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…


 

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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…

Policing Your Emotions In The Just World

“A white prospective patient enters my office, seats himself, and upon seeing the numerous educational and professional achievements, including a doctorate and two masters’ degrees hanging on my wall, asks, “Are you any good?”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

To be a Negro in this country and be relatively conscious is to be in rage all the time.”

-James Baldwin Writer

“You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity.  When it happens, sometimes we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up.  Sometimes we don’t know what to do when adversity takes over.  And I have some advice for all of us.  I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune.  And it sounds like what you are supposed to say when you have that kind of problem.  It’s called mercy, mercy, mercy.”

-Cannonball Adderley “The Cannon” Jazz Musician

A true story:

I was alone in a hotel lobby in Cleveland Ohio.  My husband and children had just returned to our room to retrieve something that somebody had to have before we left for my sister-in-law’s wedding. 

I had gone to a lot of trouble shopping for the children and myself.  My tailored emerald-green silk dress was made from fabric my husband had brought from Thailand, and my shoes were dyed to match.  My nails and hair were done, and my outfit was topped off with a brand new mink jacket that my husband had worked hard to buy for me.  I was sharp. 

As I waited for the elevator to return my family to me, two young white men came out of the hotel bar and headed my way.  When they got within earshot, one of them loudly exclaimed, “She must cost at least $100!”  His companion laughed as they walked past what was left of me.  

 I looked at my clothes, trying for a minute to determine what was it about me that had given them the impression I looked like a hotel hooker and not simply a well-dressed wife and mother.  My tears gleamed on the fur as I stood there with my head bowed.  

I knew that I had to pull myself together.  I knew that my husband would be furious if he heard my story and would want to confront the men who had left me feeling so devastated.  My children would be upset if I was upset.  Our day of celebration would be spoiled. 

When the elevator finally arrived, I looked shaken, but I managed to blame it on my excitement.  It wasn’t until the end of the day that I told my husband about the experience, and he was as angry as I’d anticipated. 

I never wore those shoes or that dress again.

 -Dr. Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, clinical psychologist and Author, Stolen Women (page 27-28)

My Dear Readers,

Dr. Wyatt, like many of us, was raised to believe in the three tenets of the Just World Theory:

  • The world is benevolent
  • The world is meaningful
  • The self is worthy

It is these values that give rise to the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It affirms the belief that the individual is capable of anything, that hard work pays off, that what goes around comes around, and that buying into the moral precepts and rules of behavior imposed by the greater society will keep the uncertainties of life at bay.

In all respects, Dr. Wyatt succeeded at all of these things, and for the most part, reaped those benefits.  However, just in that short encounter at the elevator, she became a victim of a complex trauma known as Just World Trauma.

Just World Trauma occurs when the rules and guidelines put forth by the greater society for success are then violated by that very same society.  The patient, in believing that they would be treated justly by the world whose rules they have been following, would be betrayed—not by a particular individual, but by all of society.  

 Just World Trauma is one of 13 subtypes of complex traumas African-Americans can be exposed to cumulatively on a daily basis. In this case, Dr. Wyatt suffered:

  • Race based trauma-being viewed as a prostitute because of the color of her skin
  • Micro aggressive assault trauma– the sexual comments were verbalized loudly with the intent to be heard and inflict emotional damage
  • Invisibility Syndrome Trauma– the role of mother and spouse was denied of her

Dr. Wyatt’s reaction to this encounter are typical of African-Americans who are subjected to this trauma:

  • Reaction– She reacted by emotionally trapping the traumatization within and questioning what she had done (her behavior, her dress) to deserve such treatment and to be viewed as a prostitute
  • Response-She chose to remain silent. She made the decision to “pull myself together” and not tell her family.
  • Sacrifice-She sacrificed her psychological self to protect her family by being silent about the encounter at first. She stated “my husband would be furious” and “my children would be upset if I was upset.”

Dr. Wyatt took the hit for the good of the family; she chose not to have their day of celebration be spoiled.  Interestingly enough, Dr. Wyatt’s decision not to tell her husband immediately may have saved his life.  As a woman who knew what her man would or would not accept, this was clearly unacceptable.  Had her husband confronted these men, there may have been a more tragic and psychologically devastating outcome.

Suffering in Silence

 African-Americans have historically understood the need to be silent even in the midst of great suffering and powerless, in order to survive.

I was compelled to stand and see my wife shamefully scourged and abused by her master; and the manner in which it was done, was so violently and inhumanly committed upon the person of a female; that I despair in finding decent language to describe the blood act of cruelty.”

-Unknown contributor

The survival of black Americans through their silence has changed little from slavery to the modern day.  It is through black silence we have learned to adapt in the following ways:

  • Learn to behave one way, even if you felt another
  • Never discuss the kind of abuse you were experiencing
  • Live with a sense of dignity in spite of the abuse

 Today, these adaptations have resulted in African-Americans:

  • Feigning submission, happiness and complacency in spite of whatever emotion the individual may actually be feeling.
  • Experiencing trauma that may result in sleeplessness, fears of impending doom and flashbacks that won’t go away
  • Using coping mechanisms such as dissociation in order to maintain emotional distance from the psychological wounds impacting one’s life.

The ABC’s of Empowerment: Ending Black Silence.

  •  A (Advocacy)- End the silence, speak for the psychological self (“I will accept that only I can advocate for my mental wellness.”)
  • B (Balance)-Seek balance of feeling and thoughts (“Only I can bring balance within me as to what I feel and think.”)
  • C (Calmness) Expel calmness to the external world (“I can and I will bring calmness to my external environment.”)

 

Concluding Words

 “African-Americans have shown the endurance to survive and achieve during times of hardship and adversity.  Now we must demonstrate the ability to run the race smarter, not harder.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Our parents in their wisdom have taught us that to succeed we must learn the rules and play the game.  We have tended to our psychological wounds with silence and other substances like food and alcohol for decades. Now, we must combine learning the rules and playing the game with running the race smarter, not harder.

To those who may be curious as to my response to the micro-aggressive assault, i.e. the question, “Are you any good?”

My response was simple: I asked the individual to accompany me to the building’s waiting room, where I suggested he seek an appointment with one of the white therapists in the building.  In leaving, I remarked, “I choose my patients. If you were not sitting on the couch, someone more deserving of my assistance would be.”

I will not allow someone to take from or minimize what I have worked so hard and sacrifice so much as I walked my journey of self-discovery.  I will advocate for me, obtain balance within my psychological self and in doing, achieve calmness in my external world, and I encourage all others to do the same.

“Life is like a marathonFinish the race; don’t worry about coming in first place.  Cross the finish line.  Just finish what you start.”

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life , www.lovingmemore.com

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

Black Shame, Black Silence

 

Silence is golden.”

-A proverbial saying, often used in circumstances where it is thought that saying nothing is preferable to speaking.

“It is the false shame of fools to try to conceal wounds that have not been healed.”

-Quintus Horatius Fiaccus, Roman Poet

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion.  It is the fear that we’re not good enough.”

-Brene Brown, Scholar

“When you go through a traumatic event, there’s a lot of shame that comes that comes with that.  A lot of loss of self-esteem.  That can become debilitating.”

-Willie Aames, Actor & Screenwriter

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a 54 year-old African-American male.  I have a good corporate job, I am married with two kids, one beginning college and one left in high school.  I have a lot to be thankful for. However, I have been carrying a lot of mental baggage that I just can’t seem to get rid of.

My father was a career military officer who wanted me to follow in his footsteps.  As a child, I was sent to a military academy to complete my high school studies and thus prepare to attend college and seek military service.

My time in school was traumatic. I was taunted by white students about slavery, and I was constantly on the receiving end of other racist comments and practices which were ignored by the teachers and administration.  My parents were of no help. They couldn’t hear my pleas over their constant boasting to their friends about me attending a prestigious high school.

I attempted suicide when it became too much for me to handle.  The school covered it up, sending me home and terminating my placement, stating that I was not a good fit for the school.   My father never mentioned one word about the incident to me.  My parents and extended family treated the incident as if it never happened.

Every day, however, when I looked into his eyes, I could see the shame he carried because of my failure.   My father has since been dead for 8 years and yet, the shame in me remains as strong as ever.  I simply cannot go on like this.

I have isolated myself of late.  I have distanced myself from my wife and sons.  I now sit in front of the television drinking the pain away, but it always returns.  This is not living.

Please tell me how I can conquer the shame that is within me.

Desperate in Seattle

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My Dear Readers,

I am often lauded when I write about the negative impact of racism, oppression and discrimination upon African-Americans.  Others cringe when I shine the light on the psychological injuries we inflict upon ourselves.  Our silence is one of the most damaging of those psychological injuries.

White blindness may be the societal disease that severely disables and impacts transformation for the dominant culture, but we can see the same impact of silence on our own African-American communities.  It is in our silence that we show that we are willing to sacrifice the health of our most viable resource, the self.

We as African-Americans have made numerous contributions and achievements to this country in the 400 years since the first slaves arrived on a Portuguese slave ship from Angola at Jamestown in 1619, and yet, we are a shame-based people.  Shame can be defined as the following:

  • A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace (e.g. felt shame for having dropped out of school)
  • An act that brings dishonor, or dishonor, disgrace, or public condemnation (e.g. brought shame on the whole family)
  • An object of great disappointment
  • A regrettable or unfortunate situation (e.g. being born into poverty)

Healthy shame is an emotion that teaches us about our limit.  Like all emotions, shame moves us to get our basic needs met.”

-John Bradshaw, Educator, Motivational Speaker

This is wrong. There is nothing healthy about shame, particularly in the way that it impacts African-Americans in this country.

Shame is mired in humiliation, and humiliation is defined as the infliction of a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves a deep, long lasting wound within the psychological self. 

The painful experiences of humiliation are vividly remembered for a long time.  This includes:

  • The enforced lowering of a person or group, a process of subjugation that either damages or strips away a person’s pride, honor or dignity.
  • A state of being placed, against one’s will, in a situation where one is made to feel inferior.
  • A process in which the victim is forced into passivity, acted upon, or made to feel helpless.

The concept of “healthy shame” as a mechanism to “get our basic needs met” fails to account for the humiliation that accompanies shame. This concept effectively punishes African-Americans repeatedly by psychologically reinforcing the maintenance of life at the level of survival and in doing so, prevents and/or restricts the individual’s or the community’s collective movement towards self-empowerment or self-actualization.

As African-Americans are a shame-based people, mired in humiliation and impacted by 13 different subtypes of cumulative complex traumas on a daily basis, it behooves us to understand how humiliation differs from shame:

  • Humiliation is public, whereas shame is private.
  • Humiliation is the suffering of an insult. If the person being humiliated deems the insult to be credible, then he will feel shame.
  • One can insult and humiliate another, but that person will feel shame if his/her self-image is reduced. Such actions requires the person who is being humiliated to “buy in” that is, agree with the assessment that shame is deserved.
  • A person who is secured about their own stature is less likely to be vulnerable, to feeling shame, whereas the insecure person is more prone to feeling shame because this individual gives more weight to what others think of him than to what he thinks of himself.

The writer seeks assistance from me to “conquer the shame that is within.”  I will not assist him in this endeavor.  My clinical orientation is based on self-psychology and healing the wounds that lie within the psychological self. My ethical belief is “to do no harm.”  I will not be a tool to either conquer shame or cause further psychological wounding to this dear man.

Furthermore, despite repeated or desperate attempts, he will not succeed in eradicating the shame he has carried for 40 years.  This shame, which is mired in humiliation, is supported by cumulative complex traumas including micro-aggression, invisibility syndrome and race-based trauma.  Complex trauma is a permanent fixture within the psychological self.  It will never, ever go away.

At this point, the writer is struggling with the traumatic memory of the devastating experience he endured, but survived.  He was shamed and humiliated, and then, endured the silence of his family.  In order to progress, he must seek to honor his survival.

He can achieve this by embracing his shame and humiliation.  He must seek to embrace his experience of emotional and psychological duress. To do this, he must accept that this happened to him, that it has had the impact that it has had in his life, and that he still is acceptable and worthy of his life despite it.   Once he does this, instead of bearing the weight as a burden, he can learn to carry and balance the weight as a part of himself.  As he begins and continues to succeed at this, the weight of those experiences will become lighter and the psychological self will become calmer.

Concluding Words

“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.”

-Lupita Nyong’o Actress & Filmmaker, Academy Award Winner 2014 “12 Years A Slave.”

True or False: African-Americans are responsible for their pain and suffering created from 400 years of slavery, segregation, domestic terrorism and racial profiling and the resulting emotional and psychological duress responding due to complex trauma?

Believe it or not, this is true. The mistake that is repeatedly made is to confuse or integrate the concept of blame within the concept of responsibility.  It is ludicrous and serves no legitimate purpose to engage in re-victimizing behaviors by blaming African-Americans for the emotional and psychological damage done to them in the fulfillment of the dominant group’s agenda.  However, the first steps that are necessary to respond to the emotional and psychological duress is to end black silence by:

  • Acknowledging the existence of the emotional and psychological duress
  • Accepting responsibility for carrying the emotional and psychological duress
  • Viewing the emotional and psychological duress for what it is: pain and suffering.
  • Understanding the consequences of pain and suffering; it impacts both the physical body and the psychological well-being of the individual
  • Finally taking action; seek mental health wellness through psychotherapy or other forms of mental health treatment

“The African-American community consists of two parts: those who choose to remain uninformed, maintaining their silence by living in denial, and the others who seek knowledge, awareness and when necessary, mental health treatment in the pursuit of mental health wellness.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

“The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”

-Marcus Garvey

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues..

 

Racial Silence and Fear of the Unknown

“Still waters run deep.  Shallow waters run dry frequently.”

-Thomas County Cat, (publication Thomas County, Kansas 1890)

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

-Toni Morrison, Author and Nobel Laureate

“Rain is a blessing when it falls gently on parched fields, turning the earth green, causing the birds to sing.”

-Donald Worster, Author, Meeting the Expectations of the Land, 1984)

 

My Dear Readers,

The proverb “still waters run deep” typically means that a placid exterior often hides a passionate or subtle nature.  In the past, however, it also served as a warning that silent people are dangerous.  This week, we will explore the silence between white and African-American communities in America, and how it reinforces the danger.  The outlying issues are the fear and distrust beholding both communities who share the well.

One of the respondents to the “Transcending White Blindness” blog shared:

“Thank you for putting this person in his/her place.  Obviously they have no clue what it is like as an African-American (Black) man or woman in this society today or yesterday.  They don’t know what it is like to deal with covert racism when the smile is in your face and the knife is in your back.”

I responded to that letter the following week in the blog “Responding to White Blindness,” but I want to specifically address this comment.  I can understand the anger and pain being endured by the writer, but my intention was and remains to utilize the blog writings as a means to provide information that hopefully will serve as a resource for building a solid foundation as they continue their own journeys of self-discovery.

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part or worse, European-Americans and African-Americans are bound together. Our common bond is our silence.  White blindness is a societal disease that continues to shackle the dominant majority.  For African-Americans, it is weathering the daily and cumulative impact of 13 different subtypes of complex trauma, while not taking steps to heal the psychological wounds due to negative cultural views against mental health treatment.

People in both groups want better lives for their children.  However, along with their silence, they pass fear, intolerance, and lack of acceptance inter-generationally to their children who, in turn, pass the same to their children and so on and so on.

We speak of better lives for our children, and yet, we don’t model those better lives for them because of our ignorance and our fear of the unknown.

A recent example of that ignorance and fear of the unknown comes from Wyckoff, New Jersey.  An internal investigation by state authorities revealed in 2014 that then police chief Benjamin Fox had sent departmental emails stating that racial profiling “has its place in law enforcement.”

Specifically, Chief Fox stated:

“Profiling, racial or otherwise, has its place in law enforcement when used correctly and applied fairly.  Black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff.  That’s why we check out suspicious Black people in white neighborhoods.

It would be insane to think that the police should just “dumb down” just to be politically correct.  The public wants us to keep them safe and I am confident that they want us to use our skills and knowledge to attain that goal.”

The response from monitoring organizations was swift and pointed.  The ACLU stated, “Racial profiling has no place in policing New Jersey.”  The Bergen County Prosecutor and the State Attorney General issued a joint statement, declaring:

“On its face, the email appears to be a clear violation of the Attorney General’s policy strictly prohibiting racial profiling by police officers.  We are conducting a full investigation and will take all appropriate measures.”

Translation: “The chief of police who we ALL trusted got caught doing a very bad thing.  As the overseers of law enforcement, “we are on it” and will take the appropriate steps to see that this does not happen again.”

As of last week, his comments resulted in a 180-day suspension without pay and a demotion to patrolman.

Problem solved, right? African-Americans can now take a small amount of comfort that they will not be racially profiled in the city of Wyckoff, N.J.  However, given that there are 12,501 local police departments within the United States, there is another message these 765,000 sworn and commissioned officers may be receiving.

“The community (white) wants us to protect them when suspicious people (blacks) in come into their neighborhoods.  Yet these same people (whites) are silent when we get caught doing what they demand of us.”

Ignorance is defined as the lack of information. Former Chief Fox is not being punished for his ignorance, but more for saying what he said in public, and running the risk of embarrassing his fellow officers around the country.  In doing so, he brings into the light a fear in which those reacting to white blindness seek desperately to keep hidden.

Ignorance.  Fear of the Unknown.  

While white blindness continues to be an issue, there is also a blindness that pervades my black brothers and sisters.  In my 30+ years of providing mental health services to the African-Americans community, one belief has remained firm: the silence and the unwillingness to acknowledge the impact of negative mental health outcomes and their link to the impact of substance abuse, domestic violence, high unemployment and other social maladies in our communities.

 And still, we remain silent.

Yes, African-Americans have made significant achievements in the areas of commerce, science, education, medicine, the arts etc.  Yet, these contributions have not come without significant negative consequences. There are reportedly 13 subtypes of complex traumas, which are cumulative and can impact African-Americans on a daily basis.

And still, we remain silent.

As African-Americans continue to view mental health care as a negative and continue to accept the dysfunction that arrives with non-focused mental health care, our silence reinforces the belief that mental illness is a weakness and a handicap.  Instead, we must want to see it for what it truly is: a condition that is a response to one’s societal environment.

Concluding Words 

“Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.  Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”

-Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

 Information can be treated like rain.  As it falls upon you, allow that information to enter and to bring light to what that was once darkness.  Let us return to our respective communities and do the work that can be done as we learn to live with our fear instead of in our fear.

“Some people feel the rain.  Others just get wet.”

-Bob Marley, Musician

There will always be those among us, regardless of race, who will choose to live in denial.  Among the 12,501 local police departments throughout the country, many may be inspired to make change by Chief Fox’s actions, whereas others may stay within darkness, being silent when racial profiling occurs within their departments.

There will also be those within the African-American community who will continue to disavow mental health care and minimize mental health treatment for those who could benefit.   We all have work to do in our respective communities.  Silence like white blindness begins with the individual, and from there, flows within and throughout the society, and stepping away from that behavior begins with the individual too.

“We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish together as fools.”

-John Lewis, US Congressman & Civil Rights Activist

 

Until the next crossroads….the journey continues…