The Unspoken Truth: Waiting Your Turn at the End of The Line

“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” 

Captain Jay Baker Director of Communications, Cherokee County, GA, Sheriff’s Office (describing the bad day of the shooter following the killing of 8 people including 6 women of Asian descent)

“All of us have experienced bad days. But we don’t go to three Asian businesses and shoot up Asian employees.”

Ted Lieu Congressman, California

“Love my shirt! Get yours while they last,”

Facebook post featuring shirts created by Captain Jay Baker, Director of Communications, Cherokee County, GA Sheriff’s Office that appears to echo former President Trump’s characterization of COVID-19 as the “China Virus” and the “Kung Flu”.

“To see the post is both disturbing and outrageous. It speaks to the structural racism that we’re all up against. Coupled with the comments coming out of the news conference, it does not give community members confidence that our experiences and the pain and the suffering that we’re feeling are being taken seriously, at lease by this particular person.”

Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director, Chinse for Affirmative Action

“It does not appear race was his reasons for allegedly shooting multiple people at three massage parlors.”

Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (interview with National Public Radio two days following the shootings)

My Dear Readers,

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog. Twice in a matter of one week, our nation has been dealt enormously traumatic blows, two mass shootings by individual gunmen. One occurring in the greater Atlanta, GA area, taking the lives of eight and the other occurring in Boulder, CO, taking the lives of 10. Both occurring as we continue to respond psychologically to the loss of 547,000 Americans and the infection of a further 30 million more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are differences in the ways in which both mass shootings are being publicly reported, public outcry, and the governmental response. First, let us identify the differences in the facts of the cases. In Atlanta, the victims where all ethnic minorities whereas in Boulder, the victims were Caucasians. In the Atlanta shooting the shooter is Caucasian while in the Boulder shooting, the shooter was a person belonging to an ethnic minority.

During times of great suffering, it sounds disingenuous to tag “race” in these matters and yet how does one ignore the impact or consequences of race when living in a time that systemic and structural racism is tolerated, accepted, and encouraged? African Americans and Asian Americans although living in the United States for different lengths/periods and brought to this country for different reasons, share common themes of psychological impacts and traumatic wounds derived from racism and/or race related stressors. As it has always followed in past events, the psychological impacts of what occur with the majority population will overshadow the suffering of the ethnic minority population. It is for that reason that I have chosen, during the month of International Women’s Day, to focus on the killing of the six Asian women in the mass shooting of 8 people in Atlanta GA.

I choose to share the words from an email I received from a current a patient. Her identity has been changed to protect her confidentiality. Cynthia is an early 30’s, Korean American woman, who was educated on the east coast at one of the Ivy League universities. She has resided in the Puget Sound area for 10 years and is employed by a local technology firm. Below is a recap of her feelings associated with the Atlanta shooting in which all of the Asian women were either Korean American or Korean nationals.

Dr. Kane,

I am so sad. I feel that I am not allowed to share my suffering. I feel that what is being inferred to me regarding my pain is that I should get behind others; that I should get in the back of the line. It hurts me that I cannot express to others how I honestly feel and if I were to take the chance and express my true feelings, I fear I would be opening myself to be targeted and shot down.

I feel that I am invisible to others and that I can’t put a name to this out of fear that if I speak out that I will once again be minimized. I have worked hard in therapy to find and claim the Psychological Self.  I don’t want to do that to the Self. I want to live life with fear and not in fear.

It is upsetting to me that other people, particularly African Americans, don’t see me as an ethnic minority but rather as a white person who looks Asian. In this view, I am treated like a white person where I am automatically distrusted, distanced from, and treated with overt anger and hate.

As an Asian American, I have benefitted from the struggle of African Americans as they have sought to obtain civil and equal rights and I have stood with them in racial and social justice issues. Following the murder of George Floyd, I actively marched and spoke out against his murder. Yet, now, I don’t see African Americans joining with me or other Asian on the frontlines demonstrating against Asian hate.

It is as if my pain doesn’t matter. No one at work, white or African American, has asked me about how I am doing following the killing of Asian women in Atlanta or the violence against Asian people throughout the country. I expect white people to be silent, but it really hurts when people who are racially different, just like me, are silent regarding my pain. It’s like I said before, it’s like being told in so many words, ‘to get to the end at the line and wait your turn’. It’s like I am invisible, and my life doesn’t matter.

Dr. Kane, I want our communities both Asian and African American to heal and not be divided. Systemic racism sows seeds of distrust between our communities.

I also struggle with those within my community. There is a division between people who want more awareness and response regarding Asian hatred and those who are seeking to brush the issue under the rug in hopes that it will simply go away.

I feel so invisible.  I feel so alone.

Bye for now,

Cynthia

My Dear Readers,

As I read Cynthia’s email, I reflected on a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”.

Neither did I reach out to her to check on how she was doing. I assumed that she had a support system, and I did not want to intrude on her private space. I had planned to check-in at our next session. Well, as you can see, I was wrong. Cynthia did not have any support in her personal life or workplace. Even as a seasoned and well experienced psychotherapist, I had neglected my own golden rule: “It is not your intent that fuels the flames, it is the impact of your actions or non-actions”.

Once I became aware of her situation, I immediately reached out to Cynthia offering a heartfelt apology and in return she graciously returned the “gift of forgiveness.”. In our session, Cynthia spoke of her pain of being viewed as the “model minority” and how this perception adds to her invisibility. Cynthia was correct in her comment that “…systemic racism sows seeds to build distrust between our communities”.  

Systemic Racism and Invisibility Syndrome

Even though some would define systemic racism as subconscious or unconscious, it still adds to root the division between the Asian American and African American communities. One African American scholar, who I shall not name, defined systemic racism as:

“…systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African Americans.”

Why just African Americans? If that definition is accepted, what are the psychological impacts on those whose skin is also not white but still feels the psychological trauma of racism? In trauma work, skin color or racial origins is not a defensive mechanism to ward off psychological trauma.  When a person is denied the right of suffering from racist exposure, that individual is relegated to the status of invisibility and thus they become victimized by another trauma known as Invisibility Syndrome.

This trauma, the Invisibility Syndrome, created by AJ Franklin (1999, 2004), defines invisibility as “inner struggles with the feelings that one’s talents, abilities, personalities and worth are not valued or recognized because of prejudice and racism”.

Therefore, as in the case of Cynthia, Franklin would conclude that “following an encounter where there is a perceived racial slight, the ‘assaulted’ person may internalize their feelings and experience their manifestation…” as:

  • The lack of recognition or appropriate acknowledgment
  • The lack of satisfaction from the encounter
  • The lack of self-esteem and legitimacy
  • The lack of validation
  • The lack of respect
  • The awareness that one’s dignity has been compromised and challenged.
  • The awareness that one’s basic identity has been shaken.

The “Model Minority”

The term “Model Minority” was developed by the majority to turn racial and ethnic groups against each other. It is a type of systemic racism that was intended to divide racial groups into a hierarchy that not only pits them against one another, but it also intended to minimize the perceived impacts of race related stress on one minority racial group as seen by other minority racial groups.

What is race related stress? This refers to the conceptual model created by Loo, et al (2000).  They found three specific areas in which individuals experienced trauma due to racism:

  • Exposure to racial prejudice and stigmatization
  • Bicultural identification and conflict
  • Exposure to a racist environment

In the Loo, et al study (2000), the following generalizations can be made.

  1. The stressful effects of exposure to cumulative racism can be experienced as traumatic events and are often in response to racially prejudiced behavioral style that includes racist name calling and emotionally laden materials that exhibit hate toward a racial group such as “Hate Asians” or “Kill Asians” paraphernalia.  In addition,
  2. They are often at a constant state of hypervigilance and physiological arousal that occurs as a result of the ongoing danger and fearing possible life-threatening experiences suffered when they are singled out because of Asian ancestry. Lastly,
  3. There is trauma that results from racial stigmatization and racial exclusion, resulting in a reduction of a sense of belonging, social support as well as an increase in feelings of isolation.

In summary, the feelings detailed by the trauma studies and experienced through statements of invisibility, isolation, and exclusion by Cynthia are no different from those experienced by African Americans who also endured the psychological impacts of systemic racism. Cynthia is correct in her assertion that “systemic racism sows seeds to build distrust between our communities”.  Therefore, it would be truth and not conjecture that systemic racism is the foundation of all the systems in place that create and maintain racial inequality in nearly every facet of the lives of all people of color, not just African Americans.

Concluding Remarks – Dr. Kane

“Wait your turn … at the end of the line.”  is an acknowledgment of minority communities being pitted against each other by the majority, or by themselves, as they all struggle to achieve racial and social justice. Systemic racism is Insidious Trauma. Insidious Trauma is the culmination of daily negative incidents of marginalization, objectification, dehumanization, and intimidation affecting members of stigmatized groups and are directly traumatic. In this situation, the Atlanta killings of Asians added to the upcoming trial of the officers involved in the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, are both about to be overshadowed by the killing of 10 white men and women in Boulder CO by a person of color.  In recent national news there has been maximum coverage on the incident in Boulder, CO where there has been little to no coverage on the incidents in Atlanta or the upcoming trial in Minneapolis.

In Cynthia’s closing remarks she stated, “I want our communities both Asian and African American to heal and not be divided.”  Understanding that both communities are reeling from division within covered with years of mistrust as they both struggle to obtain the same limited resources; it is unlikely that this will be achieved on a community level in the current time.  However, we can as individuals sow the seeds of unity, collaboration, and concern during these traumatic times.  Let us all reach out and as individuals and try to begin the healing process.

In Ralph Ellison’s 1947 novel, “The Invisible Man”, Ellison wrote the following:

“I am an invisible man.  No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms.  I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquid- and I might even be said to possess a mind.  I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.”

At the time of writing this superb novel, Ralph Ellison was writing about African American people. If he was here today, I truly believe his words would be inclusive to all of us as we all bear the psychological impacts and traumatic injuries and wounds… of systematic racism.

ANTI-ASIAN RACISM – YK Hong, Keep Beyond

ANTI-ASIAN RACISM

IS LINKED TO WHITE SUPREMACY

WHICH IS LINKED TO ANTI-BLACKNESS

WHICH IS LINKED TO CAPITALISM

IMPERIALISM

ABLEISM

MYSOGENY AND SEXISM

THESE ARE ALL CONNECTED

WE CANNOT FIGHT ONLY ONE OF THESE

WE MUST FIGHT ALL OF THESE

Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

The Unspoken Truth: Bobbi’s Saga, Mary’s History

“This is the reality of black girls. One day you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”

– Amanda Gorman, Poet, featured in the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden (January 20, 2021). Sharing her experience of being racially profiled.

“What’s her name – Breonna something, I am sorry she was killed, but you know when you hang out with people with guns and shooting, you’re likely to caught in the crossfire.”

– Susan McCoy, Teacher of Forensic Sciences at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, GA. Comments made concerning the upcoming anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death. (Following her false and inaccurate comments she was called out by her students and subsequently placed on administrative leave)

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”

– Harriet Tubman, “Black Moses”, Civil Rights Activist, Freedom Fighter and Conductor, Underground Railroad.

A Tribute to Bobbi

“My empowerment is not about him, it’s about me.

I am not to blame nor is the shame mine to own.

It’s simply my responsibility to make this life.”

“About …Self.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

My Dear Readers,

Once again it is with pleasure that I return to writing and with great sadness that I extend my condolences to the families of the 543,417 Americans as well as to the families of the more than 2.6 million people worldwide who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With March being Women’s History Month, and Monday of this week being International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, I honor the significance and importance of women’s contributions throughout history. However, in the spirit of empowerment and walking the landscape of self-discovery, I disavow the purely American celebration of Women History Month.

Regarding, Women’s History Month, I will advocate from the same position I took on the subject of Black History Month; Women’s History is and always will be American History and should be celebrated daily as such.

Just as I believe Black History Month unfairly relegates the whole of a people’s history, achievements, contributions, and the immensity of their pain and suffering to the shortest month of the year, then pack it away until next year, I hold similar views regarding Women History Month.

As I stated previously, Women’s History is and will always be American History. It is in my opinion it benefits systemic chauvinism to limit the acknowledgment of their history, achievements, contributions and, the immensity of their psychological suffering to 31 days a year and then place it all on dusty shelves until next year. 

In this post, I seek to honor and acknowledge the achievements, courage, and sacrifices of two African American women.

The first I seek to honor is Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner of Monroe, NC. She is a historical figure whose accomplishments, dur to systemic racism, have been hidden from view. Subsequently, with the ending of Black History Month, her accomplishments would have gone largely ignored if it had not been for the awareness of Belinda Kendall, CEO and Founder of Promise Media Group, a strong proponent of creating awareness of African American people’s contribution to history. The second person I seek to honor is a contemporary of today. Her confidential name is Bobbi.  Bobbi has been my patient for 10 years. Bobbi is a sexual abuse “striver.” As a striver, she has pushed beyond “survivorship” and is now pushing into empowerment, as she continues to walk the landscape seeking self-discovery.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an inventor and as such a public figure. Bobbi, is mother of four children, recently retired and as such is a very private person. But what these two women share, is the accomplishment of not only surviving, but they empowered themselves to strive despite the systemic racism they endured as African American women in this country.

Sharing their stories are not just footnotes in Black History or Women’s History, rather they are those of American History.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912-2006)

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s legacy has been denied from her by omission and silence. She is the inventor of the Sanitary belt with a moisture-proof napkin pocket. It was the first generation of what would become the sanitary pad. This was an idea she created when she was just 18 years old, long before the modern-day maxi pad and at a time when women were still using uncomfortable and poorly absorbent materials such as cloth rags or balls of cotton during their period. Shortly after registering her patent, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s invention garnered interest from a manufacturing company but was quickly rejected once they found out that she was black. Systemic racism prevented her from experiencing any financial gain from her invention. Decades later, when her patent expired and her idea became public domain, it was taken, and copies were manufactured well into the early 1980’s without any mention of its original inventor.  

This information is significant because it transformed the lives of women. Yet, as important as it was, it was held from production and use for 30 years due to systematic racism adding to the psychological impacts and controlling the physiological trajectory of not only black women but all women regardless of race. 

As a man, and as a black man, I felt psychological impacted by this information which had been denied to me. I cannot imagine the impact this trauma has had on the lives of women. As a man, I wanted to speak out not just to be heard but to listen as well. In response to this story, which came to me by way of LinkedIn, I wrote:

“Hmm.  Interesting. WTF (frog)? Racism over sanitary pads? Racism over …WTF (frog), menstrual flow?  Good Lawd? Do I believe my lying eyes?”

I know it would be insensitive to laugh at the ridiculousness of this issue but the idea that racism found its way into something as ubiquitous as menstruation products garnered that initial response but while doing so, I recognize that it is the failure of particularly African American men to understand the psychological impacts and trauma of systemic racism as others seek to control the bodies and the normal human process of the black female body.

I had no idea of either this racist occurrence or that a black woman invented sanitary pads. This is the consequences when others holding hatred of dark skin, seek to control not only access, the credit for the patent, but then hiding their actions by limiting the information being shared and the timing in which the information is being disseminated.  

A black woman’s body being psychologically impacted by systemic racism and yet where do we as black men stand? What do we say? How do we educate our sons? What supports do we provide to our daughters?  Partners?  Spouses?

“So, you didn’t know? – Now, you do. What? Not your problem?  Really? It’s traumatic. – Make it your concern. Black Lives Matter… 365 including February. Uncovering the unspoken truths. Discovering and sharing what is learned. Recovering and healing the psychological wounds.”

– Dr. Michael Kane, clinical traumatologist, LinkedIn (published 03.08.21)

“Bobbi”

In the past I have shared excepts from the journals of Bobbi’s saga. Unlike Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, Bobbi didn’t invent or patent items which transform the lives of others.  Instead, Bobbi’s saga, the life of one Black woman, represents the silence of the many whose voices have not been heard.

At the age of four, Bobbi was viciously raped by the landlord of her family’s home. Threatened with the deaths of her mother and sibling, she bored the silence of this traumatic physical and psychological injury. Between the ages of nine to twelve, she was repeatedly raped and sodomized by her stepfather. Following being told of his intent to impregnate her, she summed up the courage to tell her mother. 

Her mother reacted by physically beating her and threatening to blind her with her fork. When Bobbi resisted, her mother forced her into the foster care system then spread lies about her in the community and church saying, “she raised her hand to me.” By doing so, her mother kept her social image and bearing intact while destroying her daughter’s.

And what about Bobbi? Sexually assaulted by her stepfather, physically assaulted, and rejected by her mother, abandoned by extended relatives, and shunned by her church and community. By the age of 12, she was alone in the foster care system. Bobbi remained in foster care, residing in four different homes until she aged out at 18. She went on to have a successful career in public service, married and raised four children. She was intent on protecting them from experiencing the same abuse that she had endured. She succeeded.

For 50 years she kept the stories of her life to herself, suffering in silence and then following her children reaching adulthood, her world suddenly crashed, and she began psychotherapy. That was eleven years ago.  Eleven years of:

  • Uncovering the Unspoken Truths
  • Discovering and sharing what was learned
  • Recovering and healing the psychological wounds

And this writing today is a continuation of Bobbi’s Saga.

March 1st, 2021

“I had a session with Dr. Kane today. I spent the whole session reading my journal and talking.  Dr. Kane said it is getting lighter. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. When I buy things for myself, I would feel like I deserved them because of all I went through in the past.  I know whatever I buy won’t relieve the pain, but it would make me feel better for a while.” 

“I was glad that I survived all the pain I went through. The pain also isolated me from others. I thought the pain would never go away. Only if I could had shared what happened to me with someone else. I remember when I first told my story to Dr. Kane. I was shocked that the pain didn’t go away or lighten.”

“I couldn’t tell anyone else. My husband was closed off and didn’t understand my pain. I didn’t share this with my kids. I thought others might think and look at me differently. I was so ashamed. I don’t think anyone understands how ashamed and dirty I felt. I felt that way for a long time.”

03.01.21 (evening)

“I remembered to call Dr. Kane tonight. He realized that today’s session was a difficult session.  I am still thinking about today’s session as the pain makes me want to isolate. It reminds me of how much I wanted from my mother. I wanted the love that she wasn’t able to give. I then married a man who loves me but isn’t able to show it.”

“I feel anxious and depressed tonight. I appreciate Dr. Kane talking to me on Thursday and Sunday nights. I haven’t had a suicidal thought in over a month. I hope they stay away. In talking with Dr. Kane, we talked about my experiences in foster care. Being alone, having a bedroom for the first time, food rationing, having to eat from 100 pounds of beans and 100 pounds of rice and no meat for a month. The other foster kids not wanting me there.”

“Me trying to kill myself in a receiving home by smoothing myself with a pillow but not being able to. How lonely I felt in foster care. Feeling that no one loved me or cared about me.  Living in intense pain knowing that I was in foster care being cared for as a source of money.”

“It is sad that Black people are not often foster care parents for the right reason. I decided when I was twelve that I would a foster parent when I grew up. I wanted to be a foster parent for babies or teenagers. I wanted to give back what had been given to me. I wanted to select the two ages that was most difficult to take care of. I planned on doing this when my kids became older.”

“When I told my husband what I had wanted to do and how important to was to me, he stated he wanted no part of it. I tried to explain to him why I wanted to be a foster parent and how long it had been a dream for me. He didn’t want to discuss it. He just said no. That hurt me. It meant the end of a dream. I had wanted to give back some of what was what was given to me.”

“I watched Meghan Markle on a special with Oprah tonight. Meghan said there was a point where she did not want to live. She went to the royal family and asked for help. She was told no, that wouldn’t look good. Oprah asked her ‘are you saying you were suicidal?’ She said yes and I was scared. She told her husband. He said he didn’t know what to do either. She had asked multiple people for help and was unable to get it.”

“I thought about my own suicidal thought and also about being scared. Meghan said she had thought every moment of the day.  I remember being like that. It said to me that it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It is the amount of pain you have and how much you can stand. Too much pain makes everything impossible to bear.” 

“People who haven’t had immense pain can’t imagine life not being worth living or the depth that pain can’t get to. It is difficult to explain that to others. One of the things Meghan said was she was so ashamed for having the thoughts. People without the pain can’t imagine being ashamed.”

“I am so relieved that the suicidal thoughts have been gone for two months. That makes me feel safer and not so alone. I told my husband and in telling him it was a relief to me. Tonight at 10:30 I was thinking about suicide and reflecting how those periodic nightly phone calls to Dr. Kane kept me alive. I appreciated those phone calls as they let me know that I could live another day.” 

“I recall the promise I made to Dr. Kane to call if I was going to commit suicide. I could never imagine making that phone call and I had promised. I am alive. I am still here. I will live to see another day.”

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

“If you always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

– Maya Angelou

I never met Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner. I wished there had been that opportunity to sit with her and listen to her story, her struggles, defeats, and achievements. One could say that she was a powerful black woman who overcame the psychological impacts of systemic racism, achieving a patent over a product that is beneficial in the lives of women around the world. I remember as a boy buying sanitary pads for my mother and my embarrassment in doing so. As a husband and father, I recall buying sanitary pads for my spouse and daughter, watching the female cashier hurriedly placing the items in a covered bag and just as quickly myself removing the items and proudly carrying them in arms for all to see.

There is no embarrassment or shame. No one can make you feel something that is not there.

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner deserves recognition and appreciation in American history and on International Women’s Day and not to be isolated or forgotten on a dusted shelve following Black History Month or Women History Month.

Bobbi’s Saga

Bobbi is my hero.  Sexually abused at an early age. Betrayed by her stepfather, assaulted, and rejected by her mother and shunned by her church and community, Bobbi struggled, surviving in a state foster care system in which she knew no love and understood she was nothing more than a means for income for those taking care of her.

Shamed, feeling dirty and used by others, she graduated from high school while in foster care, aging out of the system.  For 50 years feeling she would be judged harshly, she never said a word to anyone about the terrible things that happened. Instead, she married, raised four children with the commitment to provide to them the protection in childhood and adolescence that she was denied.

Although she states it was her lifelong dream to become a foster care parent, clinically speaking, in reality, this was her identity and her “saving grace”.  Following her children, aging-out into adulthood, Bobbi was devastated by her spouse’s refusal to support her “dream” of becoming a foster parent.

Being a parent and seeking to foster parent was Bobbi’s way of not only protecting vulnerable others, but it was also a means of insulation from her own traumas which she had carried in silence for 50 years. With her children, grown and now denied the opportunity to provide a shield to others, she was left to face her traumas alone.

I believe in life things happen for a reason. Like in the story of the phoenix, the mythical creature that bursts into flames only to rise out of the ashes, Bobbi’s saga and the weight of silently carrying the psychological impacts for 50 years coupled with the devastation of no longer having others to protect, created a fiery inferno of hopelessness, powerlessness and impending death by suicide.

Her actions led her to psychotherapy, medication management and the desire and commitment to live. Bobbi rose from the ashes and is now actively involved in walking her landscape and in doing so, “living the life she wants and not the life she lived.”

Imagine, sitting in psychotherapy 2-3 times per week for 11 years, following the SELF (Self-Empowerment Leaping Forward) protocol.           

Placing oneself into

  • A safe and secure…
  • Space to either…
  • Sit in silence or…
  • Speak openly about…
  • Secretive (hidden and rooted)…
  • Submerged (unresolved)…
  • Substances (materials/impacts)…
  • Surfacing (arising) upon…
  • Self’s psychological landscape

Bobbi is not only my hero, she is my blessing. Where others may see courage and strength, they failed to see her empowerment. Where others would doom her to the status of being a “survivor” she has become empowered.

She has empowered her SELF to become a “striver,” setting her pace and direction as she continues to seek self-discovery and to walk her landscape.

Bobbi’s Saga, like Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, is a story of American history. And like Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, she too deserves recognition and appreciation in American history and on International Women’s Day and not to be isolated or forgotten on a dusted shelf following Black History Month or Women History Month.

Black Lives Matter… 365 including February. 

Uncovering the unspoken truths. Discovering and sharing what is learned. Recovering and healing the psychological wounds.”

Dreams -Nikki Giovanni

in my younger years

before i learned

black people aren’t

suppose to dream

i wanted to be

a raelet

and say “dr o wn d in my youn tears”

or “tal kin bout tal kin bout”

or marjorie hendricks and grind

all up against the mic

and scream

“baaaaaby nightandday

baaaaaby nightandday”

then as i grew and matured

i became more sensible

and decided i would

settle down

and just become

a sweet inspiration

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

The Unspoken Truth: Their Lives Matter: Honoring Our Unknown Heroes

“It’s important for us to also understand that the phase ‘Black Lives Matter’ simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed. It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter.  It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability.”

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

“I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” 

– Langston Hughes, Writer/Poet

“We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

– Jesse Owens, World Record Setting Olympic Athlete

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.” 

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pastor, Civil Rights Activist

“Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.”

– Carol Moseley-Braun, former US Senator from Illinois, 1st African American Woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate (1992)

“The hate you give is the pain we live.”

– Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

My Dear Readers,

It is my deepest pleasure that I once again return to writing. It is also with great sadness that I extend my condolences to the families of the 470,705 Americans and the families of the over 2 million people from around the world who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

I sincerely apologize for not posting a new blog for the past several months. As much as I enjoy writing, my number one priority has been and will always be to the psychological care and mental wellness of my patients. My patient calendar has been stretched to its limits. My clinical practice has grown to an average of 45-55 patients per week, more than double the 20-25 patients that other private clinical practices may treat in the same amount of time, so I had to temporarily step away.

Today, the African American community faces not only the devastation due to COVID-19 but also the cumulative traumas of systemic racism and ongoing psychological impacts because of societal issues such as police brutality, judicial abuse, and mass incarceration.

In addition to the pandemic, the nation has been psychologically stunned by the January 06, 2021 breaching of the US Capitol Building by a mob of predominantly white insurrectionists who sought to overturn the lawful election of the 46th President of the United States. These treasonous actions resulted in vandalism, theft, destruction, and desecration of the halls of Congress. These people spread urine and feces on the walls and floors in the seat of power of the United States of America, the country they claimed to love.  

However, as a treating clinician, the greatest psychological impact that I have been asked to respond to has come from my African American patients: the sight of the confederate battle flag being waved in the House of Democracy. In the same house where, on January 1, 1863, Congress ratified the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free”.

I listen to the repeated words of my patients as they watched the Capitol Hill police officers treat the insurrectionists with kid gloves, taking selfies and allowing the hundreds if not thousands involved to simply walk away and return quietly to their homes, work, and communities. It was traumatizing, plain and simple.

In the end, five people had been killed including one officer, and many more police had been seriously injured. Property had been destroyed, hundreds had trespassed and physical assaulted government employees, domestic terrorist, insurrectionists had threatened and planned to take the lives of elected officials to the point where they were armed, carrying zip ties, and had constructed gallows to execute the Vice President of the United States and they were simply allowed to walk away. They were allowed to walk away while black men and women get executed for selling cigarettes, jogging, or simply fitting a description.

As I return to writing and thinking about how black Americans have been treated in this country, I am reminded of a picture I once saw. It was of a black soldier who had just returned from battle. He was exhausted, sitting on a stump holding his rifle. His back was whip-scarred, physical evidence of a life lived as a former slave. The picture was captioned “We’ve Loved America More Than It Ever Loved Us.”  These words are ever so painful and …ever so true.

(The picture was a composite image that combined art from the cover of issue # 6 of the Loveless graphic novel drawn by Marcelo Frusin and an interpretation of a quote from “Doc” Rivers, former NBA player and the current head coach of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.)

‘I don’t want a Black History Month. Black History is American history.”

– Morgan Freeman, Actor, Academy Award Winner (2005)

I agree with Morgan Freeman. Black history is American history, but I do feel that Black History Month is necessary. The reason why we have a Black History Month is to counteract the intentional actions of white historians using racist systems and ideologies to deny the accurate telling of African American history and allow it to be truthfully and honestly explored.

Ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge. Whether it is willful, intentional, or unintentional, the impact and outcome on a people when their community is denied the truth is psychologically devasting. Even though African American history is American history, it has been denied its rightful place in antiquity. African American history, its teachings, information, and knowledge has been relegated to the 28-day month of February and once March 1st arrives, African American History disappears until the following year.

“Hate is too great a burden to bear.  It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.”

– Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Activist

I was born in Harlem, NY but my developmental years were spent in the segregated south. As much as I admire Coretta Scott King, I must disagree with her conclusion that hate is more impactful on the “hater” than on the “hated”. I agree that “hate is too great a burden to bear” but for me personally and professionally, the destruction, devastation, the psychological effects, and the trauma that hate creates for the “hated” far outweighs the burden it supposedly imposes on the “hater”.

The “hater” can ignore, minimize and justify their actions. As we have seen so many times, this allows them to eventually forget what they have done leaving their actions unknown by future generations. 

I recently wrote in LinkedIn about a story of a black Coastguardsman, Charles Walter David, Jr. who served as a mess attendant aboard the Coast Guard cutter USCG Comanche during WWII.  At the time, the Coast Guard was segregated and the only occupations available for black men were menial work in ship kitchens or maintaining the officers’ quarters.

At 12:55 a.m. on February 3, 1943, while the USCG Comanche was escorting three transport ships off the coast of Greenland, one of the transport ships, the USAT Dorchester, was torpedoed by a German submarine. Nine-hundred men were forced into the frigid waters. Witnessing the crisis, David and several other men voluntarily climbed down into the lifeboats where they helped lift their fellow service men up onto the Comanche’s deck. Even though David was one of the lowest ranking men on his ship and his shipmates and country considered him to be a second-class citizen, he willingly put his life at risk to save fellow Americans.

When the Comanche’s executive officer fell overboard, David, without hesitation, dived into the frigid waters to save him.  David also saved another shipmate who had grown too weak to swim and lifted him back into the cutter. In addition to the two men whom David single-handedly saved, he and his shipmates successfully rescued 93 survivors from the Dorchester.  Shortly after his heroics, David contracted pneumonia and succumbed to the illness. The Coast Guard posthumously awarded David the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, its third highest award for bravery under fire from enemy action.

                              Wait… the story does not end here.

Following the torpedoing of the USAT Dorchester, four Army chaplains – representing Methodist, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic faiths guided soldiers trapped below decks to escape hatches.  The chaplains passed out life vests and when the supply ran out, they gave their own to men who had none.  Finally, they linked arms to pray and sing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.

These men of faith became known as the “Four Chaplains”.   The impact of the chaplains resulted in memorials and media coverage. Each of the four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Purple Heart.  They were nominated for the Medal of Honor but were found to be ineligible as they had not engaged in combat with the enemy. Instead, Congress created a medal for them, called the Four Chaplains Medal (1960), with the same weight and importance of the Medal of Honor.

As of a result of their heroic actions, two documentaries, five publications, nine artistic pieces and numerous pieces of music were created in their honor. A commentative US postage stamp was created to honor their sacrifices. In 1998, February, 3 of that year was established as “Four Chaplains Day” to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the sinking of the USAT Dorchester and subsequent heroism of these men.

A national foundation, the “Four Chaplain’s Memorial Foundation”, a 501(c)(3) charity was established to honor the legacy of the Four Chaplains.  Its official mission statement is:

“… further the cause of “unity without uniformity” by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people.”

Furthermore, the organization states it “achieves its mission by advocating for and honoring people whose deeds symbolize the legacy of the Four Chaplains aboard the USAT Dorchester in 1943”.

“Truth is powerful, and it prevails.”

– Sojourner Truth, American Abolitionist & Woman Rights Activist

And so… What about the honors or recognition for black Coastguardsman Charles Walter David, Jr. who sacrificed his life saving the lives of 95 of his fellow crewmen including his executive officer?  What is the reason that he received the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, the third highest award for bravery whereas the Four Chaplains received the Distinguished Service Medal, the nation’s second highest medal for bravery?  What is the reason that Congress has failed to enact recognition for Seaman David’s bravery and sacrifice and bestow upon him a Congressional medal equal to that that was bestowed upon the Four Chaplains? 

What is the reason that Senate has not passed a resolution for a “day” acknowledging the actions of Seaman David saving the lives of 95 men during the same actions resulting in the sinking of the USAT Dorchester and the loss of the Four Chaplains? Where are the publications, documentaries artwork, music, commentative postage stamps and memorials honoring Seaman David who repeatedly dove into frigid waters, saving the lives of 95 men and sacrificing his own?  Reflecting on the earlier statement of the Union solder and former slave, exhausted from battle, remembering the words, “We’ve Loved America More Than It Ever Loved Us.”  Where are the honors, recognition and glory, due to black Coastguardsman Charles Walter David, Jr.? These words are frozen in time as they continue to be … ever so painful and ever so true.”

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

– Thurgood Marshall, first African American US Supreme Court Justice

Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr., a black man, volunteered to answer the call of duty and served his nation during wartime. Due to hate, racial prejudice and bigotry, he was treated as a second-class citizen; relegated to duties of mess attendant, cleaning and attending to the living quarters of white officers aboard his ship, he nevertheless volunteered and contributed strongly in the efforts to save the lives of white soldiers, sailors and coastguardsman.  In return for his heroic deeds, and the sacrifice of his life, he is denied in death the same if not similar acknowledgments given for bravery, valor and courage that were bestowed upon others. The only difference being of military rank, occupation and most importantly, the color of his skin. It is his race and the color that makes him invisible and allows others to abuse him today and forget about him tomorrow.

The Black Man… The Invisible Man

“I am an invisible man. – No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. Yet, I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the floating heads you see in circus sideshows surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me”.

– Ralph Ellison, Writer

Concluding Words – Dr. Micheal Kane

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face realty. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

– Malcolm X, Civil Rights Activist

My Dear Readers,

On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists, blinded with delusions of patriotism, breached the US Capitol Building. Regardless of their beliefs, their actions were wrong, and history will hold them to account. As Malcolm X has clearly stated “Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”  It was wrong of America to deny Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr. equality in recognition of his bravery, courage under fire and supreme sacrifice with the “Four Chaplains”. His accomplishments, unlike the “Four Chaplains’” are unknown to many and his memory lies in obscurity.

 In White America, there is acknowledgment for heroism. These heroes are permanently memorialized in the hearts and minds of those who sacrificed their lives for their country. The African American community should also be allowed to memorialized its hero of that fateful event. The wrong that was done cannot be undone however, as a nation, as Thurgood Marshall once stated, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute”.

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

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Noble Lauriat

Ignorance can be the lack of knowledge. However, once we have knowledge and awareness, we are empowered to create transformation. As we are within days of the 78th anniversary of Coastguardsman Stewards Mate Charles Walter David, Jr. heroic actions and subsequent death, I am committed to begin a writing campaign that will address this wrong and allow the proper acknowledgment and honors that his actions warrant and for which he is truly due. I will be writing to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Honorable Members of Congress, The Secretary of Defense, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commandant of the US Coast Guard.  I invite the readership to join with me by contacting their representatives in Congress as well as sending emails to me affirming your support of this endeavor. If you would like to join me, my email address is drkane@lovingmemore.com.

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

– Langston Hughes (Writer/Poet)

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

– Desmond Tutu Human Rights Activist

 “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” 

– Nelson Mandela

Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

The Unspoken Truth: Finding Inspiration In Black Lives

“Shout out to the people who haven’t felt okay recently but are getting up every day and refusing to quit.  Stay strong.” – Unknown

“Fill your life with stories and experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” — Anonymous

“The only bird that will peck at an Eagle is the crow.   He sits on his back and bites his neck.  The eagle does not respond or fight with the crow. It doesn’t waste his time or energy.

It simply opens its wings and begins to rise higher in the sky.  The higher the flight, the harder it is for the crow to breath and then the crow falls due to lack of oxygen,

Stop wasting your time with the crows.  Just take them to your heights and they will fade.”- Unknown

“Don’t fake your lifestyle for anyone.  It is okay to be broke, scared, lost, struggling, blessed, happy and grateful at the same time.  That’s life on life’s terms.” -Anonymous

“When someone tries to trigger you by insulting you or by doing or saying something that irritates you, take a deep breath and switch off your ego.  Remember that if you are easily offended, you are easily manipulated.” – Unknown

“There is light at the end of this road.” -Unknown

———————————————————–

My Dear Readers,

As usual, I will begin this blog by acknowledging those who due to COVID-19 are no longer with us.  Tragically, as of September 28, 2020, 204,033 Americans have died from this dreaded disease.  At the same time, 7,059,087 people have been diagnosed with 311,102 new cases occurring within the last seven days. And there remains no end in sight. 

These numbers have names and their lives have meaning.  They include Shirley Bannister, age 57, of Columbia, South Carolina, who was the chairperson of the nursing department of Midlands Technical College, and her daughter Demetria Bannister, age 28, who was an elementary school teacher. Demetria died several weeks ago, just a few days after testing positive for COVID-19. Shirley died on Sunday, September 27, 2020.

In addition to the devastation created by COVID-19 this has been a week of remembrance psychological impact and loss. In this writing, I want to acknowledge the deaths of four of these individuals and focus on one brave soul in particular.

In the Media-BLM:  Does Black Lives Matter?

CNN reports that a majority of adults–55%– said this month that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, but it is a notable drop from the 67% who said the same between June 4 and 10.

The report by the Pew Research Center show that “Among respondents who say they strongly support the movement, support dipped to 29% between September 8 and 13 from 38% about three months ago.” (CNN 09.22.20)

If the support for the BLM movement is waning, what does that mean for the overall support and concern by the dominant group for African Americans?  If one examines the dominant’s group’s history regarding the impact of macroaggression against black people, we know that those memories fade rapidly.

While the kind of domestic terrorism that brought America 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 may be forever memorialized,  very little attention is given to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963.  In fact, The Seattle Times acknowledged the act of domestic terrorism in a paragraph consisting of three lines, treating the tragic event as “un-noteworthy.”

Although minimized in media reporting, the incident is worthy of mentioning in this blog writing.

  • 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins,  14-year-old Cynthia Wesley, 14-year-old Carole Robertson, and 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. 
  • The bombing was the third in Birmingham, 11 days following the federal court order to integrate Alabama’s school segregated school system.
  • It is believed that the girls were intentionally targeted due to the 15 sticks of dynamite was planted directly under the girls restroom.
  • The bombing occurred at 10:19 in the morning and the resulting blast not only killed the four girls, but severely wounded 20 others church members.

Klan members were indicated for murder, but as later revealed, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover blocked their prosecution and shut down the investigation without filing charges in 1968. It was not until 2002, 39 years following the bombing, that the domestic terrorists were convicted of the bombing.

One World, Same Country & Two Realities.

Understanding & Knowing Your Place

In a homecoming reception in New Orleans for Black veterans returning from the military service in France during WWI, the following speech was given by a White city official:

“You niggers are wondering how you are going to be treated after the war.  Well, I’ll tell you, you are going to be treated exactly like you were before the war; this is a white man’s country and we expect to rule it.” (Barbeau & Henri 1974 p.174)

When I come across items like the motivational quotes shared at the beginning of this blog entry, I often wonder who the target audience is for such messages. I tend to question the relevance of these quotes to the life I live as a Black man and the experiences I have had while  “Walking the Landscape” otherwise known as Life. In this writing, I will restate the quote and apply it to the experiences of a Black man who continues to “Walk the Landscape” during these most difficult times.

In Plain Sight and Out of View

“I am the invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone; fiber and liquid-and I might be even said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.” -Ralph Ellison

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

Quote #1

“Fill your life with stories and experiences, not things.  Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – Anonymous

Black people in America have had lives filled with experiences for over 400 years, and yet, neither our stories nor the “stuff” we have to show for that history have mattered. If my skin were white, would society hear the stories I have to tell?

However, my skin is black and because of the landscape I have walked and the experiences I have, there are many stories to tell and lots of things and stuff to show.

The experiences and things obtained in walking my landscape, my stories and my stuff although not important to many are important to me.

Black Lives Matter.

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

Quote #2

“Shout out to the people who haven’t felt okay recently but are getting up every day and refusing to quit.  Stay strong.” – Unknown

Excellent points, “shout out to the people…. and refusing to quit.”. 

However “Stay Strong”? Really? Absolutely not.

Young people, my generation was also told to stay strong. We integrated all white schools. We were kicked, spat on, hit, ignored by teachers. We were the brave bunch.

Every day brought a new battle, new psychological impacts, and more trauma. And our parents kept telling us to “stay strong.” We did not have the resources to balance these impacts that we needed, namely the resources, counseling, individual and the group psychotherapy opportunities that would allow us to navigate these obstacles while still supporting our psychological selves.

We came up during the time in which counseling and therapy was frowned upon and only for “crazy white people.” We still suffer in silence today, many of us still subscribing to the same self-defeating beliefs, continuing to “stay strong.”

Young folks, instead of following your parents’ road, littered with worn out bodies and devastation; create your own path. Instead of strength, seek balance.  

Empower yourselves by balancing your strengths and weaknesses. Before you get overwhelmed and shut down, reach out, allow yourselves to be vulnerable, exposed and trusting to seek professional help.

You decide… choose to focus on strength and holding it in, or create your own path on your own landscape.


Black Lives Matter.

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

Quote #3

“The only bird that will peck at an Eagle is the crow.   He sits on his back and bites his neck.  The eagle does not respond or fight with the crow. It doesn’t waste his time or energy.

It simply opens its wings and begins to rise higher in the sky.  The higher the flight, the harder it is for the crow to breath and then the crow falls due to lack of oxygen,

Stop wasting your time with the crows.  Just take them to your heights and they will fade.”- Unknown

I have opened my wings and have flown higher in the sky. And yet the crow is still on my back pecking away. Damn. How high do I have to fly before he fades away?

Apparently, he just being what he is … insignificant and yet an obstacle to contend with. Maybe that’s his message.

My message is simply this:  “We are not giving up, not giving in, and we are not letting go. 400 years plus one and counting.” Enjoy the ride, Crow, peck away. 

Oh, and about the traumatic experiences and wounding caused by the pecking? That’s what counseling and psychological assistance is for.

Heal the wound, create space for further traumas (i.e. more pecking) and achieve mental and emotional wellness. Keep flying.

Black Lives Matter.

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

Quote #4

“Don’t fake your lifestyle for anyone.  It is okay to be broke, scared, lost, struggling, blessed, happy and grateful at the same time.  That’s life on life’s terms.” -Anonymous

So, let’s assume that a large number of African Americans are ok about being broke, scared, lost and struggling…. does that mean that they are “at the same time, blessed, happy and grateful?”

Is this really “life on life’s terms,” or is this simply an illusory concept created on a foundation of warmth and comfort? Black people have been here for 400 years plus 1… and counting… yet, it is hard to find any that are broke, scared etc. and nonetheless, still feel blessed, happy and grateful at the same time.

Just because some people are slurping down the Kool-aid doesn’t mean we all have to drink from the same straw.

Walking the landscape on our own terms. Now, that’s living life on life’s terms.

Black Lives Matter.

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

Quote #5

“When someone tries to trigger you by insulting you or by doing or saying something that irritates you, take a deep breath and switch off your ego.  Remember that if you are easily offended, you are easily manipulated.” – Unknown


“Take a deep breath” & “switch off your ego?” Really? And then do what? Black people have been taking a deep breath and switching off the ego for 400 years plus 1…. and counting. Black people understand what it is to be easily offended and manipulated.

Actually, those are “western or Euro meditation” movements that would encourage black folks to accept this supposedly Eastern philosophy which seems to offer “peace and tranquility.” 

However, what is really being offered here is a “carrot” on the road to “nowhere”. This well used road is littered with the bleached bones of worn out African Americans and devastation.

Instead of the “carrot,” we can choose our own path, that being one of advocacy, balance and calmness. The real question is whether we have belief, faith and trust in self, or do we continue to munch on the delicious carrot that is so willingly being offered?

Micro aggressions are here to stay, and so are we.

Instead of the “carrot,” mental wellness through counseling or therapy can be our path. You decide.

Black Lives Matter.

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

———————————————

Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane 

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

My Dear Readers,

The referred quotes are without a doubt well intended, meaningful and expressed with the intent to inspire and motive individuals.  But which individuals? What population? What experiences are being taken into consideration?

While well intended, these quotes, especially when used to address the pain that some individuals experience, can be psychological impactful and lead to emotional devastation. 

The last quote in its true “innocence” and well-being states .

“There is light at the end of this road.”

The question of “this road?”  Whose road? Why this road? Why can’t I choose the road that is best for me?  If one looks squarely at the quote it removes from the individual the “right of self-determination.”

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

Quote #6

“There is light at the end of this road.” -Unknown

Hmm Interesting. Good points. The major one being “don’t give up.” Now, about that road…this is where I choose a different way. Yes, for those who choose to follow it,  there is a “light at the end of road.” However, is there really a light? For me? 

My reality is simple. The road, which is spoken of, was built by somebody or someone else. To get to the end… it will be by seeking or meeting the expectations of those who built the road. 

Consequently, the light at the end of the road can become nothing more than an illusory “carrot” created to trap the seeker.

Young people, instead of following another’s road, create your own path. Instead of settling for the light at the end of the road, look beyond and “walk the landscape.” 

The landscape is open, vast and wide. More important, the landscape is “yours”. The landscape is LIFE. 

For many BBIPOC, the road is littered with the bleached bones of the forgotten and devastation. Have belief, faith and trust in self. Walk your landscape.

Stand at the crossroads. Make your choice.

Black Lives Matter

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

Do Black Lives Matter? 

According to the research studies, support from white people is fading.  The bombing in Birmingham Alabama, which snuffed out the lives of four black girls, was an occurrence, not just in African American history, it is American history, which also has faded away from white public interest.

Yes, Black lives matter.  Black lives are no more precious than white lives or blue lives.  Yet Black lives have been under siege since they were brought here in chains in 1619.

Black lives have fought ALL of this nation’s wars and have protected this nation from its enemies….and yet Black lives have returned home to segregation, systemic racism and fueled hate. And still Black lives defend the Constitution that once upheld that Black lives are worth 3/5 of a white life.

During the women’s suffrage movement, Black women were consistently denied a sit at the table by White women who hypocritically were demanding their right to vote and full equality to men while at the same time denying the same rights and opportunities to Black women.

Black Lives Matter.

“To be African American is to be African without any memory & American without any privilege.” -James Baldwin

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” -Zora Neale Hurston

“I say “Black Lives Matters” because “All” didn’t cover Black when they said “All Men Are Created Equal.”

I say “Black Lives Matters” because “ALL” didn’t cover Black when they said ”With Liberty and Justice For ALL”

I say “Black Lives Matters” because they’re still struggling with the definition of “ALL”

-Black Lives Matter Movement

The Unspoken Truth….. 400 years plus 1 and …counting.

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.

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

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 

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

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.

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

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.

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

“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…

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

“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

The Unspoken Truth: Achieving the American Dream- From “Super Negro” to “No Negro”

“… The American Dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work rather than by chance.”
-Adam Barone, “American Dream.” Investopedia, 21 Nov. 2019.

 

“‘Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?’ asked the young [Jackie Robinson]. ‘Robinson, I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,’ explained [Branch] Rickey.”
– Conversation between Jackie Robinson, first black MLB player and                                  Branch Rickey, baseball executive. Christopher Kline, “Silent No Longer:                       The Outspoken Jackie Robinson.” History, 14 Apr. 2017.

 

“You niggers are wondering how you are going to be treated after the war. Well, I’ll tell you, you are going to be treated exactly like you were before the war, this is a white man’s country and we expect to rule it.”
– Blanton, Joshua E.: Men in the Making, in: Southern Workman 48                                    (January 1919), p. 20.

 

My Dear Readers,

As the month of February is winding down, I want to acknowledge Black (originally Negro) History Month. This is the time of year in which African Americans and the dominant group come together to showcase and learn about the contributions of its black citizenry.

What is psychologically impactful for many is that at the end of each February, the essential meaning of black history, its contributions, and achievements are put away, forgotten by some, and ignored by others until Black History Month arrives again next year.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing you did mattered? That about sums it up for me.”
– Groundhog Day. Dir. Harold Ramis. Columbia                                                                        Pictures, 1993.

Question…
What are the psychological impacts on black and brown children whose history is condensed and packaged during the 28 or 29 days of February then subsequently disappears only to be repeated year after year?

Question…
What are the psychological impacts on those same black and brown children who are inundated with symbols, ideologies, accomplishments, and achievements of the dominant group for the remaining 337 days per year?

Question…
What are the psychological impacts on black and brown children observing their parents, elders, and responsible others colluding with the dominant group in observance of Black History Month?

The answers to these questions are complex. Like a rooted tree that is not watered, when the psychological self is not reinforced on a consistent basis, it withers away to the point where it ceases to strive to live and is resigned to a life of existence and basic survival.

Since their arrival in American colonies, African men and women have existed in a constant state of psychological survival. They have had the similar value of a “beast of burden”, tied to the yoke and forced to plow the land for meager or no return. The “beast” plows the land in hopes of receiving the “carrot” that is placed strategically in sight and yet remains out of reach.

The “carrot” being offered to African Americans by the dominant group is the attractive and appealing American Dream. The American Dream is
the belief that “anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone and it can be achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance”.

Although the intention behind the creation of Black History Month was well conceived, a community of psychologically weakened individuals is unable to consistently reinforce their history to their children while depending upon the dominant group to teach black and brown children their historical contributions and achievements from a white perspective.

This white perspective tends to single out certain African Americans and identify them as the Super Negro. These legendary figures were usually sports figures such as:

• Jackie Robinson – MLB Hall of Fame
• Kobe Bryant – NBA Champion
• Jesse Owens – Four-time Gold Medalist, Berlin Olympics 1936
• Wilma Rudolph – Three-time Gold Medalist, Rome Olympics 1956
• Arthur Ashe – winner of seven Grand Slam singles and doubles tennis titles
• Althea Gibson – winner of seven Grand Slam singles and doubles tennis titles

However, African Americans, when viewed through the white perspective, are separated out into the best or Super Negros and all other average or unknown African Americans whose accomplishments and contributions are intentionally ignored or diminished. These every-day people are seen as having less value, therefore are not worthy or eligible to receive the “carrot”.

This group is designated “invisible” and hence becomes the No Negro. These indivisibles or No Negroes make contributions to the dominant group, but those contributions are not considered noteworthy and therefore do not become “folklore” or “legendary” and quickly fade into the dust of time and history.

Let’s examine some of the contributions and achievements of those who failed to win the praise of the dominant group and now are relegated to footnotes in history.

• Jill Elaine Brown
• The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
• The Red Ball Express
• Charles Walter David Jr.
Jill Elaine Brown

Although Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) is known as the first African American woman to hold a pilot license as well as stage a public flight in America, little has been stated about Jill Elaine Brown, who became the first African American woman to serve as a pilot for a major US airline when she was hired by Texas International Airlines at the age of 28.

Prior to this, she became the first African American female trainee to enter the US Naval flight-training program. A tireless fighter of racial and gender discrimination, she sued United Airlines after being rejected for employment three times.

Today she remains an advocate, model and mentor for women and African American aviators.
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 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 mail 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 groundbreaking and eased the inclusion of African Americans and women into military service.

 

The Red Ball Express

This military unit was a large convoy of trucks, the majority of which was made up of African American soldiers who, during WWII supplied the Allied forces once they broke out of the Normandy Beaches in 1944. The Red Ball Express was created in August 1944 as a means of getting vital supplies to some 28 American and Allied divisions racing across France.
Each division needed 700 tons of fuel, ammo, food and other essentials every day. At the height of the Red Ball Express mission, some 5,938 vehicles carried 12,342 tons of supplies day and night.

The drivers would drive at high speeds through enemy territory to ensure the supplies would be there when needed. Up to 140 trucks were on French roads 24 hours days supplying General Patton’s Third Army 350 miles away in the east as well as the First Army 400 miles away in the south. Night driving had to be done without headlights to avoid being spotted by the enemy.

They modified vehicle carburetors, removing the governors so they could travel at speeds reaching 50-60 mph. They risked land mines and drove with shredded tires from roads littered with shell fragments and barbed wire. They drove in overloaded trucks that tipped and flipped, sinking into the mud of country roads, risking death due to enemy action and exhaustion from crashes due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel from lack of sleep.

In 83 days and at the end of the program in August 1944, about 412,000 tons of various items including gasoline, ammunition oil, food, mail and other needed supplies had been delivered by the Negro drivers of the Red Ball Express.

One British infantry brigade commander noted, “Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk to get Gen. Patton his supplies.”

 

Charles Walter David Jr.

Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. served aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Comanche during WWII. The Comanche was assigned to escort a convoy in the North Atlantic which included the troop transport ship the USS Dorchester. During the night of February 3, 1944, a U-boat off the coast of Greenland torpedoed the USS Dorchester resulting in multiple casualties. David volunteered to leave the safety of the kitchen of the Comanche to dive overboard, with air temperatures below freezing, to help rescue the Dorchester survivors.

David assisted in the rescue of 93 people, repeatedly diving into the frigid waters and personally saving the lives of three Dorchester survivors and two of his own crew members, one being the cutter’s executive officer who had fallen overboard and was unable to pull himself up by diving into the cold waters and tying him up to be hoisted to safety.

Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. died a few days later from pneumonia that he contracted during his heroic efforts to save the Dorchester’s survivors and members of his own crew. He was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the nation’s third highest medal for bravery.
The Super Negro: Worship & Rewards

Following a life of service to the dominant group during which the Super Negro has endured countless incidents of macro aggression; death threats and physical assaults, micro aggression; everyday verbal, nonverbal slights, snubs or insults, and acts of rejection, similar to Jackie Robinson, the expectation is to endure and have “guts enough not to fight back”. In exchange, the Super Negro is permitted limited access to the group’s wealth and social standing.

As a reward for service to the dominant group and endurance of many years of abuse, selected African Americans following their death are granted godlike worship and legendary status.

Take notice of the awards given to those earlier mentioned in the Super Negro group:

• Jackie Robinson – Six-time MLB All-Star, MLB Rookie of the Year, MLB Hall of Fame, MLB All-Century Team presented by Major League Baseball and had “The Jackie Robinson Award” named after him.

• Kobe Bryant – NBA MVP, Four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 18-time All-Star presented by National Basketball Association and, The NBA All-Star MVP award will be renamed the “NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award” in his honor.

• Jesse Owens – Four-time gold medalist at the 1936 Olympic Games and had “The Jesse Owens Award” named after him

• Arthur Ashe – Had “The Arthur Ashe Courage & Humanitarian Award” for Contributions Transcending Sports, presented by the ESPN, named after him.

• Wilma Rudolph – Had “The Wilma Rudolph Courage Award” for female athletes demonstrating extraordinary courage, presented by Women Sports Foundation named after her.

• Althea Gibson – Had “The Althea Gibson Cup” presented by the International Tennis Federation, named after her.

 

The No Negro: The Gaze at the Carrot & Differential Treatment

Similar to the Super Negro, the No Negro provides a life of service to the dominant group endures incidents of macro and micro aggressions with the hope of achieving the same rights and benefits of the dominant group. However, as there are too many and aren’t seen as having the same value, they can only gaze hungrily at the carrot and must fight for access to the wealth and resources controlled by the dominant group.

• Major Charity Adams Earley commander of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion and responsible for handling mail for millions of white servicemen upon her return had to stand off with the KKK with a shotgun while protecting her home and she had to fight for her benefits earned as a veteran servicing her country.

• Although black drivers of the Red Ball Express risked their lives delivering supplies to General Patton’s 3rd Army, he wrote in his dairy “I have no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race.” Upon returning home, there were numerous incidents of black veterans being lynched while in military uniform.

• Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. participated in saving the lives of 93 survivors. Approximately 672 men died and 230 from the Dorchester survived. Four men, all white received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed for heroic actions taken place under enemy fire. For sacrificing his life Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Walter David Jr. who, because of the color of his skin was restricted to mess hall duty, received the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, the nation third highest honor.

• Jill Elaine Brown throughout her role as a commercial pilot, safely transported thousands of passengers without incident. However, although she had the training, skills and experience she was repeatedly denied, due to her race and gender, employment by United Airlines. She sued the airlines twice in federal court and lost both times.
Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

“Boy, you be safe out in the world now. Remember, you’re colored. This is a white man’s world. Mind your business, stay out of white folks’ mess.”
– Mabel Sanders, Grandmother

My Dear Readers,

I am the child of the segregated south. Although I am northern born (Harlem, NY), I am southern raised (Newport News, VA). My grandmother’s father was a slave, whereas my grandmother was born free.

Although domestic terrorism is a new concept to the dominant group, it was a well-known concept to many African Americans including my great grandfather and the generations of my family that followed. Understanding the difficult times in which my grandparents lived, her words “stay in your lane and mind your business” were fitting even though African Americans have provided cheap labor in agriculture and factories and sacrificed our sons and daughters in service of this country yet, we are still forcefully excluded from sharing in the resources of this land.

Currently, factions within the dominant group are struggling to win the African American vote as the nation enters the presidential election. Historically, the concerns of the African American community have been taken for granted, with promises made and broken. While included in the political processes, once our votes have been received, we find ourselves once again being excluded from participation into the resources held by the dominant group.

Dr. Tressie McMillian Cottom, in her 2019 book, Thick: And Other Essays, suggests that “exclusion can be part of a certain type of liberation, where one dominant regime is overthrown for another, but it cannot be universal”.

The failure of the African American community is its willingness to sacrifice the psychological wellness of its children for the carrot of economic wealth that is gingerly dangled by the dominant group. It seems to passively accept the limitations imposed on it by the dominant group by allowing them to determine the acknowledgment of its history, achievements of its individuals as well as the community’s awareness of the psychological impact of this distorted history on its children being spoon-fed stories of the “Super Negro” or omission of the achievements of the “No Negro”.

Fortunately for the upcoming generation, the black millennials, many are choosing to go in a different direction. They have decided that the American Dream is a myth that can be snatched away at any time so therefore, “chasing the carrot” is not for them. They have decided that “staying quiet and minding their own business” is not for them. They have decided that allowing their achievements to be omitted is not for them. They are instead focusing on proving their humanity and ensuring that the dominant group and its infighting political factions make good on their promises.

My grandmother’s words were right for her time and her day. However, her day has passed.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Black Millennial,
The past is what it was.
The present is fading
The future is not promised
Embrace your journey
As you walk the landscape
Walk your landscape, not someone else
Seek your dreams, not someone else
Holding the psychological self
As you embrace the unknown and uncharted….
Tomorrow

Dr. Micheal Kane

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

“How would you feel psychologically if you were stuck in one place and every year your history was displayed exactly the same reinforcing the belief that nothing you did mattered? That about sums up Black History Month for me.”
– Dr. Micheal Kane

**************************************************************************************
Standing Alone… The Unspoken Truth

Join us at our new website: www.lovingmemore.com

In Our Corner: Self Hate and Pressure for Acceptance

“We’re men. Soldiers. And I don’t intend for our race to be cheated of its place of honor and respect in this war because of fools like C.J.”
– MSgt. Vernon Waters (character), A Soldier’s Play

 

“Remember, you’re the first colored officer most of these men ever seen. The Army expects you to set an example for the colored troops… and be a credit to your race.”
– Col. Nivens (character), A Soldier’s Play

 

“Any man ain’t sure where he belong, gotta’ be in a whole lotta pain.”
– CJ (character), A Soldier’s Play

 

My Dear Readers,

My, oh my…what a beginning for 2020! I recently returned from a five-thousand-mile, round-trip, journey to New York over a weekend to see the Broadway theater production of A Soldier’s Play. It is a WWII murder mystery story set on a segregated military base in Louisiana.

Following my earlier trip to see Slave Play, I was anticipating a second triumphant return to Seattle having experienced a play of similar brilliance but, what I experienced was nothing like I expected.

In Slave Play, I marveled at the playwright’s utilization of race, sex and trauma to shine a light on our society’s relationship with white supremacy, but A Soldier’s Play was different. It was more personal. It told how some African Americans internalized white supremacy then weaponized against one another. The pure self-hate and internal demand for acceptance being portrayed by a black cast, simply hit too close to home.

On the surface, A Soldier’s Play is about a black man’s desire to fight for his country during WWII. Underneath, there is the picture of the ongoing internal conflict with achieving status and acceptance while struggling with self-hatred and denial of dreams and opportunities.

A Soldier’s Play is invaluable as it seeks to portray the psychological landscapes of these men who struggle to be accepted as equals by whites while battling the internalized oppression and self-hatred that flows from their psychosocial wounds paralleling, with great accuracy, the struggle black men face today.

The play identifies the good, bad and ugly within the main characters Sgt. Waters and Capt. Davenport. Utilizing quotes from the stage play, I will seek to expose common themes and how those themes impact African Americans today.
Sgt. Waters:
Sgt. Waters is an African American holdover from WWI who, due to the military’s segregationist policies of the time, feels denied his place of honor and respect.

For him, WWII presents another opportunity to gain that respect and honor he feels he is due, and he is determined not to be denied his moment of glory and recognition. In the play, Sgt. Waters shares the following story of an experience in France during WWI:

“You know the damage one ignorant Negro can do? We were in France in the first war; we’d won decorations. But the white boys had told all them French gals that we had tails. Then they found this ignorant colored soldier, paid him to tie a tail to his ass and run around half naked, making monkey sounds.

Put him on the big round table in the Café Napoleon, put a reed in his hand, crown on his head, blanket on his shoulders, and made him eat “bananas” in front of all them Frenchies. Oh, the white boys danced that night… passed out leaflets with that boy’s picture on it.

Called him Moonshine, King of the Monkeys. And when we slit his throat, you know that fool asked us what he had done wrong?”

Sgt. Waters’ words and actions are clear indications of what he is willing to do to gain “honor and respect.” Now faced with a new war and thus an opportunity to gain “honor and respect”, Sgt. Waters is driven to oust any person he views stands in his way.

He subsequently targets a colored soldier, CJ. He plants false evidence to have him arrested, telling him

“Whole lot of people just can’t seem to fit in to where things seem to be going. Like you, CJ. See, the Black race can’t afford you no more. There used to be a time, we’d see someone like you singin’, clownin’, yassuh –bossin’… and we wouldn’t do anything. Folks liked that.

You were good. Homey, kind of nigger.

When they needed somebody to mistreat, call a name or two, they paraded you. Reminded them of the good old days. Not no more. The day of the Geechee is gone, boy. And you’re going with it.”

As a result of the stress being placed upon him, CJ commits suicide by hanging himself while being held in the stockade.
Later, Sgt. Waters, drunk and physically beaten, is found fatally shot in full military uniform and casted off on a muddy dirt road in the rain. As he lay dying, he screams at his killer:
“They still … hate you! THEY STILL HATE YOU!!”

___________________________________________________________________________________________
Analysis – Dr. Kane:
It would be a mistake to misjudge Sergeant Waters or depict him as evil. He simply wants the acceptance, honor and respect that has been historically denied to him and those of his race. Sergeant Waters is a deeply conflictive man. His hatred of the white man is only matched with the hatred of other African Americans who due to their ignorant behaviors are preventing his quest for glory.

He therefore takes it upon himself to protect the black race from acts of shame and humiliation. As demonstrated in story of slitting a young man’s throat and creating false evidence resulting in the suicide of another, he shows the extent to which he is willing to go to prevent the race from being “cheated of its place of honor and respect”.

One of Sgt. Waters’ characterizations is shame-based behavior. True to form, in his shame, he is depicted as feeling unworthy, defective and empty. In acting out those feelings, he repeatedly committed acts of racism and inflicted psychological trauma and humiliation on others. Something black men have faced from previous generations to today.

Shame can be debilitating, toxic and extremely destructive. Shame works to separate the individual from the psychological self. It creates an internal crisis that attacks the inner core, triggering a shaming spiral of negative self-talk.

Shame can be defined in several ways:
• A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.
• An act that brings dishonor, disgrace or public condemnation.
• An object of great disappointment.

Another characterization of Sgt. Waters is an extreme fear of humiliation.

Humiliation is the infliction of a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves the victim with a deep wound within the psychological self. The painful experience is 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.

Humiliation differs from shame in that humiliation is public, whereas shame is private. Humiliation is the suffering of an insult. If the person being humiliated deems the insult as credible, then they will feel shame.

One can insult and humiliate another; but that person will only feel shame if one’s self image is reduced. Such action requires the person who has been humiliated to buy into or agree with the assessment that shame is deserved.

A person who is secure 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.

In the mind of Sgt. Waters, both individuals CJ the “singin’, clownin’, yassuh –bossin” individual and Moonshine, King of the Monkeys had to die. The humiliation was open and public, and the pain of shame was too much to bear.

It is ironic that in Sgt. Waters’ quest to avoid shame and humiliation, his death was just that, shameful, humiliating and at the hands of those he deemed unworthy.

Upon being caught his killer stated, “I didn’t kill much. Some things need gettin’ rid of. Man like Waters never did nobody no good anyway.”

These words, which may have been spoken 80 years ago, continue to be the sentiment that is being displayed against African Americans today as they continue to be impacted by racism and the resulting psychological trauma.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Capt. Davenport:
The military hierarchy, under pressure from the African American community and fearful of a possible race riot after the murder of a black soldier where the main suspects are the local Klansmen, sends a black investigator to look into the murder of Sergeant Waters. He is the first “Negro” officer that these men (including whites) have ever seen. He has been given three days to solve the murder. He has no authority and must be accompanied by a white officer when interviewing white witnesses.

Col. Nivens, the white base commander, wants him to quickly complete his assessment and be “in and out” of the military base ASAP. He seeks a quick investigation without finding any conclusions. He states
“The worst thing you can do, in this part of the country, is pay too much attention to the death of a negro under mysterious circumstances.”

In addition to being pressured to tread lightly and not solve the case, he is reminded by Col. Nivens that he is special and different. He is the first of his kind and carrying the responsibility to represent well. Col. Nivens states:
“Remember, you’re the first colored officer most of these men ever seen. The Army expects you to set an example for the colored troops… and be a credit to your race.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Analysis –Dr. Kane:
The characterization of Capt. Davenport is a representation of the concept of “The Talented Tenth”. This is a term that was designated a leadership class of African Americans in the early 20th Century.

The term originated in 1886 among Northern white liberals with the goal of establishing black colleges in the South to train black teachers and elites. The term was later publicized by W.E.B. Dubois whose intent was to educate the best minds of the race and disseminate them into the greater black community allowing for the uplifting of the race.

Capt. Davenport’s character is the first Negro officer these people have ever seem. He is viewed as the “top” or ‘crème de la crème” of his race. He is given an impossible task to investigate (quietly) without solving the murder of Sgt. Waters.

He is viewed with suspicion by whites and in awe by blacks. He is given three days to complete the task and is mindful that he must represent both the Army, that enforces segregation and mistreats blacks, and try to deliver justice to the African American community which is waiting hungrily for the results.

The character of Capt. Davenport continues to permeate the psychological self of African Americans today. Following sixty years since the ending of legal segregation, the strategies of the dominant group has also transformed. Although diversity has transformed to add inclusion, equity and social justice, African Americans continue to find themselves impacted by acts of racism and psychological trauma.

Thanks to the scriptwriters in the movie “A Soldier’s Story” and the theatrical production, A Soldier’s Play, both conclude on a “positive note”. The murder is solved, the military hierarchy is happy, and the African American community nationwide can celebrate another small victory.

The African American community is left with a sliver of optimism to hold onto in hopes of a better future.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane:
In this fictional story all ends well. The murder has been solved. No race riots. No more national outcry for civil rights investigations. The peace and calm of segregation and psychological traumatization of black soldiers and civilians can one again go back to normal.

In the film conclusion, the scriptwriters offer a slightly different, more accurate portrayal of black-white interpersonal relationships, a tension that exists to this very day: In an exchange between a white officer and Captain Davenport:

Capt. Taylor: I guess I’ll have to get used to Negroes with bars on their shoulders, Davenport. You know, being in charge.

Capt. Davenport: Oh, you’ll get used to it, Captain. You bet your ass on that. You’ll get used to it.

However, what is clearly left open are the questions about the strength of self-hatred and the pressure of acceptance by others that is truly captured in the scripts and holds true for African Americans today. Specifically, CJ referring to Sgt. Waters: “Any man ain’t sure where he belong, gotta’ be in a whole lotta pain.”

It remains to be real in today’s lives of African Americans who can endure, daily, fourteen subtypes of psychological traumas and eleven forms of racism.

The concept of the “talented tenth” was constructive and necessary when developed, but today, is a concept that is ill-suited and destructive because it demands that the individual sacrifice the psychological self on behalf of the impoverished community. Rather than bolster the community, the concept’s success is dependent upon disempowering the psychological self and creates insecurity and detachment and it weakens generation after generation.

What can be done? What can we do to model for our children and future generations? We can…. Walk the Landscape.

What is the Landscape?
The landscape is life.
One of the essential realities of life is that death is a certainty. What remains uncertain is:
• How we live our lives
• What we experience during our lifetimes
• The memories we leave with the individuals we interact with.

Life at the Crossroads
Waiting at the crossroads are possible experiences, submerged materials such as incidents, situations and conflicts that may surface directly in one’s path. Such materials demand to be addressed.

Interaction Points
These crossroads are interactions points where barriers, challenges, experiences with difficult individuals and opportunities are presented. At the crossroads:
• Choices are presented
• Decisions are made and directions are chosen
• Consequences for choices and decisions are foreseen.
• Wisdom is gained, lessons are learned, and both are utilized for future experiences
• Transformation through Self-Empowerment is achieved

The Journey of Self-Discovery is actualized upon understanding that:
• All decisions have consequences
• The fullness of life is measured not just by one’s success but by failures as well.

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

“We cannot think of unity with others until we have first united among ourselves. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have proven acceptable to ourselves.”
– Malcolm X

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

“Be willing to walk alone. Many who started with you won’t finish with you.”
– Shaniqua King

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

“Truth…it’s about Walking the Landscape and in walking, one simply exposes one’s truth.”
– Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time,
Remaining … in Our Corner

Join us at our new website: www.lovingmemore.com

The Unspoken Truth: Slave Play, White Fragility, and the Difficulty in Talking About Race

“While it is true that white fragility is an insidious trauma injury to people of color, white people are not raised to see themselves in terms of race.”

-Micheal Kane, Psy.D, Clinical Traumatologist

“When you are told time and time again you’re not good enough, that your opinion doesn’t matter as much; when they don’t just look past you, to them you’re not even there; when that has been your reality for so long, it’s hard not to let yourself think it’s true.”

– The Post

“What does race mean to the person of color?  Everything.  From the first breath taken in life to one’s dying day.  Race is incarceration or freedom.  Race is a door that is open or closed. Race is living life thriving or surviving. Race identifies that the space you occupy has been ‘designated’ for you and reinforces for you that others will seek to hold you there for the rest of your life.  Race is everything.”

-Micheal Kane, Psy.D., Clinical Traumatologist

————————————————————————————

My Dear Readers,

I am currently preparing to leave for New York City to attend another Broadway play, A Soldier’s Story. It is a murder mystery set on a segregated military base located in Louisiana during WWII. When I return, I’ll share my thoughts. But as I prepare to experience another play with a strong racial interaction, I find myself reflective of the last play I saw and wrote about in the most recent blog, The Unspoken Truth: Slave Play and White Fragility.

I continue to replay the exchange at the conclusion of the play in which two white theater attendees chose to intellectualize the experience and in doing so, denied themselves the opportunity to explore their emotions. The opportunity was lost due to their inability to recognize the general space they occupy as “white spaces.”

The playwright brilliantly utilizes race, sex and trauma to demonstrate the privilege being displayed by the white characters and its impacts on the black characters.  The common theme of the black actors was that racial trauma accruing from not being listened to by their white partners resulted in sexual dysfunction.

The production has been criticized as negatively casting whites as being racist. In response, the playwright Jeremy O. Harris states:

“This isn’t about every white person. This play is about eight specific people and if you don’t see yourself up here, that’s great, you aren’t one of them-you aren’t.”

 

Given this, we can accept that racism is taught and feelings about race are internalized within the psychological self.  Experience has taught me that “every white man is not my enemy and every black man is not my friend.” Experience has also taught me to choose to focus on what lies in a person’s heart and in their actions.

 

One’s Heart & One’s Actions

Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor, is one of my heroes.  It was her determination, courage and sense of purpose that empowered her to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom.  Harriet Tubman stated: “God don’t mean people to own people.”

As much as Harriet Tubman is deservedly revered, what is ignored is that she could not have accomplished her objective of carrying those to freedom without the assistance of whites who like her believed that “God don’t mean people to own people.”

However, when slavery ended, the good white folks, content that the objective had been accomplished, stepped away, leaving the newly freed slaves to fend for themselves and to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”  Feeling that the mission was accomplished, the good white people became silent to the lynching and screams of the new free blacks as they endured domestic terrorism from Klansmen dressed in white hoods and forced segregation via black codes and state and federal laws.

It is the same as in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. As Martin Luther King stated:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Many whites stood up to walk with him and others and in doing so, were jailed, beaten and killed as well.  When federal civil rights laws, equal rights in housing and employment laws were passed, the “good” white people stepped away once again, feeling that the objective had been accomplished away to allowed the newly franchised people to, once again, “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

However, when drugs, crime, unemployment, educational failure and high incarceration ravaged the communities of color, the good white people once again became silent. Today, the majority of the good white people remain silent.

 

What is Privilege?

It is an unearned right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular group.

In the situation shared by the “good” white people during the slavery era and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, privilege was the ability to remain silent, be content, and simply walk away while others, the only difference being color of skin, continued to suffer.

 

The Crevasse of Fragility: White Privilege.

It is difficult for white people to talk about race.

“That which is fragile must be protected and defended regardless of the traumatic impact upon others.” – Dr. Micheal Kane

A crevasse refers to a deep hole within the earth. One can say that a crevasse exists in the relationships between whites and people of color. One characteristic of this deep hole is the weight of “privilege” being held by whites and how the privilege impacts these relationships.

When a person of color enters a room full of whites, that person is immediately scrutinized, held in suspicion, or seen as a curiosity.  Whites do not do the same to each other because, they are not raised to see other whites in terms of their race. White is the normal; all others merit curiosity at best, suspicion at worst.

Without recognizing they hold the privilege of whiteness, they have created the “innocence of spacing.”   This innocence creates the ability of white people to walk among people of color without recognizing general spaces as “white spaces”. It may be via this innocence that white people engage in actions and behaviors that are not intended to be racist and yet, are traumatically impactful to the person of color.

Let’s explore the following three examples, using these descriptive terms: (WP) white person and (POC) person of color, and (TI) looking at the possible traumatic impact.

 

Example #1: Get Out of My House 

POC and WP have a close friendship for many years.  While enjoying an activity at WP house, they get into a verbal tiff, the first over their many years of friendship. However, to POC’s surprise, WP orders POC to leave his residence.  POC pleads with WP about this action, but WP stands his ground.  POC leaves.  Several weeks later, WP invites POC to return to his home.

  • Question: Was WP being racist for ordering POC out of his home?

Answer: No.  It was WP’s home.  WP has the right to determine who can be in his home.

Traumatic Impact– POC viewed the ejection as a flashback of past experiences of being rejected from “white premises.”

  • Question: Will POC accept WP’s invitation to return to his residence?

Answer– Being that people of color have a repeated history of being rejected by whites, the POC assumed that, a history of friendship, that WP’s residence was a “safe place” and as a result of being ejected, that assumption was shaken.

Traumatic Impact -POC may now have conflicts, perhaps not about the friendship but about putting themselves at risk of being further traumatized by being ejected from the house again.

 

Example #2: The Status of being a N.O.T. (Novelty, Oddity and Token)

 POC is invited to a formal luncheon in a prestigious forum in which POC is the only non-white person in attendance. Following the event, as the guests are leaving, WP sitting next to him turns to POC and with a warm friendly smile, and says, “Thank you for coming, you represented well.”  POC is stunned, accepts the “compliment,” and smiles graciously while receiving another invitation for another formal engagement.

  • Question: Was WP’s compliment racist?

Answer: Yes. WP did not turn to the other five table guests and thank them for coming.  Nor did he tell the five white guests that they “represented well.”

Traumatic Impact: POC may be responding to the trauma of invisibility.  This occurs when one’s talents and abilities are not recognized.  He realized that he was being stereotyped as extraordinary and as “one of the good ones.”

  • Question: Will POC attend the formal engagement to which he was so “graciously” invited?

Answer: No.  Having been stunned by the truth as to his value as a N.O.T., the POC could find himself suddenly “unavailable” to attend the engagement.

Traumatic Impact: POC realizes that being observed and scrutinized and being “on show” is emotionally draining and psychologically overwhelming.

 

Example #3: The Anger Man

POC is engaging in a dialogue via email with WP with the intention of going on a date to further explore the relationship.  In the dialogue, the POC’s communications style is direct and the POC refers to something that WP said that was racially insensitive as being hurtful and triggered past experiences of racial trauma.  WP responds with an apology for “insulting” POC. Several days later WP emails POC stating the date is canceled due to the email encounter being intense and angry.

  • Question: Was WP being offensive to POC by assuming that POC was insulted by the racially insensitive remark?

Answer: No.  POC stated he was triggered and hurt.  He never indicated he was insulted. The POC sought to provide understanding so WP could be aware. The POC knew that hurting or triggering them was not the WP intent.

Traumatic Impact: POC was triggered by words and in seeking to advocate for himself is once again being viewed as the angry black man.  Communication on both sides will terminate due to the fear of perception and labeling.

  • Question: Is there a right or wrong in this situation?

Answer: No, it is the fear of being misperceived and mislabeled.  The reality is both parties are being misunderstood.

Traumatic Impact: Unfortunate, because of fear on both sides, what could had been, will never be.

 

Common Themes in the Examples 

  • There was no intention of WP to create traumatic impact.
  • The actions of WP triggered memories of unresolved trauma within POC.
  • POC may respond in a manner that is psychologically restrictive.

 

Possible Lessons Beneficial for White People 

  • Focus on the impact of the actions rather than your own intentions.
  • Direct and open communication between WP can be viewed as advocacy and assertiveness, not something negative. Allow and expect the same between POC and WP.
  • Novelties, oddities and tokens are to be observed in zoos, not at the dining table.

 

Concluding Remarks: Transforming White Fragility to Empowerment

The examples reflect microaggressions that happen daily to people of color.  Microaggressions are brief, common, and daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities. Whether intentional or unintentional, they communicate hostile, derogatory, negative or prejudicial slights and insults towards any group, particularly culturally, racially or ethnically marginalized people.

I recall a comment made to me by a well-respected white male professor 35 years ago who questioned a high grade I’d received on scholarly paper I had written.  He asked, “There is a rumor going around among the faculty that the female students are writing your research papers in exchange for sex.  Is it true?”

I was dumbfounded.  I was expecting praise and accolades for excellence and instead I was being insulted and questioned, as the only black male in the class, if I was sexually gratifying my fellow white female graduate students.

I bled that day; the traumatic wound was raw during my two years of graduate study.  Did this highly respected scholar intend to wound me?  No, but I was wounded, nonetheless. To me, by stating that there was a rumor going around the faculty about me, he caused me to question what exactly the faculty thought about me.

If questioned today, I am sure that faculty member and others who may have shared his opinions would deny their racism or the intent to harm.  However, the comment was racist and more importantly, regardless of the intention, the outcome and impact of the comment on me was never considered.

Harriet Tubman, in achieving her freedom standing at the line separating the slave state from the free state, remarked:

“I had crossed the line.  I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom.  I was a stranger in a strange land.”

I feel Harriet Tubman’s words stirring in my blood and spirit.  Harriet Tubman, the Black Moses of the enslaved, led the terrorized, traumatized and inhumanly mistreated to the “Promise Land” of freedom.  Amen!

However, she could not have accomplished her objectives without the help of white people and freed blacks that supported her cause.  I too have benefited from relationships with well-meaning and caring white people. The depth of my gratitude is countless, ranging from:

  • The female cafeteria worker who quietly fed free lunches to me, a scrawny colored kid in an all-white school, risking her employment.
  • The teacher’s aide who understood the importance of education and assisted me in obtaining my general education diploma before being discharged from the military.
  • The Associate Dean of the School of Social Work, Dr. Ted Teather, who patiently tolerated my immature student militancy and,
  • A fellow student, colleague and good friend who stood by me following the death of my beloved spouse

All of these individuals contributed to my success and life’s journey without asking for anything in return.

Although privilege is an unmerited right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular group, it comes as a responsibility that becomes a burden when the weight is balanced.

No longer can the privileged hide behind:

  • I pulled myself up by hard work
  • I did it on my own! No one ever gave me a damn thing
  • I sweated and earned my piece of the rock!
  • My ancestors didn’t own slaves!

 

What can White People do about White Privilege?

When instances of white privilege are clearly apparent, the ABC’s of Empowerment can bring relief to the physical, psychological and emotional self.

  • Advocacy-Speak to yourself, acknowledge your white privilege.
  • Balance-Psychologically step away and embrace your white privilege while weighing what you are thinking and feeling.
  • Calmness-While holding your psychological space, allow yourself to be centered and reflecting on ways to assist in the empowerment of others who do not hold the privilege.

“Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar.”

-Michelle Obama

To those who choose to respond to white privilege and white fragility I say, it’s okay to be afraid.  Rather than be in fear, walk your landscape and in doing so, walk with your fear instead of living in it.

 

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

Yesterday has passed, today is fading and the future has not been written.

Stay in the moment.

Experience the fullness of what life offers

today, letting go of today as you prepare for tomorrow.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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

You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

-Maya Angelou

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

Standing Alone…. The Unspoken Truth