In Preparation for Healing From the Wounds of Racism

Preparations for Healing

Most people of African descent do not come to psychotherapists seeking help solely with emotional or psychological problems that arise when they have encountered problems with racial “oppression” . They generally come to therapy because of pain and discomfort in other areas of their lives that they are unable to heal on their own. Yet, encounters with racial oppression are embedded in their life stories, memories and everyday experiences. Therapy is not truly complete and often not as effective without also acknowledging and addressing the ways in which racial oppression has and is affecting relationships, emotional problems, addictions and other life challenges.
People who internalize racial oppression do so unconsciously. Messages, images, values and experiences arising from interaction with the dominant culture, penetrate and impact the individual’s internally held sense of self . In African-American fiction, this process has been minutely examined by authors like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison and others.
Ellison’s main character, at the end of ‘Invisible Man ‘ said:

The fact is, that you carry part of your sickness within you, at least I do as an invisible man. I carried my sickness, and thought for a long time I tried to place it in the outside world, the attempt to write it down shows me that at least half of it lay within me. It came upon me slowly, like that strange disease that affects those black men whom you see turning slowly from black to albino, their pigment disappearing as under the radiation of some cruel, invisible ray…. though implicated and partially responsible, I have been hurt to the point of abysmal pain, hurt to the point of invisibility… But deep down you come to suspect that you’ve yourself to blame, and you stand naked and shivering before the millions of eyes who look through you unseeingly. That is the real soul-sickness, the spear in the side, the drag by the neck through the mob-angry town, the Grand Inquisition, the embrace of the Maiden, the rip in the belly with the guts spilling out, the trip to the chamber wit the deadly gas that ends in the oven so hygienically clean—only it’s worse because you continue stupidly to life, But live you must, and you can either make passive love to your sickness or burn it out and go on to the next conflict. Yes, but what is the next phase?.


Ellison, in this passage illustrates the dillemma of realizing that one has been wounded by externally imposed processes, and part of the ironic nature of that pain is that it is a buried, invisible wounding. Another component of that pain is that he has no idea what to do with it, certainly not how to heal it.
Racist messages, images, values and experiences may also impact the ethnic culture of the family. Racist information, acts, institutions affect and impact and are filtered by each idiosyncratic mini-culture of the family of origin in which individuals are raised. Individual family members sort, censor, deny, ignore, rage against or otherwise react to these assaults, in attempts to interpret, defend, assimilate or deflect. Young people are sometimes guided by their elders in how to handle these assaults. Sometimes they are left alone to handle these situations themselves with no guidance. .Finally, that information is filtered, analyzed and taken in to the personality and influence the character of the individual, and the choices he or she makes when encountering racism in the future. The acknowledgement of the existence of racism, or the internalization of defenses against racist oppression are not usually experienced as a handicap. It is experienced more often as normal rather than abnormal. When it is seen as normal, it causes no particular problems or discomfort, and if this world view and defenses are consistent with how an individual sees himself, the internalization is considered “ego-syntonic” or consistent with the healthy survival of self.

If an individual’s acknowledgement of racism or his learned internalization of defenses against racial oppression conflicts with self image; his relationships with loved ones; or members of his own ethnic group; the result can be problematic. These conflicts are often indicative of potential ethnic identity issues.Such ethnic identity issues can complicate relationships that are already challenging or difficult. The sense of self, (which is simply the way an individual experiences his own character or personality) may be affected in key areas:

KEY AREAS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL WOUNDING UNDER RACIAL OPPRESSION
A new Cornell study shows how and to what extent racial discrimination affects the mental health of African-Americans. There are two mechanisms that result in measurable effects on the mental health of many black people.
1) The chronic exposure to racial discrimination leads to more perceived experiences of racial discrimination
2) An accumulation of daily negative events affects daily life in all spheres including family life, friendships, financial matters and of course, health.

This combination leads to an increased risk for symptoms of depression, anxiety and “negative moods”
In my practice the key areas of psychological wounding in a person who has experienced racism seem to appear in the following areas:
• The way in which the person thinks, feels , or acts toward himself
• The way in which the person thinks, feels or acts toward people who look like him or belong to his ethnic group (internalized oppression)

• The way in which the person thinks, feels or acts about people whom he experiences as racially oppressive.
• The way in which the person thinks, feels or acts towards others who are not in his group or the group of the oppressor.
• Exacerbation of stress related illnesses

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Perceived racism may impact black Americans’ mental health

Perceived racism may impact black Americans’ mental health

November 16, 2011 in Psychology & Psychiatry

For black American adults, perceived racism may cause mental health symptoms similar to trauma and could lead to some physical health disparities between blacks and other populations in the United States, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

While previous studies have found links between racism and mental health, this is the first meta-analysis on the subject focusing exclusively on black American adults, according to the study published online in APA’s Journal of Counseling Psychology.

“We focused on black American adults because this is a population that has reported, on average, more incidents of racism than other racial minority groups and because of the potential links between racism and not only mental health, but physical health as well,” said lead author Alex Pieterse, PhD, of the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Researchers examined 66 studies comprising 18,140 black adults in the United States. To be included in the analysis, a study must have been published in a peer-reviewed journal or dissertation between 1996 and 2011; include a specific analysis of mental health indicators associated with racism; and focus specifically on black American adults in the United States.

Black Americans’ psychological responses to racism are very similar to common responses to trauma, such as somatization, which is psychological distress expressed as physical pain; interpersonal sensitivity; and anxiety, according to the study. Individuals who said they experienced more and very stressful racism were more likely to report mental distress, the authors said.

While the researchers did not collect data on the impacts on physical health, they cite other studies to point out that perceived racism may also affect black Americans’ physical health.

“The relationship between perceived racism and self-reported depression and anxiety is quite robust, providing a reminder that experiences of racism may play an important role in the health disparities phenomenon,” Pieterse said. “For example, African-Americans have higher rates of hypertension, a serious condition that has been associated with stress and depression.”

The authors recommended that therapists assess racism experiences as part of standard procedure when treating black Americans, and that future studies focus on how discrimination is perceived in specific settings, such as work, online or in school.

More information: Full text of the article is available at http://www.apa.org … pieterse.pdf

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via Perceived racism may impact black Americans’ mental health.

Compassion

The other day I was out walking my son in his stroller (my now constant occupation) when a homeless woman approached me asking for money. I’d seen her before in the neighborhood many times, including behind our condominium using drugs. I turned down her request and continued walking as if the wind had blown a newspaper against my leg and I’d kicked it away without any thought.

I used to get angry at strangers who asked me for money, projecting onto to them a rage I actually felt toward myself for having such a difficult time turning them down. Then I learned to set boundaries comfortably and my anger gave way to inconsistency: I’d sometimes acquiesce to requests for money and sometimes not, the likelihood of one or the other depending randomly on my mood, how much I believed their story or how much it entertained me, or my belief about what it meant to be compassionate at the time.
Given that at least one study has suggested roughly 95% of homeless men suffer from some type of mental disorder (substance abuse being the most common by far) and that numerous other studies have shown similar, if somewhat less dramatic, results depending on study methodology and the city studied, my standard response now is to refuse all requests for money, believing as I now do that money is not the best long-term, or even short-term, solution to help the homeless. Yet each time I’m asked, I wonder again about what it means to be compassionate, and my recent encounter with our neighborhood homeless woman caused me to reflect again how I continue to fail to live up to my aspiration to consistently manifest the compassion of which I’m capable.

Alex

Greg Says:

May 20, 2009 at 9:20 am
Having a drug addiction does not mean someone isn’t worthy of your compassion or loose change. And living in your alley is precisely why you’re giving her money in the first place. You have been blessed with success and affluence while many people around you suffer and starve. To dismiss them because they take drugs to cope with their situation is not compassion.

Many people are addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs. Yet, our society teaches us that those addicts are better than the addicts which take cheap drugs in allies to escape the reality of life.

Rather than sitting in judgment of the homeless in your neighborhood, try accepting them for who they are. Whether someone spends your 25 cents on McDonald’s, drugs, or real food. Does it really matter? Is it not their right as a human being to make their own choices?

If her drug habit really bothers you so much, there are plenty of ways you could help. A gift card for example. I don’t have money to give, but when I do, I share. Not very much, but a little.

Greg: I think you misunderstood where I was coming from in my post. I was attempting to be honest about the difficulty I have in mustering up compassionate action in certain circumstances. If I came across as being dismissive of the homeless woman who approached me, that wasn’t my intent. I FEEL great compassion for her but am frustrated by my own inability to take what I consider to be compassionate ACTION toward her, which in my view makes my feeling compassion for her worthless to her and to me. But I remind myself that compassion must be developed and nurtured, which is essentially why I practice Buddhism. I truly don’t judge her addiction to drugs, and her habit only bothers me in that I believe she’d be happier without it and that those around her would be, too. And it does matter to me where someone spends my “25 cents” just as it matters to me where the government spends my tax dollars. If I’d contributed money, even inadvertantly, to a terrorist organization, I would feel a sense of responsibility for that organization’s ability to terrorize. By giving a homeless drug addict the means to continue her addiction, which I believe due to my personal and professional experience leads directly away from happiness, I would then be contributing to her misery and not her happiness, and that is definitely not compassion in my book. As I pointed out in the post, compassion applied without wisdom can often create more misery than it resolves.

Best,
Alex

Judy Says:

May 20, 2009 at 10:12 am
Very thought provoking, Alex, as always. I’m so glad I found your blog. I understand your wish to engage with people who need help, but you had your infant with you. Perhaps not getting involved was the best choice for safety’s sake, even if the homeless lady is someone you know, just a bit. I give fast food coupons to people who ask for assistance. At least I know they can’t be used for anything else.

Judy: You raise an important point about safety I thought about but didn’t mention in the post. Fast food coupons are a nice idea. I think that what constitutes the most compassionate action a person could take will depend on what that person feels they have to offer. For me, it isn’t money, but something that would require more time and effort on my part to impart. I continue to struggle to challenge myself to more consistently impart it. This just represents the current boundary of my growth. Thanks for your comment and compliment on the blog.

Alex

mar Says:

May 20, 2009 at 10:07 pm
Thank you for your thoughtful post. Interactions with homeless or requests for money happen to all of us and pose the question, how will we respond? When this happens to me, I assess the need, as you said the Buddha would do. Sometimes, it is offhand, someone just collecting change without conviction. Sometimes, I feel panhandled. And sometimes, I hear or see the need there. I tell them I don’t carry cash, but I can go buy them food, or what it is they need at a nearby convenience store. It is what I would do for myself. One woman I remember took me up on my offer and we talked as we walked to CVS—an unlikely pair. She asked for a drink, chips, cough syrup, and then asked if she could get batteries: her cassette Walkman which she held, had died.

To me, happenstance is the only difference between us—our means, and that is transient. And batteries—for music—and cough syrup to stop coughing were her needs. $12 well spent. Her needs met were both our happiness. So, often, I am thankful for what someone asks of me, because I could not have felt the way I did without her.

Peace—

Nina Says:

May 21, 2009 at 4:32 am
I am pleased to find your thoughts on being compassionate. Acting in a selfless manner, yet being able to decipher what is truly helpful to that other person. I work with autistic kids and find that the stronger the disciplinary action/consequence to bad behavior the better. I let them know that I care for them and want them to learn to do better. So punishing is not such a bad thing but is actually compassionate. I’m trying to think of a way to allow the kids to be in their autistic world though and drift into their own imaginations without so many terrible consequences. When they need to function like other kids, I need to remind them. This helps me continue feeling compassionate for them.

Lots of interesting and thoughtful ideas on the subject. Thanks for posting.

Camilla Onell Says:

May 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm
Alex,

Thank you so much for this post and for your comment on my blog.

As it turns out, your thoughts on what compassion isn’t was exactly what I needed to read right now. Very confronting. I guess I know this already but I’m not living this truth at all. I am far too often giving people what they want. Still pleasing too much. And I needed to be reminded of that. Time for a change!

I will definitely follow your blog from now on.

Camilla

Mary Elaine Kiener Says:

May 22, 2009 at 7:38 pm
Thanks for a lovely essay. Reminded me of a time during my late husband’s illness when I had the opportunity to explore the concept of compassion in a more direct way. A wonderful lesson at the time, and a timely reminder now.
me

The Good Guy Contract « Happiness in this World Says:

May 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm
[…] Be compassionate. Freed of the need to be liked, I can now contemplate compassionate action motivated only by the desire to add to the happiness of another person and not by the imperative to sustain my self-esteem, which makes it far more likely my actions will be wisely compassionate as I discussed in a previous post, What Compassion Is. […]

Nicki Says:

May 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm
Excellent blog. I always enjoy your posts.

Just my two cents: I used to work in an area with a very poor population and a lot of homelessness. I had frequent requests for money to buy food. It made me feel bad to refuse if there was a real need. So I came up with a compromise. I always offered to go to the within-walking-distance grocery store with the person so they could pick out what they needed or to the nearby McDonalds. No one ever took me up on the offer.

Nicki: Such a difficult and complex problem, homelessness. I admire you for your efforts. Must have been difficult not to become jaded, having your offer to buy food rejected so consistently. Thanks for your comment.

Alex

rdp Says:

May 26, 2009 at 11:20 am
I am coming very late to this conversation, and perhaps my questions aren’t pertinent to the particular issue you try to grapple with here, Alex. Still, I’m offering the following:

I may be too much of a literalist, but, to me, compassion means suffering with. I don’t think it has much—if anything—to do with caring for the happiness of another. Rather, it’s about that moment of recognition in which you see yourself in the other person (or vice versa). It is almost impossible for me to avoid this reaction with people who are less fortunate than I am because, like “mar,” I feel in my gut that “happenstance is the only difference between us—our means, and that is transient.” It has taken me many years to be brave enough to do what mar does, but it does feel like exactly the right thing. I do not give cash, but ask what is needed. It is a very, very small thing, but I have never felt as if I showed my daughter something as important as when I engaged with a panhandler this way. Of course, one must assess the situation and risk, but to try to respond with humanity seems, to me, the real challenge. If you met a former neighbor homeless on the street, wouldn’t you ask what s/he needed? Even if s/he were a drug addict? And all of these people were once someone’s neighbor, someone’s child.

What troubles me more—and more frequently, usually daily :^—is how to cultivate compassion for privileged people who remain oblivious to the consequences their self-centeredness visits upon others. While I can, in theory, view them as spiritually impoverished, they do so much more damage to the common good than do panhandlers, I end up feeling that “compassion” for them is misplaced. How on earth can you offer compassion to someone who regards him/herself as superior and who feels no discomfort on account of being oblivious? Is the answer simply to ignore them until they become aware of their own suffering?

rdp: Reasonable people can of course disagree. As I wrote in the post, what you define as compassion I would define as empathy, which absolutely often accompanies compassion (and perhaps is a necessary pre-condition), but perhaps my response to your last question about the privileged will delineate the distinction best: I can have compassion (that is, care about the happiness of the privileged) because their self-centeredness is, in my view, merely the result of a different set of delusions that brings a homeless person to homelessness. People of privilege aren’t necessarily happier than anyone else—and often are quite a bit less so. In my view, EVERYONE regardless of station in life is deserving of compassion, deserves to be happy, and deserves our empathy. Certainly harder to muster for people who seem to be only concerned with themselves, but if you accept my notion that anyone can suffer regardless of life station, why should we have empathy and compassion (as I define them) only for people who meet certain requirements (eg-exclude those who are selfish)? Even selfish people “were once (perhaps your) neighbor and were once someone’s child.” Thanks as always for such a thought-provoking comment.

Best,
Alex

rdp Says:

May 26, 2009 at 12:49 pm
And so frequently do!

I think our disagreement arises out of the definition of compassion. The standard (OED) meaning is “1. Participation in another’s suffering; fellow-feeling; sympathy. 2. Pity inclining one to show mercy or give aid. 3. Sorrowful emotion, grief.”

Caring about the happiness of another, I don’t believe, relates to this. Perhaps we could agree on the term “loving,” which at least in one of its senses “manifests itself in concern for the person’s welfare….?” It’s easier for me, at least, to think of it this way. I think we must be compassionate to all who suffer and try to cultivate a loving attitude to everyone else—even those who don’t. But I really struggle to do this in specific instances, where you see the obliviousness taking a toll on people who are already suffering. Or so it seems to me…..

Grateful, as always, for your caring presence here.

rdp: I guess with respect to compassion I’m moving away from the dictionary definition and more towards a philosophical definition. However, I agree with you about the relevance of the term “loving,” which in fact is what I think compassion is all about (and maybe therefore why it’s so hard to define). “Concern for the other person’s welfare”—yes, exactly. I’m just not so sure one needs to suffer themselves in order to feel that for another. Glad there are people like you out there thinking seriously about these issues and trying to embody good and right action when they can.

Best,
Alex

jrs Says:

May 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm
What a coincidence. Just this morning I gave $2 to an old woman huddled between her overflowing grocery cart of possessions and the wall of building. She didn’t ask me for it—my heart just went out to her and I felt I had to so something, so I did. After all, what does two bucks mean to me? Even if I will be unemployed come July 1.

jrs: I sure don’t have the solution to homelessness but that people like you who are about to become unemployed still find the impulse to try to help others even less fortunate than themselves gives me hope.

Best,
Alex

carey Says:

June 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm
I know that your post is about compassion, but I would like to reframe one part of it in the context of generosity.

Generosity is related to compassion, in that compassion is one major motivation that results in the (often concrete, tangible) manifestation of generosity. Other motivations for generosity, such as fear of what the neighbors think, result in what we might call “false generosity,” whereas compassion results in genuine generosity.

Compassion is always abstract and invisible; generosity can be visible or invisible, abstract or concrete. Generosity can help other people. Compassion simply reflects one’s internal perspective, and can’t help anyone until it manifests in the action of generosity.

Compassion is like a general who stands outside the fray and watches the violence, feeling bad for the poor suckers who are involved.

Generosity is like the doctor who risks his/her life running onto the battlefield to try to save the lives of the wounded.

Without wanting to offend you, but in an attempt to shed another light on the topic here, your compassion serves nobody but you.

It seems that by labeling the homeless person as a “drug user” your heart permits you to exile her. What if she wanted to use your money for her morning coffee? As a doctor, surely you must know that caffeine is a drug. It makes people feel better.

You label drug addiction a mental disorder, but there are many experts who would not agree with that label. Once again, I have to ask if caffeine addiction is a mental disorder as well, and if so, if caffeine users are not worthy of our financial generosity because they would just buy more coffee.

Your generosity has many strings attached. That is not true generosity. You are judging which ways of seeking happiness are acceptable to you, and placing your standards on other people. If you can’t allow her to spend the money on whatever she believes will relieve her pain or contribute to her happiness, your generosity is very limited. You have insufficient trust of other living beings. You do not permit freedom of choice or philosophy.

If someone wants to deal with the suffering of this life by using drugs, that is unacceptable to you, since your philosophy doesn’t agree with drug use. (Though, of course, it does—however, the types of drugs are limited. Tea, chocolate, and even alcohol and nicotine are presumably acceptable drugs to ease the pain of existence, whereas cocaine and heroin are unacceptable…because they are stronger? Does your heart have such limits?)

I think that you just wrote this to assuage the pain of your own conscience due to your inability to be generous with a fellow human being in need. You were overly judgmental, and decided that she wasn’t worthy of your generosity. Now, you (appropriately) are suffering due to the walls your have built surrounding your inner heart—the walls you construct each time you meet a person in dire need and turn them away, based on your judgments.

Drugs are one way that people try to deal with the suffering of life. Certain patterns of attitudes, some very negative, are another. Would you refuse to help a starving person because they often created negative thoughts, and by supporting their food habit, you would be permitting them to continue their negativity?

If you want to see true generosity, look to the sun. It gives its energy in every direction, regardless of whether someone or something is there to receive it. The pure love of the sun is what I aspire to.

By the way, you are not the only one who is scared of homeless people. Many people are deeply afraid that homelessness and poverty (and other types of suffering) will spread like a disease, and “contaminate” their own lives. Hence, they avoid homeless people “like the plague” (an apt metaphor here).

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Crabs in a Barrel Syndrome

25 Surprising Facts about Psychology | Psychology Today – StumbleUpon.

Crabs in a Barrel Syndrome: Will it ever end?

Don’t crawl over and compete; instead, celebrate each other.

Haters. Do you know some people who just can’t celebrate when someone else is doing a good thing? People who don’t want to see anyone else be celebrated for their good deeds, or even for just looking good? Well, here’s a “McCloudism” from my book, Living Well: “When you do your thing, remember…you will have “haters”; but never let people get you off track. Sometimes even family members will become jealous and try to derail your efforts and destroy your spirit. But no matter what obstacles come against you, you can make it if you treat people right, stay focused on your goal and stay true to yourself and your God.”

On a social network board (which I’m sure I’ll exit this summer), I recently saw a post from a new author in which she was asking about “haters.” Apparently she had received some negativity about her upcoming book, or perhaps other things she’s doing or saying. Even though I’ve never met the woman personally, we have been in regular communication because the theme of her book, Black Woman Redefined is, in many ways, similar to that of mine, Living Well, Despite Catchin’ Hell; (the “hell” is what I call “psycho-social stressors,” some, listed below).

Each of our books addresses the negative media images of Black women in our society and the social challenges many Black women face, some due to their own deeds.

As a physician (an obstetrician-gynecologist), I add to that conversation by presenting how such negative imagery, low marriage statistics, social rejection, often disrespect, and the educational/work inequity with many Black men; plus already-present medical challenges, including the risk of HIV/AIDS, “down-low” men, and more can (and mostly does) have a negative effect on our physical health. In Nelson’s book, she reportedly features Black women whose names you know from politics and the media; in mine, I give voice and visibility to some highly-accomplished sisters of whom you may not have heard. In her first email reply to me last fall, she expressed our “synergy”; I agreed, and together we celebrate.

When I first joined that same social network, I asked another Black female physician (and author) who does national TV segments if she’d be kind enough to simply post word of my new book on her page, for it is the first Black women’s health book written by a physician in eight years, and no one else really gives voice to Black women’s specific health concerns and challenges. Plus, I have great endorsements, from the medical, psychological, educational and celebrity world (the foreword is by Pauletta Washington, the beautiful wife of Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington). My colleague’s reply: “Congratulations on your book.” Poof. That was it.

Some people just don’t want to see others succeed, or they feel threatened if a little light shines on someone else, even for a minute. This has been a well-known “syndrome” in the Black community, but is said to exist in lawyers, even preachers. It may in fact, just be human nature. But it doesn’t have to be. As I mention in Living Well, do your thing; do it well. Your light will shine, and we can celebrate you. When it’s someone else’s turn, celebrate them. This is America; there is plenty room at life’s table for everyone to get their slice. As people, as a race, as women…we don’t have to compete, we can complement…and ain’t that a good thing?

April is National Poetry Month, check out some word. It is also National Minority Health Month. Be Healthy, Be Blessed…and make sure you are Living Well !

Copyright © 2011 Dr. Melody T. McCloud

Souls Journal : Jihadis in the Hood

Souls Journal – StumbleUpon.

Jihadis in the Hood

Race, Urban Islam and the War on Terror

by Hishaam Aidi
published in MER224

In his classic novel Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed satirizes white America’s age-old anxiety about the “infectiousness” of black culture with “Jus Grew,” an indefinable, irresistible carrier of “soul” and “blackness” that spreads like a virus contaminating everyone in its wake from New Orleans to New York. Reed suggests that the source of the Jus Grew scourge is a sacred text, which is finally located and destroyed by Abdul Sufi Hamid, “the Brother on the Street.” In a turn of events reminiscent of Reed’s storyline, commentators are advancing theories warning of a dangerous epidemic spreading through our inner cities today, infecting misguided, disaffected minority youth and turning them into anti-American terrorists. This time, though, the pathogen is Islam, more specifically an insidious mix of radical Islam and black militancy.

Since the capture of John Walker Lindh, the Marin County “black nationalist”-turned-Taliban, (1) and the arrest of would-be terrorist José Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican ex-gang member who encountered Islam while in prison, terrorism experts and columnists have been warning of the “Islamic threat” in the American underclass, and alerting the public that the ghetto and the prison system could very well supply a fifth column to Osama bin Laden and his ilk. Writing in The Daily News, black social critic Stanley Crouch reminded us that in 1986, the powerful Chicago street gang al-Rukn — known in the 1970s as the Blackstone Rangers — was arrested en masse for receiving $2.5 million from Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi to commit terrorist acts in the US. “We have to realize there is another theater in this unprecedented war, one headquartered in our jails and prisons,” Crouch cautioned.

Chuck Colson of the evangelical American Christian Mission, which ministers to inmates around the country, penned a widely circulated article in the Wall Street Journal charging that “al-Qaeda training manuals specifically identify America’s prisoners as candidates for conversion because they may be ‘disenchanted with their country’s policies’… As US citizens, they will combine a desire for ‘payback’ with an ability to blend easily into American culture.” Moreover, he wrote, “Saudi money has been funneled into the American Muslim Foundation, which supports prison programs,” reiterating that America’s “alienated, disenfranchised people are prime targets for radical Islamists who preach a religion of violence, of overcoming oppression by jihad.” (2)

Since September 11, more than a few American-born black and Latino jihadis have indeed been discovered behind enemy lines. Before Padilla (Abdallah al-Muhajir), there was Aqil, the troubled Mexican-American youth from San Diego found in an Afghan training camp fraternizing with one of the men accused of killing journalist Daniel Pearl. Aqil, now in custody, is writing a memoir called My Jihad. In February, the New York Times ran a story about Hiram Torres, a Puerto Rican whose name was found in a bombed-out house in Kabul, on a list of recruits to the Pakistani group Harkat al-Mujahedeen, which has ties to al-Qaeda. Torres, also known as Mohamed Salman, graduated first in his New Jersey high school class and briefly attended Yale, before dropping out and heading to Pakistan in 1998. He has not been heard from since. A June edition of US News and World Report mentions a group of African-Americans, their whereabouts currently unknown, who studied at a school closely linked to the Kashmiri militia, Lashkar-e Taiba. L’Houssaine Kerchtou, an Algerian government witness, claims to have seen “some black Americans” training at al-Qaeda bases in Sudan and Pakistan.

Earlier this year, the movie Kandahar caused an uproar in the American intelligence community because the African-American actor who played a doctor was American fugitive David Belfield. Belfield, who converted to Islam at Howard University in 1970, is wanted for the 1980 murder of Iranian dissident Ali Akbar Tabatabai in Washington. Belfield has lived in Tehran since 1980 and goes by the name of Hassan Tantai. (3) The two most notorious accused terrorists now in US custody are black Europeans, French-Moroccan Zacarias Moussaoui and the English-Jamaican shoe bomber Richard Reid, who were radicalized in the same mosque in the London ghetto of Brixton. Moussaoui’s ubiquitous mug shot in orange prison garb, looking like any American inner-city youth with his shaved head and goatee, has intrigued many and unnerved some. “My first thought when I saw his photograph was that I wished he looked more Arabic and less black,” wrote Sheryl McCarthy in Newsday. “All African-Americans need is for the first guy to be tried on terrorism charges stemming from this tragedy to look like one of our own.”

But assessments of an “Islamic threat” in the American ghetto are sensational and ahistorical. As campaigns are introduced to stem the “Islamic tide,” there has been little probing of why alienated black and Latino youth might gravitate towards Islamism. There has been no commentary comparable to what British race theorist Paul Gilroy wrote about Richard Reid and the group of Britons held at Guantanamo Bay: “The story of black European involvement in these geopolitical currents is disturbingly connected to the deeper history of immigration and race politics.” Reid, in particular, “manifest[s] the uncomfortable truth that British multiculturalism has failed.” (4)

For over a century, African-American thinkers — Muslim and non-Muslim — have attempted to harness the black struggle to global Islam, while leaders in the Islamic world have tried to yoke their political causes to African-American liberation. Islamism, in the US context, has come to refer to differing ideologies adopted by Muslim groups to galvanize social movements for “Islamic” political ends — the Nation of Islam’s “buy black” campaigns and election boycotts or Harlem’s Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood lobbying for benefits and cultural and political rights from the state. Much more rarely, it has included the jihadi strain of Islamism, embraced by foreign-based or foreign-funded Islamist groups (such as al-Rukn) attempting to gain American recruits for armed struggles against “infidel” governments at home and abroad. The rise of Islam and Islamism in American inner cities can be explained as a product of immigration and racial politics, deindustrialization and state withdrawal, and the interwoven cultural forces of black nationalism, Islamism and hip-hop that appeal strongly to disenfanchised black, Latino, Arab and South Asian youth.

Perceived racism may impact black Americans’ mental health

Perceived racism may impact black Americans’ mental health

November 16, 2011 in Psychology & Psychiatry

For black American adults, perceived racism may cause mental health symptoms similar to trauma and could lead to some physical health disparities between blacks and other populations in the United States, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

 

While previous studies have found links between racism and mental health, this is the first meta-analysis on the subject focusing exclusively on black American adults, according to the study published online in APA’s Journal of Counseling Psychology.

“We focused on black American adults because this is a population that has reported, on average, more incidents of racism than other racial minority groups and because of the potential links between racism and not only mental health, but physical health as well,” said lead author Alex Pieterse, PhD, of the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Researchers examined 66 studies comprising 18,140 black adults in the United States. To be included in the analysis, a study must have been published in a peer-reviewed journal or dissertation between 1996 and 2011; include a specific analysis of mental health indicators associated with racism; and focus specifically on black American adults in the United States.

Black Americans’ psychological responses to racism are very similar to common responses to trauma, such as somatization, which is psychological distress expressed as physical pain; interpersonal sensitivity; and anxiety, according to the study. Individuals who said they experienced more and very stressful racism were more likely to report mental distress, the authors said.

While the researchers did not collect data on the impacts on physical health, they cite other studies to point out that perceived racism may also affect black Americans’ physical health.

“The relationship between perceived racism and self-reported depression and anxiety is quite robust, providing a reminder that experiences of racism may play an important role in the health disparities phenomenon,” Pieterse said. “For example, African-Americans have higher rates of hypertension, a serious condition that has been associated with stress and depression.”

The authors recommended that therapists assess racism experiences as part of standard procedure when treating black Americans, and that future studies focus on how discrimination is perceived in specific settings, such as work, online or in school.

More information: Full text of the article is available at http://www.apa.org … pieterse.pdf

Provided by American Psychological Association search and more info website

 

via Perceived racism may impact black Americans’ mental health.

Is Extreme Racism a Mental Illness?: Yes

Yes.

It can be a delusional symptom of psychotic disorders

Alvin F Poussaint, Professor of psychiatry1

Author information ► Copyright and License information ►

The American Psychiatric Association has never officially recognized extreme racism (as opposed to ordinary prejudice) as a mental health problem, although the issue was raised more than 30 years ago. After several racist killings in the civil rights era, a group of black psychiatrists sought to have extreme bigotry classified as a mental disorder. The association’s officials rejected the recommendation, arguing that because so many Americans are racist, even extreme racism in this country is normative—a cultural problem rather than an indication of psychopathology.

The psychiatric profession’s primary index for diagnosing psychiatric symptoms, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), does not include racism, prejudice, or bigotry in its text or index.1 Therefore, there is currently no support for including extreme racism under any diagnostic category. This leads psychiatrists to think that it cannot and should not be treated in their patients.

To continue perceiving extreme racism as normative and not pathologic is to lend it legitimacy. Clearly, anyone who scapegoats a whole group of people and seeks to eliminate them to resolve his or her internal conflicts meets criteria for a delusional disorder, a major psychiatric illness.

Extreme racists’ violence should be considered in the context of behavior described by Allport in The Nature of Prejudice.2 Allport’s 5-point scale categorizes increasingly dangerous acts. It begins with verbal expression of antagonism, progresses to avoidance of members of disliked groups, then to active discrimination against them, to physical attack, and finally to extermination (lynchings, massacres, genocide). That fifth point on the scale, the acting out of extermination fantasies, is readily classifiable as delusional behavior.

More recently, Sullaway and Dunbar used a prejudice rating scale to assess and describe levels of prejudice.3 They found associations between highly prejudiced people and other indicators of psychopathology. The subtype at the extreme end of their scale is a paranoid/delusional prejudice disorder.

Using the DSM’s structure of diagnostic criteria for delusional disorder,4(p329) I suggest the following subtype:

Prejudice type: A delusion whose theme is that a group of individuals, who share a defining characteristic, in one’s environment have a particular and unusual significance. These delusions are usually of a negative or pejorative nature, but also may be grandiose in content. When these delusions are extreme, the person may act out by attempting to harm, and even murder, members of the despised group(s).

Extreme racist delusions can also occur as a major symptom in other psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Persons suffering delusions usually have serious social dysfunction that impairs their ability to work with others and maintain employment.

As a clinical psychiatrist, I have treated several patients who projected their own unacceptable behavior and fears onto ethnic minorities, scapegoating them for society’s problems. Their strong racist feelings, which were tied to fixed belief systems impervious to reality checks, were symptoms of serious mental dysfunction. When these patients became more aware of their own problems, they grew less paranoid—and less prejudiced.

It is time for the American Psychiatric Association to designate extreme racism as a mental health problem by recognizing it as a delusional psychotic symptom. Persons afflicted with such psychopathology represent an immediate danger to themselves and others. Clinicians need guidelines for recognizing delusional racism in all its forms so that they can provide appropriate treatment. Otherwise, extreme delusional racists will continue to fall through the cracks of the mental health system, and we can expect more of them to explode and act out their deadly delusions.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Extreme racism indicates psychopathology

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Notes

Competing interests: None declared

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References

1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press; 2000.

2. Allport G. The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley; 1954.

3. Sullaway M, Dunbar E. Clinical manifestations of prejudice in psychotherapy: toward a strategy of assessment and treatment. Clin Psychol Sci Pract 1996;3: 296-309.

4. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic criteria for 297.1 delusional disorder. In: DSM-IV-TR: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press; 2000.

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Racism in Schools: Unintentional But No Less Damaging

Racism in Schools: Unintentional But No Less Damaging.

Alejandra is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who speak little English and hold down jobs cleaning houses and working in a hotel. Last year, she graduated from a high school in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the student population is roughly half poor Latino and half affluent white.

Their worlds rarely intersect, with most white students taking high-level courses and most Latinos enrolled in the general-ed classes. But during her high school years, Alejandra was the exception.

She was the only Latino student with immigrant parents enrolled in a college-level program known as International Baccalaureate studies. Many of the fellow students came from the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito, one of the wealthiest enclaves in the nation (Oprah Winfrey has a home there). It was often an uncomfortable experience.

Alejandra finished high school with a 3.3 GPA — no small feat given her background and the rigorous program from which she graduated.

Nonetheless, when it came time to talk to her guidance counselor about future plans, the counselor dissuaded Alejandra from pursuing her dream to attend a four-year university. The counselor instead advised her to go to the local community college. Alejandra complied, and today is a student at Santa Barbara City College.

The experience, she said, filled her with self-doubt.

“I thought, maybe I’m not as good as I think I am,” she told Miller-McCune.com.

Battling Subtle Messages
Though racism in the public education system no longer takes the overt form of segregated schools, white students spitting on black students with impunity or National Guardsmen with rifles blocking the entrance to a school, several nonprofit organizations around the country focusing on racial justice in public schools say it’s still ubiquitous.

Although the counselor no doubt had Alejandra’s best interests in mind, the decision to steer her away from a four-year university was a classic example of unintentional racism, said Jarrod Schwartz, executive director of Just Communities Central Coast, a nonprofit based in Santa Barbara and dedicated to dismantling institutional racism in schools. (The group was founded in 2001 as The National Conference for Community and Justice of California’s Central Coast, which in turn had its roots in the venerable National Conference of Christians and Jews.)

“Most of the racism in schools today is not born out of intense hate and does not come from this place of wanting the worst for students of color,” he said. “It’s subtle.”

The organization spends much of its time informing educators about the everyday red flags that may be invisible to them, but glaringly obvious to many minority students and teachers of color.

A well-meaning high school counselor, for instance, may learn the names of all her white students, but barely any of her Latino pupils. A white teacher may call on students of color only for the easy questions. A teacher may embarrass a student of Korean descent by assuming the student knows how to pronounce a word in Vietnamese.

In May 2000, on the 40th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education — the landmark case that ruled segregated schools unconstitutional — the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state of California that brought the essence of institutionalized racism into sharp focus. Filed on behalf of 100 students in San Francisco, the case was named after Eliezer Williams, then a seventh-grader at Luther Burbank Middle School in San Francisco.

At Williams’ school, the textbooks were so scarce, students could not take them home; they were so old they still did not recognize the collapse of the Soviet Union. At certain times during the school day, there were no bathrooms; attorneys said students had urinated or defecated on themselves for lack of a restroom. The school was infested with vermin.

The suit argued that the state was failing to provide thousands of California students with the basic necessities for a decent education. Most of the students in question were poor minorities. In 2004, the case was settled, with the state setting aside $138 million for improving the textbooks and facilities of underserved student populations across California.

In a paper, Terry Keleher and Tammy Johnson of the Applied Research Center — a racial justice think tank — argued that the Williams case shows that institutionalized racism is alive and well in the 21st century.

“Institutional racism is frequently subtle, unintentional and invisible, but always potent,” they wrote. “Often, institutional racism involves complex and cumulative factors; for example, when many students of color, year after year, do not have access to fully credentialed teachers, high-quality curriculum materials and advanced courses.”  (see rest of article at above link)

there is no doubt that much of the difference between African Americans and others in this society in regards to health disparities is due to white supremacy and its choking fog of racism……

Innerstanding Isness

After decades of research, Arline Geronimus concludes that the long-term stress of living in a white-dominated society ‘weathers’ blacks, making them age faster than their white counterparts.

After decades of research, Arline Geronimus concludes that the long-term stress of living in a white-dominated society ‘weathers’ blacks, making them age faster than their white counterparts.

In the fall of 1976, Arline Geronimus began living in two separate, unequal worlds. At Princeton University, the political theory major became a research assistant to Charles Westoff, a professor who studied teen pregnancy among the urban poor. Down the road at Planned Parenthood in Trenton, N.J., she spent time with real-life, impoverished pregnant teens.

A self-assured, middle-class Jewish girl from Brookline, Mass., Geronimus shuttled between the extremes of haves and have-nots, eventually spotting a chasm between the theories of Princeton researchers and the experiences of the women she taught.

Geronimus would sit in on…

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Daily Kos: Slippin’ into whiteness: Melungeons and other ‘almost white’ groups

Daily Kos: Slippin’ into whiteness: Melungeons and other ‘almost white’ groups.SUN JUL 01, 2012 AT 01:00 PM PDT
Slippin’ into whiteness: Melungeons and other ‘almost white’ groups
byDenise Oliver VelezFollowforDaily Kos
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Arch Goins and family,
Melungeons from Graysville, Tennessee
“Whiteness” in the U.S. has value. It is no surprise that in a society that has historically oppressed, scorned and demonized “blackness” (as if blacks were almost an untouchable caste), some sub-cultural groups scattered across the nation sought refuge in elaborately constructed “not black” clusters. The United States government, mandated by the Constitution to collect census data that included “race” as a category, created much of the confusion, with shifting classifications over time, using terms like mulatto, octoroon, mestizo, and mixed. Some states also classified those people who were “not white” and not enslaved simply as “free people of color,” which at times included Mexicans and Native Americans.

Clusters of people who were designated “not black,” but historically “not white,” were scattered across the U.S. All of these groups, dubbed by anthropologists and sociologists as “tri-racial isolates,” or “maroons,” are an interesting part of our troubled racialized history and current notions of “race,” “ethnicity,” ancestry, and genetics.

One maroon group that has fascinated both social scientists and genealogists were named by outsiders (as a slur) and they now dub themselves with the same name: Melungeon. Their history and self-constructed folk mythology has been re-visited in recent years due to the advent of modern DNA research.

I first encountered their stories when I came across a book called Almost White by Brewton Berry (1963, McMillan), when I was beginning to explore some of my own family history. Berry described maroon communities, which I pursued an interest in researching, who were given pejorative names like Jackson Whites, Pooles, Brass Ankles, Redbones, Gouldtowners, and Melungeons.

Some like the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina have forcefully rejected “othering” and “whiteness,” and though many tribe members have visible African ancestry, they have fought for their identity as Native Americans.

There are now numerous websites dedicated to the exploration of “race,” racialism, “mixed race” identity, and genetics—the most popular is historian Frank Sweet’s Backintyme site. Sweet has also authored a series of computer animations for YouTube on “the study of racialism,” which explores the data from his site.

(More on the link above)

Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life | Psychology Today – StumbleUpon

Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life | Psychology Today – StumbleUpon.

The Common Experience of Racial Microaggressions

Such incidents have become a common-place experience for many people of color because they seem to occur constantly in our daily lives.

  • When a White couple (man and women) passes a Black man on the sidewalk, the woman automatically clutches her purse more tightly, while the White man checks for his wallet in the back pocket. (Hidden Message: Blacks are prone to crime and up to no good.)
  • A third generation Asian American is complimented by a taxi cab driver for speaking such good English. (Hidden Message: Asian Americans are perceived as perpetual aliens in their own country and not “real Americans.”)
  • Police stop a Latino male driver for no apparent reason but to subtly check his driver’s license to determine immigration status. (Hidden message: Latinas/os are illegal aliens.)
  • American Indian students at the University of Illinois see Native American symbols and mascots – exemplified by Chief Illiniwek dancing and whooping fiercely during football games. (Hidden Message: American Indians are savages, blood-thirsty and their culture and traditions are demeaned.)

In our 8-year research at Teachers College, Columbia University, we have found that these racial microaggressions may on the surface, appear like a compliment or seem quite innocent and harmless, but nevertheless, they contain what we call demeaning meta-communications or hidden messages.

What Are Racial Microaggressions?

The term racial microaggressions, was first coined by psychiatrist Chester Pierce, MD, in the 1970s. But the concept is also rooted in the work of Jack Dovidio, Ph.D. (Yale University) and Samuel Gaertner, Ph.D. (University of Delaware) in their formulation of aversive racism – many well-intentioned Whites consciously believe in and profess equality, but unconsciously act in a racist manner, particularly in ambiguous situations.

Racial microaggressions are the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally (“You speak good English.”), nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using American Indian mascots). Such communications are usually outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators. In the case of the flight attendant, I am sure that she believed she was acting with the best of intentions and probably felt aghast that someone would accuse her of such a horrendous act.

Our research and those of many social psychologists suggest that most people like the flight attendant, harbor unconscious biases and prejudices that leak out in many interpersonal situations and decision points. In other words, the attendant was acting with bias-she just didn’t know it. Getting perpetrators to realize that they are acting in a biased manner is a monumental task because (a) on a conscious level they see themselves as fair minded individuals who would never consciously discriminate, (b) they are genuinely not aware of their biases, and (c) their self image of being “a good moral human being” is assailed if they realize and acknowledge that they possess biased thoughts, attitudes and feelings that harm people of color.

To better understand the type and range of these incidents, my research team and other researchers are exploring the manifestation, dynamics and impact of microaggressions. We have begun documenting how African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians and Latina(o) Americans who receive these everyday psychological slings and arrows experience an erosion of their mental health, job performance, classroom learning, the quality of social experience, and ultimately their standard of living.

Classifying Microaggressions

In my book, Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation (John Wiley & Sons, 2010), I summarize research conducted at Teachers College, Columbia University which led us to propose a classification of racial microaggressions. Three types of current racial transgressions were described:

• Microassaults: Conscious and intentional discriminatory actions: using racial epithets, displaying White supremacist symbols – swastikas, or preventing one’s son or daughter from dating outside of their race.

• Microinsults: Verbal, nonverbal, and environmental communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity that demean a person’s racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a co-worker of color how he/she got his/her job, implying he/she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.

• Microinvalidations: Communications that subtly exclude negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, White people often ask Latinos where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.

Our research suggests that microinsults and microinvalidiations are potentially more harmful because of their invisibility, which puts people of color in a psychological bind: While people of color may feel insulted, they are often uncertain why, and perpetrators are unaware that anything has happened and are not aware they have been offensive. For people of color, they are caught in a Catch-22. If they question the perpetrator, as in the case of the flight attendant, denials are likely to follow. Indeed, they may be labeled “oversensitive” or even “paranoid.” If they choose not to confront perpetrators, the turmoil stews and percolates in the psyche of the person taking a huge emotional toll. In other words, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Note that the denials by perpetrators are usually not conscious attempts to deceive; they honestly believe they have done no wrong. Microaggressions hold their power because they are invisible, and therefore they don’t allow Whites to see that their actions and attitudes may be discriminatory. Therein lays the dilemma. The person of color is left to question what actually happened. The result is confusion, anger and an overall draining of energy.

Ironically, some research and testimony from people of color indicate they are better able to handle overt, conscious and deliberate acts of racism than the unconscious, subtle and less obvious forms. That is because there is no guesswork involved in overt forms of racism.