No Room For Error: The Pains Of Young Adulthood

 

“This is pure and simple racism. Things have not changed much in the South.  It is still white versus black. “ — Anonymous

My Dear Readers,

Last week, I came across the viral video of a confrontation between a young Caucasian female, and a young black male. The two were engaged in a verbal dispute, which escalated into a physical confrontation, and ended when the young man punched the woman in the face and quickly exited the bar.  I found this story to be interesting from a psychological point of view, so this week, I will explore the concepts of historical trauma, institutional racism and modern racism as these relate to this incident.

The young man was later identified as De’Andre Johnson, a black male freshman football player at Florida State University (FSU).   He was initially suspended from the football team when the encounter came to light, but was subsequently dismissed from the team after the media released the video showing him punching the young woman in the face.

The general consensus within the African-American community is that Johnson, in being dismissed from both the team, expelled from the university and charged in criminal court with battery, is being treated unfairly and targeted because he is an African-American male athlete.  Regarding the incident, questions such as the following are being raised:

  • Was race a factor in the young man dismissal?
  • Were the penalties excessive?
  • Has the life and career of De’Andre Johnson ruined?

In my work as a clinical traumatologist, I have been able to show a direct relationship between the four hundred years of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment of blacks in the form of slavery and segregation and its intergenerational transmission and the institutional and modern forms of racism that continue to impact and traumatize African-American citizens today.  In the case of Johnson’s dismissal, the face of racism has changed from being overt, (open) to covert (subtle).

If racism was a factor, (and I contend that it is,) it is essential to clarify the specific form of racism that would have been utilized in the dismissal of De’Andre Johnson.  Because these actions are being taken within an academic system, the specific form of racism found here is named institutional racismInstitutional racism restricts people of color from having choices, rights and mobility.  It is the utilization and manipulation of legitimate institutions with the intent of maintaining an advantage over others.

Was race a factor in the young man’s dismissal?

From “Good Morning America”:

“Surveillance cameras inside the bar appear to show Johnson punch a woman in the face while they argued. Jose Baez, Johnson’s lawyer, said Johnson tried to ‘de-escalate the situation,’ but the woman ‘kneed him in the groin area’ and ‘took another swing before he retaliated.’ Baez said that his client punched the woman after she called him racial epithets and provoked him.  Baez said Johnson was not the initial aggressor but is ‘owning this’ and trying to learn from the experience.”

The president of FSU, in his statement on the incident, stated that playing football for FSU is a “privilege, not a right.” It is a clear message to all players, black and white, that FSU, not the coaches, players, alumni or fans, owns the “privilege“of athletes playing football for FSU.

Did FSU restrict De’Andre Johnson from having choices, rights and mobility?  Considering the definition of institutional racism, was FSU utilizing manipulation with the intent of maintaining an advantage over others?  The answer is yes.

The specific type of privilege that characterizes the FSU president’s comments is male privilege. Male privilege is defined as a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to individual as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class. 

All males, regardless of their race, benefit from male privilege.  The difference lies in the fact that male privilege of the white majority dominates every aspect of American society, while male privilege of people of color, particularly the black minority, is limited to the boundaries within their respective communities.  In essence, this reinforces historical trauma and intergenerational transmission as this privilege reflects the similar privilege enjoyed by the dominant society during the era of 400 years of slavery and segregation.

In this situation, male privilege as an expression of institutional racism and societal demand asserts itself in the attempt to control the behavior of black male members of the FSU football team. In essence, the idea that playing football for FSU is a “privilege, not a right” reflects the president’s assertion that black football players are not only being afforded the privilege of limited acceptance and entrance into the dominant society, but such privileges can be removed at any time.

In this situation, De’Andre Johnson violated the boundaries of the privilege that he was granted, and without any kind of hearing, had that privilege removed, and was subsequently returned to the lower echelons of the limited privileges which exist within the African-American community. The dismissal serves as a message of warning to the remaining black members of the team that they too will be subject to such harsh actions should their actions and behaviors be deemed to warrant such a response.

Racism has most definitely changed over the years.  Gone are the days when racism was overt, and racist actions and behaviors were done openly. Today, racism is more subtle and covert, imposed without open acknowledgement.  I call the forms of racism we are most likely to see today modern racismModern racism is a form of unconscious racism that reflects anti-Black feelings among the affluent middle class.  This kind of racism sets expectations for the following:

  • How African-Americans should act,
  • What African-Americans deserve, and
  • Whether they should be treated equitably.

Those endorsing the ideology of modern racism do not define their own beliefs and attitudes as racist.  Modern racism is insidious because those who engage in such behaviors deny racist attitudes in a defensive manner, yet continue to engage in generalizations and suppositions about people of a specific group based on “evidence,” usually taking the form of anecdotes or personal encounters.

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Concluding Words

The actions I have discussed here are not examples of “pure and simple racism.”  Race relations have improved between blacks and whites throughout the country.  However, racism is still a factor in all segments of the United States. It is only the type of racism (now modern) and its implementation (now covert) that has changed.

De’Andre Johnson and his mother spent most of the week making the rounds on talk shows like Good Morning America & The Today Show expressing remorse, accepting responsibility for his actions and seeking a second chance to redeem himself.  It was a testament to the power of modern racism and the impact of privilege. Historical trauma comes into focus as the black male capitulates to the power of the dominant majority. Once again, the historical trauma is silenced, and African-Americans are left fearful of the next dismissal and waiting for the wrath of the dominant majority to lessen so that life can return to normal.

As for De’Andre Johnson, his life and football career has not been destroyed, just interrupted.  By laying low, staying out of trouble and showing acceptable behavior, in time he can redeem himself and be welcomed back to college and professional football as long as he (and other black athletes) remember the lesson that “playing football is a privilege, not a right.

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

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

 

 

 

 

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Just World Trauma And The Loss of Individual Responsibility

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

My Dear Readers,

By now, many of us, thanks to today’s technology and the mass media, have been inundated by the senseless acts of violence occurring in North Charleston, South Carolina and Panama City, Florida. These areas are forever branded in our memories. These incidents have left many of us, regardless of our race or location in the world shaking our heads in bewilderment.

In North Charleston, there is video evidence of a black police officer committing a crime of providing false report writing and covering up the murder of a black man by a white police officer.  In the Panama City incident, there is video evidence of three male college students from a prestigious HBCU (historically black college or university) gang raping an unconscious woman on a beach in broad daylight in the presence of hundreds of people.

The videos of both incidents are shocking, and for some members of the African-American community, are unbelievable.  Perhaps watching a video of a police officer calmly shooting a black man in the back as he ran away is just as shocking and unbelievable to the white majority as well.  Either way, it cannot be disputed or denied.

In my work as a clinical traumatologist, I am interested in the underlying reasons that may form the basis for such behavior, and I believe there is something we can learn from these events.

In the field of clinical traumatology, one of the sub traumas that can impact an individual is “just world trauma.” In this form of trauma, people have a need to believe in a just world, one in which they get what they deserve and deserve what they get.

The just world theory corresponds to the principle of “goodness,” that is, that the goodness of an individual is a primary factor that determines his or her fate in life.  Trauma shatters the just world hypothesis because the traumatic response occurs as a result of what is perceived to be an “out of the ordinary” event that is experienced as a direct threat to the individual’s survival and self-preservation.

Just World Trauma impacts more people than those who are directly involved in specific events such as those in North Charleston, Baltimore, or Panama City.  Trauma also impacts the family, friends and peers of the individuals involved.

In a way, we are all impacted by just world trauma. When Mr. Scott attended a family party a few days before, his family and friends were unaware that this would be one of the last memories they would have with him.  Neither did the parents of the woman who was attacked in Panama City imagine such a horrible crime would happen to their daughter.

Neither the victims nor their families did anything to deserve the traumas that they now must endure. How does one make sense of this injustice in a “just world?”

We must also consider the actions of the South Carolina police officer who witnessed his colleague dropping an object next to the body and not including this observation in his official report.  Several questions arise as one attempts to make sense of this police officer’s actions and behavior:

  • Why would he intentionally write a false report?
  • Why would he deny observing the planted taser next to the body of Mr. Scott?
  • Finally as a person who took an oath, why would he forsake his oath and in doing so, betray the community’s trust?

Regarding the three men of which two have been charged (the third has not been found) many questions remain to be asked.  The two men charged attended a prestigious university.  They had bright futures.

  • Why would these men engage in a behavior in which they know to be morally wrong, and not within the value system of the communities from which they come from?
  • Why would these men engage in gang rape in broad daylight in front of hundreds of people?
  • Why would these young men engage in behavior that would result in criminal charges, and ultimately result in incarceration and lifetime registration as sexual offenders?

Finally, we must not ignore the actions of the hundreds of people walking around the incident observing in which three different men sexually assaulted the unidentified woman. These people did nothing to intervene, protect the woman or call the police.

In responding to these events, two concepts come to mind as I look at the actions of the second police officer in North Charleston and those of the individuals who were involved in the sexual assault.  The first is ABC, which refers to the basic human need for acceptance, belonging, and commitment to a “group identity”.  The second is the phenomenon of “groupthink.”

The incident North Charleston was not simply about race. It is also about police culture and the beliefs ingrained therein.  One proud police officer I know, now retired, told me:

  • “We (the police) are brothers. We look after our own.”
  • “If I ever got shot, I would bleed the color blue.”
  • “I want to be buried in my uniform. My brothers will escort me to my grave.”

Simply stated, both officers are members of a fraternal order—in this case, it is the police department.  They often view themselves as being surrounded by a hostile population that they are obligated by their sworn vow to protect, and often, their fellow officer, their “brother,” is the only thing standing between them and that danger. As a result, one does not “rat’ on a fellow officer, a brother.

Regarding the sexual assault in Panama City, there is a psychological phenomenon called “Groupthink” that occurs the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision making outcome that is shared by all the members without discussion or critical dissent.  Consequently, it can be the desire for acceptance from a group that can discourage creativity or the sense of individual responsibility.

An example of such behavior is a comment on the video made by one of the assailants prior to the sexual assault:

“She isn’t going to know.”

As his assault begins, the other men become willing participants.

The concept of groupthink parallels the ABC model.  The common theme is one of internalized pressure being brought on by group behavior.  This can be seem with the actions of the second police officer in North Charleston as well as with these young men in Panama City.  In both situations, the people involved reject individual responsibility in the interest of gaining acceptance, belonging, and commitment to a group identity.

Concluding Words

Understanding why these actions may have occurred does not negate accountability.  For making the choice of rejecting individual responsibility, all individuals involved must respond to the consequences brought on by the decisions they chose.

What remains disturbing are the behaviors of hundreds of individuals who, instead of intervening, protecting the victim, or notifying the police, chose to continue partying.  Although these individuals did not participate in the sexual assault, their failure to act extends into the realm of “groupthink” and is an abrogation of their responsibility to residing in a just society.

A proactive response to “just world trauma” is to reject the concept of groupthink, and in doing so we can seek to transform its foundation (ABC) into a different ABC: building a psychological foundation that supports empowerment through advocacy, balance and calmness.

It is through this new foundation that the individual can respond to the pressures of the external world.  It is through the resulting empowerment from within that the psychological self can lead the individual in the journey of achieving goals and objectives in life.

The lives of these individuals, the victims, their families, the police officer and the assailants have been forever impacted.  Standing at the crossroads, we as individuals will continue to be faced with the choice of following the group, or to empower ourselves by taking responsibility for our own actions and the communities in which we live.

A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.

-Ten Flashes of Light of the Journey of Life

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

And One Day, They Will Come For You

My Dear Readers,

Fear can be powerful and overwhelming.  Many of us grapple with it every day.  The foolish will try to convince themselves that they fear no one, but most of us struggle to overcome our fear.

The wise, however, will realize and accept that fear is simply an emotion that we actually want in our lives.  Fear, in and of itself, is here and it’s here to stay.  The individual must stand at the crossroads and choose whether to live their life IN fear, or WITH fear.

Below is such a story…

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“They are coming for me.”

“What do you mean?”  I ask. “They are coming for you?”

“It’s just a matter of time,” he says. “They’re coming for me.  And one day, they will come for you, too.”

These are the words coming from one of my patients. He’s not delusional. He’s not seeing others in the room—he’s not having hallucinations. He’s not hearing voices either. Paranoia is a possibility, but I need to find out more about him.

Let’s call him Daniel.  He is African-American and 64 years old. He recently retired as a family support worker in one of the local school districts in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.

He is a veteran of the US Marines, having been honorably discharged after serving two tours in the Vietnam War. He has been married for 27 years, has four adult children, and three grandchildren.  He owns his home, and his mortgage is just about paid in full.  This is a man who has never been in trouble with the law.

Then out of the blue, I received a call from his wife saying that he had locked himself in the home, refusing to come outside, and had been wearing the same clothes for a week.

In my session with Daniel, the one sentence he keeps repeating is “they’re coming for me, they’re coming for me.”  Understanding that sharing internal secrets with a stranger is extremely difficult for many African-Americans of his generation, my goal was to provide Daniel with an avenue to speak, and to release himself from this dark place. I was happy that he agreed to sit down with me once again and process the anguish he was going through.

In the war, Daniel was a member of a group of Marines who had been overrun by a larger North Vietnamese unit.  Out of supplies and ammunition, they fought to the last man.  Daniel was one of the few to survive.  Daniel had spent many years dealing with traumatic memories and was now just beginning to normalize his life.

So, what happened?  Was it memories of the Vietnam War?  Had Daniel relapsed into old emotional wounds of his post-traumatic stress? Perhaps.  His relapse didn’t appear to be specifically related to the war in Vietnam; it seemed to result more from the war he’d been fighting here at home since being discharged from the military.

Daniel had kept it together for many years following the war.  He had been successful in his work, marriage and family, and he’d never been in trouble with the law.

Although Daniel felt safe in his self-imposed exile at home, he could not release his demons.  He could not talk to his wife or pastor.  He wanted to, but couldn’t free his psychological self from pain and suffering.

I initially considered a diagnosis of paranoia, but as we spoke, I realized that Daniel didn’t meet any of the indicators.  I was able to understand that essentially, Daniel had been traumatized during his experiences in the war, and due to a recent direct observation of an impactful event, his trauma had been triggered.

In the sub-field of traumatology, there are eight specific types of trauma that a person can be exposed to at any given time.  It is possible that an individual as in the situation of Daniel can be simultaneously exposed to a variety of different traumas.

The types of traumas, which Daniel was responding to, are race-related stress, racial profiling, historical trauma/inter-generational transmission and the invisibility syndrome.  The cause of his exposure was vicarious trauma via repeated viewing of scenes that are the basis of the distress.

In more detail:

  • Race-Related Stress– a single race-related adverse event such as being threatened with death or injury because of one’s racial appearance.
  • Racial Profiling– suspicious behavior being attributed to an individual due to membership in a specific racial group.
  • Historical Trauma/ Inter-generational Transmission-cumulative massive traumas associated with historical events that affect a given culture, group, country, religion or ethnicity, and are passed down from generation to generation.
  • Invisibility Syndrome-the internal struggle with the feelings that one’s talents, abilities, personality, and worth are not valued or recognized because of prejudice and racism.

In January 2015, while walking in downtown Seattle, Daniel observed and nodded to another African-American of similar age who had been walking using a golf club in the method of a cane to support his walking stride.

Daniel witnessed this person being stopped by a police cruiser, wrestling with a white female police officer over his golf club.  He watched in horror as the police officer violently threw the elderly man on top of the police cruiser, handcuffed him, and tossed him aggressively into the cruiser.

Daniel was terrified. He quickly turned away and went home, later seeing repeated media coverage of the incident.

So, to be clear, what happened to Daniel was the triggering of his vicarious trauma by repeated viewing of the initial incident that resulted in the feelings of panic.  This alarmed Daniel’s wife Betty, and she took him to the emergency room at the local hospital.

The emergency room physician told her that Daniel was showing symptoms of psychosis, paranoia and delusions and that he should be hospitalized immediately.  The basis of his diagnosis was Daniel’s suspicion and distrust that the physician considered baseless. However, since Daniel was not a danger to himself or others and did not require hospitalization, the physician indicated that this was not a bad paranoia, and instead was a good, acceptable type of paranoia.

Poor Betty was so confused.  Her spouse is paranoid and delusional, which is bad, but it was a good type of paranoia? If paranoia in general is an indication of mental instability, how can it possibly be good?

So the physician providing the psych consult explains that in some cases, healthy cultural paranoia is a “defense mechanism” for African-Americans and other races and cultures who have had to respond to the repercussions of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment.

After hearing all of this, Betty contacted me.

I believe that Daniel is healthy.  He has a good understanding of his culture.  He isn’t just “paranoid” in the classic clinical sense.  Following a full psycho-social work up and history, it is clear that Daniel’s “radar” or “vigilance” had been triggered by the incident he witnessed and the repetitive viewing through the media had forced his vigilance into overdrive, thus becoming “hyper-vigilant.

In our therapeutic process, Daniel was able share with me his story of growing up in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement, witnessing repeated acts of police brutality, which triggered race-related stress, and the fact that he recently saw the film Selma, which returned him to those memories he sought to escape in coming to Seattle, which was responsible for historical trauma and inter-generational transmission.

Regarding Daniel’s experience in witnessing the arrest in downtown Seattle, he noted in his discussion with me that the elderly black man arrested had done nothing wrong, and that the police officer did not have a cause to stop, detain and arrest him—that she simply racially profiled him. Consequently, Daniel, felt that for the grace of God, that could have been him, and that brought him feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and made him feel less of a man, which is the invisibility syndrome.

In session, Daniel shared that he had been living his life with the hope that if he simply followed the rules, kept low, minded his business, and paid his taxes that “they,” meaning the police, would leave him alone. After this incident, knowing that the elderly black man was no different from him, he lost that sense of security.

Daniel cried hard and long that day.  It was a good thing, because now the healing could begin.  Using the Advocacy, Balance and Empowerment (ABC) Model, our work then centered on helping Daniel to gain personal empowerment. Utilizing this model, Daniel was able to learn to advocate for the psychological self, attain balance within and display calmness with the external world.  Daniel is doing well today.

Concluding Words

“Healthy Cultural Paranoia” is a clinical descriptor that seeks to justify vigilance utilized as a defense against being psychologically overwhelmed by racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment.

As healthcare professionals, we must be cautious about using terms like healthy cultural paranoia where its basis, paranoia, is the foundation of the mental illness.  We must police ourselves against the possible confusion and damaging impact upon others should they start to see normal and natural responses to traumatic events as being “paranoid.”

When it comes to physician diagnosis, there is always the possibility of overuse or hyper-extension.  When this occurs, it is up to the individual to seek secondary assistance to return to a normal level of functioning.   This can be achieved by checking in with someone sharing the same background or experience or in extreme situations such as Daniel’s working with a trained mental health professional to obtain access to the root of the issue.

Daniel’s regression was reinforced in that after this experience, he now lived his life in fear of that one day “they would come for him.” Prior to this, he thought that since he was now elderly and retired, he was no longer at risk.  In observing the harsh treatment of a black man who is similar to him, he realized how wrong he was.  Now, Daniel is empowered.  He has advocacy, balance and calmness and can now live with fear instead of living in fear.

Until the next crossroad…the journey continues.

Dr. Kane

 

 

The Meaning Of Black History Month

My Dear Readers,

Black History Month concludes this week, so I am using this week’s post to explore its meaning.

Black History Month means different things to different people, so I am very aware of the mixture of feelings, particularly pride, sadness and yes, anger that can arise.  I feel them myself.  So, as my grandmother would say, I intend to “rake the mud on the bottom and watch the muddy waters rise to the top.” So cometh the muddy waters.  As I have stated before, my comments are solely my own and do not represent the thoughts of others within my community.

We live in two worlds. In one, we are shown the glamour experienced in one of those worlds, and yet, what is hidden is the world of pain and suffering that may have been the foundation for these individuals’ successes.

As a kid growing up in the southern United States, the black history I lived was not the black history I was to learn later on in school.  I learned about the contributions, achievements, and the accomplishments of Black Americans such as:

  • Crispus Attucks: the first casualty of the Boston Massacre and the American Revolutionary War. He became the icon of the anti-slavery movement.

  • George Washington Carver researched the promotion of alternative crops to cotton such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes.

  • Sojourner Truth was among the first women’s rights activists.

  • Harriet Tubman served as an abolitionist, humanitarian and spy for the Union during the Civil War.

  • Frederick Douglas was a leader in the abolition movement, a social reformer, a writer and statesman. He was the first black American nominated for the Vice President of the United States in 1872.

These contributions, accomplishments and achievements are important, but the common theme is that all of them, at one time, had either been sold into or born into slavery.

What can we as a nation, a society, as a community of African-Americans and as individuals learn from the struggles of these five individuals?  We can understand that their struggles and traumatic experiences in their personal histories led them to great achievements as they assisted in sculpturing the American political and economic landscape.

It is in the duality of living in two worlds that the pain and suffering of one population and the guilt and shame of the other population are both hidden away. The history remains so far removed from our modern lives that in our outrage as a nation regarding the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot in a locked cage by the blood soaked hands of ISIS, we lulled ourselves into ignorance of this country’s past in which 4,743 African-American men, women and children were lynched between 1882 and 1968.

One of those lynched was Jesse Washington in 1916.  A young white man who witnessed the murder wrote in a postcard to his family about the “carnival like atmosphere” in which he and his young friends “enjoyed front row seats.”  He included a picture of Washington’s charred body with the caption:

“This is the barbeque we had last night.  My picture is to the left with a cross over it.  Your son, Joe.”

A historian describes the photograph:

“…Jesse Washington’s stiffened body tied to the tree.  He has been sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman.  No witnesses saw the crime; he allegedly confessed, but the truth of the allegations would never be tested.

The grand jury took just four minutes to return a guilty verdict, but there was no appeal, no review, no prison time.  Instead, a courtroom mob dragged him outside, pinned him to the ground and cut off his testicles.

A bonfire was quickly built and lit.  For two hours, Jesse Washington, still alive, was raised and lowered over the flames, again, and again, and again.

City officials and police stood by, approvingly.  According to some estimates, the crowd grew to as many as 15,000.  There were taunts, cheers, and laughter.  Reporters described hearing “shouts of delight.”

When the flames died away, Washington’s body was torn apart and the pieces were sold as souvenirs.  The party was over.

Yet the “party” is not over.  The lynchings and other traumatic experiences of African-American people would continue well into the 21st century.  During the days of “nigger hunts,” blacks were victimized and killed by a variety of means in isolated sections and dumped into rivers and creeks.

To many whites, killing African-Americans “wasn’t nothing.”  As reported by whites, it was:

  • “Like killing a chicken or killing a snake”

  • “Niggers jest supposed to die ain’t no damn good anyway—jest go an’kill’em.”

  • “They had to have a license to kill anything but a nigger. They are always in season.”

  • “A white man ain’t a-going to be able to live in this country if we let niggers start getting biggity.”

  • (about lynchings) “It ‘s about time to have another one. When the niggers get so that they are afraid of being lynched, it is time to put the fear in them.”

Learning about and understanding Black History allows us to remain aware that there may always be those who, due to their own fear, maintain their perceptions of what African-Americans deserve, and display behaviors that reflect that. Only in understanding the pain and suffering as well as the achievements and accomplishments, that we can fully understand the importance of staying true to our direction and goals even in the most difficult of times.

Concluding Words

People should feel that history is not only about significant achievements of “great” historic figures; it can also be about how the individual lives her/his life.   It is from these stories of personal achievement and tragedy that we learn wisdom, perseverance and the commitment to walk one’s own path or direction.

The mistake that is often made with Black History Month is to limit its richness and celebration to the month of February of each year.  Instead of limiting it to 28 days of February, let’s utilize this period as a springboard in making or creating or telling our story.

Let’s use March-January to make history, February to be reflective, and then start it all over again, making history.

Black personal history and community history can be gained just from interacting with people in the neighborhood, such as teachers and mentors. The celebrated contributions and achievements often begin with small steps.

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

Ten Flashes of Light on the Journey called LIFE.

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

REPOST: Steppin’ Off Into The Future And Doing The RITE Thing (For Me!)

Happy New Year!  As we embark on a brand new 2015, we wanted to share this post from Dr. Kane regarding choosing new paths when you find yourself at the crossroads.  Enjoy!

-The Staff At Loving Me More

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Originally posted on 11/12/13.

Dear Readers,

     In the previous week’s posting of the series The Visible Man, I responded to the comments of a young African-American man who was conflicted about many things, including remaining in school, dealing with psychological abuse and what direction to take in his life.  Essentially, he was standing at the crossroads of the journey we call LIFE and questioning what to do. I can only hope that he made the decision that best suits him, as it is his future and his life.
     Recently, I have had the opportunity to review two news articles, both of which I found to be insightful as well as intriguing.  I would like to share these stories this week.
     In these articles are stories of two men who share the following characteristics:
  • African-American
  • Football athletes
  • Responding to psychological trauma
     Both men essentially stood at the “crossroads” of their respective journeys.  Both chose different directions that produced different and distinctive outcomes.  Here are their stories:
Story #1 comes from the Seattle PI (10/30/13).
     A former football player for the Oregon Ducks is very dissatisfied regarding the lack of appreciation from his fans.  He compares his life as a college athlete as to that of a slave. His story:
“I remember walking in from fall camp practice and talking to my teammates about how similar our lives were to the TV series Spartacus.  We were slaves.  We were paid enough to live, eat, and train… And nothing more.  We went out on the field, where we were broken down physically and mentally every day, only to wake up and do it again on the next. 
On the outside, spectators placed bets and objectified us.  They put us on pedestals and worshiped us for a short time, but only as long as we were winning. In the end, we were just a bunch of dumbass (racial slur) for the owners to whip, and the rich to bet on.
What I just described is a business, I know.  That’s how it works, and it is something we understand as athletes entering into the system, as (expletive) up as it is.  For many people entering that system, it’s better than what life has to offer elsewhere.  So they take it. 
But having been on the outside now, to witness this disgusting display of “support,” I know that I want no (expletive) part of it.  I will never attend a Ducks game as a spectator again.  I am disgusted by Ducks fans and I will sit back and observe from afar with high hopes for the players’ success and understanding of their sacrifice, without having to hear the spoiled woes of ignorant fans.
I will love the Ducks: my coaches, my teammates, my brothers and family.  The rest….Go (expletive) yourselves.”
     As one can see, this individual, as he is about to step off into his future, is bitter and angry about the psychological abuse he has tolerated.  Consequently, for all the ferocity of his parting shot at the Ducks’fans, they are a group that will never recognize him outside of a Ducks football jersey.   The days of adulation, jeers and glory are past for him now.   In parting, there is anger.  What will tomorrow bring for him?
Story #2 comes from the AARP Home Blog (10/30/13).
     This is a story we have heard too many times.  It tells of a professional athlete following both his moments of glory leaving the sport, falling into darkness and paying a heavy price for the fall.  Yet, the outcome or “decision” at the crossroad is different from similar stories.  It follows:
Sunoco “Stamp” Williams, who died July 8 at age 64 while taking a walk near his home, earned All-American honors at the University of Minnesota in 1967 and then went to play 12 seasons (and in three Super Bowls) as an offensive lineman in the NFL, first for the Baltimore Colts and then for the Los Angeles Rams.
All that time, Williams had another ambition: becoming a dentist.  He spent his off-seasons as a part-time dentistry student, and eventually earned a doctorate in 1978 from the University of Maryland.  When he retired from football after the 1980 season, he moved back to Minneapolis and launched a dental practice.
But Dr. Williams’ second act unexpectedly took a disastrous turn.  He began using cocaine, and was indicated for selling a small amount of the drug to a college friend who turned out to be a federal informant.  He ended up pleading guilty and served seven months in a federal prison.  ‘When something like that happens… it makes you re-examine yourself,’ he explained in a 2002 interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  ‘You have to go deep inside yourself and deal with things you don’t want to deal with.  You have to be honest with yourself.’  After his release, Dr. Williams totally rebuilt his life, not only resuming his dental practice, but becoming an exemplary citizen.  He joined a group that visited prison inmates to assist in their rehabilitation, and he became active in organizations working to revitalize Minneapolis.  In 1992, the city honored him as volunteer of the year.  In 2001, in the wake of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, Williams rushed to New York to serve on a seven-man forensic dentistry team that helped identify the bodies of the terror victims.
     Regretfully, this powerful and remarkable story concludes with a reviewer or reader sending in the following question:
“How did he keep his dental license as a convicted felon?”
Both stories are powerful and insightful.
     In story #1, the future has not been written for the former Duck football athlete.  He appears driven by anger.  It is likely that a few fans will take the opportunity to be insightful about what is being stated, while others may simply view him as being ungrateful, who got a four year athletic scholarship and now is whining about how he was “unfairly treated.”
In story #2, Dr. Williams’ life has come full circle.  His story has been written and hopefully many, excluding a few (i.e. “How did he keep his dental license as a convicted felon?”) will benefit from what he was able to achieve.
    
There is much we can learn in both stories if we allow ourselves the opportunity.   As one stands at the “Crossroads,” one can light the beacon that illuminates the path that has been chosen.
The beacon “Doing the RITE Thing” contains the following illuminations:
  • R    Recognize the behavior or action that creates or reinforces the pain/emotional wound.
  • I     Identify the behavioral change that will alleviate or respond to the pain/emotional wound.
  • T    Transform it; walk/work in the direction, allowing yourself to fully experience the emotional response.
  • E    Empower the self.  Do this for “me” and no one else.  Reinforce “me.”
     In closing, as the individual stands at the “Crossroads,” it is for that person to recognize that they have choices in which how they choose to walk the journey.  One can either hold on to the bitter fruits of the past and in doing so, allow this cancer to consume from within, or one can choose to “let go” and in doing so, seek to experience a challenging and constructive life.
“The end of one journey is the beginning of another.”
“The choice is ours.  We can continue doing the same old thing, traveling the same road.  Or we can do something new, something different… on the path less traveled.”
The journey continues……

The Year 2014: As The Door Closes, Another Era Begins

My Dear Readers,

This blog marks the culmination of my blog postings for the year of 2014. As I close out the year, I want to acknowledge the experiences that I have had walking my journey of life this past year.

In addition, I want to provide insight as to what the readership can expect in the upcoming year as Loving Me More moves forward.

My memorable 10 experiences of 2014:

  • I am grateful that throughout my travels in and outside the United States, that despite numerous contacts with various members of law enforcement, some of which were psychologically traumatic, I emerged from all of these interactions physically unharmed, and not arrested or detained.
  • I am blessed that my adult children are safe. Every night I pray for their safety with specific emphasis on my son, who is a just and good man.
  • I am thankful that I rise every morning without the dreaded notification that my son was either in police custody or dead due to an encounter with law enforcement.
  • The 30th anniversary of my marriage to my beloved Linda passed on December 11, 2014. She passed away at home two years ago.  She was kind enough to wait for me so I could come home from working my private practice so I could be with her as she took her last breath. She was always there in partnership, walking with me by my side for 28 years.  There can and will never be another. I will continue to keep our marital covenant.  In doing so, I will walk our daughter down the matrilineal aisle.  I will stand by my son as his union is blessed. I will hold our first grandchild.  Then and only then will I be free to once again to be with my Linda by her side in the kitchen, laughing and working together again.
  • In May 2014, I transitioned from my previous place of employment to working full time in my private practice. I did experience some trauma, but in retrospect, it is and was the best thing that I could have done for myself.
  • In August 2014, with the assistance of Jamian Smith and her consulting firm Arcana Solutions, I launched my third website, Loving Me More. (lovingmemore.com).  The focus of the website is both clinical and educational, exploring “the art of healthy narcissism and the fully realized self.”  The blog postings for At the Crossroads & The Visible Man have been reviewed in ten countries, on six continents, and have been translated into four languages including French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.
  • I was born “colored” in Harlem New York. In September 2014, I travelled returning to the state of Virginia, the land of my young childhood.  As a child of segregation, I attended an elementary school for colored children.  In the fourth grade, I was one of the children chosen to integrate a white school.  I spent the entire year there being “silenced”.  My return to the schools of early childhood development was the first time I stepped into the state of Virginia in 53 years. Although I left during tense times from a school with an all-white teaching staff, I returned to find that my school was now led by a principal who was a young African-American woman, leading a successful school that was diverse in both its students and teaching faculty.  I am extremely grateful for the friendship of my colleagues Dr. Paul Jordan & his wife, Barbara Jordan MA, who accompanied me on this trip and sat through what was some of the most traumatic portions of this journey.  I was born a colored boy in Harlem, New York. I returned home to Seattle WA as an African American man.
  • In October 2014, I made the decision to return to the task of obtaining my licensure as a clinical psychologist in the state of Washington. My earlier attempts to do so were overshadowed by the illness of my beloved and my commitment to provide quality care in my practice. Now that my Linda has passed on to the other side, I shall return to keeping the commitment of finishing the journey associated with my doctoral education.  I am empowered to walk this journey solo.  I expect to complete the study and examination process in July 2015.
  • In November 2014, during my attendance of a yearlong certification program in aboriginal trauma-focused therapy in Vancouver, British Columbia, my brothers of the land presented me with the gifts of the bear claw and dream catcher. I will return in January 2015 to complete the certification program as well as being honored by my peers, the “People of the Land” in a naming ceremony in which I will receive my name and hear the story that goes along with it.
  • On December 3, 2014, my daughter and I, along with another father and daughter couple had a “Daddy & Daughter Night Out” where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a waterfront seafood restaurant. It was a beautiful evening focused on two very proud African-American fathers enjoying an evening out with their very accomplished adult daughters. We concluded the night by attending the Stevie Wonder concert at the Key Arena in downtown Seattle.  He too was there with his oldest daughter, as lead singer in his group. The concert was off the chart!  It included a 40 piece band with a horn section, two groups of backup singers, and the string section of the Seattle Symphony.  The concert, which lasted past midnight was well attended, and well received by the a diverse group of attendees coming from throughout the Pacific Northwest region.
  • I am grateful for the relationships I have developed over the past year. I am saddened for the loss of those who have passed on.  I am resolved that we will meet again on the other side.
  • During this past year there has been many times I have faltered, fallen and somehow with God’s help, found empowerment within the self to get up off my knees, and not give up.  I am empowered as I step into the wind to continue the journey we call life. Despite the difficulties experienced, my human qualities remain intact.

Here is what I look forward to in my personal and professional journey, going into 2015:

  • Public misconceptions of the impact of sexual abuse and trauma upon victims and how or why they continue to hold on to the trauma for many years persists.

Beginning in 2015, Loving Me More (www.lovingmemore.com) will begin publishing 6-8 segments of the experiences of a person who was a victim of child sexual abuse.

The Journey: Bobbi’s Saga chronicles her life experiences as she moves from the status of “survivor” to “striver” of emancipation from the trauma of child sexual abuse, and will be posted the last week of each month beginning February 2015.

  • It is clearly apparent that ethnic minorities and communities of color continue to be impacted by actions resulting from racial profiling, targeting and continue to be vulnerable to ongoing and daily contact with law enforcement.

Throughout 2015, the clinical practice of Loving The Self (www.lovingtheself.com) will publish brochures relating to those topics.  The brochures will be available on http://www.lovingmemore.com and feature the following topics:

  • To Empower & Protect: SAFE Behaviors & Interactions with Law Enforcement
  • Trauma In Children and Adolescents
  • Healthy Narcissism and Loving The Self
  • Depression: Coping with the Low Down Blues
  • Rethinking Trauma: Learning To Live with Fear
  • The Unspoken Pain of Shame & Humiliation
  • Enduring Pain: Suffering In Silence
  • Dusk to Dawn: Interrupted Sleep & Nightmares
  • When Enough is Enough: The Use of Alcohol & Drugs to Reduce Stress

Concluding Words

Lastly, I want to express concerns as well as hope as we all move forward into the New Year.  We leave a year of political turmoil and civil unrest that has captivated our nation.  We have acknowledged the inability to legislate or control the feelings of fear that lie deep in the heart of the individual.

However, we can impact those feelings by working together and openly communicating our concerns as we seek to build a stronger foundation for our children.

I bid you all safe passage as we continue to travel the journey we know as life. Until the next crossroads…The journey continues.

Dr. Micheal Kane

Black Males In the Spotlight: Living Under the Bright Lights of 2014

My Dear Readers,

“Headline News: Georgia man threatens black kids at bus stop over noise: ‘This bullet has your name on it.’ ” (WTOC News 8.18.14)

As we close out 2014 and look forward to the New Year, I want to acknowledge the impact of media events pertaining to black men residing in America.  The public image of America that may be presented to the world may be of its economic wealth and beautiful scenery, but behind those scenes lies another truth: that those of us who are black males live under the microscope of America’s scrutiny.  It is through this lens that stereotypes, beliefs and perceptions are developed that color the experience of black males in America.

Racism is just as much a staple of America as apple pie and vanilla ice cream.  Its impact is both conscious and unconscious; weaved into the historical and intergenerational fabric of this country.

Racism is stressful.  The impact of racism is traumatic.  Racism not only creates false beliefs of superiority in the people who perpetrate it, but also reinforces low self-image, inferiority complexes, and other traumas for its victims as they attempt to become “acceptable.”

Where many white males are only viewed as individuals, and their actions are only considered to represent themselves, the actions of black males from childhood often are used to label the entirety of Black America.  Many of us grow up with the guidance of our parents reminding us that it only takes “one to pull the rest of us down.”

As a child, I remember getting the look— the expression that my parents gave me when I misbehaved in public that stopped me in my tracks. I remember going to the doctor’s office in my best suit, only to have to undress for my examination.  I remember my formal dining ritual while dining in public.  I was well-spoken, neatly attired and well mannered.  The message that was driven into me was simple, that I was different, so in public, I must always send the message to non-blacks that I was safe, and that I was acceptable. This message was one that continues to be repeated in many Black American households to this very day.

Although many of us refuse to admit it, like most humans, we too want to be accepted—we want to be valued and validated.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be valued as a good person, viewed as upstanding member of one’s community and validated by one’s peers, colleague or professional organization.

However, when individual accomplishments are minimized or ignored and instead, group identity is magnified, manipulated, and misused, estimations of value and validation becomes cracked and distorted.  In the interest of enlarging its viewing audience, the media feeds existing fears that eventually provide the justification for the actions of the dominant group.

Whereas the dominant group would NEVER hold its entire group responsible for the single actions of one person, it will nevertheless seek to hold the entire group of black males responsible for actions attributed to one individual.  The media is well adapted to do this—serve up distorted stories of black masculinity, inappropriate sexual behaviors and criminal acts.

Kevin Powell, in his book The Black Male Handbook, writes:

“…the negative images of Black males created by the White media makers were powerful and pervasive enough to stick in the minds of people like glue.  Over time, people of all racial backgrounds come to associate Black men with negative characteristics and negative behavior.

Black males are viewed with suspicion, and perceived as untrustworthy, violent criminals.  This perception of Black men has had a long lasting effect, and pervades the minds of millions of people around the world even to this day.”

The sensationalism, paired with the growing fear within the dominant group, has created a climate where violence against black males, regardless of age or activity, is accepted.  In just the last six months, there were the following police involved shootings and activities:

  • Chokehold Death

On July 17, a white plainclothes police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, applied what a medical examiner determined was a chokehold to an unarmed black man accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a New York City street. A videotape of the takedown of Eric Garner, who had asthma, showed him repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” while officers wrestled him to the ground. Garner died soon after, and a grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict Pantaleo, prompting daily protests and chants of “Black lives matter!”

  • Wal-Mart Shooting

On Aug. 5, a white policeman responding to a call about a man waving what appeared to be a rifle in an Ohio Wal-Mart store shot and killed John Crawford III, who was black. What Crawford was holding was an air rifle. A special grand jury decided in September the actions of Officer Sean Williams and another Beavercreek officer in the racially charged case were justified.

  • Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!

On Aug. 9, white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. Supporters of Brown’s family say he had his hands up in surrender, but Wilson has said that’s “incorrect” and he couldn’t have done anything differently in their confrontation. A grand jury decision last month to not indict Wilson sparked violent demonstrations and looting in the St. Louis suburb, and around the nation protesters have chanted, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

  • Shot obeying Instructions

On Sept. 9, a South Carolina state trooper shot Lever Jones after following his instructions of to provide his license.  The state trooper had recently been designated “fit to return to active duty” following involvement in shootout with another motorist

  • Stairway Shooting

On Nov. 20, a rookie New York Police Department officer walking with his gun drawn in a darkened stairwell of a public housing complex, shot and killed a black man leaving the building with his girlfriend. Police Commissioner William Bratton said that Akai Gurley had been “a total innocent” when he was shot and that the shooting, by an Asian officer, was under investigation.

  • Pellet Gun Shooting

On Nov. 22, a white rookie police officer, Tim Loehmann, shot and killed a 12-year-old black boy, Tamir Rice, who had been pointing a pellet gun near a Cleveland playground. Police say Tamir was told to raise his hands but reached into his waistband for the realistic-looking airsoft gun, which was missing its orange safety indicator. The shooting, captured on surveillance video, has prompted street protests, and Tamir’s family on Friday filed a lawsuit against the city, Loehmann and his partner.

  • Unarmed Drug Suspect Killed

On Dec. 1, a white police officer who authorities say mistook a pill bottle for a gun, shot and killed an unarmed black drug suspect during a struggle at a Phoenix apartment building. About 150 people upset about the killing of Rumain Brisbon marched to police headquarters, and police and prosecutors met with local civil rights leaders.

  • Fight Over Tailgate Ticket

On Dec. 4, in tiny Eutawville, South Carolina, a white former police chief was charged with murder in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man, Bernard Bailey, who had gone to Town Hall to argue about a broken-taillight ticket. Bailey and then-chief Richard Combs fought, and Combs shot Bailey twice in the chest. Combs’ lawyer accused prosecutors of taking advantage of national outrage toward police to obtain the indictment.

Furthermore, during 2014 individual behaviors and actions has been sensationalized in the media and used to demonized and create pictures of black men as a group.  These behaviors include the following:

Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

  • Jameis Winston, quarterback Florida State University had a sexual assault complaint in 2013, and was suspended for a game in 2014 for jumping on a table in student union building and shouting profanity.m Winston continues to quarterback the nationally ranked football team.
  • Bill Cosby, nationally known actor and comedian, sidestepping allegations that he drugged and sexually abused women during the early segment of his acting career. Although accusations have been made by at least 20 women Cosby continues to either deny or refuse to respond.
  • Juan McFarland, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church admits to being sexually involved with members of the congregation while having AIDS and not informing the women of his medical illness. Although voted out by the congregation, a legal battle has been undertaken due to McFarland’s refusal to step down from the pastoral role of the church.

Violence Against Women

  • Cornell McNeal of Wichita, Kansas is being held for the rape and murder of a mother of four. It is alleged that following a sexual assault, the victim was set on fire resulting in severe burns over 50% of her body.
  • Lyle Herring, the brother in law of actress Aasha Davis, was portrayed on a segment of NBC Dateline. Although Herring was convicted of second-degree murder and given a sentence of 15 years to life in prison he has refused despite pleas to provide any information regarding where the body of his victim located.
  • Ray Rice, former NFL football player, has been charged for knocking out his wife and dragging her out of an elevator. He was recently removed from long term suspension from playing in the NFL.

Cruelty & Abusive Treatment of Children

  • Adrian Peterson, NFL football player, was charged for reckless or negligent injury of a child. He is accused of beating his four year old son with a tree branch causing severe welts and bleeding on the child’s back, legs, buttocks genitals and ankles.  He is currently on long term suspension from the NFL.
  • Brian Jones of Memphis, TN is currently being held on a $200,000 bond for the prostitution of a 12-year-old girl. The victim alleges that Jones forced her to have sex against her will with several men in his apartment
  • Gregory Jean of Jonesboro, GA is being held without bail for charges of obstruction false imprisonment and child cruelty. It is alleged that Jean kidnapped his son during a custody visit in 2010.  The boy was found four years later hidden behind a false wall.

Figures in Positions of Authority

  • Al Sharpton was publicly named in April as a paid drug informant working for the FBI. He has denied this accusation.
  • The announcement in November of the death of Marion Barry, the former Mayor of Washington DC. Mayor Barry, who served from 1979 to 1991, was convicted of crack cocaine possession and served six months in federal prison before completing a political comeback by being reelected as Mayor in 1995, and serving until 1999.
  • The announcement in November of the removal of Captain Wayne Brown, commander of one of the Navy’s premier warships, the amphibious assault ship Boxer. Brown was removed for violating Navy regulations against sexual harassment and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
  • Christopher B. Epps, former Commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November regarding the privatization of prisons. Epps, one of the state’s longest serving officials, was indicated on charges of wire fraud, bribery and money laundering.

So, while these individual black males are held responsible for the behaviors of specific individuals, the dominant group is making pleas to not judge the rogue behavior of one “bad apple” as representative of the group.

One example of this is Daniel Holtzclaw, the Oklahoma City, OK police officer accused of sexually assaulting eight black women while patrolling the same community he swore to serve and protect.  Officer Holtzclaw has since been released on bond.

Concluding Remarks

Historically, police officers throughout this nation who have sworn to serve and protect their (entire) communities have consistently shown their inability to do so.  Beleaguered, feeling unappreciated and being left to fend for themselves by the dominant group, they have adopted an “us vs. them” mentality that they apply to their interactions with their communities.

It will be a while before things calm down.  Parents are concerned for the safety of their sons.  No parent wants that dreaded knock on the door or late night call from the police saying that their children have been killed.  Yet, we wait.  We hope.  We pray.  Daylight arrives.  We have made it through another day.

America is finally awakening to the fact that this isn’t, and never has been a post-racial society. Like the police, black males are feeling beleaguered, alone and are being shown that their lives are not considered to be of worth or value. We too have adopted an “us vs. them mentality,” as shown in the following headlines in the national black media:

  • Study: Police See Black Children As Being Less Innocent & Less Young than White Children (Salon 3.14.14)
  • Report: Black Males Are 21 Times More Likely to be Killed by Cops than White Ones (Think Progress 10.10.14)
  • The Village Is On Fire (The Black Star Project 12.2.14)
  • 10 Rules of Survival When A Young Black Man Is Stopped By The Police In America (The Black Star Project 12.3.14)

We respect the rule of law and order.  Yet, we will not trust the police until the lives of our children can receive the same protection for those of our complexion.

“Warming”

“Negroes, sweet and docile,

Meek, humble and kind:

Beware the day,

They change their minds”

-Langston Hughes

Until the next crossroads…The journey continues.

Dr. Micheal Kane

Telling The Truth About Sexual Assault: The Journey To Freedom

My Dear Readers,

Recently, there have been a number of news reports regarding sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby from 40 years ago.  In these allegations, sixteen women have publicly stated that Cosby, now 77 years old, sexually assaulted them with 13 of them asserting that he drugged or attempted to drug them prior to the assault.

There are some notable similarities among the alleged victims: at the time, they were young, white, without family attachments, being plied with drugs, responding to the fear that no one would believe them, and dealing with the possibility of living their lives traumatized and suffering in silence.

Now, I am not associated with the incidents.  I haven’t met the women making the allegations, nor have I ever met Bill Cosby.  However, as a mental health clinician treating victims of sexual assault, as a black man who has fought to move from “surviving to striving” in America, and as a father of two, I felt that I could not be silent on this issue.

Perspective 1: Mental Health Clinician

I recently received an email from a patient I have been seeing for the last five years. She has survived a series of repeated sexual assaults she endured in early and middle childhood by a paternal figure.

During this time this patient, who I shall call “Bobbi,” (for confidentiality purposes, this is not her real name) has learned to advocate for herself, obtain balance within, and project calmness.  In doing so, she has gained a full sense of empowerment and the ability to strive in her life, and not simply survive the traumas and the horrific acts she experienced.

In Bobbi’s email she shares the following:

“I just listened to Thomas, Jack and Benny discuss Bill Cosby and the accusations of rape.  Their lack of knowledge about women being raped surprised me.  Statements like ‘Why would a woman wait 30 years to disclose it?  One girl said she couldn’t keep silent anymore.’  Jack said, ‘The women are just doing it for the money.  I don’t understand why they waited so long.’  Benny said, ‘I believe he did it.’

“Dr. Kane, I was so tempted to say something.  I kept quiet about a rape for almost 40 years and I didn’t want money.  I didn’t want to shock them or divulge information that I have only shared with you.  The conversations discouraged me.  It reminds me of the way people think and their lack of knowledge.

“I don’t think they realize how rape affects a woman.  How it robs a person of life and joy.  They seem to think once the rape is over, the woman goes on with a normal life.

“I am going to go into a sewing room and shut the door.  This kind of foolish talk I hear sometimes is so discouraging.  I don’t think society understands the continuing pain of being raped.”

It is not for me as a mental health clinician to speak for those victimized by such traumatic experiences. I believe that Bobbi has provided a clear statement as to the difficult experience of those who have been raped and the ignorance of family members and society as a whole on this subject.

At the moment, what concerns me is Bobbi “going into a sewing room and shutting the door.” I fear that she may be retreating into a world she has fought valiantly to emerge from.

It is statements made in ignorance and the lack of understanding victims’ experiences that places Bobbi and many like her at risk of reliving the trauma of their experience.  It is in the role of therapist that we help victims move from the pit of surviving to be able to strive in the journey we call living.

Perspective 2: Black Man: From Surviving to Striving in America

One characteristic that we all share, regardless of race, is that as we are birthed into this world, we come in screaming at the top of our lungs, gasping for air with the goal of “survival.”  Hopefully, we are received into this world by loving parents and a supportive network.  No longer attached physically to our mother’s bodies, we are now “free”.

However, that’s where the commonalities stop. Where white males often take their place in the dominant society, black males continue as in birth to scream either at the top of their lungs or in silence to survive in a society where they are for the majority, viewed with suspicion, uneasiness, and with caution.

As black males go through childhood, adolescence and adulthood, they learn a reality that will follow them to their deaths:

Every breath you take

Every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take

I’ll be watching you.

Every single day

Every word you say

Every game you play, every night you stay

I’ll be watching you.

-Every Breath You Take by The Police (1983).   

Life under the microscope, although inequitable and frustrating, is the norm for black males in America. Gossip, innuendos, whispers, stereotyping, rumors, outright lies, and half-truths make black males susceptible and vulnerable to attack, especially from a dominant majority who, due to intergenerational transference of conscious and unconscious racism, commit actions which destroys careers, devastates one’s professional/personal standing in the community, or devalues the individual psychologically.

The most valuable asset that a black man has is his reputation. It is his honor. It speaks for him. If it is seriously questioned, his life and the wellbeing of his family may be in jeopardy.  It is normal that at times, one’s reputation can take a hit, or be subjected to jokes, but when there are major allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior,” regardless of the longevity or timeline of such allegations, a response is most definitely required. As a result, it is unacceptable for Bill Cosby, when provided the opportunity to respond publicly, to simply refuse to respond.  Instead, he has chosen to allow his attorneys to address the “innuendos.”  John P. Schmitt, one of these attorneys, recently said:

“Over the past several weeks, decade old discredited allegations against Mr. Crosby have resurfaced.  The fact that they have been repeated does not make them true.”

(CNN 11.20.14)

So, Bill Cosby refuses to personally respond, but he is willing to send in his legal team to respond on his behalf?  Why? It’s not that he is incapable of speaking on his own behalf.  This is a man who has earned a doctorate in education and is a master at performing in front of the camera.  So Bill, the question is this: as you maintain your innocence, why won’t you speak to us?

Perspective Three: Fatherhood: Parenting What You Preach

For the last two decades, Bill Cosby has called upon those of us in the African-American community to take responsibility for ourselves and serve as leaders, teachers and models for our children. For four or more decades, Bill Cosby’s image has been of America’s jovial, pudding-loving patriarch whose family-friendly brand of comedy has tickled generations of viewers.

Today that image has been tarnished as allegations continue to come forth.  The African-American community, for the most part, has been silent.  While publicly, a variety of support continues to exist, privately, people are talking and wondering.

Within the psychological self, it is natural to feel confused as to what is being said about Bill Cosby. However, if we really want to be honest with ourselves, then we would want to acknowledge that we are actually not confused at all, but conflicted.  We are struggling to reconcile the Bill Cosby we know of today versus the Bill Cosby of 40-50 years ago that is being portrayed in the allegations.  Is he the same person? Perhaps. He’s not perfect.  He is human and therefore fallible.   He can, and like the rest of us, does make mistakes. The real question is this: is he willing to take ownership and responsibility for actions he may have committed many years ago?

Concluding Words

Bill Cosby’s reputation has been tarnished.  His legacy, despite spending millions of dollars in legal fees and public relations costs, will forever be remembered in the context of these sexual allegations, and the questions remain:

  • Have 17 vindictive, angry women, feeling rejected and seeking revenge, sought to discredit Bill Cosby?
  • Is a hostile media industry determined to take down a hard working black man?
  • Why did these women wait for decades to bring these allegations public?

As a psychotherapist who specializes in working with survivors of sexual trauma and other forms of abuses, I choose to respond to the third question. These women did not come forward for money, or publicity, or fame.  They came forward to set themselves free from a burden that was never theirs to carry.  They no longer have to live in fear of what they experienced.  They are now free to live with their fear and continue to live their lives.

Despite what individuals, communities or the greater society choose to believe, these women are by their actions empowered and now able to let go of the past, live in the present and look forward to the future. They are free, and can breathe the fresh air.

“Free at last, Free at last.  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues.

Conceptualizing Respect : A Call For Assistance

My Dear Readers,

      Wow! In last week’s “At The Crossroads” posting, I invited Mia Smith from RevolutionsDaughter.com to respond to my posting The New Basic Skills in America: The 3Rs: Rage, Ravage & Rioting in Ferguson,  and I was taken to the woodshed! That was quite a spanking!

     In her posting Ferguson and the REAL 3R’s: Racism, Reductionism and Revulsion, Mia Smith did a phenomenal job in expressing her viewpoints, garnering 586 views, the highest for a single entry in the history of this blog. 

     The readership and the writings reflect the caliber of responsiveness this blog is seeking to attain.  Although I may not agree with all of her points, Mia’s perspective represents a younger generation that is enthusiastic and willing to not only speak out on the critical issues affecting this nation, but able to accept the reins of leadership that will eventually be passed on by the generation that precedes hers. Please stay tuned.  You will most definitely hear more from Mia and other voices as guest bloggers for Loving Me More.

     In that spirit, I wanted to explore a recent tragedy that illuminates some of Mia’s points and touched me deeply.

     On August 21, 2014, a verbal dispute turned deadly when an individual opened fire with a pistol, killing two employees of a local gas station. It is alleged that the verbal dispute began over the haphazard manner in which the gunman had parked his car as he sought to get gas.  In doing so he had prevented other customers from being able to obtain gas as well.

     There are racial connotations associated with the shooting.  The shooter is black and alleges that he was called racial slurs.  He adds that the “fight” was one over “disrespect”.  Furthermore, the assailant alleges that he was protecting his friend and was forced to shoot the two men.  the Seattle Times:

“Russell, who identified his friend only as “Sac,” said that if he hadn’t shot the men, his friend’s family would have killed him for failing to stand up for him.’”

     It would too easy to dismiss this as “insane” that one individual could be so callous and place such little value on human life. This is more than “just another shooting”. 

     With this in mind, I have invited Mr. Dre Franklin, a community activist and organizer, to help me explore the concept of respect.

My Dear Readers, a note:

     Please keep in mind that the questions and responses shared here are not intended to justify the actions of one individual who took the lives of two innocent others.  It is the intent of this writing to enhance our understanding about respect and disrespect may be conceptualized or perceived by others.

      Dre Franklin was born and raised in Seattle and has been a community/organizer for 10 years. He is the founder and current member of the executive leadership team for Brothers United in Leadership Development (B.U.I.L.D.), a community based grassroots organization focused on the empowerment of young African-American males.

     The mission statement of the organization is “Brothers united in leadership development affecting real change in our community.”  Its vision is “Black men will be self empowered to be leaders and mentors in their community and effect positive change by instituting pride, hope, and perseverance in black men.

KANE: What is your perception of the individual accused of this crime?

FRANKLIN: First of all, I want to be clear that that I am not speaking for any group, community or anyone else.  I am here today expressing my opinion.  With that understanding I perceived that the individual who chose the tragic actions taken might be a person who views himself as being disenfranchised.

When you are dealing with people who are disenfranchised, they want to be seen.  They are overwhelmed by systems and institutions.  Everybody wants to be seen and the only way to get seem sometimes is from negative behavior.

For some this is not negative behavior because this is the way they have been socialized.  So as it is socialization it becomes normalized or specifically, this is the way they view and live their lives.  Let’s talk about being socialized; in being socialized, one is being impacted through the media, institutions, peers, family and one’s social and physical environments.   When all of these various entities impact some individuals, telling them how to act, the occurring behaviors become normalized.

KANE: Where does the concept of disrespect/respect come from?  It can’t just come from the parents, so it seems that it comes from the peers in the street- but then where do they get it?

FRANKLIN: The concept of being disrespected can be viewed in anything in human interaction and behavior.  For example a person can “look” at a person wrong or say the wrong thing.   When a person does not have anything to lose or doesn’t care about himself he is not going to care about anybody else.

It is not only about what disrespect is, it is also the outcome of disrespect.  Basically, what may seem trivial to most maybe a situation of life or death for others.

Some issues of respect may have to more to do with how one is socialized; one is being impacted through the media, institutions, peers, family and one’s social and physical environments and all of these can be passed down intergenerational.

Think to yourself for a few seconds. What does the United States of America do if someone disrespects them (i.e. someone attacks them or a perceived attack)?  They attack back with no remorse. This is one example of how socialization works. People see this and learn that’s how you deal with your problems.

KANE: Why is violence in “the street life” more respected or revered than other qualities of a person such as intelligence and perseverance?

FRANKLIN: I don’t necessary believe that as being true.  A lot of times, the most successful people in the street life are very intelligent and they get respect without having to use violence.   Now there is a difference between respect and fear and sometimes when in the streets, those two concepts i.e. fear and respect can get confused whereas the question becomes one of “do I fear you or do I respect you?”

This is also a learned behavior (police, department of corrections, public schools etc all use fear under the vial of respect). In fact as a black man I always know that I can lose my life from violence if I’m perceived to be disrespectful to any of the above. Losing one’s life does not always mean death.  Losing one’s life can also mean ending up in prison, being mis-educated or existing in life that is addicted to either drugs and/or alcohol. 

 

KANE:  Let us assume that at the root of self-validation is the ability to trust oneself, and to trust the opinions you hold for your life are right for you.  At what point do these young men trade their own opinion for those of gangs and the streets?  Specifically how can this be applied in the recent shooting of the two unarmed men at the gas station?

FRANKLIN: The real answer comes from how one feels about him versus the normalization of caring what others think about us.  In the gas station shooting it may have been he felt he had been disrespected and he was fearful that if he allowed himself to be disrespected, his peers would harm him in some way. Although, there is no clear statement or indication of this is true, as it is his perception, it also becomes his reality. When you’re told that black men react a certain way over and over and over again along with you responding the way you have been trained to do then you have been effectively socialized. 

KANE: What can the older generation of black people (men and women) do to increase the ability of young people to trust themselves over the opinions of the crowds they run with?

FRANKLIN: A lot of the behaviors being enacted is “learned behavior,” the older generation has not done well in working together as in “community.”  Furthermore they must stop being fearful of the younger generation who are in reality, their children, grandchildren or the young adolescent next door. 

As one observes the infrastructure of most black communities, we are a community of consumers, having minimal ownership or economic power.  The older generation has to do better in expanding economic development as well as opportunities for its young people.

Regarding political, economic or family leadership, the older generation has failed in “succession planning” or preparing to pass the mandate of leadership to the younger generation.

The older generation must want to readdress their priorities such as the current focus on materialism and replanting their focus on the investing in their young’s persons’ lives i.e. time, education, parenting and financial.

Finally, the older generation must want to take ownership of their failures, instead of blaming such failures on their young people.  For example, 70% of African-American households do not have an adult male figure involved.  This statistic although having overwhelming implications for young people, simply cannot put forth to rest on the shoulders of the younger generation.  The older generation must want to accept ownership and in doing so work towards change.

Understanding we all have been socialized to not work together and to point the finger at each other instead of uplifting one another (this holds true for every generation).

KANE: How can the community increase the sense of security for these young men?  How can these young men work to where they do not resort to violence against each other?

FRANKLIN: If the older generation within the African-American community is willing to do begin the process of what I suggested in my previous response, they would be able to assist these young men from initially self destructive behavior which includes violence, mis-education, incarceration, destructive interpersonal and martial relationships as well as self abuse i.e. self medicating via drugs and alcohol. We have to come together as a community not as a program or a workshop!

KANE:  What can the older generation do to assist the younger generation in building self-esteem, ownership, and a sense of pride and accountability?

FRANKLIN: I would return to my earlier response that being the older generation must want to stop being fearful of the younger generation.  This would mean developing dialogue and interactions in those such as “youth on the streets” who they perceived as not being safe. Have real life and manfully relationships with our youth don’t just do it when you’re being paid as part of your job or at a once a year event. The youth know when it is real and when it’s not!

It takes all of us to see and make the change we want.  It is not a “we versus them”.  If any part of our community is failing then we are all failing.

 

Concluding Words

     The words of Mr. Franklin have given me a lot to process.   As I reflect on this tragedy, I am aware of the impact it has had on a range of people throughout the immediate area and around the nation.  Many of us are left with many questions.

     Although the dialogue with Mr. Franklin can provide the readers and myself a glimpse into the concepts of respect, disrespect and its impact on those who may perceived themselves as being disenfranchised, there can be no justification for the actions taken. 

     Respect?  Disrespect?  There are allegations that racial slurs were thrown at the shooter.  If true, then such behaviors are inexcusable for which a proper remedy can be sought.   If we are to pride ourselves as a moral and just society with high spiritual values then we must want to honor one of God’s most sacred commandants; “Thou shall not kill.”

      The shooter stood “at the crossroads,” and chose a path that will forever impact not only his life and the lives of others.   It is truly unfortunate that he chose death over life.  He could have walked away.  He could have let it go.  However, he would say he could not do so and therefore as a society and community we all mourn the losses.

In reviewing the Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life, there is the following: 

“A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue with direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.”

    A huge gulf still exists between the older and younger generation within the African-American community. It is clearly evident that there is work within our community to do, assuming we want this to change.

      In closure, Mr. Franklin leaves the following words that deserve the workings of the Five R’s of Relief (respite, reaction, reflection, response and reevaluation):

“If the young generation can’t see tomorrow, they won’t much care about what happens today.”      

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues.

Uncovering, Recovering and Discovering: The Morally Right Thing to Do

My Dear Readers,

     It’s time that I bring closure to these writings regarding the mob action in Detroit MI. As I bring this to closure, I seek to honor the feelings that lay deep within me.

     I have really questioned myself regarding my outrage about this incident, and I continue to be confronted with silence—the same silence that has stymied the police, prosecutors and the judiciary. The same silence of the community that has been reluctant to assist in the identification of the remaining assailants so they can be held responsible for their criminal actions.

     As I stood at the crossroads, utilizing the re-evaluation phase of the Five Rs of Relief model,  I began asking myself the following questions:

  • Have I ever been in a situation where I felt conflicted in my decision to do the right thing?
  • What was this troublesome feeling laying within my psychological self about doing the morally right thing”?
  • How would I feel about myself for “not doing the morally right thing”?

      And then the moment of awakening arrived! Standing there, “at the crossroads:” I began to reflect on an experience I had:

     33 years ago, I worked for one of the suburban counties surrounding the city of Seattle during the summer break from graduate school. One day, I witnessed an accident involving multiple cars.  My office was across the driveway from the local police department, so I went to the front desk of the police department and informed the desk officer of what I had observed.

     The police officer immediately rose from his seat and came out of the office. Standing directly in front of me, he demanded to know what I had to do with it.  I replied that I’d witnessed the accident and was simply reporting what I had observed.   As I turned to leave, I watched him continue to eye me suspiciously.

     When I returned to my office, it dawned on me as I looked at my surroundings, that I was a young black man, working a summer job in a white community in which I did not know any of the residents. And, I’d just had a rather uncomfortable encounter with a white police officer.  

     A chill went down my spine as I realized that in attempting to do the “morally right thing,” I’d placed myself in a position where I could be viewed as a person at fault for the vehicle accident I witnessed, and that the basis of that suspicion was due to my skin color and ethnicity—the fact that I am African-American. 

     I became fearful.  I realized that it was not too late for the police officer to decide to detain me, so I quickly retreated to the safety of Seattle, where there were other people who looked like me.  

      Upon seeing the image of the Space Needle, I finally relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief.  I chided myself for being stupid for putting myself at risk in my attempt to do the “morally right thing,” and I swore to myself that I would NEVER, NEVER do that again.   

     Today, I recall the relief that flooded me as well as the anger at myself for the danger I’d placed myself in. Given that experience, I want YOU, THE READER, to consider the experience I just stated.

  • Was I being paranoid?
  • Was I being oversensitive?
  • Was I overreacting?
  • Was I ever at risk at injury?
  • WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT TIME?

     I wonder what was going through the mind of the white motorist when following the accident:

  • He found himself in a community in which no one resembled him:
  • He was being surrounded by an angry mob
  • He was saying he was sorry and pleading for his life
  • The members of the crowd of 100 either stood by in silence or cheered on the mob.
  • After having experienced being severely beaten, what would he do the next time should he be in a same or similar situation?
  • If you had been the motorist, what would YOU have done?

     Being human, we respond to the experiences and events that have impacted our lives.  I cannot speak for the white motorist, nor can I speak for African-American people.  I can only speak for myself.   

      There will be those who will believe that unlike the white motorist, I was never in danger.  Consequently, there may be an unwillingness to make a reasonable comparison to these two very different events. 

     Yet in both situations, there is a journey, and from that journey came an experience. And, experiences often form the foundation of our belief systems, and in this case, my belief system regarding interaction with law enforcement.

     I will certainly admit that during that incident 33 years ago, I lived in fear of the police, a fear that was born when I was 8 years old.

     I grew up during turbulent times, including the stressful 60’s and the civil rights movement.  I have lived in racially segregated communities.  I was raised during a time that “strange fruit,” was growing bountifully throughout the Southern and Midwestern United States. For those unfamiliar, Strange Fruit was a song made famous by the jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday for its lyrical depiction of the mob inspired lynching of black people that occurred in this era.

     I have experienced race riots.  I remember being locked down in my community when the Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated and the resulting burning, rioting and turmoil in major cities across the country.

     I have come to realize that my community, in its desire to obtain a better life for those generations to follow, willingly sacrificed a generation in order to achieve the goals.  It was in school that I truly learned the meaning of the expression “the ends justify the means.”  I learned that if a goal is morally important enough, then any method of achieving it is acceptable.

     So, day after day, African-American parents sent their children to what was, in many cases, a school environment that was openly or covertly hostile to integration, while the adults suffered the same indignities at restaurants, public drinking fountains, and other establishments.   And yes, at the end of the struggle, we were successful. We succeeded in achieving our goals of integration and the re-definition of our ethnic identity.  Victories had occurred in the areas of housing, education, military service and employment, among others. 

     But what about the children?  What had they observed?  How were they impacted?  As a child at the age of eight years old, I remember the pastor leading us in singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” as if to prepare us for the very real battle we were going to wage.  The first verse goes as follows:

“Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war

With the cross of Jesus going on before

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

Forward into battle see His banners go!”

     And off to war we went.

     We made our parents and community proud.  We had faith in our leadership, clergy and parents. We kept our faith, but we also kept quiet. We were often traumatized by what we saw and endured. On the outside we looked good and yet on the inside, those of us, who were emotionally and psychologically wounded, did the best we could as we “suffered in silence.”

    In my own “Journey of Self Discovery,” I have come to realize that life is really about “uncovering, recovering and discovering its true essence and meaning. Specifically, I seek to uncover the layers of emotional and psychological scarring that may have limited my life; advocate towards healing and recovery from the wounding and finally work towards the discovery of my true self and living the fullness of my life and what it has to offer.

      Many of us, “the children of segregation,” experience this trauma again in modern life when faced with all too familiar circumstances.    For me, my major concern was an abiding fear of the police and German Shepherd Dogs.

     As a therapy patient, I would often come across therapists who were just as unfamiliar with the specific issues present within my community’s history as they were with my specific issues. These well-meaning, but sometimes patronizing mental health professionals told me that I had a “phobia,” an extreme and irrational fear of the police–, and that I should just take some pills, relax, and in time, I would just “get over the fear.”   

      I never got over my fear.  In fact, as I continue to move on in life, as I saw that I was continuously being viewed as a suspect by police officers, my fear only increased.  It was only while writing my dissertation on complex trauma under the direction of the internationally acclaimed trauma expert and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Brown that I learned that my fears were not phobias and were instead normal reactions to racism in the form of stereotyping and racial profiling. 

     Furthermore, I was able to learn and appreciate that my reactions to the police were not based on paranoia, but a vigilance I developed, and that it was again, normal given my experiences.

     Returning to the incident in Detroit, I believe the white motorist was also a victim of racism in the form of stereotyping and racial profiling.  In stopping to help the child, he did so because he felt it was the morally right thing to do.  

     His action speaks loudly, where the shame of the crowd of the 100, the political leaders, civic activists and civil right organizations continues to be hidden in silence. 

Concluding Words

     In acknowledging the end of this journey and the beginning of another, I want to reiterate that fear is neither good nor bad.  It is neither black nor white.

     Fear is simply an emotion that can be accompanied by a range of other emotions.  Fear is here.  FOREVER. 

     I have lived the earlier part of my life “in fear.”  The sadness that remains true is that the consequence to living in fear is not to live, but to just exist.  

     That portion of my life cannot be returned to me.  However I can uncover the scarring, recover or heal the wounds and in doing so, discover how to live a full, purposeful and meaningful life. 

     Many years ago I chided myself for placing myself at risk in reporting to the police my observance of a motor vehicle accident. I hope that should another opportunity come along in which I observe another motor vehicle accident, that I will do as the white motorist did in Detroit: the morally right thing. 

     Fear is here.  Forever. Live In Fear or With Fear.  You Choose….  

Until the next crossroads….  The journey continues….