In Our Corner: Responding to Microaggressions in the Pursuit of Self-Acceptance

Sticks & Stones (Variation #1)

Alexander William Kinglake, 1833

“Sticks and stones may break my bones

But words will never hurt me”

Sticks & Stones (Variation #2)

The African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Christian Recorder, March 1862.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.”

Sticks & Stones (Variation #3)

Absent Friends, 2004.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can tear me apart.”

Catch A Nigger by His Toe

A Children’s Counting Rhyme (1888)

“Eeny, meena, mina, mo,

Catch a nigger by the toe,

If he hollers let him go,

Eena, meena, mina, mo”

“So, let me try to understand this video. Here are a group of young Black men who are wearing baggy clothes with their pants hanging off their waists acting like human beings. Go figure? Gentlemen, you make your families proud. Outstanding!!!!”

  • George Saint Louis. Writer, LinkedIn, July 28, 2020

My Dear Readers,

At the time of this writing, as our country continues to struggle with COVID-19, 6.09 million Americans have contracted the disease with over 185,000 deaths. That is the national toll, tangible numbers signifying the trauma that we all as Americans have experienced in the last six months. What is not as easily visible yet has also been widely experienced are the microaggressions suffered by black, brown, and Indigenous people of color (BBIPOC) at the hands of others.

Microaggressions are those common, daily, often brief, verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative prejudicial slights and insults towards any group, particularly culturally or racially marginalized groups.

The words of George Saint Louis quoted in the opening of this blog are an example of these microaggressions.

Recently, I saw a video showing compassionate assistance given to an elderly white couple by a three, young-adult black men.  The elders were both nearing 100 years old. The men, upon seeing that the husband was unable to get his wife into their vehicle, assisted them by physically placing the woman into the vehicle and then helping the elderly man into the driver’s seat as well.

This video was viewed over 4.5 million times on Facebook and now was being shown on LinkedIn.

George Saint Louis’ statement was in response to this video.

His words were racist, sarcastic and demeaning. They were hurled with the intent to ridicule and inflict psychological harm on a group of young black men.

Instead of asking why George Saint Louis chose to respond in that manner, I ask what about the young men?

What follows after the psychological assault? How are they impacted as individuals? Are such assaults expected to be forgiven and forgotten? Are they expected to simply ignore the words and actions and brush them aside like the “Sticks and Stones” rhyme taught?

During America’s slave period, the whip also known as the “lash” was utilized to shame, humiliate and psychologically intimidate enslaved people into submission. Its impact was further increased when other enslaved people were required to observe the lashing of their peers to heighten the shame of the ordeal. Today, the observance and similar outcome is achieved via social media as seen by the 4.5 million Facebook viewers of the three young black men seeking to assist an elderly white couple.

The injuries endured from microaggressions remain permanent wounds embedded upon the psychological self that never, ever go away.  All African Americans have memories they could share of psychological trauma created by microaggressions.

For example, I remember as a child growing up in the segregated South, being told to leave the homes of white playmates for no other reason than for the color of my skin. I can attest that the psychological pain from incidences like that is everlasting and the wounds from these will reopen and bleed when such microaggressions occur later in life.

This continual reopening of wounds is due to the vulnerability of never knowing when, where or from whom, the comment, action, behavior or seemingly innocent question would be coming from.

In another example from my life, as a graduate student early-on in my program, one of my professors questioned whether white female students were writing my papers in exchange for “sexual favors.”  Evidently, the quality of the research work I was doing was “suspect”.

African Americans, like others in this country, walk the landscape of life. During the walk, there will be challenges, roadblocks, and obstacles made by others.  Some of these will be based out of fear, some out of ignorance, others out of jealousy and the remaining are simply from hate.

I currently spend dozens of hours, weekly, with African Americans engaging in a deliberate strategy that my white colleagues due to a combination of training, western orientation/approach or ignorance are unable to do… listening. Many of my colleagues simply hear and the information travels in one ear and out the other. In listening, I seek to provide a safe space for the expression and release of pain and suffering.

Yet, among patients, there is a common theme: avoidance, denial, rejection of what has been experienced, the few who choose to self-medicate through alcohol or drugs, or those who seek to hide in big houses, expensive cars and flashy clothes while suffering silently.

The questions often asked include the following:

  • How do I avoid these feelings?
  • When will the pain of hurtful words go away?
  • What tricks can I use to just forget about it?

Avoidance? Distancing? Tricks? Self-deception?

Following is a story of a man, who, while walking the landscape, has found his path blocked not only by others but by himself. Here is his story.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

 I am writing because I have lost my way.  I have read your writings and hope you can help me.  I am an African American male who has lived my entire life in white America.  I am responding to the trauma of whiteness and their power that is overwhelming me.

 I feel that my life has been one of surrendering my power to white people.  I grew up learning that they were always right and that I was wrong.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a predominantly white town that has now become a mid-sized city.  My family was one of the very few black people in the area.  My playmates, classmates and friends were all white. 

 All through school I was known as Black Joe.  Not Joseph, my given name, or Joey or just Joe, but rather Black Joe.  When I was in the third grade, a white classmate called me a “nigger” and everyone laughed, and pointed fingers at me. At the time I did not know what a “nigger” was, but I knew from the way it was said and the laughter that followed, it was a bad thing.

 My parents did not speak up for me.  In fact, they remained quiet as I took the abuse.  They, just like the white people around me, never felt that I would be successful.  I went on to prove them wrong. I was smart, I knew I was going to be successful.

 My mistake was that in focusing on proving myself acceptable to them, I gave them my power.  As an adult, I paid a terrible price for my success. I had the high paying job, expensive car, and a big house but I also have had a series of extramarital affairs resulting in divorces, not being on speaking terms with my adult children, and a strong dependence on alcohol.

 I wanted to take back my power, so I made the commitment to attend a local Alcohol Anonymous meeting that was conducted via video conferencing due to the coronavirus outbreak.  For the first time, I spoke out about the pain of being a black man living in a white town. 

 I got a lot of positive feedback and I was feeling really good until someone spoke over the receiver, at first calling out my name and then repeatedly saying “nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger.”  The facilitator shut off the microphone, but it was too late.  I felt humiliated and ashamed.

 I felt so betrayed. I never returned to another AA meeting.  What was really telling was I had completely forgotten about the incident of being called a nigger in the 3rd grade but the incident at the AA meeting took me back to that time.  I am still drinking heavily to this very day. I am drinking an average of two half-gallons of scotch per week.

 I have sought acceptance from others and have failed to obtain this.  As I write to you, I don’t know what I want and yet, in your response, I hope to find wisdom that will show me the way.

 Bless you Dr. Kane,

Wandering Alone Mount Vernon, WA 

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My Dear Readers,

His story is similar to many African American men and women who have suffered emotionally while seeking to climb the “ladder of acceptance”. What they never really understand is that this ladder is an illusion.  Acceptance by others may never be achieved. And if it is, it may be withdrawn or snatched away without hesitation, justification, or notice.

The 3R’s & The Survival of the Fittest

Psychological trauma has been a key factor in the lives of African Americans beginning in early childhood.  Where their white peers are allowed to just learn the lessons of the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) without the concern of racial bias, black children are abandoned in the white educational system and, barring strong parental interaction or oversight at school, they are left to navigate the educational landscape alone, expected to survive exposure to racism, rejection, and rebuke without support.

“I have sought acceptance from others and have failed to obtain this.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Acceptance and Understanding

“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.”

McLeod, Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. Psychology Today. March 20, 2020.

Once the physiological and safety needs are met, Maslow states that “the person… will hunger for affectionate relationships with people in general for acceptance into the group.”

Although acceptance can be defined as the action or process of being received by the group as adequate or suitable, it is also defined as the internalized need to be accepted as you are.  The desire to be accepted as you are, can also lead to the willingness to tolerate difficult situations.

It is the nature of human beings to want to be accepted, valued, validated, and viewed with esteem from a desired group. Problems develop when the value, validation and esteem is one sided or focused in one direction.

The Reality of Black & White

“We are still living in a society where dark things are devalued, and white things are valued.”

  • Margaret Beale Spencer, 2010

Due to the way that education system set up, and values are learned, the idea that they are superior is consciously reinforced to the white children while the idea that BBIPOC people are inferior is subconsciously, unconsciously, and continually reinforced to black and brown children. Nearly 67 years following the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and 12 years after the election of the country first black president, white children have an overwhelming white bias, and black children have a bias towards white (Spencer 2010).

The Willingness to Tolerate Difficult Situations

The trap that sucks in many African Americans is the willingness to tolerate difficult situations in order to gain acceptance.  In many cases, these situations are traumatic and psychologically wounding, often resulting in emotional and mental scarring.

The problem is that consciously we know that acceptance is not something that can be forced, yet subconsciously and unconsciously, there is a willingness to tolerate the difficult situation until acceptance has been achieved.

The Myth of Sisyphus: The Story of African Americans Being “Played”

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus is forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.  Sisyphus was undeterred; he pushed the rock right back up every time it rolled down.  He refused to surrender to gravity.

The moral of this story is we must learn to embrace our purpose (the rock) in life. Once we accept it as the objective of our being, we should give everything it takes to achieve it.  Most importantly, no matter how much we lose in our quest, we must never back down until we fulfill our potential.

So, what is the bottom line we learn from Sisyphus?  Embrace the rock. Be persistent.  Work hard.  Never give up.

Now, let’s apply this to African Americans struggling to be accepted by a hostile group who view themselves as superior and those seeking “acceptance” are inferior.  In this modern-day uphill struggle, the “rock” is the acceptance African Americans seek to achieve from the dominant group.

The reality (and not moral) of this story is that African Americans are being played. They are allowing themselves to be believe the illusion that they will ever be acceptable to the dominant group.  Yet, as they continue to do so, to seek acceptance from others, they continue to embrace the rock. To be persistent.  To work hard.  To never give up.”

“You’re Fooling You

“Ah tell me who’s fooling who.

You ain’t fooling me.

You’re fooling you.

You’re Fooling You, The Dramatics (1975)

 The Golden Rule: “You Have To Be Twice As Good As Them”

Rowan: “Did I not raise you for better? How many times have I told you? You have to be what?”

Olivia:   “Twice as good.”

Rowan: “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they have.”

Scandal. ABC. 2012-2018.

For whites, there is a saying: “Whoever has the gold makes the rules”. For black people it is a statement of exclusion and survival. Variations of the preceding quote have been drummed into the minds of African Americans by their parents inter-generationally since slavery over 400 years ago.

An Unequal Playing Field

The effects of these parental demands upon black children is not only mentally taxing but can be emotionally overwhelming as well. They leave the children vulnerable to believing that striving for acceptance and eventually for personal success is like Sisyphus, rolling the rock up the mountain in order to “get half of what they have”. But before they even get there, they must first roll the rock up the mountain known as “acceptance.”

Self-Acceptance

It is known that acceptance and understanding are emotional needs to feel alright and to know that others accept you as you are.  However, this can be a slippery slope for African Americans who prioritized the “acceptance by others” over the acceptance of self.

Acceptance is an entity controlled from within the individual. Acceptance is an entity that cannot be forced.  Self-acceptance is an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself, and it is a necessity for good mental wellness.

Self-acceptance, unlike acceptance by others, is an “alone” entity.  It involves self-understanding and a realistic, subjective awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses.

In conclusion, self-acceptance is extremely important. If a person does not accept themselves for who they really are, they will continuously create ongoing problems within their own life.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

“I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see”

My Dear Young Man,

I appreciate the sharing of your story.  It is one to which many African Americans can relate.  Yours is a story of endurance, pain and suffering.  It is also a story of accomplishments and socio-economic achievement.

However, as you sought like Sisyphus to reach the top of the mountain, you fell for the trap of seeking their acceptance instead of seeking self-acceptance.  The acceptance of others may or may not ever come.  And yet, you ignored the cries, pleas and calling of the person most important in your life, the Self.

It is true that you have gained success and wealth yet, look at the price you paid for it. In trying to self-medicate, you are consuming a gallon of alcohol per week. If you continue on this road traveled by so many black men before you, it will only lead to your demise. The black community will have lost another valuable soul… taken too soon.

Your landscape can be open, vast and wide.  Or you can continue to slip quietly away filled with bitterness.  Though it didn’t seem like it, the person who hid in the darkness during the AA meeting calling out “nigger, nigger, nigger” gave you a gift. The gift of exposure. It showed you that that environment was not a safe place for you to be.

Five R’s of RELIEF

Instead of drowning your anguish in the darkness of alcohol; reach out and take a respite (step away), embrace your reactions, be reflective (balancing feeling & thoughts), be responsive to self (talk to me), and constantly reevaluate what occurred and how it was experienced.

The Impact of “Time Heals Wounds”

Historically black parents, so focused on their children’s success, have neglected protecting them from the psychological wounding of microaggressions.  We have been told that “time will heal wounds.”  This is not true.  Time does not heal, it is the work we do in therapy, over time that will heal the wounds.

What is true is that microaggressive wounds lie deeply in the hearts of the victims. Such words or actions can come from strangers, coworkers, family members and friends you may have known for many years.  The objective is not to either ignore, react, or to rise above the insult. The objective is to understand that the traumatic impact remains, but the wound will heal to the point that the traumatic impact will be lighter and have a much smaller influence as you walk your landscape.

As for myself, I remained psychologically impacted by the racially and sexually charged statement leveled at me in graduate school.  I remembered those words as I spoke before the United State Congress in 2008 as the Clinical Consultant in Clinical Traumatology for the Congressional Black Caucus. Those words were painful but, because of my own acceptance of self, I was able to continue my journey of self-discovery despite their influence.

Now, what will you do? Continue down the road well paved with the souls of many lost black men or will you walk your landscape and seek your journey of self-discovery? If you choose to seek self-discovery, the first step is prioritizing self-acceptance over acceptance by others.  In doing this as you interact with others; allow the following statement to guide you along the way.

Loving the Self

As much as I love you, I love me more.

Loving me more doesn’t mean I love you less.

It just means I love me more.

More.

Focus on the journey… not the destination.

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“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

  • John Robert Lewis (1940-2020), Former US Congressman and Civil Rights Activist

 

Until the next time,

Remaining … in Our Corner

In Our Corner: The Seen, The Unseen and the Dimming of the Bonfires

“Once a profound truth has been seen, it cannot be ‘unseen’. There’s no ‘going back’ to the person you were. Even if such a possibility did exist… why would you want to?”

– Dave Sim, Cartoonist & Publisher

 

“Our police force was not created to serve black Americans; it was created to police black Americans and serve white Americans.”

– Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

 

“I know people get tired of hearing it but black people have got to keep saying it, throwing our conditions up into these people’s faces until something is done about the way they have treated us. We’ve just got to keep it in front of their eyes and their ears like the Jews have done. We’ve got to make them know and understand just how evil the things are that they did to us over all these years and are still doing to us today.”

– Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography

 

“I can hear you say, “What a horrible, irresponsible bastard!” And you’re right. I leap to agree with you. I am one of the most irresponsible beings that ever lived. Irresponsibility is part of my invisibility; any way you face it, it is a denial. But to whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me?”

– Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

 

My Dear Readers,

Well, the “walking back,” has begun.  The explosion of anger and outrage following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer that ignited protests and riots across the nation is waning, and the bonfires of action lit within the dominant group have begun to die out.

Still, the process is working. The people are finally being heard. State legislation regarding police reform is being passed and laws are being enacted.  Even President Trump, after a protracted silence, got involved and signed a watered-down executive order that, on its face, pretended to alter police policies but ultimately left it up to the agencies to enact.

The white liberal progressives are also adding their support. One social work organization is urging its members to pressure their representatives into acknowledging that Trump’s executive order is not “as strong as the organization would wish, but it is a start” and suggest that we work together in the “spirit of collaboration”. Really?

 

“In the Spirit of Collaboration”

This statement is loaded with catch phrases that signal that it is time to return to normal. “Not as strong as the organization would wish”, and “It is a start…” is language that coddles those in power into thinking that their half-hearted attempts at pacifying the enraged masses is “a step in the right direction” as if an actual effort was made. Working together “in the spirit of collaboration”, means nothing more than a return to the old normal with flowery new language and more black blood in the streets.

On June 12, 2020, another black man, Rayshard Brooks, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Atlanta, GA. Four days afterward, on June 16, 2020, Trump issued the Executive Order “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”.

Less than a week later, on June 21, 2020, an NYPD police officer was suspended without pay following video showing him using an illegal chokehold on an African American man.

Are the police uninformed or is it a return to business as usual?

 

Intellectual Knowledge vs Experiential Persecution

Knowledge of racism, microaggressions, and macroaggressions can be learned about academically or experienced; known intellectually or lived through and felt.

When racism has only been observed from afar, its impacts can be rationalized down to…

“Privilege is the right to remain silent when others can’t.”

– Richie Norton, Author

But when it is lived through repeatedly, statements like…

“Every time the neck of a black man, woman or child is pinned to the ground by the knee of a police officer, every time a black man, woman or child is chased down in the street and shot simply for being there, every time a black man woman or child is judged purely because of color, every time a white individual crosses the street to avoid walking past a black man, woman or child, avoids sitting beside a black man, woman or child on public transport or says or does nothing when a black man, woman or child is being subjected to abuse is, in itself, a modern day lynching.” 

– R. Patient

Capture the depths of what is routinely being experienced.

The words of Norton, a white author, are no less true than those of Patient, but there is a difference. Norton only knows of the brutality and injustice, while to Patient, it is known and felt emotionally.

Today the dominant group can speak intellectually and rationally about the need for police reform however, having not experienced this, they cannot feel the trauma of police brutality and oppression. They cannot conceive of the suffering that comes from the understanding that policing arises from slavery and is intended for the control and oppression of black and brown people, today’s descendants of slaves.

Below is such a story…

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Dear Dr. Kane,

I am feeling helpless.  And I am so angry. I am a black man working in the corporate world.  I have had to put up with microaggressions all my life living in the Pacific Northwest. 

 I lived my life and shouldered my aches and pains with no one giving a damn.  I remembered one incident while walking with my white peers to lunch being stopped and questioned by the police.  They said I resemble a person of interest. 

They detained me, “handcuffing me for my safety” and after a few minutes and checking their computer system, let me go. Those bastards gave me a warming to be good and stay out of trouble.  There was no apology. 

 All this happened with my peers standing right there. They did nothing. They did not come to my aid. I was so humiliated. I graduated, top of my class gaining my MBA, and these bastards, the police tell me to be good and stay out trouble.

  It was a supposed to be a networking lunch.  No one said a word; I sat at the restaurant in silence.  I got up twice to go to the restroom to collect myself.  I was so angry, but I couldn’t scream or yell.  All I could do is cry like a girl. 

 Finally, I made an excuse and left, going home for the day.  When I got home, I got drunk and stayed drunk for two days calling in sick.  I know they knew the truth.  When I returned to work, they all pretended nothing had happened.

 Now some time later, George Floyd gets killed on video and now they are concerned about my welfare.  I am so sick and tired of the “I had no idea” or “is it really is that bad?” or approval of “Black Lives Matter.”  This is all bullshit.  They knew.  How could they not know?  My life wasn’t important before and now it is?

I am so confused and conflicted.  I want their help. Black lives do matter.  I am tired of being afraid when I see the cops driving behind me.  I know they are running my plates.   I get these aching feelings in my chest and stomach.

 I know we cannot succeed without their help.  White people and people of color have got to come together to make changes and undo racism.  But I am afraid that they will walk away like they have done so many times before.  I know the history.

 Now that I’ve got visibility, I don’t want to lose it.  I want change. What can I do besides drinking my pain away?

Covering Up Pain, Seattle WA

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My Dear Young Man,

You are seeking something from me that is beyond my skill to provide. I cannot make your pain go away. As a black man in America, no matter who you are, rich, poor, educated etc., your blackness will be weaponized against you.

Black men in powerful positions within government such as Cory Booker, US Senator of New Jersey, and Eric Holder, former Attorney General of the United States, have been racially profiled and stopped by local law enforcement.  Black women are not exempt from such microaggressions either. In July 2017, Aramis Ayala, state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, was profiled and pulled over in a stop occurring in the same county that she is the top prosecutorial official.

 

The Exhausting Toll: The “Black Tax”

There is a hidden tax that you pay for your freedom to be a black person in America.  It is not a formal tax, it is not listed in any of the local, state or federal tax codes.  It is a tax that is demanded by any white person with privilege at any time against a black person simply for being assumed as suspicious or by creating arbitrary rules on the basis of the color of one’s skin.

Bryant Gumbel, Real Sports host said it well,

“…It’s about the many instances of disrespect and incivility your color seems to engender, and being expected to somehow always restrain yourself, lest you not be what white Americans are never asked to be, a credit your race.”

To add clarity to his words, Gumbel provides the following examples:

“It’s about your son getting arrested for doing nothing more than walking while Black.”

“It’s about having to be more concerned than your white friends and associates for the safety of your grandkids.”

“It’s about the day in and day out fatigue of trying to explain the obvious to the clueless.”

“It’s about being asked to overlook blue failings and white failings so they can be conveniently viewed as Black issues.”

“It’s about being asked by so many what they should do or say about race when the easy answer lies in the privacy of each person’s heart. It’s the ‘Black tax.’”

 “It’s paid daily by me and every person of color in this country, and frankly, it’s exhausting.”

– Bryant Gumbel, https://people.com/tv/bryant-gumbel-explains-black-tax-hbo-real-sports/

 

My Dear Young Man,

To restate Bryant Gumbel, “It’s exhausting.” Many have crumbled under the weight of the burden of the black tax.  Many have failed due to the lack of belief, faith and trust in Self and gambled on the hope that others will rise to their aid.

You stated that your peers stood silently by while the police were humiliating you.  You added that you “cried like a girl” and went home and got drunk over two days…

How did that work out for you?

Did the alcohol resolve your problems?

Did the short term “feel good” resolve the long-term problem?

Did the black tax suddenly cease to exist?

 

The Journey of Self Discovery

My Dear Young Man,

Your failure in your actions was looking for others to speak up for you and when they didn’t, you became angry and disappointed in both them and in yourself.  You looked to them to support you and your safety and then when they failed, you drowned the wounded Self in alcohol and pity, then found when you returned to work, life had gone on as if nothing ever happened.

Those who hold the privilege have the choice to utilize it as a resource for good in helping others or as a tool of manipulation in which the benefit remains with the privileged.

“We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rather than drown the injury with alcohol, make the choice of healing the wound while you seek to empower the psychological Self.  Rather than view your tears as a gendered weakness, have the insight to view them as a normal human response to your injury, as representation of your essence and your quality of being.

 

The Five Levels of The Journey

My Dear Young Man,

The journey of self-discovery is yours and yours alone.  You restrict or inhibit your journey by holding to destructive cultural and gender norms such as “real men do not shred tears” or expressing emotions is “validating weakness.”  Such internalized of beliefs will trap you in a mental and emotional enslavement that is now being maintained by the dominant group.

I will not validate the concept of resilience nor will I touch-on the concept of the shield, spear, and fire.  For all are illusionary for a Black male seeking Self while walking the journey of self-discovery.  It is within this frame that I suggest the following clinical concept: The Five Levels of The Journey to self-empowerment.

 

Self-Empowerment

In this walk we encounter five levels of experience:

  1. The journey is bleak and lifeless for the individual. Life is barely lived, let alone enjoyed or even really experienced. Nothing is produced or gained by the individual at this level.

 

  1. The focus of the journey is to remain alive and breathing. The individual attaches minimally to life, lives in fear, and is in a constant state of desperation and upheaval.  There is little gain for the individual at this level.

 

  1. At this level, the search for empowerment begins. The individual wanders, seeking direction, and in doing so, learns to balance and reinforce the psychological self.  The individual understands the difference between living in fear and living with fear; and is balancing and implementing empowerment strategies in their life.

 

  1. The individual has gained balance within their life and is fully experiencing the psychological Self. The individual has internalized the concept of living with fear and is successfully implementing empowerment strategies in their life.

 

  1. The individual has obtained both full realizations of the psychological Self and transformation through self-empowerment has been achieved.

 

Transformation &The Reflection in the Mirror

My Dear Young Man,

In my work as a clinical traumatologist and psychotherapist, I serve as a companion and guide to those seeking to Walk the Landscape.  It is my personal and professional opinion that the therapeutic process is of value when we embrace both my role and the process as a whole.

Though I could ask where you think you fall along the five levels as identified above, would you:

Speak the truth as to what you need to see?

Speak the truth as to what you want to see?

Speak the truth as what is actually being reflected in the mirror?

Interestingly enough, your words are an indicator of what level you are.  You said,

 “I want change. What can I do besides drinking my pain away?”

This is an indication that you are teetering between existing and surviving with clear signs that as black man, you are dealing with unhealed wounds from previous psychological injuries.  Furthermore, there appears to be a lack of Self who desires or wishes for the support of others to be whole. As these desires or wishes have not been met, there is the relief sought via alcohol.

 

Walking the Landscape

My Dear Young Man,

First, stop seeking change. What you are currently doing is “change.”  The change you are involved in is oscillating between existing and surviving.  Instead, seek to reframe and refocus and move toward transformation in which there is no going back. Movement is forward.

Consider the five elements of Walking the Landscape:

  1. Choices are presented.
  2. Decisions are made and directions are chosen.
  3. Consequences for choices and decisions are foreseen.
  4. Wisdom is gained, lessons are learned, and both can be utilized for future experiences
  5. Transformation through Self-Empowerment is achieved.

In your specific situation:

  1. Choices: There are two paths.
    • Continue the path of consuming alcohol to medicate your pain and continue to be one of numerous black men who exist and survive as the “walking wounded”. OR…
    • Choose an alternative path; seek individual psychotherapy. Cease looking to others to provide support or wholeness.
  1. Decisions: Make and Embrace your decision.
    • Accept your reality and continue to suffer, medicating your psychological injuries with alcohol. OR
    • Work toward developing empowerment strategies. Learn to stand alone as you develop belief, faith, and trust in self.
  1. Consequences: are your reactions and responses.
    • Allow your reactions (anger, disappointment, disillusionment) to be your response. OR
    • Embrace your reactions, learning (anger, disappointment, disillusionment) and developing as well as sharing your response.
  1. Wisdom: the foundation for the future.
    • I am a failure. I cannot succeed. The world is against me. OR
    • I am solid. I am good.  I will achieve, despite the barriers and obstacles being placed before me.
  1. Transformation
    • I am defeated. I have accepted my path. OR
    • I am empowered. I have achieved self-discovery and continue Walking the Landscape that is mine and mine alone.

So young man, which path would you choose?  It is your landscape, your choice and most importantly…. your life.

 

Concluding Remarks – Dr. Kane

 My Dear Young Man,

I am now left with the difficult task of tying together the themes from my beginning statements directed to my beloved readers and the comments in response to your letter.

In my statements to the readership, I said:

“…the “walking back,” has begun.  The explosion of anger and outrage following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer that ignited protests and riots across the nation is waning, and the bonfires of action lit within the dominant group have begun to die out.”

Also…

“The white liberal progressives are also adding their support. One social work organization is urging its members to pressure their representatives into acknowledging that Trump’s executive order is not “as strong as the organization would wish, but it is a start” and suggest that we work together in the ‘spirit of collaboration’.”

 

White Liberal Intent vs Impact

The white, liberal, and progressive leadership within the dominant group know that the core of white America has grown tired of governmental and public health restrictions due to COVID-19. This has led to a willingness to forego adhering to CDC guidelines (face masks and social distancing), even as case numbers and deaths rise, in favor of forcing an ill-timed “economic recovery”. Under this pressure, the dominant group is reluctant to continue adopting sweeping and decisive actions to protect the public health.

This same story is playing out with the Black Lives Matter protests.

The white liberal and progressive leadership see that the bonfires of action lit within the dominant group have begun to wane. That the Black Lives Matter protests may soon no longer be a priority for those involved. Now, in the “spirit of collaboration”, the white, progressive leadership is willing to bargain away the lives and liberties of black and brown Americans in favor of getting what they want while they can. People of color have once again become commodities.

They can do this out of pure, arrogantly used white privilege. The same white privilege shown by signers of the Declaration of Independence, of which 34 of the 47 (including John Hancock, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson) were slave owners. The idea that they can and will make decisions about and for you without consulting you.

The reality of white privilege is simple; it can either be used for manipulation and the reinforcement of trauma of others or it can be utilized as a resource to assist others to achieve the quality of life they are entitled to.

Though they intend to use it to assist, I hope, ultimately, that the arrogance of white privilege does not blind the progressive liberals from seeing the impact of carnage they are about to create.

I appreciate the message from Sheryll Cashin to those holding privilege.  She states:

“If you are white, you have an obligation to at least understand where the concept of whiteness comes from and to decide how you will proceed with that knowledge. I hope your journey will include an intentional choice to acquire dexterity.” 

 

Standing…. & Standing Alone

Now, in response to you…

 

My Dear Young Man,

In your letter, you concluded with the following:

“I know we cannot succeed without their help.  White people and people of color have got to come together to make changes and undo racism.  But I am afraid that they will walk away like they have done so many times before.  I know the history.”

For a person to act as if they are sightless and place his belief, faith, and trust in the hands of others, leaves him to wander and stumble without direction, existing and surviving as he creeps along the landscape.  You can see.  Open your eyes.  Regardless whether you stand with others or you stand alone, be empowered, and walk your landscape. It is yours and yours alone.

“If you believe in a cause, be willing to stand up for that cause with a million people or by yourself.”

– Otis S. Johnson, From “N Word” to Mr. Mayor: Experiencing the American Dream.

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

I Just Want to Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIuSLBX74Ac

I’m a young black man

Doing all I can

To stand

Oh, but when I look around

And I see what’s being done to my kind

Everyday

I’m being hunted as prey

My people don’t want no trouble

We’ve had enough struggle

I just want to live

God protect me

I just want to live

I just want to live.

Song by Keedron Bryant (2020)

 

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

 

Until the next time, Remaining … in Our Corner

In Our Corner: “Please Do Better”

“We want an immediate arrest because we don’t think there should be two justice systems in America – one for black America and one for white America.

– Ben Crump, Attorney for the Arbery family

“Until this country can truly acknowledge the ills of its system, we will continue to see black blood drain our streets. “

– James Woodall, President, Georgia chapter of NAACP

“Stop, stop, we want to talk to you.”

-Gregory McMichael (words spoken to Ahmaud Arbery moments before killing him)

911 Call Proceeding the Death of Ahmaud Arbery

Caller: “There is a black male running down the street.” 

Police Dispatcher: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”

Caller: …

Minutes later Arbery was shot and killed

“I saw my son come into the world. And seeing him leave the world, it’s not something that I want to see, ever.”

– Wanda Cooper Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother

“It’s just heart wrenching for him that he has to look at his other son and daughter and try to make sense of it. He really thinks that his son was lynched.”

-Ben Crump, Attorney speaking of Ahmaud Arbery’s father

“It’s hurtful.  I just got to be strong for the rest of my family. I got to be strong for my two children.  I just got to be strong for their mama too.”

-Marcus Arbery Sr., father of Ahmaud Arbery

“Your neighbor at [redacted] Satilla drive is Greg McMichael. Greg is retired Law Enforcement and also a Retired Investigator from the DA’s office. He said please call him day or night when you get action on your camera. His number is [Redacted].”

– 12/20/2019 text message from Glynn Police Officer Rash to homeowner, Larry English regarding contacting Gregory McMichael.

My Dear Readers,

I find myself awake at 4:00 am on Memorial Day morning contemplating the state we, as a country, find ourselves in. By the time this blog is published, the American death-toll due to the COVID-19 health crisis will have surpassed 100,000 people. 

Just as the deaths due to COVID-19 seem to have no end in sight, the same can be said about police involved and police related shootings, abuses of authority, and actions taken under the assumption of white privilege that have impacted, ravaged and traumatized black and brown communities across this nation.

During the time of COVID-19:

  • In Brunswick GA, while jogging in his neighborhood, a young black man was stopped and fatally shot by a retired police officer/district attorney’s office investigator.
  • In Louisville, KY, an African American woman was shot eight times, while asleep, by the police executing an arrest warrant in the middle of the night. The deceased was an EMT.  Her offense: None.  The police had the wrong address.
  • In Chicago IL, police officers are under investigation for shooting a young African American male in the subway system. His offense: jumping between train cars.
  • In Pender County, NC, a group of armed white men, led by sheriff’s deputy (who was outside of his jurisdiction), broke into and entered the home of an African American mother and her 18-year-old son.  Their offense: None.  Mistaken identity.
  • In Miami, FL a black physician in front of his residence and family is handcuffed by a police officer.  His offense: Loading tents in his van to give to the homeless and responding to the pandemic.
  • In Wood River, IL, two young black adult males were observed being escorted out of Walmart store under the watchful eyes of a police officer grimacing, gripping his weapon and holster.  Their offense: refusal to remove their facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than focus on these outrageous actions and inflicted horrors tolerated and condoned by the silence of the dominant group,  I have chosen to focus on the behaviors behind inaction by black and brown people who continue to experience violence while a nationwide pandemic unfolds. 

Watching the Sleight of Hand Trick & The Puppeteer

In this writing, I will avoid diving deeply into the “sleight of hand” trickery being played out by the dominant group acting against communities of color but, it must be addressed in order to understand why these communities, who consistently experience unspeakable violence, have remained quiet in the face of the acts listed above.

Government leaders, many of whom are members of the dominant group, give press conferences and release statements that are filled with language they think the impacted communities want to hear. They try to appease the people; they create the illusion that, this time, steps are being taken to prosecute those involved and prevent other incidents from happening in the future, when in all actuality, they are doing this in hopes of containing the reaction of the impacted community long enough for the all too short communal memory to kick in and these victims names are lost to history. For a bonfire to burn out, simply don’t feed it any logs.  Just stand by in silence, and watch the flames flicker down and burn out, then wait until life returns to normal.

Common Thread-Watching the Bonfire

With these types of incidents, there is a common series of actions that occur once they are brought to light. Black and brown communities:

  • Express public outrage through demonstrations, marches and, protests
  • Put pressure on public officials for statements of condemnation
  • Demand public investigations, both state and federal
  • Demand disciplinary actions, terminations, arrests
  • Call for criminal trials leading to incarnations
  • File civil lawsuits against local municipalities resulting in either depositions, legal settlements, or long, enduring, court room trials that are covered in social media

Although the writing will be centered on the tragedy of Brunswick GA, in which a black life was tragically taken, this is my story.  

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

My Dear Readers,

Recently in a LinkedIn posting, I reviewed an article in which two black men working as subcontractors for FedEx in Georgia, were fired for posting a video on social media showing a customer racially abusing them.  Among the comments, one stated:

“Good thing they weren’t jogging lol.”

The comment was “liked” by two others as well as viewed by seven including me. Initially I was struck by the insensitivity, understanding that another young black life had been lost not too far from where the racially abusive actions had occurred.

I responded to the individual with the following (the name has been changed to protect their identity):  

“Robert, a family is grieving, and black and brown people are traumatized.  Parents are fearful of seeing their children for the last time as they go out and engage in activities.  Empathy and compassion are warranted and appreciated.  Please do better.  Be heartfelt, not heartless.”

I received the following from “Robert”:

“That wasn’t supposed to be funny, that was a serious statement.  But you work with the cops, so I don’t expect you to understand.  Please do better!!”

Initially, I was disturbed by the young man rudeness and sarcasm.  After clarifying my work responsibilities as well as explaining that I do not work for the police, I stated:

“It may be a generational issue however, upon reading your comment, I was unable, especially with the ‘lol’, to understand that you were making a serious statement. It may be that your statement is more of a reenactment of the “survival mentality” that African Americans have become accustomed to utilizing when feeling hopeless following a repeat of traumas that are forced upon our community. I do take seriously your comment, ‘Please do better.’ I will seek to do better as I will be writing a blog posting on LinkedIn in which among other feedback, I will feature the psychological impacts of your ‘Good thing they weren’t jogging lol’, comment. I will of course notify you when the blog is posted. I would be most interested in your feedback. Thank you for sharing.”

Keeping in mind a fellow writer on LinkedIn, Curtiss, who stated, in not so many words, “every experience ain’t about you”, I have taken a moment to breathe and use one of my own clinical models.

The Five R’s of RELIEF

In my clinical practice I have taught my patients the clinical model of the Five R’s of RELIEF:  Respite, Reaction, Reflection, Response and Reevaluation, which encourages proactive strategies and actions.  Looking at the situation through this lens, I began to realize that there was some truth in the young black man’s sarcastic retort of “Please do better!!”.

I was able to realize that if I responded defensively or in kind to the statement, that I would be furthering the sleight of hand trick being played by the “puppeteer”, the dominant group, and the “audience”, members of the marginalized group that maintain the status quo, would be focused on the argument between myself and the young man and not on the life tragically lost “jogging while black”.

The “I” Factor: I heard you…. But are you listening?

In the end, whatever message I sought to communicate would have been minimized by being only heard and lost because it was not listened to and understood. What is the difference? Simple.

When only hearing, words enter one ear and exit through the other.  Listening, using the following elements of my clinical model “The “I” Factor”, requires information, involvement, integration, implementation, and impact to lead to understanding.

So, with the focus on listening, I say that the comment of the young man with the initial reaction of laughter and the sarcastic retort of “Please do better” is not the main issue. It’s rather an outlying issue of how we treat or view each other within the African American community. 

Pointing the Finger… Black Silence

And what about “black silence”?

In response to the LinkedIn comment, “Good thing they weren’t jogging, lol” two individuals showed their support by “liking” Robert’s statements and another four individuals contributed their own comments to the main article. Yet none, other than I, responded to Robert’s words. There is no evidence that more than seven individuals even saw the article. 

But what if other African Americans saw Robert’s words. And, what if, after doing so, they simply chose to dismiss, ignore, and not respond?

Simply asking “Why did they choose to be silent?” is circular and we learn nothing from it.

The real question is…What is the foundation of the fear response causing the dismiss, ignore and be silent behavior?

Three answers:

  • Survival
  • Resilience
  • Lacking in post-traumatic growth  

Survival Mentality: “Good thing they weren’t jogging, lol”

Robert’s flippant response following the tragic killing of one of his community paired with his adamant claim that it was a serious, not sarcastic, statement shows that he may be living in fear. This could be an example of how black people respond to these violent events.

The response can also be an example of his survival mentality (believing that you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive), that was passed down to him inter-generationally from his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents and taught to him by his church, his school, and his community to use humor to dull the pain of repeated trauma.  

With that survival mentality, it allows you to see the fact that they weren’t killed as a victory and not as a symptom of the underlying malaise of race relations in America.

 The use by the dominant group of law enforcement as a weapon, individuals professing the right to stop and interrogate blacks and simply white privilege is not new.

Resilience: The Art of Surviving to Thriving

The western origin of the definition of resilience is a person’s mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness, or depression.  Therefore, resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity. Bending rather than breaking under pressure.

The assumption is that the resilient person is strong, and that strength gives a person the ability to overcome. The dominant group has placed the African American individual on the pedestal of being resilient and therefor able to withstand any number of abuses and traumas.

 In return, African Americans have internalized the belief of resilience regarding their ability to survive actions of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment in hopes of one day reaching identifiable symbols of success in order to try to exert control over the incidents of violence and oppression.  

Existing, Surviving, Driving, Striving & Thriving- The Illusions vs. the Truth

The African American community consistently fails to recognize the “sleight of hand” trick being played by the dominant group. The path, as I developed in the Five Stages of the Journey of Self Discovery, which begins at existing, is omitted by the dominant group.

 The focus by the dominant group is intentionally placed on surviving to thriving.  Thriving will consistently be denied to you because the stages of driving (empowerment) and striving (direction and pacing) are omitted. 

Furthermore, to keep the game in play, a few “chosen ones” are permitted to sit along with the dominant group however, they will never be fully accepted.  This is the “carrot” that is auspiciously dangled in order to maintain the imbalance of power between the African American community and the dominant group.

Post Traumatic Growth-Balancing & Not Overcoming Traumatic Impacts

African Americans daily face 12 forms of racism and 14 subtypes of trauma.  Although it is known that our children will continue to face regular acts or incidents that will be so traumatic and impactful that they would be carried over into adulthood, we still do not create measures to assist them to balance these traumas.  Rather, the focus is overcoming traumatic impacts through the falsehood of resilience (strength), and silence (shaming).

African Americans residing outside the land from which they originate are the wealthiest, the most educated and hold more homeownership and socio-economic status than other Africans.

Despite these accomplishments, African Americans continue to maintain a survival mentality, live in fear, and act in ways that are reactive and not proactive.

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

The bonfire created by the tragic killing in Brunswick, GA will eventually burn out. The history of African American action is one of inaction such as waiting for someone, some Black Messiah to come along and lead our people to freedom. 

Yes, there have been such individuals like, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey Shirley Chisholm, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X to name a few.  Yes, celebrities will lend their names and statuses and preachers and politicians will use this tragedy as a pulpit to keep their names alive.  Yet what will transform?  How will we transform? 

Who will be the next black person to die?

Will he or she be your child or mine?  Will she be in her home asleep only to die in a hail of bullets due to a mistaken address?  Or will he be jogging, walking or just sitting in his car in his neighborhood, one in which others have determined that he does not belong.

Dear Robert,

I want to thank you for sharing your comments.  You are right.  We must all… do better.  You have an opportunity to do so. Instead of defending, focus on the ABCs: achieving, believing and conceiving. Please do better.

Best regards, your elder, 

Dr. Micheal Kane

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Honoring Our Heroes on Memorial Day

LT. Colonel Lemuel Penn

Lemuel Penn joined the Army Reserve from Howard University.  He served in World War II in New Guinea and the Philippines earning a Bronze Star with Valor.  Penn, father of three, was 48 years old at the time he was murdered by Klansmen.

The two Klansmen were tried in state superior court but were found not guilty by an all-white jury.  They were later found guilty of the lesser charge of “violation of civil rights” and received minimum sentences.

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

Led by its black female commander, Major Charity Adams Earley, it was the only all-female, African American battalion serving overseas in France during World War II.

At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe. The task of sorting and delivering mail was difficult due to common names, soldiers on secret assignments and wartime conditions. At the time, there were more than seven million American troops stationed in Europe and receiving letters from home was an important way to keep up the morale of the troops on the front lines.

These enlisted women worked eight-hour shifts, seven days a week, despite having to respond to racism and segregation while performing their duties.

Major Earley felt that reacting to racism caused more problems than it solved and insisted that the 6888th Battalion look past the prejudice directed at them by the men retuning from the frontlines. Major Earley’s efforts lead to a US recruitment tour to encourage more women to enlist and were instrumental in easing the inclusion of African Americans and women into military service.

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“Those who try to hold on to their world views following trauma are often more fragile, defensive and easily hurt.  Their wounded assumptions are at risked of being shattered again and again.

-Stephen Joseph (2011)

Until the next time,

Remaining … in Our Corner

In Our Corner: Casual Racism and the Lives We Live

“Harassment will not be tolerated.”

-“Golfcart Gail” calling 911 on black man who was cheering for his son during a soccer game.  She claimed he was “exhibiting threatening behavior.” (10.17.18)

“Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason,” one deputy said of the call. “We’ll respond.”

– St John’s County Sheriff Deputy

“It is what it is,” he tells Lewis. “Do you understand?”

-Police Officer, providing an explanation to the black male being racially profiled and detained by the police while providing childcare to two white children

“That’s false and heartbreaking,” she said, telling KTVI that she’s legally married to an African-American man. “Those are words that cut deep.”

-Hilary Thornton, on being vilified online as a racist for blocking a black man from entering his own apartment. (10.12.18)

“Being racially profiled…I feel like I am in a can with the its top…sealed.  I’m being suffocated.  I can’t take it any longer.”

-William age 30

———————————————

My Dear Readers,

In this 100th blog posting, it is fitting that we listen to the experiences of African-American men who are psychologically impacted by repeated incidents of racial profiling.  I will examine four recent incidents of racial profiling occurring just this month, October 2018.  My objective in doing this is to:

  • Utilize these incidents as teaching moments for African-American males in understanding how to react and response when racial profiling occurs
  • To encourage individuals to accept responsibility for achieving and balancing their own emotional and psychological wellness
  • Educate the readership on the dangers of “casual racism” and the psychological impact (trauma) that racial profiling has on the person who has been so victimized.

We begin with the stories of Calvin and William (names changed to protect their confidentiality), who shared their experiences with me in session.

 

The Impacts of Racism & Trauma

 “It Pierced My Heart”

Calvin is a 41-year old man married, two children. He is employed as a community college instructor. Calvin spoke of his feelings of a recent incident in which he felt racially targeted and profiled.

“It was a great day, I was feeling good and I had stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things.  As I was going down one of the aisles, picking up items, I passed by this middle age white woman who upon seeing moved her handbag from her cart, sharply securing it under her arm.  

She stared at me as if in fear, following my steps as I passed her.  She continued to stare intensely at me as I turned to walk down the next aisle.   It did not impact me physically, but I felt sad, frustrated and angry. I wanted to blow up (yell, scream) on her. 

 In the 41 years I have been alive, racial profiling has happened to me hundreds if not thousands of times.  And yet I am still impacted by it.”

 

When Emotions Are Running High

William is a 30-year-old single engineer employed by a corporate firm in Seattle. William spoke of his feelings of being racially profiled.

“I am tired of the adult way of dealing with this shit i.e. (racial targeting).  Sometimes I just want to punch them in the face and yet I know that if I do so, I am the one who is going to lose out. 

I realize when I fucked up.  I desired and prayed for freedom.  I went to school, got a degree and then got a good paying job. My mistake was that I did not define what freedom meant for me and what I was willing to do to get that freedom. 

Women ask me all the time when I am going to get married, settle down and have kids.  No way do I want to bring children into this shit.  I would never want to pass on inter-generational trauma to my kids. 

I feel like I am in a can with the top sealed.  I’m being suffocated.  I can’t take it any longer. The Five R’s of Relief go out the window when I am in this state of anger.  I know that to them, I am expendable but Doc, right now, I simply do not care.”

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Clinical Summary-Dr. Kane

Calvin and William have anxiety and depression.  They have been impacted by repeated incidents of racial profiling, which have resulted in them becoming psychologically overwhelmed.

Both men have been victimized by three forms of racism: attitudinal, behavior and individual. Specifically:

  • Attitudinal racism – an individual belonging to a certain group is defamed due to characteristics they share with their group, such as skin color.
  • Behavioral racism-an individual is specifically denied fair and equal because of characteristics they share with their group or visible ethnic group membership.
  • Individual racism the belief in the perpetrator that their own race is superior. This requires actual behaviors perpetrated on the victim that express and enforce the belief held by the perpetrator that the other person is inferior because of their racial characteristics or membership in a different ethnic group.

In addition, two sub-types of trauma have psychologically impacted both men:

  • Micro-aggressive assaults the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to individuals based solely upon their race or group membership.
  • Just World Trauma People have a need to believe in a just world, one in which they get what they deserve and deserve what they get. For non-white individuals, however, the trauma of racism shatters the just world hypothesis—they are subjected to behavior that they did not deserve, which would generally be an “out-of-the-ordinary” event and is directly experienced as a threat to survival and self-preservation. As these events become more ordinary, however, the individual’s belief in a just world begins to erode, increasing the trauma.

Calvin is in conflict and denies both his feelings and the psychological injury that he has suffered.  He admits to having experienced similar acts of racial profiling “hundreds if not thousands of times,” but he is angry not only at this particular woman in this particular incident; he is also angry at himself for believing in the “just world” and allowing himself to vulnerable and exposed to once again be impacted by the act.

William, on the other hand, is not only angry and disenchanted at being racially profiled, he is angry at himself for believing in the “just world;” that through obtaining success via an education and employment he could “escape” and obtain freedom from traumas associates with such incidents.

Both men, well educated, employed and successful in their careers remain at risk if they stay in the “survival” stage of living. In this stage, it is difficult to consistently draw upon the internal psychological resources to advocate for the healing of their wounds, and to gain balance in their internal worlds, which then leads to facing these incidents (or the potential for these incidents) with calmness, and thus, finding empowerment.  William acknowledges this in referring to the empowerment strategy of The Five R’s of Relief—in his state of anger the strategies “go out the window.”

Both men view their situations as outside their control and themselves as powerless to stop them.  Both men have the desire to “strike out” physically at their oppressor, but both also realize the very real consequences that will follow, mainly being negatively labeled an “ABC” (Angry Black Man out of Control) and the consequences that will result: police intervention, arrest and banishment.

Historically, the solution for men like Calvin and William has been to quietly stuff their psychological wounds (and in doing so, create more distress for themselves,) and seek other means to medicate themselves, such as educational, material, and economic success, or via alcohol or drug use.

Although neither Calvin or William currently use these self-harming methods to medicate their psychological wounds, unless they initiate self-love and self-care empowerment strategies, they remain at extreme risk.  Calvin has already made the decision to deny himself the joy of birthing a child due to his fear of duplicating inter-generational trauma.

The form of racism that has been normalized and accepted by the dominant society and has impacted African-Americans like Calvin and William is known as casual racism. Casual racism is not a scientific term, but it is used to refer to society’s or an individual’s lack of regard or concern for the impact of their racist actions or behaviors upon another person.

In recent days, casual racism has become more insidious as it has become expressed through white comfort and discomfort.  We have seen numerous examples of law enforcement being called by white women on African-Americans doing things that would be considered normal if done by white people.  Because the presence of an African-American makes an individual uncomfortable, they call law enforcement to police that behavior.   This is seemed in the recent incidents of racial profiling by white women against black men during October 2018.

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Lessons of Emmett Till: White Women Enforcing Power & Control Over Black Men

 “Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason,” one deputy said of the call. “We’ll respond.”

-St. John’s County deputy, responding to incident alleging harassment (10.17.18)

In 1955, 14-year-old African-American adolescent Emmett Till was kidnapped, brutally beaten, and lynched in Mississippi based on the word of a white woman alleging he had “disrespected” her.  An all-white jury acquitted the white men accused of his murder.  The white woman recanted her accusation in a recently published book.

In general, racial profiling is not limited to gender. We focus today on this particular dynamic because of the historic association of the fear of black men taking advantage of white women and stereotypical beliefs regarding black males regardless of their age.

 

Babysitting While Black

(10.10.18) A white woman calls 911 on a black male who is driving two white children he is babysitting.  When the white woman demands that the black man allow her, a stranger, to question the children, she follows his vehicle to his home and calls police.  The police detain the man and after questioning and releasing him, an officer told him: “It is what it is. “Do you understand?”

 Cheering While Black

(10.17.18) A white woman calls 911 on a black man who was cheering on his son at a soccer game.  The woman told him “harassment would not be tolerated”.  Even though the man offered to leave the area, the woman called 911 because of her concern that he was exhibiting “threatening behaviors.”  Following being detained by the sheriff deputies, the man was let go.  Regarding the 911 call, a sheriff deputy is quoted stating: “Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason. We’ll respond.”

Being a Child While Black

(10.10.18) A white woman calls the police on a 9-year old black child she accused of sexual assault. The child, is seen on video crying, fearing he is going to jail for something he did not do. Two days later, surveillance video footage shows that the boy’s backpack had accidentally brushed up against her. The woman issued the following apology through the media: “Young man, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry.”

Going Home While Black

(10.18.18) A white woman sought to deny entry to the black male tenant that she claims that she did not recognize. Even through the tenant provided evidence of his keys, she followed him into the elevator and sought to enter his residence.  She contacted 911 stating that she felt threatened, although the video footage taken by the man showed that he did not approach her at all. Following the social media outcry, she stated in an interview that since she was legally married (now separated) to a black man, she could not be racist and that the accusations that she was were “words that cut deep.”

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Clinical Analysis-Dr. Kane

“Anybody can call the police at any time for any reason. We’ll respond.”

Unfair criticism has been directed towards law enforcement for responding to incidents that are founded on racial profiling.  However, law enforcement, due to its primary mission of public safety, is responsible to respond to all calls seeking emergency assistance.  Clearly the responsibility lies upon the dominant society, which has been silent and unwilling to examine its biases, stereotypes and fears of black males.

In three of the racial profiling incidents the victimized men are quoted stating

  • “In 2018 prejudiced people exist. We are still being judged.  We are still being discriminated against.”
  • “I was kind of blown away, shocked, and, like, wow,” it’s sad that what happened to him is “something that is recurring in America.”
  • “All because I got two kids in the backseat that do not look like me, this lady has taken it upon herself to say that she’s going to take my plate down and call the police,” “It’s crazy. … It’s 2018 and you see what I’ve got to deal with.”

Despite the expectation of being treated equally, this society continues to undervalue or invalidate black males based on their race and gender. Black males, regardless of age, must take on the responsibilities of empowering themselves to respond to and minimize psychological wounding and traumatic injury.

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Empowerment Strategies Vigilance-Preconditioning to Racial Profiling

ABC’s– Advocacy, Balance, and Calmness

  • Advocacy accept that you may be alone; be alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Balance maintain balance within during stressful times; accept that you are being observed.
  • Calmness– keep your focus on your responsibility to exit the incident and return home safe to your loved ones

 

Five R’s of RELIEF

During stressful times i.e. pre, during or post incidents of racial profiling:

  • Respite-take a breath, close your eyes and mentally step away from the incident.
  • Reactions-embrace your emotions. You have a right to feel what you feel. Give yourself permission to experience these emotions. This is where healing begins.
  • Reflect- process, bring your feelings and thoughts into balance.
  • Response-using your inner voice, speak to the psychological self, then calmly share your words with those individuals occupying your external environment.
  • Reevaluate-Review the steps and process taken. Explore lessons learned from the experience.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

My Dear Readers,

I close with questions regarding casual racism:

  • Who is the holder of beliefs supported and reinforced by casual racism?
  • Are they villains? Evil?
  • Filled with hate, disease and disgust?

No.  They are simply people who live in fear of change.

A good friend recently aided me with the following wisdom:

“To live is to deal with change.  Our fear of change is about failure.  We fear if we fail we won’t recover.  Don’t be afraid of change.”

-Crystal Cooper Siegel, MPA

I only disagree with the part “don’t be afraid of change.”

Humankind has always been afraid of change.  And yet, with or without humans, change has and will continue to occur.  I would suggest and hope for the following that instead of change that we can focus on transformation—that is, transforming our country into respecting itself and the diversity that makes up this nation.  In doing so, I hope we can be willing to live with our fear and not as we currently do now:  in fear of one another.

 

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Suffering in Silence

To end the suffering

We must no longer be silent

If we do not speak

It is a certainty that no one will listen

Words will never arise from silence

Speak.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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Until the next time,

Remaining …….. in Our Corner