The Unspoken Truth: Slave Play, White Fragility, and the Difficulty in Talking About Race

“While it is true that white fragility is an insidious trauma injury to people of color, white people are not raised to see themselves in terms of race.”

-Micheal Kane, Psy.D, Clinical Traumatologist

“When you are told time and time again you’re not good enough, that your opinion doesn’t matter as much; when they don’t just look past you, to them you’re not even there; when that has been your reality for so long, it’s hard not to let yourself think it’s true.”

– The Post

“What does race mean to the person of color?  Everything.  From the first breath taken in life lie to one’s dying day.  Race is incarceration or freedom.  Race is a door that is open or closed. Race is living life thriving or surviving. Race identifies that the space you occupy has been ‘designated’ for you and reinforces for you that others will seek to hold you there for the rest of your life.  Race is everything.”

-Micheal Kane, Psy.D., Clinical Traumatologist

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My Dear Readers,

I am currently preparing to leave for New York City to attend another Broadway play, A Soldier’s Story. It is a murder mystery set on a segregated military base located in Louisiana during WWII. When I return, I’ll share my thoughts. But as I prepare to experience another play with a strong racial interaction, I find myself reflective of the last play I saw and wrote about in the most recent blog, The Unspoken Truth: Slave Play and White Fragility.

I continue to replay the exchange at the conclusion of the play in which two white theater attendees chose to intellectualize the experience and in doing so, denied themselves the opportunity to explore their emotions. The opportunity was lost due to their inability to recognize the general space they occupy as “white spaces.”

The playwright brilliantly utilizes race, sex and trauma to demonstrate the privilege being displayed by the white characters and its impacts on the black characters.  The common theme of the black actors was that racial trauma accruing from not being listened to by their white partners resulted in sexual dysfunction.

The production has been criticized as negatively casting whites as being racist. In response, the playwright Jeremy O. Harris states:

“This isn’t about every white person. This play is about eight specific people and if you don’t see yourself up here, that’s great, you aren’t one of them-you aren’t.”

 

Given this, we can accept that racism is taught and feelings about race are internalized within the psychological self.  Experience has taught me that “every white man is not my enemy and every black man is not my friend.” Experience has also taught me to choose to focus on what lies in a person’s heart and in their actions.

 

One’s Heart & One’s Actions

Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor, is one of my heroes.  It was her determination, courage and sense of purpose that empowered her to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom.  Harriet Tubman stated: “God don’t mean people to own people.”

As much as Harriet Tubman is deservedly revered, what is ignored is that she could not have accomplished her objective of carrying those to freedom without the assistance of whites who like her believed that “God don’t mean people to own people.”

However, when slavery ended, the good white folks, content that the objective had been accomplished, stepped away, leaving the newly freed slaves to fend for themselves and to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”  Feeling that the mission was accomplished, the good white people became silent to the lynching and screams of the new free blacks as they endured domestic terrorism from Klansmen dressed in white hoods and forced segregation via black codes and state and federal laws.

It is the same as in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. As Martin Luther King stated:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Many whites stood up to walk with him and others and in doing so, were jailed, beaten and killed as well.  When federal civil rights laws, equal rights in housing and employment laws were passed, the “good” white people stepped away once again, feeling that the objective had been accomplished away to allowed the newly franchised people to, once again, “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

However, when drugs, crime, unemployment, educational failure and high incarceration ravaged the communities of color, the good white people once again became silent. Today, the majority of the good white people remain silent.

 

What is Privilege?

It is an unearned right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular group.

In the situation shared by the “good” white people during the slavery era and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, privilege was the ability to remain silent, be content, and simply walk away while others, the only difference being color of skin, continued to suffer.

 

The Crevasse of Fragility: White Privilege.

It is difficult for white people to talk about race.

“That which is fragile must be protected and defended regardless of the traumatic impact upon others.” – Dr. Micheal Kane

A crevasse refers to a deep hole within the earth. One can say that a crevasse exists in the relationships between whites and people of color. One characteristic of this deep hole is the weight of “privilege” being held by whites and how the privilege impacts these relationships.

When a person of color enters a room full of whites, that person is immediately scrutinized, held in suspicion, or seen as a curiosity.  Whites do not do the same to each other because, they are not raised to see other whites in terms of their race. White is the normal; all others merit curiosity at best, suspicion at worst.

Without recognizing they hold the privilege of whiteness, they have created the “innocence of spacing.”   This innocence creates the ability of white people to walk among people of color without recognizing general spaces as “white spaces”. It may be via this innocence that white people engage in actions and behaviors that are not intended to be racist and yet, are traumatically impactful to the person of color.

Let’s explore the following three examples, using these descriptive terms: (WP) white person and (POC) person of color, and (TI) looking at the possible traumatic impact.

 

Example #1: Get Out of My House 

POC and WP have a close friendship for many years.  While enjoying an activity at WP house, they get into a verbal tiff, the first over their many years of friendship. However, to POC’s surprise, WP orders POC to leave his residence.  POC pleads with WP about this action, but WP stands his ground.  POC leaves.  Several weeks later, WP invites POC to return to his home.

  • Question: Was WP being racist for ordering POC out of his home?

Answer: No.  It was WP’s home.  WP has the right to determine who can be in his home.

Traumatic Impact– POC viewed the ejection as a flashback of past experiences of being rejected from “white premises.”

  • Question: Will POC accept WP’s invitation to return to his residence?

Answer– Being that people of color have a repeated history of being rejected by whites, the POC assumed that, a history of friendship, that WP’s residence was a “safe place” and as a result of being ejected, that assumption was shaken.

Traumatic Impact -POC may now have conflicts, perhaps not about the friendship but about putting themselves at risk of being further traumatized by being ejected from the house again.

 

Example #2: The Status of being a N.O.T. (Novelty, Oddity and Token)

 POC is invited to a formal luncheon in a prestigious forum in which POC is the only non-white person in attendance. Following the event, as the guests are leaving, WP sitting next to him turns to POC and with a warm friendly smile, and says, “Thank you for coming, you represented well.”  POC is stunned, accepts the “compliment,” and smiles graciously while receiving another invitation for another formal engagement.

  • Question: Was WP’s compliment racist?

Answer: Yes. WP did not turn to the other five table guests and thank them for coming.  Nor did he tell the five white guests that they “represented well.”

Traumatic Impact: POC may be responding to the trauma of invisibility.  This occurs when one’s talents and abilities are not recognized.  He realized that he was being stereotyped as extraordinary and as “one of the good ones.”

  • Question: Will POC attend the formal engagement to which he was so “graciously” invited?

Answer: No.  Having been stunned by the truth as to his value as a N.O.T., the POC could find himself suddenly “unavailable” to attend the engagement.

Traumatic Impact: POC realizes that being observed and scrutinized and being “on show” is emotionally draining and psychologically overwhelming.

 

Example #3: The Anger Man

POC is engaging in a dialogue via email with WP with the intention of going on a date to further explore the relationship.  In the dialogue, the POC’s communications style is direct and the POC refers to something that WP said that was racially insensitive as being hurtful and triggered past experiences of racial trauma.  WP responds with an apology for “insulting” POC. Several days later WP emails POC stating the date is canceled due to the email encounter being intense and angry.

  • Question: Was WP being offensive to POC by assuming that POC was insulted by the racially insensitive remark?

Answer: No.  POC stated he was triggered and hurt.  He never indicated he was insulted. The POC sought to provide understanding so WP could be aware. The POC knew that hurting or triggering them was not the WP intent.

Traumatic Impact: POC was triggered by words and in seeking to advocate for himself is once again being viewed as the angry black man.  Communication on both sides will terminate due to the fear of perception and labeling.

  • Question: Is there a right or wrong in this situation?

Answer: No, it is the fear of being misperceived and mislabeled.  The reality is both parties are being misunderstood.

Traumatic Impact: Unfortunate, because of fear on both sides, what could had been, will never be.

 

Common Themes in the Examples 

  • There was no intention of WP to create traumatic impact.
  • The actions of WP triggered memories of unresolved trauma within POC.
  • POC may respond in a manner that is psychologically restrictive.

 

Possible Lessons Beneficial for White People 

  • Focus on the impact of the actions rather than your own intentions.
  • Direct and open communication between WP can be viewed as advocacy and assertiveness, not something negative. Allow and expect the same between POC and WP.
  • Novelties, oddities and tokens are to be observed in zoos, not at the dining table.

 

Concluding Remarks: Transforming White Fragility to Empowerment

The examples reflect microaggressions that happen daily to people of color.  Microaggressions are brief, common, and daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities. Whether intentional or unintentional, they communicate hostile, derogatory, negative or prejudicial slights and insults towards any group, particularly culturally, racially or ethnically marginalized people.

I recall a comment made to me by a well-respected white male professor 35 years ago who questioned a high grade I’d received on scholarly paper I had written.  He asked, “There is a rumor going around among the faculty that the female students are writing your research papers in exchange for sex.  Is it true?”

I was dumbfounded.  I was expecting praise and accolades for excellence and instead I was being insulted and questioned, as the only black male in the class, if I was sexually gratifying my fellow white female graduate students.

I bled that day; the traumatic wound was raw during my two years of graduate study.  Did this highly respected scholar intend to wound me?  No, but I was wounded, nonetheless. To me, by stating that there was a rumor going around the faculty about me, he caused me to question what exactly the faculty thought about me.

If questioned today, I am sure that faculty member and others who may have shared his opinions would deny their racism or the intent to harm.  However, the comment was racist and more importantly, regardless of the intention, the outcome and impact of the comment on me was never considered.

Harriet Tubman, in achieving her freedom standing at the line separating the slave state from the free state, remarked:

“I had crossed the line.  I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom.  I was a stranger in a strange land.”

I feel Harriet Tubman’s words stirring in my blood and spirit.  Harriet Tubman, the Black Moses of the enslaved, led the terrorized, traumatized and inhumanly mistreated to the “Promise Land” of freedom.  Amen!

However, she could not have accomplished her objectives without the help of white people and freed blacks that supported her cause.  I too have benefited from relationships with well-meaning and caring white people. The depth of my gratitude is countless, ranging from:

  • The female cafeteria worker who quietly fed free lunches to me, a scrawny colored kid in an all-white school, risking her employment.
  • The teacher’s aide who understood the importance of education and assisted me in obtaining my general education diploma before being discharged from the military.
  • The Associate Dean of the School of Social Work, Dr. Ted Teather, who patiently tolerated my immature student militancy and,
  • A fellow student, colleague and good friend who stood by me following the death of my beloved spouse

All of these individuals contributed to my success and life’s journey without asking for anything in return.

Although privilege is an unmerited right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular group, it comes as a responsibility that becomes a burden when the weight is balanced.

No longer can the privileged hide behind:

  • I pulled myself up by hard work
  • I did it on my own! No one ever gave me a damn thing
  • I sweated and earned my piece of the rock!
  • My ancestors didn’t own slaves!

 

What can White People do about White Privilege?

When instances of white privilege are clearly apparent, the ABC’s of Empowerment can bring relief to the physical, psychological and emotional self.

  • Advocacy-Speak to yourself, acknowledge your white privilege.
  • Balance-Psychologically step away and embrace your white privilege while weighing what you are thinking and feeling.
  • Calmness-While holding your psychological space, allow yourself to be centered and reflecting on ways to assist in the empowerment of others who do not hold the privilege.

“Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar.”

-Michelle Obama

To those who choose to respond to white privilege and white fragility I say, it’s okay to be afraid.  Rather than be in fear, walk your landscape and in doing so, walk with your fear instead of living in it.

 

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Yesterday has passed, today is fading and the future has not been written.

Stay in the moment.

Experience the fullness of what life offers

today, letting go of today as you prepare for tomorrow.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

-Maya Angelou

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Standing Alone…. The Unspoken Truth

The Unspoken Truth: Slave Play and White Fragility

“The play shows the unconscious ways that white people take up space, that they don’t leave open for black people.”

-Jeremy O. Harris, playwright, Slave Play

“…[It’s] a whole bunch of stuff about how white people don’t get how racist they are.”

-Comments shouted by angered white woman to playwright Jeremy O. Harris during discussion session following play

“This isn’t about every white person.  This play is about eight specific people and if you don’t see yourself up here, that’s great, you aren’t one of them-you aren’t.  These are eight specific people that are in a play that is a metaphor for our country and therefore doesn’t represent every single person in it.”

-Jeremy O. Harris, playwright, (in response to the white woman’s criticism)

 

My Dear Readers,

As 2019 comes to an end, I would like you to join me in a recounting of my travels during the year. I’ve made two trips to Europe to research the psychological trauma experienced by African American soldiers fighting for democracy while under the command of white segregationist political and military leadership during World Wars I & II.

I also completed a 15,000-mile round trip journey to Ghana, West Africa where I stood at the Door of No Return at Elmina Castle.  It was through this narrow door that frightened and traumatized Africans were forced into the bellies of slave ships to be carted to the “New World” as human chattel.

Finally, I chose to do something very different and extraordinary to conclude the year. I took a 5,000-mile round trip excursion to see a Broadway play called Slave Play.

Slave Play, created by Jeremy O. Harris, boldly examines power, sex and history through the lens of three interracial relationships. In the play, Harris seeks to show how white people refuse to hear black people and how they don’t allow black people to work out the magnitude of their traumas in their presence.

Without giving too much away, the play depicts the lives of three interracial couples involved in a present-day therapy treatment program in which they act out their sexual dysfunction issues based on a treatment protocol known as Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy (ASPT).  It is a radical role-play-based therapy intended to help black partners reengage intimately with white partners from whom they no longer receive sexual pleasure.

The scenes are set in the pre-Civil War South and move towards interactions set in the 21st Century.  They depict psychosexual power games between an enslaved black person and a white Southerner with provocative items such as bull whips being symbolically utilized during demonstrations of domination and submission.

During the first scene, there are three vignettes of seduction and copulation:

  • A female slave who seduces Massa Jim by throwing herself on the cabin floor and twerking.
  • A sexually frustrated Southern belle bounces seductively on her great big canopied bed and her very handsome servant has no choice but to service his lusty mistress.
  • A white indentured servant sexually gratifies his black overseer.

The ASPT concludes in the final act of the play with the three couples processing and talking through the experience. Though it is apparent that the therapy is supposed to focus on the black characters, the white characters wouldn’t shut up and allow them to process their thoughts. This demonstrates the playwright’s clear intent to show the failure of whites to receive information about the traumatic experiences that their black lovers so desperately want to share.

Unlike films of this genre, plays make the audience actively participating observers. The films usually focus on the white master or mistress’s inhumane treatment of humans whose only difference is the color of their skin.  Scenes of rape, brutality, violence, and unimaginable cruelty dominate and in doing so, often forces the psychological self of the white observer to retreat in horror, shame and, most importantly, denial of what is truth in American history.

The brilliance of Slave Play is that its focus is not on the physical torment of enslaved peoples but rather on encouraging the audience to listen to the psychological trauma that arises from those traumatized.

The play seeks to confront the past and yet also focus on the unhealed wounds of the present while not shying away from causing possible discomfort to its white audience. It is a willfully provocative and entertaining production.

 When White Discomfort Transforms into White Fragility

“This isn’t about every white person.  This play is about eight specific people and if you don’t see yourself up here, that’s great, you aren’t one of them-you aren’t.” 

-The words of Jeremy O. Harris, playwright, in response to numerous calls for the play’s removal from the theatrical stage.

During an interaction with the playwright, one white audience member angrily storms out the event, yelling that “I have undergone hardships ranging from rape to false arrest to single motherhood. How am I not marginalized?”

Is this woman and women like her marginalized? Given her statement, yes, she is. However, her words and actions reflect her inability to provide space for the expression of traumatic impact in the lives of others.  Her discomfort has now been publicity transformed into an example of “White Fragility”.

It would be a mistake to focus on the question “why are white people so fragile?”. Questions that lead with “why” are circular and distract from fully examining the foundation of the issue. With that in mind, let’s seek to answer the issues of white fragility utilizing the framework of “what”.

  • What is white fragility?
  • What is the foundation of white fragility?
  • What is the behavior of white fragility?
  • What is the expectation of white people towards people of color regarding white fragility?

What is white fragility?

White fragility is a form of aversive racism that encourages individuals to engage in interactions with people of color by overtly denying racist intent while acting in ways that feel racist to the person being impacted.

What is the foundation of white fragility?

White people are not raised to see themselves in terms of race or to see general spaces as “white spaces”.  Consequently, this insulation can render white people “innocent” of the concept of race.  It is this “innocence” that gives rise to white fragility.

What is the behavior of white fragility?

When the behavior is pointed out to the white person, the white person reacts, often negatively, to the concept that they are racist, and expects the person of color to be sensitive to their racial innocence, requiring the person of color to make them feel safe including:

  • A softer tone
  • Looking deeper for their intent
  • Disregard the impact of their actions
  • Never giving feedback again.

What is the expectation of white people towards people of color regarding white fragility?

People of color are expected to provide safe nurturing environments for white people, regardless of the psychological danger to themselves and if this is not provided, the person of color is regarded as unforgiving, unkind and oversensitive.

 

White Fragility and Insidious Trauma

People of color may develop feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness as they continue to be psychologically and emotionally impacted by white fragility.  This form of trauma is insidious due to its nature of constantly denigrating and demeaning the intelligence, skills, capacities, and the value of the lives of people of color.

Awareness of Reactions & Responses

Reactions to white fragility may create fight or flight responses which prepare the physical body, the intellectual mind, and the psychological self to react to danger.  However constant, repetitive triggering of these reactions also release hormones such as cortisol, which contribute to weight gain, heart damage, and other stress-related health issues.

 

Healing from White Fragility

When instances of white fragility arise, the ABC’s of Empowerment can bring relief to the physical, psychological and emotional self.

  • Advocacy– Speak up for yourself and don’t depend on others to do so on your behalf.
  • Balance– Psychologically step away and embrace your emotions while weighing what you’re feeling and thinking.
  • Calmness-While holding your psychological space, allow yourself to be centered as you deliver your external response.

 

Concluding Words

“White Fragility is the discomfort and defensiveness on the part of the white person when they are confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.”

-Dr. Robin DiAngelo, author

My Dear Readers,

As I was exiting the play, I overheard the comments of two white males who’d also been in attendance. One asked the other “what did you think about the play?  The other individual responded, “It was interesting.”

Interesting.  Only interesting?  The question was a set up for denial of feelings.  Because the question did not focus on feelings i.e. “what did you feel about the play?” The person asking the question subsequently gave the respondent “a way out” from touching the foundation of his feelings.

This answer kept both the questioner and the respondent on the intellectual level and denied them, as well the white actors, the insight and willingness of exploring the foundation of the traumas being felt by black actors.

As I stood there absorbing the remark, I understood the benefit of traveling the 5,000 miles to allow the psychological self to experience a theatrical performance that provided the reality of psychological trauma of not only of those sold into bondage but also of those who continue to experience traumas 400 years later.

Sitting in that theater, if willing, one could conceptualize the commentary among buyers as they ignored the pleading cries of fellow humans held in bondage as they sold and bartered for them like cattle.  Interesting, indeed.

While it is true that white fragility is an insidious trauma injury to people of color, white people are not raised to see themselves in terms of race. This inability to see themselves in terms of race and consequently “innocent of race” does not prevent them from inflicting invasive and psychologically traumatic wounds that persist. So, claims of “my ancestors did not own slaves” does not absolve them of the guilt and shame of knowing that the white majority profited from slavery. Their denial of what is true only serves to reinforce their white fragility.

 

What can White People do about White Fragility? 

When instances of white fragility arise, the ABC’s of Empowerment can bring relief to the physical, psychological and emotional self.

  • Advocacy– Speak to yourself, acknowledge your white fragility and do so even when others refuse to do the same.
  • Balance-Psychologically step away and embrace your white fragility while weighing what you are feeling and thinking.
  • Calmness-While holding your psychological space, allow yourself to be centered as you deliver your external response and move forward to live the life you want and not the life you have.

New Possibilities

Life is a journey filled with new possibilities.

And sometimes because of the person you are, or have become, you find yourself in the right place at the right time for…

New possibilities

-Micheal Kane

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Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
And my throat
Is deep with song,
You do not think
I suffer after
I have held my pain
So long?

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
You do not hear
My inner cry?
Because my feet
Are gay with dancing
You do not know
I die?”
― Langston Hughes

 

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“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.”
― Langston Hughes

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I will begin the New Year by returning to New York in January 2020 to see another Broadway production regarding the impact of trauma on African Americans.  This play, A Soldier Play, takes place on a Louisiana army base in 1944 where a black Sergeant is murdered and a black investigator must fight with his white leadership to find out the truth.

Blessings to all in the coming year!!

 

Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

The Visible Man: The Opening of Invisibility’s Old Wounds

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Matthew 5:38-39 (NIV)

“So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Luke 11: 9-10 (NIV)

“I had crossed the line.  I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom.  I was a stranger in a strange land. But I was free, and they (my family) should be free.

-Harriet Tubman, Conductor, Underground Railroad, Army Scout & Civil Rights Activist

Police Chief Gillespie: “Virgil-that’s a funny name for a nigger boy that comes from Philadelphia.  What do they call you up there?”

Detective Tibbs: “They call me MISTER Tibbs!”

-In the Heat of the Night (1967)

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My Dear Readers,

As we move towards the holiday season, we want to be thankful for what we have, for the blessings our Creator has bestowed and the lives we cherish. And yet there are those who are faced with difficult choices.

In my previous blog, The Perfect Storm Part II, I quoted the following from the Army War College written in 1936:

“As an individual, the Negro is docile, tractable, lighthearted, carefree and good natured.  If unjustly treated, he is likely to become surly and stubborn.  He is careless, shiftless, irresponsible and secretive.  He is immoral, untruthful, and his sense of right doing relatively inferior.  Crimes and convictions involving moral turpitude are nearly five to one compared to convictions of whites on similar charges”.

So, here we are in 2019…. not much has changed regarding how African American males are viewed by the dominant group.  Except now, given the portrayals in the media, the stereotype of black men being easily moved to violence has been reinforced.

Too many times we have witnessed black men being sanctioned in the sports arena or arrested and hauled off to jail due to their “violent nature”. Just recently, the media repeatedly played the “shocking” violent assault of a white football quarterback by an opposing player who was black.

The black player asserts that he was reacting to a racial slur made by the white player.  The white player denies doing so.  The league states there is no evidence of a racial slur being made.

In the end, the black player is out of football for the remainder of the season and will forever be seen as the perpetrator of a vicious assault and the white player will forever be seen as the victim.

These actions reinforce stereotypes that African American people endure daily. However, below is a story that will not garnish national headlines, even though its outcome and impact can have psychologically similar effects on the people involved.

Below is a story of a young man who has endured racial micro-aggressions and now must make the difficult choice of reacting or responding. Either way he must be willing to walk the landscape… alone.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

I am an African American man residing in a major city in the Midwestern United States. I am writing to you out of anger and despair. I recently read your blog about the black man who wanted to physically assault the next white man who insulted him and I find myself in a similar situation.

I am in the last year of my pediatric surgery residency. I have endured years of psychological abuse ranging from youthful bullying and taunts of “wannabe white boy” because I simply wanted to do well in school to more recently, the Associate Dean of my university screaming at me, upset about the trash not being removed from his office after mistaking me for a janitor. An apology would have been appreciated, but none was extended.  Instead, he acted as if it never happened.

During my undergraduate and now medical education, I have endured constant negative comments about my race, my abilities and my standing in my prestigious academic program.  One of my professors even inferred, in open class, that I was taking the seat of a “more deserving student” who now, due to diversity concerns, had been denied a promising career.

A new and ongoing situation is occurring, and I and I feel I can no longer take the abuse. I have clinical rounds every Tuesday morning and I usually arrive an hour early to study in a large lounge area scattered with multiple tables and chairs.  As I stated the room is quite sizable yet people walking by have the “tendency” to step over my feet and disturb my concentration while I am reading.

To resolve this problem, I placed two chairs around me creating a short detour and granting me space. While others have taken the hint and walked around, one person has taken it upon himself to challenge the boundary that I have created.

On several occasions, he has intentionally moved the chairs and walked through my crossed off area. I know what he is doing.  He is a white male who works in the lower levels of the facility.  He is asserting his white privilege.

As he walks past me, he gives me a sidelong glance, challenging me to confront him.  He only does this when I am sitting alone without the benefit of witnesses.

My friends suggest that I do what I feel and beat his ass and let him know who he is messing with, but I know that would only bring momentary satisfaction and endanger my career, so I hold it in.

When I get up in the morning, brush my teeth and stare at my reflection in the mirror, I don’t like what I see. I see a weak, wannabe male who is absolutely powerless and it bothers me. It angers me. I feel like I have reached my limit. I feel I must respond for my own dignity, my own integrity.  This abuse can go no further. I can no longer accept this disrespect.

Last week, I couldn’t sleep.  I got up early and went to the lounge and arranged a larger barrier of four chairs and a table as my border then sat there and waited for him… He never came.

My feelings have left me confused.  I was raised in the church.  I am a man of faith.  My pastor even told me to “turn the other cheek” but why should I, so he can spit on that cheek too? I want to beat him down so bad that I can taste it. Part of me feels I may have done it that day had he shown.  I know I would be arrested but part of me doesn’t care.

I am confused.  I don’t like feeling this way.  I have thoughts of hurting myself.  Can you help me?

Holding On By A String, Midwest, USA

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My Dear Young Man,

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to write.  Second, I want to congratulate you on your extensive and exhaustive journey to achieving your academic and professional goals.

In responding to your words, it is for you to decide your direction as to what path you will take. It is also for you to understand that as you walk the landscape, you will be walking alone.

Let’s look at some of the real problems:

Bruised ego

The ego is the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for testing reality and providing a sense of personal identity.  Yes, you have been challenged and now you are allowing the insult to be invasive and cause you to question your personal identity.

Question: Ask yourself, what is different now? After all these years of enduring insults, yet having the clarity of vision to keep forging toward your goals, what about this incident has you now questioning your personal identity?

 

Transference

Transference is the redirection of feelings and desires and especially those unconsciously retained from childhood and adolescence towards a new object. As a child and adolescent, you develop values, goals and objectives that are focused on educational achievement.  Your peer group did not value these objectives and as a result you suffered repeated rejection.

Question: Ask yourself, after all these years of peer rejection, what is going on in your life that even after reaching your educational goals, you return to bringing up and holding on to the wounded memories of your childhood?

 

Projection

Projection is the attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people.  It is the externalization of blame, guilt, or responsibility as a defense against anxiety.

The white man that you are directing your feelings towards is insignificant.  He has no meaning in your life.  Although you “want to beat him down,” he doesn’t know your name.   You have the awareness that he is exerting his white privilege. This insignificant person is exerting what little power he has.

Question: Ask yourself, what do you see in him that is reflective of you?  Does his insignificance mirror your feelings of inadequacy and anxiety as you prepare to graduate from your medical residency and take your rightfully deserved place in the medical profession?

 

What are the alternatives?

  •  Lie in wait for your tormentor. He will return at some point to “assert his privilege”.  Provide him with a good ass whipping. Give him what he really wants, which is the designation as a victim of your uncontrolled violence and the opportunity to ruin your promising career.
  • Stop giving your tormentor power. Cease focusing on the “flea” by granting him power and control in your life.
  • Empower yourself. Make the issues about you and not about your tormentor.
  • Examine the issues that hold you in conflict. Seek to resolve the following questions:
    • What am I really reacting or responding to?
    • What unresolved issues of the past are impacting my present and could be sabotaging my future.
    • What is occurring within me, knowing the hard work I have done to reach this point, that I am now willing to throw it all away?

Disregard the stereotypical views in which the dominant group seeks to entrap you. Don’t become the ABC (Angry Black and Out of Control) person that the tormentor and others seek to drive you to be. Don’t become the mule aimlessly following the carrot and pulling his master’s plow. Instead, focus on the Self Protocol.

 

SELF Protocol (Self-Empowerment & Leaping Forward)

Become the person you want to be. Living the optimistic ABCs of Advocacy, Balance & Calmness requires you to be willing to process the repressed pain and to work towards healing your wounds.

Begin by utilizing the Five Rs of RELIEF:

  1. Respite: Take a breath. Psychologically step away from the incident creating distress.
  1. Reaction: Take a moment to embrace your emotions. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Your anger, frustrations, disappointment and so on.
  1. Reflection: Reach into the depth of your emotional and mental processes. Analyze what that reaction means to you and how you felt. Begin to shape and balance your thoughts and feelings.
  1. Response: Identify and separate your response into one that remains within self and one that is shared with those in the external environment.
  1. Reevaluation: Be patient with yourself. Have the willingness to explore, examine and review the steps as needed.

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Concluding Words 

“Thank you for coming to the event tonight Dr. Kane; you represented well.”

– Remark of white guest attending a formal event

My Dear Readers,

Although I have never met this young man, I know him well. His distress can be found in the lives of many African Americans.  The constant micro-aggressions (psychological and emotional) and macro-aggressions (physical violence) that can impact this group daily can become, at times, burdensome and lead to negative outcomes.

It may be that this young man, through the burdens carried from his past and the pressures he faces as he enters the professional world, has simply come to understand his reality:

  • He will never be fully valued or validated by the dominant group,
  • He will constantly be “turning the other cheek” regarding actions or comments made by others,
  • He will constantly be knocking on closed doors; doors that are easily opened to others, but he must be determined to keep knocking and,
  • He will be free to practice his profession yet be treated as a stranger in a strange land.

However, I hope the young man will hold to what is true; that within his ongoing journey of self-discovery, he has gained empowerment and unlike power, his empowerment can never be taken away from him.

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”I am an invisible man…. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

-Ralph Ellison, Author

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Invisibility

When you look at me, can you see my invisibility?

Or is it all just in my mind, and is it me, myself, that keeps me blind?

Or is it that my feelings are so unjust,

or is it really the color of my skin that you don’t trust?

So tell me what it is that I need to do,

to prove to society that I am just like you?

To prove that I can walk the same.

And to prove that I too have a name.

But is it really me that you choose not to see,

Or is it the lack of everything you want to be?

Tell me now who keeps you blind,

Or is it all just in your mind?

Or is it all just in your hate,

the hate that you continue to generate.

 I will tell you now what it is you see,

it’s a reflection of your own invisibility.

-Unknown

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

The Perfect Storm, Part II: All That Is Forgotten, We Remember

“You niggers are wondering how you are going to be treated after the war.  Well, I’ll tell you, you are going to be treated exactly like you are before the war; this s a white man’s country and we expect to rule it.”

-White New Orleans city official, speaking to returning war veterans and African-Americans raising money for the war effort

“As an individual, the Negro is docile, tractable, lighthearted, carefree and good-natured.  If unjustly treated, he is likely to become surly and stubborn.  He is careless, shiftless, irresponsible and secretive.  He is immoral, untruthful, and his sense of right doing relatively inferior.  Crimes and convictions involving moral turpitude are nearly five to one compared to convictions of whites on similar charges.”

-Army War College Report (1936)

 “Men, you are the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never had asked for you if you weren’t good.  I have nothing but the best in my army. I don’t care what color you are, as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sonsabitches.  Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you.   Most of all, your race is looking forward to your success.  Don’t let them down, and damn you, don’t let me down.”

-General George Patton, to the 761st, a segregated black tank battalion, before going into battle.  However, that same afternoon, Patton wrote in his diary:

“The 761st gave a good impression, but I have no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race.”

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My Dear Readers,

In my last blog The Perfect Storm: Power, Privilege, & Fear of Black Skin, I defined the phrase “sleight of hand” as the deceitful craftiness of a cleverly executed trick where the movements of the trickster are barely noticeable.  Within that context, I defined the trickster as the dominant group hiding in the shadows in silence while their anger, rage, and distrust is being misdirected towards African Americans via their assigned agents: the police.

2019 marks a significant time in my life. In early spring, I returned to France and retraced the steps of African American troops fighting in WWI.  This summer, I went to the home of my ancestors, visiting Ghana, West Africa and stood at the “Door of No Return” at Elmira Castle, through which millions of kidnapped Africans disappeared, either becoming slaves in the New World, or dying on the way.

I write now from Berlin, Germany, where I have been researching the contributions made by African American troops during WWII.  Psychological trauma arising from isolation, segregation, and abandonment are common themes that I have found in the experiences of African Americans fighting in segregated units on behalf of democratic principles denied to them at home.

During WWI, African American soldiers were not allowed to wear American uniforms or fight under the American flag. Instead, they had to fight under the   French flag, and all of their supplies, weaponry, and uniforms were provided by the French government.

American General John J. Pershing wrote in his memoirs that he “lent” the two African American divisions to the French and simply forgot about them until after the war.  However, Colonel William Hayward, the White commander of the 369th Harlem Hellfighters black regiment, states differently:

“Our great American general singly put the black orphan in a basket, set it on the doorstep of the French, pulled the bell, and went away.”

The two segregated combat divisions had to rely on the French for ground support, artillery barrages and air coverage.   They served with distinction, suffering a 35% casualty rate.  The 369th represented only 1% of the American forces in France, but held 20% of the front lines.  These soldiers were among the first of Allied troops to cross over into Germany.  Well respected by the French military, they received 180 individual awards of the highest French decoration, the Croix de Guerre.

Although the French gave its highest award for gallantry to African American soldiers on numerous occasions, no African American WWI soldiers were awarded the highest American award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Instead, African American soldiers were forbidden to participate in the victory parade in Paris, and they were quickly shipped home to be forgotten.

It was not until the administration of President George H.W. Bush, 72 years later, that racial bias against African American soldiers who served during WWI was even acknowledged.  An African American soldier, Corporal Freddie Stowers, was posthumously honored during the Bush Administration with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

 During WWII, the American government, having learned from the mistake of forcing African Americans to serve under a foreign flag, sought to maintain the concept of segregation within the military by assigning them as “attached units” to major white military units.  This allowed senior leaders to restrict the actions and activities of segregated units as well as to control or suppress the stories of their performance in war.

 

The Psychological Impact of Valor

The Congressional Medal of Honor is presented to Americans serving in the armed forces.  This award, created during the Civil War, is the highest military decoration that can be awarded.  The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States or an opposing foreign force. Due to the nature of the medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.

By the end of WWII, 464 Congressional Medals of Honor had been awarded to Americans serving in armed forces.  Of these, none were presented to African Americans.  You can see the “sleight of hand” in the underlying message that is simultaneously sent to and informed by the dominant group’s stereotypical beliefs about African Americans:

  • They did not serve in combat roles or if they did, they did not contribute in combat.
  • They were not trusted by whites to fight in combat roles.
  • They were either cowards or psychologically unfit to be trusted in combat roles.

 

Sleight of Hand Trick-The Denial of Heroes

 Despite the information regarding the combat readiness and performance of African American troops serving under the French military during WWI, the American military during WWII took the following view:

  • African Americans were inferior in intelligence and unsuited for military service.
  • African Americans were emotionally unstable and vulnerable to cowardice and therefore unsuited for combat duty.
  • If African Americans were to be utilized for military service, they should be placed in labor, support or service positions.

The US government, the military, the mainstream media of the day, and the entertainment industry all avoided, ignored, and denied the truth regarding the combat contributions of African Americans.  There have been numerous news stories and movies that have featured stories about the American landings at Normandy, France and the heroics of American combat forces during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.  Despite the fact that segregated African American units also fought in these major engagements, there is minimal or no mention of their contributions.

The only movie released about the segregated African American WWII units was Red Ball Express, released in 1952. The movie tells the story of an African American  segregated unit delivering much needed supplies to support Patton’s quickly moving Third Army racing towards Germany.  The movie is told through the eyes of a white officer (Jeff Chandler) with minor supporting roles given to black actors.

The story of the real Red Ball Express is an important one, as it tells of the contributions of African Americans during a critical time of the war.  However, here is a sample of the “sleight of hand trick” at work.  This unit operated 5,958 vehicles carrying 12,500 tons of supplies per day for 83 days.  As important as it was, the movie reinforces the stereotype that the only contributions of African Americans in the war was in labor, support or service positions, disregarding African Americans serving in segregated combat units.

 

So what is known about African-Americans serving in segregated combat units?

 There were many segregated African American combat units serving in the Europe and the Pacific during WWII.  In addition to the Tuskegee Airmen, others include:

  • The USS Mason—A US Navy destroyer that whose crew achieved the distinction of escorting six major conveys across the Atlantic without losing a single ship.
  • The 4th Marine Division (Black Leathernecks)-a Marine Corps unit that suffered severe casualties fighting the Japanese on Saipan, earning a Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation
  • The 761st Tank Battalion—a US Army battalion quoted by its commanding general George Patton as having “no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race.” The 761st Tank Battalion was in continuous combat from October 31, 1944 to May 6, 1945.  During that time they captured or destroyed 331 machine gun nests, 58 pillboxes and 461 armored vehicles.  In addition, they killed 6,246 enemy soldiers and captured 15,818 prisoners.  They liberated thirty towns and villages and two branch concentration camps.

The 761st Tank Battalion suffered a casualty rate of 50%.  Members of the battalion received the following decorations:

  • 296 Purple Hearts
  • 8 battlefield commissions
  • 11 Silver Stars
  • 70 Bronze Stars

 

The Silencing & Denial of Heroism

The commanding officer of the 761st Tank Battalion requested that the unit and one of its members who was killed in battle be awarded the country’s highest honors, the Distinguished Unit citation and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  General Patton, commander of the Third Army, and General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied commander who would later become the 34th President of the United States, denied both requests.

It was not until 32 years later, during the administration of Jimmy Carter, that the 761st Tank Battalion received the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism.  It was 53 years later during the administration of Bill Clinton that Staff Sergeant Rubin Robinson Rivers of the 761st was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism and sacrificing his life to save his comrades.

 

In Service of Democracy: The Blindness of the Dominant Group

More than one million African American men served in segregated units during WWII.  Serving with distinction did not prevent them from being exposed to the racism and psychological trauma they faced when returning home.  Lieutenant Christopher Stureky, having won a battlefield commission and Silver Star during the war, shares the following experience:

“I stopped by an inexpensive store in uniform with combat ribbons and battle stars in full display. When I tried to order a hamburger, the white girl behind the counter said, “We don’t serve niggers in here.”

Following the war, African American veterans experienced numerous acts of violence stateside:

  • Mobs in the South beat African American veterans who were still in uniform.
  • In 1946 black veterans were lynched. One was shot and killed returning from voting.
  • In rural Georgia, two veterans and their wives were dragged from their cars by a White mob and shot to death. Their bodies were found to contain more than 60 bullets.
  • A WWII veteran was attacked by policemen in South Carolina and became blind as a result.
  • African American veterans were denied entrance into veteran support organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.
  • African-American veterans were denied access to GI home loans, educational institutions and postwar job training opportunities.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

It is often stated that history is written by the victors.   In the case of African Americans, they are victims and it is left up to the dominant group, who hides in the shadows, supported by the military, print media and cinema makers to hide stories of their heroism and misdirect generations of African-Americans to believe those lies.

This Sleight of Hand Trick as this relates to African American veterans of WWII continues to unfold to this day.  In 2020, I will return to Belgium to explore the story of the murders of 11 African American soldiers captured during the Battle of the Bulge.  This war crime was well known by American white military commanders but was not made public until recently. Even today, the story of The Lost Eleven remains unknown to the majority of the African American community.

The Sleight of Hand Trick when done successfully can have traumatic and psychological long-term impacts.  As shown during WWI and WWII it was used to reinforce racial oppression and the forced subordination of African Americans while seeking to hold power, exercise privilege and exploit the fear of those who skin is dark, and is easily identified, increasing instances of psychological distress and physical harm.

DEDICATION

To the many African-American men who have come and gone before us, I say thank you. To the men of today, the struggle against racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment continues. Despite all adversity and all that has been thrown at us, we are still standing. Death awaits us all. However, while we are here, we can either stand as men or live on our knees. If we chose to stand as men, our FAITH will see us through.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next crossroads….. The Journey continues ..

The Perfect Storm: Power, Privilege, and Fear of Black Skin

“People understand officers have tough jobs and have to make snap decisions… but at the same time, they realize, we realize, that there are some officers who will occasionally use very poor judgment, violate policies and procedures and do things that are egregiously wrong.  We want to be able to stop that.”

-Fernando Costa, Assistant City Manager, Fort Worth Texas

 

“There was absolutely no excuse for this incident and the person responsible will be held accountable.  The officers, they try hard every day to try to make this city better.  I likened it to a bunch of ants building an anthill, and if somebody comes with a hose and washes it away, they just have to start from scratch.”

-Fort Worth Interim Police Chief Kraus making an emotional appeal to the public not to judge all the officers in the department based on one officer’s actions.

 

“Black people are being targeted. With every death by cop, there is the “usual dance” of public outcry, an official investigation, an individual officer tossed under the bus by their police department, a lawsuit, and eventually a financial settlement. But nothing ever really changes. In a few months we’ll be right back where we started with another life lost.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

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My Dear Beloved Readers,

I have missed you so much!

During my hiatus, I returned to Paris, France to do research on the psychological traumas inflicted on African-American soldiers during World War I by the American government, including fighting in segregated units, not being allowed to wear American uniforms and being forced to fight under the French flag.

I also had the pleasure of teaching two workshops at the Year of the Return Conference in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.  While there, I visited the infamous “Door of No Return” at Elmina Castle, one of the many holding pits for African men, women and children captured by Europeans for the Trans- Atlantic Slave trade.

Nearly 12.5 million people were kidnapped and held in these castle dungeons along the western coast of Africa. When the time came, they were made to exit through these “Doors of No Return” and taken aboard ships bound for unknown places in the New World. I was psychologically impacted by what I saw and felt as I stood frozen, clutching the “Door of No Return” with shaking hands.

However, I will give Elmina Castle the attention it deserves in a future blog. Today, I want to focus on the sleight of Hand trick that is being played upon us, right in front of our “lying” eyes. Below is a story of being duped without realizing you have been duped.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

As I write this letter to you, I am so angry.  I am a professional black man.  I am well educated.  I own my home.  I am sick and tired of the daily abuse I must take from white people.

Recently while riding the local transit to work, a young white male intentionally bumped me and begin calling me the N word several times while the bus was in transit. The passengers and bus driver, who were all white, sat silently.  I felt humiliated, angry and traumatized from the incident.

It is not uncommon for me to be followed by store staff while shopping or looked upon suspiciously even when walking in the office building that I have worked for the last ten years.  When I moved into the neighborhood, the only welcome I received was the police knocking on my door wanting proof that I lived there.

I have been questioned by neighborhood crime watchers and followed by the police. I am frightened about being shot and killed just for the error of being born black.  I now have a protocol when a police car pulls me over:  I immediately place my hands on the dashboard, ask for permission to move when needed, and I do not move until I ask permission to do so.

One cop asked me in a hostile tone why I don’t like cops.  When I told him it was not about not liking cops, rather about having fear of cops, he smiled, removed his hand from his holster, told me that I had “nothing to be afraid of,” and to “have a nice day”.  He never stated the reason he pulled me over.  I was simply in the “wrong” neighborhood, the one I live in.

Really? How am I supposed to have a nice day? Am I supposed to pretend that nothing happened?  When I tell my white coworkers about these incidents, they become quiet, seek to change the subject, or tell me that I am either overreacting or that I am too sensitive.  Some avoid me, seeing me as an “angry black man.”  One person had the nerve to tell me that she misses the “old” me.  I don’t smile anymore.

Now, there is that shooting of the black woman by a cop while she was peeking out the window blinds in her own home.  This is the second time cop has killed a black person in their home.  And this time, an eight-year-old child was present!

I am angry with white people for their ignorance, angry with black people for doing nothing about it, and I am scared of the police because they have the power to kill me and get away with it.  I don’t feel safe in my home, in my car, on the bus and out in the community.  I don’t know what to do.

I feel like lighting up the next white person that insults me.  I am considering obtaining a concealed arms permit.   My parents believe that what I am feeling is really related to today’s political climate and that this too will pass.  They disagree with me having a weapon either on me or in the house.  I have never spoken to a therapist before.  What are your thoughts?

Not a Sitting Duck,  Seattle WA

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My Dear Readers:

As I listen to this young man’s words, I see the makings of a perfect storm: he lacks power, he is frustrated by those who hold privileges that he does not, and he is reacting to those who fear black skin.  The question is whether he is about to erupt, or whether he is willing to seek the ability to have “calmness in a burning house.” I want to thank him for sharing the ongoing psychologically traumatic experiences he has been enduring.   Let’s take a moment and examine what this person is feeling as well as his response.

The writing is indicative of a person who feels powerless, frustrated and angry due to interactions with the police and being stereotyped and made “invisible” by the dominant society.  His responses are to “light up the next white person that insults him” and obtain a concealed weapons permit.

My dear readers, just imagine this scenario as a television game show.  If so, the dominant society would be shouting and applauding the host’s announcement:

“Congratulations!  You have, by your actions, have just won the grand prize known as the “Angry Black, Out of Control” Trophy. This “ABC” prize is often awarded to black people who demonstrate the inability to control their emotions.”

So, what have you won?

  1. For carrying a concealed weapon (with a license) while interacting with the police. you have won a casket and the privilege of being escorted to your final resting place by six of your closest friends, your pallbearers.
  2. For “lighting up” someone, you have won a beautiful set of jewelry (handcuffs), accommodations and meals (incarceration), opportunities to meet with local celebrities (attorney, prosecutor, judge), celebrity status (media coverage) and expensive exotic items (bail bonding, attorney/legal fees, court costs and costs for anger management courses).

Should “Not a Sitting Duck” take the actions stated?

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This is the trapdoor that many African Americans allow themselves to fall through. They allow their reactions to be the response and derail all of their own hard-fought victories and accomplishments.

The Crossroads: Playing the Game or Running the Race Smarter Not Harder

One of the takeaways I have from standing at the Door of No Return is the full understanding of the endurance and sacrifice of my ancestors.   Despite slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, domestic terrorism, and other horrors, they never gave up on life.  They became skilled in learning to play “Massa’s game,” and in doing so, were able to achieve success while others sought their destruction.

Not much since then has changed.  Despite economic, social and political achievements attained by African Americans over the last 400 years, we continue to be duped and manipulated by the dominant group.

Following the most recent police-involved shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth Texas, Eugene Robinson, columnist with the Washington Post, asked the following question:

“What can a black person do to keep from getting killed by police in this country?”

My response:

“Not a damn thing.”

What is wrong with me?  Has the doctor gone insane?

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Sleight of Hand and Our Lying Eyes

The phrase “sleight of hand” refers to the deceitful craftiness of a cleverly executed trick where the movements of the trickster are barely noticeable.  I believe the term is applicable here in that:

  1. African Americans believe they have the “power” to stop the police from killing African Americans. As the African-American community speaks; it is organized in one voice, condemning the killing of individual African-Americans.
  2. African Americans believe that the hierarchy of police department has the “power” to stop the individual police officer from killing African Americans.
  3. African Americans believe that the dominant group will break their silence and act as a group and stop the killing of African Americans.

Let’s look at these individually.

  

  1. African Americans believe they have the “power” to stop the police from killing African Americans. As the African American community speaks; it is organized in one voice, condemning the killing of individual African-Americans.

The African American community is not monolithic. It does not consider itself to be powerful, intractably indivisible, or uniform.  Its strength has been focusing on political and economic growth generally through education and social and personal accomplishments.  Its weakness has been a psychological survival mentality that is historical in nature and does not allow it to act proactively in either speaking in one voice or to protect its members from police involved shootings.

  1. African Americans believe that the hierarchy of police department has the “power” to stop the individual police officer from killing African Americans.

There are more than 18,000 police departments throughout the United States.  There is an estimated 750,000 to 850,000 sworn or commissioned officers within 18,000 federal, state and law enforcement agencies in the US.  Due to the growing numbers of agencies, overlapping and conflicts in jurisdictions, there are inconsistencies in the following areas:

  • Training & protocol
  • Hiring & retention
  • Mental health
  • Financial resources/ budgetary concerns

In an earlier quote, Fernando Costa, Assistant City Manager, Fort Worth Texas stated:

“People understand officers have tough jobs and have to make snap decisions”…”But at the same time, they realize, we realize, that there are some officers who will occasionally use very poor judgment, violate policies and procedures and do things that are egregiously wrong.  We want to be able to stop that.”

Here is the sleight of hand trick in action:

Is he really stating to the public in general and African-Americans specifically that “occasionally,” an officer will take actions that will result in the injury or death of those the officer is sworn to protect and serve? If so, how does that relate to a person being shot and killed while peeking out one’s window blinds or because the officer mistakenly entered the wrong residence?

“We want to be able to stop that.” Is he saying what he needs to say to calm angry African Americans and nervous white constituents, or is he claiming that he doesn’t have the authority or ability to stop the killing of African Americans?

In restating Fort Worth Interim Police Chief Kraus’s emotional appeal to the public not to judge all the officers in the department based on one officer’s actions:

“There was absolutely no excuse for this incident and the person responsible will be held accountable.  The officers, they try hard every day to try to make this city better.  I likened it to a bunch of ants building an anthill, and if somebody comes with a hose and washes it away, they just have to start from scratch.”

By throwing the individual police officer involved in the shooting under the bus and seeking empathy and understanding, he is distancing himself and the overall department from responsibility!

  1. African Americans believe that the dominant group will break their silence and act as a group and stop the killing of African Americans. 

My observations and feelings about have taught me to watch carefully the trickster’s hand.  The focus on the police officer involved in the shooting is misdirected.  The focus on the policing department and its civilian oversight is also misdirected.

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So…who should we focus on?  In essence, the silence of the dominant group.

The “fear of black skin” that often is a factor in police involved shootings of African Americans is generated and reinforced by the dominant group.  There is a non-verbal and binding understanding between the police and the dominant group which commissions its officers.  That being community protection for us (the dominant group) and enforce the law upon them (African Americans and other people of color.)

As a result, now and then an officer must be sacrificed so that the police department involved can rebuild trust or, as Interim Chief Krauss states, “rebuild the anthill.” Chief Krauss adds:

“Human life is a precious thing and should not have been taken from Ms. Jefferson,” Kraus told reporters. “This incident has eroded the trust that we have built with our community and we must now work even harder to ensure that trust is restored.”

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

Mr. Hale, a black resident of Fort Worth, when questioned whether during an emergency would he call the police, stated:

“It would have to be extreme to call.  It’s too much 50/50 in the air.  It’s not that I’m scared of the police, but you just don’t know who’re going to catch on the wrong day.”

My Dear Readers,

It is a sad truth that these comments are echoed throughout many African American communities in the United States.  Once again, African Americans are allowing themselves to be deceived by the sleight of hand trickery.  Specifically, by placing the focus on the police themselves, we give the dominant group, who grants the power that is given to the police, a free pass to continue operating in the shadows of the darkness.

So, what can a black person do to avoid being killed by the police?

For black people to stop being killed by the police, black and brown skin must be valued, validated and visualized in the same way by the same people who, like the police, fear black and brown skin.

For black people to stop being killed, white people must want to explore issues of racism, privilege and implicit bias. White people must want to begin working on healing (and stop ignoring) their psychological trauma of chronic moral injury syndrome.

White silence must end, and transformation must begin. Black people are being targeted and as in police involved shooting, there will be the usual dance of public outcry, an “official investigation,” an individual police officer tossed under the bus by the police department, a lawsuit, and a financial settlement.

We will see the same photos of grieving family, pallbearers and casket with the media escalating the story. And then there will be SILENCE…. until the next time.

Chronic moral injury syndrome, white supremacy, and fear of black and brown skin only insure that there will be… A next time.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Facebook post,  10.15.19

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What Is Winning?

Every Black person going to sleep is not going wake up

Life is walking the landscape

If I can make it through the night

And awake up in the morning

With my loved ones safe

I win.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

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“They don’t hear your voice.  They just see the color of your skin”

-The Revenant (2015)

 

“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)

 

Interactions with Law Enforcement-The Five R’s of RELIEF

Take a Respite (Step away emotionally)

Embrace your Reactions (Hug your feelings)

Reflect (balance your feelings and thoughts)

Respond inwards (calm the inner self)

Reevaluate (actions and behaviors)

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues…

The Visible Man: Transforming From Ejection to Empowerment

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

-Frederick Douglass

“Get, get, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here.’”

-Ruby Howell, campground manager pulling gun on black couple having picnic on Memorial Day

“The fact that she used ‘get, get’ like we were a dog. You say ‘get, get’ to a stray dog that’s on your porch.”

-Franklin Richardson, after being threatened by Ruby Howell

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My Dear Readers,

A belated Memorial Day greeting and a heartfelt thank you to those in our military that gave their lives for our nation.  Once again, I leave my self-imposed retreat to communicate to my beloved readership.

In this writing, I direct my focus to an incident that speaks to how important it is that all Americans, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, understand the psychological wounding created and supported in environments immersed in  hostility and hate.

African Americans have an extensive history of psychological rejection by whites and physical ejection from places where whites feel that African Americans do not “belong.”  Historically, whites have utilized laws and “black codes” to restrict and control the movements of African Americans.

In modern times, while the hostility and hate continue to flourish, the methods of restriction and control have transformed.  Today, whites call the police on African Americans who are #WalkingWhileBlack, #SleepingWhileBlack, and #SellingWaterWhileBlack, among others, leading to what I call a Starbucks Moment.  Named for the 2016 story where two African-American males were arrested for sitting in a Starbucks in Philadelphia, a Starbucks Moment: 

“…occurs when a white person, due to irrational emotional reactions from shock, fear, terror or feeling threatened, deceives or manipulates the police to seek the investigation, removal, and/or arrest of a black person for a minor reason or infraction in a space that the black person would otherwise have every right to occupy.”

-M. Kane, (2016)

White people continue to employ this strategy to this day. Some take matters into their own hands by violence.  In 2018, a white retired firefighter was convicted of assault with intent to do great bodily harm for shooting a 12-gauge shotgun at a black adolescent that was lost and knocked on the firefighter’s door seeking directions to his school.   The firefighter’s spouse testified:

“He didn’t look like a child.  He was a rather big man standing there, and also if he was going to school, we have no schools in our area.”

Most recently, an African-American couple searching for a space to celebrate Memorial Day with a picnic, unwittingly wandered onto a private campground.  The campground manager, an older white woman, immediately confronted them with a firearm, saying:

“Get, get, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here.”

While capturing the incident on video, the black couple departed without further comment. Franklin Richardson, a non-commissioned officer in the US National Guard, having recently returned from a nine-month tour in the Middle East, commented:

“You go over there, and you don’t have a gun pointed at you,” he said of his time serving overseas. And you come home, and the first thing that happens is that you have a gun pointed at you.  It’s kind of crazy to think about.”

The video of the incident has gone viral on social media, sparking discussion within the wider African American community, leading some of my readers to reach out to me.

Below are their stories….

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a black veteran who has served several tours in Iraq.  I have been wounded, diagnosed with PTSD and I was medically discharged from military service.  I have two teenage sons.  I am living in hell.  I am so afraid that when they go out with their friends that some crazy white person or the police are going to kill them.   I can’t sleep.  What can I do?

-Shaking in Seattle

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I served overseas in Iraq and recently came home.  I served my country only to see the fear in their eyes when white people look at me.  I am afraid that what happened to that Mississippi couple on Memorial Day could happen to me.  My family and I were planning to go camping next weekend—now we have canceled our plans.  My wife is scared.  I don’t like living this way. I am thinking about getting a concealed weapon permit.  What are your thoughts?

-Staying Alive, Tacoma, WA.

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Dear Dr. Kane:

That woman deserved to be fired. In fact, she deserves to be thrown in prison.  She had no reason to bring a gun.  She could have communicated to that couple without being intimidating.  When are white people going to accept us?  We are just like them.  I pay taxes, obey the law, go to church and work a job.  What the hell is wrong with these people?

-Disgusted in Shoreline, WA

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Observations-Dr. Kane  

There are common themes in the words of these individuals.  They are male, African American, and veterans of our armed forces. They are responding to ejection and rejection during times of hostility and hate, and this psychologically impacts them.

While these men are unable to control the negativity being directed towards them, they can mitigate the impact of their psychological distress by working to transform the following behaviors and/or actions:

  • Living in Fear to Living with Fear
  • Letting Go the Illusion of Power
  • Cease Seeking Acceptance from Others

 

Living in Fear to Living with Fear

Historically, white people, as the dominant group of people in this country, have used fear as a method of controlling the lives of African Americans.  This fear has been implemented in courts, in laws, in law enforcement, and enforced through discrimination and domestic terror, such as lynching.  Between the ending of the Reconstruction era in 1870 and the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968, 4,000 African-Americans were murdered via the rope and lynch mobs. There are numerous documented incidents of police involvement in these events or awareness of them.

African Americans, despite this pressure, continue to show the capacity to improve their social economic status, even though the remain psychologically impacted due to racial, historical and inter-generational traumas, among many other kinds of trauma.  In some cases, such as the one shown in the letter from Shaking in Seattle, African Americans live in daily fear for the safety of their children.

It is also likely that he is directly communicating his fear to the psychological core of his sons, even as he seeks to protect them from a hostile external environment. Shaking in Seattle can improve his situation and provide a protection strategy for his teenage sons by understanding and showing them that fear is simply an emotion being felt.

He can choose to embrace his fear, normalizing his feelings and by doing so, model this method of addressing these events for his teenage sons. In transforming the way he views his fear, Shaking in Seattle can teach his sons self-preservation strategies and how to respond when interacting with law enforcement and individuals such as the campground manager when they display threatening or intimidating behaviors.

 

Letting Go of the Illusion of Power

Staying Alive in Tacoma is also living in fear.  However, unlike Shaking in Seattle, due to the campground firearm incident, Staying Alive in Tacoma has canceled outdoor activities that bring joy to him and his family.  Furthermore, Staying Alive in Tacoma is considering obtaining a concealed weapon permit, which may make things worse.

It would be a mistake for Staying Alive in Tacoma to obtain a concealed weapon permit.  By doing this, he places the responsibility for his protection on an external source: a concealed weapon.  In doing so, he gives away his personal empowerment from his internal source: his ability to effectively communicate.

A clear example of empowerment comes from the very incident that produced this reaction. When the campground manager pulled her weapon, the African-American couple utilized communication to defuse the situation, exited the area and prevented the possibility of deadly harm.

It is a foregone conclusion that based on the stereotypical beliefs and fears held by the dominant society as well as their ability to manipulate law enforcement, Staying Alive in Tacoma will have intermediate, unannounced, and ongoing contact with law enforcement.

It would be wise for African American males to use self-empowerment strategies and treat both law enforcement and individuals who display threatening or intimidating behavior  the way that Forrest Gump treated a box of chocolates: like you don’t know what you are going to get.  

 

Cease Seeking Acceptance from Others

Disgusted in Shoreline simply expects fairness.  He views himself as having achieved the successes that the dominant group requires African Americans to be in order to be worthy of living: class status, home ownership, and being upstanding taxpaying and law-abiding citizens.

In his frustration of being denied acceptance by the dominant majority, he fails to see that the rejection he places on himself as he seeks this acceptance is a moving target.  Despite his remarkable social and economic achievements, Disgusted in Shoreline may suffer from Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and as a result, lacks “psychological wholeness.”

The solution for Disgusted in Shoreline may be to stop seeking acceptance from others.  Since that desired acceptance is racially motivated, therapy can help with balancing the desire to be accepted by white people. However, the question that remains is whether he can begin the Journey of Self Discovery and in doing so, learn to want, love, and value the psychological self.

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 Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

 Casual racism is a term used to refer to society’s or a particular individual’s lack of regard for the impact of their racist actions upon another person.  Casual racism has become more insidious as it has become expressed through white comfort and discomfort.”  -M. Kane

Disgusted in Shoreline leaves us with an interesting question: “What the hell is wrong with these [white] people?”

What is wrong with these people?  White people are unable to talk about racial issues related to African Americans.  They are aware that despite the illusion of American self-sufficiency, this nation is built on the blood, sweat and tears of slavery.

Many may believe that the campground manager deserves to be fired, or thrown in prison, as Disgusted in Shoreline wrote. However, this emotional response only serves to deflect and identify the problem as belonging to an isolated individual, instead of something the dominant society views as a collective responsibility.

This denial of collective responsibility places White America in a “psychological prison” in which they go about their daily lives ignoring the culture of hostility and hate they live within, and then when confronted with it, expecting redemption and atonement from people of color.

Like African Americans, white people in this country are psychological traumatized.  Although they are in denial, they too are impacted by historical and intergenerational traumas. White people in these situations do not know how to obtain relief.  Therefore, they also suffer in silence.  They are impacted by Complex Moral Injury Syndrome and White Supremacy Trauma.

In this land, true healing will only occur from empowering the psychological self and arising above hostility and hate.

There are many who share the sentiments of Ruby Howell, the campground manager:

“Get, get, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here.”

African-Americans have fought, spilling blood and dying so people like Ruby Howell can live free.  This is our home as well.  We are not going anywhere.

We are staying right here.

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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

-Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

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

NOTE: Please join Dr. Kane for:

Black and Thriving: African/American Perspectives on Mental Illness

A Juneteenth Panel Discussion

June 17, 2019, 2pm-4pm

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

104 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

Bobbi’s Saga: Wanting More, Receiving Less, and Still Wanting More

“The only time sex was fun when we were working on having children.”

-Bobbi

“After he was done with me, he showered and went off to have breakfast with a friend.  I went back to sleep.  I was shocked about what had just happened.  It took me back to when my stepfather began abusing me, first slowly talking, then touching, later putting his hand and some type of object inside of me … and then his penis.”

-Bobbi

“But I don’t know how to fight, all I know how to do is stay alive.”

-Celie, The Color Purple (1985)

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My Dear Readers,

I once again interrupt my self-imposed retreat to re-engage with my beloved readership.  My intent is to acknowledge the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration, and in doing so, honor the adversity faced by African American women as they walk the landscape of their lives.

It has been four years since I started writing Bobbi’s Saga.  Bobbi (an alias) is alive and continues to work towards emotional and psychological wellness. Since it is Mother’s Day, it only seems fitting that this post celebrates Bobbi continuing to grow and heal as not only a mother, but as a human being.

In this writing, I compare her experiences to that of Celie, the character portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg in the film The Color Purple.  Both works truly reflect the traumatic experiences of African American women who continue to “suffer in silence”.

In my work as a clinical traumatologist, I developed the “S Protocol,” a technique designed to assist patients who are experiencing severe emotional distress, having experienced and survived extreme psychological trauma myself.

The S Protocol refers to the structure of the therapeutic environment.  There are three main objectives. The first is to provide:

    • Safe and Secure
    • Space to Sit with in
    • Silence or/and Speak about
    • Submerged (unresolved) Stuff
    • Surfacing upon the psychological landscape.

The second objective of the S Protocol is to reduce the severity of the re-experienced trauma as it surfaces upon the psychological landscape through reminders such as memories and triggers.

The third objective is to help the individual stabilize and sustain their security and reinforce their self esteem and self-concept.  This is the process of self-discovery; the individual reinforces the psychological self, having achieved ABC: advocacy for self, balance within the internal world and calmness in the external environment.

It is within the work of psychotherapy that the therapist commits to the role of companion, consultant, and guide as the individual seeks to walk the landscape during the journey of self-discovery and in doing so, learn about the depth of the psychological self and acquire empowerment skills.  It is in the therapeutic work and the enjoining that the individual seeks to transform from the societal designation of “survivor” to the self-declaratory status of “striver.”

Bobbi’s saga is the story of an amazing woman who, in her journey of self-discovery, has transformed from being a victim and a survivor to a striver in the decades following severe childhood sexual abuse. In her journey of self-discovery, she has reached into the depth of her being and achieved self-empowerment.

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From Bobbi’s Journal:

I had a session with Dr. Kane today.  I was honest with Dr. Kane as usual.  I say this because we talked about intercourse. 

That is the wrong word.  My recent lovemaking with my husband, I can’t even say that.  I told Dr. Kane that I felt used.  I now feel bad about revealing that.

How do you feel that way after 40 years of marriage?  When he puts his hand on my thigh and rubs over my body, he is never touching the “real” me. I am having a hard time writing this. 

After 3 years of no sexual contact, he now had an urge that took less than four minutes to fill.  He then got up and left; talking about something insignificant, heading to the shower and then to have breakfast with a friend.  We never talked about what happened.

Years ago, we talked about the lack of sexual arousal or satisfaction.  I always thought it was because of my sexual abuse.  I don’t have experiences of lovemaking. I do believe my low self-esteem affected what I expected from sex. 

The one person I had sex with besides my husband, someone I was with by choice, I realized just wanted to use me for oral sex. I don’t think my husband had many sexual experiences before being with me.  He has refused to talk about previous relationships.  After repeatedly asking before and after we got married, I just stopped asking.

 I feel lighter about my past abuse.  The pain is less, but it is still there.  I no longer feel ashamed of myself, most days.  I know it wasn’t my fault all the times it happened to me.  I now never question that.

Even though I feel so much lighter, the abuse still affects me.  The flashbacks still distract me from what I am doing.  The triggers still happen often. I never know when to expect them to appear.

I feel that I am different from other people.  I grew up feeling not loved, not special, not pretty, not wanted, ashamed, afraid of everything; afraid the landlord was coming back to kill us, and especially growing up feeling that I was not smart.

Growing up in foster care meant I missed all the fun parts of junior high and high school.  I was so depressed, but no one noticed.  I was poor, having to live on the state allowance of $25.00 a month.  All of this continues to this day to make me feel different.

I want to be loved.  I know my husband loves me.  I want to be pampered and taken care of.  I want affection, real hugs and kisses, not those that make you feel you are kissing your grandmother.

There are so many nice things my husband does for the kids and me.  I want to think about my life in a different way.  It is hard for me to accept reality.  I know that is because of the awful things that happened during my childhood. 

There are still things that happened to me that I didn’t realize were abnormal.  I will never forget the look on Dr. Kane’s face when I told him that the care provider’s son put dirt in our cereal and we got worms.  It was just another part of my past to me. That memory, among others, were things I remembered but I did not think was bad.

Mother’s Day, and later in the month, my 40th anniversary is coming up soon.  I still want to go away for our anniversary. I doubt that we will do anything.  I am going to be really upset, as I have been asking him about this for a year.  I am feeling really frustrated.

As a result, I certainly don’t feel cherished, cared for and loved.  What do I do? If I say anything, it will start an argument.   On Thursday we leave for Washington, DC to see our youngest son graduate from college. I hope we have a wonderful time.  I don’t feel relaxed, however. My muscles are tight and I’m having headaches.

I am also questioning my emotions.  Are they okay?  Am I feeling this way because of my past?  I’ve also been angry.  Anger is not an emotion I usually have; I wonder if I can let go of the anger surrounding my mother and of her treatment of me.

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Discussion- Dr. Kane

At the age of three, Bobbi became the protector of her mother and brother.  In a child’s mind, sexually assaulted and fearful of certain death for her family, Bobbi sacrificed the psychological self, holding her traumatic memories of sexual assault to herself, never telling her mother or another responsible adult.

Bobbi’s mother passed away last year.  Bobbi continues to struggle with the contradictory feelings of wanting love from and anger toward her mother and her mother’s failure to protect her, her mother’s attempt to blind her and her mother’s abandonment, i.e. putting Bobbi into the state foster care system.

There are significant commonalities between Bobbi’s experiences and those of Celie in the film The Color Purple.  Both are black women who exist in contradictory environments, that is, the public image of community in contrast with the underlying realities of emotional and psychological isolation.

There are several common themes at play here:

  • Physical and sexual assault in early and middle childhood
  • Abandonment and survival, that is, not knowing how to fight and struggling to stay alive.
  • Being involved with emotionally unavailable men.
  • Hopelessness & inability to remove oneself from ongoing traumatic impacting situations.
  • Lack of psychological or emotional supports

However, there are also differences between the two. In the film, Celie’s children are taken away from her, and she lives her life not knowing what has happened to her children. In contrast, Bobbi’s children become her reason for living. Like she did when she first experienced the sexual assault, Bobbi becomes a “protective force” around her loved ones, sacrificing herself to ensure that her own children would never be physically or sexually abused.

40 years and three children later, Bobbi remains in a marriage devoid of intimacy and affection, continuing to carry her traumatic experiences alone.  Her husband is now aware of her extensive history of sexual abuse and traumatization, but as revealed in her journal, he remains emotionally unavailable. Still, Bobbi has achieved her goal of protecting her children from harm or abuse, and revels in their success. Her youngest son has recently graduated from a major university.

Bobbi continues to work on her self-empowerment and continues to work on conceptualizing and understanding that trauma is a permanent etching on the psychological self. She is aware that she can be successful in advocating for mental wellness and balancing the traumatic memories and in doing so, she can achieve calmness in both the internal self and the external environment. Although the flashbacks of the abuse that she experiences are less frequent these days, she has accepted that the traumatic memories may at times subside but may never fully go away.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

For a moment, I want to reflect on the actions and behaviors of Bobbi’s husband. Like Bobbi, the husband is also psychologically impacted by trauma in his own way.  He is a retired African American male who has endured decades of covert/overt racism, rejection and disappointments.

Like many African American men of his generation, he keeps his pain within, choosing instead to “suffer in silence.” He is a loving father and dutiful husband by deeds of being a good provider (food, clothing, shelter.)  He makes himself available to carry out any task that Bobbi requests of him.  However, he simply does not express his feelings.

Bobbi understood this when she entered the relationship.  She was keenly aware that her husband was “emotionally unavailable”.  Where other men pressured or demanded sexual relations from Bobbi, when she and her now husband were dating, he made no such demands.  He was Bobbi’s “helpmate” and continues to be so today.

The problem here is that Bobbi has never received “true intimacy,” and it is not clear that her husband knows how to provide it.  Like Celie, Bobbi suffers in silence and accepts what little affection she receives from her husband.  Now, however, Bobbi is speaking up, advocating for herself, wanting balance and calmness in her life.  It is apparent that she will continue to make these demands on the relationship.

It remains to be seen, given the husband’s history of emotional unavailability within the relationship and his unwillingness to engage with the depth of his psychological pain, whether transformation in the relationship can be attained.

Still, it would be a failure for us to define him as a villain in Bobbi’s story.  He has also been traumatized by his experiences.  However, the difference between the two of them is that the husband chooses simply to “survive,” while Bobbi seeks self-empowerment, striving for a life where she can thrive.

It has been my honor and privilege to be Bobbi’s companion on her walk along the human landscape and be able to share in her wisdom arriving from the Journey of Self-Discovery.

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The Undiscovered Territory

The past is what it was.

The present is what it is.

In the future lies what is to be uncovered.

It is the undiscovered territory

Waiting for you.

-Dr. Micheal Kane 

 

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Please continue to join us as we continue to walk with Bobbi on her journey!

More to come… Bobbi’s Saga.

At The Crossroads: Psychological Bleeding and the Emotional Impact of White Fragility

“[White Fragility is] The discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice”

–Dr. Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

“There isn’t any Negro problem; there is only a white problem.”

-Author Richard Wright, in response to a reporter’s question about the “Negro problem in America”

White Person: When I look at you, I don’t see race.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: I see a human being.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: We are all red under the skin.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: Why does race matter?

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: I was taught everybody is the same.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: I am not a racist.

Black Person: Remember me? It’s about me.  You don’t see me.

-Scene from “Choosing To See or Not See”

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My Dear Readers,

I have missed you!  In November 2018, after 6 years of consistently blogging to a readership spanning six continents, I simply lost the passion for writing.  I intended to take a well-deserved rest from blogging and to consider what direction I would move forward within my own journey of self-discovery.

A lot of newsworthy situations have occurred since I ceased writing, among them the racial and political havoc in Virginia, my state of early childhood development, the Jussie Smollett case in Chicago, and the recent refusal of state prosecutors in California to file criminal charges in the Sacramento police shooting death of Stephon Clark.  So, what brings me out of hibernation to write to my beloved readership?

The usual suspects: love, fragility and most importantly…. Fear. I recently received a correspondence from a reader seeking to address the issue of “white fragility.”  Interestingly enough, this has become a hot topic within my clinical practice.

I recently had an interview with a prospective patient who sought ways to act such that white people would become comfortable with him.   He said that his white colleagues were uncomfortable around him because of his large frame and dark skin.  When I mentioned that the issue may not be simply about white fragility but also about his own internalized psychological demand and his unmet needs for acceptance, he quickly terminated the interview.

In another situation, an African-American male patient spoke of his pain when a white female coworker complained to the organization’s HR director regarding his greeting her every morning by saying “Good Morning” when he arrived at work.  The coworker’s complaint was that she did not know him, and it made her feel uncomfortable when he greeted her. The black patient was directed to abide by her request not to speak to this individual.

A “notation” of the formal meeting was being placed in his personnel file.  To ensure that this didn’t happen again, and to protect his employment, the male patient made it his standard policy not to greet white female coworkers unless they initiated the greeting. He was later criticized by his supervisor for his “unfriendly attitude” and warned that he may be negatively evaluated for creating a hostile work environment.

African-American males in predominantly white social situations often must walk a thin line between social courtesy and withdrawal.  These incidents are dangerous due to the consequences to professional reputations, employment status, and the looming risk of arrest for alleged criminal behavior.

This week, I respond to the concerns of an African-American male who is psychologically “bleeding” from the emotional impacts of “White Fragility.”

Here is his story…

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Dear Dr. Kane:

Why do white people feel so fragile and feel so reactive about feeling it?  Why do I have to acknowledge their fragility and make allowances for it?

Over the last few years, I have found myself in social gatherings with white people having to endure not only their fragility but also a lot of “innocent” (aka dumbass) questions like:

  • “How do you know the host?” (Dumbass, the host is my wife and you are standing in my house.)
  • “What do you think about the chances of [insert random local sports team here] making the playoffs?” (Dumbass, what makes you assume that I play sports?)
  • And my favorite, “What do you think about Trump?” (Really Dumbass, your people elected him and you’re asking me?  How is he working out for you?)

Now, if I tell them that I am offended by these questions and that they reflect the stereotypes, unconscious bias and outright racism that festers within their meaningless lives, I become THAT GUY: the angry, insensitive monster who hurt their fragile feelings.   Never mind my feelings.   So, to avoid making them feel uncomfortable, I put on my “Good Negro Face.”  I smile, nod, make a little joke here and give a little pat on the back there.  I feel like a running back, using my “God given talents” as I slip, slide and dash through hardened defenses on my way to the goal line, or, just get through a swirling sea of dumbass questions without losing my cool.

It’s bad enough that I have to endure the bullshit of niceness and fake displays as I play the game in the work environment.  In my personal space, however, it has become so disgusting to me that it is now hard for me to even acknowledge the friendship of my white wife and her friends.

All white folks have become suspicious to me.  I never know when their fragility might explode into violent action based on little more than their self-made fears. I fear that I cannot in good faith trust white people, even those I whom I should be able to trust.

-Distrustful in Seattle

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My Good Man,

Hmm.  Distrustful in Seattle?  Is that a play on the movie “Sleepless in Seattle”? If so, please remember that being distrustful is a choice you make where being sleepless is a physical indication that the body for whatever reason, cannot rest.

Your concerns are valid and so essential for me to respond to in that I have momentarily stepped away from my self-imposed silence from writing.  Your correspondence is powerful and speaks for many African-Americans who are constantly responding daily to “white fragility.”

In my dual roles as a psychotherapist (who provides a safe secured space to either sit with or speak to submerged materials surfacing upon the human landscape) and a clinical traumatologist (who works to stop the emotional bleeding to help heal the psychological wound), I am also responding to the same issues (known as counter-transference) as I sit in sessions with patients listening to the psychological pain and emotional suffering being endured in their lives on a daily basis.  Like I do with them, I will seek to respond to your concerns.

 

Question: Why do white people feel so fragile and feel so reactive about feeling it?

Response: This is a multilayered question. Imagine four lanes of freeway moving in opposite directions, one side free traffic, the other in a traffic jam.   Imagine drivers on the fast side, observing the slow side, saying the following:

  • I wouldn’t want to be them
  • Dumbass should have left earlier (or later)
  • Glad it isn’t me
  • How do they do that every day?

Let’s imagine that in terms of race, white people are on the fast side of the freeway, and people of color are on the slow side. The people on the slow side may have an idea as to what is causing that backup, but they cannot know for sure what it is- they cannot see that far ahead– but they are still impeded by where they are going.

On the other hand, the people on the fast side are either unconcerned with why the other side is slow or have passed judgment on the folks who are stuck in that jam, both without an understanding or a curiosity about what’s causing that traffic jam.

In a similar way, white people are insulated from impediments that may slow progress from a racial perspective. Dr. Robin DiAngelo says that this insulation can render white people “innocent of race.”   It is this “innocence” that gives rise to white fragility.  As a result, white people are not raised to see themselves in terms of race, or to see white spaces as racial spaces.

African-Americans, on the other hand, particularly those who are born in or grow up in racially segregated spaces, must become “experts on race.”   Behaviorally, this shows up as white people expecting African-Americans to be sensitive of their racial innocence, requiring African-Americans to excuse and explain away their sheltered ignorance as they become (if they chose to) awakened to the harsh realities of racism.

Consider the following: a child is rudely awakened by his care provider from a deep sleep, one that was secured, warm and encased in comfort.  How does the child respond? The child is naturally upset because of the betrayal—the illusion of the safety of their sleeping environment has been interrupted and they will remain upset until a stable environment can be restored by the care provider.

In this analogy, the African-American, as the “racial expert,” is the care provider who is all-loving and self-sacrificing and is expected to provide the safe nurturing environment regardless of the psychological and emotional impacts to themselves.  If this grace is not extended, the African-American is regarded as unforgiving instead of as having a very natural, human reaction, and the relationship is harmed, if not terminated.

 

Question: (paraphrased) It’s one thing to have to be fake at work and another to be fake in my personal space.  What am I really angry about?

Response:  There could be several reasons for your anger. This may include

  • Feeling powerless,
  • Lacking strategies to respond to insensitive comments and,
  • Feeling hopeless.

You may be having a “fight or flight” response.  “Fight or Flight” is a physiological and psychological response to stress that prepares the physical body, the intellectual mind and the psychological self to react to danger.

Instead of this, utilization of an empowerment strategy like the ABCs of Empowerment can bring relief to the physical, mental and psychological self.  It consists of the following:

  • Advocacy-being willing to speak for self and not depend on others to do so on your behalf.
  • Balance-listening intently to what is being said, being willing to psychologically step away and embrace your emotions while weighing what you are feeling and thinking.
  • Calmness-while holding your psychological space, (advocacy & balance), allow the psychological self to be centered as you deliver your response to those within your external environment.

 

Question: (paraphrased) I am tired of playing these games at work and having to play the same games in my personal space.  It feels so frustrating and hopeless.  What can I do?

Response:  The only way to avoid this is to live on an island by yourself.  The reality is that this drama exists in all spaces. So, we As we live out our lives (the walk,) we have many different experiences.  During any point in this process, submerged materials may surface for the individual to address. We call these incidences “the crossroads.”  At the crossroads,

  • Choices are presented.
  • Decisions must be made.
  • Consequences for these decisions and choices can be foreseen.
  • You will ask yourself: What are my choices? How shall I respond?  Am I prepared to handle the consequences of my decision?
  • The individual remains at the crossroads until a decision is made and the journey continues.

An example:

Recently, at a Starbucks Coffee counter, I was waiting my turn for service.  So, when I became the first person in line, I naturally expected the cashier to take my order.  Instead, she looks directly at the next person in line, a white male, and says: “Hi, what can I get you?”  The white male replies, “I believe this gentleman is in front of me.” The cashier then looks at me, quite surprised, and says: “Hi, what can I get you?” 

 I spent my formative years in the Deep South, where I experienced racism and the psychological trauma of the invisibility syndrome. This occurs when one’s physical presence is either ignored, or that presence is made to be inferior in comparison to another person who is seen to be racially superior.

Due to these previous experiences, it would be normal for me to respond with anger, but I was surprised that this came from an African-American cashier!

I never expected this.  Seconds felt like eons as thoughts and feeling flowed through me:

  • Did this really happen? Yes, it did, and I am stunned beyond words or belief.
  • What do I say? Do I challenge her actions?
  • How do I respond? Do I file a formal complaint?

The incident was psychologically wounding.  It was not of my creation.  It was the words and actions of someone else who may, as a black person, unconsciously see themselves as inferior to white people and has brought those feelings to the workplace for me to encounter as I walk my own landscape.

So, what was my response?

  • I looked at her eyes to see if she was aware of what she had done.
  • I grabbed my coffee, thanking her for the service.
  • I went to catch my flight.
  • I’m writing in my blog and sharing the incident as a learning lesson.
  • I have benefited from another experience as I walk my landscape.

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 Concluding Words -Dr. Kane 

My Good Man,

In your words you stated the following:

It’s bad enough that I must endure the bullshit of niceness and fake displays as I play the game in the work environment. 

Responses:  Your parents may have taught you two realities of a black person’s life in America:

1) To come in first place, you must work twice as hard as the white person beside you, and:

2) In order to be successful, you must learn to play the game.

Today is a new day, but the psychological wounding of racism and trauma remains the same.  In racism, the objective of either holding the black person away from winning or wounding the individual psychologically so much that the individual lacks the will to compete remains the same. However, the strategies have changed. Overt racist tactics have been replaced with covert tactics and casual racism.

We as African-Americans must also seek to transform.  We are already skilled and knowledgeable in running the race, but now we must want to learn how to run the race smarter, not harder.

We must want to consider that the prizes we see as the incentive for running the race, whether it’s a promotion, or a raise or more opportunity, is often the “carrot” in a rigged race with ever changing rules.  To live an empowered life, to transform our journeys, we must transform our definition of “winning” to seeing it as the ability to “cross the finish line.” We must understand that the simple act of crossing the finish line is in itself an outstanding victory!

 

However, in my personal space, it has become disgusting, so much that it is now it is now hard for me to even acknowledge the friendship of my white wife and her friends.

Response: In his poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley wrote: “I am the master of my fate.  I am the captain of my soul.” 

Remember, your personal space is your space. It belongs to you and no one else. You must empower the psychological self, seeking advocacy, balance and calmness as you decide how to utilize your personal space.

I too have encountered insensitive and uncaring remarks while attending several “all white” social events.  One person assumed that I was there to provide drugs. (Really?)

To empower the self, I now make assessments before accepting invitations to social gatherings, starting with the diversity of the attendees.  If there are no other black people, I assess whether I want to be the token Negro in the event.  This empowers me to decide whether I want to deal with the possible incidents (trauma) arising from underlying stereotypes.  For the majority of these events, unless it is business or politically related, I always decline to attend.

You have the same options.   Remember that this is your landscape.  You can decide whether to attend, and under what circumstances you will leave.  Finally, don’t expect others to speak up proactively regarding another’s individual insensitive or uncaring remarks. 

 

All white folks have become suspicious to me.  One never knows when their fragility might explode into violent action based on little more than their self-made fears.

Response: Take a good long look in the mirror.  You may be looking at the reflection of the same people who are acting out their suspicious, fears and racism towards you.  Remember that this is your landscape.   The impact of white fragility on your life depends upon the impact you allow it to have on every step you take as you continue your walk across the landscape.

 

I fear that I cannot in good faith trust white people, even those whom I should be able to trust.

Response: “… even those whom I should be able to trust”? I have serious reservations regarding these remarks. This is an underlying tone implying distrust being specifically directed towards your spouse.  The spousal relationship, unlike the parental relationship, is not based on unconditional love.

Your spouse is neither the cause nor the outlet for your misplaced anger.  You knew she was white when you married her.  Interracial relationships, particularly black men and white women, given the racial history in the United States, are especially different.  However, this is the life you have chosen.

You have the responsibility to empower your own psychological self; she cannot do this for you. You now have an opportunity for growth and development. I urge you to seek individual psychotherapy that provides you with finding a safe, secure space to sit with unprocessed feelings surfacing on your landscape. If you are unable or unwilling to maintain your commitment to her, then release her from the relationship so she can be available to live the life she wants and not the life she is living.”

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Closing Remarks– My Dear Readers,

I want to clarify that in my earlier statements of conceptualizing the developmental stage of whiteness as white innocence, that I do not imply or believe that designation is a justification for not accepting responsibility, accountability, or consequences for one’s actions.  I am also not suggesting that in conceptualizing black people as “racial experts,” that black people should deny or minimize their psychological traumas or accept responsibility for the grievous actions, statements or comments of others.

I close, leaving with great anticipation for the immediate future. I now return to my commitment to cease writing blogs and in doing so, walk my landscape as I seek to fulfill my journey of self-discovery.  Two upcoming projects 2019 include:

  • Returning to Paris, France, in April, doing further research on the psychological traumas experienced by African-American troops in WWI abandoned by the American High Command forced to fight as segregated combat units under the command and flag of the French military.
  • Traveling to Ghana, West Africa during August for the Year of the Return Conference acknowledging 400 years since the Atlantic Slave Trade (1619 to 2019). I will participate as a panelist and workshop presenter regarding the psychological trauma of being experienced by African-Americans.

Once again, I bid you all farewell.  I am unclear as to whether I will return to consistently blogging on a regular pace, there may be those times like in this writing in which I am drawn to write as it may either resonate or stir up passion within me. I truly believe that life is about “walking the landscape” and in doing so to “live the life you want and not the live you live.”

I bid you all wellness. I encourage you to seek advocacy for the self, attain balance within your internalized world, and calmness in your externalized environment. Best wishes to you all in your future journeys of self-exploration.

Best regards,

Dr. Micheal Kane

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There is no growth without discomfort.  Being honest can be uncomfortable.  It is the freedom that comes from being honest.”

-Delbert Richardson, Ethnomuseumologist

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)

You attract what you fear.  You attract what you are.  You attract what is on your mind.”

-Denzel Washington, Actor/Academy Award Winner

Once burned we learn.  If we do not learn, we only insure that we will be burned again, and again and again … until we learn.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D

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Farewell for now…….

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues…

At The Crossroads: New Possibilities and New Directions

“You want to stand up for yourself, as a man, or as someone who was just doing his job, and say ‘hey, this isn’t right.’ But in the moment, I’m thinking: I’m a black man, and if I start emoting, I might not walk out of here.”

-Byron Ragland, USAF Veteran & Court Appointed Visitation Supervisor, after being forced by Kirkland, WA police to leave a frozen yogurt shop during a supervised visit because two white female employees were scared

“Casual racism is defined as a society’s or an individual’s lack of regard for the impact of their racist actions on others.

Casual racism is subtly packaged white fear of black skin and it is an inherently dangerous form of racism.

Casual racism has become more insidious of late as it has become expressed through white comfort and discomfort.  It combines micro-aggressions (statements, actions or incidents) and macro-aggressions (threats of physical force, law enforcement) with modern racism (beliefs and attitudes) to form aversive racism (engaging in crazy making) interactions with African-Americans.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. “Casual Racism”

 

“A Starbucks Moment occurs when a white person, due to emotional reactions from shock, fear, terror, or feeling threatened, deceives or manipulates the police to seek the investigation, removal, and/or arrest of a black person for a minor reason or infraction in a space that the black person would otherwise have every right to occupy.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Psy.D., “Starbucks Moment”

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My Dear Readers,

I am now approaching the time of year in which I normally take a two-month hiatus from blogging.

I began writing articles seven years ago as a way of grieving the loss of my Linda, my beloved spouse of 30 years.  Over the last seven years, I have written over 100 pieces focused on the psychological impact of trauma in the lives of African-Americans.

The writings have varied, from Bobbi’s Saga, which focuses on the journey of a woman recovering from profound childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, to At the Crossroads, which focuses on the choices we make as we progress on the Journey of Self-Discovery.  The writings have sought to give visibility and voice to the experience of black people who go unseen and are feared by a frightened white society.

The blogs have been offered as a service to the African-American community, seeking to demystify mental health treatment.  During the course of writing the blogs I have discussed 13 sub-types of psychological trauma and 11 forms of racism that can psychologically impact the mental health wellness on a daily basis.  It is through these writings, my clinical work and finally, my own journey of self-discovery that I have learned advocacy, balance and calmness in responding to the psychological impacts associated with trauma and racism.

Byron Ragland is a United States Air Force veteran who has served multiple tours fighting for his country, and who now works as a court appointed visitation supervisor. Earlier this month, Ragland was supervising a visit between a mother and child when he was directed by two police officers to leave a local business because his presence created fear for the two white female employees.  Even through Mr. Ragland provided identification and documentation that he was there on official business as a visitation supervisor, the police officers still insisted that he leave the premises.

The City Manager and the Chief of Police have since apologized for the actions taken by law enforcement and have promised an “investigation by the council,  an internal police review of the officers’ actions and governmental legislation to prevent this terrible action from reoccurring again.”

Apologies, investigations and legislation; it seems that we have been down that same old road many times before.  This is not the first time that a African-American veteran has suffered racism and was forced to leave a food establishment.

In my book Our Blood Flows Red, I detail numerous incidences of racism experienced by black men serving in military service at the hands of white citizens and law enforcement officers.  One incident was the experience of Lieutenant Christopher Sturkey, who had won a battlefield commission and a Silver Star for bravery while fighting in Europe during WWII:

“When he arrived home to Detroit after the war in uniform with his medals, battle stars and campaign ribbons in full display, he stopped at an inexpensive neighborhood White Tower to order a hamburger.  The white girl at the counter coldly said, ‘we don’t serve niggers in here.’”

In another incident:

“In 1943, in Centerville, Mississippi, a white sheriff intervened in a fistfight between a white soldier and black one.  After the black man got the upper hand, the sheriff shot him to death, then asked the white soldier, ‘Any more niggers you want killed?’”

Same old road…. From 1943 Mississippi to 1945 Michigan to 2018 Washington …. What have we learned?  Only that apologies, investigations, and legislation cannot change the hatred and fear that lies in the in the hearts of others.

As I begin my hiatus, I leave the readership with stories of three African-American males who have chosen to refocus their lives and in doing so, move towards a new direction.  These are individuals who acknowledge that they are psychologically wounded, but are still  seeking advocacy, balance and calmness for themselves through psychotherapy and mental health wellness.  These are their stories:

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

Thomas, age 30 (name changed for privacy) is responding to depression and anxiety.  The foundation of his feelings is his rejection by his father, which has reinforced a sense of inadequacy and questioning about role modeling and his direction in life.  In a letter to his father, Thomas cites his decision to refocus, letting go of past hurts and moving onward to a new path and new direction.

“Dear Dad,

I hope this letter finds you well, and I am writing this letter because I have questions only you can answer.  I am attending therapy sessions to heal the things that have bothered me throughout my life. 

The first thing I want to talk about is rejection.  I know that you did not want me. When my mother was pregnant with me, I know that you told her to get an abortion. 

I also know throughout my life you have rejected me; you have not spent any time with me.  I know you have other children and you have never claimed me as your own.  I’ve felt isolated and abnormal because I did not have a father who would support me or be there for me when I felt down.

I have looked to other people for acceptance, and just like you, they have also rejected me.  Even though you and I now live in the same city, you continue to reject me and avoid any interaction with me, despite the number of times I have attempted to connect with you. 

I am now 30 years old; several times in the last 18 months I have asked for time with you so you can get to know the person I have become.  Although you have made commitments to do so, you have failed to follow through.

Every day, there is a possibility that you may die.  So before you go, I want to utilize this opportunity to tell you who I have become… without you.

  • I have a college degree (Sociology) from a major university
  • I am a responsible adult; I am single, but I don’t have any children.
  • I am currently studying to obtain a professional license within my field.
  • I don’t have a criminal record.

Despite you and without you, I have been successful.  As you know, both my brother and my cousin were both killed due to their life in the streets.  I’m blessed that I did not follow that life.  Instead, I found my own way and although you rejected me, I grew up to be a healthy contributing member of society. 

I hope you can forgive yourself for not being involved in my life and for not being around to watch my growth and success.  I forgive you.

Love,

Thomas

Analysis

Thomas’s letter to his father is a “farewell” of sorts. It is the love and pain of a son who has been rejected by his father and is now saying “goodbye” as he continues to seek the newness of life without the internalized pulling for the love of his father.

His father never answered the letter, and Thomas never expected him to. Thomas’ goal in writing this letter was to free himself before his father died. In doing so, he reached his goal: he is now free to walk his new journey of self-discovery. At this point, what becomes of Thomas’s father or his father’s response is… irrelevant.

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

Mr. Wilson (name changed for privacy) is an 80-year-old retired teacher and consultant. He has spent his entire life within the “movement,” fighting for equality with the belief that along with whites, blacks could work together to achieve equality in the United States. Mr. Wilson comes to therapy seeking to work on his unresolved anger.

In session, Mr. Wilson speaks about his regrets about integration and the loss of black communities, the exodus of black people from the urban cities, the loss of black businesses and most important, the loss of self-reliance and the desperation of seeking relief from the government and the whites who have themselves benefited from integration.

In session, Mr. Wilson said:

“I thought I was fighting to end racism.  I did not understand the depth of racism.  I am critical of white people and I am angry with me.  I criticize white people for their failure as a group to take responsibility for the harm they have created in the lives of others.  I hold whites as a group responsible for their willingness to talk about change and then fail to stand up for change when they see the results of the harm being caused.

I am angry with myself.  I feel that I have been duped.  I feel that I duped myself.  I thought that the civil rights movement could end racism.  Here I am 60 years later… racism is as strong as ever.  I was wrong.  Racism has made this country feel disquiet, unsettled, uncomfortable for me… I don’t feel safe.”

Prior to the recent midterm elections, Mr. Wilson spoke about leaving the country and becoming an expatriate.  He has decided to stay, since the outcome of the midterm elections has given him hope for the future. He now seeks to refocus his direction by providing mentorship for the next generation.

Analysis

Mr. Wilson acknowledges that he is psychologically wounded and impacted by racism that has been a daily factor in his life.  Prior to entering the therapeutic process, Mr. Wilson has tried to “man up,” suppressing his anger and suffering in silence.  Now at age 80, he wants to dispel the anger that is so negatively impacting his life and those around him.

In therapy, Mr. Wilson has learned that he can find healing in embracing his anger.  From there, he can acknowledge what is and is not in his ability to address, and in doing so, he is able to go in a new direction in his life.  He can understand that even at 80 years of age a person can move forth to seeking a new journey of self-discovery.

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

I end with the stories of refocus and new direction with myself …. Dr. Micheal Kane

I started in the field of clinical traumatology by writing on the subject as my doctoral dissertation topic.  I have gone to postdoctoral studies achieving four certificates in the study of clinical traumatology.  I have written a publication that has been utilized by graduate schools and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I have had the privilege on serving as a clinical consultant to the Black Congressional Caucus.

However, the best honor and privilege I have had is being married 30 years to my beloved spouse, My Linda.  It was during her illness that I began blogging.  Following her death, it was the consistency of writing for my readership that has helped me regain my own balance over the last seven years.

In my clinical work, I have developed clinical strategies to respond to complex trauma, how black males should interact with law enforcement and ways to respond to suicide.  As a therapist, I have been a companion and guide in the deepest darkness of human misery ever imagined.

Truly, my work is God’s gift.   I do not consider the suffering of others as a job or occupation.   It truly is my passion to help and provide a safe space for my patients to heal from the wounds they have suffered.

In the seven years of blogging I have written 100+ articles.  In the combination of roles as healer, teacher, diagnostician, evaluator, and blog writer, I am now responding to my own desire for self-care.

 

Analysis

Sir William Osler once said:

“The doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”

Rest assured, I am not diagnosing or treating myself.  I simply recognize that  the time has come to take my practice and my passion in a new direction.  In my practice I have consistently focused on self-health, healthy narcissism and empowerment.  It is now my opportunity to do the same and in doing so, “practice what I preach.”

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 Closing Words

My Dear Readers,

Earlier, I indicated that I was now approaching the time of year in which I normally take a two-month hiatus from blogging.  Although I still have the passion for my clinical and forensic work, I no longer have the passion to blog on a consistent basis.

I have decided to suspend my blog writing for a period of one year with consideration that I may return in 2020 or sometime following.  I will continue my clinical and forensic work, and I will begin in the next year or two begin working on another publication focusing on my work working with trauma suffers within communities of color.

My writing has been read by a diverse readership spanning continents and numerous countries. I have sought to provide the readership with a different view of trauma within my community and possible strategies of recovery and empowerment.

I believe that advocacy, balance and calmness can lead to empowerment of the psychological self.  I believe we make choices in whether we remain survivors or transform ourselves as we move towards achieving self-discovery.

I want to thank you for the words of encouragement, support and passion you have shown for my work.

I bid you all wellness.  I encourage you to seek advocacy for the self, attain balance within your internalized world, and calmness in your externalized environment. Best wishes to you all in your future journeys of self-exploration.

Best regards,

Dr. Micheal Kane

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

The Undiscovered Territory

The past is what it was

The present is what it is

In the future lies what is to be uncovered

It is the undiscovered territory

Waiting for you.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

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

 

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

Having Belief, Faith and Trust in Self

As we step into the Tomorrow

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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

New Possibilities

Life is a journey filled with new possibilities.

And sometimes because of the person you are (or have become), you find yourself in the right place at the right time for….

New possibilities.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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

Farewell for now…….

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues…

At The Crossroads: Division or Protection During Times of Rejection

“Casual racism… is used to refer to societal or a particular individual’s lack of regard for the impact of their racist actions or behaviors upon another person. Casual racism has become more insidious as it has become expressed through white comfort and discomfort.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Psy.D., “Casual Racism”

“A Starbucks Moment occurs when a white person, due to emotional reactions from shock, fear, terror, or feeling threatened, deceives or manipulates the police to seek the investigation, removal, and/or arrest of a black person for a minor reason or infraction in a space that the black person would otherwise have every right to occupy.

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Psy.D., “Starbucks Moment” 

“Whites don’t kill whites.”

-Gunman Gregory Bush following the killings of two African-Americans at the Kroger Grocery Store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky

“All Jews must die.”

-Anti-Semite Robert Bowers, before killing 11 people and wounding more as they worshiped at Tree of Life synagogue

“What do blacks offer society? All they do is ruin western civilization.”

-From the Facebook page of white supremacist Jordan Rocco, days before attacking two black men and stabbing one to death

——————————

My Dear Readers,

In Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a gunman shot and killed two African-Americans shopping at a local grocery store after previously failing to gain entry to a black church. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a gunman killed 11 Jewish Americans at the Tree of Life Synagogue.  Thousands gathered across the country from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC for candlelight vigils to honor the synagogue shooting victims. Even more media attention came when President Trump and his family, although asked to postpone their trip, visited the synagogue.

Meanwhile, there was no media attention or acknowledgement for the tragedy in Jeffersontown for 4 days, and even now, this hate-motivated crime goes largely unnoticed by our wider society.  Once again, African-Americans are left feeling invisible and unwanted.

Being Invisible & Unwanted

Cynthia (name changed to protect privacy) is the African-American mother of a 16-year-old student attending a local high school in Seattle, WA.  In session, she speaks of her frustrations regarding the impacts of the recent shootings in Pittsburgh & Jeffersontown.

“Dr. Kane, the principal of my son’s school recently sent an emergency text to all of the parents notifying us of the shooting in Pittsburgh, encouraging parents to be aware of psychological trauma and urging us to be available and talk to our adolescents about their feelings.  However, there was no mention of the shootings that had occurred earlier that day (Jeffersontown).

My son sits on the Principal’s advisory board and meets with her regularly. He feels like he is invisible, and he is frustrated and betrayed because she (the school principal) wears a Black Lives Matter pin.  I told him that if he did not speak to her about this, I would. What do you think? Would you speak to her?”

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Analysis: Dr. Kane

Let’s examine the issues:

  • Parent– feels helpless and frustrated, watching her son be hurt and disappointed. Parent seeks to intervene, threatening to do so if the son fails to speak to the principal.
  • Son– feels betrayed by the principal, feels like he and his pain are invisible, and that no one cares about his feelings. He may have conflicting feelings towards self, his mother, and the principal.
  • Principal– in wearing the Black Lives Matter pin, she may see herself as an advocate of social justice. It is unknown whether sending out text to school families excluding Jeffersontown shooting was intentional or an oversight on her part.

Although the 16-year-old is not my patient, I have the ethical responsibility to remain vigilant that no harm comes to a minor as I seek to provide treatment to the adult parent. The mother feels powerless and unable to protect her son from both the racism of the hostile external world and the conflict that resides within his internalized self.

The mother’s actions, although well intended, can result in additional psychological wounding for her son.  Forcing her son to confront the principal will not only fail to resolve his internalized conflict but may place him at risk of punishment or other forms of retaliation from the principal as he points out racist behavior.

The mother, in her rush to “save” her son from the hostile world, can assist him more effectively by focusing on herself first by relieving her own distress—what we call “healthy narcissism”—and then, once she can project calmness and balance, she can focus on helping to relieve her son’s distress and to empower him to clarify his decision making as it relates to interacting with the school principal.

The mother can relieve her own distress by utilizing the Five R’s of RELIEF model:

  • At the stage of respite, she can step away and see the harm that confrontation may have on her son.
  • Once that clarity is achieved, she can help him embrace his reaction, meaning that she assists him in giving himself the permission to feel the way that he feels, and to express those feelings in a safe space, helping him along the first step to personal empowerment.
  • From there, he can reflect upon that reaction, truly analyzing the situation now that emotion is no longer clouding the path. It is here where the son can understand that betrayal requires the “intention” to betray another and since there doesn’t appear to be an intent by the principal to betray, the feelings the son has are not of betrayal, but rather those of “disappointment” in her failure to see his pain and to uphold the meaning of the Black Lives Matter pin she wears.
  • At the stage of response, the mother can assist her son to define and understand casual racism, and work to minimize the impacts of trauma of Invisibility Syndrome, informing how he may interact with the principal and his fellow students on this and future subjects.
  • Rather than focusing on “educating” the principal on the impact of her actions to the son, the focus can be on the final stage of reevaluation. This stage leads to healing the psychological wounds that have been created and preparing for more psychological wounding that will continue to arise from a hostile external world. This creates the pathway towards empowering the self towards advocacy, balance and calmness during difficult times.

 

Dancing & Smiling: They Still Don’t See Me.

Jonathan (name changed to protect privacy) is an African- American 38-year-old attorney new to the area; working as an associate for a prominent law firm in Seattle

“Dr. Kane, I am living on the edge of madness.  I work and live in the white world.  These people don’t see me as a person, only as a threat.  I am constantly being questioned for identification while my white colleagues get a free pass.

When we are together during times that I get racially profiled, they shift around nervously, make jokes, and change the subject.  They see it all and yet never say anything.  Meanwhile, I am left angry and humiliated.  I can’t say anything because I then become the angry black man and I am afraid that I won’t be considered for partner when the time comes and the opening becomes available.

The recent shootings in Jeffersontown and Pittsburgh really impacted me.  At the office they only talked about Pittsburgh and they are supportive of the attorneys at the firm who are Jewish. WTF? What about me?  Do I scream out that I am hurting too?

I know how to play the game.  I’ve gone to the right schools.  I associate with the right people.  I keep my head down and my mouth shut.  I am so tired of dancing and smiling for these people.  Besides hitting someone, drinking myself to death or jumping off a bridge, what can I do?”

Let’s examine the issues:

  • Middle-aged African-American attorney newly located to the area.
  • One of his career goals is becoming a partner in a prestigious law firm.
  • He is impacted by recent racial and religious murders.
  • Victim of constant racial profiling and race related trauma (micro-aggressions.)

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Analysis: Dr. Kane

Racism is not new to Jonathan. He has been impacted by racism during all the prominent stages of his development (childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.) So, what is really going on?

Jonathan is seeking recognition, acceptance, and validation from his work environment.  It is the idea of making partner that is the carrot that Jonathan keeps chasing, never being able to reach it.  He hopes that by attending the correct schools, doing excellent work, and “playing the game,” he will eventually become partner.

However, Jonathan has a huge gap that he is unable to overcome; his internal need for recognition, validation, and acceptance from his work environment.  Jonathan is aware from his life experiences that racial profiling will never cease or racial murders may continue; he simply wants others to recognize, validate, and accept that he has psychological wounds just like his Jewish colleagues.

Jonathon’s failure is threefold:

  • His desire that others focus on his own psychological wounding.
  • Lack of understanding that casual racism is built on the premise of “white comfort and discomfort.”
  • Lack of empowering himself and letting go of the dependence of others

Rather than focusing outward on others coming to his aid and understanding, Jonathan would do well to turn inward to relieve his own psychological distress.

Although Jonathan is skillful in “playing the game,” the focus now turns to “running the race smarter, not harder.”  This can be achieved allowing Jonathan to let go of his fear about being viewed as the “Angry Black(man) out of Control” to transforming his own needs by utilizing empowerment strategies like ABC i.e. (advocacy, balance and calmness.)

Jonathan’s error was in “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.”  It was his failure to understand that in order to gain recognition, acceptance and validation from the casual racist, that person must first want to accept responsibility for the insidious traumatization and its impact upon others.  However, to do so would cause “white discomfort” and, as a result, it is easier for them to avoid the topic altogether.

Jonathan would fare much better from seeking to obtain his desires from within and let go of seeking that support from the external environment, which is heavily influenced by casual racism.

 

Am I being paranoid or just scared?

Harold (name changed to protect privacy) is a 27-year-old city employee.

“Hey Doc, I feel like I am always on guard.  I am constantly looking at the news and at social media; I am feeling eyes on me all the time.  In working downtown, I am surrounded by lots of women, mainly white.   I feel that I am always being racially profiled. People stare, but they just don’t say anything.  I am frightened by what happened to that boy in Brooklyn when the white woman claimed that he groped her.  So what that she apologized?

Recently, while standing in line, a white girl standing in front backed up into me.  Scared the shit out of me!  I didn’t know what she was going to do.  I pulled out my phone ready to call 911 but what the fuck was I going to tell them?  A white girl backed up into me and I am scared she’s going to yell sexual assault? She turned and apologized.  I was still scared. I am still scared.

Now because of the shooting at the grocery store, I am afraid to go get groceries.  I wonder whether I be able to go shopping and not get killed.   That black man who was killed in Kentucky was shopping with his grandson.  His grandson saw everything.  How is he going to get that out of his head?  Damn, I can’t get it out of my head.

Doc, I got no one to talk to.  My friends laugh at me, saying that I am paranoid.  I’m not sharing my feelings ever again!  I thought about getting a concealed weapon permit, but I am fearful of being profiled as a black man with a gun. This is bullshit. A white man can carry a concealed weapon and it’s no big deal, but when a black man does the same, they want to call out SWAT.

Doc, the other day, I refused to get on an elevator because there was only this white woman waiting to go in as well.  I was afraid of what she could say and that it would be my word against her word.  Who are they going to believe? … Goldilocks crying in distress or the big black wolf?  Fuck that, I don’t need the stress.  No witnesses, it would be better to wait than risk the chance of being a soundbite on the evening news.  Doc, I know I did the right thing and yet I am still pissed off at Goldilocks, the fucking world and myself.

What words do you have for me, Doc?”

Let’s examine the issues:

  • Harold is a young adult African-American male in the mid-range of early adult development. He appears to be highly sensitive to recent media reports of racial profiling and murders.

Regarding the incident in Brooklyn, Harold is referring to the white woman who called 911 on a 9-year-old black male in the mistaken belief that the child had groped her.  A review of video shows that his backpack had brushed up against her.

In session, Harold admitted to being impacted by quotes by law enforcement regarding racial profiling and their response including the following:

“It is what it is. Do you understand?

-Police Officer, providing an explanation to a black male being racially profiled and detained while providing childcare to two white children.

“Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason,” one deputy said of the call. “We’ll respond.”

-St John’s County Sheriff Deputy following a 911 call on a black father cheering on his son at a soccer game

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Analysis: Dr. Kane

Harold is experiencing hyper-awareness and hypersensitivity due to being overwhelmed by his fear of vulnerability and exposure to white fear of black skin.  He views himself as being not believable in the eyes of a hostile and unforgiving society ready to peg him as the big black wolf seeking to ravish the innocence of Goldilocks.

Casual racism is subtly packaged white fear of black skin, and it is an inherently dangerous form of racism.  It combines micro-aggressions (statements, actions or incidents) and macro-aggressions (threats of physical force, law enforcement) with modern racism (beliefs and attitudes) to form aversive racism (engaging in crazy-making interactions with African-Americans.

In addition to vulnerability and exposure to a hostile external environment (i.e. racial profiling, and racial murder,) Harold is in a state of internal conflict.  Fearful of being taunted and viewed as “paranoid” by his friends, Harold has isolated himself from his emotional and supporting resources.

Clinically speaking, paranoia is an instinct or thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality.  Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself.

Harold, like many other African-Americans, has been targeted before via racial profiling and as a result, are vulnerable and exposed to death due to white fear of black skin. Therefore, a “reasonable person” in the same circumstances would be fully expected to respond the same way under similar circumstances: it would be expected that a person would remain in a state of hyper-awareness and hypersensitivity.

Harold is not paranoid.  He is not delusional or irrational in his thought process.  He has become hyper-vigilant as he seeks to respond to his vulnerability and exposure to racial profiling and perceived threats of death. To assist Harold, we would focus on identifying emotional/ supportive resources and treatment strategies that would return him to a course of normal vigilance.

Clinical Framework of Psychological Self Protection- Balancing Vigilance

  • Awareness– maintain awareness of your immediate surrounding
  • Alertness-be alert of the possibility of being under observance by others
  • Aloneness-be accepting that aloneness of your presence and possible isolation.
  • Aloofness-protect yourself psychologically during difficult situations through maintaining coolness and distance.
  • Aliveness– remember; maintaining vigilance is key to safety and returning home to your loved ones

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Closing Remarks-Dr. Kane

My Dear Readers,

I am a staunch believer that words and actions have meaning and impact.  It would true to say that not everyone shares this belief. Following a recent writing, a dear colleague and fellow African-American in a sharply worded rebuke chided me in stating that

“Everyone is not into psychology and analysis everything.”

If only this was so…. Perhaps then, there would be less people walking wounded, psychologically impacted, and traumatized.

Across the nation, two communities, one African-American and the other Jewish, are grieving the loss of members through senseless acts of violence.  As they grieve their dead, they quietly take steps to both prevent the next occurrence and prepare again for the next set of losses.

The murderous and senseless killings at Tree of Life synagogue killing 11 members were not the first among racially or religion motivated murders in Pittsburgh in 2018.  News media reports the following:

“In August a 24-year-old white man named Jordan Rocco posted a video to Instagram in which he described how he was going to play a game: He was going to see how many times he could say “n****r” before getting kicked out of bars. A few hours later, he was denied entry to the Little Red Corvette bar on Pittsburgh’s popular North Shore Drive. Unprovoked, he then allegedly attacked two black men on the sidewalk, fatally stabbing 24-year-old Dulane Cameron Jr.”

The media reports continue with:

“The blood that gushed from Cameron’s neck that night in August no longer stains the sidewalk on North Shore Drive. On Monday evening, people walked into the bars to watch “Monday Night Football” or stumbled out for a smoke. There’s no memorial to mark his killing.”

This prior weekend, the University of Kentucky played a home game against the University of Georgia, losing 34-17.  The game was attended by 63, 543 screaming fans excited to see a Wildcats and Bulldogs football game.

The distance from the University of Kentucky in the city of Lexington to Jeffersontown is 68 miles or 1 hour 7 minutes and 5 hours 34 minutes from Pittsburgh.  Although both teams included African-American and Jewish players, there was no memorial or activity identified for the dead of either Jeffersontown or Pittsburgh.

This is how casual racism is successful in sheltering the white majority from its discomfort. They distance themselves from it by immersing themselves in activities that allow for avoidance and disengagement. They are skillful in distancing and identifying those who are involved in racist or anti-Semitic murders as outliers.  In doing so, the group disavows group responsibility yet allowing its members to continue to engage in actions that are psychologically wounding to others.

In closing I leave a special message to the haters, the racists and the anti-Semites.  You may wound us, and yes, some of us will die because of your senseless actions.  However, you will never divide or defeat us.

The African-American and Jewish communities will stand together.  We will bury our dead and we will grieve.  It is in our grief, pain, and suffering that we find strength to go forth.

We will seek justice and we will not be satisfied until justice has been achieved.

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“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until Justice roles down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

-Martin Luther King

 

Until the next crossroads …. The journey continues …