Fear Is Knocking At Your Door: The Beat Goes On

My Dear Readers,

I must admit that at first I didn’t get it. Like most simple law abiding folks, I got caught up with what I felt was the inadequacy of the justice system.  I was wrong.  The problem is neither the justice system nor the jurist overseeing the trial.  The problem lies within us. WE, the PEOPLE.

I am speaking about the recent judicial decisions and comments that were handed down in Detroit MI (Wayne County 3rd Judicial Circuit) regarding the brutal beating of an innocent motorist by a mob of black adult and juvenile males.

I also realize I am not the only one who doesn’t understand the rationale of the judicial bench.

The following factors are not disputed:

  • There was a vehicle-pedestrian accident in which a white motorist struck a 10 year old child who darted off the curb into traffic.
  • The motorist immediately stopped his vehicle and sought to provide assistance to the child.
  • The motorist was immediately attacked by a group of 12-20 black males.
  • A group of 100 onlookers stood by observing, taking no action.
  • The attack was finally halted when a black woman, a retired nurse carrying a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun, displayed the weapon and ordering the mob to desist.
  • Although 100 bystanders (all black) observed the assault, only three witnesses came forward to assist with the investigation thus limiting the numbers arrested to the four adults and one juvenile being charged in the case.

It was clear to me that given the information presented, the physical assault and mob action were racially motivated.   This was affirmed during the arraignment process when all five individuals where charged with assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm and ethnic intimidation.

As a result of the assault, the motorist, Mr. Steve Utash, was in a medically induced coma for 10 days, and has suffered brain damage that has severely reduced his ability to physically function as well as financially provide for his family.

Following victim impact statements by the victim’s family including the fact that Mr. Utash was pleading for his life, the total sentencing for all five individuals amounts to 7.6 years, probation and drug testing.

Many do not feel that the punishment received fits the crime.  The sad irony is that the victim will spend more time recuperating from the attack than the collective amount of time spent in jail for the perpetrators.

And worse,  the presiding judge’s statement that the criminal action of one of the defendants was due to “not having a father in his life that would have beat the hell out of him” was a disservice in the sentencing aspect of the judicial process. In response, Rochelle Riley, an African-American columnist for the Detroit Free Press, wrote:

“We watch the system work.  We watched—and waited for justice.  We’re still waiting.”

Charlie LeDuff, another African-American  columnist who writes for the New York Times, commented:

“Where are the old-school civil rights advocates who usually spoke out against such beatings?  Where was Reverend Al?  Why did it take Jesse Jackson almost two weeks to say something?  And nothing from President Obama.  Rage and hopelessness are no excuses here.  All Detroit, black or white, noticed the silence.”

We ALL, across the nation, noticed the silence.

It may be that throughout this nation, leadership, regardless of color or ethnicity, are silent and hopeful that the incident in Detroit will quietly go away.  It is very likely that African-Americans throughout the nation were just as upset as White Americans regarding the beating of an innocent motorist.  So why are we all silent?

It is just as likely that African-Americans throughout the nation are just as upset as White Americans regarding the lack of credibility in the sentencing of the five defendants. So why are we all silent?

We actively voiced our outrage over what happened in Jasper, TX incident in which a black man was decapitated and killed in an incident that was clearly racist.  Why do we remain silent now a situation in which an innocent white motorist was almost beaten to death and left with brain damage and now the inability to provide for his family?

In the New York Times, LeDuff records a conversation he had with three black men in the Detroit neighborhood where the mob attack:

“They called Mr. Utash an honorable man for stopping to help when too many people in this city don’t.  They mocked the silence of civic leaders.  They know the score.  They’re Americans.  And they also know that we can’t expect those leaders to solve this riddle of ours called race.”

They know the score.” Interesting. “They’re Americans.”  Interesting.   And most telling:

And they also know that we can’t expect those leaders to solve this riddle of ours called race.

Now let’s multiply that throughout the nation:

  • WE know the score.
  • WE are Americans.
  • And WE also know that WE can’t expect those leaders to solve this riddle of OURS called RACE.

Last week, I turned 61 years old. I spent a significant part of my youth growing up in the southern United States, during the time when segregation was legal.  I sat in the back of the bus, used facilities designated for “colored only” and attended segregated schools.

During my youth, I was unwittingly used as a tool to desegregate white-only schools.  I, along with countless other “colored” children, were directed by our political leaders, clergy and parents to endure traumatic events as we simply sought to achieve a quality education. We were removed from a warm, caring environment within an economically disadvantaged and low functioning school for colored children and placed in strange, socially distanced and hostile environments in which we were often the only black children in our classes. We were essentially sacrificed for the cause of integration.

I do not fault our parents, as I understand that they wanted more for our generation than they had been forced to endure within theirs. Needless to say, the experiences I had for the next two years were traumatizing.   There was no counseling offered by the school and no discussion at home as to what we endured.

What have we learned today from this social experience called integration?  Our children can ride at the back of the bus if they choose to (I personally do not, as it brings up painful memories.)   Our schools are integrated.  So are the restaurants and restrooms.

Racial strife and racial tension remains a major division among us today.  I have learned, as many other Americans have,  that you can pass legislation to direct and control human behavior.  However, no law can legislate what lies deep within the “psychological self.”

In our desire to distance ourselves from the pain, rage, and powerlessness that surrounds us, many of us close our eyes, silence our voices and stick our heads in the sand, hoping  that incidents like the ones in Jasper, TX and Detroit, MI will not happen “in my town, my city or my backyard.”

Integration did not solve the problems of the poor and disenfranchised.  In fact, crime is a major factor in ten cites with large ethnic minority populations.  So what do we learn from the mob action and resulting judicial actions in Detroit?

  • We learn that the judiciary continues to be inadequate in the administration of justice when race and ethnicity are called into play.
  • We learn that our leadership, regardless of color, will remain silent and hope that the problem will go away.
  • We learn that law enforcement and criminal prosecutions may be lacking in black communities because of the lack of citizen cooperation with ongoing investigations.
  • We learn of the frustrations of law abiding citizens of such communities seeking the same protection that is offered to other communities.
  • We learn that the lack of fathering can be utilized as a justification to minimize responsibility for criminal acts.
  • We learn that rage is a powerful and serious problem.  Not only in Detroit but also as in other cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Baltimore and Chicago.  It was in these cities that 82 people were shot within 84 hours of the most recent July Fourth weekend.
  • Most importantly, we learn to reinforce living in FEAR of each other

It has always been my belief that FEAR is simply another emotion.  It is neither good nor bad.  The issue is how we as people utilize fear.  We can continue to use it as a weapon, as it has been in this situation,  reinforcing our internal demands to live in fear of each other and therefore maintaining racial strife. Or, we as a society can come together and learn to live with fear and not in fear.

Fear is here.  Forever.  The fear that lives in Detroit also lives in cities throughout the country.  It is for us to choose how we respond to it.  In Fear or With Fear.

I didn’t get it at first, but I do now.  Rochelle Riley illustrates my journey to this point perfectly.

“…we don’t talk about rage until it presents itself or hurts someone. And rage has no place in the courtroom where Steve Utash and his family hoped for justice after he was nearly killed on an east side street.

Until we can ensure that the next person who stops regardless of their race, won’t face a pummeling squad, then no one is going to stop, no one’s going to help, no one is going to care. And the beat goes on.”

I get it now.  I truly get it.

To the Honorable James Callahan, Judge, Wayne County Superior Court, 3rd Judicial Circuit

Dear Sir,

I was WRONG.  I extend my sincere apologies to you.

I will continue to oppose your sentiment that the young man you sentenced “needed a dad, someone to beat the hell out of him when he made a mistake,” as it can be used to endorse violence as a means to prevent violence.  Instead, I continue to believe that advocating for violence as a response to violence will only create further violence.  In the end, we become victims who live in constant fear of each other.

However, it is clear that you are being used as the scapegoat or more specifically “left holding the empty bag”.  Our leadership, be it black or white, stands silently on the sidelines while you and the judiciary take the brunt of the hits from the media and the public.

 

I get it now.  I truly get it.  WE the PEOPLE can continue pointing the finger at each other or we can choose to accept responsibility and work for change in how we relate and interact with each other.  In fear or with fear.  We can choose.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. MSW CTS LICSW

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

 

Advocating For A Beatdown: Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Right

My Dear Readers,

 

In the 5.4.14 post “Another Consequence of Racial Hatred,” I responded to an incident where a group of black men physically attacked a white motorist who was aiding a black child he had struck as the child was crossing the street. The attack, observed by as many as 100 onlookers, was halted when an elderly black woman intervened and put the motorist in a coma that he remains in today.

 

The media carried this incident across the country and the world, drawing comparisons to an incident in Jasper, TX when three white males, two of which were known to be white supremacists, murdered James Byrd Jr, a black man, by dragging him behind a pickup truck for three miles, resulting in his decapitation and death. The ensuing outcry from that case resulted in two of the men receiving death sentences, and the third was sentenced to life imprisonment.

I had the same expectations for justice as many others following the assault of the white motorist in Detroit, MI.  However, now that the legal proceedings have concluded, I am left confused and bewildered by the messages of the judge, who spoke not only for the “rule of law,” but also for the expectations of a “moral and just society.”

Here is where my confusion and bewilderment lies: one of the males involved in the attack was a juvenile.   The other three were adult males who (justifiably) received prison sentences for their roles in the racially motivated and unprovoked attack.

Upon the sentencing for Latrez Cummings, who by then had turned 19 years old and was being sentenced as an adult, the judge sentenced him to six months in jail.  Six months in jail for an unprovoked attack that left the motorist in a coma and struggling to survive?

One could assume that the lesser sentence was due to his status as a juvenile at the time of the criminal act. Okay. That would make sense to focus on rehabilitation and not punishment. The others, being adults, are fully accountable and are to be held to the consequences of their actions.

What I find shocking, highly questionable and totally unacceptable are the comments made by the judge during the sentencing phase.

The Associated Press (7/17/14) reported that Wayne County Judge James Callahan, in responding to Cummings’ statement of not having a father figure in his life, stated:

“You needed a dad, someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake, as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else.”

What?  Is he serious?  Are we on another planet?  Our society is demanding accountability, and the judge is telling this young man that he needed a father to beat the hell out of him to keep the child from doing it to someone else?

But it doesn’t stop there.  As the prosecutor openly objects to a sentence in which she describes as being “too light,” she adds:

“There are many young black men who were raised without a father but haven’t committed crimes.”

Judge Callahan, who is white, was obviously offended by her remark.  He replied:

“Did I ever use the term “black”? It does not matter if the person is black, white, yellow or red.”

So, if color is not the issue, does this mean that all young men need their fathers to “beat the hell out of them?”  Is this the “rule of law” and the expectation of a moral and just society? As a father, am I expected to do this?

My confusion and bewilderment aside, as a professional, as a person and as a father, I am writing the following OPEN LETTER to Judge Callahan:

To the Honorable James Callahan:

 

Dear Sir,

Respectfully, you are WRONG.  You suggest by your words that wrongful behavior must be used to prevent wrongful behavior, and that is a harmful message to send to society.

Granted, our citizenry was psychologically wounded by this attack.  The time of the sentencing was supposed to be a moment for healing of the wounds caused by racial strife.

However, the message that you provided not only serves to encourage more violence, but also serves to denigrate thousands of young males being raised in single parent homes who have not turned to violence as a means of expression.

You may have a lifestyle or live in a space where color and race are not factors, but the reality is that many of us have to respond to the issues of race and color every day.  As African American men, we respond to (and endure with indignation) spirit-wounding interactions on a daily basis just from hailing taxis, riding on crowded elevators and other simple acts when interacting with others in the public domain.

Your comments not only reinforce the concept of violence as a just and fair punishment for a slight, but also heightens FEAR, which often leads to more violence. Consider this: what will be on the mind of the next white motorist who has to contend with the legal and moral dilemma of stopping to care for another person following an accident while riding through a residential community comprised of people who are racially or ethnically different?  Do they stop and risk their safety?  What is the right thing to do?

Privilege and the good life allows individuals like yourself to wade in the legal waters with opinions that will impact the lives of others for many years to come.  What is sad, however, is that you truly do not understand the realities facing our psychologically wounded brethren as well as this missed opportunity to heal those who could have benefitted from prudent words and actions.

Judge Callahan, shame on you. Violence can never be the answer or tool for effective discipline for our children regardless of gender. In a moral and just society, it is essential that we identify alternative ways to communicate restraint and other such skills without the use of violence.

Just for a moment, consider the type of person who is raised with violence as his foundation.  What type of spouse will he become? How will conflict be resolved in spousal relationships?   Does one now add the term fear into the martial contract or vows?

Sir, this is not the type of society that I seek to leave for my children.  I call upon all men and women regardless of race, color or ethnicity to reject the reasoning that you have handed down from the judicial bench.

Your comments deepen the emotional wounds and diminish the good works of many of your judicial colleagues around this nation.  Truly, your words do not represent their beliefs or their oath of service to their communities.

One particular jurist, the Honorable LeRoy McCullough, Judge, King County Superior Court (Seattle, WA) is well known and respected by local citizens as well as within the legal community.   Judge McCullough has accepted it as his responsibility to serve as a role model from the judicial bench, church and community activities.

Judge McCullough has, on numerous occasions, spoken to youth, particularly young men of diverse ethnic communities, and offered guidance, role modeling and understanding as to the expectations of citizenry in a moral and just society.

One day Judge McCullough and I will have the opportunity to sit in fellowship and discuss your words.  The humanness of the error will be acknowledged, lessons will be learned, and as we conclude, the two of us will continue to honor our work and the passion of service to our communities.

Another missed opportunity.  What can we learn and take away from this?  To advocate for violence to prevent violence will only serve to achieve further violence.  In the end, we become victims living in fear of each other.

Let us stand at the crossroads and have the willingness to forsake violence and chose a different direction.

Without the rule of law, we live in a society bent on chaos.  As you sit on the judicial bench, please weigh your words carefully and serve to model the behavior that is desired in a moral and just society.

Respectfully,

Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. MSW, CTS LICSW

 

Until the next crossroads.  The journey continues…

Fear Of The Unknown: Walking The Same Road And Expecting A Different Outcome

Where, o where, have the black men gone? O where, o where can they be?

     Answer:  According to the Sentencing Project, a Washington D.C. based group that advocates for sentencing reform, one in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males.  The advocacy group adds:
“Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested.  Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.”
   Now, the problem becomes enlarged when the groups involved play “the blame/shame game.”  This is where one group, the majority (whites) blames the minority group (African-Americans) for having higher crime rates while the minority blames the majority for institutionalized racism within the criminal justice system.
The second part of this game is where both groups become so immersed (submerged) and enmeshed (entangled) in feelings of self-imposed shame.   In doing so, both groups become unavailable to work towards resolution of the identified problems.
To add specifics to this issue, the Sentencing Project reports the following;
  • Black youth were arrested at twice the rate of white youth for drug offenses between the years 1980-2010.  However, a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2012 found that white students were slightly more likely to have abused illegal drugs within the past month than black students of similar age.
  • In a US Department of Justice study on the 1980s “war on drugs”, it was reported that the country’s population of incarcerated drug users soared from 42,000 in 1980 to nearly 500,000 in 2007.  African-Americans constitute about 13% of drug users, yet they make up about 46% of those convicted for drug use.
  • Because African-Americans are generally more likely to be poor than whites, they are more likely to rely on court-appointed public defenders who work for agencies that are underfunded and understaffed.  In 2012, according to the US Government Accounting Office, 70% of these agencies reported that they are struggling to come up with funding needed to provide adequate legal defense for poor people.
     There are two issues that are at the foundation of the increasing numbers of African-American men being involved within the criminal justice and therefore incarcerated in either the correction or penal system.  One issue as identified by the Sentencing Project is “police activity.”  Speaking directly regarding “racial profiling”, the Sentencing Project report states:
“Blacks are also far more likely than whites to be stopped by the police while driving.  Since the nature of law enforcement frequently requires police officers to make snap judgments about the danger posed by suspects and the criminal nature of their activity, subconscious racial associations influence the way officers perform their jobs.”
     The Sentencing Project concludes its report by providing recommendations, which include the following:
  • Prohibiting law enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling.
  • Fully funding the country’s public defender agencies.
  • Establishing a commission to develop recommendations for “systemic reform” of the country’s police bureaus and courts.
     The report by the Sentencing Project is clear, concise and relevant to the issues being presented. Of more significance, however, is that the recommendations made today are no different from the recommendations made in 1998 where research studies found that 1 of every 4 African-American males were under some form of incarceration.
     Given these recommendations, the only thing that has changed in the last 15 years is the increased numbers of African-American males being incarcerated (i.e. from 1 of every 4 to today’s expected rate of 1 of every 3).
This raises relevant questions such as:
  • Why are the numbers of African-American males being incarcerated increasing so drastically?
  • Why haven’t the recommendations provided been implemented during the previous 15 years?
  • Why would the implementation of these recommendations be so slow over the next 15 years?
     The answer?  Internalized fear.  Specifically, the internalized fear that is being shared by all groups involved.
This internalized fear is defined as:
“Fear that is incorporated within oneself (cultural values, mores, motives, attitudes etc) through learning or socialization.  Specifically, it is the acceptance or absorption of an idea, opinion, belief, etc., so that it becomes part of one’s character.  This act often takes root in an individual’s psychological core by learning or unconscious assimilation.”

Specifically, the majority and ethnic minority communities continue to live in fear of each other.  This fear is reminiscent of staying within the “known,”and not seeking the “unknown,” due to fearing the uncomfortable.     These communities are comparable to travelers who are journeying on the same road who upon coming to the “crossroads” i.e. “decision point” continue to take the same road and yet desire “different” outcomes or experiences.  The changes these travelers seek will only occur when they decide to take not the same road, but to seek a “new path.” In doing so, they may learn to come to terms with the unknown (“living with fear”) instead the known (“living in fear.”)

     Both communities must want to create a “new path” instead of walking the same road that was created by others.  In doing so, both communities can learn to balance their fears and hopefully one day, embrace these fears. The reality is this: fear is HERE.  It never left.  Fear will always be among us.  It is for us to determine how we balance and embrace our fears that continue to prevent us from resolving our differences.
Concluding Remarks

We, the travelers, can work towards the resolution of our identified issues if we can re-conceptualize fear. One way to do this is to utilize the following empowerment strategy.  The traveler must:

  • Want to address the concept of fear. 
  • Want to come to terms with the reality that fear is simply a feeling and that fear can be “good.”
  • Want to realize that FEAR IS HERE.  FOREVER.
  • Want to understand that he/she has the choice to “live in fear or live with fear.”

 

 

 

Same old road?  Or walk and explore a new path?

  • What about you?
  • What do you want?
  • What are you willing to do? In order to obtain what you want?

Live in fear? Or live with fear?  You choose!

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

            – Sir Winston Churchill 

 

Until the next crossroads,

 

The Journey continues………….

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

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 Old Road, Or The New Path? Which Will You Choose?

Dear Readers,

     Recently there have been a number of news articles published regarding Trayon Christian, a 19 year old African American male college student who was arrested after purchasing a $350.00 belt from at a luxury store in Manhattan (New York City).  In this incident, the young man did not appear to do anything wrong other than shopping and thereby was arrested for “shopping while black.”
     Such incidents are becoming the new normal for African-Americans.  Consequently, certain reactions to what can often be misread as threatening or suspicious behaviors on part of African-Americans, especially men, are now becoming of great concern.
     For example, many would consider it absurd that a person would be deemed a threat and subsequently arrested for the simple action of waving—and yet, such an incident did occur.
     It was recently reported in the Evansville Courier & Press (8/16/13) that George Madison, a 38-year-old African-American firefighter, was handcuffed by police officers of the Evansville Police Department for waving at the police officers as they drove past him while he was riding his bicycle. The report goes on:

While riding his bike in Evansville, IN, George Madison Jr., 38, waved to a couple of police officers nearby.  From where Madison was, the officers looked familiar to him.  After all, as a firefighter with the Evansville Fire Department, Madison worked closely with many officers of the Evansville Police Department.

But Madison didn’t look familiar to the officers, and as Madison explains, the officers deemed his friendly wave a threat. “The officer jumped out and says, ‘what are you doing throwing your hands up at us?’  He is talking to me as he is coming toward me.  I tried to explain, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”

Madison went on to say that the officer’s attitude made him feel angry and alone. “It was like everything had disappeared, and I was there alone and I got scared,” he said.

Before he knew it, Madison said, the officer had his stun device out.  “It was literally maybe inches from my face. I immediately threw my hands in the air.  I said, ‘Please don’t hurt me.’  The next thing I know, I’m laying down on the ground and they cuffed me.”

Once they established who Madison was, the officers brought Madison up to his knees and let him go.  Madison, who is a father of four and also a youth pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in Evansville, filed a formal complaint with the police’s internal affairs division. 

     Question: Is this the end of the story for either Christian in New York City or Madison in Evansville, IN? 

     Answer:  No. There is a common theme in both incidents in which either “shopping while black” or “waving while black” may have resulted in both individuals experiencing trauma responses and thus carrying psychological wounds and scars.
     The way in which both individuals perceive their worlds moving forward may never be the same.  It is conceivable that Madison may be conflicted regarding whether he should extend the professional courtesy of acknowledgement to a “fellow officer” who is white. Or, that Christian would be feeling apprehensive while shopping in a business establishment that sells luxury or expensive items in the future.
Can society truly understand how these men may feel?  If such an experience has never happened to us, how can we really understand?  Both of these men are known as upstanding and contributing members of their communities. Yet, through no fault of their own, they are forced to endure a humiliating and terrorizing experience which they will never forget.
Can society truly sense the hyper vigilance, the high paced beating of the heart & pulsing of blood as these men await their fate?  This would be highly unlikely, unless they are those members who have also experienced the indignities of such incidents. Furthermore, it would be impossible to clearly understand or grasp what the trauma has taken from them.
Trauma, what trauma?  What was taken from them?  What does either of these mean?  Regardless of your age, gender, race or cultural/ethnic identification, just for a moment, imagine yourself in the following situation:
 It is a nice day, not a cloud in the sky, life for you is as normal as it gets.  You find yourself riding your bicycle or go into the store to buy yourself a belt and then suddenly, the world as you know explodes in your face.
 Only moments ago:
You are either “waving” at a police officer or “shopping” at the store and for no clearly identifiable reason, you find yourself arrested, handcuffed and not permitted to move freely.  Or, you are being questioned in a manner that is clouded with suspicion, threats and intimidation.

You find yourself attempting to explain, yet no one is willing to listen or believe what you have to say. Then either a weapon is being placed directly in your face or you find yourself being placed in the backseat of a patrol car.

You are scared.  You are alone.  People are passing by, staring, pointing and taking your picture or taking videos with their cell phone.  Your heart is about to explode in your chest.  You feel helpless.  So you pray, and ask that someone to wake you up from this “nightmare.”

In either occurrence, you may have experienced a little of what Madison & Christian felt. This is trauma. This particular form of trauma is defined as the “just world” theory.  

In the “just world” theory, 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” and that the goodness of an individual is the primary factor determining one’s lot in life.  Trauma shatters the just world theory because the traumatic response occurs as a result of an out-of-the-ordinary event that presents itself as a threat to survival and self-preservation. Imagine what could be more out-of-the-ordinary than being arrested for waving or buying yourself a belt.
  Let’s return to the scenario for a moment. You have been held in custody for a period ranging from minutes to hours. Then, without warning or introduction, a stranger approaches, saying:
The incident was a “huge misunderstanding and a communication problem.”

     Members of society, look within the “psychological self” i.e. your inner being, and ask the following:

  • How does this statement make me feel?
  • Does this statement remove the memory of the traumatic experience?
  • How does this statement prevent this incident from occurring again?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • Why me?  (Why did this happen to me?)
     Members of society, I will leave it to you to respond to questions 1 through 3.  Please allow me to answer questions 4 & 5.
  • (What did I do to deserve this?) I did nothing.  Absolutely nothing.
  • (Why me?)  It is not about you.  It’s about “living in fear”.

     Living in Fear?  Yes. Fear is nothing more than a feeling or emotion.  It is for the individual member of society to determine how to respond to fear.  The incidents in the scenario are both situations in which the responding police officers were going by prejudgments based on their own, and society’s, internalized feelings of “living in fear.”

     Such incidents will continue to occur, resulting in innocent persons being psychologically and emotionally wounded and scarred. The terror of a fearful society will cease only when its members seek to empower itself and in doing so, transforms its mode of behavior towards one which seeks to balance its prejudgments and move towards “living with fear.”
However, until this transformation (i.e. from living in fear to living with fear) can occur, it is upon all of us, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, to take steps that will assist in maintaining our safety. We have common goals with the police– we too want to return home to our loved ones.
Therefore, when interacting with either the police or members of law enforcement agencies, and you feel fear based on aggression from or the intimidating stance of the police officers, it is advisable to take the following actions:
  • First, upon realizing the aggressive or intimidating stance being taken by the police officers; assume a posture that reinforces your physical vulnerability & physical exposure. An example of this is keeping your palms up and hands raised away from your body.  Maintain your psychological composure while the police control the scene.
  •  Second, follow the directions given by the police officers without question or hesitation.  It is imperative that they be in control of the situation or individual who for whatever reason, they consider to be a danger to themselves.  Failure to immediately follow their directive may serve to heighten their fear for their safety.
  • Third, never ever resist or give the impression that there is a desire to resist.  Any such action on the individual’s part may lead to coming to face with the use of deadly force or actions by the police officers that could result in physical injury or death.
     In closing, as one stands at the crossroads, it is for the individual, as a member of “society”, to decide whether to seek a new path, one based on optimism and hope for the future or remain on the old road of the past, holding tightly to that which continues to divide us.
If we are willing to seek balance then we can work to understand the following:
  • Fear is an emotion.  Fear can be good.
  • Learn to live with fear and not in fear.
  • Learn to embrace fear and not allow fear to be used against the psychological self.

The journey continues…… 

Dr. Micheal Kane

The Choice of Living IN Fear Or Living WITH Fear

In fear or with fear? You must choose.
In the “At the Crossroads” writing, A Black Man’s Worst Nightmare: Living with a Bulls-eye on your Back  “No Protection for your Complexion,”  I gave an example of my experience of dealing with the police who were suspicious of me due to being out of place (at night walking in a white community).  In the telling of my experience, I provided recommendations to others as to how to handle themselves should they find themselves in a similar situation.
I recently received some feedback from an African-American colleague who had read the article.  In her response she shared the following:
“You were talking about the experience where you were not guilty or intending anything negative, but where you were ‘out of your expected place’ and therefore appeared to be a threat.
But what about all the young males and black men who are seen as a threat ‘in place’?  What about the young black males who have teachers that show fear of their disruption when they are in their schools? What about those who are stopped and questioned on or near their playgrounds, on the blocks, where they live or while they are playing in front of their homes?  What about those boys?  Does it make it easier to take and accept if the unfounded suspicion only comes in other settings?”
My colleague’s remarks have encouraged me to examine the concept of fear.  There is a huge difference between being a 57-year old man who is “out of place” and an 11-year-old boy on the playground or sitting in his yard.
Is it easier to accept when the suspicion comes in other settings than it is for a child who experiences his teacher showing fear of him? The writer has raised strong points.   It is possible that one can provide recommendations as to what society, community, family and black men can do to assist resolving this issue of “no protection for my complexion on the playground or in the front yard”.
My preference as a clinician is to focus on the individual.  The goal would be to teach the young child or adolescent skills that would reinforce self-esteem, self worth, self-validation, self-regard, self-confidence and self-competence.  The objective would be to create a sense of healthy narcissism, that being the understanding, acceptance and commitment to the following belief and value of “as much as I love you, I love myself more.  More.”
The 57-year-old African-American man walking in the white community and the 11-year-old boy playing either at the playground or in his front yard share several variables in common.
·      We live, work and play among people who fear us for the color of our skin and our gender.
·      We are being taught to either dislike (hate), devalue and distrust ourselves.
·      We are trained that the wants of others such as the community, church and family are prioritized over our own.
·      We are taught to love others.  We are not taught how to “love the self.”
We learn these lessons from within our community.  These are constantly being reinforced at school, work, television, movies and involvement in day-to-day activities.  We are looked upon with fear, suspicion and distrust by those who teach us and later work among us.  We learn our lessons well when we succeed in maintaining similar fear, suspicion and distrust among ourselves.
Out of these lessons come the one mighty variable that keeps the oldest and the youngest of us in the state of survival, which is the art of learning to “live in fear”.  We make the common mistake of focusing on those in positions of control such as teachers and police and give them undeserved importance based on their apparent authority.  As we focus on “them” we succeed in reinforcing their power and in doing so, we are successful in not focusing on “us” and building our “empowerment”.
In assisting our young men and women to empower themselves, we must want to accept the realities that others will for one reason or another always be suspicious and fearful of the psychological self that lives within us.   We must want to understand and accept that their suspicion and fear is about “them” and how they feel.  We must want to relieve ourselves of the pressure and frustrations that work to consume the psychological self and in doing so take away the opportunities for self-empowerment.
We must want to learn to “live with fear.” As I have stated in earlier writings, fear is good. We have been taught that fear is bad, a statement for the weak and therefore, fear is to be avoided and denied.  Yet fear is just another emotion.  Fear is just another feeling.
To be able to live with fear, one must be willing to own his/her feelings of fear.  One must want to embrace fear because… my fear is mine and mine alone.  No one but me can touch it or feel it.  Specifically, it is up to the individual as to how he/she conceptualizes his or her fear.
To be successful in this endeavor, the individual must want to “transform” the teachings of society, community and family in prioritizing loving the self first.  The larger group (i.e. family, community, society) will frame this as “an act of selfishness.”
It is essential for the individual to understand that he/she and not the larger group holds the keys towards empowering and maintaining one’s psychological and emotional health and well-being.  If living in fear or living without acknowledgement that which lies within is not a priority of the larger group, then we must be willing to question why.
This writing is not suggesting that we should not be afraid or let go of our fear.  To let go of one’s fear would be tantamount to slicing away a part of the psychological self.  Fear, as with happiness, joy or sorrow is nothing more than a feeling or an emotion.  To suggest to someone to simply “don’t be afraid” would be similar to forcing the individual to maintain a falsehood.
Closing Remarks
The focus on this writing was in one way to respond to the lack of empowerment that a child may feel when being viewed as a threat within his community, school or neighborhood.  The words expressed by my female African American colleague reflect the frustrations of many others regarding a sense of hopelessness or powerlessness as young boys and adolescents prepare to enter a world that fears them – not for an action, just for being male and black.
What we can do as individuals is teach young boys and adolescents the concept of living with fear instead of accepting the common thread of living in fear.  This can be achieved by understanding the concept of healthy narcissism and its sub concepts, which include prioritizing loving the self.
It has taken this writer the willingness and wantonness to explore this path and in doing so experience the journey of self-discovery.  I have found that with living with fear I have come to truly understand the concept of loving the self and in turn, loving me more.
Living in fear or living with fear.  The choice is yours.
                  Loving the Self
                  As much as I love you
                  I love me more.
            Loving me more does not mean
            I love you less.
                  It only means
                  I love me more
                  More…
Until the next Crossroads.
The journey continues….

Living During Difficult Times

This has been a very difficult period in my life as I work to balance the heaviness, which has been occurring during the past year, as the year 2012 comes to closure and 2013 has begun.

      I remain concerned that the children and families who are suffering in silence and traumatized by the betrayal and sexual abuse will continue to be ignored and in doing so severely impacted by the silence associated with their pain and suffering.
     In the midst of this, I am struck by the psychological havoc occurring in my community.  I am referring to the revelations of sexual abuse by the clergy within the Seattle African-American community.   Local media broke the story that a minister admitted to 22 counts of sexual abuse over a period of 14 years.
      Stunned, I reached out to the local church where the sexual abuse and betrayal of trust had taken place.  I sought to meet with the church leadership and seek ways in which services from local agencies could be provided.  As a traumatologist well versed with working with male victims of sexual abuse, I understood the mountain of clinical issues I was about to climb.
       As a clinician I was aware that the victims could be questioning their roles in the abuse. Furthermore, there may be questions of how these sexual assaults may impact their lives and interactions with others in the many years to come.  I have the awareness of working with later aged adults who remained psychologically damaged from such acts occurring in their childhood and adolescence.
      When I took my concerns to the church leadership, I was met with a wall of silence.  When I raised questions regarding the abuse and the wall of silence with my African-American colleagues, I was again met with a wall of silence.
When I raised the issue on the listerv within my professional organization of “good meaning liberal folk,” I was met with a wall of silence. I was ostracized by the leadership as they have now redefined the purpose and use criteria for the listserv.
      One of my Caucasian colleagues chided me by commenting indirectly that if I as an African-American clinician am not having success in working with the church hierarchy, what impact could a white organization of good meaning liberals possibly do?  Good point and well taken.
      During early January 2013 a member of this professional organization that I belong to, Marty Falaberg age 91, passed away peacefully after a long meaningful life.  He lived a life devoted to the mental health profession and to the clinical social work community.  The listserv was used to extend messages of what this individual meant to the members of the organization.
      There were numerous i.e. 17 alludes, acknowledgements and statements regarding his life and the impact he had on those on the listerv. These statements included words from the organization’s leadership.
Yet there is no mention or acknowledgement of the lives of the Invisibles i.e. the African-American boys and adolescents who were sexually abused and traumatized within the local Seattle area.
      The leadership of this professional organization has provided numerous articles for its members and equipped its members on how to be available to talk to parents and families of the local communities who may be experiencing psychological stress due to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, CT.  However the same leadership fails to offer any assistance or words of action, concern or condolences when it comes to the sexual assaults of African-American children and the wellness of their families.
      Last month we honored the work of Dr. Martin Luther King.   No doubt members of the African-American clergy as well as the leadership of the professional organization I have spoken of will verbalize words of brotherhood and action in Dr. King’s good name as to honor him.  However it is in the actions not in words that we remember.
      We will remember that the African-American clergy chose silence over action in the protection of its children.  We will remember that the professional organization places more meaning and a higher value on its deceased than on the lives of African-American children.  We will remember their suffering in silence.  Their screams will continue to speak to us.
      I acknowledged that it is time to let go of this issue.  Letting go is not to be equated with giving up.  It simply means it is time to move on with my journey. I have advocated for the “Invisibles.”  Their suffering in silence has been heard by others and will continue to be heard.
      In “blowing dat horn” and calling for awareness I acknowledge I have created discomfort for members of my professional community and the community in which I reside.
      Consequences are responses for actions that we take.  Being ostracized and cast out may be the price I pay for calling into question the lack of responsiveness to a beleaguered and vulnerable population.  I am willing to pay that price.
      However I have belief in my work as a healer, faith in my profession and trust in the journey.  All three faucets rained water upon me, nourishing me, and providing me with hope.  Hope is eternal.  Hope will never die.
The journey continues…

At the Crossroads: Decision Point: The Well Designed Road or The Unlit Path?

The Road to Hell
     There is a very interesting proverb that states, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  The meaning of the phrase is that individuals may do bad things even though they intend the results to be good.  This can stem from believing that the ends justify the means, or from actions leading to unforeseen consequences.
     Secrets.  Family secrets.  How many times have we heard “what is said here in this family stays in this family”?  Yes, there was the time in which the “larger group” i.e. family, community, and society was the moral and spiritual compass for the individual.  It was from the larger group that the individual gained his/her values, ideas and principles of good and evil, etc.
     In return, the larger group demanded allegiance, commitment, and “obligation.” In return the larger group i.e. family, community and society granted protection, fellowship and a safe place to weather the raging storms of racism, oppression and discrimination.
     Over the years from slavery to freedom, from Jim Crow segregation to the fight for civil and human rights, such institutions as the family, church and community having been battered, have managed to survive the turbulence and sufferings emitted from these difficult times.
     From the beginning of our childhood we have been taught literally to sacrifice the needs and wants of the individual for the “good” and welfare of the larger group i.e. family, community, and society.   We have been fed slogans such as “each one, teach one, “we are in this together” and shouts of “we shall overcome one day”.  All of this in service of the larger group.  This is being done at the sacrifice of the individual.  Should the individual seek to question or seek what is for his/her own “needs or wants” the person is sought upon by the larger group as being “selfish, uncaring, or greedy.”
      The individual is shamed and isolated within the community.  The remaining “foot soldiers” learn this lesson well.  Keep quiet.  Be silent.  Keep waiting for that pie in sky when you die.  One’s good deeds will be rewarded in the afterlife.
      Meanwhile, the family unit continues to straggle along.  For the majority of households in the African-American community, they are led by women without a “positive” male role involved.  Yes, there are males “around.”   The question is are they involved and if so, are they consistent, committed and communicative within the family relationships.
     So as African-American women have done throughout the years, they turn to the one institution, the African-American Church for salvation and protection.  Of course there have always been the sordid stories of the ministers having inappropriate relationships with the female members of the church congregations.
      We have all heard the gossip and the rumors about “Sista So & So” and “Brotha So & So.”  Understanding that both parties were human and aware that humans make mistakes, so what if we chose to act in accordance with the three wise monkeys i.e. don’t see, don’t hear and don’t speak.  After all, they are adults.  Besides, as we have been taught “don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.”
     So these families seeking guidance for their children send them to church; the one institution that is the rock of their faith.   Of course rumors and gossip are abound about inappropriate behaviors towards the children however no action is taken.  Silence. Individuals come forth.  Allegations are made.  Silence.   Local news media breaks the story about sexual misconduct within the church institution.  Still silence.
     Finally, the minister publicly admits to 22 counts of sexual misconduct against boys and adolescents over a period of 14 years.  What do we hear from the institution of the African-American Church?  Silence.
     Regarding the subtopic “The road to hell”?   In this case in Seattle’s African-American community, it is paved with “silence.” The secrecy being maintained by the institution about the betrayal of the minister and damage done to the victims, the families and the church congregation is being supported by the individuals and families who are devoted to these institutions.
     Either we have learned the lessons well that were taught by the larger group or we as individuals within the community are living in fear.  Fear?  Fear of what?  Name it and claim it.  Being judged, social standings, concerned what others may think.
     Today we stand at the crossroads.  The signs point into two distinct directions i.e. the “Well Designed Road” and the “Unlit Path.”  The Well Designed Road is well known.  Nothing changes, same scenery.  It was designed by someone else for your comfort. There is nothing for the individual to do but follow and remain silent.
     The Unlit Path is unknown, with its direction unforeseen.   This path is uncertain however it is filled with hope and possibilities.   The Unlit Path is designed by the individual.  He/she must want to question the direction to be chosen.
The Well Designed Road is paved with good intentions.  It uses fear as a tool to keep the members in line and in step.  The Unlit Path is paved with empowerment, vision and hope for the future.   The Unlit Path waits for that individual person, to leave the group and….. take the first step.
     We can continue to do the same thing, placing our children at risk or in similar situations or we can do something different.  If we continue to do the same thing, we can expect the same or similar outcome.  Whose son or daughter will be next?
As in previous writings of “At the Crossroads, I ask the reader to take the following action(s):
1)             Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 329-9794
Inquire as to what actions are being taken to respond to and/or alleviate the suffering of those abused by a member of his staff.
2)             Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle.  (Contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle).
Inquire as to what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to respond to this situation.  Furthermore, inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3)             Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
4)             Share this writing of At the Crossroads and the previous ones with others.  Ask that they also make inquiries into the issues that have been addressed.
      This writing of “At the Crossroads” represents the beginning of closure on this series regarding the Invisibles.  This does not mean that the issue has come to an end.  On the contrary I believe that the reader of the series has been equipped with enough information.
     I truly believe that the Walls of Jericho will come down only when those from within these walls raise their voices and make their concerns heard.   It would be unfortunate to allow the actions of one individual, one clergyman to destroy the good actions of others in the clergy.
      However silence in this situation is not golden, it is deadly.  One’s faith has been shaken.  Trust has been broken.  It must be rebuilt.  We must be assured that our children will not be placed in harms’ way.  We must be able to breathe with relief and know that our children are safe.
     Silence.  Yes, the Invisibles suffer in silence.  Let me assure you that they are indeed alive.  They do not merely exist.  They are alive.  They will not fade away.
**********************************
Family Secrets
The road to hell begins with this statement:
“What happens in this family stays in this family.”
Solution: Walk a new path.
Love me.  Choose me.
Take care of the Self.