The Unspoken Truth: Are You Living or Just Alive?

“The consequence of ethnic self-hatred for families is often that they become deeply divided on these issues.  Because ethnic identity and pride are developmental and ongoing throughout the life course, some families can become splintered over how ‘ethnic’ each family member is.  Sometimes, accusing a family member of being too ‘White’ is a smoke screen for jealousy or resentment towards a successful person but those accusations also reinforce feelings of invisibility.”

-E. Wyatt, “Beyond invisibility of African American males: The effects on women and families.” Counseling Psychologist 27(6) p.805

“Not all ethnic minorities are confronted on a daily basis with the threats of death or injury to their physical well-being.  In addition, the trauma and emotional abusiveness of racism is as likely to be due to chronic, systemic and invisible assaults on the personhoods of ethnic minorities as a single catastrophic event.”

-V. Sanchez-Hucles, “Racism: Emotional abusiveness and psychological trauma for ethnic minorities.” Journal of Emotional Abuse 1(2) p.72

“The message from the (black) community is simple: We will isolate you, we will shame you and most important, in times of desperation and need, we will abandon you.”

-Micheal Kane, The Unspoken Truth: The Real Black Man Standing Alone. (09.24.18)

“I stand alone.” ABC… Assertive, Boldness & Collective…. Empowered. I stand alone.”

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

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My Dear Readers,

The African-American diaspora refers to communities of people outside of the United States who are descended from people of African descent who were enslaved in the United States or the prior British colonies along the east coast of North America.

In previous writings, several points of inter-generational trauma experiences have been identified:

  • The tactics of forced aloneness (isolation), shaming, and abandonment are often used by members of the African American community to instill fear and enforce compliance and adherence to group norms.
  • The identified methods are “holdovers” of the tactics and methods used by slave traders and slave owners to terrorize, indoctrinate and traumatize newly captured African male and female slaves.
  • The learned tactics of forced aloneness (isolation), shaming and abandonment has psychologically impacted the way in which members of the community view the psychological self, interpersonal relationships and most importantly, interfamily and spousal relationships.

In the last writing, I spoke of the concept of “the divided world of the black man”.  Specifically:

“Simply put, if we divide the world of black men in half, there are those who are permanently disabled and therefore discarded by a hostile and non-caring society, and there are those who are walking wounded, working through the ongoing struggle to maintain sanity in a hostile and non-caring society. The first group is the walking dead, waiting for the end to appear, whereas the second group seeks to empower themselves and create a psychologically healthy life…but only if they are willing to grasp the opportunity.”

This week, we will further explore the concept of the “walking dead” and the “walking wounded.” We start with a young man’s pain and suffering.

Here is his story……….

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Dear Dr. Kane:

 Your last blog intrigued me.   Given what you said about the “Walking Dead,” I feel that it fits me.

 Like you, I too am a black man.  Unlike you, I do not love myself.  This shows as in being afraid and allowing others to define me rather than seeking to define myself. 

 I am in my late 20’s.  I am single and have a college degree.  My father is not in my life although we both live in the same community.  

 My mother told me that it was his suggestion to abort me.  The excuses I have heard from people around me is that my mother has prevented him from being in my life.  Now that I am an adult, however, he still refuses to interact with me.  I feel betrayed by him.

 People laugh at me for not being in the social norm.  They make me feel unwanted.  Because I am educated, people say that I speak “white” and call me “white boy.”

 When I am doing things that are not the social norms, I hide from others, not wanting them to find out.  I spend a lot of time alone drinking and smoking marijuana.  It’s relaxing, but nothing is changing for me.

 You wrote about black men being the “walking dead” and “walking wounded.” How come you did not include black women?  Don’t they go through the same issues that men do? 

 What do I want?  I want to define myself. I want to stop looking for handouts from others or depending on them to define me.  I want to live.  All I am doing now is hurting myself. 

 I am 29 years old.  My father has other children that he claims, but he does not claim me. I feel like I am dying.  Am I the walking dead?  Is there a way out for me?

 Questioning in Seattle

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My Dear Young Man,

Before I respond to the questions you have asked, I want you to know that your words have touched me.  You are a very special person.

I want to reach out to your psychological self and hope that within the traumatized and painful wounds you carry as a survivor, that you are open to listen; you now have an opportunity to live the life you want and not the life you live.

As I begin, I want to acknowledge and speak to three painful wounds that you carry.  In addition, I will clarify what I meant by the “Walking Dead” and the “Walking Wounded.”  Specifically, I will address:

  • The Wound of Betrayal Trauma
  • Responding to the Pain of Denial & Rejection
  • Appropriate Self Care in response to psychological pain

I want to leave you with words that will assist you as you move forward in the struggle we know as the journey of LIFE.

The Wound of Betrayal Trauma

My Dear Young Man,

I do not perceive your wounds as you have experienced them. I suggest you look at your wounds differently to help encourage healing and to reduce psychological pain.

Betrayal is the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  This can occur in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • Gaining trust with the intent to do harm or exposing allies to an enemy through treachery and disloyalty.
  • Being intentionally unfaithful or negligent in a relationship or guarding or maintaining information shared in confidence.
  • Intentionally revealing or disclosing information shared in confidence.

Betrayal trauma is distinct because to be successfully inflicted, an individual must have allowed the betrayer access to the psychological self’s three internal resources: belief, faith and trust.

As you can see, the only criterion for betrayal is “being intentionally unfaithful or negligent in a relationship.”  However, the standard is not met due to your father’s unwillingness to access your psychological self’s three internal resources: belief, faith and trust.

Does this mean that you are wrong in your feelings of pain and suffering?  No, of course not.   The focus here is merely to clarify the specific type of psychological wound.  In doing so, one can understand how best to develop a plan that will start healing.

There are 13 distinct traumas that can impact African-Americans daily.  Betrayal Trauma, due to its ability to access the psychological self’s three internal resources is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult psychological wounds to heal.

So, if it’s not betrayal trauma, what is it?

Responding to the Pain of Denial & Rejection

My Dear Young Man,

Humans, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, arrive into life with the basic desires and demands of acceptance, and validation.  Humans are social animals, so denial and rejection from the social group is even more emotionally painful because we are wired to want that acceptance.  Research shows that denial and rejection trigger the same brain pathways that are activated when humans experience physical pain.

Your story is full of the pain you have experienced by the rejection and denial of your father.  Your suffering continues to this very day as you seek validation and acceptance from your father and community.  As you continue this behavior, the psychological wounds deepen and the pain increases to where you start to seek external, and sometimes harmful, ways to minimize the pain.

Appropriate Self Care in Response to Psychological Pain

  • Advocacy, Balance & Calmness
  • Five Cs of Calmness

Using drugs and alcohol to dull your pain does not serve you. The wound will not heal and as time goes on, more drugs and more alcohol will be required to get the numbness you seek. When you do this, you are only treating the symptom of your wound, not addressing the root cause.  Seek to heal your wounds via utilizing the clinical concept of ABC i.e. advocacy, balance and calmness.  Specifically:

  • Advocacy– Acknowledge the denial and rejection. Seek self-validation, and in doing so, commit to healing the wounds of the psychological self.
  • Balance-Embrace your anger and depression—only you can understand its true meaning. Balance what you are feeling with what you are thinking.
  • Calmness-Understand that denial and rejection are the refusal to accept reality or fact of a painful event. Seek acceptance and in doing so achieve calmness in your internal world and external environment.

As I listen to your story, the error I see is that you continue to reach out to a person you call father, a person who is so trapped in his own denial that he simply refuses to experience it.  Furthermore, you compound your pain by reaching out and seeking acceptance from a community that does not love itself and therefore, is incapable of loving you or accepting your “difference.”

The calmness that you and other young people like you in similar situations require cannot be attained from those whose own  inter-generational trauma keeps them in the same situation you experience.

Standing Alone at the Crossroads

 Crossroads represent opportunities for the individual to create new realities as they move forth in the journey known as life.   During this journey of Self Discovery, the individual seeks self-empowerment and the reinforcing of the psychological self and is likely to do so without the benefit of a larger support group, such as their family, community or society.

The calmness that results from acceptance and validation can only be achieved from within the psychological self.  To assist with achieving calmness there is the clinical   model Five Cs of Calmness.  Specifically:

  • Contentment– An unruffled state under disturbing conditions. Here the individual seeks to bring their internal peace to the confusion and conflict in the external world.
  • Calculation– The individual cannot remain indefinitely at the crossroads. They must want to assess the impact of taking both paths.
  • Clarification-The individual must want to accept their feelings as normal. Free the psychological self from having to conform to what the larger group expects of you.
  • Cohesion-A direction is chosen and the individual finds connection with the psychological self.  The individual transforms the initial fear into an informed response.
  • Collective– The individual empowers the psychological self. Take notice of what has been from the experience at the crossroads.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

My Dear Readers,

In the movie Gladiator, as Maximus prepares to go to battle in the arena, Proximo states:

“We are nothing but dust and shadows.  Dust and shadows.”

Proximo is correct.  As we come into life, we understand that one day we all must die.  However, for those willing to grasp the opportunity, one can choose to “live the life you want and not the life you live.”

The question is: how?

The Walking Wounded & the Walking Dead  

It is important to clarify what the makeup of both groups may look like. For example, although African-American women face similar challenges i.e. types of racism and traumatization as African-American men, there are differences in how this group is perceived externally outside their community and internally within their community.

Despite inter-generational and historical traumatization, African-American women have developed support networks and emotional foundations by networking, sharing resources and communicating intimate and sensitive information to assist through difficult as well as desperate times.  On the other hand, African-African men, due to societal norms associated with masculinity and maleness, have not been able to develop consistency in these areas or pass such norms and resources intergenerationally.

The Walking Wounded & The Sad Sista Club

In the previous blog, in writing about the Walking Wounded, I stated the following:

 “… if we divide the world of black men in half, there are those who are permanently disabled and therefore discarded by a hostile and non-caring society, and there are those who are walking wounded, working through the ongoing struggle to maintain sanity in a hostile and non-caring society.”

The same can be stated regarding black women.  However, the difference is that black men lack the openness of connection that black women have created—a connection that serves as a protective layer for individuals in the ongoing struggle to maintain sanity not only in a hostile and non-caring society, but also in responding to terse interactions with black men.

Whereas such men are designated the “Walking Wounded” as they struggle individually to maintain sanity within a hostile and non-caring society, black women due to their collective sharing, are designated as the “Sad Sista Club”.  The common themes of both genders are the basic forms of existence and survival that only serve to reinforce the lack of empowerment within the psychological self.

In the previous blog, in differing between the Walking Dead and the Walking Wounded, I stated the following:

“The first group are the walking dead, waiting for the end to appear, whereas the second group seeks to empower themselves and create a psychologically healthy life…but only if they are willing to grasp the opportunity.”

One way of seeking psychological wellness to be aware of the possible stages that can impact the journey of life.  I call these the “Five Levels of The Journey of Self Discovery.”

  • Existing– The journey is bleak and lifeless for the individual. Life is barely lived, let alone enjoyed or even really experienced.  Nothing is produced or gained by the individual at this level.
  • Surviving-The focus of the journey is to remain alive and breathing. The individual attaches minimally to life, lives in fear and is in a constant state of desperation.  There is a little gain, but not much for the individual at this level.
  • DrivingAt this level, the search for empowerment begins. The individual wanders, seeking direction and in doing so, learns balance and reinforces the psychological self.  At this level, the individual learns the meaning and importance of empowerment.
  • Striving-At this level, the individual has a solid hold on their life, and is fully experiencing their psychological self. The individual lives with their fear and is successfully implementing empowerment strategies in their lives.
  • Thriving-The individual has attained full realization of the psychological self and completed the Journey of Self-Discovery. The individual has mastered their self-empowerment strategies and can use this knowledge to support others and as a foundation for future journeys.

Questioning in Seattle is not a member of the Walking Dead—however, he is at the stage of survival, which carries its own risks. Should he continue on the same downside spiral with alcohol and drugs, he is certain to hit bottom, and therefore, become a member of this permanently disabled group.

However, he does have the option to empower himself and create a psychologically healthy life, but only if he is willing to grasp the opportunity to progress through the levels of the Journey of Self-Discovery.

As you began your own Journey of Self-Discovery, consider the following:

  • What am I doing to improve better/improve my life, my community and my surroundings?
  • Am I connected to my psychological self? Do I seek to advocate for self and seek balance within and calmness in my external environment?
  • How am I seeking to motivate, uplift or impact positive outcomes with family, friends and community?

“One thing is certain in life…. We will all die one day. Thus, the focus must be on those we touch, how we live and what we experience.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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Searching for meaning is like drawing

Etching for life.

Asking for direction can bring

Breath for tomorrow

Risk taking has its challenges

Earnings another opportunity to

Endure which brings wisdom

Zest is what life is about

Explore the Journey of Self-Discovery

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

Standing Alone….. The Unspoken Truth

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The Unspoken Truth: The Real Black Man, Standing Alone

“I stand alone.” ABC… Assertive, Boldness & Collective…. Empowered. I stand alone.”

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

“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 is relatively inferior.  Crimes and convictions involving moral turpitude are nearly five to one compared to convictions of whites in similar charges.”

– Army War College Report 1936 Edgerton (p.121)

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My Dear Readers,

In this blog writing, I return to a second installation of the new blog series, The Unspoken Truth.  In this series, we focus on historical and inter-generational trauma experiences of members’ experiences of members of the African-American diaspora.

In the quote below, Edgerton quotes a White Officer on the USS Siboney who witnessed the forced isolation of the sole African-American officer aboard the ship as it returned from France following WWI.  He states:

 “Each night before retiring, it was my habit to take a number of turns around the deck and the Negro captain did the same, walking in the opposite direction.  The first time we passed, I always said, “Good Evening Captain,” and he would reply “Good Evening Lieutenant.”  To my best belief, these were the only words spoken to him during the nearly 10 days at sea.”  Edgerton (p.99).

In the blog Standing Alone in the Black Community, I sought to focus on three variables that impact how we, as a community, a parent, or an individual psychologically interact with our daughters and sons:  aloneness, shaming and abandonment.

I would be one of the first to acknowledge that my writing is deliberate, but not delicate.  I write with love for the African-American diaspora and understand that this community does not yet love itself. As a result, the community tends to quickly turn against its own members and in doing so, psychologically destroys its best and brightest by isolating, shaming and abandoning them, like what happened to former Police Officer Arthur Williams of the Baltimore Police Department.

There is where the difference lies…. Officer Williams was under the mistaken impression that his superiors, fellow officers, union and community “had his back.”  Therefore, he had “open and irrevocable trust.”

I am under no such impression.  I stand alone.  My objective is to teach, model and educate those individuals who are inclined to listen, and to also… Stand Alone.  I remember to:

“Respect all, love all, yet remember that trust is earned, not given away to the undeserving.”

– Micheal Kane, Ten Flashes Of Light

This week, I received some reasonable criticism that I want to discuss.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

 I am a black man living in central Ohio.  I am writing to share my opinion of a blog that a friend forwarded to me.  Upon reading it several times, to be honest I had to have a shot of whiskey to contain myself. 

 I am truly disgusted with you and your words.  Your words insulted me as a black man and embarrassed and shamed our community.  I cannot believe that you would tell black children not to trust their elders.  I am one of those men who are committed to the children’s success. 

 Each year a group of us arrived at a school to ensure that the children have a positive first day at school.  We do form lines, clapping and cheering the children as they are entering the building.  However, we also provide backpacks, school supplies and since funding is limited, we give funding for sports equipment.  Some of the members stay for lunch and eat with the kids, sharing stories and asking questions about their lives. 

 You are wrong to say that we don’t care.  You are wrong to say that the children should not trust us.  You have caused a disservice to your people.  At first, I even question whether you were really a black man.  It was confirmed when I went online and saw your picture.  

 All I can do is shake my head.  I wonder where did you grow up?  Have you ever lived around black people?   You clearly did not attend a HBCU.  You write and think like a white man.  Do black people really come to see you and listen to the garbage that you write about? 

Instead of being a counselor, you need to be seeing a counselor and getting your own head examined.

 There is only one word I got for you that is Uncle Tom.  You are doing the white’s man work and messing us up.  I hope you are ashamed of yourself.    God knows, we are.  Good Riddance

 A Real Black Man

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My Dear Readers,

Hmm.  Usually in my opening statements I write to the “general readership” and at the end I direct my concluding remarks to a specific group or population.  Today, however, I will direct ALL of my comments to my Black/African-American Brothers.

 

My Black/African-American Brothers,

To begin with, I appreciate that “A Real Black Man” spoke respectfully while sharing his opinion, and I respect that he took the time to share that feedback with me.  Having said that, there are some points that I want to share with this reader.

In general, I find that the moniker “A Real Black Man” is problematic—this comes as no surprise to regular readers of this blog for reasons I have expounded upon in earlier writings and will likely do again, but that is not what I want to focus on here.  The flaw in his feedback on the piece is not in his perception of himself, however, but with his inability to sit with his feelings before sharing such feelings as his response.  “A Real Black Man” alleges the following:

  • He is disgusted and insulted. My words have embarrassed and ashamed the community. Consequently, he needs a shot of whiskey to contain himself in order to deal with my statements.
  • The group provides backpacks, school supplies and funding for sporting equipment. Some of the group members stay for lunch and eat with the kids, sharing stories and asking questions about their lives.
  • I am wrong to say that the group of men doesn’t care. Furthermore, I am wrong to say that the children should not trust them.  Lastly, I have done a great disservice to black people

Then come the personal attacks:

  • Questioning whether I am actually black and where I grew up or whether I grew up among black people
  • Questioning the school I attended and racial types in the manner of my thinking and writing

Then profession attacks:

  • Questioning whether black people come to see me as a counselor
  • Suggesting that instead of providing counseling, I should be seeing a counselor i.e. have my head examined

And in conclusion, deriding my racial heritage:

  • Defining me as an “Uncle Tom”
  • Individual shaming – i.e. “You should be ashamed”
  • Group shaming – i.e. “God knows we are”
  • Abandonment i.e. “Good riddance”

What does this tell us about “A Real Black Man?”

 

He is disgusted and insulted. My words have embarrassed and shamed the community.  He requires a shot of whisky to contain himself.

At the end of the last blog, I suggested the following:

My brothers, if you are angry after reading this, I invite you to be with that anger. Feel it out and inquire of yourself why you feel that way. Accept that anger as a natural part of you but get curious about what you have experienced that has triggered that in you.

Transformation and self-discovery can only occur by exploring the depth of your feelings and finding the root cause of it, instead of mindlessly finding a way to just dull the symptoms of it. Be willing to walk the journey of self-discovery with yourself.

As black men, we are psychologically wounded. We have endured. We have suffered. And we have survived. Healing is our responsibility. Now is the time to empower the psychological self. 

The missed opportunity in “A Real Black Man’s” response result from his inability or unwillingness to “sit with his feelings.” In his failure to do so, he does not allow himself the space to embrace what he is feeling and evaluate it and craft a response.  Instead, he makes the error of allowing his feelings to be his response.

My advice to “A Real Black Man” and others who of similar disposition is to engage in the clinical processing of “The Five R’s of RELIEF.  Specifically:

  • Respite-take whatever time is desired, step away from what you have read.
  • Reactions –embrace whatever you are feeling, because these feelings are yours and must stay with you.
  • Reflections- continue to process your feelings and thoughts. Find your center.
  • Response- respond to your internal world and then share a response with your external environment.
  • Reevaluate-review your actions and behaviors. Consider what was done and whether such actions are to be revised and/or repeated.

Furthermore, I would encourage “A Real Black Man” and others who of similar disposition not to engage in consuming alcoholic drinks to relieve their distress.  One should consider and weigh the impacts of alcohol as a requirement to process information. Such behaviors are clear indicators of inappropriate ways and means of handling distressful situations.

 

The group provides backpacks, school supplies and funding for sporting equipment.  Some of the group members stay for lunch and eat with the kids, sharing stories and asking questions about their lives. 

Although the provision of backpacks, school supplies and funding for sporting equipment may be beneficial to young black boys and girls, as well as sharing lunch, stories etc., most of these children are in psychological and emotional need from the group of black men.  What is needed is to clinch the Five Cs of Connective Understanding:

  • Commitment-partnership between the group, the individual student(s), the school district.
  • Consistency-involvement that transcends the “opening day welcome to school”
  • Comradeship-creation, ownership, and maintenance of individual relationships
  • Community-the group of men must want to become a permanent installation of the school setting, maintaining a presence in the classroom, the hallways, and through mentorship
  • Communications-vulnerability, exposure and trust in developing and maintaining “open” communication with individual students, teachers and parents

 

It is wrong to say that the group of men doesn’t care.  Furthermore, it is wrong to that the children should not trust them.  Lastly, I have done a great disservice to black people.

Again, “A Real Black Man,” without taking a respite or embracing his feelings, is allowing his feelings to be his response to my writing.  The question is not whether the group of black men care—I assume that they do.  The questions are these:

  • What are the psychological impacts of “caring” without follow through?
  • What can be done to either prevent psychological wounding or bring healing to those currently wounded?

Clearly a psychological tool to be added to a child’s “toolkit” is empowerment.  In “Ten Flashes of Light,” I encourage black children to:

  • To be successful with school and workplace politics: decide after careful consideration who to trust.Then trust with caution and consistently verify.
  • Respect all, love all, yet remember that trust is earned, not given away to the undeserving.
  • When a person exposes the true self to you, embrace the action and treat it as a gift.

 

 Personal & Professional Attacks

The personal and professional attacks by “A Real Black Man” are examples of forced aloneness (isolation), shaming, and abandonment trauma that are often used by members of the African-American community to instill fear, force compliance and, and ensure adherence by members to group norms.  Such methods are “holdovers” from methods used by slavers and slave owners to terrorize and traumatize newly captured black male and female slaves.

These methods continue to be used inter-generationally to traumatize current and future generations.  Again, an example would be former police officer Arthur Williams who went from being a loving community icon to becoming a pariah in his community.

The message from the community is simple: We will isolate you, we will shame you, and most importantly, during your time of desperation and need, we will abandon you.

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 Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

My Dear Brothers,

In 1670 John Ray wrote that:

“The road to hell is paved with bricks made with good intentions.”

An intention is an idea that you plan (or intend) to carry out.  If you plan to carry it out, if you mean something, it’s an intention.  Your goal, purpose, or aim is your intention. Where we often fail is in failing to balance the outcome with the intent. My Brothers, there is a saying:

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” – Virgil, The Aeneid (II, 49) 

It means to not trust enemies bringing who bring you presents, for they could very well be playing a trick. You may not be the enemy in this situation, but encouragement and no follow through causes one to consider whether or not you are bringing gifts full of false promises leading to psychological and emotional wounding.

For example, in showing up at different elementary schools year after year, offering cheers, words of encouragement, maybe staying for lunch and getting that “photo opportunity” there may be the intent to do “good works” and yet there is no consideration of the possible outcome of psychological or emotional impacts once you or your group leaves until next year.

Again…. Rather than attack the messenger for delivering the message, take a moment; I invite you to be with that anger. Feel it out and inquire of yourself why you feel that way. Accept that anger as a natural part of you but get curious about what you have experienced that has triggered that in you.

Have the willingness to ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Are my actions (not my intention) creating a possible psychological or emotional wounding for these children?
  • Remembering my own childhood, how did I feel about loss? How did I respond to a significant figure stepping into my life and subsequently disappearing?
  • What can I do to create a positive and consistent impact on a child’s life?

My Brothers, in wrapping up my comments, I want to acknowledge that we as men can love our community, be concerned about our children and in doing so, select multiple ways to accomplish our objective.  I also want to acknowledge that many of us if not all have suffered psychological wounds along the journey we call LIFE.

How we address our individual journeys relies on how we choose to treat our wounds.  There are those who will seek the validation of others; there are those who will seek relief through drugs, alcohol, sex, and there are those who will seek domination via control and violence.

As a black man striving for psychological wholeness in a psychologically unforgiving environment, my preference is to sit on a therapist’s couch and find a safe place where I can allow the release submerged feelings and in doing so, not take my rage out on a world that seeks to minimize or ignore my pain.

Simply put, if we divide the world of black men in half, there are those who are permanently disabled and therefore discarded by a hostile and non-caring society, and there are those who are walking wounded, working through the ongoing struggle to maintain sanity in a hostile and non-caring society.  The first group are the walking dead, waiting for the end to appear, whereas the second group seeks to empower themselves and create a psychologically healthy life…but only if they are willing to grasp the opportunity.

My objectives are simple:

  • To aid in healing the psychological and emotionally wounded,
  • To reinforce the psychological self and in doing so assist others to walk the journey of self-discovery,
  • To teach, model and mentor those who chose the difficult path as I have chosen that being to … STAND ALONE.

 

Standing Alone

I have been wounded.  I can heal the Self.

I can bend… I will not be broken.

I will fail.  I have fallen..

I have risen.  I will succeed.

I am determined.

Standing Alone…I will walk the journey of Self. Discovery

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

Standing Alone….. The Unspoken Truth

The Unspoken Truth: Standing Alone Within The Black Community

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

“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 were before the war; this is a white man’s country and we expect to rule it.” -New Orleans (LA) White City Official Welcome Home Greeting to African-American Troops returning from combat WWI (Barbeau & Henri 1974, p.173)

“In 1943, in Centerville, Mississippi, a white sheriff intervened in a fistfight between a white soldier and black one.  After the black solider got the upper hand, the sheriff shot him to death, then asked the white soldier, “Any more niggers you want killed?’ (Edgerton, 2001, p.136)

“I was utterly powerless.  The State has no troops, and if the civil authorities in Ellisville are helpless, the State is equally so.  Furthermore, excitement is at such a high pitch through South Mississippi that any attempt to interfere with the mob would doubtless result in the death of hundreds of persons.  The Negro confessed, says he is ready to die, and nobody can keep the inevitable from happening.”

-Governor Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, on why he didn’t stop a lynching                    (Barbeau & Henri 1974, p.177)

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My Dear Readers:

There are three major stressors that can strike or induce fear within the core of the psychological self of the African-American individual.  These stressors are the following:

  • Aloneness- Whatever the activity or environment, (social, work, recreational, etc.,) the African-American individual is usually the easily recognized minority within the group. At some point the individual struggles with isolation and lack of group identification.
  • Shame is a powerful emotion. Shaming is often utilized in the African-American community to maintain adherence to group norms.  It may lead to a wide range of mental health and public health impacts for individuals including self-esteem/concept issues, depression, addiction, eating disorders, bullying, suicide, family violence, and sexual assault.
  • Abandonment can result from being impacted by both aloneness and shame. Abandonment is a subjective emotional state where the individual feels undesired, left behind or discarded. People experiencing emotional abandonment may feel lost and cut off from a crucial source of support either suddenly or through a process of gradual erosion.  Rejection, which is a significant component of emotional abandonment, has a biological impact in that it activates the physical pain centers in the brain and can leave an emotional imprint in the brain’s warming system.

Simply stated, unwanted loneliness, shaming and abandonment can be traumatic and have direct devastating impacts on the individual’s psychological self and physical health.

In this new blog series, The Unspoken Truth, we will focus on historical and inter-generational trauma experiences of members of the African-American diaspora.  The African-American diaspora refers to communities of people outside of the United States who are descended from people of African descent who were enslaved in the United States or the prior British colonies along the east coast of North America.

The above three quotes are taken from my publication Our Blood Flows Red: Trauma and African-American Men in Military Service: Clinical Implications for Working with African-American Veterans with Complex Trauma (2010).  Within the writing, I cite numerous incidents and experiences of African-American veterans in military service from the American Civil War through Desert Storm.

As this blog article is being published I am visiting the Museé du Louvre in Paris, France, researching the participation of black (colored) troops during WWI.

 

So why is the blog writing The Unspoken Truth important? 

  • The Unspoken Truth is important because as the African American author Cynthia A. Patterson has stated:

“Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.  You have to expose who you are so that you can determine what you need to become.”

  • The Unspoken Truth is important because of men and women like former Baltimore Police Officer & US Marine Corps Veteran Arthur Williams who are committed to public service and who have often given this nation the “supreme sacrifice.”
  • The Unspoken Truth is important because the African-American community must never forgot that its children often STAND ALONE. We must never abandon our sons & daughters. 
  • The Unspoken Truth is important because” ‘To err is human’ is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases, there is no room for error.  None. “ -Ten Flashes of Light, The Journey of Self Discovery (Dr. Micheal Kane)

 

Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.  You have to expose who you are so that you are determined what you need to become.”- Cynthia A. Patterson

Many do not know that two segregated divisions (eight regiments) of African-American soldiers (the 92nd and 93rd) served in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) fighting in France.  These troops were not allowed to fight under the American flag and instead were “loaned” to the French military, serving under the French flag, wearing French uniforms and using equipment supplied by the French government.

One of these regiments, the 369th “Harlem Hell-Fighters,” served in combat 191 days longer than any other unit in the AEF.  They gave no ground, and not a single soldier deserted or was taken prisoner.  The 369th regiment was highly valued by the French High Command and was rewarded by being given the honor of being the first unit of the Allied armies to cross the Rhine into Germany.   The French commander General Goybet, in referring to the stamina of the African-American soldier stated:

“The most formidable defenses, the strongest machine gun nests, the most crushing artillery barrages were unable to stop them.  These superior troops have overcome everything with supreme disdain of death, and thanks to their courageous sacrifice, for nine days of hard fighting always maintained the front rank in the victorious advance.”

At the end of the war, General Goybet, speaking directly to the African-American soldiers said:

“Dear friends from America, when you re-cross the ocean, do not forget the Red Hand Division.  Our pure brotherhood in arms has been consecrated in the blood of the brave.  These bonds will never be severed.  Always keep the memory of your general, who is proud of having been your commander, and remember his affectionate gratitude.”

However, the African-American soldiers were never allowed to celebrate and were never recognized for their participation in the war.  Towards the conclusion of WWI, when African American combat troops were reassigned back to American military command, they were not allowed to participate in the victory parade in Paris on Bastille Day.  Furthermore, the white American command denied their representation in the huge war mural, “Le Pantheon de la Guerre,” which depicts representations of all allied soldiers who contributed to the final victory.

The final humiliation occurred when these same African-American soldiers, combat hardened from many battles, were assigned to labor battalions charged with recovering unexploded artillery shells and reburying the war dead, highly psychologically and physically traumatizing work.

 

Men and women like former Baltimore Police Officer & US Marine Corps Veteran Arthur Williams who are committed to public service and who have often given to this nation the ‘supreme sacrifice”

 Following the most recent blog The Visible Man: Balancing the Black Code of Silence on the Thin Blue Line, I received scathing rebuke for my support of Officer Williams and my “shaming” of the African-American community regarding its lack of support, its abandonment and its unyielding criticism of the black police officer following the release of the video nationwide.

Officer Williams has been charged but has pleaded not guilty. He has not had his day in court.  However, he has already been convicted in the court of public opinion, particularly within the black community.  Of most concern were the open relentless public attacks by leading black media:

  • “He resigned because of the shame of letting his people down was to much to bear.”
  • “Arthur Williams, you have become what your community hates.”
  • “An investigation has been ordered. What the hell is an investigation needed for?  We investigated the video all weekend.  We can clearly see what is going on.”

These are examples of chronic or excessive shaming.  The primary objective is to make the targeted person feel unworthy, defective and empty.   Shame can be debilitating, toxic and extremely destructive.  Shame separates the individual from the psychological self.  It creates an internal crisis that attacks the inner core, triggering a downward spiral of negative self-talk.

Shame can be defined in several ways:

  • A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.
  • An act that brings dishonor, disgrace or public condemnation.
  • An object of great disappointment.

 

The African-American community must never forget that its children often STAND ALONE.  We must never abandon our sons & daughters.  NEVER.

Across the United States, the fall season of 2018 marks the beginning of another academic school year.  For many of these youngsters, this time marks the beginning of the latest leg of their journey of academic achievement.  It is also a reality that due to a shortage of African-American male teachers, administrators, mentors, counselors and other allied staff, m many of these youngsters will never see or engage with appropriate male figures of their same ethnicity during their formative educational journeys.

To attempt to fill the gap and provide experiences for these children, African-American males from various professions and occupations throughout the nation have begun to welcome these children to their first days of school and encourage their positive start to the school year.  Many of these men arrive in business suits, and uniforms/equipment representing their diverse professions, trades and occupations.

The message that is communicated both verbally and by their presence is that “we are here to support you” and “you are not alone’ and “we stand with you”.  The children rush to line up and receive “high fives,” cheers and applause from these male role models as they march into the building or classroom.

Let’s assume that one of these children lives in a single parent household was so inspired by one of these men that he decided to dedicate to his life to public service.  Let’s assume that the visual presentation of these men modeled for this young child teamwork, brotherhood and images as to what a black man stood for.

Let’s assume that this experience led to him joining the United States Marine Corps and serving two tours in combat risking his life for his country.  Then let’s assume that following military service, this young man became a police officer in the community that he grew up.  Duty, honor, teamwork, and brotherhood were his foundation from observing those men as a little boy who did not have father figure in the home.

Then let’s assume that this young man has become an icon for his community, a loving husband, an excellent father, providing care for his disabled mother and when possible, serving in mentorship roles for black boys who grew up “just like him.”  All of this beginning with the observation of those committed black men who came to his elementary school every year to provide support and encouragement.

Then one fateful day…. this young man, usually calm when working with members of the community, loses his cool and assaults a citizen while in the process of carrying out his duties as a law enforcement officer.  Following the incident, his employers and the community he has served both vilify the young man in the media and turned him into a pariah.

Twenty years ago, this little boy looked up to the group of men and trusted that they would be there for him.  Yesterday he was a valued member of his community, well respected.  Today, without having the opportunity to tell his side, he has been branded by public opinion and rejected by the community he loves. Consequently, he must now respond to the three major stressors that can induce fear within the core of the psychological self of the African-American individual; loneliness, being shamed, and abandonment.

 

“To err is human” is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error.  In some cases, there is no room for error.  None. “Ten Flashes of Light, The Journey of Self Discovery (Dr. Micheal Kane)

Prior to leaving for Paris, France, I had a therapy session involving a young African-American male whom I will call Mark.  He is an articulate, well-spoken college educated African-American man in his 30s who has been married five years and recently announced that he and his spouse were pregnant.  Mark has no history of arrest/convictions. Mark is a low-level manager in the service industry.

Mark initially came to therapy to process his feelings of workplace invisibility and conflict stating the following:

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

The evening that Mark came to session, he was enraged, reacting to three incidents that had occurred the prior day.   First, he had the ongoing stress of having to wear the “mask of politeness” while dealing with people who he felt disrespected him daily.  Second, he had a bitter and intense argument with his spouse, who he felt, due to the pregnancy, was being a ‘bitch.”

To cool off from these two events, Mark decides to see the movie Won’t You Be My Neighbor, about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, selecting  this movie because of its “calming and aesthetic qualities.” As the movie begins, Mark pulls out his cell phone to turn off the sound, and a white male sitting behind him, under the mistaken belief that Mark is about to talk on the phone during the movie, throws a handful of napkins at him, initiating the third and most significant incident.

The napkins miss Mark’s head narrowly, but Mark turns to the man and loudly shouts in front of many (also white) witnesses:

“I will kill you if you ever throw anything at me again.”

Mark subsequently sits back down to watch the movie. As he does, the anger brews within Mark.  Following the end of the movie, Mark has a few choice words with the man and then proceeds to lie in wait for him at the exit door.

The man, seeing Mark outside the door waiting on him, instead sent his female date to the exit to see if the “coast was clear’.  Upon spotting Mark, she begins talking on her cell.  Mark, assuming she was calling 911, abruptly left the area.  As for the storm of anger, fortunate for the man and Mark himself, that storm exploded in my office instead.

In session, Mark is sober and intense.  The incident at the theater is over, but Mark is still triggered.  So, I asked the question: what was your plan once the man came out of the theater?  Mark exploded with the following:

  • I wanted to go through him
  • I wanted to break him into a thousand pieces
  • I wanted to destroy him
  • “You don’t throw things at a grown man…He broke the rule”
  • This guy represented everything I hate about my life.

There it is.  Mark was able to see that real issue wasn’t the third incident; rather it was really about the totality of him being a black man having to endure disrespect and invisibility on a daily basis.  Mark was able to realize that he had, for just that moment, lost his perspective, and in doing so, placed himself at risk of being arrested, convicted and possibly shot if the wrong police officer were to arrive—incidents that would no doubt significantly impact his life and the life of his family.

Fortunately, during the therapy session, Mark was able to step away (take a respite,) hold his feelings (embrace his reactions,) walk the journey (reflect on his feelings & thoughts,) share his words (respond externally,) and then consider alternative strategies (reevaluate his actions.)  The goal of doing this is to assist Mark in “getting on and off the mat every damn day” while avoiding the possibility of enduring damaging consequences.    His reality is simple… whether he likes it or not, he must return to that mat “every damn day.”

“To err is human”….. In some cases, there is no room for error. 

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Concluding Words

My Dear Readers,

I write for the general readership, but in some cases, I address concluding words to specific populations.  In the last blog, I addressed my concluding words to the African-American community.  Today, I address my remarks to three specific groups:

  • The little black boys and girls who are beginning their first days in elementary school.
  • The group of black men standing at the school house; representing professions, occupations and trades who come to the elementary school house every fall term to welcome the children to school.
  • African-American parents.

 

The little black boys and girls

My Dear Little Ones,

As you begin your journey, I encourage you to stay focused and remember that no matter what your dreams are, only you can make your dreams come true.  There may come a time in which individuals will offer words of encouragement or “promises” seeking to motivate your success. Remember:

  • Learn to be careful with who you choose to share. Decide after careful consideration who to trust. Then trust with caution and consistently verify.
  • Respect all, love all, and yet remember that trust is earned, not given away, to the undeserving.

 

The group of black men standing at the schoolhouse.

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” – Virgil, The Aeneid (II, 49)

My Dear Brothers,

Every year around the beginning of the school year, I always get a call from so & so individual or organization stating that “the brothers” are going to show up at a school to welcome back black youngsters and encourage them to have a good school year.  The only requirement is that the men must appear in either suits/ties or the uniform and tools of their professions.

I always politely decline.  My response is always the same.  I’m busy.  What, too busy to welcome back black boys and girls?  Nope, too busy preparing to assist the psychologically wounded and emotionally devastated little and big ones who are isolated, alone and abandoned after you welcome them back to school.

My dear brothers, arriving at school wearing your suits and uniforms, clean shaven and smelling good are great for the imagery and photo opportunities that you will no doubt receive in the media.  However, what happens after the cameras are gone? My brothers, are you in the classrooms?  Are you in the hallways?  Are you mentoring our youngsters?  Can they come to you and share their stories, their pain and their nightmares?

Why is it always an elementary school?  What about choosing a middle school?  Even better, choose a high school … to come and greet the upcoming adolescents and young women and men who are soon to join us and must struggle in a world that is often hostile or uncaring…to us.  Instead, you consistently select elementary schools whose principals are so starved for positive black role models, that they are falling on top of each other to invite you in…. for your photo op.

My Brothers, there is a saying “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”  It means to not trust enemies bringing who bring you presents, for they could very well be playing a trick.  You may not be the enemy in this situation, but encouragement and no follow through causes one to consider whether or not you are bringing gifts full of false promises leading to psychological and emotional wounding.

My brothers, if you are angry after reading this, I invite you to be with that anger.  Feel it out and inquire of yourself why you feel that way. Accept that anger as a natural part of you but get curious about what you have experienced that has triggered that in you.

Transformation and self-discovery can only occur by exploring the depth of your feelings and finding the root cause of it, instead of mindlessly finding a way to just dull the symptoms of it. Be willing to walk the journey of self-discovery with yourself.

As black men, we are psychologically wounded.  We have endured. We have suffered. And we have survived.  Healing is our responsibility.  Now is the time to empower the psychological self.  I leave you with the following “Flashes of Light” for your psychological tool kit:

“Once burned, we learn.  If we do not learn, we only insure that we will be burn again and again and again until…we learn.” – Dr. Micheal Kane, “Ten Flashes of Light”

 

The African-American Parent

My Dear Parent,

I believe we live in a time where society shows less tolerance for our errors and provides far more opportunities for our failures.  My patient Mark learned after the theater incident the same lesson that Officer Arthur Williams learned: that   “To err is human, and … In some cases, there is no room for error.  NoneMark was fortunate to have a therapy session where he could explore the S Pathways:

  • having a safe and secure place (therapy)
  • where he could search within the psychological self,
  • ending the silence and
  • releasing the submerged materials lying deeply below.
  • Mark was able to sustain security in self,
  • reinforcing his self-esteem and self-concept
  • during his work of self-discovery.

I am currently consulting with a white colleague on a case in which the father, an African-American believes that a child needs to learn early and often to “do as they are told by authority and accept what they might see as unfairness and learn obedience.”  The father feels that if his son does not learn to obey without protest, he is at risk in the future of being killed.

The black father has good intentions and is clearly concerned about the physical safety of his child.   However, the father is “reacting” as he is “living in his fear” and is therefore unable to see the possible psychological wounding or traumatization he may be unwittingly setting up for his son.

It remains essential for African-American parents to learn healthy methods to assist their children to live and thrive in hostile or non-supportive environments.  Children should be encouraged to learn when it is appropriate to question authority and when it is essential to remain silent, essentially balancing physical safety and psychological wellness.  One such method is Five Steps of Alertness:

  • Alertness is the state of active attention. It is being watchful and prepared to meet danger or emergency, or being quick to perceive, analyze a situation and act to either protect or secure the self.
  • Awareness is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, to be cognizant of events. More broadly, it is the state of being conscious of one’s surroundings.  Awareness may be focused on what is occurring internally such as a visceral feeling, or on events occurring in the external environment.
  • Aloneness is the ability to recognize one’s gender or ethnicity as unique. There will be situations where, through no fault of yours, you may be considered to be separate from or different than others within the same or similar group.
  • Abandonment is an emotional state in which the individual may feel undesired, left behind or discarded. The individual can protect the psychological self, minimizing the impact by reinforcing one’s self esteem and self-concept.
  • Alive & Well is actively engaging in the pursuits of self-determination. It is the activity of moving toward self-empowerment and self-actualization—that is, the attainment of dreams and desires.  It is the individual’s responsibility, and it cannot be delegated or assigned to another individual.

It is the parent’s responsibility to provide empowerment strategies so that our children learn to live WITH their fear, and not be stifled by living IN our fear.  If our children are to stand on our shoulders it must be done with advocacy, balance and calmness.

Empowerment can begin by adding the following ‘Flashes of Light” to the parental psychological tool kit.  Teach your children the following:

  • Life is like a marathon. Finish the race; don’t worry about coming in first place.  Cross the finish line.  Just finish the race.  Finish what you start.
  • A wise person learns from their mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the path even when it is in front of their face.

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

“When Will You Be Satisfied?”

“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity.

No. No. We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteous like a mighty stream.”

-Martin Luther King

Standing Alone……The Unspoken Truth

The Visible Man: Balancing the Black Code of Silence on the Thin Blue Line

“While I have an expectation that officers are out of their cars, on foot, and engaging with citizens, I expect that it will be done professionally and constitutionally. I have zero tolerance for behavior like I witnessed on the video today. Officers have a responsibility and duty to control their emotions in the most stressful of situations.”

-Gary Tuggle, Interim Police Commissioner, Baltimore Police Department

 “Police officers are sworn to protect and serve, and when that oath is taken for granted and an abuse of that power is evident, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

-Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State’s Attorney

“His partner was not charged with a crime. He should be also be held responsible for failing to stop the attack. He should’ve stopped him before it was so bad.”

-Sandra Almond Cooper, President Baltimore chapter NAACP

“Arthur Williams, you have become what your community hates.”

-Charlamagne Tha God, radio talk host, The Breakfast Club (New York)

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My Dear Readers,

The Arthur Williams police brutality video has spread over social media like the wildfires spreading across the Pacific Northwest.  The repeated showings of the video has not only created intense trauma within the African-American community, but it has also, added to the further marginalization and isolation of our black and brown police officers, men and women who seek to serve and protect our diverse communities.

Willful blindness, political motives and yes…FEAR are the major factors feeding the flames.  There are more and more individuals willing to hop on the bus that former Baltimore Police Officer Arthur Williams has been tossed under.  The Interim Police Commissioner, Baltimore State’s Attorney, and the President of the Baltimore chapter NAACP have all lined up to stake out their positions, condemning the actions of Officer Williams.

And then there are those commenting in social media:

  • “Even the black police dislike ghetto blacks.”
  • “That thug cop is a total embarrassment to the black community.”
  • “Obviously Williams had a thuggish attitude before he joined the police department which was amplified once he was given the power of a gun and badge.”

Any comments that suggest any empathy or understanding for Officer Williams’ actions were disheartening at best:

  • “It’s not always the officer’s fault, but what Officer “Dickhead” did was wrong.  He became a thug.”
  • “Officer Dickhead?”
  • “Thug?”

Really?

The Black Code of Silence

Besides being black and rushing to tossing Officer Williams so deep under the bus that his body will disappear, what does the Interim Police Commissioner, Baltimore State’s Attorney, the Baltimore NAACP, and random social media commentators have in common?

  • They are members of a marginalized group, steeped in historical and inter-generational trauma, and:
  • They are reacting to the fact that they are Living in their own internalized Fear.

 

Historical and Inter-generational Trauma

 Historical trauma refers to the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding of an individual or generation caused by a traumatic experience or event.

Inter-generational trauma is trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations of offspring of the survivors via complex post-traumatic stress disorder mechanisms.

Over the last 300+ years of policing interactions with African-Americans, the community has deep-seated hard feelings and resentment towards the police, some of it well-deserved.  To combat police abuses, our community continues to press for more involvement and representation of black and brown people within local law enforcement. Those initiatives have been successful.

The percentage of minority police officers in U.S. law enforcement agencies has almost doubled between 1987 and 2013. In a study last conducted in 2013, found there were 130,000 minority local officers.  This represents an increase of 78,000 officers from 1987. Black Americans have become law enforcement leaders as well. This summer, Carmen Best was confirmed as the first black female police chief of the Seattle Police Department and Regina Scott was named as LAPD’s first black female deputy chief.

The downside of these statistics is that the increase in diversity in police departments has not resulted in improved relations between the police and communities of color.  In fact, the intensity and frequency of violence has increased as evidenced by the recent series of police killings of unarmed black men.

Living in Fear

When a traumatic event happens, the impact it has on individuals is ongoing.  Humans continue to maintain an internal hyper-vigilance, which creates an agitated emotional state that contributes to chronic anxiety due to the constant fear of another traumatic event.

This internalized fear of police is the same internalized fear that Representative John Lewis felt on Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL in 1965 when he and over 600 other civil rights activists were brutally attacked by state and local police.   This trauma is passed down in policies that parents impose on their children, and the way that people are expected to act in these situations, repressing their own self-expression, and creating the implication that to express their own humanness is to invite violence.

The Rush To Judgment

 On The Breakfast Club, a New York City radio talk show, host  Charlamagne Tha God, stated the following: 

“An investigation has been ordered.  What the hell is an investigation needed for?  We investigated the video all weekend.  We can clearly see what is going on.”

Charlamagne continues, as if speaking directly to Officer Williams:

“I don’t know you personally, Arthur, so I can’t speak for you.  I can’t tell you the thing you hate.  I don’t know if you are part of that system of white supremacy; you might be an agent for them.  But I will tell you that you have become what your community hates.  If you are not trying to change things and become part of the solution, you might as well move on.  We don’t any more of you adding on to our existing problems.”

Officer Williams was arrested and was criminally charged for his actions.  So, without a judicial trial or internal investigation, he has been found guilty by the court of public opinion and is now a pariah; isolated and abandoned by his community. Social opinion leaders like Charlamagne Tha God are quick to criticize Officer Williams while at the same time, admitting that he doesn’t know the man personally.

Do we really know Officer Williams?  Who is this “thuggish” cop, hater of urban dwelling blacks and embarrassment to the black community? Information from media sources reveals the following about Officer Williams:

  • He is married, has one young child and is taking care of his mother who is recovering from a stroke
  • He attended a Jesuit High School in Baltimore where he was an athlete and star lacrosse player
  • He served in the US Marine Corps with two tours in Iraq and received an honorable discharge.
  • He graduated at the top of his class, receiving the Commissioner’s Award for Excellence. He won honors for defense tactics, physical training and emergency vehicle operations.
  • Due to his honors and advance academics, he was awarded the prestigious honor of “bearer of colors” of his graduating class at the police academy.

The information available indicates that Officer Williams was well liked and respected by his superiors and peers.  He is a family man, a good father, spouse and provider.  He provides care for his disabled parent.  He served his country during times of war with distinction and was on track following graduation from the police academy to a career and advancement in a police department rebuilding from years of internal strife and corruption. That is, until this event happened. In an instant, this promising career was gone.

  • Why did this unfortunate situation happen?
  • Why were there no safeguards in place?
  • Why didn’t Officer Williams receive support from the police department, police union or the African-American community of Baltimore, the place in which he grew up?

“Why” questions invite responses that circle back on themselves and as a result, they can be distracting.  They fail to provide an adequate understanding of the issues being targeted. A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on “what” questions instead.  Specifically,

  • What stressors do black police officers have to contend with while policing within their own communities?
  • What are the police interdepartmental and community safeguards for black police officers?
  • What are the possible psychological impacts that black police officers may deal with while policing within their own communities?

 

What stressors do black police officers have to contend with while policing within their own communities?

These are several stressors faced by Black police officers:

  • There is the community expectation that they will serve in the dual roles of serving the community and protecting the community from white police officers who might systematically over police and deploy violence against African-Americans.
  • There is the expectation of the police departmental hierarchy that in the process of policing, these officers serve as a “bridge” between the department and the black community.
  • There is the expectation that “brothers and sisters in blue” will protect each other while out on the street and when dealing with over demanding and unwanted policing supervision.
  • There is the presence of being observed by a watchful and naïve public/majority society who expects the presence of black police officers to be evidence that racism has been erased.
  • Finally, there is the stressor of negotiating and reconciling the psychological impact of striving to be “blue” and “black” in one dark body.

 

What are the community safeguards and police interdepartmental for black police officers?

Although civil rights and community advocates pressured local, state and federal governmental bodies for inclusion of black police officers at all levels, no specific safeguards were provided to protect black officers from racism within police departments. Following the end of WWII, black officers:

  • Were segregated in separate and unequal facilities and were not granted the same policing powers as white officers.
  • In many police departments across the country, black officers could not exercise arrest powers over whites and:
  • Black officers were restricted to policing black neighborhoods.

Black police officers have created their own safeguards to advocate within the police department, protect their interests and further their commitment to serve their communities.  One of these safeguards is an organization called the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).  Its mission is to “ensure equity in the administration of justice in the provision of public service to all communities, and to serve as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to justice by action.” serve as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed

 

What are the possible psychological impacts would black police officers may respond while policing within their own communities?

There are several possible psychological impacts to be considered:

  • Conscious or unconscious racial biases might lead black police officers to aggressively police other African-Americans. This is also known as “same-race biases” or “intra-racial” biases because both the victims and the perpetrators of these biases have the same racial identity.
  • Black police officers, like white police officers, may experience a set of anxieties that increase the likelihood that they will employ violence as a reaction to a heated situation with other African-Americans. This is known as the “masculinity threat.”

Research has shown that police officers that feel their masculinity is being challenged or undermined in the context of a particular interaction are more likely to use violence than officers who do not experience that masculinity threat.

  • A black police officer may also experience “racial anxiety.” Research on this concept shows that police officers who worry that they will be perceived as racist in particular interactions are more likely to use force against black citizens than officers who do not experience racial anxiety.
  • Finally, there is anxiety of what can be called the “squeeze” or “tight fit.” This may occur when black police officers become overwhelmed by balancing the desire to fit into the law enforcement community of without having to disassociate themselves from their own African-American community and the concerns that face that community.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

My Dear Readers:

Although Officer Williams has resigned from the Baltimore Police Department, I will continue to refer to him as “Officer Williams.”  In my past interactions with police officers, I know that being a sworn and commissioned police officer will be in his heart forever.  Officer Williams did not dishonor the badge, his peers, his oath or the community he swore to protect and serve. Officer Williams lost perspective, lost his calmness and made a most unfortunate mistake.

I write for the general readership, but in this writing of The Visible Man blog, I am directing my concluding remarks to the African-American community:

SHAME ON YOU…  SHAME ON US.

As civil rights and community activists, we demanded and pressured the white majority, to open and employ African-Americans as police officers.  There was the expectation that these black officers would protect us from them while serving the community.

The police hierarchy looked to these black officers to serve as a bridge between them and us.  Mission accomplished, the white majority smiled and stepped away…. and so did we.

As we stepped away…we abandoned these dedicated people,  leaving them to fend for themselves within a system steeped in institutionalized racism.  Alone and encircled, they did the best they could.  They went on to create organizations such as NOBLE and local chapters to not only look after their own concerns, but the concerns of the community that abandoned them as well.

Along comes the incident with Officer Williams.  Yes, the actions taken by him as seen on video was wrong.  He should have his day in court.   As stated by his attorney Thomas Maronick, following the bail hearing:

 “Arthur is not a threat to anyone in the community. He looks very much forward to his day in court, his chance to tell his side of the story.”

Following exposure of the incident, Gary Tuggle, Interim Police Commissioner Baltimore Police Department stated,

“If it were borne out of emotion, we are trained — we should be trained — to never act in an emotional way, particularly when it comes to engaging with citizens.”

Shame on Interim Police Commissioner Tuggle.  As a black police officer, he is well aware that there is no training provided to any black police officer to respond to the stressors and psychological impacts that have been identified in this writing.

Shame on the State Attorney for seeking a no bail bond citing Officer Williams as a “significant threat to the community.” The judge, denying the prosecutor‘s request to release Officer Williams on his own recognizance, said that “there was no argument that he will show up for trial.”

Shame on the Baltimore NAACP chapter President for not advocating for Officer Williams’ civil rights of fairness and equality under the law.

Shame on the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 3 and National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives for their “silence” for a brother officer in crisis.

But most importantly, shame, shame, and shame again on us in the nationwide African-American community for either our indifference or support in abandoning this young man at a very critical time in his life.

Regarding Officer Williams’ resignation, Charlamagne Tha God, the radio talk host, said:

“He resigned because of the shame of letting his people down was too much to bear.”

I disagree.  I believe that Officer Williams is a conscious and committed police officer who resigned not out of shame, but because he did not want to bring more negative attention nationally on his fellow black police officers. Officer Williams is a representation of the best this community has to offer in public service.  He did not deserve to be abandoned by our community.  We must do better for those who risk their physical and psychological health every day they put on the uniform and the badge.

It is our shame that we abandoned one of our own.  We must want to live and learn from this tragedy. The African-American community prides itself as having a strong religious/spiritual orientation.  Let us hold to the scriptures below:

John 8:7: “He that is without sin among you let him cast the first stone.”

Matthew 7:1: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

We simply must do better.

I hope the day never comes when those of us in the black community will need a police officer who looks “exactly like me” to protect me from “them.”   If that day ever comes, I hope that officer will have forgiveness in their heart for the way we in the community treated one of their black brethren.

Black Police Officers have maintained a code of silence regarding the shameful way Officer Arthur Williams has been treated.  These dedicated women and men deserved far more support than what we in the African-American community have shown them.

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“(Arthur Williams), You are supposed to be one of us.  You’re supposed to have more patience with your people, no matter how angry you get.  You have to ball your fists up and realize you have all the power.”

-Charlamagne Tha God

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“To err is human” is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error.  In some cases, there is no room for error.  None.

“Ten Flashes of Light-Journey of Self Discovery”

-Micheal Kane Psy.D Clinical Traumatologist

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A shout out to four of Seattle Police Department’s finest as they continue to serve and protect the African-American community and the citizens of the City of Seattle:

  • Captain John Hayes
  • Detective Denise “Cookie” Bolden
  • Felicia Cross, Community Outreach Program Manager (civilian)
  • Donna Brown, Community Program Manager, African-American Community Advisory Council (civilian)

 

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

In Our Corner: New Pain From Old Wounds

“This too shall pass.”

-Idiom

“Failure is not an option.”

-Gene Kranz, NASA flight director of Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.

“Evil people will surely be punished… children of the godly will go free.”

-Proverbs 11:21-25

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My Dear Readers,

Recently, it was reported that a 15-year old boy, living in a state supervised residential facility for troubled youth was sexually assaulted by four of his fellow residents, with a staff member looking on, and beyond belief, laughing and even shaking hands with one of the attackers. It is also alleged that the following the incident, the victim confronted the adult and was in turn physically assaulted by the adult.

The excitement created by the media coverage is over. The perpetrators of the assault will be punished. Racist and stereotypical beliefs will be reinforced. Both the black minority and white majority communities will remain silent and life will continue in its drudgery as both victim and perpetrators slip quietly into oblivion. That is, until the next time.

Evil people will surely be punished… children of the godly will go free.

In all actuality, they will simply be forgotten.

Yes, we can be assured that legal accountability is be initiated and severe consequences will no doubt be assigned to the perpetrators of these criminal acts. Felony convictions, incarceration within adult institutions, and lifetime registration as sexual offenders, are certainly possible in this situation, and Florida’ s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) stated:

“DJJ does not tolerate this type of behavior rand the contracted staff person involved in the incident has been terminated. Their actions are inexcusable, and it is our expectation that they be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Still, it remains too easy to treat this as an isolated incident. Research shows that 20% of men behind bars have been forced into sex. However, the unreported estimate is 50 to 80%. These statistics are not unknown. Instead it has been the norm to ignore the atrocities that happen within juvenile residential and adult correctional facilities until something shocking as what occurred in this Florida residential facility becomes public.

This Too Shall Pass… No, It Won’t

This is complex trauma, and without therapeutic intervention, these children, both the perpetrators and the victim, will continue to experience repercussions from this incident and the conditions that led to it. These young men will soon become adults, seeking employment, creating intimate relationships, and starting families, and they will bring the memories and unresolved suffering with them, potentially adversely impacting their partners and their children.

Failure is not an option.

Yes… it is. Failure is an option. In many cases, it is an expectation, especially when we, without hesitation, continue to travel the same roads and expect to arrive at a different destination. In essence, we fail by asking the wrong questions:

  • Why did this happen?
  • Why did the system fail?
  • Why would four juveniles rape a fellow human being?
  • Why would an adult stand idly by, laughing and observing the sexual assault?

Why” questions invite answers that circle back on themselves and as a result, they do not lead us to a full understanding of the foundation of the issue. A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead. Specifically,

  • What experiences are rooted within the adult and juveniles’ actions and behaviors?
  • What specific roles or models have the adult and juveniles observed and integrated within their developmental core?
  • What family resources and community systems do these individuals currently have? What family resources and community systems will be available to them as adults when they return from an institutionalized and repressive penal system?

Anger: The Common Thread in Pain

The four assailants and victim are in the midst of adolescent development. One can only imagine the sadness that each of the five juveniles must have felt being removed from their own families and communities and placed together in a residential facility.

Typically, when male children become sad, they act out in anger, not sadness. As explained by the rapper 50 Cent, this is not abnormal:

“Everyone has feelings, but there are some people who have trained themselves over time not to be out crying and doing all kinds of shit. When someone else would cry, we replace those feelings of anxiety and get angry instead.”

There are five reasons young men allow themselves to get angry rather than feel the pain:

  • Lack of understanding of how to deal with feelings; so when all else fails, anger works.
  • The feeling of sadness reinforces the state of weakness, and anger can restore feelings of strength.
  • Anger is a more comfortable emotion for young men than sadness.
  • Sadness is a form of weakness. Anger is more aggressive and masculine and places the individual in a state of feeling “in control.”
  • Anger is strong and feared by others; sadness is weakness and manipulated by others.

What is Complex Trauma?

Complex trauma is a form of psychological stress. It is more than simple PTSD. It usually means that a person has suffered several traumatic events, often beginning in childhood and continues through adulthood.

The repetitive nature of the traumatic events often means that a person’s mental, physical and emotional states are all affected. It is often very difficult to function at work, school or in the community. It impedes and/or hinders involvement in interpersonal relationships.

Complex Trauma is the exposure to adverse experiences such as violence, abuse, neglect and separation from a caregiver repeatedly over time and during critical period of a child or adolescent’s development.

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), also known as complex trauma, is a set of symptoms resulting from prolonged stress of a social and/or interpersonal nature.

In additional to psychological damage, it can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, increases in alcohol abuse, and domestic violence, as well as inflammatory responses and syndromic symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and irritable bowel.

Complex PTSD results from events and experiences that are:

  • Repetitive, prolonged or cumulative
  • Most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploration, and mistreatment, including neglect/abandonment/ abuse by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults;
  • Occur most often at developmental vulnerable times in the victim’s life and in conditions of vulnerability associated with disability, disempowerment, dependency, age and/or infirmity.

Research shows that complex trauma is related to the following factors:

  • Age of onset
  • Type of violence
  • Relationship to the perpetrator
  • Impact on the environment
  • Degree of isolation and
  • Amount of support received following the traumatic experience.

These factors exacerbate the victim’s sense of:

  • Degree of helplessness and powerlessness
  • Stigmatization (not being good enough)
  • Betrayal
  • Sexualization (primarily for childhood sexual abuse cases)

Living With Complex Trauma

Just like any major illness, complex trauma can be intense, painful and scary. It is treatable, but only with the willingness of the impacted individuals to view it as a typical outcome when one is forced to endure traumatic experiences, and not as a character failing or an indicator of weakness.

Individuals who suffer from complex trauma are often vulnerable to emotional and psychological struggles. These individuals are encouraged to seek treatment. The individual must define what a normal life is for themselves, and then pursue that life through processing their trauma in therapy.

Society, however, must be willing to understand what ails those suffering from complex trauma, acknowledge the pain, and work to end the suffering. In doing so, the traumatized will be empowered to balance the weight of their past experiences with their current realities and truly live the lives they seek.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.” -Author unknown

My Dear Brothers,

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

The residential home in which these juveniles lived was one without love, where traumatic memories are now a permanent etching on the psychological self. It is now a place where those who lived together inflicted violence and terror on one another.

We may never know what male role models these juveniles had prior to coming to the residential facility. However, we do know what male role modeling they had while living within the residential facility. They were under the supervision of an adult who was no different from themselves.

Rather than provide guidance, mentoring, supervision and most important protection, this individual chose to add to their suffering by allowing, encouraging and ultimately reinforcing an environment that created a permanent wound on the psychological self on five youths. These wounds will never be forgotten and will be carried for the duration of their lives.

The actions and behaviors of one black adult male do not speak for the actions and behaviors of black men as group. To hold all black men accountable for the sordid actions of these individuals would play directly into the misguided and misinformed trappings of racism, stereotyping and prejudices.

However, as black men, we must want assume the collective responsibility of questioning the environment that would lead to this adult participating in the psychological wounding of those juveniles who were placed in his care.

Without having any information regarding the background or history of this adult, the indifference in his actions suggests that he too may have suffered from complex trauma in the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence. If so, what we see here are the consequences of what occurs when psychological wounding and pain goes untreated.

What would be a positive outcome in assuming collective responsibility? Well, we can be honest in our self-reflection that many of us have endured complex trauma and could benefit from the process of healing the psychological wound.

Psychological wounding and pain seek, no…demand relief. Relief will be achieved via self-medication with drugs, sex or violence. Or, relief can be achieved through psychotherapy, positive role modeling etc. You must choose. One way, or another, human beings will find relief.

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Complex trauma does not go away by

Simply pushing it to the back of your mind.

It is a thief that lurks around until finds an open door. It flashes. If screams as it leaps into my soul.

It is a thief that steals in the day or in the night.

Enough is never enough.

It steals and steals and steals.

It plucks and sucks the life, slowly from me.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time, Remaining…In Our Corner.

In Our Corner: Living The Dream, or Existing In The Illusion?

“Flattery will get you nowhere.  Flattery does not work.”  -Idiom

“One thing is certain in life… we will all die one day.  Thus, the focus must be on those we touch, how we live, and what we experience.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

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

-Delbert Richardson, Ethno-Museologist,                                                                           American History Traveling Museum, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

In the last blog, I asked for “white people of good conscience to work within their communities as we black folk continue to work within our own.”

As I expected, I received strong responses from readers,  one in particular that was strongly critical of my direct focus on men’s issues within the African-American community at the expense of a focus on black women, or reflection about the role that I play regarding sexism within my community.

This writer, an outspoken black woman, has a good point.  She points out that having traditionally focused on white privilege and its impact on the African-American community while ignoring privilege within the community, key members continue to suffer in silence.

The writer is correct when she refers to misogynistic behavior within the African American community. It is hypocritical for a community to be united in its commitment against racism, but then remain silent regarding male privilege and misogynistic behavior.

Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women and girls.  It can appear in numerous ways, including social exclusion, hostility, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women and sexual objectification.

What lies at the root of misogyny is the conscious or unconscious habit of placing a masculine point of view at the center of one’s worldview, thereby systematically marginalizing the feminine point of view.

Without question, rampant misogyny is an issue within the African-American community, and yet it is not one that we are willing to engage with.  We speak in one voice to the role of the black woman in the family, the church and community, but we encourage silence instead of dialog when we deny actions that denigrate the women in our community.  We say we want to hear what women in our community have to say, but when the words are not flattering, the woman speaking becomes a “man-hater” and “usurper of the black man’s role in the community.”

In the blog “Showing Up As Real MEN and Leaving As Little Boys,” I shared one woman’s regarding her interactions with black men and got the following response from a reader:

“[I was]Using a Black woman (?) to spew vitriol and hatefulness, giving her a sanctimonious platform to castigate Black males. She sounded as though she had multiple issues needing immediate attention.”

The reader may have been correct that the woman had “issues” needing “immediate attention.” In my therapeutic work I have listened to numerous black women express similar feelings, sharing the impact of psychological wounds received from sexism and misogyny within our community.

In this case, however, the reader is not genuinely concerned about the woman’s health; this is an attempt to derail the conversation and distract from the role that black men can play and have played in creating these “multiple issues needing attention.”   The women who exposed their feelings may be utilizing this platform posting as a means of empowerment— something that I strongly support and encourage them to continue to do.

And, I strongly encourage black men to not just hear what is being said…  but to listen.

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Dear Visible Man,

I am writing to share my concerns regarding the sexism and misogyny that is occurring within the African-American community. I have two real examples: my lazy-ass brother and my dependent, can’t-seem-to-take-care-of-himself-uncle.

You write often about white privilege and I acknowledge and agree with you that white privilege is a major concern for black people.  However, you clearly choose to remain silent about black male privilege that is also a daily reality in the black community.

It burns me up to watch these two worthless fools come over for Sunday dinner and be waited on hand and foot by my mother and grandmother.   When I complain, these misfits shut me down, calling me a hater.

Both are living in their dreams.  My brother spends his time smoking weed and still trying to play pro basketball, which he aged out of long ago.  His backup plan is to be a rapper. Imagine how likely that is.

My uncle, on the other hand, not only drinks and smokes weed, but he spends his social security money on the lottery, hoping for that one big win.  I have a son and I don’t want my son to hang around them and pick up their shameful behaviors.

I am sick of enduring this bullshit at home and then having to deal with sexism and the racist bullshit that occurs within my workplace.

So, Dr. Kane, instead of talking about white privilege, maybe you should trying focusing on saving these privileged black men who are living off the sweat of others in their own community.

-Pissed Off Sister Who Has Seen Enough, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Woman,

I want to thank you for your remarks.  Your words are direct and speak to your experiences as a woman and mother within the African-American community. I acknowledge that for empowerment and growth to occur within our community, there must be voices raised, avenues provided, and foundations developed so that we encourage meaningful dialogue as we seek to engage on this topic.

There are some things that you described that I want to directly respond to:

  • The behaviors of your uncle and brother
  • The concern regarding your son mimicking or modeling his male relatives’ behavior

First things first: my goal in this work is not to “save” anyone, and I apologize if anything I have written implies that.  As a clinical traumatologist, I serve as a companion and guide walking with those who are seeking the journey of “self-discovery.”   Rather than to save, my role is to assist those who want to empower themselves.

I agree that a sense of privilege is deeply implanted within the African-American community.  However, the actions and behaviors of your male relative you have identified are not examples of that privilege.  Those are  the actions and behaviors of people who are existing and surviving.

The difference is this: within the Journey of Self Discovery, there are The Five Levels: existing, surviving, driving, striving and thriving.

  • Existing-The journey is bleak and lifeless for the individual. Life is barely lived, let alone enjoyed or even experienced.  Nothing is produced or gained by the individual at this level.
  • Surviving-The focus of the journey is to remain alive and breathing. The individual attaches minimally to life, lives in fear, and is in a constant state of desperation.  There is little gain, but not that much for the individual at this level.
  • Driving-At this level, the search for empowerment begins. The individual wanders, seeking direction, and in doing so, learns balance and reinforces the psychological self.  At this level the individual learns the importance of empowerment.
  • Striving– At this level, the individual has a solid hold on their life and is fully experiencing their psychological self. The individual lives with their fears, and is successfully implementing empowerment strategies in their lives.
  • Thriving- The individual has attained full realization of the psychological self and completed the Journey of Self Discovery. The individual has mastered their self-empowerment strategies, and can use this knowledge to support others and as a foundation for future journeys.

It appears that your uncle is simply existing, where your brother is surviving.  I understand your frustration and concern for the welfare of your male relatives, but these are your frustrations and concerns, not theirs.

Your uncle and brother are not living their dreams at all.  Dreams are workable hopes and desires that can be made true.  Instead, your brother and uncle are just two of the many African-American men who are, by their inaction and destructive behavior, “living in their own illusions.” Furthermore, their behavior may be a way of medicating psychological wounds through the utilization of alcohol and drugs.

This isn’t to say that you should just accept their behavior, especially when it is truly unacceptable and impacts your household.  And yes, in recent history, black women have been taught to give men benefits of the doubt that many do not deserve.  However, this appears, from my experience, to be something quite different.

The questions to be placed before your uncle and brother are the following:

  • What do you want for the psychological self?
  • What are you willing to do in order to achieve what you want?
  • What is your motivation? What are your ultimate goals before you close your eyes forever?

I would recommend that you allow your uncle and brother to serve as role models for your developing son.  The definition of a role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by young people.

However, role models can also examples of failures to be observed, learned from and not to be emulated by young people.

  • Interact with males who behaviors you want your son to model. Consider conducting comparison and contrast situations with male relatives (or non-relatives) whose behavior you deem appropriate for your son.
  • Consider the psychological and emotional damage you can inflict on your son by shielding him from this and not being there to help him understand the difference between “dreams” and “illusions.”
  • Create a space where your son can be open and vulnerable with you so that he can openly discuss feelings associated with his observations.

One of the most important responsibilities of a parent is to prepare the child for their entry into the adult world.  Under your close guidance, there are lessons and experiences that your son and others can gain, and in doing so, add to their developing foundation and psychological self.

As for your uncle and brother, it is never too late to learn new skills or transform their behavior.  However, to do so is based on their desire to do so, and not your concerns or your needs.  Staying within an illusion is a choice; one you may not agree to and yet one you must want to respect.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” 

-Edwin Louis Cole

 

My Dear Brothers,

I have no flattering remarks for you.

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

Regardless of our social status, education and achievements, black males for the majority are not valued by white society.  However, this is neither an excuse nor an explanation for the psychological wounds we inflict on the members of our own community, specifically black women.

There will be those among us who, due to their own psychological wounds and lack of self-concept, will be unable to look within themselves, and would rather focus on questioning my personal motives. This is expected, but not productive.

Transformation can only begin with embracing acceptance and letting go of denial. There are those who are not ready to transform themselves, so their journey of self-discovery will not be complete until they accept themselves, the roles they have played, the mistakes they have made, and the impact those things have had on others.  For some, that journey is a short one.  For others, it never began.

If you are angry after reading this, I invite you to be with that anger.  Feel it out and inquire of yourself why you feel that way. Accept that anger as a natural part of you but get curious about what you have experienced that has triggered that in you.  Transformation and self-discovery can only occur by exploring the depth of your feelings and finding the root cause of it, instead of mindlessly finding a way to just dull the symptoms of it. Be willing to walk the journey of self-discovery with yourself, warts and all.

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Searching for meaning is like drawing

Etching for life.

Asking for direction can bring

Breath for tomorrow

Risk taking has its challenges

Earning another opportunity to

Endure which bring wisdom.

Zest is what it’s about

Experience the Journey of Self-Discovery

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

Until the next time,

RemainingIn Our Corner.

At The Crossroads: White Privilege And The New Normal

“People can be slave ships in shoes.”

-Zora Neale Hurston, Author

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

-George Santayana (1863) philosopher/novelist

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

-Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet

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My Dear Readers,

In Northern Ireland in the late 20th century, an ethno-nationalist and religious conflict that developed into a low-level war between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland became commonly known as “The Troubles.”

In America, we are waging a low-level war against children of color seeking protection from debilitating gang violence in Central America. Since early May of this year, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the southern border into the U.S. seeking asylum, as part of a policy from the Trump administration that has generated a public outcry. In all, over 10,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are being held in detention facilities across the United States. Currently, the US Department of Defense is planning to house 20,000 children on military bases across the country.

My heart is heavy. This is who we have become. “The Troubles“ of the British are now our own.

The Cries of Children

The world is watching as our country continues to spiral into state sanctioned child abuse and cruelty to children, and this was not an accident. This was part of a new immigration strategy by the Trump administration that was designed to deter further illegal immigration, but this approach has prompted widespread outcry.

No racial group understands the impact of complex trauma in children and the separation of families more than African-Americans. African-American families continue to feel the impact of historical and inter-generational traumas associated with slavery, segregation, the Jim Crow era, and the horrors of lynching men, women and children.

Even today, complex trauma continues to be endured in silence by those who as children, individually integrated white schools following the US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.   Since then, legislation has been passed and judicial battles have been won, but these children and subsequent generations continue to be psychologically impacted and their social mobility blocked.

How are the words “Land of the Free” defined? Immigrants coming to this country understand that in the United States of America we claim to be the land of the free because men are free to do whatever they wish. However what is really meant is that white men are free, not others.

Although segregation has formally ended as a means of control, it has been replaced by the subtler white privilege.

What is white privilege? 

White privilege is a societal benefit that favors people whom society identifies as white. White privilege confers passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which makes it different from and harder to address than overt bias or prejudice.

How does privilege differ from segregation? 

White privilege is voluntary and reinforced by societal norms and beliefs, where in comparison, segregation was reinforced by local and state laws. Once a person becomes aware of their own white privilege, they have the opportunity to change how it shows up in their lives and their interactions with others.

How does the utilization of privilege benefit the individual?

White privilege includes cultural affirmations by the greater society of one’s individual worth at the expense of other cultures, presumed greater social status, and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely without intimidation. There is no tangible benefit; only an ease of going about their lives that people without privilege do not experience.

How are non-whites harmed by the denial of privilege or the utilization of privilege?

The negative psychological and emotional effects of white privilege on people of color can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts. Because white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, the experiences of others who do not operate in the same way can result in marking those people as “other,” “different,” or “less than” while perceiving oneself as “normal” or “superior.”

White Privilege: The New Normal

It is unlikely that white people of good conscience would disagree that slavery, the Jim Crow/segregation era, and lynching were evil. Yet, these evil acts repeatedly occurred because white people of good conscience chose not to intervene and remained silent instead.

Today, the new normal of white privilege is an outcome not only of the lack of action and silence, but also the “power of choice” in which white people of good conscience will focus their attention (i.e. moral outrage, political organization and financial resources) elsewhere. Without the sunlight of attention, micro- and macro-aggressions that did not receive attention before will continue to emotionally drain and psychologically impact communities of color across the country.

This may be the “new normal,” but it serves only to pit communities of color against each other in times of desperation and trauma to compete for the attention of those white people of good conscience.  Broad media coverage is given to Hispanic infants and children being separated from their parents at the border while limited media coverage is given to the East Pittsburgh police shooting death of a unarmed African-American adolescent. Meanwhile, media coverage and empathy has all but evaporated in North Dakota where Native and Aboriginal people continue to fight for their land and water rights.

In white privilege’s New Normal, communities of color fear the loss of hope, abandonment and the return to suffering in silence.

Using the Power of Choice

White privilege is not a derogatory term or an epithet. It’s simply a term for the things that white people don’t have to worry about as they go through life that people of color, particularly black people, do, because of the racial prejudices that are common in our society.

White people of good conscience have consistently bombarded communities of color with questions that have the following common thread:

  • What can we do to resolve the problems of injustice, inequality and racism?
  • How can we help?
  • How can we work together?

Despite their good intentions, communities of color continue to be psychologically impacted by problems of injustice, inequality and racism. So, the question remains… what can white people of good conscience do?

  • They can take a stand within their own communities.
  • They can STOP seeking out communities of color for answers. You already have the answers. Do something!
  • They can utilize and apply the clinical concept of RACE (responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment) in working within their respective communities.

Responsibility:  End your silence.  Injustice, inequality, and racism all thrive because the unaffected majority places their interests above all others. This inaction reinforces the foundations of inequality and racism. Simply put: when you see injustice, inequality, and racism, speak out. I am responsible.  I will respond.

Accountability:  Understand that you are accountable. Accept that having privilege means that you gain when someone else suffers. Accept the personal accountability that comes along with those gains. I will be accountable.

Consequences: Understand the impact of your action and inaction. Be willing to balance your intent with the outcome of a particular act.  I accept the consequences of my action or inaction.

Empowerment: Transform your community. Acknowledge that you possess the tools and resources to transform your community. Stop wanting more and then settling for less. I will work towards transforming my community.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

A white ally who I consider to be a brother recently half-jokingly and half seriously remarked in one of his pieces:

“I am starting to grow bored with the “Ally” role. I want to explore the possibility of becoming something of a Co-Conspirator.” 

Those holding the privilege can best help end inequality, injustice, and racism by working within their communities as we continue to work within ours. Otherwise, the words amount to little more than intellectualizing the suffering of others.

I also want to assume my own responsibility by balancing my intent with the outcome of my actions. I have often been criticized for generalizing my language. I have been informed that in saying “all white people do ____,” the outcome is that some white people will feel uncomfortable. They would prefer that I use language such as “some” or perhaps, “more than not,” instead.

I can understand the discomfort with the generalization. This is a great opportunity to see where white privilege becomes an issue. These white people are asking to be viewed as individuals, and not as a group– but that is the heart of white privilege. As a black man, I do not have the ability to be viewed as an individual. Everything that I say and do are seen as representations of my entire race and culture. Because white people have always had the privilege of being judged by their individual merits, they miss that privilege when it is no longer extended to them, and feel that it is their right to be seen that way. The key here is for white people to demolish that status as “privileged” by fighting to see that all people are able to be judged on their individual merits and not based on generalizations based on what race they appear to be.

In using the term “white people of good conscience,” I seek to address two concerns:

  • I am asking white people to take the opportunity to look within themselves, holding themselves accountable by asking themselves: am I engaging in micro- or macro- aggressive behavior?
  • I am fearful that only speaking of “some” white people will result in no white people examining themselves and their own behavior, because they will count themselves as not part of the “some.” White privilege benefits all white people. Therefore, all white people must be aware of the role it plays in their lives.

As I seek to understand the differences, I reflect upon the following quote:

“Don’t try to understand them; and don’t try to make them understand you.  For they are a breed apart and make no sense.”

-Chingachgook, Chief of the Mohican People

Last of The Mohicans, (1992)

The history of silence from well-meaning white people in the face of atrocity and trauma has left the African-American community with a lot of anger. There are many who feel that the white people of good conscience abandoned the civil rights movement after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, choosing to believe that their work of civil rights for the black community had been done.

Michael Harriot, writing for The Root, states that these well-meaning white people, due to their silence, are cowards. He utilizes strong quotes such as this one by Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

What has been the reaction of reaction from whites of good conscience? More silence. The words of Chingachgook ring loud and true. Yes, they are a breed apart and make no sense. However, we all live on the same planet. We breathe the same air. Therefore, we share the:

  • Responsibility- to create understanding among each other.
  • Accountability- to hold each other accountable to what we say and do.
  • Consequences- to understand the impact of our actions and inaction.
  • Empowerment- to work together to transform our respective communities

I choose to believe that white people of good conscience default to the same behavior or inaction as people residing in communities of color for the same reasons… they are living in fear. Both communities live in fear of each other. The fear is based on stereotypes, biases, guilt, shame, denial and a host of many more reasons not mentioned.

The question in our respective communities is this: what do we do with our fear? The answer is that fear is simply a feeling. Because it is your fear, then:

  • Take ownership of your fear.
  • Embrace your fear.
  • Be willing to take action, walking with your fear.

The land of the free is in danger and put at risk by those who now lead our country. We stand at the crossroads. WE and not them must choose the direction.

Safe journeys…

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

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and foresight.  To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.  To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.

To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.

To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

-Octavia Butler

Until the next crossroads…  The journey continues…

In Our Corner: The Silence of Black Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

-Dr. Paul Greencard, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Medicine

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-James Baldwin, Author

Normalize Suicidal Ideation

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

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

Those Thoughts Can and Will Pass

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

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

 Helping Those with Suicidal Thoughts

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

What NOT to Do

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

REMEMBER:

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

——————————————–

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

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

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

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

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

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

-Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Russian Poet

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

-Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 Until the next time.  Remaining…In Our Corner.

 

We Live In Interesting Times: White Fear and Black Skin

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

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

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

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

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

-Anonymous Police Officer

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

-Dr. Micheal Kane

—————————————–

My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————————————-

Concluding Words Dr. Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-The Accountant (2016)

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

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

 

Fear is an emotion. White fear is a response.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-The Accountant (2016)

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

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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

The Visible Man: The Toll of Invisibility

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

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

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

Myneca Ojo, golfer speaking to the York Daily Record

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

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

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

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

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

From Disagreement to Disturbance

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

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

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

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

 

The Toll of Invisibility: Why Would They Lie? 

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

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

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

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

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

The person notifying the police sought:

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

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

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

 

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

 The Protection Perception

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

Law Enforcement-Black or African-American

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

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————

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

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

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