In Our Corner: The Silence of Black Suicide

Do you ever wonder
That to win, somebody’s got to lose
I might as well get over the blues
Just like fishing in the ocean
There’ll always be someone new
You did me wrong ’cause I’ve been through stormy weather                                                      And the beat goes on.

-“And The Beat Goes On,” The Whispers, R&B Vocal Group

“Very few suicidal people want to die; they just don’t want to live the way they’re living.”

-Althea Hankins, MD, FACP, Director, Germantown Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA

“Every year, without any treatment at all, thousands stop suffering from depression.  Because it kills them.”

-Dr. Paul Greencard, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Medicine

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My Dear Readers,

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

In the past week, the world was shocked to hear of the suicides of two celebrities: fashion designer Kate Spade and food critic/chef Anthony Bourdain.  Following the deaths of Spade and Bourdain, the Washington Post reported that suicide is being viewed not only as a mental health problem, but also as a public health problem.  Specifically:

  • Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in the United States in 2016 –more than twice the number of homicides
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 34
  • In half the states, suicide among people ages 10 and older increased more than 30%.

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the US Center for Disease Control observes:

“The data is disturbing.  The widespread nature of the increase, in every state but one, really suggests that this is a national problem hitting most communities.”

Professional health care organizations are frustrated by the lack of action by governmental agencies.  Nadine Kaslow, a past president of the American Psychological Association, states:

“At what point does it become a crisis?  Suicide is a public health care crisis when you look at the numbers, and they keep going up.  It’s up everywhere.  And we know that the rates are actually higher that what’s reported.”

So, what is the impact of suicide in black communities across the country?  The American Association of Suicidology reports the following:

  • African-American women are more likely than African-American men to attempt suicide.
  • Firearms are the predominant method of suicide, followed by suffocation.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for blacks of all ages and the third leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 24.
  • The number of suicides for black boys ages 5-11 have doubled in the last 20 years.
  • Hanging deaths among black boys have nearly tripled while suicide among white youth has declined in the same category.

The research shows that black males and females have similar suicidal behavior to whites including:

  • Serious thoughts of suicide
  • Making suicide plans
  • Attempting suicide and
  • Needing medical attention for attempted suicide

In essences, if a tree falls in a forest, who hears it depends on which community it has fallen in.

In white communities, two well-known individuals committed suicide quietly and alone—yet, the world erupts in shock and devastation.  There are fears that copycat suicides will follow, like the 2,000 deaths in the four months following Robin Williams’ 2014 suicide.

It is not the case in the forest of the black community.  Eight black men per day commit suicide across the U.S., and all we hear is the weeping of family members and the deafening silence from the media.

Recently in Spokane, WA, a young black man, a loving father and beloved son, legally brought a firearm, went into the bathroom of his home, and shot himself to death.

Like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, this young man was alone when he took his life.  He too leaves behind grieving family and friends.  The difference is that unlike the focus on suicide prevention following the deaths of Spade and Bourdain, the silence continues in the black community… and life goes on.

Are black people disinterested in the welfare of their loved ones? If they do care, why do they respond like this?

In past writings, I have suggested that “why” questions invite answers that circle back on themselves and as a result, they do not lead us to a full understanding of the foundation of the issue.

A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead.  Specifically,

  • What has been the view of mental health and suicide in the black community?
  • What creates distance between black and white communities when it comes to working together on the issues of mental health and suicide?

What has been the view of mental health and suicide in the black community?

Stoicism- the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.

Historically and inter-generationally, African-Americans have created specific internalized methods such as “grin and bear it” and “quietly handling one’s business” to protect themselves during times of suffering. However, such methods create hurtful roles that African-Americans are expected to live up to, such as “the strong black woman,” and expecting men to “man up,” by not expressing emotion.

These methods serve only to reinforce the perception that mental health and suicide are “white people issues”.  It creates pressure to maintain “face and image” within the community, even as they suffer in silence.  Needless to say, these methods are psychologically destructive.

What separates the black community from the white community on the issues of mental health and suicide?

 “The truth is that I can’t go anywhere.  And let’s get real: With the whites in the white coats and it’s mostly us getting sent to the loony bin, I don’t have much of a choice.”

-Anonymous

Racism. Most African-Americans believe that racism and stereotypical beliefs held about African Americans prevents the establishment of trusting relationships with white healthcare professionals and the white community.

A recent study on racial empathy gaps found that people, including medical personnel, assumed that black people feel less pain than white people. The researchers concluded that people assume that “blacks feel less pain because they faced more hardships relative to whites.”

The lack of black professionals in the mental health field exacerbates the lack of trust.  Although African-Americans are 12% of the population, in the mental healthcare nationwide, they are only:

  • 2% of the psychiatrists,
  • 2% of psychologists, and
  • 4% of social workers.

The dearth of black healthcare professionals reinforces the misbelief that mental health and suicide are “white people issues.”

What Can Be Done Regarding Mental Health in The Black Community?

“Not everything that is faced can be changed.  But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

-James Baldwin, Author

Normalize Suicidal Ideation

There are times in life when we feel hopeless, helpless and overwhelmed with emotional pain.  Suicidal thoughts can result when a person experiences too much pain without having enough resources to cope.  The emotional pain never seems to stop, and it seems impossible to resolve when all other ideas and possible solutions to alleviate it have been exhausted.

For others, suicide may be a way of punishing others, or letting them know how much pain you are in.  However, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Given time and work, more and clearer options and alternatives can arise.

Those Thoughts Can and Will Pass

Depression, the basis of these suicidal thoughts, often feels permanent, even though the suicidal thoughts are temporary.  Depression can and does come and go.

Suicidal thoughts are a temporary crisis and are your psychological self’s attempt to stop emotional pain.

 Helping Those with Suicidal Thoughts

  • Ask the person if they are thinking about killing themselves. Ask directly, even though the question may seem awkward.
  • Let the person know that you are concerned about them and the situation they are in.
  • Find out if they have a specific plan, and if so, how far the person has gone to carry out the plan.
  • Let the person know the importance of getting help, and that treatment can really help make a difference.
  • Get the person professional help immediately. Contact a suicide prevention hotline, hospital emergency room, local crisis center or dial 911 for assistance.
  • Make an agreement with the person that they will not commit suicide.
  • Check in with the person to find out how they are doing.
  • Encourage the person to seek follow-up care.
  • Keep in mind that a quick recovery from suicidal thoughts and feelings may be the person’s attempt to deny, consciously, or unconsciously, the intensity of the depression.
  • Understand that suicidal thoughts and feelings may return.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t assume that the situation will take care of itself.
  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy.
  • Don’t act shocked or surprised at what the person may say about their thoughts and feelings.
  • Don’t challenge, dare, or use verbal shock statements.
  • Don’t argue or debate moral issues.
  • Don’t offer alcohol or drugs to cheer up the person

REMEMBER:

You are not responsible for the actions of others.  You can encourage a friend or loved one to get professional help, but you cannot stop someone who is intent on committing suicide. 

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

In my academic scholarship, forensic and clinical practices, I have found that African-Americans react and respond to 13 different types of traumas and 10 forms of racism daily. It is not surprising that suicidal thoughts arise in people who consistently withstand the intense psychological pressure from this constantly hostile external environment, and that anyone under such pressure may consider suicide to escape or relieve themselves of such intense emotional or psychological pain.

Suicidal thoughts, attempts and completion are not evidence of one’s weakness.  These are the reactions and responses to pressure that has brought the individual to the brink of termination.

We must seek to end the silence of mental health and the denial of suicide in the African-American community. In doing so, we embrace and normalize our pain so that we are no longer isolated and exposed to the pressure that our environment visits upon us.

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“When truth is replaced by silence, the silence becomes a lie.”

-Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Russian Poet

“Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 Until the next time.  Remaining…In Our Corner.

 

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We Live In Interesting Times: White Fear and Black Skin

“It is extremely unsafe to send our boys to the home of any family that we don’t know in this predominantly white neighborhood.”

-Sean Carter, writing in a viral Facebook post about why he refused to allow his adolescent sons to re-deliver a package that was erroneously delivered to his home

“You’ve got to live your life, but when you are living your life, you’re cognizant of the fact that things you do that other people might do, non-people of color might do, could end up differently.  At the end of the day, when I take the suit off, I’m still a black man underneath.  And it’s a daily reality.”

-Darren Martin, former Obama aide, accused of being armed and burglarizing the apartment he just moved into

“They called it, they called it right.  We’re doing our job.  If you done nothing wrong, you’re good to go.”

-Anonymous Police Officer

“I had become a nobody, a thing without meaning or purpose.  I am invisible.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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My Dear Readers,

There is a Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times.”  Although it is generally taken positively, it is actually a curse, not a proverb.  Correctly translated, it means:

 “May you experience much disorder and trouble in your life.”

This “curse” is analogous to the depth of psychological trauma that marginalized people have endured.  In recent blog postings, I have focused on conceptualizing the psychological impact of micro-aggressions upon black and African people from white and European people in America.

A micro-aggression is a statement, action, or incident regarded as an indirect, subtle, or unintentional discriminatory act against members of a racial or ethnic minority group. Micro-aggressions are everyday verbal, non-verbal, and environmental slights, snubs or insults that communicate negative or hostile messages to marginalized people.

A macro-aggression is open aggression towards racial and ethnic minorities on a larger scale.  Unlike micro-aggression, which is covert, macro-aggression is overt physical violence towards those of a different, race or culture.

This week, our focus will be on bringing into understanding macro-aggressions and in doing so, expanding our definition of “A Starbucks Moment,” named after the April 2018 incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks store where a white manager contacted police to have two black men removed from the premises.  No charges were filed, and the two men were eventually released, but the incident was still publicly humiliating and psychologically traumatic for the two individuals involved.  It has also struck fear within the psychological self of black men for themselves and the black community in general.

Starbucks Moments occur in many aspects of commercial, professional, societal and community aspects of American life.  These incidents demonstrate the powerlessness of the black community as a group, and clearly outlines the danger to black people of any white person’s sudden fear, desire, or whim to seek the removal of a black person from public premises.  These incidents are more of a statement about how black people are viewed by white people in this country.

There are some historical and inter-generational themes deriving from slavery, segregation and domestic terrorism that echo in the interactions between both groups.  These themes involve:

  • Power versus the lack of power
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship
  • Dominance versus non-dominance
  • Privilege versus lacking privilege
  • View & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement

These underlying themes illustrate the difference between a micro-aggression and a Starbucks Moment, which is a macro-aggression.

The willingness of white people to utilize the police to relieve their discomfort around black people becomes a covert way of gentrifying and removal of black bodies from spaces in which they would otherwise be welcome. It truly is aggression on a larger scale—a macro-aggression. It is the willingness of whites to utilize physical and possibly deadly force to effect the removal of the black person from the vicinity.

This is intensified by the willingness of white individuals to allege that the black person is engaged in criminal activity or may be armed and dangerous when it is not true.   In doing so, the responding police officers arrive on the scene prepared and expecting to use physical violence or deadly force to effect the removal.

Consider the following questions:

  • What would possess a white person to see a black person and from that observation have an emotional reaction? Answer: SHOCK
  • What would cause a white individual to seek out protection from the police? Answer: FEAR
  • What would cause a white person to be deceitful and manipulate the police to believe that the black man is armed and dangerous? Answer: TERROR

The immediate reaction of shock, fear and terror is an indication that the white person is also psychologically impacted when faced with their own internalized perceptions. This happened to myself and a patient of mine recently in my office building.

As my patient and I were walking down the hallway, passing the restrooms, a young white female child comes running out the restroom, promptly followed by her father.  The father sees us, two black men, in the hallway, is startled, and moves protectively towards his daughter. He cautiously leaves the area.  In his body language, I observe the following:

  • Shock– There is two black men in this professional building. They clearly do not belong here.
  • Fear-There is two of them and only one of me.
  • Terror-They are going to rape and kill my daughter.

My patient and I nodded to each other.  We were both keenly aware of and psychologically impacted by the father’s reaction.  Through no fault of our own, we were subjected to the unwitting assumptions and fears of the white man in the hallway, and as a result, we were all at risk of that Starbucks Moment—the police being called on us for simply being the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Interestingly, the only person not impacted psychologically was the little girl herself, who went prancing along, singing in the hallway, oblivious to the emotional turmoil of the adults around her.  However, it is only a matter of time before she will learn the fear that overtook her father in that moment, and she will choose how she will react in her adult life.

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Concluding Words Dr. Kane

I am continuing to evolve the Starbucks Moment as a concept.  In its current incarnation:

A Starbucks Moment can occur when a white person, due to emotional reactions possibly due to shock, fear, terror, feeling threatened, may use deceit or manipulation; for a minor reason or infraction, utilizes the police to seek the investigation, removal and/or arrest of a black person from a space that they would otherwise have every right to occupy.

 One of my patients recently shared her experience and humiliation as four police officers questioned her in a grocery store parking lot near her home in a predominantly white community.   An unknown accuser observed her and contacted the police.

White fear of black skins is an inherently dangerous form of racism.  Just as it combines micro-aggressions   (statements, actions, or incidents) with macro-aggressions (threat of physical violence), it also combines modern racism (beliefs and attitudes) with aversive racism (engaging in crazy-making interactions with African-Americans).

Recent examples of crazy-making incidents include a white woman calling the police on a black family for BBQing on Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA , or a Black Canadian was stopped and questioned by the police as he was sitting in his car, reading.  A white woman had called in stating he had been acting “suspiciously.”

There is the reality that the majority of black people are psychologically impacted by these events in the following ways:

  1. Those who have been psychologically impacted by racially profiled resulting in police contact;
  2. Those waiting with uncertainty and without notice to be racially profiled and psychologically impacted
  3. Those preparing themselves for the next opportunity of racial profiling by a white accuser resulting in unwanted contact with law enforcement.

When a black individual is impacted by white fear, what can they do to prevent the ongoing actions resulting in being questioned by the police?

“Life is a series of choices…. none of which are new. The oldest is choosing to be a victim or choosing not to.”

-The Accountant (2016)

To provide a clear and adequate answer it is important to understand how Starbucks Moments differ from other forms of macro-aggressions. This question can be answered in several parts:

  • Understanding and contextualizing the difference between fear and white fear.
  • Focusing on ownership and responsibility rather than blame and fault regarding one’s emotions
  • The willingness of the person being psychologically impacted to be proactive rather than reactive

 

Fear is an emotion. White fear is a response.

Fear is an emotion to be normalized, not rejected.  It is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  White fear of black skin is abnormal as it is an unreasonable fear based upon racist beliefs, stereotypes and personally derived perceptions.

 

Conceptualizing ownership and responsibility of one’s emotion versus than blame and fault.

White fear is a reaction without ownership. Although the person denies being racist, such feelings are deeply ingrained and because of its covert and hidden nature, the blame and fault is placed on the victim’s blackness.  If that black person had only not been in the identified place or not given the white person the perception that they were acting suspiciously, calling the police would not have been necessary. The problem with this is that no black person can control the perception of a white person who believes they are in the wrong place.

 Willingness of the person being psychologically impacted to be proactive rather than reactive. 

“They (the police) can’t be here for us.”

-Rashon Nelson & Donte Robinson, prior to their arrest at a Philadelphia Starbucks

 White fear of black skin is a powerful mechanism. Black people who find themselves impacted by these situations must want to acknowledge that they do not have the power to prevent the modern/aversive racist from calling upon law enforcement for community policing, but they are able to focus on what to do when the police arrive.

Combining the techniques of ABC (advocacy, balance and calmness) and the Five R’s of RELIEF (respite, reaction, reflection, response and reevaluation) can help in these situations. Specifically:

  • Respite-become your own advocate. Step away from the event psychologically. Inhale and exhale deeply.
  • Reactions-Take ownership of your reactions. Release your personal space to the responding police officers. Prepare yourself psychologically to be questioned, physically searched and the possibility of being detained and arrested.
  • Reflection-Bring balance to what you are thinking and feeling. Bring calmness to your internal environment.
  • Response-Maintain calmness in speech and tone. Be present, observant, and silent when appropriate.
  • Re-evaluate– Collect your thoughts, feelings and observations. Record and remember as much as you can so you can recount the incident, step by step.

I have been asked how black people fight white fear.  The answer is that it is not our fight.  We must want to empower ourselves to respond to white fear.  In that empowered response, we learn to embrace those who fear us.  Hopefully one day, white people will be able to accept instead of continuing to deny their racism.  In doing so they can begin the movement towards truly transforming America into the great diverse nation it was intended to be.

“Here is what it is.  They don’t like you.  They don’t dislike you.  They are afraid of you.  You’re different.   Sooner or later difference scares people.”

-The Accountant (2016)

“Respond; don’t react.  Reactions tend to be emotional, immediate, intense and often fueled by fear or anger.  Reactions create trouble for ourselves and the people around us because they are reflexive, rather than well thought out.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until We Speak Again…I am…The Visible Man.

The Visible Man: The Toll of Invisibility

“During the second conversation, we asked members to leave per our policy noted on the scorecard, voices were raised, and the police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”

-Jordan Chronister, Co-Owner, of Grand View Golf Course, York County, PA

“I felt we were discriminated against. It was a horrific experience.”

Myneca Ojo, golfer speaking to the York Daily Record

“We did not do anything wrong and were soon asked to leave by five police officers”

-Tshyrad Oates, removed from a LA Fitness location in New Jersey

“The front-desk employee was confused and thought the member was a guest because she was not working when this member checked in the first time. Regretfully, from there our staff unnecessarily escalated the situation and called the police rather than work through it.”

-Jil Greuling, Executive Vice President of Operations for Fitness International

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My Dear Readers,

It is essential to understand that racism comes from a set of core values and beliefs that one group holds against another group. In the last blog, I explored the broad categories of attitudinal and behavioral racism. I also spoke openly about the impact of trauma created by forms of modern and aversive racism and discussed the concepts of primary and secondary group status.

In theory, all citizens of the United States are equal. However, the lived reality of people of color, particularly African-Americans, is different. Overtly racist practices and systems that supported white supremacy—the theory that whites or Euro-Americans are superior simply because of their skin color have become unpopular, but covert and passive-aggressive forms of bigotry have come to the forefront of society in new ways recently.

The example in the last blog of the two black men in the Starbucks waiting for their friend is a perfect example of this new covert style of micro-aggression that can have severe psychological impacts in the lives of African-American people. I call this having a Starbucks Moment.

A Starbucks Moment is when a white person, for a minor reason or infraction, utilizes the police to seek the investigation, removal and/or arrest of a black person from a space that they would otherwise have every right to occupy.

There are some historical and intergenerational themes that echo in these interactions that contribute to making these Starbucks Moments just as harmful to both the white and the black person involved:

  • Power versus the lack of power
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship
  • Dominance versus non-dominance
  • Privilege versus lacking privilege
  • View & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement

 

In addition to the forms of racism previously mentioned, the primary group utilizes three forms of racism to maintain superiority and control over the secondary group:

  • Individual Racism involves discrimination towards people of color. It is the belief that one’s own race is superior. It is the reasoning for a person’s behavior that maintains distance and separation from others based on perceived superior and inferior positions, but is often to the detriment of the person who considers themselves superior.
  • Institutional Racism-restricts people of color from having choices, rights, and mobility. It is the utilization of as well as the manipulation of legitimate institutions to maintain the illusion of superiority and the reality of separation from an integrated society with the intent of maintaining an advantage over others.

 

  • Cultural Racism-is a combination of both individual racism and institutional racism in that it propagates the belief that one race’s cultural heritage and history is superior over another’s. This justifies the belief that there can be no improvement or change in the status of the “inferior” group, therefore ensuring the continued perceived superiority of the “superior” group.

 

From Disagreement to Disturbance

Disagreements and disputes are inevitable between humans, and in a free society such as ours, they are bound to happen. Disagreements can be had in a spirit of friendliness, and without serious injury to the relationship, and therefore, creating a healthy environment for people to achieve a reasonable settlement to the dispute.

Recently, a disagreement is seen more as an indicator of a person’s personality and temperament—thus, any show of passion or emotion is immediately seen as a disturbance, warranting the presence of police to “keep the peace.”  In some cases, however, the disturbance is wholly made up,  and the police are now manipulated to punish the other party by removing them from the location—and given the tendency of police to use additional force with black people, the action of calling the police can become an assault via law enforcement as punishment for not complying with the first person’s opinion.

Over the past two months, there have been more of these incidents across the country.  Known incidents include the following:

  • (4.18.18) Secaucus NJ, -LA Fitness employee called police under mistaken belief that two African-American men had not paid membership fees. Upon finding that this was untrue, the police forced them to leave anyway without providing a reason.
  • (4.24.18) Grand View Golf Course, York County, PA –Five African-American women were “playing too slowly” and police were called because they refused to leave upon demand of the course owners.
  • (4.30.18) Rialto, CA–A woman called 911 about burglars at her neighbor’s house. The alleged burglars were three black women with their suitcases checking out of the house they had rented as an Airbnb. As they were leaving, they were greeted by six police officers and a helicopter.
  • (5.1.18) New York City, NY– Apartment dweller calls police on “Armed African-American Man” burglarizing a nearby apartment. Police find that the African-American man, a former Obama aide and now special assistant to commissioner for the New York City Department of Social Services, was moving into his new apartment and was unarmed.
  • (5.3.18) Charlotte NC –LA Fitness manager calls police on black male who “fit the profile” of a person breaking into lockers. The person was surrounded by four police officers, seized, taken to the police station and detained. They later discovered they had the wrong guy…it was another black person with a long criminal record and no relation to the person who was arrested.
  • (5.8.18), St. Louis MO– Nordstrom Rack employee calls the police on three African-American young males that he suspects of shoplifting; they were high school students and one college coed shopping for their prom outfits. Nordstrom Rack CEO flies to St. Louis to apologize for the incident in person.
  • (5.9.18) Yale University– New Haven CT, White graduate student calls police on black female observed sleeping in the common dorm area. The black woman was also a graduate student and was taking a nap in the dorm’s common area.
  • (5.10.18) Warsaw, NC— following a complaint by a black male regarding poor customer service Waffle House the employee calls police. The incident results in the police pushing the on tuxedo wearing male against the plate-glass window, choking him and slamming him into the ground.

 

The Toll of Invisibility: Why Would They Lie? 

Recently, while seeking to meet with a white colleague who lived in a predominantly white community, I arrived a few minutes early and waited for the arranged time.  My colleague arrived as scheduled and while we were meeting, four police officers came to the home, demanding to see my identification.  They had been told that a suspicious and possibly armed black man was seen surveilling the house.

During the interrogation, one of the police officers asked, “Why would the person lie?”  It was only after the repeated assurance of my colleague, a fellow mental health therapist, that the police were convinced that I was not a threat and I was allowed to remain in my friend’s home. 

These are some of the emotional and psychological reactions that surfaced for me:

  • Power-A person holding primary group status decided that my presence was not wanted in this community
  • My status as a secondary citizen had been confirmed by the interrogation and demand for identification
  • Dominance was established in the belief that there was no reason for my unknown accuser “to lie’
  • Privilege– based on the word of my white colleague and member holding primary group status, I was allowed to remain.
  • View & Interconnection-My unknown accuser was receiving excellent community service whereas I was receiving suspicion, misdirected questioning and intimidation.

 At the end of the day, this was psychological trauma for me.

The person notifying the police sought:

  • My removal from the environment
  • Intentionally provided the impression that I was armed and dangerous
  • Placed my life in jeopardy of serious injury or death

Sought to achieve a solution to disagreeing with my presence in the neighborhood by calling the police to remove me, forcibly, if needed.  

Like many black people, I have made the decision that in the future, I will meet white friends and colleagues in public accommodations such as restaurants, cafes or coffeehouses located in racially diverse or other identifiably safe environments for people like me—people of color.  However I still am reminded that safety and security is only a perception, and the next Starbucks Moment can be just one moment away.

 

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

 The Protection Perception

“They called it, they called it right.  We’re doing our job, “an officer said.  “If you do nothing wrong, you’re good to go.”

Law Enforcement-Black or African-American

“I had become a no body, a thing without meaning or purpose. I am invisible.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 On 04.13.18 in Rochester Hills, MI, a 14-year-old African-American boy, having missed the school bus, was shot at after knocking on a door seeking directions to the school.  The adolescent was unhurt.  The shooter was arrested and criminally charged.  Case closed? No.

Events like this make black people particularly concerned about their safety and welfare, and particularly that of black children.  As a result, black parents take extreme safety precautions and advise their children to do so as well.

One black father wrote on Facebook that he refuses to allow his adolescent sons to drop off a package that was misdelivered to his home to a neighbor’s home. He asks that the delivery service return and pick up the package and deliver it correctly, stating that:

“It is extremely unsafe to send our boys to the home of any family that we don’t know in this predominantly white neighborhood.”

Racial profiling and the utilization of law enforcement to effect the removal of undesirables remain a slippery slope that furthers the psychological wounding between the two groups.  White people see these events as isolated, and seek to punish the individuals directly responsible, where black people see these events as simply symptoms of deeper societal issues that white people seem to either be oblivious to or choose to willfully ignore.

St. Louis, MO NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt, following the Nordstrom Rack incident observes:

“These kids, they’re owed an apology, but at the end of the day, it goes down to what can we do to keep this from happening to folks.  After all of this was said and done, Nordstrom cannot fix society on its own as it relates to these stereotypes.”

At the end of the day, we are left with the statement of Darren Martin, the former Obama aide, accused of burglarizing his own apartment:

“You’ve got to live your life, but when you’re living your life, you’re cognizant of the fact that things you do that other people might do, non-people of color might do, could end up differently.  At the end of the day when I take the suit off, I’m still a black man underneath.  And it’s a daily reality.”

—————

“I am an invisible man. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination– indeed, everything and anything except me.”

–Ralph Ellison, “The Invisible Man” (1947)

Until We Speak Again…I am…The Visible Man.

The Visible Man: Having A Starbucks Moment

“They can’t be here for us.”

-Rashon Nelson & Donte Robinson, prior to their arrest at a Philadelphia Starbucks

“The police officers did absolutely nothing wrong.”

-Richard Ross, Philadelphia Police Commissioner

“Anytime I’m encountered by cops, I can honestly say it’s a thought that runs through my mind.  You never know what’s going to happen.”

-Rashon Nelson (speaking to AP News about fearing for his life)

“Players who have not followed the rules, specifically pace of play, have voluntarily left at our request as our scorecard states.  In this instance, the members refused so we called police to ensure an amicable result.

During the second conversation, we asked members to leave per our policy noted on the scorecard, voices were raised, and the police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”

-Jordan Chronister, Co-Owner, Grand View Golf Course York County, PA

 

My Dear Readers,

After five years of grieving the loss of my beloved spouse Linda, I am in Paris, France celebrating the year 2018 as my breakout year, the year I emerge from darkness into the bright shining light that the world has to offer.

As I depart the country, I leave behind the recent incidents of psychological devastation impacting African-American citizens. In a previous writing, I had suggested that it was time to begin a conversation regarding the impact of whites calling upon the police to intervene, eject or arrest African-Americans for believed slights or perceptions.

One of my readers, Mike Willbur MS LMHC, a colleague in the mental health profession, responded to me, suggesting that fear is the element and wanting to know where do we start.  I was intrigued and conflicted by the question.

How do we get all Americans, regardless of race, to understand the impact of fear and traumatization? How do I help to bring understanding without intellectualizing this major issue that impacts the lives of millions of people, both white and black on a daily basis? 

I choose to respond to the element of fear by seeking to further define the themes that create fear and lead to these traumatic moments.

 

What Is A “Starbucks Moment?

This occurs when a white person, for a minor reason or infraction, utilizes the police to seek the investigation, removal, and/or arrest of a black person.  This is done under the premise of community policing.

There are five themes that coincide to create the occurrence of “Having a Starbucks Moment”

  • Power versus the lack of power
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship.
  • Dominant group versus non-dominant group.
  • Privileged versus lacking privileged.
  • Views & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement

There was the now widely known incident at the Starbucks store in Philadelphia in which two African-American men were arrested while waiting for a colleague to conduct a business meeting.

There has been another incident occurring in Pennsylvania in which white golf course owners called the police to remove five African-American women members of their club because they were “playing too slowly.” Unlike the Philadelphia Starbucks, the police, upon arriving at the scene and conducting interviews, decided that the matter was not one that warranted police intervention.

The white owners of the golf course justified their actions by declaring that the five black women, in playing slowly, had failed to abide by the course’s rules and policies.  They added that they had offered full refunds, but the group refused to leave, so the police were called in to remove them.

If an arrest had been made, the following would had been the result:

  • The five black women would have been handcuffed, placed in a police vehicle, taken to jail, fingerprinted and had mug shots taken.
  • Those fingerprints and mug shots would had become a permanent record in the national computer database, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
  • Resulting in the ability to track their movements nationally and internationally through the International Crime Police Commission (INTERPOL)

The five themes leading to a “Having a Starbucks Moment is detailed in the following are detailed in the following:

  • The Power versus the Lack of Power.
  1. White Americans have power or potential access to power.
  2. Black Americans either lack power/lack access to power or are risked of being stripped of the power granted to them by those in power.
  • Primary citizenship versus secondary citizenship.
  1. Primary citizenship consists of individuals of all genders; are of the group holding power are racially white, and are identified ethnically and culturally as Euro-Americans. Primary citizenship is a status passed on between generations.
  2.  Secondary citizenship consists of individuals of all genders; are of the group lacking power; are racially black and are identified ethically lacking power are racially black, ethnically/culturally as African-American. Secondary citizenship is a status passed on through the generations. 
  • Dominant group versus non-dominant group.
  1. White Euro-Americans have dominant group status, a status passed on through the generations.
  2. Black African-American group has non-dominant status, a status passed on through the generations.
  • Privileged versus lacking privilege.
  1. White Euro-Americans are viewed with having privileged status; a status that is often fervently denied by the individuals within that group.
  2. Black African-Americans have non-privileged status and fervently seek having such privilege, which is either denied or provided on a selected basis.
  • Views & Interconnection of Policing & Law Enforcement
  1. White Euro-Americans view the police positively and connect with them in “community policing,” which is an understanding that is passed on through the generations.
  2. Black African-Americans view the police with suspicion and connect with them in “enforcing the law,” which is an understanding that is passed on through the generations.

 

I am not a Racist, but what if I Walked like a Duck, and Quacked like a Duck?

In taking part of this conversation, white or Euro-Americans must seek to hold themselves for actions and behaviors, whether conscious or unconscious, that are racist in nature and serve to denigrate black or African-Americans.   Racism can be divided into two broad categories, attitudinal and behavioral.

In attitudinal racism, individuals or groups are denigrated because of shared characteristics.  Behavioral racism can be any act by an individual or institution that denies free and equal treatment to a person or person because of shared characteristics or ethnic group membership.  The outcome of either can result in physical or psychological stressors producing physical or psychological responses that over time can influence health outcomes of those who are impacted.

The white or Euro-American may staunchly deny or be unable to perceive their actions towards blacks or African-Americans as racist.  Those holding such beliefs may be engaging in patterns of behaviors defined as modern racism or aversive racism.

In modern racism, individuals do not define their beliefs and attitudes as racist but rather their beliefs are based on “empirical” evidence, such as news accounts, social media, movies, or television. Modern racism is insidious because those who practice this deny racist attitudes in a defensive manner, but engage in racist actions that they justify based on their supposed evidence, which usually takes the form of anecdotes or personally- based beliefs.

Aversive racism, another form of insidious racism, is a set of abstract moral assertions and beliefs impacting the lives of African-Americans.  Specifically, the aversive racist says, “I’m not a racist, but…” and may engage in crazy-making interactions with African-Americans by overtly denying racist intent while acting in ways that feel racist to their target.  Due to the overt denial of racist intent, the individual(s) targeted who appraises the behavior as racist may be labeled as “over-reactive” or paranoid” resulting from the interaction, leading to further marginalization.

The incident resulting at the Starbucks appears to be one of modern racism.  There is the indication that the white or Euro-American manager for whatever reasoning did not want the black or African-American men in “her” place of business and notified the police, resulting in their arrest and removal. The flip side of this incident would have the modern racist declaring, “Well, if only they would have left, or not come in at all, the arrest would not had been necessary.”

The golf course incident is a clear example of aversive racism.  The declarations of the co-owner were simply “we allowed them in to our establishment.  They failed to obey by the rules of the club.  We asked them to leave. They refused.  The police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”

 

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

“To err is human… In some cases there is no room for error. None.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane

 We may breathe the same air but it still appears that blacks (or African-Americans) and whites (or Euro-Americans) live on two on two separate planets.   I agree with my colleague Mike Willbur MS LMHC that fear is the element.  It is my opinion that this is where we must start.

Fear is a factor deeply ingrained in both groups.  I am not a white or Euro-American.  As a black male and African-American, I acknowledge the fear that lives within me on a daily basis regarding the fact that any interaction with a white person can abruptly change the course of my life.

Several days prior to leaving for Paris, I had my own Starbucks moment at a local Starbucks in Seattle.  The incident only lasted several minutes, but it so easily could have ended badly and changed the course of my life forever.

I was in line waiting when a white woman who was in a hurry jumped ahead of me and sought to get her order in.  The white Starbucks employee took notice of what had happened and began to assist her, ignoring me.

I am a 260 dark skinned African-American male, and was one of now two people in line, the other being the white woman who demanded to be waited on. Am I now invisible?

Many thoughts went through my mind:

  • Should I say something in a polite way to the interloper and the Starbucks employee?
  • If I do, will I be perceived as being threatening by either of these women?
  • Will the Starbucks employee or the interloper call the police?

When the police arrive, the bottom line is this:

It is my word versus the word of two white women.

Here are the facts of my life:

  • I have earned a doctorate and two master’s degrees. I am internationally trained in clinical traumatology.
  • I have served on three separate clinical faculties in one of the top ten research universities in the United States.
  • I have published material which is taught in graduate schools and utilized within the US Veteran Affairs healthcare system.
  • I have served as a clinical consultant to the Black Congressional Caucus Veteran Braintrust.
  • I am a founding member of the Editorial Board for a peer reviewed journal.
  • I currently served the legal and judicial system as a forensic evaluator and expert witness on trauma related issues.

This is the reality in my life:

  • I have never been arrested, fingerprinted or jailed.
  • I am a honorably discharged veteran of military service.
  • I am the son of a police officer.
  • I am an African-American residing in a country in which there are those who either fear me or are threatened by me simply because of the color of my skin.

What could happen to me in this situation:

  • I am going to be arrested, taken to jail, fingerprinted and mug shots taken.
  • I am going to have to incur the expenses of hiring an attorney to respond to possible legal charges.
  • I am going to have a permanent arrest record thus allowing law enforcement to track my movements nationally and internationally .
  • I would have been publicly humiliated and traumatized by the experience thereby bearing psychological wounds for the rest of my life.

What I Did:

  • I chose to not speak to the interloper.
  • I brought the matter to the attention of the Starbucks employee.

The Response:

  • The employee response was “I’m sorry…what can I get you?”
  • A telephone call later to the store manager, who said, “I will look into the matter.”
  • A written correspondence to the district manager- no response as of today.

I made the best decision of a very difficult and humiliating incident.  There was no police intervention, but there was no amicable resolution either.  And, I remained alive and free and made it to Paris, the City of Light, where I am currently enjoying a well-deserved vacation before returning to respond to more Starbucks Moments!

 

The Mask

By Maya Angelou

We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes.
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts…
We smile and mouth the myriad subtleties.
Why should the world think otherwise
In counting all our tears and sighs.
Nay let them only see us while
We wear the mask.

 

Adieu from Paris!

Until we speak again…I am … The Visible Man.

The Visible Man: Every Breath You Take

“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.”

-The Police, Every Breath You Take

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

———————–

My Dear Readers,

I write to you during difficult and tense times in African-American communities and other communities of color throughout the United States arising from a feeling of being unprotected in their own country.

In 1986, social psychologists created the Terror Management Theory.  It describes a basic psychological conflict that results from the friction between the human self-preservation instinct and the rational understanding that death is inevitable and, in some cases, unpredictable.

Although social psychologists may pride themselves in naming the phenomena, African-Americans have been responding to terror management throughout the 246 years of slavery and the following 105 years of state-sanctioned terrorism and segregation, all the way to the more modern and subtle, but still insidious, experiences of police brutality and the prison industrial complex.

As explained under the Terror Management Theory, the conflict produces terror, and the terror is then managed by embracing cultural values or symbolic systems that act to provide the impacted life with enduring meaning and value.  For many diverse and under-served populations, embracing cultural values are critical to developing self-respect and self-esteem.

Below is the story of an individual who reclaimed his life by reclaiming his self-esteem and his self-respect.

—————————-

Dear Visible Man,

I’m at my limit. The police, once again, followed me as I was returning home from a long day of working as a Metro Transit bus driver.

I had my two sons in the car; I had just picked them up from school.  At one point, the police cruiser was next to me and then in seconds, he was behind me.  I immediately felt tension in my stomach.  My heart was beating fast. I became scared at the possibilities of what could happen.

As the police cruiser followed, another cruiser joined in behind.  My sons noticed their movements as well.  It was an unreal feeling.  One moment my sons were cutting up, laughing and being playful as adolescents are, then the next moment there is dead silence and a chill in the car.

I felt that my sons were in danger.  My youngest was crying and I struggled to stay calm and get them to focus on me and not the cruisers.  I informed them that we were about to be pulled over and I told them how I wanted them to behave: specifically, no quick or jerky movements.

Suddenly, the lead cruiser pulled slowly next to us, the police officer looked over us and the car, and then both cruisers turned off in the opposite direction.  The joyful mood that we had was gone.   My eldest was angry and shouting, but he became more upset when he realized that his younger brother had urinated on himself.

Upon arriving home, both boys went straight to their bedrooms. They didn’t want to talk about it, and honestly, neither did I. I felt so ashamed and powerless to protect my children.

My wife attempted to talk to us about it, but I had nothing to say. I felt that I had failed my sons as their father.  I felt as if I was no longer a man in their eyes.

When I mentioned the incident to my crew at work the following day, the inability of my white co-workers to accept my experience shocked me. One indicated that it was not a problem because the police never stopped me. He saw my response as an overreaction. Another said that the police get behind him all the time and he doesn’t think about it.

Recently, my eldest showed me a quote from the book Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It said:

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.  When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”

My eldest son tells me that the experience made him feel invisible.  He is frustrated and now wants to bow out of attending college next year. My youngest son plays AAU basketball.  Now they want to quit their activities and hang out with their friends.

Both are good students and yet their grades are now slipping. None of my sons have ever been in trouble.  They attend church and bible study regularly.  Now they aren’t interested. I feel that I have failed them as their father.

I have decided that if the police follow me again in the future, I am going to pull over and confront them.  My wife strongly disagrees with me, but I am a man and self-respect and the respect of my sons are important to me.

As a strong black man, I know that I will find agreement with you on the issue of respect.

–Profiled No More,  Seattle WA

——————————–

My Dear Sir,

I cannot imagine the psychological pain you are going through during this difficult time.  However, I cannot support you confronting a police officer that you may suspect of racial profiling in order to appease your sense of self-respect. 

Stopping and confronting a police officer while he is carrying out his legal duties, even if you suspect him of racial profiling is not courageous. It is foolhardy, placing oneself at risk of arrest, injury and possible death.

Instead I suggest that you utilize the Five R’s of RELIEF.  Specifically,

  • Respite-take a breath and emotionally step away from the traumatic event
  • Reaction-accept ownership of your feelings of anger, shame, and humiliation
  • Reflection-bring balance to yourself by processing your feelings and thoughts
  • Response-having owned your reactions, now communicate the appropriate response to the external environment
  • Reevaluate-finally, be willing to reconsider, review and revise the actions taken.

As you initiate this process, resist the emotional urge to ask questions in the “why” format.  Such questions provide responses that circle back to themselves, and as a result, they do not bring us full understanding of the foundation of the issue being questioned.  A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead:

  • What did I do to protect my sons from danger?
  • What could I have done to reduce the traumatization of my children?
  • What can explain the responses of my coworkers?
  • What can I do to prevent the reoccurrence of the same experience?

 

What did I do to protect my sons from danger?

Your actions indicated following the ABC model, which is Advocacy, Balance, and Calmness. Specifically:

  • Advocacy-you got your sons’ attention, warning them of the potential danger ahead,
  • Balance– you were afraid, but you balanced those feelings with the thoughts around how to behave to leave that counter unharmed, and,
  • Calmness-during the time in which the police cruisers followed and did the slow drive by, you maintained tranquility in your external world.

Under such difficult circumstances you may have felt helpless, but your actions actually empowered you and resulted in your ability to get your children home safely.

 

What could I have done to stop or reduce the traumatization of my children?

You cannot protect your children from their feelings, which may include traumatization.  Calmly bring the subject up with them. As you are protective of your children, your children may seek to be protective of you by not wanting to share their experiences in fear of creating “bad feelings for Dad.”

However, “bad feelings,” or trauma, is already settling within the psychological self of you and your boys.  You can assist your children in processing this experience by sharing the impact the incident had on you, thereby modeling and encouraging similar behavior and actions. Seek counseling or therapeutic intervention if and when necessary.

Remember–  if you shut down or become silent, your actions become the “unconscious” model for your children when responding to situations like this in the future.

 

What can explain the responses of my white coworkers?

In speaking to your white coworkers, you are attempting to obtain understanding and compassion regarding an experience that is completely outside the world in which they live. They may live in a world where they receive community policing and therefore view the police as “protectors”.

Assuming that this is their reality, the experience you had is a completely  “abnormal” experience for them, even though it is an uncomfortably “normal’ experience for you. There is a saying: “You can’t understand someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes”.  Clearly, the brands or types of shoes you wear are unknown to your white colleagues.

—————————————————-

Concluding Words—Dr. Kane

What can I do in order to prevent this happening again?

Nothing.   You do not control what lies deep within the psychological self of another person. Governmental legislation, city ordinances and police departmental directives against racial profiling may influence the decision making of officers on the street, but those officers have power, and that training may not be enough to compel them to deter the racism and/or stereotypes that lies deep within their belief system, if it is there.

You lack the power to prevent incidents of racial profiling by the police from happening to anyone. The traumatic incident that impacted you and your sons occurred because a police officer with the lens of racial profiling observed three black males in your vehicle.  It was his “truth” that a vehicle of three black males could only be engaging in “bad things”.

Following procedure of responding to “dangerous situations” a police officer with the lens of racial profiling called for backup with the intent of making a “vehicle stop.”  It was only after the police officer with the lens of racial profiling did the slow drive by and looked through your window that he was able to remove his lens of racial profiling and see the real truth that a man and two children were in the car.

The police officer with the lens of racial profiling now removed having successfully confirmed no criminal activity, is now able to return to his regular patrol duties. It may be the perspective of not only the police officer, but of your white co-workers as well that since there wasn’t a stop, and there was no harm inflicted on you or your children, that no harm was done.  However, this perspective fails to take into account the impact that the psychological trauma has on you and your family and its status as a microaggression in the form of racial profiling.

DO NOT confront the police in the streets.  You will not win.  The police will not allow you to win.  The power that they have is comprised of the authority granted by a fearful society that is historically accustomed to turning a “blind eye” when it comes to control and law enforcement of black men.

Remember that the police can do no more than the society that commissions them to do.  The police may have power, but individual black people can be empowered in dealing with them if they choose to be.

When faced with such situations, trauma can be impacted or reduced by utilizing the clinical tools of

  • Five Rs of RELIEF
  • ABCs — Advocacy, Balance & Calmness
  • Empowerment– document…document and document. Report police misconduct to the department’s internal affairs unit.

Remember, your empowerment can never be taken from you …unused, you merely are giving it away.

“Play the game, but don’t believe in it- that much you owe yourself…

Play the game, but raise the ante.

Learn how it operates, learn how you operate.”

-Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

“Life is a marathon

After you learn the game

Learn to run the race,

Focus on crossing the finish line

Run smarter, not harder.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until we speak again…I am…The Visible Man

Bobbi’s Saga: The Trap Of Gratitude

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

-Chinese proverb

“If you refuse to look into the darkness of your past, your future will never become bright.”

-Anonymous

“My empowerment is not about him; it’s about me.

I am not blame nor is the shame mine to own.

It is simply my responsibility to make this life

About… Self. “

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

—————————————–

My Dear Readers,

We return to Bobbi’s Saga as she continues her journey of self-discovery and struggles with the concept of gratitude in the achievement of her work with her psychological self.

Bobbi in her own words…

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

It is typical for Dr. Kane to conclude our therapy sessions with the question “Who gets the credit for your work”?  I always say, “We do.”  Expecting me to say “I do” is like asking me to call Dr. Kane by his first name, Micheal.  

I always think about that question for a while.  If I could have done this by myself, I would have.  If I could have reduced or lightened the guilt and shame, I would have.  There are so many things I have learned from Dr. Kane, like:

  • The flashbacks will never completely go away
  • I am not at fault or blame for the sexual assaults
  • The shame and guilt are not mine to bear.
  • Suicidal thoughts may come and go.

It is because of Dr. Kane that I have moved towards knowing that:

  • I should love myself
  • I should put myself first or consider what I want.
  • I have the right to say no. I used to believe I did not have that right.

I feel I will be able say “I do” to Dr. Kane’s question when my self-esteem and my self-image increase.  I have lived not believing that I had any worth at all!  When I am told positive things about myself, I have a hard time believing and accepting the compliments.  It is easier for me to believe positive things about other people.

How does a person believe positive things that are said to them?  Especially when they only heard bad things and feel bad about being abused?  The result is they feel like a bad person. 

Being told you are bad and feeling like you are a bad person makes it easy to believe and accept that I am a bad person.  I would like to feel like I get the credit.  I just don’t feel I have earned it or that I deserve it.

I have recently passed the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.  I have been thinking about how mean she was to me. I have always wondered why I seem to forget some of the bad things she did to me.  She was a terrible mother.  As an adult, I tried so hard to please her, but it did no good.  As a child, I tried to be good and stay out of trouble.  It also did no good.

I am shocked as to how I have reacted to her death.  I always thought that when she died, I wouldn’t be affected.  I was wrong.  No matter what she has done to me, I have always wanted love from her.   I see this as another example of one of my unrealistic beliefs.

I want to thank Dr. Kane for his support, care, and guidance on this journey, keeping me alive, helping me feel safe enough to reveal my secrets to him.  He has helped me to believe that the flashbacks and pain will become lighter.  It is also because of him that I know and understand that I deserve to have a good life… a life filled with kindness and affection.

Today, I have an appointment with Dr. Kane.  Before I see him, I like to think about what I want to talk about.  There are times I focus on feelings of guilt and shame.  Sometimes I leave my session feeling lighter, other times I leave with the thoughts weighing heavily in my mind.  I hope the intense thoughts will calm down and be replaced by pleasant thoughts.

There are some weeks that I leave disturbed or think about the session all week long.  I think of how long I’ve had the problem, and what are the solutions if any, and what I can do to lessen the fear, pain, guilt and shame. There are times when my flashbacks take over and we process to where I remain balanced and achieve calmness in my external environment.

The sessions are always helpful and thought provoking.  Often, traumatic memories come up in the session.  I think that is because the session is a safe place.  It is the only safe place I have.  There is nowhere else I can express my pain, shame and guilt without being judged or have the fear of people viewing me as strange, weird, or troubled.

Mother’s Day is soon arriving.   Despite my siblings’ prodding, I have decided not to visit my mother’s gravesite.  Instead of honoring her, I will spend the time focusing on me and doing what I want for me.

Today is a good day.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

——————————–

Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In Bobbi’s writing, she seeks to acknowledge the therapist for her successes in therapy.  Notice the ongoing struggle she “endures” with me as I continue to question who gets the credit for her work.

It would be normal to ask ourselves:

  • Why are Bobbi and the therapist struggling over “who gets credit for the work done” in therapy?
  • Why won’t Dr. Kane simply accept her appreciations and cease making gratitude an issue?
  • Why won’t Bobbi call Dr. Kane by his first name? Why won’t Dr. Kane encourage this?  Why not create less formality in the doctor-patient relationship?

I have often written that “why” questions provide responses that circle back to themselves, and as a result, they do not bring full understanding of the foundation of the issue being questioned.  A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead:

  • What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?
  • What is the desired outcome of trauma informed treatment?

 

What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? 

Bobbi is living in fear of the possibility of obtaining her objective of a normalized life, and that is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy.   Bobbi has placed the psychological self in a psychological no man’s land that is left unoccupied due to her fear and uncertainty when it comes to claiming ownership of her life and her psychological self.

Currently, this is comfortable for Bobbi because she is in conflict.  Consciously, she seeks relief from the internalized hell of complex trauma.  Unconsciously, however, after many decades of living with complex trauma and its “secrets,” she lives in fear of the unknown life that she could have outside of the complex trauma that she has experienced.  In doing so, she has reinforced this well dug in position.

Bobbi has unconsciously created an insurmountable barrier for herself preventing the ability to take credit for her achievements in therapy by tying the goal to an inappropriate cultural norm of addressing me by my first name.  Notice that there is no internal or external pressure being exerted to do so.  However, by tying both together, she has attached a rule to her own development that she never wants to break, which is an artificial limit that she is putting on her own healing.

So what does she do?  She returns to therapy twice weekly where she is safe to explore the areas of complex trauma devastated by sexual assault, physical abuse, abandonment and isolation.  Consciously, she continues to heal where unconsciously, the psychological self continues to hold its position.

 

What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?

Bobbi is an amazing woman.   She is the epitome of a woman who has survived horrendous abuse, and withstood abandonment and isolation enough to be able to educate herself, marry wisely, and successfully raise three children.  However, the illusion of amazement abruptly stops here—and what we see in therapy is a woman who has repeatedly sacrificed herself at the behest of her mother, siblings and children.

Historically, Bobbi has held firmly to the belief that she is unworthy.  Although she can give compliments, she is unable to receive compliments.  Specifically, Bobbi is willing to acknowledge the commitment and the work of the therapist, yet she is unwilling to accept the same words about her actions.  She maintains the well dug in position that she could not have obtained the current state of growth and healing of the traumatic wound without me.

Therefore, she seeks to “hand over” credit of her work and accomplishments in therapy to the therapist and not to herself.  It is my belief that psychotherapy is a journey of self-discovery.  The roles of the therapist is to be a guide and companion for the individual as they navigate key areas of their journey.  It is for the therapist to facilitate the process of therapy, to be available to assist in the interpretation of materials as such arises from the journey and in being present provide safety from an isolating journey.

Accepting credit for her work would fly in the face of Bobbi’s belief that she lacks the ability to walk alone, even though she already has.  This is simply another step towards achieving her objective of living a normative life following her successful work in healing the traumatic wound.

What are the desired outcomes of trauma informed treatment?

There are five desired outcomes:

  • Safety (physical and emotional safety)
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency (meaningful sharing of power and decision-making)
  • Choice (voice and agency)
  • Collaboration & Mutuality (partnership and leveling of power differences)
  • Empowerment

The desired outcomes are achievable when the S pathway can be made available to the individual seeking to heal the traumatic wound.   The S pathways consists of providing a safe secured space to search within and to speak; ending the silence and releasing what lies submerged below. The result is that Bobbi can sustain security in self and reinforce her self-esteem and self-conceptIt is during the process of self-discovery that the individual can learn advocacy for self, balance within the psychological self and calmness within the external world.

Bobbi continues to do well in healing her traumatic wounds.  She understands that the traumatic experiences are permanent etchings on the psychological self and may never fully go away, but that the objective is to learn how to normalize her life and be able to balance the weight of the traumatic experiences. Although she remains in conflict regarding her self-esteem, her belief that she is not worthy has lessened.

This is evidenced by her refusal to continue sacrificing herself, specifically in her refusal to visit her mother’s gravesite, choosing instead to spend time with the psychological self.  Furthermore, Bobbi is now willing to “share credit” of her therapy with the therapist instead of issuing outright credit to the therapist.

It will be the objective in therapy to continue to work within the S pathways to where she will one day move to full actualization by holding full credit and therefore move successfully from no man’s land to self-assurance in walking her journey of self-discovery.

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

In Our Corner: Erik Killmonger and the Inner Pain Of African-American Men

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.”

-Paul Dunbar, We Wear The Mask

“I want to return to the scene of the crime.

I do not want to go back.

Going back can only bring pain, suffering and unresolved memories

Returning, I am armed with wisdom and knowledge, which I can take into my future.

I am empowered.

Whatever I was, I am no longer.

The past is what is what it was.  It cannot be recovered.

I live today, to understand and uncover.

I seek tomorrow.  To explore and discover…

Self.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Returning to the Scene of the Crime

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My Dear Readers,

In the previous blog, I wrote about the  the unconscious messages of betrayal and loyalty within black male and female relationships in the movie Black Panther.   I observed that in the movie, black women were portrayed as being loyal, committed and unquestionably trustworthy, while black men were characterized as being deceptive, disloyal, and therefore, untrustworthy.

The responses to my commentary on the portrayals of the film’s depiction of male betrayal and trustworthiness were immediate and wide-ranging, from hostility and suspicion, to questioning my motives, to accusing me of taking the movie too seriously in my analysis.

All of these response types have one common underlying theme: fear.  It is normal for an individual or a society as a whole to fear what they do not understand.  In this case, the film itself and my analysis of it may have exposed  feelings that are generally unconscious until one is faced with something that challenges black men to look within their psychological selves.

Charles from Fort Lauderdale, FL writes:

“Your article Black Panther got me to think about my own betrayal of relationships throughout my life.  As I sit here typing, I am allowing myself to feel the trauma as well.

I can see now that I don’t trust women but tend to use women, which I believe is the root of my own pain.  So now I have learned not to ask the why question but rather, the what is the foundation question.  I just would like to say thank you for walking with me on this journey.”

In this, our third In Our Corner post,  we return to Black Panther, which has now grossed over $1B.   This week, we will focus on the villain Erik Killmonger.

  • Why is Erik Killmonger a key representation of African-American men?
  • Why is he cast as a dark, yet sympathetic villain?
  • Why is he being depicted as an angry black man, raging out of control?

I have written before that why questions provide responses that are circular back to themselves, so as a result, they do not help us to understand the foundation of the question we ask, which often gives us a more useful answer than simply why one thing or another happened. So, we ask:

  • What is it about the character of Erik Killmonger that he captivates the audience as the sympathetic villain?
  • What is the impact of the pain, the hurt, anguish, and the rage that lives within Erik Killmonger?

Erik Killmonger’s appeal to African-American audiences comes from his character being a clear and direct representation of the generational and psychological trauma of the North Atlantic Slave Trade, but not as a depiction of being sold into slavery and the ensuing centuries of racism, discrimination, and oppression, but as the result of that sordid experiment—generations of people who were, despite that severe adversity, able to thrive and become successful.

In this respect, Killmonger’s is a story of his success in gaining education and skills, mastering the cruelty that he was shown as a child, and wielding it with an efficiency and glee that surpasses even the most evil slave master.

However, this is not how he was born; this is what was crafted by King T’Chaka abandoning young Erik in America after killing his father, and Killmonger is who he had to become in order to survive: to emotionally detach from himself as a human being, and the feelings associated with that, evident in his comment to his father N’Jobu on the ancestral plane, when N’Jobu noticed that Erik shed no tears for his memory.  Erik, a dry-eyed child, simply said:

 “People die every day.  That’s just part of life around here.”

What motivates Erik Killmonger? A frighteningly rational and focused hate for King T’Chaka’s and Wakanda’s traditional stance of non-intervention in the face of the profound suffering that he and other African descendants of the ones who were taken have experienced, feeding into a righteous anger. Where Wakanda could have helped, yet did nothing for generations, Killmonger, knowing his royal lineage and having prepared for ritual combat and to take the throne all his life, is more than willing to use what he has to help those that he knows suffer throughout the world.  In essence, by killing T’Challa, the last of his line, in ritual combat, he kills Wakanda’s apathy of the suffering of Africans in the entire diaspora.

“I lived my entire life waiting for this moment.  I trained a lot.  I killed in America, Afghanistan, Iraq… I took life for my brothers and sisters right here on this continent!  And all this death just so I could kill you.”

But, it’s not all just an altruistic desire to liberate Africans around the world.  Killmonger, the abandoned child of Wakanda, is different from most African-Americans in that he actually knows what country he is from, and knows for sure that they abandoned him intentionally, and in that, there is a desire, also coldly rational, within Killmonger to inflict the same or greater harm on those who inflicted such catastrophic harm on he and his family, and to put an end to anyone else who would have adopted that same philosophy that harmed so many.

“The world took everything away from me.  Everything that I ever loved!  But Imma make sure we’re even.  Imma track down anyone would even think of being loyal to you! And Imma put their ass in the dirt, right next to Zuri!”

What is Erik Killmonger?  He was a little boy who lost his father.  He was a child who was abandoned by his family.  He is the psychological self, seeking attachment, belonging and connection.  He has the words and actions of a villain, yet he has many redeeming qualities, and a more than valid ax to grind against the other members of Wakanda’s royal family.  Still, he is dangerous: he is the “angry black man” who cannot be reasoned with, he is believed to “lack control,” and he must be destroyed.

In the final fight scene, many will question why T’Challa offers to heal Killmonger and save his life—this is because T’Challa sees the error in his father’s (and in Wakanda’s) attitude towards the world and specifically, those who were taken from African countries and their plight, and sincerely wants to make a change.

But, Killmonger rejects the gesture—his inner pain and the fact that he failed in his life’s mission means that he truly has nothing left. He can’t use vibranium to liberate the Africans outside of Wakanda that he wanted to help.   He couldn’t possibly live in the society he tried to destroy as a citizen, much less as a prisoner who murdered both Zuri and a member of the Dora Milaje. (His attempted murder of T’Challa was done through ritual combat, so it wouldn’t count as a crime towards him.)  Rather than be locked up, Killmonger responds:

“Nah. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships because they knew that death was better than bondage.”

That quote made me and many others in the theater gasp upon first hearing.  Of course, this is who we as African-Americans would have wanted to be, right?  The ancestors who chose death over bondage?  Who kept their dignity instead of succumbing to generations of rape and murder and cruelty?

But there is something different here.  Our ancestors jumped into the ocean to get away from unjust, barbarous chattel slavery.  Killmonger, on the other hand, simply doesn’t want to face punishment for using the colonizer’s tools and tactics to murder two of the African people he claims to want to lead.  The African-Americans in his mother’s lineage who survived slavery enough to create him as a descendant would have something to say about death being better than bondage when they had to endure bondage to ensure that their bloodline, which led to him, survived.   Surely we can revere those who endured as much as we can revere those who refused, right?

This isn’t to say that the lessons of Killmonger cannot assist us in our own journey of self-discovery.  They can.

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Concluding Words- Dr. Kane

My Dear Brethren,

I write for my general readership, but as with all In Our Corner blogs, I want to direct my concluding remarks specifically to black men as we walk the journey of self-discovery.

Black Panther is an excellent movie, and both its conscious and unconscious messages are breathtaking and worthy of uninterrupted discussion regarding psychological trauma in the African-American community.

For those who question my motives and intentions, I seek to influence the intellectual mind by keeping it balanced with the psychological self.  These discussions are incredibly important for the African-American community, and specifically for black men in that this film allows its black male characters to have rich emotional lives, and they are not simply heroes and villains—they are real, complex people, in real, complex situations.

A clear yet unconscious message in Erik Killmonger is that he was abandoned by family, he utilized the country he was left in to transform himself into a stone cold assassin, and used that unimaginable strength to impose his will on the country that abandoned him. While his success is admirable, the pain in the psychological self that drove that success also contributed to his failure and eventual demise because he never integrated that pain and transformed it into something that served him better.

You can hear Killmonger’s psychological self screaming when he talks about the pain he grew up in, and the pain he feels for other Africans in the diaspora.  This is a result of complex trauma, a myriad of 13 separate types of traumas that African-Americans face on a daily basis, which can be draining and overwhelming.

Mark, age 32, describes his trauma:

“I get on and off the mat every damn day.  Every day I go in and face people who either ignore or disrespect me.  At the end of the day, I feel alone and abandoned.  Every day I trudge forward.  Every day.”

Trauma is a permanent etching on the psychological self.  The memory of the incident at point of traumatic wounding or injury will never ever go away.

However, in choosing to opening up to others, such as friends and loved ones, and when wanted, seeking counseling or therapy, the individual can learn to balance the traumatic wound or injury achieving advocacy, balance and calmness in walking the journey of self-discovery.

Steppin’ Into Tomorrow

We cannot step back into our past,

Nor must we want to.

It is our fear of the unknown that chains us.

The future holds new possibilities

We can journey into the future

Holding onto Belief, Faith and Trust …

In Self.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time…Remaining In Our Corner.

In Our Corner: Betrayal Trauma and the Psychological Self in Black Panther

“Wise men build bridges, foolish men build barriers.”

-T’Challa, Black Panther

“We should be building bridges to the rest of the world.”

-Rep. John Lewis, US House of Representatives/Civil Rights Activist

 “Bridges or barriers: which ones are you building?”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

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My Dear Readers,

In this installment of “In Our Corner, ” let’s talk about the largest grossing Marvel comic movie ever, Black Panther. I can’t say enough things about it.  Excellent. Well done. Captivating.  It left me wanting more and more.

It featured a black superhero as the lead and an almost entirely black cast with powerful roles for both black men and women.  It focused on a contingent of bad ass black women led by a seriously bad ass black woman who together kicked lots of ass throughout the film.

Featured in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, the country’s technological advancement and economic progress provides a safe and equitable society where black people, especially children and women, can thrive—all conscious messages of the film that satiate the hunger of black audiences for a positive identification with a leading black superhero, but can drown out the voices  of those who may want to discuss the unconscious messages hidden in plain sight.

Betrayal & Loyalty: The Unconscious Message

Most of the major black male characters (except T’Challa himself and M’Baku, who never promised loyalty) betray the throne of Wakanda or someone who is close to the king.

Specifically:

  • Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) betrays his girlfriend Linda by killing her when she is held hostage by Klaue
  • W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) betrays T’Challa/Black Panther when he sides with Killmonger and his plan to send Wakandan weapons into the world
  • Zuri (Forrest Whitaker) betrays his friend Prince N’Jobu when he tells King T’Chaka about the stolen vibranium
  • Prince N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) betrays his brother King T’Chaka father of T’Challa/Black Panther by conspiring with Klaue to smuggle vibranium out of Wakanda
  • King T’Chaka (John Kani) betrays his nephew Erik Killmonger when he leaves him alone in America after killing Erik’s father

 There are four unconscious themes being portrayed regarding black men and women:

  • Regardless of age, status and occupation; the black women in the film are loyal and committed to either a specific person (T’Challa/Black Panther), its people/country (Wakanda) or an idea/entity (the throne of the king).
  • Black women are unquestionably trustworthy
  • Black men are not loyal and cannot be trusted
  • Black men will betray and sacrifice the women they love (Erik Kilmonger and Linda, W’Kabi and Okoye)

 

The Psychological Wounding of Unconscious Messages

Already there are those within the African-American community who feel forced into silence out of fear that they will be shamed or ridiculed if they dare to criticize the largest grossing black film of all time.  As a result, they smile, nod in agreement and continue to suffer in silence.

One of my black male patients Alex, (not real name, age 29) spoke of having mixed feelings after seeing the film. He felt joy in finally seeing a black superhero, but also experienced depression and anxiety, recalling the betrayal of the black men in his life:

“I remember my mother saying black men ain’t shit and the fact that my father and uncles chased multiple women.  To this day, I have trust issues with other men and I am unable to remain loyal in relationships with women.”

When he shared his response to the movie and the feelings it brought up for him, Alex was ignored, laughed at and told that he was taking the movie too seriously.  As a result, Alex shuts down, internalizing his feelings and starting to isolate himself from others.  He began reacting to nightmares, flashbacks of memories of his own shameful actions towards women. He recalled having cold sweats and crying uncontrollably.

We could ask “why,” but “why” questions provide responses that are circular and therefore not helpful in getting to the foundation of the issues.  To get to that foundation, let’s focus on “what” questions:

  • What was Alex experiencing?
  • What was the basis of Alex’s depression? Nightmares? Flashbacks?
  • What drove Alex’s feelings of guilt and shame?

The answer: Alex was responding to betrayal trauma that, although long buried within the psychological self, had been “uncovered” when he watched the film.  There were scenes in the film that activated his memories and now create an active and ongoing recall of his past actions.

 

Betrayal Trauma

What is betrayal trauma?  Betrayal trauma is the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  To clarify these terms

  • Implicit trust – implied through not plainly expressed.
  • Explicit trust – stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.

The violation of implicit and explicit trust can occur in many different ways, including but not limited to:

  • Being unfaithful in a relationship
  • Negligence in guarding or maintaining information shared in confidence
  • Intentionally revealing or disclosing information shared in confidence.

The impact of betrayal can be defined as traumatic since it impacts the individual’s frame of reference as it relates to their worldview, identity, and spirituality.  Betrayal trauma is distinct because for the trauma to be successfully inflicted, the individual must have allowed the betrayer access to their psychological self’s three internal resources: belief, faith, and trust.

 

The Pain of Remaining Silent

One of the issues that Alex was struggling with was his desire to remain loyal to his community in community by joining in the community acknowledgement of the film while responding to his own feelings.  He felt caught in a “no man’s land” between wanting validation and acceptance from his social group, while at the same time, dealing with the impact of the movie on his psychological self.

To attribute the activation of his trauma to the movie would be tantamount to Alex blaming the movie for his own issues—something that would not have sat well with his friends and family, and on a broader level, the black Americans who were so excited about the movie.

The implied consequence of sharing his feelings and not being part of the love for the movie would have shown him to be an enemy, so he chose to hold his opinion, and in doing so, he denied the impact of the movie on his own self-concept, and reinforced the silence he continues to suffer in.

 

Prognosis

Despite all of this, Alex’s prognosis is good.  In therapy he is learning that instead of choosing between loyalty to his community or facing his unresolved issues and behavior he is able to balance both by being supportive of his community in acknowledging the film while simultaneously exploring his own behavior.

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane 

My Dear Brethren,

Although I write to the readership, I want to direct my concluding remarks specifically to black men as we walk the journey of self discovery.

I believe the film Black Panther to be of excellent quality and content.  Just like other noteworthy black films such as The Color Purple, Amistad, and many others, this film has the potential to be  psychologically impactful and worthy of open discussion regarding psychological trauma in the African-American community.

“In times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.”

-T’Challa/ Black Panther

It is understandable that black women and men are suspicious of each other,  given the manner that black people as a whole have been treated over the last 400 years in this country, and the issues of betrayal and loyalty within our own community/intimate relationships.

Understanding these feelings, we must decide whether to build bridges with open communications or maintain those barriers.

I recommend this: Be kind to your psychological self….Find a safe and secure space to speak and release your stuff, such as with a therapist or counselor.

“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows.  We cannot.  We must not.  We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other.  Now more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth; more connects us than separates us.  …. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”

-T’Challa/ Black Panther

Until the next time….Remaining In Our Corner.

In Our Corner: Showing Up As Real MEN and Leaving As Little BOYS

“I am what time, circumstance, history, has made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that.  So are we all.”

-James Baldwin, Writer

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of going almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

-Langston Hughes, Poet, Writer

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals.  The struggle within yourself—the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us—that’s where it is.”

-Jesse Owens, 4-time Olympic Gold Medalist

“Strong men who are truly role models don’t need to put down women to make themselves look more powerful”

-Michelle Obama

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My Dear Readers,

In my clinical work as a clinical traumatologist and psychotherapist, I focus on what lies within the psychological self.  In this work, I have found that there are large numbers of African-Americans who carry invisible scars from exposure to hostile work, school, or social environments.

Within these invisible scars lie extreme levels of internal emotional tension as people seek to establish intimate relationships, often in their own demographic groups.  For instance,   African-American women have historically built formal and informal social networks for themselves where they can be emotionally supported, share experiences, and more.

This has not generally been the same with African-American males. African-American males have been socialized to maintain silence when it comes to their inner emotions and feelings, which reinforces a message that their feelings are not valid, and forces isolation and distance from others.

To address this, we are starting a new series called “In Our Corner,” which will focus on maintaining emotional and mental health in African-American males.

There is a stereotypical belief that due to cultural values, mores and differences in communication, African-American males are more resistant to talking openly about their feelings than other racial and gender groups.  This silence often extends to participation in child rearing and parenting, participation in household chores and role placement within couples and marital relationships.

A young male patient of mine recently said, in response to comments about the lack of respect that young males have for their male elders:

“What do you expect?  Look who is raising us!   We are only following what we see.”

Ouch.  That comment cut me deeply because it was true. Regardless of the intention, my generation’s actions as well as our silence serves as unconscious model for other generations to follow.   I am often asked:

  • Why do black males act the way they do in intimate relationships?
  • Why do black men feel disrespected?
  • Why are black males unwilling to let small slights go, such as poor customer service?

I have learned that questions beginning with the word “why” lead to circular answers that don’t contribute to resolution or understanding.  Instead, I choose to focus on asking “what” questions to get at the root cause of the issue, such as

  • What are the factors impacting black men regarding intimate relationships?
  • What is occurring in the experiences of black men that reinforce their feelings of being disrespected?
  • What is the definition of a “small slight?” What could be the meaning of such behavior or actions towards black men?

Today’s letter comes from an African-American female who may sound harsh, but is simply speaking her truth. Let’s see how this silence impacts her world.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

I am a 50-year old, no nonsense African-American woman.  I am sick and tired of old ass men acting like little boys.  I am a grown woman and I am sick and tired of this nonsense.  I want to be around real men.

Recently I’ve been getting to know a man of similar age that I’m romantically interested in.  He went out of town not long ago, and he committed to calling me when he came back.  Well, instead of calling, he sent me a text to “check in.”  It has been more than a week and I haven’t heard his voice.

What the hell! I am so sick of black men who cannot effectively communicate their feelings.  Now, I am left to look at his actions and try to figure out what the hell is going on.

One of my friends suggested that I write to you, so here I am. Please tell your brothers to wake up and man the hell up. Grow a real pair! Women are looking for real men out here!

Angry & Standing Up, Seattle WA

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My Dear Brothers,

As a black man reading this, you have a number of options:

  • Delete and dismiss this letter
  • Deny and ignore this letter, or:
  • Avoid listening to someone who is has been impacted by another’s behavior.

Or simply…listen.  Follow along with me as we explore her words.

This is not the first time that black men have received messages debasing their actions and focusing on their inadequacies, and it will not be the last.  In general, there actually are black men who have difficulty in effectively communicating their feelings and emotions.  The question is this: What is occurring within the individual that impedes his ability to effectively communicate? Is there an issue with communication at all?

Attachment in adult relationships includes friendships, emotional affairs and adult romantic relationships.  There are four main styles of attachment in adults:

Secure, Anxious-Preoccupied, Dismissive-Avoidant and Fearful Avoidant.

  • Secure people tend to have positive views of themselves and of their relationships. Securely attached people feel comfortable with both intimacy and independence.  This style of attachment usually results from a history of parents modeling warm and responsive interactions within their relationships in front of their children.
  • Anxious-Preoccupied people seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness within their relationships. They sometimes value intimacy to such an extent that they become overly dependent upon the relationship and their partner.  Compared to secure people, people who are anxious or preoccupied tend to have less positive views about themselves, and they may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry and impulsiveness in their relationships.
  • Dismissive-Avoidant people view themselves as self-sufficient and invulnerable to feelings associated with being closely attached to others. People in this group tend to suppress and hide their feelings, and they tend to deal with rejection by distancing themselves from the relationship and their partners, whether it is warranted or not.
  • Fearful Avoidant people have mixed feelings about close relationships. They may desire to have emotionally close relationships, but tend to feel uncomfortable with emotional closeness. They commonly view themselves as unworthy of responsiveness within their relationships, so they don’t fully trust the intentions of those who they seek to be attached.  Members of this group frequently suppress and deny their feelings.  Because of this, they are much less comfortable expressing affection.

Black men are no different from anyone else in that they mirror the experiences of the environment they grow up in.  Whatever we observe or fail to observe as children is held with the core of the psychological self and because it becomes a part of the individual’s structure,  it can be consciously or unconsciously expressed.

So, understanding how you grew up and what you saw (or did not see) regarding intimate relationships, what group do you belong to?

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Closing Words-Dr. Kane

“Yesterday’s survivor and a survivor today will be a survivor tomorrow.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane

The term survivor can be defined in the following different context

  • Someone who has had an unpleasant experience and who is still affected by it.
  • Someone who hasn’t died; a person who has been through a horrible experience.
  • Someone who remains alive or in existence.

It is without question that historically, black males of all types, classes, incomes, educational levels, and positions have been victimized and scapegoated.  There are many who, due to no fault of their own, are disenfranchised, unwanted or not needed within today’s highly technological society.

However, every individual black male holds the key to his own empowerment.  Walking the journey of self-discovery through self-actualization and joining in discussion and contemplation with identification of other males who seek to do the same can help to achieve it.

The time has come for black men to examine and explore their psychological selves within the context of their socio-economic group.  I invite those seeking to either to understand, question or facilitation discussion of issues relative to African-American males to join the readership of this new set of themed writings.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we have been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”

-Barack Obama

 

Until the next time, Remaining In Our Corner…

Bobbi’s Saga: #MeToo and the Magnificent Woman

 “I was not taught to love myself.  I was taught to love others.  It was strange to love myself.  To even think about loving myself was strange.”

-Bobbi

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice and now that I have it,  I am not going to be silent.”

-Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State 1997-2001

“It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone’s else’s eyes.”

-Sally Fields, accepting the award for Best Female Actor, 1984 Academy Awards Ceremony

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My Dear Readers,

The silence of mainstream society on the topic of sexual assault, harassment, tormenting, bullying, groping and other forms of sexual violence has finally been broken.

Today, thousands of voices, of all genders are saying “no more,” standing up for the human right of bodily autonomy, and specifically, for the respect of the physical and psychological well-being of women.

I want to tip my hat and express my appreciation to those who have raised their voices in the #MeToo Movement, many of which are Millennials or members of Generation Z.  These young people refused to keep silent, and rejected the societal pressure to excuse and accept that behavior the way preceding generations have, a recent example being the testimony of over 150 female victims of USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nasser, who received a sentence of up to 175 years for his abuse of female athletes.

What makes these victims particularly courageous is the fact that they faced significant obstacles by the leadership of that organization, which chose to enable Mr. Nasser and covered up this abuse, creating a decades-long reign of terror, resulting in the resignation of a university president and the resignation of the majority of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.

I want to hold steadfast to Oprah Winfrey’s words in her Golden Globes speech,

“I want all the girls watching to know a new day is on the horizon.”

However, I remain frustrated by the story of Recy Taylor, the young African-American wife and mother that Oprah referenced,  who was abducted by six armed white men, raped and left blindfolded by the side of the road in 1944 while walking home from church services in Abbeville, Alabama. Mrs. Taylor died 10 days prior to the Golden Globes speech.  She was 99 years old.  She was unable to receive justice during the Jim Crow era.  She never received justice prior to her death.

African-American women and girls have endured the era of Suffering in Silence of for more than 400 years.  The horrors they have endured have been ignored, and the lack of recognition of their plight continues to this very day.

Despite the national media attention the #MeToo Movement has gained, its founder, Tarana Burke, an African-American woman, has been largely ignored and discounted by the press, and her contributions to the struggle of women enduring sexual harassment and sexual assault have been silenced in the same way.

Racism has played a major role in furthering the sexual harassment and traumatization of African-American women.  However, the actions of African-American males, community leadership and silence within the African-American community have also played a key role in the silencing of these tortured voices within the community.

An example of this is the negative reception and public attacks toward the film The Color Purple (1986), which told the story of life within a rural African-American community during Jim Crow, including depictions of male chauvinism, incest, and domestic violence within the African-American community of that time, in addition to racism and segregation.

It was deemed stereotypical of African-American males by a Hollywood chapter of the NAACP that led a national boycott of the film.  It is a reality that the boycott influenced the denial of any recognition during the Academy Awards ceremony of that year.

It is my professional opinion that The Color Purple, despite its critics, is an excellent depiction of the impact of complex trauma within the African-American community.  Sadly, to protect an image of the African-American community, its civil and human rights leadership denied itself the opportunity provided by the movie to start a dialogue on psychological trauma impacting its population.

That was a missed opportunity in 1986, but, it’s a new opportunity for Bobbi’s Saga in 2018.  It is with that in mind that Loving Me More will publish Bobbi’s Saga on a twice-monthly basis.

Bobbi’s saga continues…

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Lately, I have been writing about things that really affect me: fear, trust and parents.   I started reading a book about Gabrielle Union.  She is a very famous movie star.  I’ve always thought of her as beautiful and never thought of her having any trauma.

 I started reading her book before I realized that she was raped.  I wasn’t sure how I would react to it.  Would I just skip those pages?  Would it make me feel terrible and remind me of my own rapes?  Would I be able to handle it?

Gabrielle Union was working in a Payless store.  The store was robbed.   The robber beat and raped her by gunpoint.  She told the story of having an out of body experience and having the gun to her head, and how she fought, but lost.

She talks about feeling damaged and having PTSD afterwards.  It got me thinking of never being the same after the rapes and seeing myself as damaged.

She was terrified being in front of a grand jury.  The robber/rapist got 37 years.  Gabrielle talks about the mistrust and fear she still has, 24 years later.  She writes:

‘Once you’re been the victim of violent crime and you’ve seen evil in action, you know the devil lives and breathes in people all day every day.’

That feeling of surveillance, of being hunted, never goes away.  Fear influences everything I do.  I saw the devil up close, and I see how naive I was. 

Of course, I can never truly have peace again.  That idea is fiction.  You can figure out how to move through the world, but the ideal of peace in your soul? It doesn’t exist.  She talks about moving from a rape victim to a rape survivor.

Reading this didn’t scare or bother me as I thought it would.  I identified with some of what she said.   I don’t think of actresses having such a hard life.  Gabrielle says sometimes people will recognize her and say “me too.”

I could tell how far I have come after reading about Gabrielle’s rape.  Four years ago, I couldn’t have read it without having terrible flashbacks and increased pain.  I wouldn’t have been able to make it through her story at all. 

So much has changed in six years.  I now know and don’t expect the memories, flashbacks, pain or fears to go away.   Instead these will become lighter.  I want it to become light enough that I can enjoy life, learn to do the things I enjoy and want to fulfill my life. 

———————

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

Bobbi, in walking the journey of self-discovery and choosing to read the autobiography of Gabrielle Union, unknowingly found herself at a potential roadblock.  She discovered that an actress she had idealized was like her, a victim of sexual assault.

Without warning, Bobbi found herself at a crossroad.  She faced the option of going back to the old behavior of living in fear of sexual assault by seeking to avoid the readings.  Instead, Bobbi choose to utilize a therapeutic technique known as “The Five R’s of RELIEF,” grounding and empowering herself to live with her fears of sexual assault and continue the journey of self-discovery.

When Bobbi realized that Gabrielle had been raped, she momentarily took a breath (RESPITE), held and owned her emotions (REACTION), and considered her options/choices (REFLECTIONS).  This empowered her to make the decision to continue reading (RESPONSE) and to later reconsider the impact of her actions (REEVALUATION).

The outcome of this experience was threefold:

  • The recognition that others, including famous actresses, share similar experiences of sexual assault,
  • The understanding of the distance she has traveled in the six years of therapy and the ability to empower herself,
  • The awareness that although the experience will never go away, the emotional weight can become lighter and the psychological wound with therapeutic work can heal.

Bobbi’s therapeutic journey has a prognosis of success.  In the six years of individual psychotherapy she has transformed from the stages of simply existing and surviving her life to that of driving and empowerment.  Future therapeutic work will focus on other stages of empowerment, including striving (pacing and direction) and thriving (achievement of advocacy , balance and calmness).

Oprah Winfrey left us with these lasting remarks in her Golden Globes speech:

And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure they are the leaders to the time where nobody has to say “me too” again.”

Bobbi is truly a magnificent woman.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…