After weeks of anticipation, I finally saw the movie 12 Years a Slave.In trying to unpack my thoughts, the one thing I do not want to do is review the film. Others will do that far more adeptly than I. Suffice it to say, the film was STUNNING — in every sense of the word, at all possible levels.As an African American genealogist, I am more informed than most about the history of African American people and our subjugation to slavery in the Americas. From my personal family tree, I can name 12 ancestors whose humanity was violated. And that is just the “top note” as I know there are others whose names will never be found.For the past 30+ years, I have been on a mission to bring their stories to light — not just for my own edification, but for public exposure. It was thus that I created Our Black Ancestry for the purpose of “empowering our future by honoring our past.”Every name I learn, every document I uncover, every story I reveal … all of it constitutes a mere fragment in the worldwide complicity of economic aspiration that resulted in a heinous crime against humanity. It is a crime that has never been fully addressed, punished or resolved. White Americans relegate this past to the fond digression of films like Gone with the Wind. African Americans often refuse to look back, perhaps in an attempt to control the antipathy that surely must reside in our wounded souls.The powerful essence of the movie was that it encapsulated a visual depiction of the words I read in books and documents.As I witnessed the unfolding story of Solomon Northup, I was mentally transported into a cotton field where my great grandparents toiled without relief in Lowndes County, Alabama.I lay in the bed of my great grandmother in Noxubee County, Mississippi as she succumbed to sexual objectification by the man who fathered her 17 children — thus being elevated over a 10 year span from “farmhand” to “housekeeper.”I experienced the anguish of an inconsolable mother whose cries for her stolen children were so overwhelmingly rife with anguish, her fellow slave retorted that she “stop wailing.” She then endured further punishment by being sold away by an owner who refused to entertain the unconscionable pain he had caused.As Northup was hung by the neck and left dangling in desperation, I envisioned my uncle who was lynched.I shared the pathos of generations of people — my people — kidnapped, chained, whipped, crippled, violated and traumatized in every possible way. Slave masters reduced themselves and their prey to a level of barbarity that defies imagination, unleashing a vicious cycle of violence that informs our society unto this very day. I cannot fathom the cognitive dissonance of these men and their consort wives who did what they did and justified it with the word of a God I do not know.In the end, as Northup climbed into the wagon of his rescuers, all he could do was gaze with sadness and longing at the ones he left behind. In the final analysis, it was they who were the most tragic of victims because their subjugation was never to be relieved. Sixty years removed from the only relative I knew in person who was enslaved — my father’s grandmother — I am limited to a vicarious awareness of what she and my other family members endured. There is no doubt in my mind… I would NOT have survived. Yet, I am grateful they did because, if not for them, I would not BE.
Do Doctors Fail to Diagnose Depression in Our Men?
A recent study shows Black men are unlikely to be prescribed antidepressants. Michael Arceneaux says he knows all too well how doctors miss the boat with Black men’s mental health
By Michael Arceneaux Writer
BLACK MAN HURTING:
Do Doctors Fail to Diagnose Depression in Our Men?
I’m not surprised by the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health survey’s findings that doctors are far less likely to prescribe antidepressants to Black and Latino patients afflicted with major depressive disorder than their white counterparts.
In their findings, race, payment source, physician ownership status and geographical region were all listed as factors that play into whether physicians decide to prescribe antidepressants to patients. Moreover, age and payment source influence which types of antidepressants patients receive. As a result, Caucasians are 1.52 times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than Black and Latino patients being treated for major depressive disorders.
The disparity in antidepressant usage between Whites and minorities often centers on stigmas within minority communities. It’s about time the focus shifted towards how the role the attitudes of others factor into the gap.
Though I was never treated for a specific major depressive disorder, I have had painful bouts with depression and anxiety through the years – and encounters with careless doctors who bypassed obvious symptoms due to their own silly biases. Less than a year ago there was a period where I feared standing up would invite the kind of pain sure to knock me down. During one week in particular, each new day brought on an even more excruciating headache than the one before. When I did finally manage to stand up, I noticed that I had broken out in several different rashes across various parts of my body. As freaked out as I was about the exterior, I was more worried that I could barely function without needing to lay down every other hour. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
Once in a while, college teaching breaks out of the staid, authoritative lecturer/rapt audience model and assumes a raw ideal of rapid and spontaneous engagement between teacher and students. The engagement is live and open-ended and the information firing back and forth isn’t necessarily pleasant or encouraging or even obviously related to the topic of the class on that particular day. But it’s education for sure.
I recently presented a lecture at a local university that I thought straightforward and factual, though potentially controversial because it involved race. I’m teaching nonfiction writing and thought it would be useful to discuss the politics behind the first-person “I” narrator that frames so much nonfiction writing, especially memoir and personal essays.
We assume the use of “I” is a simple declaration of the self, the rock-solid point from which every story flows. “I” is also an affirmation of individualism that Americans hold so dear, and in that way a democratic institution in the literary world — I write, therefore I am equal to all other writers. But I wanted to show how the whole concept of “I” and the self-affirmation it’s meant to confer never applied to African-Americans.
For much of our history, the notion of an inviolate black self was not only absent in literature (and everywhere else), it was actually against the law. Law and custom prevented blacks from claiming authority over their own lives. The whole concept of an empowered, inherently worthy ‘I’ was therefore a joke at worst, fragmented at best. That legacy is still with us; for blacks, personal stories almost always have broader social meaning tied to a legacy of white supremacy that has told them in one way or another how they should see and interpret themselves. For nonfiction writing, getting out from under this “narrative oppression” is a rich and complicated subject.
While I hardly expected to resolve ancient racial problems, I assumed the conversation would be provocative and lively. It was that, but much more than that — it was hostile. This happened immediately. Ten minutes into the lecture white students chafed at the very notion of oppression and a vocal few wanted to shut down both the message, and the messenger. Several students took offense to this and subtly and not so subtly accused the doubters of racism.
People in psychotherapy change at different rates. Most often I find that this relates to numerous factors. It may for instance be related to the age at which a trauma occurred, complexity of current life situation and influences, interplay of personality characteristics, and so forth.
I use a puzzle metaphor to explain various aspects of the therapeutic process.
What takes place in treatment is similar to putting together a puzzle. There’s a catch to the whole process though. It’s as if we have all kinds of puzzle pieces for a puzzle and we don’t have the original picture from the puzzle box to guide us. There is something very interesting about the mind along these lines. It has been examined from Gestalt psychology with a process that is called “closure.” The idea of closure is that the mind fills in the gaps to produce a “unified whole” or a Gestalt. As we’re putting together the puzzle pieces about how you can become the person you want to become, more of the picture is obtained. There is a point at which adding just one more puzzle piece allows the mind to form a Gestalt and mentally see the final outcome. Once that happens, everything becomes clear as to the direction needed.
And this process also takes place on an unconscious level. The mind has built in self-corrective measures and begins searching for these corrective measures during psychotherapy. Automatically, while we are asleep and dreaming, or we are staring off into space thinking about nothing in particular, the mind continues this process.
I also use this metaphor to explain why some people are able to change rather rapidly and others take much longer.
Some people’s problems are like a puzzle that a young child might be able to put together. It may only have 8 pieces, and it only takes putting a couple of pieces together to get the Gestalt of the picture. Others are like a 1000 piece puzzle. This type of puzzle takes a great deal more searching, effort, and trial and error. It takes longer to be able to get that feeling of making progress. It takes longer to get the Gestalt of the picture.
Each individual has his or her own unique way of changing. Some patient’s will put most of the puzzle together before they make a single change. They have to know what the full picture is before they feel comfortable in changing. Sometimes this process happens completely unconsciously. Others are very deliberate, and utilize a great deal of conscious effort in placing each piece and make a shift or change with each piece that is connected.
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