At The Crossroads: Psychological Bleeding and the Emotional Impact of White Fragility

“[White Fragility is] The discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice”

–Dr. Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

“There isn’t any Negro problem; there is only a white problem.”

-Author Richard Wright, in response to a reporter’s question about the “Negro problem in America”

White Person: When I look at you, I don’t see race.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: I see a human being.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: We are all red under the skin.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: Why does race matter?

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: I was taught everybody is the same.

Black Person: Then you don’t see me.

White Person: I am not a racist.

Black Person: Remember me? It’s about me.  You don’t see me.

-Scene from “Choosing To See or Not See”

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My Dear Readers,

I have missed you!  In November 2018, after 6 years of consistently blogging to a readership spanning six continents, I simply lost the passion for writing.  I intended to take a well-deserved rest from blogging and to consider what direction I would move forward within my own journey of self-discovery.

A lot of newsworthy situations have occurred since I ceased writing, among them the racial and political havoc in Virginia, my state of early childhood development, the Jussie Smollett case in Chicago, and the recent refusal of state prosecutors in California to file criminal charges in the Sacramento police shooting death of Stephon Clark.  So, what brings me out of hibernation to write to my beloved readership?

The usual suspects: love, fragility and most importantly…. Fear. I recently received a correspondence from a reader seeking to address the issue of “white fragility.”  Interestingly enough, this has become a hot topic within my clinical practice.

I recently had an interview with a prospective patient who sought ways to act such that white people would become comfortable with him.   He said that his white colleagues were uncomfortable around him because of his large frame and dark skin.  When I mentioned that the issue may not be simply about white fragility but also about his own internalized psychological demand and his unmet needs for acceptance, he quickly terminated the interview.

In another situation, an African-American male patient spoke of his pain when a white female coworker complained to the organization’s HR director regarding his greeting her every morning by saying “Good Morning” when he arrived at work.  The coworker’s complaint was that she did not know him, and it made her feel uncomfortable when he greeted her. The black patient was directed to abide by her request not to speak to this individual.

A “notation” of the formal meeting was being placed in his personnel file.  To ensure that this didn’t happen again, and to protect his employment, the male patient made it his standard policy not to greet white female coworkers unless they initiated the greeting. He was later criticized by his supervisor for his “unfriendly attitude” and warned that he may be negatively evaluated for creating a hostile work environment.

African-American males in predominantly white social situations often must walk a thin line between social courtesy and withdrawal.  These incidents are dangerous due to the consequences to professional reputations, employment status, and the looming risk of arrest for alleged criminal behavior.

This week, I respond to the concerns of an African-American male who is psychologically “bleeding” from the emotional impacts of “White Fragility.”

Here is his story…

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Dear Dr. Kane:

Why do white people feel so fragile and feel so reactive about feeling it?  Why do I have to acknowledge their fragility and make allowances for it?

Over the last few years, I have found myself in social gatherings with white people having to endure not only their fragility but also a lot of “innocent” (aka dumbass) questions like:

  • “How do you know the host?” (Dumbass, the host is my wife and you are standing in my house.)
  • “What do you think about the chances of [insert random local sports team here] making the playoffs?” (Dumbass, what makes you assume that I play sports?)
  • And my favorite, “What do you think about Trump?” (Really Dumbass, your people elected him and you’re asking me?  How is he working out for you?)

Now, if I tell them that I am offended by these questions and that they reflect the stereotypes, unconscious bias and outright racism that festers within their meaningless lives, I become THAT GUY: the angry, insensitive monster who hurt their fragile feelings.   Never mind my feelings.   So, to avoid making them feel uncomfortable, I put on my “Good Negro Face.”  I smile, nod, make a little joke here and give a little pat on the back there.  I feel like a running back, using my “God given talents” as I slip, slide and dash through hardened defenses on my way to the goal line, or, just get through a swirling sea of dumbass questions without losing my cool.

It’s bad enough that I have to endure the bullshit of niceness and fake displays as I play the game in the work environment.  In my personal space, however, it has become so disgusting to me that it is now hard for me to even acknowledge the friendship of my white wife and her friends.

All white folks have become suspicious to me.  I never know when their fragility might explode into violent action based on little more than their self-made fears. I fear that I cannot in good faith trust white people, even those I whom I should be able to trust.

-Distrustful in Seattle

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My Good Man,

Hmm.  Distrustful in Seattle?  Is that a play on the movie “Sleepless in Seattle”? If so, please remember that being distrustful is a choice you make where being sleepless is a physical indication that the body for whatever reason, cannot rest.

Your concerns are valid and so essential for me to respond to in that I have momentarily stepped away from my self-imposed silence from writing.  Your correspondence is powerful and speaks for many African-Americans who are constantly responding daily to “white fragility.”

In my dual roles as a psychotherapist (who provides a safe secured space to either sit with or speak to submerged materials surfacing upon the human landscape) and a clinical traumatologist (who works to stop the emotional bleeding to help heal the psychological wound), I am also responding to the same issues (known as counter-transference) as I sit in sessions with patients listening to the psychological pain and emotional suffering being endured in their lives on a daily basis.  Like I do with them, I will seek to respond to your concerns.

 

Question: Why do white people feel so fragile and feel so reactive about feeling it?

Response: This is a multilayered question. Imagine four lanes of freeway moving in opposite directions, one side free traffic, the other in a traffic jam.   Imagine drivers on the fast side, observing the slow side, saying the following:

  • I wouldn’t want to be them
  • Dumbass should have left earlier (or later)
  • Glad it isn’t me
  • How do they do that every day?

Let’s imagine that in terms of race, white people are on the fast side of the freeway, and people of color are on the slow side. The people on the slow side may have an idea as to what is causing that backup, but they cannot know for sure what it is- they cannot see that far ahead– but they are still impeded by where they are going.

On the other hand, the people on the fast side are either unconcerned with why the other side is slow or have passed judgment on the folks who are stuck in that jam, both without an understanding or a curiosity about what’s causing that traffic jam.

In a similar way, white people are insulated from impediments that may slow progress from a racial perspective. Dr. Robin DiAngelo says that this insulation can render white people “innocent of race.”   It is this “innocence” that gives rise to white fragility.  As a result, white people are not raised to see themselves in terms of race, or to see white spaces as racial spaces.

African-Americans, on the other hand, particularly those who are born in or grow up in racially segregated spaces, must become “experts on race.”   Behaviorally, this shows up as white people expecting African-Americans to be sensitive of their racial innocence, requiring African-Americans to excuse and explain away their sheltered ignorance as they become (if they chose to) awakened to the harsh realities of racism.

Consider the following: a child is rudely awakened by his care provider from a deep sleep, one that was secured, warm and encased in comfort.  How does the child respond? The child is naturally upset because of the betrayal—the illusion of the safety of their sleeping environment has been interrupted and they will remain upset until a stable environment can be restored by the care provider.

In this analogy, the African-American, as the “racial expert,” is the care provider who is all-loving and self-sacrificing and is expected to provide the safe nurturing environment regardless of the psychological and emotional impacts to themselves.  If this grace is not extended, the African-American is regarded as unforgiving instead of as having a very natural, human reaction, and the relationship is harmed, if not terminated.

 

Question: (paraphrased) It’s one thing to have to be fake at work and another to be fake in my personal space.  What am I really angry about?

Response:  There could be several reasons for your anger. This may include

  • Feeling powerless,
  • Lacking strategies to respond to insensitive comments and,
  • Feeling hopeless.

You may be having a “fight or flight” response.  “Fight or Flight” is a physiological and psychological response to stress that prepares the physical body, the intellectual mind and the psychological self to react to danger.

Instead of this, utilization of an empowerment strategy like the ABCs of Empowerment can bring relief to the physical, mental and psychological self.  It consists of the following:

  • Advocacy-being willing to speak for self and not depend on others to do so on your behalf.
  • Balance-listening intently to what is being said, being willing to psychologically step away and embrace your emotions while weighing what you are feeling and thinking.
  • Calmness-while holding your psychological space, (advocacy & balance), allow the psychological self to be centered as you deliver your response to those within your external environment.

 

Question: (paraphrased) I am tired of playing these games at work and having to play the same games in my personal space.  It feels so frustrating and hopeless.  What can I do?

Response:  The only way to avoid this is to live on an island by yourself.  The reality is that this drama exists in all spaces. So, we As we live out our lives (the walk,) we have many different experiences.  During any point in this process, submerged materials may surface for the individual to address. We call these incidences “the crossroads.”  At the crossroads,

  • Choices are presented.
  • Decisions must be made.
  • Consequences for these decisions and choices can be foreseen.
  • You will ask yourself: What are my choices? How shall I respond?  Am I prepared to handle the consequences of my decision?
  • The individual remains at the crossroads until a decision is made and the journey continues.

An example:

Recently, at a Starbucks Coffee counter, I was waiting my turn for service.  So, when I became the first person in line, I naturally expected the cashier to take my order.  Instead, she looks directly at the next person in line, a white male, and says: “Hi, what can I get you?”  The white male replies, “I believe this gentleman is in front of me.” The cashier then looks at me, quite surprised, and says: “Hi, what can I get you?” 

 I spent my formative years in the Deep South, where I experienced racism and the psychological trauma of the invisibility syndrome. This occurs when one’s physical presence is either ignored, or that presence is made to be inferior in comparison to another person who is seen to be racially superior.

Due to these previous experiences, it would be normal for me to respond with anger, but I was surprised that this came from an African-American cashier!

I never expected this.  Seconds felt like eons as thoughts and feeling flowed through me:

  • Did this really happen? Yes, it did, and I am stunned beyond words or belief.
  • What do I say? Do I challenge her actions?
  • How do I respond? Do I file a formal complaint?

The incident was psychologically wounding.  It was not of my creation.  It was the words and actions of someone else who may, as a black person, unconsciously see themselves as inferior to white people and has brought those feelings to the workplace for me to encounter as I walk my own landscape.

So, what was my response?

  • I looked at her eyes to see if she was aware of what she had done.
  • I grabbed my coffee, thanking her for the service.
  • I went to catch my flight.
  • I’m writing in my blog and sharing the incident as a learning lesson.
  • I have benefited from another experience as I walk my landscape.

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 Concluding Words -Dr. Kane 

My Good Man,

In your words you stated the following:

It’s bad enough that I must endure the bullshit of niceness and fake displays as I play the game in the work environment. 

Responses:  Your parents may have taught you two realities of a black person’s life in America:

1) To come in first place, you must work twice as hard as the white person beside you, and:

2) In order to be successful, you must learn to play the game.

Today is a new day, but the psychological wounding of racism and trauma remains the same.  In racism, the objective of either holding the black person away from winning or wounding the individual psychologically so much that the individual lacks the will to compete remains the same. However, the strategies have changed. Overt racist tactics have been replaced with covert tactics and casual racism.

We as African-Americans must also seek to transform.  We are already skilled and knowledgeable in running the race, but now we must want to learn how to run the race smarter, not harder.

We must want to consider that the prizes we see as the incentive for running the race, whether it’s a promotion, or a raise or more opportunity, is often the “carrot” in a rigged race with ever changing rules.  To live an empowered life, to transform our journeys, we must transform our definition of “winning” to seeing it as the ability to “cross the finish line.” We must understand that the simple act of crossing the finish line is in itself an outstanding victory!

 

However, in my personal space, it has become disgusting, so much that it is now it is now hard for me to even acknowledge the friendship of my white wife and her friends.

Response: In his poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley wrote: “I am the master of my fate.  I am the captain of my soul.” 

Remember, your personal space is your space. It belongs to you and no one else. You must empower the psychological self, seeking advocacy, balance and calmness as you decide how to utilize your personal space.

I too have encountered insensitive and uncaring remarks while attending several “all white” social events.  One person assumed that I was there to provide drugs. (Really?)

To empower the self, I now make assessments before accepting invitations to social gatherings, starting with the diversity of the attendees.  If there are no other black people, I assess whether I want to be the token Negro in the event.  This empowers me to decide whether I want to deal with the possible incidents (trauma) arising from underlying stereotypes.  For the majority of these events, unless it is business or politically related, I always decline to attend.

You have the same options.   Remember that this is your landscape.  You can decide whether to attend, and under what circumstances you will leave.  Finally, don’t expect others to speak up proactively regarding another’s individual insensitive or uncaring remarks. 

 

All white folks have become suspicious to me.  One never knows when their fragility might explode into violent action based on little more than their self-made fears.

Response: Take a good long look in the mirror.  You may be looking at the reflection of the same people who are acting out their suspicious, fears and racism towards you.  Remember that this is your landscape.   The impact of white fragility on your life depends upon the impact you allow it to have on every step you take as you continue your walk across the landscape.

 

I fear that I cannot in good faith trust white people, even those whom I should be able to trust.

Response: “… even those whom I should be able to trust”? I have serious reservations regarding these remarks. This is an underlying tone implying distrust being specifically directed towards your spouse.  The spousal relationship, unlike the parental relationship, is not based on unconditional love.

Your spouse is neither the cause nor the outlet for your misplaced anger.  You knew she was white when you married her.  Interracial relationships, particularly black men and white women, given the racial history in the United States, are especially different.  However, this is the life you have chosen.

You have the responsibility to empower your own psychological self; she cannot do this for you. You now have an opportunity for growth and development. I urge you to seek individual psychotherapy that provides you with finding a safe, secure space to sit with unprocessed feelings surfacing on your landscape. If you are unable or unwilling to maintain your commitment to her, then release her from the relationship so she can be available to live the life she wants and not the life she is living.”

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Closing Remarks– My Dear Readers,

I want to clarify that in my earlier statements of conceptualizing the developmental stage of whiteness as white innocence, that I do not imply or believe that designation is a justification for not accepting responsibility, accountability, or consequences for one’s actions.  I am also not suggesting that in conceptualizing black people as “racial experts,” that black people should deny or minimize their psychological traumas or accept responsibility for the grievous actions, statements or comments of others.

I close, leaving with great anticipation for the immediate future. I now return to my commitment to cease writing blogs and in doing so, walk my landscape as I seek to fulfill my journey of self-discovery.  Two upcoming projects 2019 include:

  • Returning to Paris, France, in April, doing further research on the psychological traumas experienced by African-American troops in WWI abandoned by the American High Command forced to fight as segregated combat units under the command and flag of the French military.
  • Traveling to Ghana, West Africa during August for the Year of the Return Conference acknowledging 400 years since the Atlantic Slave Trade (1619 to 2019). I will participate as a panelist and workshop presenter regarding the psychological trauma of being experienced by African-Americans.

Once again, I bid you all farewell.  I am unclear as to whether I will return to consistently blogging on a regular pace, there may be those times like in this writing in which I am drawn to write as it may either resonate or stir up passion within me. I truly believe that life is about “walking the landscape” and in doing so to “live the life you want and not the live you live.”

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

Best regards,

Dr. Micheal Kane

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

-Delbert Richardson, Ethnomuseumologist

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

– “The Accountant” (2016)

You attract what you fear.  You attract what you are.  You attract what is on your mind.”

-Denzel Washington, Actor/Academy Award Winner

Once burned we learn.  If we do not learn, we only insure that we will be burned again, and again and again … until we learn.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D

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Farewell for now…….

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues…

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At The Crossroads: White Privilege And The New Normal

“People can be slave ships in shoes.”

-Zora Neale Hurston, Author

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

-George Santayana (1863) philosopher/novelist

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

-Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

The Cries of Children

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

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

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

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

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

What is white privilege? 

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

How does privilege differ from segregation? 

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

How does the utilization of privilege benefit the individual?

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

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

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

White Privilege: The New Normal

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

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

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

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

Using the Power of Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Chingachgook, Chief of the Mohican People

Last of The Mohicans, (1992)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe journeys…

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

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

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

-Octavia Butler

Until the next crossroads…  The journey continues…

The Changing Face of Modern Day Racism

 

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

Donald Trump, President of the United States of America

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

-Richard B. Spence, Director, National Policy Institute

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

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

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

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

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

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dear Dr. Kane:

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is nothing out there but me & Jesus.

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My Dear Young Man,

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

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

  • Individual racism-involves discrimination towards people of color. It is a belief that one’s own race is superior.  It requires behavioral enactments that maintain superior and inferior positions.
  • Institutional racism- restricts people of color from having choices, rights, and mobility. It is the utilization of, as well as the manipulation of, legitimate institutions with the intent of maintaining an advantage over others.
  • Cultural racism-is a combination of both individual racism and cultural racism in that it propagates the belief that one’s race’s cultural heritage is superior over another’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Richard B. Spencer (2016).

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

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

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

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Concluding Words

My Dear Young Man,

A few words of concern and caring;

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

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Until the next crossroads… the journey continues…

 

 

 

When Cops and Robbers Is No Longer A Game

 

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

-Marvin Gaye, Singer

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

-Sara Shandler, Author

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

-RJ Gonzales, Author

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

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

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

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

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

-A Frightened Mother, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empowerment of The Self-What Can I Do?

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

 

Concluding Words 

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

You know how it is.

Only God can judge us.”

Tupac Shakur

   It is a struggle for every young Black man.

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

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

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

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

Until the next crossroads… the journey continues…

“If you can’t fly

Run

If you can’t run

Walk

If you can’t walk

Crawl

But by all means

Keep moving.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Black Shame, Black Silence

 

Silence is golden.”

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

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

-Quintus Horatius Fiaccus, Roman Poet

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

-Brene Brown, Scholar

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

-Willie Aames, Actor & Screenwriter

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desperate in Seattle

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

-John Bradshaw, Educator, Motivational Speaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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

-Marcus Garvey

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues..

 

Racial Silence and Fear of the Unknown

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

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

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

-Toni Morrison, Author and Nobel Laureate

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

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

 

My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifically, Chief Fox stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignorance.  Fear of the Unknown.  

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

 And still, we remain silent.

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

And still, we remain silent.

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

Concluding Words 

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

-Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

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

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

-Bob Marley, Musician

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

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

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

-John Lewis, US Congressman & Civil Rights Activist

 

Until the next crossroads….the journey continues…

 

 

 

 

Responding to White Blindness

“The impulse to dream was slowly beaten out of me by experience.  Now, I surge up again and I hunger for books, new ways of looking and seeing.”

-Richard Wright, Native Son

“Unfortunately, history has shown us that brotherhood must be learned, when it should be natural.”

-Josephine Baker, Dancer, Singer & Actress

“I want history to remember me not as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, nor as the first black woman to make a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”

-Shirley Chisholm, US Congresswoman, Unbought and Unbossed

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

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

They don’t have to walk into a restaurant wearing a $500 suit and not be served simply because your skin is black, while a white man or woman with the same or similar $500 suit would be served with a smile, no less.

I’m so sick and tired of white people telling black people to “let it go.”  Why should black people let it go?  How can black people let it go?  White people haven’t let it go.  They remind African-Americans every day that in their eyes, we don’t exist.  That’s “white blindness.”

I am right there with you Dr. Kane, with the sadness, frustration, and the tiredness.  I applaud your posts for opening up the eyes of all Americans.

Mad as Hell, Seattle WA

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My Dear Readers,

I have received so many responses to last week’s blog Transcending White Blindness that I felt a follow-up post would be warranted.

The responses I received fell into three camps:

  • The feeling that I misunderstood the writer’s intent
  • Apologizing for the writer
  • Mad as Hell (at the writer and interestingly, a few at me for stating that I was not angry for what had been written).

 

Misunderstanding the writer’s intent

It is entirely possible that I may have misunderstood the writer’s intent.  It appears that he wanted to dialogue with an educated black man with whom he could feel safe.  It was apparent that through my blog writings the writer found me to be low-key, well-mannered and conciliatory.

Non-threatening, “safe” black people are the type of black people that white people who suffer from white blindness feel most comfortable interacting with—the stereotype of the “good Negro.” This would be the type of black person that a person suffering from white blindness would hold up as an example of how black people are expected to act in order to get the respect, regard, and human rights that they ask for.  What makes this part of white blindness is that these are the things that are afforded white people, regardless of their tone, their attitude, and their manners.

 

Apologizing for the writer

 “I am so, so, sorry. I want to apologize. I feel terrible about the statements he made.”

I got quite a few responses from people who did not write the letter apologizing for the statements put forth.   This comes from the well-meaning and potentially accurate concern that I had personally suffered a psychological wounding due to the micro-aggressive assault of the letter. However, as well-intended as it is, the apology neither soothes the pain nor heals the wound.

The issue here is that the apologist discounts the belief system and the white blindness of the original writer. By apologizing, the respondent is trying to negate the trauma and minimize the impact of the pain that has occurred—not for my sake as the recipient, but for their own guilt and shame in sharing a skin color with the original writer.  At the end of the day, we must all accept the words of the original writer for what it is.  Only when we see these things for what they are, can we truly derive benefit from discussing it.

 

Mad as Hell

There were many who responded similarly to “Mad As Hell,” sharing their anger at the original writer for his blindness and insensitivity, but there were also a number of respondents who directed their anger towards me—I was called an Uncle Tom in one memorable message—for not being angry enough in my response to the original writer.

As I stated in the previous blog, ignorance is merely the lack of knowledge.  It is not helpful to me or anyone else to reward the lack of knowledge with shame for the lack of knowledge.  If I were to be angry with this writer, he wouldn’t learn anything—he would simply reinforce his erroneous beliefs about African-Americans.

 

Why are African-Americans “Mad as Hell” regarding white blindness?

 Trauma. To restate from the previous blog, African-Americans are susceptible to 13 different subtypes of complex trauma, which   are cumulative and can appear daily and suddenly.

The subtype of complex trauma impacting this group is known as “The Invisibility Syndrome.”  Invisibility traumatization occurs within the psychological self as an inner struggle with the feelings that one’s talents, abilities, personality, and worth are not recognized and valued because of prejudice and racism.

Societal white blindness supports and reinforces the invisibility, refusing to acknowledge the achievements of the individual and instead stereotypes and ignores, targeting them as a group.

Regardless of achievement or accomplishment, the wounding created by the trauma of invisibility has long lasting impact on the psychological self.  Below is an example:

At a recent community group meeting, one of the attendees “hijacked” the presentation away from the facilitators by constantly inserting his views and himself while not sharing the discussion with the other attendees.  This individual was so enamored with himself and his own expertise, he did not notice that the other attendees grew exasperated every time he spoke.

 Although he interrupted others, seeking to control the discussion, he became incensed when he was interrupted.    At one point he jokingly stated he should be addressed as “Dr.” Was he joking?

No, he was not.   The actions forespoken are indicative of an African-American professional person who has an extensive history of being shunned, ignored and silenced by white blindness.   At the meeting, he found an environment where he could project the true essence of his long-denied self, and in doing so, he could finally be listened to and for once, valued and validated—regardless of the actual responses of his audience.

 

How does the individual respond to the trauma of Invisibility Syndrome or the other remaining 12 subtypes of complex trauma? 

One, come out of the darkness, stay into the light.  Acknowledge the trauma, but realize that you are wounded, not broken.  You can heal, and you are not beyond repair.

”I am wounded, but I am not broken.  I can heal.  I want to heal.  I will heal.”

Two, follow the therapeutic model Five R’s of RELIEF (respite, reaction, reflective, response and reevaluation).   When struck by a subtype of complex trauma like micro-aggression or invisibility syndrome, seek the following:

  • Respite-step away from the incident (e.g. take a breath, short walk, listen to music, read)
  • Reaction-own your feeling e.g. (anger, disappointment, frustration)
  • Reflection-seek calmness (e.g. balance your feelings and thoughts
  • Response-share your response with the external world (e.g. the person who created the situation, family, friends/peers)
  • Reevaluate-explore the actions and behaviors taken (e.g. what did I learn? How will I response to a similar situation next time)

 Three, Stop looking outside the psychological self for awareness, acknowledgement and most of all…acceptance.  Focus on loving the self and afterward…love me more.   It is a reality that the societal disease of white blindness cannot thrive without those it seeks to either deny or ignore constantly seeking validation of those who suffer from that blindness.

 

Concluding Words

I am a “child of segregation.”  As a child of eight, I was thrust into the battleground of the fight for civil rights.  I was snatched from the warmth of a “colored school” and made to attend an integrated school of which I was the only black male in my class.  It was then that I became fully aware of the impact of white blindness whereas for two years as my white classmates ignored the “nigra”.

Today I continue to be traumatized by invisibility and victimized by white blindness. Am I angered by it? Yes.  However, anger is merely an emotion that must be harvested, balanced, and redirected.   Hence I write, processing my feelings and in doing so, hopefully educating my beloved readership.  If one person benefits from my writing, then I have achieved my goals.

White blindness is a societal disease, which, like fear and intolerance, is passed down inter-generationally.  This disease can be treated and eventually eradicated.  However, it begins with the individual, and from there, flows within and throughout the society.

And yes, we are ALL Americans.

 “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Until the next crossroads…. the journey continues.

 

 

Transcending White Blindness

“Blacks have no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”

-Roger Taney, Chief Justice US Supreme Court (1836-1864)

“The negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.  He is to be bought and sold as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it”

-Roger Taney, (Dred Scott decision, 1857)

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

-Ralph Ellison, Author, Invisible Man

“White folks just don’t realize how dangerous it is for a black dude to ride around in a nice car.  Total white blindness.”

-Anonymous

Dear Dr. Kane,

I am a white male who reads the articles you post on LinkedIn.   I want to commend you for the low-key, well-mannered and conciliatory tone taken following the aftermath of the slaughter of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge by black thugs supporting the black lives matter movement.  It is ironic that in the killing spree, they killed one of their own.  So much for “black lives matter.”

It is difficult to talk to black people about these issues.  They come off being so angry and that turns me off to where I don’t want to engage in a meaningful discussion.  I get it; your people are angry. However, that is no justification to shoot cops who are only doing their job to protect all of us.

As an educated man, maybe you can explain why black people, particularly males, refuse to follow directions when stopped by the police for a traffic infraction.  It is simple common sense; don’t break the law and consequently, you won’t have to be concerned about being pulled over by the police.

I understand.  Believe me, I get it.  This country has a sordid history due to bringing blacks here as slaves.   But when are they going to let it go?

So Dr. Kane, from one educated man to another, please write something that will help increase communications between black and white people.  Regardless of our differences, we are ALL Americans.

-Anonymous

—————————————-

My Dear Readers,

After reading this letter, I had to take a long, deep, breath. It’s hard to describe the combination of frustration, sadness and tiredness I felt.  Interestingly enough, I am not angry.

But then again, why should I be angry?  After all, the writer commended me on “the low-key, well-mannered and conciliatory tone” of my writing.  I guess I should be pleased by his validation, right?

I want to believe that my readers are people of good intentions, who may either be misinformed, uninformed or are simply ignorant.  Ignorance isn’t stupidity—it is simply the lack of knowledge on a specific subject.

The writer’s words conceptualize one of the main problems impacting communications between black and whites.  Known as white blindness, this is defined as when white people don’t realize the presence of institutional racism or subtle discrimination.   White blindness not only adversely impacts the ability to communicate on race relations , but also slows movement towards social transformation, and has many whites believing that African-Americans are making excuses for lawlessness and overstating the problems of racism.

One way for ethnic minorities to deal with white blindness is to provide factual information on issues impacting African-Americans.  For instance, the term “trauma” is often misunderstood—it is often generalized, when in all actuality, there are 13 subtypes of traumas that African-Americans can be exposed to.  As a clinical traumatologist, I have focused on the treatment of African-Americans who have been exposed to repeated incidents of complex traumatization.  I feel that it is my duty to ensure that others understand how this may color the ways that African-Americans communicate about these recent events.

These traumas are actually cumulative and can occur at any time throughout the life of an African-American in America.  Two trauma subtypes that impact African-Americans on a daily basis are Micro-aggressive assaults and Macro-aggressive assaults.

Micro-aggressive assaults are:

  • Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicates hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the targeted person or group. (e.g. a black person being told he/she may not fit into a predominately white school)
  • Behaviors or statements that do not necessarily reflect malicious intent, but can still inflict insult or psychological injury. (e.g. a white person saying…”I don’t see you as black.”)
  • Subtle, but offensive comments or actions directed at an ethnic minority person or group that are often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype (e.g.-“I thoughts all blacks grew up playing basketball.”)

In contrast, macro-aggressive assaults are open, not subtle and have a wider impact on the individual and society. Macro-aggressive assaults are:

  • Actions that reinforce fears of physical violence or death (e.g. A police officer maintaining a position of readiness to use lethal force when questioning a black person)
  • Large scale or overt aggression toward those of a different race. (e.g.-the internment of 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII)
  • Legalized acts of racism towards everyone of that race. (e.g. the Three-fifths Compromise Clause of the US Constitution reinforcing slavery)

White blindness—the willful refusal to see where these causes can influence current events—serves not only to severely impact the ability to communicate on race relations and movement towards social transformation, but it also reinforces the complex traumas that African-Americans face every day.

 

Slavery, slavery, slavery.  When are they (African-Americans) going to let it go?”

 “Letting it go” is a process.  It begins in a journey of self-discovery.  It is not unrealistic for all Americans to comprehend the devastation of slavery, or what white America at that time called “The Peculiar Institution.”  The term “peculiar” in this case means “one’s own”, referring to something distinctive to or characteristic of a particular place or people.  Now 400 years later, white Americans expect, and in some cases, demand that African-Americans “move on and let go” of what is essentially trauma and psychological destruction that has never been healed, and  that continues every day.

Letting go of the trauma of slavery and guarding against continued micro- and macro-aggressions is a generations-long process, and to ask that to happen immediately shows how white blindness and the privilege that it comes from essentially erases the pain and the trauma that African-Americans have gone through and go through today.  Progress has been made, but much more must be done.  Would we tell rape victims or victims of murder to simply “let it go?”

 

Why break the law?  Why not become law-abiding citizens? To avoid negative interactions with the police, don’t break the law and consequently, you won’t have to be concerned about being pulled over by the police.   

The question assumes as true the stereotype that African-Americans as an overall group are not law-abiding citizens.  Such stereotypes serve only to reinforce white fear of black people, and serves as the basis of support for the racial profiling and targeting law enforcement of African-Americans, specifically males.

White blindness takes the actions of individuals and labels the entire group with inclinations towards that behavior, thereby subjecting other individual (and often innocent) members of the group to pre-emptive acts of macro-assault, such as  threats of physical violence or death— in the most recent cases, by law enforcement officers who subscribe to these erroneous beliefs.

 

How does white blindness impact the perception of law enforcement?

White blindness essentially affirms individual accountability for white people.  As a result, white audiences provide unswerving loyalty towards law enforcement, which tends to be predominantly white, regardless of video evidence of police abuse.

However, the fact that this loyalty is unswerving means that those who subscribe to it also deny and devalue the historical and current experiences of the African-American community.  It is this same perception that ignores and dismisses another factual reality—that is, that African-Americans are also God’s creations and deserving of protection, by and from law enforcement.

 

Concluding Words

The deaths of the police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge are not the acts of thugs.  Instead, these were acts of domestic terrorism.   The officers, six Caucasians, one Hispanic and one African-American across both cities, were targeted for two reasons; being members of law enforcement and their dedication to serve and protect the communities of which they were committed to.

It was President Obama that said:

“We, as a nation, have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.  Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.”

White blindness and acts of domestic terrorism not only severely impacts the ability of individuals to communicate with each other on race relations but also slows movement towards social transformation.  However, the journey of self-discovery for the individual, society, and the nation must continue.

“We focus on the journey, not the destination.  It is what we see and experience along the way.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

 

 

Race-Based Trauma: The Blacks And The Blues

“There is a systemic targeting of African-Africans and a systemic lack of accountability when police use excessive force.  This is a national problem.  It is deeply disturbing.  And it has real life effects.”

-Rep Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) US Congressman

“Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver (Philando Castile) and the passengers, were white?  I don’t think it would have…I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”

-Mark Dayton, Governor, Minnesota

“Black men are on the endangered species list.”

-Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile

Dear Dr. Kane,

I am writing because I need help.  I’m frightened, and I don’t know what to do.  I have three sons ages 16, 12 and 8.  We have all seen the videos of police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.   We have watched all of the media coverage and engaged in online conversations, and I am exhausted.  My fears are overwhelming me, and it is impacting my work.  I am unable to sleep.   I find myself always calling and checking on my children.

I have spoken to my pastor about this, but he feels this will pass. We have prayed together, but I want to do more.  Please help.

-Worried Mom, Seattle

————————————

My Dear Readers,

It may look like the world is turning upside down. It is shocking and saddening to all of us that lives of African-Americans and police officers have been needlessly taken.  As these horrific events unfold, we are being bombarded with continuous media coverage of the events.  As a result, we are continuously exposed to race-based trauma that is compounded through repeated media coverage and sharing over social media outlets.

Race-based trauma can occur in several forms:

  • Witnessing ethno-violence or discrimination against another person,
  • Historical or personal memory of racism,
  • Institutional racism,
  • Micro or macro aggressions, and
  • Hypervigilance due to the constant threat of racial discrimination.

 

Race-based trauma can come from any traumatic event and can be marked by an acute state of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.  This is an acute trauma, which means that if it is not treated in a reasonable timeframe, it can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder.

Vicarious trauma is a term that has been utilized to define the constant re-exposing of trauma workers to traumatized clients and the reports of traumatic experiences.  This definition has been extended to include persons impacted by repetitive or continuous media viewing of traumatic events.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of the possible emotional and psychological harm that can occur by following traumatic events via social media or online conversations.

Understanding How the Brain Responds to Trauma

  • In anticipation of the pain, the body signals the brain to activate the limbic system
  • The limbic system is responsible for the functions that inform one’s survival instincts and reflexes
  • The limbic system also regulates autonomic nervous system and informs one’s stress and relaxation.
  • The amygdala lights up and begins attaching emotional meaning to these sensation
  • It is the amygdala that signals other parts of the brain that there is danger (habitual pain) and sends outputs to the  hypothalamus for activation of the sympathetic nervous system
  • This creates a freeze, fight or flight response within the individual

 

Signs of trauma include the following:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Feeling sad or hopeless

 

It is through regular processing of the feelings that these events evoke that one is able to achieve a sense of well-being as well as growing and maintaining good connections with others.  When a traumatic event occurs, the brain becomes deregulated, creating a disconnection that moves the person away from being safe with themselves and with others.

Self Care After Emotional & Psychological Trauma

Use the Five R’s of RELIEF (respite, reactions, reflections, response and reevaluation)

Respite-Step Away

  • Disconnect from triggering interactions or other situations that may elicit the freeze, fight or flight response

Reactions– Own them

  • Take responsibility for your feelings
  • Understand the consequences of undirected anger/rage

Reflect-Seek balance in your feelings & thoughts

  • Find ways to exert physical energy
  • Create a daily routine that includes brisk walking or jogging
  • Find safe ways to discharge intense feelings and respond to mood swings

Response-Openly Communicate

  • Ask for help
  • Find a support group
  • Seek counseling or therapy
  • Connect with others within your community

Reevaluate –Self Care; consider the following:

  • Am I eating well?
  • Am I getting enough rest?
  • What is my intake of alcohol?
  • Am I maintaining my exercise regime?

 

Concluding Words

“Will my son live to see another day?  This question is now my reality.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

“We’re hurting.  Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heart broken.”

-David Brown, Dallas police chief

It is without question that Black Lives Matter, but the same is true for the lives of those who wear the blue uniform of law enforcement.  We currently live in fear of each other.  Regardless of the reasons, this is our sad reality.

Many are expressing fear due to the actions of the recent past and the uncertainties that lie ahead.  We are taught to control and manage our fear, but because it is impossible to do so, we move with anxiety and hesitation.  Fear is not a bad emotion; it is simply an emotion that we can choose to balance in our lives.

The fear that divides us will not dissipate overnight.  Because this fear is also historical and intergenerational, it will not dissipate over time, either.  African-Americans will continue to live in fear of law enforcement and police will continue to live in fear of black males unless we focus on the work of healing the vast wounds and closing the gaps that thrive between us.

Time, in and of itself, does not heal wounds.  Time can be meaningless.  It is the work we do, utilizing the time that is given to us that will heal our wounds. Until we are ALL willing to do that work, the best any of us can do is to move towards living WITH our fear instead of living IN our fear.

Now is the time to do the work.

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

White Privilege: Carrying Your Own Weight

 

“To move the needle of diversity, we need to challenge what we believe about ourselves…

…what practical actions can we take to foster diversity in our own lives?”

-Lisa Sherman, President & CEO, The Advertising Council

My Dear Readers,

This week, I want to highlight the actions (or, in some cases, inaction) of mental health clinicians.  We help our patients heal from their trauma, but also often experience feelings of guilt and sense of powerlessness in our own responses to the enormous issues of privilege and racism that exist within the sphere of the work that we do.

I belong to a professional organization of clinical social workers here in Washington State. We, as an organization, have made the commitment to hold annual training sessions on diversity, and this year, the topic is race and privilege.

This year’s class is to be taught by a prominent African-American scholar, a skilled presenter who has a way of assisting others who are uncomfortable with the subject in a manner that feels less intrusive and diffuses tension.  In the invitation letter, the organizer described her admiration for the presenter’s “willingness to make herself vulnerable as a way to engage us and get the conversation going about race and white privilege.”

I do not want to minimize the value of diversity training, but this created a number of concerns for me.  Why invite an African-American speaker to come to an organization consisting predominantly of white privileged individuals, to speak about white privilege and racism?  If we are looking to learn about concerns regarding racism, white privilege, and implicit bias within the white majority, why wouldn’t you bring in a member of the same group to speak to those issues?

Lisa Sherman, President & CEO of The Advertising Council, and a white female, observes the following:

The place to start is at the source: by getting honest about our differences and our unconscious biases towards others.  No matter how open we think we may be, bias affects us all.  According to research by the Perception Institute, 85% of Americans consider themselves to be without bias, when in fact the vast majority of us carry biases that exist and operate beneath our conscious awareness.  We do 98% of our thinking in our unconscious mind.  And that is where we collect and store our implicit biases.

When I think about this in the context of the comment regarding the African-American presenter’s “willingness to make herself vulnerable,” I noticed that this is an example of privilege in and of itself.  It is African-Americans being required to educate white Americans on their own biases instead of white Americans working on those for themselves.  Instead, shouldn’t white Americans look for practical actions to foster diversity in their own lives?  Specifically:

  • What actions will the participants take to impact the lives and the ways people of color and the ways in which they continue to be underrepresented, unseen or dismissed?
  • How does an organization, which prides itself as “non-activist,” take action other than diversity trainings to assist in the lives of people of color knowing that these individuals continue to be underrepresented, unseen or dismissed?

Some suggestions:

  • Identify white diversity trainers. It is time that organizations encourage their membership to look within the white community to educate them rather than consistently place the responsibility and burden on professionals of color to do so.
  • Create safe environments where white members can meet on a regular basis and discuss their feelings of guilt, shame, and learned helplessness.
  • Stop being self-indulgent and take active action within the communities in which they are based and those nearby.
  • Cease offering the diversity training and CEUs at a reduced cost. The actions can be viewed as a bribe by the organization leadership and serves to weaken the purpose and validity of the intended training.

Concluding Words  

The vulnerability of African-American professionals are their own business and their own responsibilities.  It should not be used as a means of assisting others to “look within themselves.”

Most mental health professionals have to continuously practice their own self-care and self-education in order to serve their patients in the best way possible.  Just like you would attend additional training to support new patients, white American mental health professionals must want to examine their own lives, influences, and biases to see where their privilege assists them in a way that it may not assist their colleagues or patients of color.  Once people of color point out the privilege, it is not incumbent upon those people of color to fix that perception for white Americans… they must want to do it themselves—and then, actually do it.

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…