In Our Corner: Showing Up As Real MEN and Leaving As Little BOYS

“I am what time, circumstance, history, has made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that.  So are we all.”

-James Baldwin, Writer

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of going almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

-Langston Hughes, Poet, Writer

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals.  The struggle within yourself—the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us—that’s where it is.”

-Jesse Owens, 4-time Olympic Gold Medalist

“Strong men who are truly role models don’t need to put down women to make themselves look more powerful”

-Michelle Obama

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My Dear Readers,

In my clinical work as a clinical traumatologist and psychotherapist, I focus on what lies within the psychological self.  In this work, I have found that there are large numbers of African-Americans who carry invisible scars from exposure to hostile work, school, or social environments.

Within these invisible scars lie extreme levels of internal emotional tension as people seek to establish intimate relationships, often in their own demographic groups.  For instance,   African-American women have historically built formal and informal social networks for themselves where they can be emotionally supported, share experiences, and more.

This has not generally been the same with African-American males. African-American males have been socialized to maintain silence when it comes to their inner emotions and feelings, which reinforces a message that their feelings are not valid, and forces isolation and distance from others.

To address this, we are starting a new series called “In Our Corner,” which will focus on maintaining emotional and mental health in African-American males.

There is a stereotypical belief that due to cultural values, mores and differences in communication, African-American males are more resistant to talking openly about their feelings than other racial and gender groups.  This silence often extends to participation in child rearing and parenting, participation in household chores and role placement within couples and marital relationships.

A young male patient of mine recently said, in response to comments about the lack of respect that young males have for their male elders:

“What do you expect?  Look who is raising us!   We are only following what we see.”

Ouch.  That comment cut me deeply because it was true. Regardless of the intention, my generation’s actions as well as our silence serves as unconscious model for other generations to follow.   I am often asked:

  • Why do black males act the way they do in intimate relationships?
  • Why do black men feel disrespected?
  • Why are black males unwilling to let small slights go, such as poor customer service?

I have learned that questions beginning with the word “why” lead to circular answers that don’t contribute to resolution or understanding.  Instead, I choose to focus on asking “what” questions to get at the root cause of the issue, such as

  • What are the factors impacting black men regarding intimate relationships?
  • What is occurring in the experiences of black men that reinforce their feelings of being disrespected?
  • What is the definition of a “small slight?” What could be the meaning of such behavior or actions towards black men?

Today’s letter comes from an African-American female who may sound harsh, but is simply speaking her truth. Let’s see how this silence impacts her world.

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Dear Dr. Kane,

I am a 50-year old, no nonsense African-American woman.  I am sick and tired of old ass men acting like little boys.  I am a grown woman and I am sick and tired of this nonsense.  I want to be around real men.

Recently I’ve been getting to know a man of similar age that I’m romantically interested in.  He went out of town not long ago, and he committed to calling me when he came back.  Well, instead of calling, he sent me a text to “check in.”  It has been more than a week and I haven’t heard his voice.

What the hell! I am so sick of black men who cannot effectively communicate their feelings.  Now, I am left to look at his actions and try to figure out what the hell is going on.

One of my friends suggested that I write to you, so here I am. Please tell your brothers to wake up and man the hell up. Grow a real pair! Women are looking for real men out here!

Angry & Standing Up, Seattle WA

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My Dear Brothers,

As a black man reading this, you have a number of options:

  • Delete and dismiss this letter
  • Deny and ignore this letter, or:
  • Avoid listening to someone who is has been impacted by another’s behavior.

Or simply…listen.  Follow along with me as we explore her words.

This is not the first time that black men have received messages debasing their actions and focusing on their inadequacies, and it will not be the last.  In general, there actually are black men who have difficulty in effectively communicating their feelings and emotions.  The question is this: What is occurring within the individual that impedes his ability to effectively communicate? Is there an issue with communication at all?

Attachment in adult relationships includes friendships, emotional affairs and adult romantic relationships.  There are four main styles of attachment in adults:

Secure, Anxious-Preoccupied, Dismissive-Avoidant and Fearful Avoidant.

  • Secure people tend to have positive views of themselves and of their relationships. Securely attached people feel comfortable with both intimacy and independence.  This style of attachment usually results from a history of parents modeling warm and responsive interactions within their relationships in front of their children.
  • Anxious-Preoccupied people seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness within their relationships. They sometimes value intimacy to such an extent that they become overly dependent upon the relationship and their partner.  Compared to secure people, people who are anxious or preoccupied tend to have less positive views about themselves, and they may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry and impulsiveness in their relationships.
  • Dismissive-Avoidant people view themselves as self-sufficient and invulnerable to feelings associated with being closely attached to others. People in this group tend to suppress and hide their feelings, and they tend to deal with rejection by distancing themselves from the relationship and their partners, whether it is warranted or not.
  • Fearful Avoidant people have mixed feelings about close relationships. They may desire to have emotionally close relationships, but tend to feel uncomfortable with emotional closeness. They commonly view themselves as unworthy of responsiveness within their relationships, so they don’t fully trust the intentions of those who they seek to be attached.  Members of this group frequently suppress and deny their feelings.  Because of this, they are much less comfortable expressing affection.

Black men are no different from anyone else in that they mirror the experiences of the environment they grow up in.  Whatever we observe or fail to observe as children is held with the core of the psychological self and because it becomes a part of the individual’s structure,  it can be consciously or unconsciously expressed.

So, understanding how you grew up and what you saw (or did not see) regarding intimate relationships, what group do you belong to?

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Closing Words-Dr. Kane

“Yesterday’s survivor and a survivor today will be a survivor tomorrow.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane

The term survivor can be defined in the following different context

  • Someone who has had an unpleasant experience and who is still affected by it.
  • Someone who hasn’t died; a person who has been through a horrible experience.
  • Someone who remains alive or in existence.

It is without question that historically, black males of all types, classes, incomes, educational levels, and positions have been victimized and scapegoated.  There are many who, due to no fault of their own, are disenfranchised, unwanted or not needed within today’s highly technological society.

However, every individual black male holds the key to his own empowerment.  Walking the journey of self-discovery through self-actualization and joining in discussion and contemplation with identification of other males who seek to do the same can help to achieve it.

The time has come for black men to examine and explore their psychological selves within the context of their socio-economic group.  I invite those seeking to either to understand, question or facilitation discussion of issues relative to African-American males to join the readership of this new set of themed writings.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we have been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”

-Barack Obama

 

Until the next time, Remaining In Our Corner…

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The Visible Man: Images vs. Reflections

“I also don’t believe in drugs…  I don’t want it near schools- I don’t want it sold to children. That’s an infamia.  In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people- the coloreds.  They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.”

-Giuseppe “Joe Z” Zaluchi, The Godfather (1972)

“Captain Hanks, I have spent most of my life in the navy trying only to succeed.  However, my quest has come as a great personal loss to those who love me.  They too have made sacrifices.  They too have endured great pains to support me.  If I walk these twelve steps today, reinstate me to active duty.  Give me my career back, let me finish it and go home in peace.”

-US Navy Master Chief Carl Brashear, Men Of Honor (2000)

My Dear Readers,

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I am struck by the the racist and stereotyped depictions of African-American people in some movies and yet encouraged by the efforts of others to combat those depictions with more accurate and representative images in other movies.

In one film, The Godfather, none of the major characters are black, but during a pivotal scene, they are spoken of as “animals” and “people who have no souls,” and thus, deserved to be sold into the heroin drug trade.

In contrast, the movie Men of Honor tells the true story of US Navy Master Diver Carl Brashear, a strong black man who, despite overwhelming odds, stood up to racism within the armed forces and retires from military service with honor.  For his performance, Cuba Gooding Jr. received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture.

Images

We have many images of strong black fathers holding their own despite the overwhelming odds, struggling, and standing against racism, discrimination, and oppression.  Such fathers include notables such as Nobel Peace Prize winners Barack Obama (2009), Martin Luther King Jr. (1964) and Ralph Bunche (1950).

We also live with the images of fathers who are unknown to us.  As they are unknown so are their sacrifices and contributions.  Men such as the black soldiers who served in segregated labor battalions in France during World War I, who not only suffered psychological trauma from the work of locating and burying the war dead, but were vilified by White soldiers for that work as well.   The segregated all Black 761st Tank Battalion, which fought during World War II as an independent unit because no white American units wanted to be associated with them, but still fought gallantly, in the process capturing or destroying 331 machine gun nests, 58 cement pillboxes, and 461 armored vehicles.

Despite their courage and their achievements, both Generals Patton and Eisenhower  turned down requests for official recognition. To add insult to injury, General Patton once remarked:

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

There are countless examples of these known and unknown stories of these black fathers.   My father was one of them.  Theodore T. Kane served his country in military service that included two tours in Vietnam, and after retiring from the military, he served another 20 years as a federal law enforcement officer.  My father was all about his image, appearing professional, “being all you can be,” and proving himself to be equal to his white colleagues.  When he died, none of his previous or current law enforcement supervisory/managerial staff sent a note of condolences to the family or attended his funeral service.

W.E.B. DuBois, a black sociologist and historian who lived from 1868 to 1963 once reflected that for a black man living in America:

“It’s a peculiar sensation.  This double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, and measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

History has shown that for hundreds of years, African-Americans, particularly men, have been doing the “right thing for the wrong reasons.”  It is human nature to be want to be validated by others, but the psychological error and therefore repeated failure to attain that validation comes from “looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” We continue to measure ourselves by a standard that is both strengthened and perpetuated by our very failure to attain it.

Concluding Words

In the face of all of this, I believe that black fathers should not just simply live their lives, but to BE life for their families. Breathe love and life into your spouses and children.  Stop focusing on what others think about you.  Stop focusing on the imagery and be more concerned about substance.  Be the best father you can be.  Along with professional or work-related goals, seek the life you want and be the father you want to be with and for your children.

Racism and stereotypes are never going to go away.  Both are about fear, and such fear lies so deep within the individual’s soul that it cannot be forced away.  Only the individual holding such feelings can let it go.

Our choices are simple…we can advocate for self, seek balance in our internalized world and calmness in our external environment, and measure our own souls by the love and peace and joy we find in the worlds we build for our families and our communities.

My children are my blessings.  I look forward to walking my daughter down the aisle of matrimony and holding my first grandchild.  Again…don’t simply live life…be life.

Until we speak again… The Visible Man

For additional information regarding Dr. Kane, please visit http:// www.lovingmemore.com

Choosing To Live Empowered

 

“I want this gorilla off my back!!”

-Patient screaming in session, referring to his fear

“Panel discussions on the news (media) and talk shows are useless.  Same old shit.  The feds claim there will be thorough investigations, and the police still keep killing black men.”

-William, 37, high school teacher

“Yet white folks get upset when we riot.  What the hell are we supposed to do…stand around and smile…wait calmly while they kill us?”

-Julian, 16, Student

“When I am out driving, I got my gun lying in 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.”

-Anonymous

“Man, I am so angry.  I tried talking about the shooting in Tulsa with my white coworkers.  They immediately changed the subject.   White folks don’t care about what or us we feel.  It’s been that way for hundreds of years.”

-Robbie, 46, city employee

“I wanted to talk to my pastor.  Hell, he cancelled church services, saying it was too dangerous to for a black man to be out after dark.” 

-Tim, 28, transit worker

“I tried talking to a white therapist about my feelings.  He sat there looking at me.  Do you know what that fool says, he asks how does the incident make you feel?  I start yelling.  He tells me I need anger management and refers me to see you.  Now what do you have to say?”

-Kevin, 31, laborer

 

My Dear Readers,

Enough.  I have simply had enough.  I have been writing these weekly blogs for three years following the death of my Linda, my beloved spouse.  Last week, I realized that I was burnt out and made a commitment to “take care of self” by taking a break from the weekly blogs. Clearly, a respite was in order and the intention was that the previous week’s writing would be my last for an extended period if, in fact, I decide to return.

Well, today I broke the commitment I made to my psychological self.  The sounds of too much pain and anguish from my patients broke me, and I had listened to enough.  The very last clinical session was the tipping point.  In that session, I saw an African-American veteran suffering from PTSD from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His safety, he believes, lies with him carrying his concealed weapon.  He is fearful of being pulled over by the police and mistakenly being shot, but he is adamant about his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

I was able to convince him to leave his weapon at home, but the fear of death at the hands of the police remained. He continues to hold to the illusion of a legal and constitutional right that is published as applicable to all American citizens, but in practice, is only really safe for white men to exercise.  When he walked out of my office, I admit, I thought of him as a “dead man walking.”  As he disappeared down the stairs, I saw in him what the majority of black males today in America are doing, feeling and experiencing: living in fear.

Living in fear is not living; instead living in fear is about surviving or simply put, just staying alive.  So how does a black man in this situation live?  By riding around with a gun lying on his lap?  Waiting for a confrontation with the police?  Nope.  That’s just another black man waiting to die.  Might as well call it suicide by cop.  Yes, this poor wretch will go out in his blaze of glory, stereotyped as another crazed black man who had to be killed.

There is another way.  Rather than living in fear that reinforces the desperation to survive, we can move towards transforming fear into empowerment. We can focus on hopelessness, helplessness, and powerlessness by seeking empowerment of the psychological self.  Specifically, we can attain empowerment through utilization of the clinical models ABC (Advocacy, Balance and Calmness) and Taking Care of Self (VETING).

  • Advocacy– Become an advocate for yourself. Know when to hold or show your cards.  Know when to speak and what to say.
    • Don’t expect others who have not lived the experience of being a black male in America to emotionally understand your feelings or experiences.
    • Understand that white blindness (the desire to ignore racial oppression) and black silence (the propensity of black people to remain silent in the face of oppression) is a factor in daily living, but that there are empathetic and compassionate allies both within and outside of law enforcement who are aware of what is occurring and also seeking an end to the violence being directed towards black males.
  • Balance-Remember that your power lies within you, and cannot be taken from you without your consent. Balance your anger with your wisdom.
    • Remember, being stopped/pulled over by the police is outside of your control. However, the way you handle (balance) the situation is up to you.
    • Follow the police officer’s instructions. Show by your actions and behavior that you are not a threat.  Never ever run from a police officer. Remember the Five R’s of RELIEF:
      • Respite-take a breath (breathe slowly)
      • Reaction-own your feelings
      • Reflection-balance your feelings and thoughts
      • Response-decide what appropriate actions you may want to take (if mistreated, file a formal complaint)
      • Reevaluate– the experience, lessons learned and how to respond the next time (accept the possibility that this may happen again)
  • Calmness-Use your balance and your inner empowerment to project calmness to the outside world. Use this to defuse the situation.
    • Do not allow your pride to speak for you.
    • Allow the police officer to control the situation. Remember although the police officer maintains legal authority (power,) empowerment lies within you.  One’s empowerment is a self-driven gift.  It cannot be taken, only given away.

Empowerment: Taking Care of Self (VETING) 

(V) Vulnerability- Be open to support.

  • Communicate with other black men who are experiencing similar feelings.
  • Seek to identify allies who are empathetic and have compassion for the emotions you are experiencing.

(E) Exposure-be open to your internalized experience.

  • Reveal what is truly going on within you.
  • Have the willingness to be in touch with your pain, suffering and experiences.

(T) Trust-Maintain an ongoing level of trust in the journey you have chosen.

  • Focus on reliance and confidence of your own value, truth and self-worth.
  • Focus on the knowing that in your life, space and meaning that you are truly the priority.

(ING) ING-The constant state of “doing” and “being”

  • Taking care of me.
  • Looking out for me.

Recommendations in Seeking Mental Health Assistance

Although the race of the mental health provider may be a factor to you in seeking assistance, remember:

  • Do not allow concerns about race to inhibit, prevent or deter you from achieving mental health wellness.
  • Look for a mental health provider who is an empathic compassionate listener.
  • Have the willingness to allow yourself to fully explore and express the emotions that are internalized.
  • Work towards the development of a comfort zone that allows the “fullness of you” to be expressed.

Don’t ignore the feelings of your loved ones

  • Embrace your loved ones when departing and returning home.
  • Do a daily check in by phone with spouse and family.
  • Be in regular contact with extended family especially when they reside outside the local area.
  • When away in the evenings, alert spouse and family members of the estimated time of arrival to your destination and/or any stops before arriving home.

Concluding Words- The Meaning of the Content of One’s Character

A fellow colleague recently asked me what it was like being a black man in America.

I am the son of a police officer.  I have also served my country during military service.  I am educated, a homeowner and have raised my children.  I have spoken before the US Congress, and have authored a publication which has been utilized as a teaching tool for graduate schools and clinicians working in the area of complex trauma. In my lifetime I have been stopped and questioned by the police for the following reasons:

  • Driving while black
  • Walking while black
  • Waiting for the bus while black
  • Standing outside a business while black
  • Drinking coffee while black
  • Eating while black
  • Reading while black
  • Waving my arms while black (threatening gesture)

Now due to the recent fatal shooting of the motorist in Tulsa OK, I now have to be concerned with “vehicle trouble while black.” Or, based on what happened to Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, NC, “reading while black.”

I live with the knowledge that the color and darkness of my skin is more important to others than my achievements and contributions to society and my community.

As a result of the legacy of police shootings, white folks talk among themselves, black congregations pray, and local police departments throughout the country nervously patrol the streets.  We slowly dance the dance of caution, as we fear the worst and hope for the best as the nation awaits the outcome of the formal investigations of the shootings.

Are the police to blame for the shootings?  Nope.  It is not about blame. Yes, the police culture needs to transform—they are sworn to protect and serve the communities they are in. In fact, the police culture, in its resistance to transformation reflects the values, the stereotypes and prejudices of all of us.

As we seek transformation within law enforcement and the policing of our citizens, the same citizens must want to seek transformation by ending their own white blindness and black silence that is paralyzing the country and our communities.  Until that occurs, black people will continue to be at risk while being either interacting with or under the control of police authority.  Meanwhile, the local police officer will continue to feel that he/she is being tossed under the bus as they continue to go out every day to serve their communities.

 “Should the police shoot me during a brake light check, I just hope I live.  If I don’t make it, Dr. Kane, please tell my wife that I love her, don’t live with hate and raise our sons to be good men”. 

-William, 39, Engineer

 “Black lives matter.  Blue lives matter.”    

“At the end of the day, we all want the same goal, that being to be able to live our homes for the purpose of work, school or enjoyment and be able to return safely to our loved ones.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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A final word:

Martin Luther King Jr. in his I Have a Dream speech stated,

 “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

 “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

 The dream remains unfulfilled.  Can it be done? We can together to take the dream and make it into a reality.

 Gone again on my respite… See you next year.

 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.

Social Media And The Transformation Of Silence

“Keeping your mouth shut is a great virtue. As in don’t tell anyone else about it—Silence is golden.”-American proverb (1848)

“Silence is of great value? Not to the victims who suffer in silence.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”- George Bernard Shaw

Dear Dr. Kane:

I find it distressing that you are personally attacking the institution of the church within the black community.   If you are going to write about us, I would appreciate that you focus on the good things we do and not publicly air our dirty laundry.

There is a saying: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Unmoved Churchgoer, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers:

George Bernard Shaw once said: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

There are those within the African-American community who, due to their unwillingness to transform, will view my writings as attacks on the institutions that they are seeking to protect.  For some, silence can be a beautiful thing, for others, an ongoing nightmare.

Historically, church elders and others in leadership positions within the African-American community have been willing to silence the voices of those among us who have been sexually victimized out of the fear that the impact of such disclosure will injure the reputation of the community and institution the assailant may have been associated with.

The recent church scandal in Seattle, where a local pastor sought to cover up acts of sexual assaults by the church’s youth minister, is an example of this. The youth minister was ultimately sentenced to 22 years in prison, and the church and its pastor agreed to a financial settlement out of court with several of the victims, but to this day, the pastor and the church leadership continue to maintain their silence on the subject, both in terms of their own experience, and on the issue in general.

There was no community discussion of this sordid incident.  The only information that was available to the public came from local and national media sources. Meanwhile, the ten male victims were relegated to invisibility by the community’s silence, and remain there today.

Judy Jones, associate director for a survivor network for those abused by members of the clergy, acknowledges the importance of discussion and sharing for victim recovery:

Your silence only hurts, and by speaking up, there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.”

And yet, many of these victims, now young adults or just beginning to enter adulthood, remain silent.  Why?  In understanding the impact of complex psychological trauma, there are several reasons they would refrain from talking about what happened to them:

  • The lack of community validation or the possible loss of their social support system
  • Feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation that are not processed due to the silence
  • Being held partially or entirely responsible for the harm that befell them.

Consequently, these children grow up feeling alone and isolated.  As adults, they may experience a degree of medical and psychological problems including

  • Insomnia
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD

When will the African-American community cease ignoring the pain of these victims?

Now. Social media has arrived, and times are changing. Young people are now empowering themselves by taking action and forcing the issue of sexual assault into the light.

One recent incident involves two students from well-known and elite black colleges in Atlanta, Georgia: Morehouse College and Spelman College. Both are single-gender colleges—Spelman is female-only, and Morehouse is male-only—and they are known for the development of leaders in the corporate and political settings.

Media reports indicate that a Spelman freshman was raped by four Morehouse students.

  • The student reported the incident to the Spelman’s Public Safety Department and was sent to the hospital for a rape kit.
  • However, it took the college a month to respond and when they did, the victim was asked whether she was drunk and what had she been wearing during the attack.
  • The victim states that she was encouraged to “let the action go,” due to the relationship between the two schools. As a result, she left the college.

The action (or, in this case, inaction) by both schools created a firestorm of controversy that the school administrators could not control.  There have been ongoing student protests and commentary in social media, under the hash tags #RapedByMorehouse and #RapedAtSpelman.

The students are seeking to achieve the following:

  • An acknowledgment of the nature of rape on college campuses
  • Push college administrators to do more to address sexual violence on campus
  • Foster discussion of the unique dynamics that make it difficult to report sexual assault by black men

Both Spelman and Morehouse have responded to the firestorm controversy.

The colleges have stated they are conducting ongoing investigations, but the Atlanta Police Department, which has jurisdiction over both campuses, states that it is not investigating any incident of rape at either college.

Will there ever be a criminal investigation of this incident?  Hopefully the students will keep the pressure on both college administrations.  The relationship between the two elite schools must play a backseat role when it comes to the protection and welfare of its students.

Concluding Words

What will it take for the black community to acknowledge and openly address the impact of sexual abuse in our midst?

Transformation. Dramatic movement is beginning now with our younger generations.   The Spelman freshman left school because of being pressured by administrators and the lack of support.   Students at both colleges, using social media, forced the issue into the open, keeping it alive and not allowing the school administrators to blame the victim.  Instead, they are seeking answers around the safety and security of their campuses, and the respect of the school in managing and investigating those times when they fall short.  Most importantly, they are seeking an open dialogue regarding the unique and changing relationships between women and men.

The rape victim at Spelman will not become invisible. Rather than close their ears to the suffering, the students at the two colleges embraced the victim, keeping the incident alive via social media and seeking change within their community.

The history of slavery, segregation and domestic terrorism are key factors in the behavior of both the church leadership in the first case, and the school administration in the second. Shame, humiliation, and learned powerlessness are historical factors, which are well known within the African-American community.  For many, the focus was to survive their circumstances, and in order to do that, they had to keep their heads down, and do nothing about the harm to others that occurred around them.  This behavior has been passed down from generation to generation.

However, today we can empower the psychological self.  We can speak out when we see wrong is being done.  We can embrace those who are suffering and create options that will impact their recovery and the recovery of our own communities.  We can and must want to do more and stop settling for less.

I see the beginning of this transformation with the words of Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College:

We are a family and we will not tolerate any episode of sexual violence.  No person should ever have to suffer and endure the experience she or he has recounted on social media.”

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

“In the end,

We will remember not the words

Of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

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

Until the next crossroads…. the journey continues…

The Shaming of Our LGBTQ Children

 

“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”

-Socrates, classical Greek Philosopher

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

-James Baldwin, African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic

“Fear is the only true enemy born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate.”

-Edward Albert, film & television actor, Golden Globe winner, 1972

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a 34-year-old black male, and I belong to a black church that my family has attended for four generations.  My great-grandfather was one of the founding members, and my grandfather and father have served faithfully as deacons for years.

I attend church services regularly, I pay my tithes, I play the piano for the choir, and I sing.  I am also gay.  I am in a loving monogamous relationship, but my family has asked that I keep this quiet from other church members.  As a result, when I attend church services, I do so without the person who brings joy to my life.

I have accepted the fact that they don’t want to see me as gay.  My parents and their church community are traditional and conservative people, and I know that there is nothing I can do about the way they think.

Recently, however, I encountered a news report about an act of hatred that has devastated me. One black man poured boiling hot water on two other young black men while they were lying in bed together, asleep.  He said he did it because they were gay.  Both men were terribly disfigured, and they showed the pictures. I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to my family, the pastor and the church’s deacon board with the hope that the church would speak out against this act of hatred within the black community, reach out to them in public prayer and offer them financial assistance from the congregation, but I was stunned by the response.  My family was silent; the pastor said he would pray privately for their salvation, but nothing public, and the deacon board decided that taking an offering for the victims was not within the guidelines of the gospel.

I continue to read and hear about the horrors these men have endured.  That could have been me—asleep one moment, and then awake and screaming in agony the next.  It plays over and over again in my mind, and I can’t sleep.  I have nightmares that the same thing could happen to my partner and myself.  I can’t eat, and I have taken time off from work to stay in bed.

I have spoken to my pastor, but I feel he has now forsaken me.  What would you recommend I do?

Sleepless and Invisible in Seattle

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My Dear Readers,

Lupita Nyong’o, in her acceptance speech for her 2014 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film 12 Years A Slave, observed:

“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.”

Slavery was about exploitation, the buying and selling of human being as chattel.  However, it was also about hatred and the despicable acts we can do as one human to another.

And today?  Although African-Americans are legally free and among the most successful members of the African Diaspora, we psychologically remain traumatized; a shame-based community hidden in black silence.

The story being told here is an excellent example of this.  Here, we have a young man who is traumatized by an act of hatred and the horrendous suffering that has ensued. According to reporting by the Associated Press:

  • On 2.12.16 Martin Blackwell, a long-haul trucker who stayed at the home with his girlfriend, the mother of one of the victims, when he was in town, walked in and saw the two men sleeping next to each other.
  • Blackwell went into the kitchen, pulled out a pot, filled it with water and set it to boil. Moments later, he poured the scalding hot water over the men.
  • Then Blackwell allegedly yanked one of the men off the mattress, yelling “Get out of my house with all that gay,”
  • In the police report, he stated “They were stuck together like two hot dogs…so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out.” He added,” They’ll be alright.  It was just a little hot water.”
  • Both men were severely burned. One must now wear compression garments 23 hours a day for the next two years and attend weekly counseling and physical therapy.  The other male was burned even more severely, was placed in a medically induced coma for several weeks, having 60% of his body burned.  He will have to undergo skin grafts surgery to repair damage to his face, neck, back, arms, chest, and head.
  • The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Blackwell guilty of eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Mr. Blackwell deserves to be punished for what he did.  Imagine the premeditation of the act, placing water on a stove, as it boiled, watching the two young men as they slept, peacefully in each other’s arms and just as calmly pouring hot scathing water upon them as they screamed out in pain and agony.  Mr. Blackwell committed a despicable act.  He deserves our contempt.

Instead, the community rewards him with silence.  We see ourselves as helpful neighbors, as in the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” but in this situation, as well as in hundreds of black churches throughout this country, we openly and consistently reject and shun those in our community who are gay and lesbian.

In the same breath that we seek to hold white people, the dominant racial group in our society, accountable for their abuse of the rights of people of color afforded them by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, we consistently deny those same rights to our own children if their sexual orientation does not mirror our own, or what we have come to believe is “natural,” or “right.”

The same 13 subtypes of cumulative complex traumas that African-Americans experience due to our race/ethnicity are the ones we inflict upon those in our own racial and ethnic groups because of differences in gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Specifically:

  • Macro-aggressive assault-threat of violence/death (e.g. pouring scathing boiling water on two sleeping men)
  • Micro-aggressive assault-brief, daily insults and dismissals (e.g. derogatory name calling)
  • Invisibility Syndrome-being unseen (e.g. feelings that one’s talents, personality and worth are not valued or recognized)
  • Just World-the shattering of the belief of the Goodness Principle (e.g. “I do good things, I deserve goodness and I will be rewarded with goodness.”)

 

And then there is Betrayal Trauma…..

One can only imagine how our gay and lesbian children must feel when the people they trust the most—their parents, siblings, extended family and church community turn against them upon learning of their sexual orientation.

Betrayal trauma is the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Betrayal in general is traumatic.  However, the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and therefore the more devastating the traumatic impact.

In the situation of our writer, his situation is even more appalling.  His trauma was increased as he visualized the same horrendous act occurring to him.  He was psychologically wounded.  He went to those he trusted to provide assistance for these two men whom he identified with, and instead, received silence from his family, private acknowledgement from the pastor, and rejection from the deacon board.  In all three ways, they unknowingly abandoned him when they abandoned the two men who were attacked.

To add further hurt to a psychological wound individual, the family and church still wants him to remain committed to attending the church and not only contributing his tithes, but also as a choir member and instrumentalist. In essence, they want him to share his life and talents with them, but only those aspects that they have chosen.

I recommend that our writer:

  • Seek individual psychotherapy or other forms of mental health treatment
  • Heal the psychological wounds: understand that trauma is a permanent fixture that can be carried and with work, can become lighter
  • End the shackles of invisibility: become your own advocate, bring balance into your internalized self and calmness to your external environment
  • Finally, should he desire to stay as a member of the church congregation, be out and free completely. “I’m gay, I’m here and I am not going anywhere.”

 

Concluding Words

As stated earlier, there are 13 sub-types of cumulative complex traumas that can impact African-Americans on a daily basis.  Of these, betrayal trauma can be the most devastating due to the vulnerability and the open exposure of the victimized individual and the nature of implicit and explicit trust.

As a clinical traumatologist, my consistent message has been that trauma is a permanent fixture within the psychological self.  The psychological scars may eventually heal, but the experience and the proceeding trauma is forever.  It will never ever go away.

Betrayal trauma is devastating, and healing and recovery from it is extremely difficult.  However, healing and recovery is possible.  The individual must want to embrace the trauma and in doing so, own and honor the experience.  The result can be a life in which the incident lightens and becomes carried by the sufferer, instead of a weight that lies upon his back.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence by the good people.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

Policing Your Emotions In The Just World

“A white prospective patient enters my office, seats himself, and upon seeing the numerous educational and professional achievements, including a doctorate and two masters’ degrees hanging on my wall, asks, “Are you any good?”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

To be a Negro in this country and be relatively conscious is to be in rage all the time.”

-James Baldwin Writer

“You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity.  When it happens, sometimes we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up.  Sometimes we don’t know what to do when adversity takes over.  And I have some advice for all of us.  I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune.  And it sounds like what you are supposed to say when you have that kind of problem.  It’s called mercy, mercy, mercy.”

-Cannonball Adderley “The Cannon” Jazz Musician

A true story:

I was alone in a hotel lobby in Cleveland Ohio.  My husband and children had just returned to our room to retrieve something that somebody had to have before we left for my sister-in-law’s wedding. 

I had gone to a lot of trouble shopping for the children and myself.  My tailored emerald-green silk dress was made from fabric my husband had brought from Thailand, and my shoes were dyed to match.  My nails and hair were done, and my outfit was topped off with a brand new mink jacket that my husband had worked hard to buy for me.  I was sharp. 

As I waited for the elevator to return my family to me, two young white men came out of the hotel bar and headed my way.  When they got within earshot, one of them loudly exclaimed, “She must cost at least $100!”  His companion laughed as they walked past what was left of me.  

 I looked at my clothes, trying for a minute to determine what was it about me that had given them the impression I looked like a hotel hooker and not simply a well-dressed wife and mother.  My tears gleamed on the fur as I stood there with my head bowed.  

I knew that I had to pull myself together.  I knew that my husband would be furious if he heard my story and would want to confront the men who had left me feeling so devastated.  My children would be upset if I was upset.  Our day of celebration would be spoiled. 

When the elevator finally arrived, I looked shaken, but I managed to blame it on my excitement.  It wasn’t until the end of the day that I told my husband about the experience, and he was as angry as I’d anticipated. 

I never wore those shoes or that dress again.

 -Dr. Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, clinical psychologist and Author, Stolen Women (page 27-28)

My Dear Readers,

Dr. Wyatt, like many of us, was raised to believe in the three tenets of the Just World Theory:

  • The world is benevolent
  • The world is meaningful
  • The self is worthy

It is these values that give rise to the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It affirms the belief that the individual is capable of anything, that hard work pays off, that what goes around comes around, and that buying into the moral precepts and rules of behavior imposed by the greater society will keep the uncertainties of life at bay.

In all respects, Dr. Wyatt succeeded at all of these things, and for the most part, reaped those benefits.  However, just in that short encounter at the elevator, she became a victim of a complex trauma known as Just World Trauma.

Just World Trauma occurs when the rules and guidelines put forth by the greater society for success are then violated by that very same society.  The patient, in believing that they would be treated justly by the world whose rules they have been following, would be betrayed—not by a particular individual, but by all of society.  

 Just World Trauma is one of 13 subtypes of complex traumas African-Americans can be exposed to cumulatively on a daily basis. In this case, Dr. Wyatt suffered:

  • Race based trauma-being viewed as a prostitute because of the color of her skin
  • Micro aggressive assault trauma– the sexual comments were verbalized loudly with the intent to be heard and inflict emotional damage
  • Invisibility Syndrome Trauma– the role of mother and spouse was denied of her

Dr. Wyatt’s reaction to this encounter are typical of African-Americans who are subjected to this trauma:

  • Reaction– She reacted by emotionally trapping the traumatization within and questioning what she had done (her behavior, her dress) to deserve such treatment and to be viewed as a prostitute
  • Response-She chose to remain silent. She made the decision to “pull myself together” and not tell her family.
  • Sacrifice-She sacrificed her psychological self to protect her family by being silent about the encounter at first. She stated “my husband would be furious” and “my children would be upset if I was upset.”

Dr. Wyatt took the hit for the good of the family; she chose not to have their day of celebration be spoiled.  Interestingly enough, Dr. Wyatt’s decision not to tell her husband immediately may have saved his life.  As a woman who knew what her man would or would not accept, this was clearly unacceptable.  Had her husband confronted these men, there may have been a more tragic and psychologically devastating outcome.

Suffering in Silence

 African-Americans have historically understood the need to be silent even in the midst of great suffering and powerless, in order to survive.

I was compelled to stand and see my wife shamefully scourged and abused by her master; and the manner in which it was done, was so violently and inhumanly committed upon the person of a female; that I despair in finding decent language to describe the blood act of cruelty.”

-Unknown contributor

The survival of black Americans through their silence has changed little from slavery to the modern day.  It is through black silence we have learned to adapt in the following ways:

  • Learn to behave one way, even if you felt another
  • Never discuss the kind of abuse you were experiencing
  • Live with a sense of dignity in spite of the abuse

 Today, these adaptations have resulted in African-Americans:

  • Feigning submission, happiness and complacency in spite of whatever emotion the individual may actually be feeling.
  • Experiencing trauma that may result in sleeplessness, fears of impending doom and flashbacks that won’t go away
  • Using coping mechanisms such as dissociation in order to maintain emotional distance from the psychological wounds impacting one’s life.

The ABC’s of Empowerment: Ending Black Silence.

  •  A (Advocacy)- End the silence, speak for the psychological self (“I will accept that only I can advocate for my mental wellness.”)
  • B (Balance)-Seek balance of feeling and thoughts (“Only I can bring balance within me as to what I feel and think.”)
  • C (Calmness) Expel calmness to the external world (“I can and I will bring calmness to my external environment.”)

 

Concluding Words

 “African-Americans have shown the endurance to survive and achieve during times of hardship and adversity.  Now we must demonstrate the ability to run the race smarter, not harder.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Our parents in their wisdom have taught us that to succeed we must learn the rules and play the game.  We have tended to our psychological wounds with silence and other substances like food and alcohol for decades. Now, we must combine learning the rules and playing the game with running the race smarter, not harder.

To those who may be curious as to my response to the micro-aggressive assault, i.e. the question, “Are you any good?”

My response was simple: I asked the individual to accompany me to the building’s waiting room, where I suggested he seek an appointment with one of the white therapists in the building.  In leaving, I remarked, “I choose my patients. If you were not sitting on the couch, someone more deserving of my assistance would be.”

I will not allow someone to take from or minimize what I have worked so hard and sacrifice so much as I walked my journey of self-discovery.  I will advocate for me, obtain balance within my psychological self and in doing, achieve calmness in my external world, and I encourage all others to do the same.

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

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life , www.lovingmemore.com

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

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

—————————————–

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

—————————————————-

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.