At The Crossroads: New Possibilities and New Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In another incident:

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

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

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

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

“Dear Dad,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Thomas

Analysis

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

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

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

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

In session, Mr. Wilson said:

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

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Analysis

Sir William Osler once said:

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

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

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 Closing Words

My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards,

Dr. Micheal Kane

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The Undiscovered Territory

The past is what it was

The present is what it is

In the future lies what is to be uncovered

It is the undiscovered territory

Waiting for you.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

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Steppin’ into Tomorrow

We cannot step back into our past,

Nor must we want to.

It is our fear of the unknown that chains us.

The future holds new possibilities

We can journey into the future

Having Belief, Faith and Trust in Self

As we step into the Tomorrow

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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New Possibilities

Life is a journey filled with new possibilities.

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

New possibilities.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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Farewell for now…….

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues…

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At The Crossroads: Division or Protection During Times of Rejection

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

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

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

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

“Whites don’t kill whites.”

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

“All Jews must die.”

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

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

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

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

Being Invisible & Unwanted

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

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

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

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Analysis: Dr. Kane

Let’s examine the issues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s examine the issues:

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

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Analysis: Dr. Kane

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

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

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

Jonathon’s failure is threefold:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Am I being paranoid or just scared?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What words do you have for me, Doc?”

Let’s examine the issues:

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

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

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

“It is what it is. Do you understand?

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

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

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

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Analysis: Dr. Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinical Framework of Psychological Self Protection- Balancing Vigilance

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

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Closing Remarks-Dr. Kane

My Dear Readers,

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

“Everyone is not into psychology and analysis everything.”

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

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

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

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

The media reports continue with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Martin Luther King

 

Until the next crossroads …. The journey continues …

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…

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“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…

At The Crossroads: Trauma and Tragedy on Mother’s Day

“The car was driving aggressively towards the officer, prompting the shot.”

– Jonathan Haber, Police Chief, Balch Springs Police Department

“In an hurry to get the statement out, I misspoke.”

-Police Chief Haber (following the review of the police body camera)

“Our teenage sons can’t sleep at night.  They are either sleeping in the bed with us or sleeping with all the lights on.

When they fall asleep, they are having night terrors of seeing their brother murdered right there in front of them.

When they dream, they see Jordan, with smoke coming out of his head from the shot.  That’s what they were forced to see.

Our four-year-old daughter, who has accidentally overheard what happened, is drawing pictures of her big brother with a hole in his head.  What are we supposed to say to her?”

-Odell Edwards, Jordan Edwards’ father

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My Dear Readers,

My heart is heavy.  In my previous blog At The Crossroads: Empowerment When Playing The Game Is Not Enough, I was chided for perceived criticism of black parents seeking safety and protection raising their children in suburban communities.

Last week the Edwards family, a two parent African-American family with three teenage sons and a four year old daughter who reside in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, were the living the American dream.  Today, as the nation prepares for the upcoming annual Mother’s Day celebration, they have become just another black family preparing to bury their son, living a uniquely American nightmare.

Following the shooting death of Jordan Edwards, the police chief, without having reviewed the evidence, moved quickly to assert that the officer shot in self-defense.

There is, of course, the societal belief that these young black males were either gang members or malcontents involved in criminal activity, and therefore, got what they justly deserved.  As it turns out, they were simply kids at a neighborhood party who had left out of a sense of responsibility as it had got too crowded and rowdy.

As reported by Shaun King from the New York Daily News:

“Police swarmed the car, which was their dad’s personal vehicle, and forced all of the boys out at gunpoint.  The police, cursing and yelling, expressed no concern for Jordan.

As police demanded that the boys face away from them and walk backwards with their hands held above their heads, one of the cops, according to the sons, loudly mocked them for not knowing their left from their right.  They had just seen their brother shot in the forehead with a rifle.

At that point, Vidal, Kevon and their friend, who was in the car with them, were not only traumatized beyond comprehension, they were seriously wondering if they’d be shot and killed next.

What they were arrested for was being black kids in their own car, obeying the law, while witnessing their brother shot in the face by police, but no one could quite tell the the truth about that.  My guess is that the police hope they will find something-drugs, alcohol, expired registration, or a weapon of some sort but they found nothing.  The boys, in the most traumatic moment of their lives, had been profiled and detained for no reason on top of it all.”

There are countless variations on quotes exhorting us to never give up.  One variation is “Bad things happen; what matters most is that you get up and keep going.”

The Edwards family represents the embodiment of the American middle class family.  When closing one’s eyes, what does one see? A two-parent family residing in a suburban community, well respected, churchgoers with three teenage sons attending the local high school with no history of disciplinary concerns and unknown to the local police or judicial authorities.

Jordan Edwards was a straight A student, athlete.  He was everything his parents wanted him to be: smart, kind, hardworking, giving and a lover of sports

Now they have buried him one week before Mother’s Day.

The Edwards family also represents the embodiment of the nightmare for black families although breathing the same air, living in two alternative universes.  I am reminded of a recent Subaru auto sales commercial directed at two racial groups one white, the other black.

In the “white commercial,” it focuses on a little white boy growing up and driving his father’s car off to college with graying dad, mom standing with the family dog, with a prideful look waving farewell as he goes off to explore his new world.  In the “black commercial,” the teenager tells his mother that he’s taking the car to see his friends.

One commercial celebrates the bright and hopeful future of a confident and secure young man and the pride of his parents as he leaves home The other leaves out the truth of the stress and anxiety of the parent in quiet contemplation, fearing for the safety of her son and not being able to rest until his feet are heard back in the home again.

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Concluding Words

In his article, Shaun King writes that:

“The police have actually asked if they could attend the funeral, but they haven’t apologized for what they have done.”

It may be incredulous to some that the police would even ask to be in same space of those who have suffered severe psychological trauma by one of their own.  Or, it may be seen as an act of human connection on the part of the police reaching out to the family and the community.

The truth of this incident is the fact that psychological trauma is a permanent etching on the psychological self.   Fifteen-year-old Jordan Edwards’ future is over.  His family will forever be impacted by this event as well as the understanding that other black families continue to be  at risk for a similar experience.

The tragic death of Jordan Edwards reaffirm that our children represent our Achilles Heel, the soft area that we cannot protect from race related aggression.

Rather than focus on protecting our young people from racial strife, we should engage in empowering strategies that will also focus on healing the psychological wounds they are bound to continue to encounter in their lives.

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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 errorNone.

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Ten Flashes of Light

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Until the next crossroads.  The journey continues…


 

At The Crossroads: Empowerment When Playing The Game Is Not Enough

 

“The natives are restless.”

-New Zealand Parliamentary Debates (1868)

“If I were a black father and I was concerned about the safety of my child, really concerned about it and not in a politically activist way, I would say be very respectful to the police, most of them are good, some can be very bad and just be very careful.”

-Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor

“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”

-Forrest Gump

 

My Dear Readers,

Here we go again.  Black parents, be on high alert.  During a brazen convenience store robbery in downtown Seattle several days ago, a black man shot three cops, critically injuring one.  As a result, for the coming weeks and possibly months, police and other law enforcement officers will be looking at every black male with “extra caution and concern.

While the police grow restless, many of the locals are living in fear.  History has shown that when white citizens believe that black males are “dangerously out of control,” excessive violence from police towards those people go largely unnoticed, and if they are noticed, then justifications are made for that violence, or the victim is blamed for the behavior that made that police officer use force.

Fear is in the air.  The recent rash of shootings across the country perpetrated by black men in Cleveland OH, San Bernardino, CA, and Fresno CA, will, as usual, be seen as a reflection on black males in American in general, despite the individual people, places and circumstances in these particular situations.  As a result, the suspicion with which many police departments and officers view black men will and has turned to active harassment and preemptive violence, and thus, black males of all ages should take extra precautions regarding their personal safety.  Although the individuals involved were apprehended, police history with black citizens tells us that this episode of tension has just begun.

In my previous writing, The Visible Man: Running The RACE Smarter Not Harder, I stated that our children are our Achilles Heel; they are our vulnerability, which can be used against us as parents and as individuals. Historically, African-American parents have sought to shield their children from these cruel realities.

I received many responses to that piece from parents and young adults, with mixed results.  Parents felt that they were shamed for providing their young adults a comfortable lifestyle and felt that the piece accused them of not doing enough to prepare their children for the realities of living in a society that can be harsh to and can reject them simply because of the color of their skin.  Comments included the following:

  • “African-Americans have the right to live wherever we choose to. If I choose to raise my children in a suburban community, and I can afford to send them to a private school, that is my business and my right to do so.  You are wrong to suggest otherwise.”
  • “You should be ashamed of yourself, not being supportive of hard working black folks struggling to provide a better life for their children. There is nothing wrong with living in an affluent community and sending your child to a private school.”
  • “Of all people, you should know hard it is to raise black children these days. Instead of criticizing our parenting and putting down our young people, please focus on uplifting our young people, especially our young men. They need all the help they can get!”

Young adults, on the other hand, appeared to be more sensitive to my comments about seeking the same comfortable living style they were raised in and the privilege they have experienced in not having to deal with the stressors that come with being black in a white societal structure:

  • I am tired of people like you hating on us. I have the right to live where I want, and go wherever I want.
  • Yeah, I live in the suburbs. I am tired of people staring at me and treating me like I don’t belong here.
  • You old people had your turn. It is our day now.  You and the police can go f__k yourselves.”

I would prefer to embrace the comments and seek to understand the underlying themes of anger, frustration and survival embedded in these remarks.  In essence, these individuals, long ignored, are speaking their truth and they deserve to be listened to and to be understood.

One common theme in these responses emerged for me: the repeated exposure to experiences, acts and incidents of race-related stress in the form of micro-aggressive and macro-aggressive assaults.  This  repetitive exposure can be traumatic and lead to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness.

These are defined in the following:

  • Race-related stress: stress occurring from a race-related adverse event
  • Micro-aggressive assaults: constant repetitive direct and indirect acts (e.g., racial profiling, suspicious intent and stereotyping)
  • Macro-aggressive assaults: fear of and/or threats of physical violence

Many older black people have learned to survive by “playing the game” and in doing so, have achieved upward mobility, social status and wealth.  However, those achievements have not, do not, and will not exempt us from adverse treatment based on the color of our skin.

Our ongoing exposure to race-related adverse events exposes us to the complex trauma of race related stress; as parents, in our attempt to protect our children, we unconsciously pass our fears into our offspring, who in turn, are sent out, vulnerable and exposed, into a hostile societal environment.

Just “playing the game” is not enough to  insure the psychological well-being of ourselves, let alone our children. So, what are we to do?  I have responses for both parents and young adults.

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My Dear Parents,

“What we’ve got to do is hear from the black community.”

-Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor

What do we do?

We must understand that we have the choice to either:

  • Live IN Fear– waiting for the next action or incident of race related stress and therefore being forced to react to the event, or :
  • Live WITH Fear– understanding the immediate possibility of race related adverse events to occur and seeking to prepare a response to the occurring event.

 What can we do?

We can transform the strategy the way we interact with our young adults

  • We can lead by example by understanding that a reaction may place oneself in danger whereas a response can be one that is calming, collective and based on calculation of thought and action.
  • We can cease focusing on protecting our young people from race related adverse events; understanding that in doing so we may be encasing or encircling them with our fears and experiences.
  • We can transform the way in which we seek to parent our adolescents as they move closer to adulthood; with strategies moving away from managing, supervising and directing towards strategies employing advocacy and coaching.
  • We can encourage mental health intervention when our young people become psychologically overwhelmed.

How do we protect our young people from the policeFrom a hostile and rejecting community?  From being impacted from trauma?

We can start by transforming the focus from protection to empowerment.  We can work towards reducing the internalized parental impulse to live in fear and transform the focus from being powerless to gaining empowerment.

Reinforce the ABC model : Advocacy, Balance & Calmness

  • Advocacy– Have an awareness of the social and physical environment in which you work, play, or reside. Understand that even though in the company of others, you are at risk of being profiled and subsequently abandoned by your friends or colleagues when interacting with law enforcement.
  • Balance– When interacting with law enforcement, understand that you, without having being involved in any illegal or criminal activity, may be viewed with suspicion and mistrust. Maintain   Comply with all directions by the police officer.  Make slow body movements.  Keep your hands away from your body.
  • CalmnessSlow down your breathing. Take a respite within the psychological self.  Allow the police officer to control your physical space.  Remember that although the police officer has legal authority, you have empowerment with the self to step away from the encounter… alive with minimum psychological impact.

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Concluding Words

My Dear Young Adults,

Racism will not be legislated away.  It lies buried deep within the human heart. It can and will strike without notice or hesitation.  It is for you to learn how to respond to racism rather than react towards it.

 “Be a bottle of water, not a can of soda.” -Unknown

You can choose to be the water that calmly fills the glass with completeness and fulfillment instead of being the can of soda that, when shaken, explodes wildly and without direction or purpose.

Finally, hold on to the words and wisdom of Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, recently shot to death by a police officer in St. Anthony, Minnesota:

“If you get stopped by the police…comply, comply, comply.”

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For additional information regarding Dr. Kane, please visit http://www.lovingmemore.com

The Changing Face of Modern Day Racism

 

“Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life… Number two, I am the least racist person.”

Donald Trump, President of the United States of America

“Calling for a ‘peaceful ethnic cleaning,’ my dream is a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.”

-Richard B. Spence, Director, National Policy Institute

“Every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence, every telegraph pole in the South should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag.”

Steven Bannon, former CEO of Breitbart and current White House Chief Strategist for President Donald Trump

“The NAACP is un-American.  They do more harm than good when they were trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”

 –Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, from the 1986 confirmation hearing for appointment to the federal court

“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

My Dear Readers,

I am returning once again to blogging at Loving Me More after taking a much wanted and desired five- month respite from publishing weekly over the last three years. I took the respite at a difficult time for many of my African-American male patients who were feeling targeted due to the large number of police involved shootings of black males nationwide.

In the blog “Choosing To Live Empowered,” I shared the common theme of attempting to survive while living in fear.  One that I call “Dead Man Walking,”  stated:

“When I am out driving, I got my 9mm lying on my lap…waiting for the cops.  I am not going out like a bitch with my hands up.  If my car breaks down, and they are going to take me, I am not going out alone.”

Since then, “Dead Man Walking,” now known as “Alive & Well,” is no longer riding with his 9mm.  He and the other six males, ranging from the ages of 16 to 68, have armed themselves with a weapon that is invisible to the naked eye and yet only understood by them: empowerment strategies focused on the care of their psychological selves.

In this week’s blog, I will focus on the shameful attempts of those individuals seeking to use the concept of unconscious bias to hide actions based on covert racism.

In earlier years, the Ku Klux Klan hid their acts of overt racism and domestic terrorism by wearing bed sheets. Today, instead of burning crosses, these young, middle, and older age men and women wear business attire, carry briefcases, and work in many of America’s corporate boardrooms and other leadership positions.  This is exemplified in the recent annual conference of the National Policy Institute in which 200 attendees, led by Richard Spencer, saluted President-Elect Donald Trump in a Nazi style salute:  “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

Below is a story of a young African-American male responding to the pressures associated with the “changing face of modern day racism.”

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a 34-year-old black male working in a corporate position in a nationwide online giant located in Seattle.  Recently, during Black History Month, I attended mandated diversity training with my coworkers. As usual, I was one of the very few African-Americans in the room.

My company sponsored a talk by a scholar from one of the local universities.  His basic premise was that racism does not exist and in its stead is unconscious bias.  He then pointed directly to me, to himself, and finally to the entire audience, stating:

“He and I have unconscious bias, you have unconscious bias…we all have unconscious bias.”

The person making this statement was also African-American.  I was stunned.  I just sat there and said nothing.  I didn’t know what to say.  My white colleagues sat there, staring at me and nodding their heads in affirmation.

I did not want to be singled out and have my employment be placed at risk.  I am concerned about what my colleagues think about me.  They don’t look at me.  I feel invisible to them.  It is impacting the quality of my work.  My supervisor has mentioned the drop in my work performance. I am drinking more so I can relax and sleep.

Wherever I go and whatever I do in corporate America, I stand out.  I feel alone…all alone.

There is nothing out there but me & Jesus.

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My Dear Young Man,

Let’s begin by clarifying a few terms. Unconscious bias refers to a bias we are unaware of, and which happens to be outside of our control.  It is a bias that happens automatically and happens when our brain makes quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.

Unlike unconscious bias, racism is both conscious and intentional.  It can occur within several venues:

  • Individual racism-involves discrimination towards people of color. It is a belief that one’s own race is superior.  It requires behavioral enactments that maintain superior and inferior positions.
  • 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 with the intent of maintaining an advantage over others.
  • Cultural racism-is a combination of both individual racism and cultural racism in that it propagates the belief that one’s race’s cultural heritage is superior over another’s.

Racism is intentional and directly impacts the lives of those being targeted.  The presenter’s premise that racism is nonexistent allows those who have racist beliefs or intent to minimize, deny, or avoid responsibility for the outcomes of those beliefs.

It may be strategic of the organization to invite an African-American scholar to perpetrate the view that unconscious bias has replaced racism.  The goal may be to insure credibility by utilizing an African-American to proliferate its views.

However, the overall objective may be to reduce the impact of negative emotions (i.e., guilt, shame etc.) for those who maintain racist feelings and behaviors.  This is known as symbolic racism, and it is a form of modern racism.  Symbolic racism is more subtle and indirect than more overt forms of racism such as Jim Crow laws and Sundown towns (i.e., all white towns in which African-Americans were not allow to remain after sundown).

Symbolic racism develops through socialization and its process occurs without conscious awareness.  An individual with symbolic racist beliefs may genuinely oppose racism and believe he is not racist.

To contrast overt racism such as Sundown towns with symbolic racism, consider the following editorial written in 1916 with statements made in 2016 by Richard B. Spencer:

“Within a few years, experts predict the Negro population of the North will be tripled.  It’s your problem, or will be when the Negro moves next door.  With the black tide setting north, the southern Negro, formerly a docile tool, is demanding better pay, better food and better treatment.  It’s a national problem now.  And it has got to be solved.” (1916 editorial, Beloit, Wisconsin)

“America was, until this last generation, a white country designated for ourselves and our posterity.  It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

-Richard B. Spencer (2016).

The symbolic racist hidden under the casing of “unconscious bias” will continue to hold to the following themes:

  • African-Americans no longer face much prejudice or discrimination
  • The failure of African-Americans to progress results from their unwillingness to work hard enough.
  • African-Americans are demanding too much too fast.
  • African-Americans have gotten more than they deserve.

As one can see, by the statements of Mr. Spencer in 2016, very little has changed in the last 100 years; symbolic racism remains the most prevalent racial attitude today.

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Concluding Words

My Dear Young Man,

A few words of concern and caring;

  • First, you are not alone. There are other African-American men and women who share your feelings. As you appear to be a person of spiritual faith, remember, Jesus is with you and will always be with you during the difficult times of your journey.
  • Second, realize that you have the psychological self. You must want to listen to the self and act in a manner that reinforces advocacy, balance and calmness.
  • Third, work towards abstaining from using alcohol to medicate your emotional pain.

Your actions can only lead to being susceptible to joining the long line of psychologically wounded African-American men who are wandering aimlessly among the American landscape.  Instead, work towards maintaining belief, faith and trust in the journey we know as life.

In my earlier comments, I referred to the empowerment strategies and the psychological work of “Dead Man Walking” and the six black men.  Like you, these men felt invisible, targeted and lacking in voice within environments lacking and consistently questioning of their worth and value.

These men became successful in responding to the overt and symbolic racism being targeted towards them by adapting empowerment strategies such as the ABC Model: Advocacy, Balance and Calmness.  Consider the following:

  • Advocacy-Become an advocate for yourself. Only you can truly speak on your behalf.
  • Balance-Be reflective of your actions. Make sure that your thoughts and actions are balanced and aligned with your inner self.
  • Calmness-The environment around you mirrors your internal environment. When you achieve calmness in your inner self, it is reflected in your external environment.

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.  The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The respite was timely and it feels good to have return to my readership.  For the purpose of self-care the blog will be published twice monthly.  For additional information regarding Dr. Kane, please visit http://www.lovingmemore.com

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Until the next crossroads… the journey continues…

 

 

 

Choosing To Live Empowered

 

“I want this gorilla off my back!!”

-Patient screaming in session, referring to his fear

“Panel discussions on the news (media) and talk shows are useless.  Same old shit.  The feds claim there will be thorough investigations, and the police still keep killing black men.”

-William, 37, high school teacher

“Yet white folks get upset when we riot.  What the hell are we supposed to do…stand around and smile…wait calmly while they kill us?”

-Julian, 16, Student

“When I am out driving, I got my gun lying in my lap…. waiting for the cops.  I am not going out like a bitch with my hands up.  If my car breaks down, and they are going to take me; I am not going out alone.”

-Anonymous

“Man, I am so angry.  I tried talking about the shooting in Tulsa with my white coworkers.  They immediately changed the subject.   White folks don’t care about what or us we feel.  It’s been that way for hundreds of years.”

-Robbie, 46, city employee

“I wanted to talk to my pastor.  Hell, he cancelled church services, saying it was too dangerous to for a black man to be out after dark.” 

-Tim, 28, transit worker

“I tried talking to a white therapist about my feelings.  He sat there looking at me.  Do you know what that fool says, he asks how does the incident make you feel?  I start yelling.  He tells me I need anger management and refers me to see you.  Now what do you have to say?”

-Kevin, 31, laborer

 

My Dear Readers,

Enough.  I have simply had enough.  I have been writing these weekly blogs for three years following the death of my Linda, my beloved spouse.  Last week, I realized that I was burnt out and made a commitment to “take care of self” by taking a break from the weekly blogs. Clearly, a respite was in order and the intention was that the previous week’s writing would be my last for an extended period if, in fact, I decide to return.

Well, today I broke the commitment I made to my psychological self.  The sounds of too much pain and anguish from my patients broke me, and I had listened to enough.  The very last clinical session was the tipping point.  In that session, I saw an African-American veteran suffering from PTSD from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His safety, he believes, lies with him carrying his concealed weapon.  He is fearful of being pulled over by the police and mistakenly being shot, but he is adamant about his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

I was able to convince him to leave his weapon at home, but the fear of death at the hands of the police remained. He continues to hold to the illusion of a legal and constitutional right that is published as applicable to all American citizens, but in practice, is only really safe for white men to exercise.  When he walked out of my office, I admit, I thought of him as a “dead man walking.”  As he disappeared down the stairs, I saw in him what the majority of black males today in America are doing, feeling and experiencing: living in fear.

Living in fear is not living; instead living in fear is about surviving or simply put, just staying alive.  So how does a black man in this situation live?  By riding around with a gun lying on his lap?  Waiting for a confrontation with the police?  Nope.  That’s just another black man waiting to die.  Might as well call it suicide by cop.  Yes, this poor wretch will go out in his blaze of glory, stereotyped as another crazed black man who had to be killed.

There is another way.  Rather than living in fear that reinforces the desperation to survive, we can move towards transforming fear into empowerment. We can focus on hopelessness, helplessness, and powerlessness by seeking empowerment of the psychological self.  Specifically, we can attain empowerment through utilization of the clinical models ABC (Advocacy, Balance and Calmness) and Taking Care of Self (VETING).

  • Advocacy– Become an advocate for yourself. Know when to hold or show your cards.  Know when to speak and what to say.
    • Don’t expect others who have not lived the experience of being a black male in America to emotionally understand your feelings or experiences.
    • Understand that white blindness (the desire to ignore racial oppression) and black silence (the propensity of black people to remain silent in the face of oppression) is a factor in daily living, but that there are empathetic and compassionate allies both within and outside of law enforcement who are aware of what is occurring and also seeking an end to the violence being directed towards black males.
  • Balance-Remember that your power lies within you, and cannot be taken from you without your consent. Balance your anger with your wisdom.
    • Remember, being stopped/pulled over by the police is outside of your control. However, the way you handle (balance) the situation is up to you.
    • Follow the police officer’s instructions. Show by your actions and behavior that you are not a threat.  Never ever run from a police officer. Remember the Five R’s of RELIEF:
      • Respite-take a breath (breathe slowly)
      • Reaction-own your feelings
      • Reflection-balance your feelings and thoughts
      • Response-decide what appropriate actions you may want to take (if mistreated, file a formal complaint)
      • Reevaluate– the experience, lessons learned and how to respond the next time (accept the possibility that this may happen again)
  • Calmness-Use your balance and your inner empowerment to project calmness to the outside world. Use this to defuse the situation.
    • Do not allow your pride to speak for you.
    • Allow the police officer to control the situation. Remember although the police officer maintains legal authority (power,) empowerment lies within you.  One’s empowerment is a self-driven gift.  It cannot be taken, only given away.

Empowerment: Taking Care of Self (VETING) 

(V) Vulnerability- Be open to support.

  • Communicate with other black men who are experiencing similar feelings.
  • Seek to identify allies who are empathetic and have compassion for the emotions you are experiencing.

(E) Exposure-be open to your internalized experience.

  • Reveal what is truly going on within you.
  • Have the willingness to be in touch with your pain, suffering and experiences.

(T) Trust-Maintain an ongoing level of trust in the journey you have chosen.

  • Focus on reliance and confidence of your own value, truth and self-worth.
  • Focus on the knowing that in your life, space and meaning that you are truly the priority.

(ING) ING-The constant state of “doing” and “being”

  • Taking care of me.
  • Looking out for me.

Recommendations in Seeking Mental Health Assistance

Although the race of the mental health provider may be a factor to you in seeking assistance, remember:

  • Do not allow concerns about race to inhibit, prevent or deter you from achieving mental health wellness.
  • Look for a mental health provider who is an empathic compassionate listener.
  • Have the willingness to allow yourself to fully explore and express the emotions that are internalized.
  • Work towards the development of a comfort zone that allows the “fullness of you” to be expressed.

Don’t ignore the feelings of your loved ones

  • Embrace your loved ones when departing and returning home.
  • Do a daily check in by phone with spouse and family.
  • Be in regular contact with extended family especially when they reside outside the local area.
  • When away in the evenings, alert spouse and family members of the estimated time of arrival to your destination and/or any stops before arriving home.

Concluding Words- The Meaning of the Content of One’s Character

A fellow colleague recently asked me what it was like being a black man in America.

I am the son of a police officer.  I have also served my country during military service.  I am educated, a homeowner and have raised my children.  I have spoken before the US Congress, and have authored a publication which has been utilized as a teaching tool for graduate schools and clinicians working in the area of complex trauma. In my lifetime I have been stopped and questioned by the police for the following reasons:

  • Driving while black
  • Walking while black
  • Waiting for the bus while black
  • Standing outside a business while black
  • Drinking coffee while black
  • Eating while black
  • Reading while black
  • Waving my arms while black (threatening gesture)

Now due to the recent fatal shooting of the motorist in Tulsa OK, I now have to be concerned with “vehicle trouble while black.” Or, based on what happened to Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, NC, “reading while black.”

I live with the knowledge that the color and darkness of my skin is more important to others than my achievements and contributions to society and my community.

As a result of the legacy of police shootings, white folks talk among themselves, black congregations pray, and local police departments throughout the country nervously patrol the streets.  We slowly dance the dance of caution, as we fear the worst and hope for the best as the nation awaits the outcome of the formal investigations of the shootings.

Are the police to blame for the shootings?  Nope.  It is not about blame. Yes, the police culture needs to transform—they are sworn to protect and serve the communities they are in. In fact, the police culture, in its resistance to transformation reflects the values, the stereotypes and prejudices of all of us.

As we seek transformation within law enforcement and the policing of our citizens, the same citizens must want to seek transformation by ending their own white blindness and black silence that is paralyzing the country and our communities.  Until that occurs, black people will continue to be at risk while being either interacting with or under the control of police authority.  Meanwhile, the local police officer will continue to feel that he/she is being tossed under the bus as they continue to go out every day to serve their communities.

 “Should the police shoot me during a brake light check, I just hope I live.  If I don’t make it, Dr. Kane, please tell my wife that I love her, don’t live with hate and raise our sons to be good men”. 

-William, 39, Engineer

 “Black lives matter.  Blue lives matter.”    

“At the end of the day, we all want the same goal, that being to be able to live our homes for the purpose of work, school or enjoyment and be able to return safely to our loved ones.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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A final word:

Martin Luther King Jr. in his I Have a Dream speech stated,

 “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

 “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

 The dream remains unfulfilled.  Can it be done? We can together to take the dream and make it into a reality.

 Gone again on my respite… See you next year.

 Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

 

When Cops and Robbers Is No Longer A Game

 

“Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying.”

-Marvin Gaye, Singer

“Death during adolescence feels unfair.  We are young.  We are invincible.  Death is supposed to come with old age.  When death breaks into our lives and steals our innocence, it leaves us unnaturally older.  There are too many elderly young people.”

-Sara Shandler, Author

“A flower bloomed, already wilting.   Beginning its life with an early ending.”

-RJ Gonzales, Author

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

Here we go again… another black boy shot dead by a white cop in Columbus, Ohio.  It’s eerily similar to what happened to Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about this.   I lay awake in terror as I worry about my two young sons.   I want to protect them, but how can I? I can’t watch them 24 hours a day.

How can we get white people to understand that black lives matter, particularly young black lives? I am sick and tired of living in fear of the phone call where someone tells me that one of my boys has been murdered.  Recently, my pastor came by for a visit, and I broke down, screaming hysterically, thinking he came to deliver the news that one of my sons had been killed.

Although I was relieved to know that my children were fine and that he’d stopped by to see my husband on unrelated matters, I still found myself angry at the pastor, my husband, my sons, at God, at the world, and at life. I stay frightened when it comes to the possible involvement of my sons with the police.  What do I do?

-A Frightened Mother, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

The writer, an African-American mother, has fears that reflect the fears of parents across this nation who are concerned about their adolescent children coming into contact with members of law enforcement.  It’s no wonder, considering the recent police-involved shooting of 13 year-old Tyree King in Columbus, OH this past Thursday; a police shooting that is reminiscent of the murder of Tamir Rice two years ago.

While we take into account the concerns of the Black Lives Movement regarding interactions between law enforcement and African-American males, it is essential that we in the African-American community wait before concluding that the current shooting was based on race. Although both incidents involved white police officers and young black males, the facts and what is alleged to have occurred is different. Specifically:

  • In the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, he was shot by a rookie officer investigating a report of someone pointing a gun at someone pointing a gun at people in the vicinity of a recreation center. Tamir was immediately shot by the police officer after exiting his police cruiser.
  • In the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Tyree King, it is alleged that the police officers were following up on a report of an armed robbery committed by three males.  It is alleged that one of the males ran away during the field investigation and as the officers gave chase the individual pulled a gun from his waistband.  The officer involved in the shooting of Tyree King had nine years of experience.   It was later determined that the weapon was a BB gun that appeared real.

In the case of Tyree King, attention is being placed on the statements being made by one of the individuals, age 19, reported to be who is alleged to be involved in the incident.  The news media has reported the following comments he made following his arrest”

  • “I was in the situation. We robbed somebody, the people I was with.
  • “(King) got up and ran. When he ran, the cops shot him.”
  • “I didn’t think a cop would shoot. Why didn’t they Tase him? ”

This is not a game of cops and robbers. If what is being reported is true, it is alarming that these young people are treating it as such.  In doing so they are placing their lives at risk.

  • Brandishing a weapon, robbing someone
  • Failure to follow directions
  • Running away from the police creating a foot chase.
  • Pulling what appears to be a firearm from one’s waist band

African-American parents can reduce their fear by empowering their adolescents to make good decisions when interacting with police officers.  Specifically, should she/he be stopped by a police officer:

  • Know that the police officer will ask for identification and it is legal for the police officer to do so.
  • Know that your identity will be verified in a computer database to identify any warrants.
  • Know that the police officer will be looking for suspicious behavior or activity.
  • Be prepared for a possible stop and search of your personal space and belongings

Empowerment of The Self-What Can I Do?

  • Immediately inform the officer: I am unarmed. I am not a threat to you
  • Always comply and follow the police officer’s instructions. Speak in a respectful tone.
  • If you are under the age of 18, inform the police officer of your age.
  • If you are under the age of 18, be sure to request that your parent, legal guardian, or legal representative be present.
  • If you choose not to speak, inform the police officer of your intent to remain silent until you have representation. After that, immediately stop talking.
  • Use your power of observation. Document the incident and any concerns regarding any behavior during the encounter.
  • Remember relevant information such as the date, time, location, the license plate/vehicle number, badge number and the police department of which the police officer is a member.
  • If needed, file a complaint with the local sheriff or police chief’ office.
  • Never, ever run from a police officer. Again, always comply and follow the police officer’s instructions.
  • Remember that the police officer is entitled to use deadly force if he/she feels physically threatened.

 

Concluding Words 

“It’s a struggle for every young Black man.

You know how it is.

Only God can judge us.”

Tupac Shakur

   It is a struggle for every young Black man.

  • The youth unemployment rate nationwide is 59%.
  • The high school dropout rate is 40%.
  • The homicide rate among black youth is 28.8 per 100,00 in comparison to whites, which is 2.1 per 100,00.
  • African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests

Consequences are defined as the outcomes and effects of actions taken by an individual.  As the result of the killing of a 13-year-old, a city is in turmoil, a family grieves the loss of a child, and a police officer must live with the knowledge that even though it may have been justified, a young life was taken.

Now, African-American communities throughout the nation and local police departments once again conduct the “dance of caution and fear” as both await the outcome of the formal investigation of the incident.

Black lives matter.  Blue lives matter.  At the end of day, we all want the same the goal, that being to be able to leave our homes for the purpose of work, school or enjoyment and to be able to return safely to our loved ones.

Until the next crossroads… the journey continues…

“If you can’t fly

Run

If you can’t run

Walk

If you can’t walk

Crawl

But by all means

Keep moving.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Social Media And The Transformation Of Silence

“Keeping your mouth shut is a great virtue. As in don’t tell anyone else about it—Silence is golden.”-American proverb (1848)

“Silence is of great value? Not to the victims who suffer in silence.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”- George Bernard Shaw

Dear Dr. Kane:

I find it distressing that you are personally attacking the institution of the church within the black community.   If you are going to write about us, I would appreciate that you focus on the good things we do and not publicly air our dirty laundry.

There is a saying: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Unmoved Churchgoer, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers:

George Bernard Shaw once said: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

There are those within the African-American community who, due to their unwillingness to transform, will view my writings as attacks on the institutions that they are seeking to protect.  For some, silence can be a beautiful thing, for others, an ongoing nightmare.

Historically, church elders and others in leadership positions within the African-American community have been willing to silence the voices of those among us who have been sexually victimized out of the fear that the impact of such disclosure will injure the reputation of the community and institution the assailant may have been associated with.

The recent church scandal in Seattle, where a local pastor sought to cover up acts of sexual assaults by the church’s youth minister, is an example of this. The youth minister was ultimately sentenced to 22 years in prison, and the church and its pastor agreed to a financial settlement out of court with several of the victims, but to this day, the pastor and the church leadership continue to maintain their silence on the subject, both in terms of their own experience, and on the issue in general.

There was no community discussion of this sordid incident.  The only information that was available to the public came from local and national media sources. Meanwhile, the ten male victims were relegated to invisibility by the community’s silence, and remain there today.

Judy Jones, associate director for a survivor network for those abused by members of the clergy, acknowledges the importance of discussion and sharing for victim recovery:

Your silence only hurts, and by speaking up, there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.”

And yet, many of these victims, now young adults or just beginning to enter adulthood, remain silent.  Why?  In understanding the impact of complex psychological trauma, there are several reasons they would refrain from talking about what happened to them:

  • The lack of community validation or the possible loss of their social support system
  • Feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation that are not processed due to the silence
  • Being held partially or entirely responsible for the harm that befell them.

Consequently, these children grow up feeling alone and isolated.  As adults, they may experience a degree of medical and psychological problems including

  • Insomnia
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD

When will the African-American community cease ignoring the pain of these victims?

Now. Social media has arrived, and times are changing. Young people are now empowering themselves by taking action and forcing the issue of sexual assault into the light.

One recent incident involves two students from well-known and elite black colleges in Atlanta, Georgia: Morehouse College and Spelman College. Both are single-gender colleges—Spelman is female-only, and Morehouse is male-only—and they are known for the development of leaders in the corporate and political settings.

Media reports indicate that a Spelman freshman was raped by four Morehouse students.

  • The student reported the incident to the Spelman’s Public Safety Department and was sent to the hospital for a rape kit.
  • However, it took the college a month to respond and when they did, the victim was asked whether she was drunk and what had she been wearing during the attack.
  • The victim states that she was encouraged to “let the action go,” due to the relationship between the two schools. As a result, she left the college.

The action (or, in this case, inaction) by both schools created a firestorm of controversy that the school administrators could not control.  There have been ongoing student protests and commentary in social media, under the hash tags #RapedByMorehouse and #RapedAtSpelman.

The students are seeking to achieve the following:

  • An acknowledgment of the nature of rape on college campuses
  • Push college administrators to do more to address sexual violence on campus
  • Foster discussion of the unique dynamics that make it difficult to report sexual assault by black men

Both Spelman and Morehouse have responded to the firestorm controversy.

The colleges have stated they are conducting ongoing investigations, but the Atlanta Police Department, which has jurisdiction over both campuses, states that it is not investigating any incident of rape at either college.

Will there ever be a criminal investigation of this incident?  Hopefully the students will keep the pressure on both college administrations.  The relationship between the two elite schools must play a backseat role when it comes to the protection and welfare of its students.

Concluding Words

What will it take for the black community to acknowledge and openly address the impact of sexual abuse in our midst?

Transformation. Dramatic movement is beginning now with our younger generations.   The Spelman freshman left school because of being pressured by administrators and the lack of support.   Students at both colleges, using social media, forced the issue into the open, keeping it alive and not allowing the school administrators to blame the victim.  Instead, they are seeking answers around the safety and security of their campuses, and the respect of the school in managing and investigating those times when they fall short.  Most importantly, they are seeking an open dialogue regarding the unique and changing relationships between women and men.

The rape victim at Spelman will not become invisible. Rather than close their ears to the suffering, the students at the two colleges embraced the victim, keeping the incident alive via social media and seeking change within their community.

The history of slavery, segregation and domestic terrorism are key factors in the behavior of both the church leadership in the first case, and the school administration in the second. Shame, humiliation, and learned powerlessness are historical factors, which are well known within the African-American community.  For many, the focus was to survive their circumstances, and in order to do that, they had to keep their heads down, and do nothing about the harm to others that occurred around them.  This behavior has been passed down from generation to generation.

However, today we can empower the psychological self.  We can speak out when we see wrong is being done.  We can embrace those who are suffering and create options that will impact their recovery and the recovery of our own communities.  We can and must want to do more and stop settling for less.

I see the beginning of this transformation with the words of Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College:

We are a family and we will not tolerate any episode of sexual violence.  No person should ever have to suffer and endure the experience she or he has recounted on social media.”

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“In the end,

We will remember not the words

Of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

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Until the next crossroads…. the journey continues…

The Shaming of Our LGBTQ Children

 

“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”

-Socrates, classical Greek Philosopher

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

-James Baldwin, African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic

“Fear is the only true enemy born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate.”

-Edward Albert, film & television actor, Golden Globe winner, 1972

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a 34-year-old black male, and I belong to a black church that my family has attended for four generations.  My great-grandfather was one of the founding members, and my grandfather and father have served faithfully as deacons for years.

I attend church services regularly, I pay my tithes, I play the piano for the choir, and I sing.  I am also gay.  I am in a loving monogamous relationship, but my family has asked that I keep this quiet from other church members.  As a result, when I attend church services, I do so without the person who brings joy to my life.

I have accepted the fact that they don’t want to see me as gay.  My parents and their church community are traditional and conservative people, and I know that there is nothing I can do about the way they think.

Recently, however, I encountered a news report about an act of hatred that has devastated me. One black man poured boiling hot water on two other young black men while they were lying in bed together, asleep.  He said he did it because they were gay.  Both men were terribly disfigured, and they showed the pictures. I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to my family, the pastor and the church’s deacon board with the hope that the church would speak out against this act of hatred within the black community, reach out to them in public prayer and offer them financial assistance from the congregation, but I was stunned by the response.  My family was silent; the pastor said he would pray privately for their salvation, but nothing public, and the deacon board decided that taking an offering for the victims was not within the guidelines of the gospel.

I continue to read and hear about the horrors these men have endured.  That could have been me—asleep one moment, and then awake and screaming in agony the next.  It plays over and over again in my mind, and I can’t sleep.  I have nightmares that the same thing could happen to my partner and myself.  I can’t eat, and I have taken time off from work to stay in bed.

I have spoken to my pastor, but I feel he has now forsaken me.  What would you recommend I do?

Sleepless and Invisible in Seattle

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My Dear Readers,

Lupita Nyong’o, in her acceptance speech for her 2014 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film 12 Years A Slave, observed:

“Slavery is something that is, all too often, swept under the carpet. The shame doesn’t even belong to us, but we still experience it because we’re a part of the African race. If it happened to one, it happened to all. We carry that burden.”

Slavery was about exploitation, the buying and selling of human being as chattel.  However, it was also about hatred and the despicable acts we can do as one human to another.

And today?  Although African-Americans are legally free and among the most successful members of the African Diaspora, we psychologically remain traumatized; a shame-based community hidden in black silence.

The story being told here is an excellent example of this.  Here, we have a young man who is traumatized by an act of hatred and the horrendous suffering that has ensued. According to reporting by the Associated Press:

  • On 2.12.16 Martin Blackwell, a long-haul trucker who stayed at the home with his girlfriend, the mother of one of the victims, when he was in town, walked in and saw the two men sleeping next to each other.
  • Blackwell went into the kitchen, pulled out a pot, filled it with water and set it to boil. Moments later, he poured the scalding hot water over the men.
  • Then Blackwell allegedly yanked one of the men off the mattress, yelling “Get out of my house with all that gay,”
  • In the police report, he stated “They were stuck together like two hot dogs…so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out.” He added,” They’ll be alright.  It was just a little hot water.”
  • Both men were severely burned. One must now wear compression garments 23 hours a day for the next two years and attend weekly counseling and physical therapy.  The other male was burned even more severely, was placed in a medically induced coma for several weeks, having 60% of his body burned.  He will have to undergo skin grafts surgery to repair damage to his face, neck, back, arms, chest, and head.
  • The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Blackwell guilty of eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Mr. Blackwell deserves to be punished for what he did.  Imagine the premeditation of the act, placing water on a stove, as it boiled, watching the two young men as they slept, peacefully in each other’s arms and just as calmly pouring hot scathing water upon them as they screamed out in pain and agony.  Mr. Blackwell committed a despicable act.  He deserves our contempt.

Instead, the community rewards him with silence.  We see ourselves as helpful neighbors, as in the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” but in this situation, as well as in hundreds of black churches throughout this country, we openly and consistently reject and shun those in our community who are gay and lesbian.

In the same breath that we seek to hold white people, the dominant racial group in our society, accountable for their abuse of the rights of people of color afforded them by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, we consistently deny those same rights to our own children if their sexual orientation does not mirror our own, or what we have come to believe is “natural,” or “right.”

The same 13 subtypes of cumulative complex traumas that African-Americans experience due to our race/ethnicity are the ones we inflict upon those in our own racial and ethnic groups because of differences in gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Specifically:

  • Macro-aggressive assault-threat of violence/death (e.g. pouring scathing boiling water on two sleeping men)
  • Micro-aggressive assault-brief, daily insults and dismissals (e.g. derogatory name calling)
  • Invisibility Syndrome-being unseen (e.g. feelings that one’s talents, personality and worth are not valued or recognized)
  • Just World-the shattering of the belief of the Goodness Principle (e.g. “I do good things, I deserve goodness and I will be rewarded with goodness.”)

 

And then there is Betrayal Trauma…..

One can only imagine how our gay and lesbian children must feel when the people they trust the most—their parents, siblings, extended family and church community turn against them upon learning of their sexual orientation.

Betrayal trauma is the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Betrayal in general is traumatic.  However, the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and therefore the more devastating the traumatic impact.

In the situation of our writer, his situation is even more appalling.  His trauma was increased as he visualized the same horrendous act occurring to him.  He was psychologically wounded.  He went to those he trusted to provide assistance for these two men whom he identified with, and instead, received silence from his family, private acknowledgement from the pastor, and rejection from the deacon board.  In all three ways, they unknowingly abandoned him when they abandoned the two men who were attacked.

To add further hurt to a psychological wound individual, the family and church still wants him to remain committed to attending the church and not only contributing his tithes, but also as a choir member and instrumentalist. In essence, they want him to share his life and talents with them, but only those aspects that they have chosen.

I recommend that our writer:

  • Seek individual psychotherapy or other forms of mental health treatment
  • Heal the psychological wounds: understand that trauma is a permanent fixture that can be carried and with work, can become lighter
  • End the shackles of invisibility: become your own advocate, bring balance into your internalized self and calmness to your external environment
  • Finally, should he desire to stay as a member of the church congregation, be out and free completely. “I’m gay, I’m here and I am not going anywhere.”

 

Concluding Words

As stated earlier, there are 13 sub-types of cumulative complex traumas that can impact African-Americans on a daily basis.  Of these, betrayal trauma can be the most devastating due to the vulnerability and the open exposure of the victimized individual and the nature of implicit and explicit trust.

As a clinical traumatologist, my consistent message has been that trauma is a permanent fixture within the psychological self.  The psychological scars may eventually heal, but the experience and the proceeding trauma is forever.  It will never ever go away.

Betrayal trauma is devastating, and healing and recovery from it is extremely difficult.  However, healing and recovery is possible.  The individual must want to embrace the trauma and in doing so, own and honor the experience.  The result can be a life in which the incident lightens and becomes carried by the sufferer, instead of a weight that lies upon his back.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence by the good people.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…