The Perfect Storm, Part II: All That Is Forgotten, We Remember

“You niggers are wondering how you are going to be treated after the war.  Well, I’ll tell you, you are going to be treated exactly like you are before the war; this s a white man’s country and we expect to rule it.”

-White New Orleans city official, speaking to returning war veterans and African-Americans raising money for the war effort

“As an individual, the Negro is docile, tractable, lighthearted, carefree and good-natured.  If unjustly treated, he is likely to become surly and stubborn.  He is careless, shiftless, irresponsible and secretive.  He is immoral, untruthful, and his sense of right doing relatively inferior.  Crimes and convictions involving moral turpitude are nearly five to one compared to convictions of whites on similar charges.”

-Army War College Report (1936)

 “Men, you are the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never had asked for you if you weren’t good.  I have nothing but the best in my army. I don’t care what color you are, as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sonsabitches.  Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you.   Most of all, your race is looking forward to your success.  Don’t let them down, and damn you, don’t let me down.”

-General George Patton, to the 761st, a segregated black tank battalion, before going into battle.  However, that same afternoon, Patton wrote in his diary:

“The 761st gave a good impression, but I have no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race.”

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My Dear Readers,

In my last blog The Perfect Storm: Power, Privilege, & Fear of Black Skin, I defined the phrase “sleight of hand” as the deceitful craftiness of a cleverly executed trick where the movements of the trickster are barely noticeable.  Within that context, I defined the trickster as the dominant group hiding in the shadows in silence while their anger, rage, and distrust is being misdirected towards African Americans via their assigned agents: the police.

2019 marks a significant time in my life. In early spring, I returned to France and retraced the steps of African American troops fighting in WWI.  This summer, I went to the home of my ancestors, visiting Ghana, West Africa and stood at the “Door of No Return” at Elmira Castle, through which millions of kidnapped Africans disappeared, either becoming slaves in the New World, or dying on the way.

I write now from Berlin, Germany, where I have been researching the contributions made by African American troops during WWII.  Psychological trauma arising from isolation, segregation, and abandonment are common themes that I have found in the experiences of African Americans fighting in segregated units on behalf of democratic principles denied to them at home.

During WWI, African American soldiers were not allowed to wear American uniforms or fight under the American flag. Instead, they had to fight under the   French flag, and all of their supplies, weaponry, and uniforms were provided by the French government.

American General John J. Pershing wrote in his memoirs that he “lent” the two African American divisions to the French and simply forgot about them until after the war.  However, Colonel William Hayward, the White commander of the 369th Harlem Hellfighters black regiment, states differently:

“Our great American general singly put the black orphan in a basket, set it on the doorstep of the French, pulled the bell, and went away.”

The two segregated combat divisions had to rely on the French for ground support, artillery barrages and air coverage.   They served with distinction, suffering a 35% casualty rate.  The 369th represented only 1% of the American forces in France, but held 20% of the front lines.  These soldiers were among the first of Allied troops to cross over into Germany.  Well respected by the French military, they received 180 individual awards of the highest French decoration, the Croix de Guerre.

Although the French gave its highest award for gallantry to African American soldiers on numerous occasions, no African American WWI soldiers were awarded the highest American award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Instead, African American soldiers were forbidden to participate in the victory parade in Paris, and they were quickly shipped home to be forgotten.

It was not until the administration of President George H.W. Bush, 72 years later, that racial bias against African American soldiers who served during WWI was even acknowledged.  An African American soldier, Corporal Freddie Stowers, was posthumously honored during the Bush Administration with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

 During WWII, the American government, having learned from the mistake of forcing African Americans to serve under a foreign flag, sought to maintain the concept of segregation within the military by assigning them as “attached units” to major white military units.  This allowed senior leaders to restrict the actions and activities of segregated units as well as to control or suppress the stories of their performance in war.

 

The Psychological Impact of Valor

The Congressional Medal of Honor is presented to Americans serving in the armed forces.  This award, created during the Civil War, is the highest military decoration that can be awarded.  The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States or an opposing foreign force. Due to the nature of the medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.

By the end of WWII, 464 Congressional Medals of Honor had been awarded to Americans serving in armed forces.  Of these, none were presented to African Americans.  You can see the “sleight of hand” in the underlying message that is simultaneously sent to and informed by the dominant group’s stereotypical beliefs about African Americans:

  • They did not serve in combat roles or if they did, they did not contribute in combat.
  • They were not trusted by whites to fight in combat roles.
  • They were either cowards or psychologically unfit to be trusted in combat roles.

 

Sleight of Hand Trick-The Denial of Heroes

 Despite the information regarding the combat readiness and performance of African American troops serving under the French military during WWI, the American military during WWII took the following view:

  • African Americans were inferior in intelligence and unsuited for military service.
  • African Americans were emotionally unstable and vulnerable to cowardice and therefore unsuited for combat duty.
  • If African Americans were to be utilized for military service, they should be placed in labor, support or service positions.

The US government, the military, the mainstream media of the day, and the entertainment industry all avoided, ignored, and denied the truth regarding the combat contributions of African Americans.  There have been numerous news stories and movies that have featured stories about the American landings at Normandy, France and the heroics of American combat forces during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.  Despite the fact that segregated African American units also fought in these major engagements, there is minimal or no mention of their contributions.

The only movie released about the segregated African American WWII units was Red Ball Express, released in 1952. The movie tells the story of an African American  segregated unit delivering much needed supplies to support Patton’s quickly moving Third Army racing towards Germany.  The movie is told through the eyes of a white officer (Jeff Chandler) with minor supporting roles given to black actors.

The story of the real Red Ball Express is an important one, as it tells of the contributions of African Americans during a critical time of the war.  However, here is a sample of the “sleight of hand trick” at work.  This unit operated 5,958 vehicles carrying 12,500 tons of supplies per day for 83 days.  As important as it was, the movie reinforces the stereotype that the only contributions of African Americans in the war was in labor, support or service positions, disregarding African Americans serving in segregated combat units.

 

So what is known about African-Americans serving in segregated combat units?

 There were many segregated African American combat units serving in the Europe and the Pacific during WWII.  In addition to the Tuskegee Airmen, others include:

  • The USS Mason—A US Navy destroyer that whose crew achieved the distinction of escorting six major conveys across the Atlantic without losing a single ship.
  • The 4th Marine Division (Black Leathernecks)-a Marine Corps unit that suffered severe casualties fighting the Japanese on Saipan, earning a Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation
  • The 761st Tank Battalion—a US Army battalion quoted by its commanding general George Patton as having “no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race.” The 761st Tank Battalion was in continuous combat from October 31, 1944 to May 6, 1945.  During that time they captured or destroyed 331 machine gun nests, 58 pillboxes and 461 armored vehicles.  In addition, they killed 6,246 enemy soldiers and captured 15,818 prisoners.  They liberated thirty towns and villages and two branch concentration camps.

The 761st Tank Battalion suffered a casualty rate of 50%.  Members of the battalion received the following decorations:

  • 296 Purple Hearts
  • 8 battlefield commissions
  • 11 Silver Stars
  • 70 Bronze Stars

 

The Silencing & Denial of Heroism

The commanding officer of the 761st Tank Battalion requested that the unit and one of its members who was killed in battle be awarded the country’s highest honors, the Distinguished Unit citation and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  General Patton, commander of the Third Army, and General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied commander who would later become the 34th President of the United States, denied both requests.

It was not until 32 years later, during the administration of Jimmy Carter, that the 761st Tank Battalion received the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism.  It was 53 years later during the administration of Bill Clinton that Staff Sergeant Rubin Robinson Rivers of the 761st was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism and sacrificing his life to save his comrades.

 

In Service of Democracy: The Blindness of the Dominant Group

More than one million African American men served in segregated units during WWII.  Serving with distinction did not prevent them from being exposed to the racism and psychological trauma they faced when returning home.  Lieutenant Christopher Stureky, having won a battlefield commission and Silver Star during the war, shares the following experience:

“I stopped by an inexpensive store in uniform with combat ribbons and battle stars in full display. When I tried to order a hamburger, the white girl behind the counter said, “We don’t serve niggers in here.”

Following the war, African American veterans experienced numerous acts of violence stateside:

  • Mobs in the South beat African American veterans who were still in uniform.
  • In 1946 black veterans were lynched. One was shot and killed returning from voting.
  • In rural Georgia, two veterans and their wives were dragged from their cars by a White mob and shot to death. Their bodies were found to contain more than 60 bullets.
  • A WWII veteran was attacked by policemen in South Carolina and became blind as a result.
  • African American veterans were denied entrance into veteran support organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.
  • African-American veterans were denied access to GI home loans, educational institutions and postwar job training opportunities.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

It is often stated that history is written by the victors.   In the case of African Americans, they are victims and it is left up to the dominant group, who hides in the shadows, supported by the military, print media and cinema makers to hide stories of their heroism and misdirect generations of African-Americans to believe those lies.

This Sleight of Hand Trick as this relates to African American veterans of WWII continues to unfold to this day.  In 2020, I will return to Belgium to explore the story of the murders of 11 African American soldiers captured during the Battle of the Bulge.  This war crime was well known by American white military commanders but was not made public until recently. Even today, the story of The Lost Eleven remains unknown to the majority of the African American community.

The Sleight of Hand Trick when done successfully can have traumatic and psychological long-term impacts.  As shown during WWI and WWII it was used to reinforce racial oppression and the forced subordination of African Americans while seeking to hold power, exercise privilege and exploit the fear of those who skin is dark, and is easily identified, increasing instances of psychological distress and physical harm.

DEDICATION

To the many African-American men who have come and gone before us, I say thank you. To the men of today, the struggle against racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment continues. Despite all adversity and all that has been thrown at us, we are still standing. Death awaits us all. However, while we are here, we can either stand as men or live on our knees. If we chose to stand as men, our FAITH will see us through.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next crossroads….. The Journey continues ..

The Perfect Storm: Power, Privilege, and Fear of Black Skin

“People understand officers have tough jobs and have to make snap decisions… but at the same time, they realize, we realize, that there are some officers who will occasionally use very poor judgment, violate policies and procedures and do things that are egregiously wrong.  We want to be able to stop that.”

-Fernando Costa, Assistant City Manager, Fort Worth Texas

 

“There was absolutely no excuse for this incident and the person responsible will be held accountable.  The officers, they try hard every day to try to make this city better.  I likened it to a bunch of ants building an anthill, and if somebody comes with a hose and washes it away, they just have to start from scratch.”

-Fort Worth Interim Police Chief Kraus making an emotional appeal to the public not to judge all the officers in the department based on one officer’s actions.

 

“Black people are being targeted. With every death by cop, there is the “usual dance” of public outcry, an official investigation, an individual officer tossed under the bus by their police department, a lawsuit, and eventually a financial settlement. But nothing ever really changes. In a few months we’ll be right back where we started with another life lost.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

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My Dear Beloved Readers,

I have missed you so much!

During my hiatus, I returned to Paris, France to do research on the psychological traumas inflicted on African-American soldiers during World War I by the American government, including fighting in segregated units, not being allowed to wear American uniforms and being forced to fight under the French flag.

I also had the pleasure of teaching two workshops at the Year of the Return Conference in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.  While there, I visited the infamous “Door of No Return” at Elmina Castle, one of the many holding pits for African men, women and children captured by Europeans for the Trans- Atlantic Slave trade.

Nearly 12.5 million people were kidnapped and held in these castle dungeons along the western coast of Africa. When the time came, they were made to exit through these “Doors of No Return” and taken aboard ships bound for unknown places in the New World. I was psychologically impacted by what I saw and felt as I stood frozen, clutching the “Door of No Return” with shaking hands.

However, I will give Elmina Castle the attention it deserves in a future blog. Today, I want to focus on the sleight of Hand trick that is being played upon us, right in front of our “lying” eyes. Below is a story of being duped without realizing you have been duped.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

As I write this letter to you, I am so angry.  I am a professional black man.  I am well educated.  I own my home.  I am sick and tired of the daily abuse I must take from white people.

Recently while riding the local transit to work, a young white male intentionally bumped me and begin calling me the N word several times while the bus was in transit. The passengers and bus driver, who were all white, sat silently.  I felt humiliated, angry and traumatized from the incident.

It is not uncommon for me to be followed by store staff while shopping or looked upon suspiciously even when walking in the office building that I have worked for the last ten years.  When I moved into the neighborhood, the only welcome I received was the police knocking on my door wanting proof that I lived there.

I have been questioned by neighborhood crime watchers and followed by the police. I am frightened about being shot and killed just for the error of being born black.  I now have a protocol when a police car pulls me over:  I immediately place my hands on the dashboard, ask for permission to move when needed, and I do not move until I ask permission to do so.

One cop asked me in a hostile tone why I don’t like cops.  When I told him it was not about not liking cops, rather about having fear of cops, he smiled, removed his hand from his holster, told me that I had “nothing to be afraid of,” and to “have a nice day”.  He never stated the reason he pulled me over.  I was simply in the “wrong” neighborhood, the one I live in.

Really? How am I supposed to have a nice day? Am I supposed to pretend that nothing happened?  When I tell my white coworkers about these incidents, they become quiet, seek to change the subject, or tell me that I am either overreacting or that I am too sensitive.  Some avoid me, seeing me as an “angry black man.”  One person had the nerve to tell me that she misses the “old” me.  I don’t smile anymore.

Now, there is that shooting of the black woman by a cop while she was peeking out the window blinds in her own home.  This is the second time cop has killed a black person in their home.  And this time, an eight-year-old child was present!

I am angry with white people for their ignorance, angry with black people for doing nothing about it, and I am scared of the police because they have the power to kill me and get away with it.  I don’t feel safe in my home, in my car, on the bus and out in the community.  I don’t know what to do.

I feel like lighting up the next white person that insults me.  I am considering obtaining a concealed arms permit.   My parents believe that what I am feeling is really related to today’s political climate and that this too will pass.  They disagree with me having a weapon either on me or in the house.  I have never spoken to a therapist before.  What are your thoughts?

Not a Sitting Duck,  Seattle WA

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My Dear Readers:

As I listen to this young man’s words, I see the makings of a perfect storm: he lacks power, he is frustrated by those who hold privileges that he does not, and he is reacting to those who fear black skin.  The question is whether he is about to erupt, or whether he is willing to seek the ability to have “calmness in a burning house.” I want to thank him for sharing the ongoing psychologically traumatic experiences he has been enduring.   Let’s take a moment and examine what this person is feeling as well as his response.

The writing is indicative of a person who feels powerless, frustrated and angry due to interactions with the police and being stereotyped and made “invisible” by the dominant society.  His responses are to “light up the next white person that insults him” and obtain a concealed weapons permit.

My dear readers, just imagine this scenario as a television game show.  If so, the dominant society would be shouting and applauding the host’s announcement:

“Congratulations!  You have, by your actions, have just won the grand prize known as the “Angry Black, Out of Control” Trophy. This “ABC” prize is often awarded to black people who demonstrate the inability to control their emotions.”

So, what have you won?

  1. For carrying a concealed weapon (with a license) while interacting with the police. you have won a casket and the privilege of being escorted to your final resting place by six of your closest friends, your pallbearers.
  2. For “lighting up” someone, you have won a beautiful set of jewelry (handcuffs), accommodations and meals (incarceration), opportunities to meet with local celebrities (attorney, prosecutor, judge), celebrity status (media coverage) and expensive exotic items (bail bonding, attorney/legal fees, court costs and costs for anger management courses).

Should “Not a Sitting Duck” take the actions stated?

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This is the trapdoor that many African Americans allow themselves to fall through. They allow their reactions to be the response and derail all of their own hard-fought victories and accomplishments.

The Crossroads: Playing the Game or Running the Race Smarter Not Harder

One of the takeaways I have from standing at the Door of No Return is the full understanding of the endurance and sacrifice of my ancestors.   Despite slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, domestic terrorism, and other horrors, they never gave up on life.  They became skilled in learning to play “Massa’s game,” and in doing so, were able to achieve success while others sought their destruction.

Not much since then has changed.  Despite economic, social and political achievements attained by African Americans over the last 400 years, we continue to be duped and manipulated by the dominant group.

Following the most recent police-involved shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth Texas, Eugene Robinson, columnist with the Washington Post, asked the following question:

“What can a black person do to keep from getting killed by police in this country?”

My response:

“Not a damn thing.”

What is wrong with me?  Has the doctor gone insane?

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Sleight of Hand and Our Lying Eyes

The phrase “sleight of hand” refers to the deceitful craftiness of a cleverly executed trick where the movements of the trickster are barely noticeable.  I believe the term is applicable here in that:

  1. African Americans believe they have the “power” to stop the police from killing African Americans. As the African-American community speaks; it is organized in one voice, condemning the killing of individual African-Americans.
  2. African Americans believe that the hierarchy of police department has the “power” to stop the individual police officer from killing African Americans.
  3. African Americans believe that the dominant group will break their silence and act as a group and stop the killing of African Americans.

Let’s look at these individually.

  

  1. African Americans believe they have the “power” to stop the police from killing African Americans. As the African American community speaks; it is organized in one voice, condemning the killing of individual African-Americans.

The African American community is not monolithic. It does not consider itself to be powerful, intractably indivisible, or uniform.  Its strength has been focusing on political and economic growth generally through education and social and personal accomplishments.  Its weakness has been a psychological survival mentality that is historical in nature and does not allow it to act proactively in either speaking in one voice or to protect its members from police involved shootings.

  1. African Americans believe that the hierarchy of police department has the “power” to stop the individual police officer from killing African Americans.

There are more than 18,000 police departments throughout the United States.  There is an estimated 750,000 to 850,000 sworn or commissioned officers within 18,000 federal, state and law enforcement agencies in the US.  Due to the growing numbers of agencies, overlapping and conflicts in jurisdictions, there are inconsistencies in the following areas:

  • Training & protocol
  • Hiring & retention
  • Mental health
  • Financial resources/ budgetary concerns

In an earlier quote, Fernando Costa, Assistant City Manager, Fort Worth Texas stated:

“People understand officers have tough jobs and have to make snap decisions”…”But at the same time, they realize, we realize, that there are some officers who will occasionally use very poor judgment, violate policies and procedures and do things that are egregiously wrong.  We want to be able to stop that.”

Here is the sleight of hand trick in action:

Is he really stating to the public in general and African-Americans specifically that “occasionally,” an officer will take actions that will result in the injury or death of those the officer is sworn to protect and serve? If so, how does that relate to a person being shot and killed while peeking out one’s window blinds or because the officer mistakenly entered the wrong residence?

“We want to be able to stop that.” Is he saying what he needs to say to calm angry African Americans and nervous white constituents, or is he claiming that he doesn’t have the authority or ability to stop the killing of African Americans?

In restating Fort Worth Interim Police Chief Kraus’s emotional appeal to the public not to judge all the officers in the department based on one officer’s actions:

“There was absolutely no excuse for this incident and the person responsible will be held accountable.  The officers, they try hard every day to try to make this city better.  I likened it to a bunch of ants building an anthill, and if somebody comes with a hose and washes it away, they just have to start from scratch.”

By throwing the individual police officer involved in the shooting under the bus and seeking empathy and understanding, he is distancing himself and the overall department from responsibility!

  1. African Americans believe that the dominant group will break their silence and act as a group and stop the killing of African Americans. 

My observations and feelings about have taught me to watch carefully the trickster’s hand.  The focus on the police officer involved in the shooting is misdirected.  The focus on the policing department and its civilian oversight is also misdirected.

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So…who should we focus on?  In essence, the silence of the dominant group.

The “fear of black skin” that often is a factor in police involved shootings of African Americans is generated and reinforced by the dominant group.  There is a non-verbal and binding understanding between the police and the dominant group which commissions its officers.  That being community protection for us (the dominant group) and enforce the law upon them (African Americans and other people of color.)

As a result, now and then an officer must be sacrificed so that the police department involved can rebuild trust or, as Interim Chief Krauss states, “rebuild the anthill.” Chief Krauss adds:

“Human life is a precious thing and should not have been taken from Ms. Jefferson,” Kraus told reporters. “This incident has eroded the trust that we have built with our community and we must now work even harder to ensure that trust is restored.”

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

Mr. Hale, a black resident of Fort Worth, when questioned whether during an emergency would he call the police, stated:

“It would have to be extreme to call.  It’s too much 50/50 in the air.  It’s not that I’m scared of the police, but you just don’t know who’re going to catch on the wrong day.”

My Dear Readers,

It is a sad truth that these comments are echoed throughout many African American communities in the United States.  Once again, African Americans are allowing themselves to be deceived by the sleight of hand trickery.  Specifically, by placing the focus on the police themselves, we give the dominant group, who grants the power that is given to the police, a free pass to continue operating in the shadows of the darkness.

So, what can a black person do to avoid being killed by the police?

For black people to stop being killed by the police, black and brown skin must be valued, validated and visualized in the same way by the same people who, like the police, fear black and brown skin.

For black people to stop being killed, white people must want to explore issues of racism, privilege and implicit bias. White people must want to begin working on healing (and stop ignoring) their psychological trauma of chronic moral injury syndrome.

White silence must end, and transformation must begin. Black people are being targeted and as in police involved shooting, there will be the usual dance of public outcry, an “official investigation,” an individual police officer tossed under the bus by the police department, a lawsuit, and a financial settlement.

We will see the same photos of grieving family, pallbearers and casket with the media escalating the story. And then there will be SILENCE…. until the next time.

Chronic moral injury syndrome, white supremacy, and fear of black and brown skin only insure that there will be… A next time.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Facebook post,  10.15.19

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What Is Winning?

Every Black person going to sleep is not going wake up

Life is walking the landscape

If I can make it through the night

And awake up in the morning

With my loved ones safe

I win.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

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“They don’t hear your voice.  They just see the color of your skin”

-The Revenant (2015)

 

“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)

 

Interactions with Law Enforcement-The Five R’s of RELIEF

Take a Respite (Step away emotionally)

Embrace your Reactions (Hug your feelings)

Reflect (balance your feelings and thoughts)

Respond inwards (calm the inner self)

Reevaluate (actions and behaviors)

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues…

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.”

———————

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

*******************************

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

***************************************

Farewell for now…….

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues…

At The Crossroads: White Privilege And The New Normal

“People can be slave ships in shoes.”

-Zora Neale Hurston, Author

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

-George Santayana (1863) philosopher/novelist

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

-Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet

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My Dear Readers,

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

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

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

The Cries of Children

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

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

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

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

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

What is white privilege? 

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

How does privilege differ from segregation? 

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

How does the utilization of privilege benefit the individual?

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

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

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

White Privilege: The New Normal

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

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

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

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

Using the Power of Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————————————-

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…

**************************************

“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.”

——————————–

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.

 ——————————

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

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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…