurs just before we cease
Standing Alone…The Unspoken Truth