Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Old, Black and Alone: A Grim Forecast

by Rodney Brooks

More African Americans are facing retirement without family members to help an increasing number of African Americans are facing the prospects of a life in retirement without family members to help them with finances and health issues, according to a recent report.

The report, 'Projections of White and Black Older Adults Without Living Kin in the United States, 2015 to 2060', says the number of older vulnerable African Americans without family members is increasing and will continue to grow.

This forecast takes on added significance because African Americans have much lower retirement savings and more serious health issues than white Americans, in general, including considerably higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer-related deaths.

Elevated Risks That Come With Living Without Close Kin

“Family members provide the majority of social support for most older adults, but not all individuals have living family,” the report says. “Those without living close kin report higher rates of loneliness and experience elevated risks of chronic diseases and nursing facility placement.”

The report says the trend of growing old with no living relatives is being driven by the rise in “gray divorce” (the divorce rate among people 50+ increased by 50 percent between 1990 and 2010), declining marriage rates and the aging of the growing population.

Ashton Verdery, assistant professor of sociology and demography at Penn State University and co-author the report, says the steeper rates among African Americans are driven mostly by higher rates of non-marriage and childlessness and because mortality rates are higher among African Americans at every age.

The Bleak Forecast for African Americans

The numbers of older people without any living close kin is rising among African Americans and whites, the report says, but the numbers are growing much faster for African Americans. 

For example, in 2015, 0.8 percent of white men 50 and older and 1.1 percent of white women 50 and older were living without close kin. Those numbers are projected to double by 2060 to 1.9 percent for white men and 2.2 percent for white women.

However, the increases will be much larger among blacks. The percentage of black men over 50 without any living close kin in 2015 was 1.9 percent; for black women, it was 2.2 percent. Those percentages are projected to rise to 5.6 percent and 7.3 percent respectively in 2060.

That means there will be 1.2 million older black men and 1.6 million older black women with no living kin by then, the report says. “Our findings draw attention to the potential expansion of older adult loneliness, which is increasingly considered a threat to population health, and the unequal burden (a lack of family) may place on black Americans,” the report says.

Financial Hardships From Being Old, Black and Alone The effect can also lead to financial hardships

“People without families have a higher rate of loneliness and they don’t have access to the short-term loans that families can give,” says Verdery. “A large body of research suggests the ability to rely on a family member for even a small amount in loans a couple of hundred dollars because a heating bill is higher can really bridge things.”

Because of the racial difference between whites and blacks in wealth the average wealth of white families in 2013 was more than $500,000 higher than that of African American families — African Americans are more likely to need such loans. “And that fact that on average, they are more likely to not have any family may be concerning,” said Verdery.

Implications for Long-Term Care

He said aging alone also has serious implications for residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. “Having family members come in and check, or someone double checking what doctors are doing, is a beneficial thing,” Verdery noted. “We may need to have more programs that check on people, particularly those without family.”

A Challenging Financial Future

These issues all point to a challenging future for African Americans, already plagued by low retirement savings and lower monthly Social Security benefits than whites, in general.

“We (African Americans) are not saving enough money in defined contribution plans [like 401(k)s], and not saving money in the right places in these plans,” says Aaron W. Smith, a financial adviser in Glen Allen, Va. “And when we cash them in, we don’t know how to plan a strategy to create that lifetime of income, because we don’t know what we need to outlive our assets.”

Charles Winfrey, founder and senior adviser at The Rollover Co. in Nashville, says even if African Americans have enough savings today, “the challenge is that longevity will not be in your favor.” 

The longer you live, he notes, “the more you are affected by the cost of living, taxes going up and rising health care costs. You may be OK today. But do you have a plan to deal with health care costs, inflation and taxes?”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Black History Month: 7 Ways Slavery Still Psycho-Behaviorally Impacts Black People Negatively

From my perspective if one thinks the influences of Black enslavement is over due to the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and Civil Rights legislation (1965) then one has a limited perspective.

Though legal - physical slavery is over mental slavery is far more insidious, enduring, and manifests itself today psycho-behaviorally in self-limiting, self-containing, self-ashaming, and self-defeating ways.

7 Ways Slavery Still Psycho-Behaviorally Impacts Black People Negatively:

1. Names and Identity Disorder

Just as Kunta Kinte was forced under the lash to change his name in the novel and movie Roots, Black people both in America and Africa were forced to take their European slave masters’ names. Arab enslavement in Africa resulted in forced name impostion.

Currently, most Black people still carry European or Arabic names, which is a direct link to our enslaved identity. Unfortunately today too many young Black adults and teens identify themselves as being 'Niggas' a racist derogatory name from slavery.

Moreover, many young Black males not only identify themselves as Niggas, they also integrate the names of White Mafia mobsters and Latin American drug cartel kingpin figures names into their own names. Also, too many young Black males identities come from street gang affiliations.

There is a poigant scene in the classic movie Boyz From The Hood, where the star of the movie 'Tre' was talking in class and the teacher singled him out telling him to come up front and teach the class. Tre goes to the blackboard and pulls down a map of Africa and says we all come from here, a young Black male in the class immediately responds by saying “Nigga I aint from no Africa, I'm from the Crenshaw Mafia” (gang set).

2. Religion

More powerful than the European and Arab names that were forcibly imposed on Black slaves, was the religious imposition of Christianity and Islam. The Catholic Church used Christianity to justify enslaving Africans and used it to control Blacks on the plantation.

They used the imagery of a white Jesus as the Son of God to show the white man as God 'All-Knowing' and 'All-Powerful'; the white man is an awesome embodiment both as the 'Enslaver' and 'Savior'; that Blacks must accept a 'for
cibly imposed' Jesus for their salvation to get their rewards in heaven after death.

Regarding Islam, many parts of Africa were already under Arab Islamic 'conquest' control prior to European Christian colonialism; Muslim Africans were captured by European slave traders and brought to America. 

Today you have Black Christians turning toward the 'Vatican' and 'Jerusalem' as the sacred lands; Blacks that are Muslims turn toward 'Mecca' in Saudi Arabia as the sacred land. What about Africa being Blacks sacred land, it's our birth place and the birth place of civilization and monotheistic religion?

Black people have been taught under the domination of the religious 'supremacy' and 'exclusivism' of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that these are the 'only' religions that God accepts! That Judaism - 'Jews' are God's chosen people, that Christianity - 'Jesus Christ' the Son of God must be accepted as Lord and Savior to enter the kingdom of heaven; that Islam - 'Prophet Muhammad' must be accepted as God's last and final Messenger to enter paradise. 

Thus as a Black person practicing any Traditional African Religions or New World African Religions is inferior and doom to go to hell; so our salvation in the afterlife is in following the religions of Jews, Europeans, and Arabs

John Henrik Clarke stated: "Anytime someone says your God is ugly and you release your God and join their God, there is no hope for your freedom until you once more believe in your own concept of the 'deity'." 

The majority of Blacks forcibly brought to America and enslaved came from 4 Traditional African Religious (TAR) centers: Bakongo, Yoruba, Akan, and Vodun, most Blacks today no nothing of their Traditional African Religious heritages. 

Historical research shows that most enslaved Blacks during slavery did not identify themselves as Christians because they practiced an integrated and modified version of Traditional African Religion in the new world known as 'Hoodoo' a natural spiritual healing system.

In the Book “Slavery, Civil War, and Salvation: African American Slaves and Christianity” by Daniel Fountain, successfully challenges assumptions regarding the ubiquity of Christianity amongst Black slaves and suggests that the Christianization of most African Americans occurred after Emancipation.

It was during the Reconstruction Period when white Christian missionaries helped finance and build new churches and schools for freedmen which created a tremendous conversion of ex-Black slaves to Christianity. Without slavery there would be no Black Christians in America!

3. Food

The diets of many Black people who in live in the Diaspora are a direct result of slavery. The slave masters generally consumed the lean and fleshy parts of farm animals, and left the scraps for the enslaved. Enslaved Africans were forced to incorporate those leftovers such as chitterlings, hog-maws, ham-hocks, pig nose, pig ears, pigs feet, and other bad foods into their daily meals.

Those unhealthy foods from slavery are still part of the diets of many Black people today along with the high consumption of fast-food and junk-food. This diet is harmful to the body and are the cause of chronic illnesses that plague our communities including Strokes, Heart disease, High blood pressure, Diabetes and Obesity.

Currently African American adults are nearly 1.5 times as likely to be obese compared with White adults. Approximately 47.8 percent of African Americans are obese (including 37.1 percent of men and 56.6 percent of women) compared with 32.6 percent of Whites (including 32.4 percent of men and 32.8 percent of women.

4. Economic Dependence

Before Arab and Transatlantic slave trade, many African economies flourished and were the foundation of stable, developed societies. Mansa Musa, who was king of the great Mali empire in the 14th century, was the richest man on the planet, worth $400 billion dollars, which is more than any black nation’s annual GDP today.

In the post Civil Rights era, Blacks tend to invest the majority of their income in communities outside their own to the detriment of their daily lives and well-being. 

Today Blacks have purchasing power of over a trillion dollars, almost all of this buying power goes to non-Black businesses; for every dollar Blacks spend only 2 cents is spent with Black businesses resulting in 'economic suicide'. We've become consumer slaves believing other people need our buying power more than we do; we've become financially insane!

5. Language

Currently the official language of many people who are African or African descent is either European or Arabic. Whether it was during the 8th century Arab invasion into north Africa or the European colonization and slave trade that began in the 15th century, foreign languages were forced upon Black people and have been the legacy for generations.

Today Black youth are encouraged to learn second languages like French, Spanish, Chinese, Japenese, and Arabic, but are not encouraged to learn the Pan African language of Kiswahili. Around 5 million Africans speak Swahili as a native language and a further 135 million speak it as a second language.

6. Self-Hate

The slave masters used Machiavellian systems to mentally break the enslaved Africans. While validating themselves as superior, they used every propaganda tool within their power to teach Black people to hate themselves. The results still have major impact on the psyche of Black people today - our hair being an example.

On the slave plantation Black women were told they had 'bad hair' nappy and wooly; taught to be ashamed of their hair. During slavery, Black women with lighter skin and curly hair were more likely to be house slaves, whereas Black women with darker skin and kinky hair were relegated to the fields with 'Mamies' being the exception.

Since slavery Blacks have consistently altered the natural texture of their hair or worn wigs to cover up their hair. The Black revolutionary movement of the 1960's to the middle 1970's was the greatest period of promoting and wearing natural Black hairstyles.

Just look around today and see the majority of Black women wearing long hair wigs and weaves. I hear Black women give all kind of reasons why they prefer long hair, but the bottom line psychologically from my perspective is they subscribe to a white long-hair beauty standard 'consciously' or 'unconsciously'

How often do you see White women, Korean women, Arab women, or other non-Black women wearing braids or natural Black hair styles – rarely or never!

7. Family

The destruction of the Black family unit through the slave master’s intrusive sexual exploitation of women and other evil designs, evolved into a volatile moral code for Black people. 

On plantations enslaved Black men were not men 'fathers', only the white plantation owner was the 'godfather', enslaved Black men were not fathers, they were 'breeders'. Enslaved Black fathers had no ultimate control over their children; they could not protect their children from the master's harsh discipline or prevent them from being sold.

When enslaved Black males turned 15 years old and younger in some cases they had their first inspection. Boys who were under-developed, had their testicles castrated and sent to the market or used on the farm. 

Each enslaved male was expected to get 12 females pregnant a year. The men were used for breeding for five years. One enslaved man name Burt produced more than 200 offspring, according to the Slave Narratives.

A weakened Black family emerged from slavery, as a consequence today over 70 percent of African-American children are born to unmarried women in America. That number is an astonishing residual effect of slavery; such large numbers of Black children born to single mothers is clearly the wrong model. 

Too often I hear young Black women and older referring to Black men as 'sperm donors', just a new term for Black men as breeders. There is a growing trend where Black women in lesbian relationships are sexually manipulating Black men in sperm doning so they can have a child and get child support. 

Indeed, Black men are increasingly viewed as marginal in the new version of the Black family of 'man-less' households. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Self-Care for Black People 101: Options Outside of Church and Therapy

by Risa Dixon

Living while Black is a term that is used to describe the reason why vast numbers of Black people face injustices and prejudices at an alarming rate.

The tragic results of these continual situations in the lives of Black people have led to increased amounts of depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

The two solutions that continue to be presented as ways to cope are seeking solace in a higher power or going to therapy. But what if those two options don’t work for you? What else can Black people do to battle depression?

When we hear the terms ‘depression’ or ‘therapy’ the phrase ‘white peoples problems’ pop into the heads of many in the Black community. Depression is an issue that continues to either get swept under the rug, ignored or treated as a momentary emotion that will eventually pass. 

These notions have led to more Black people hiding their mental illness instead of dealing with their issues head on. According to Mental Health America, adult are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than whites. 

We have already seen too many situations in the Black community that led to suicide because someone was depressed but never expressed it to a single soul. 

The fact of the matter is, not everyone believes in a high power, practices a religion or can afford therapy. These people still deserve options that will help them deal with depression in a constructive way, a way that they can turn into a lifestyle practice.

Below are suggested solutions to dealing with depression:

*Meditation - It has been proven to reduce stress, increase happiness, acceptance and self-awareness.

*Enhance your self-esteem - Read uplifting Black books that provide you with self-appreciation.

*Daily Journaling - Journaling assists in clarifying your thoughts and feelings, reducing stress and solving problems more effectively.

*Exercise - Regular exercise improves your mood by triggering endorphins in your brain and helps to boost energy; walk for full body exercise.

*Finding group activities to partake in - Sites such as Meet-up, Living Social and Groupon have a plethora of engaging group activities to partake in to lift your mood. You also can find groups of people who either suffer from the same issues as you or are just as passionate about particular topics as you are. Being around people like this will help you to feel less alone in your struggles. It can expose you to a community that you didn’t know existed. Do volunteer work!

*Picking up a new hobby such as playing an instrument or painting - Making music has been proven to be a powerful antidepressant.

*Join a grassroots organization dedicated to uplifting the Black community and combating systematic racism - If one of the reasons or the main reason for your depression is racism or the socioeconomic status of Black people, then join a local grassroots organization or nonprofit whose mission is to improve conditions for Black people. Being proactive about solving issues that threaten your mental stability can assist with the loneliness your depression may cause. It also can give you a sense of purpose and meaning for your life.

*Unplug from the news and social media - Black people are bombarded with images and news of dead Black bodies, discrimination and injustices towards the Black community on a daily basis. Studies have shown that ingesting all of this negative media can lead to severe depression. It is crucial to unplug from it all and focus on the things that bring you joy.

*Go outside and get some sunlight - Studies have shown a link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression. The natural way to get this crucial vitamin is going outside and basking in the sun.

*Adult coloring books - I know this may seem funny at first, but experts have said that adult coloring books help to alleviate anxiety and depression. I can personally attest to the calming effects of coloring books. Whenever I feel my depression or any kind of stress creeping up, coloring is one of the things I do to deal with it. Adult coloring books have become a new trend and are easy to find. Some even have positive affirmations that go along with every image. There are many Black-owned businesses that sell them at affordable prices. Depression continues to carry a stigma in the Black community, but that stigma is killing Black people. Experts state that the majority of African-Americans still look at depression as a personal weakness instead of a mental illness.

In all actuality, it shouldn’t be referred to as ‘white people problems’ because Black people have been dealing with major depression dating back to slavery. During those times, spirituality and community were how we stayed strong. Depression was considered just another part of Black existence and that notion carried on to future generations.

In the current political and social climate living while Black has become more and more difficult. A study showed that more Black people are suffering from PTSD simply from watching media coverage of Black men, women, boys and girls being unjustly killed.

It is essential to our well-being as a community to address mental illness head on and provide various solutions to combat it. When we say “Black lives matter,” it should mean every aspect of Black life.

Prayer isn’t always the answer and there have to be alternatives when therapy isn’t accessible. Ignoring an epidemic never made it go away.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

African Americans Don't Sleep as Well as Whites an Inequality Stretching Back to Slavery

By Benjamin Reiss

When we study racial inequality, we tend to consider factors that affect people while they are awake. Differential access to safe neighborhoods with good schools, decent jobs and unbalanced treatment by police and the courts surely have much to do with the stubborn disparities in wealth and well-being among blacks and whites, in particular. 

Yet it may be just as important to consider what happens when we’re asleep. Race shapes our sleep, a relationship that has surprising roots deep in our national past.

African Americans suffer from a sleep gap: Fewer black people are able to sleep for the recommended six to nine nightly hours than any other ethnic group in the United States; compounding matters, a smaller percentage of African Americans’ slumber is spent in 'slow-wave sleep' the deepest and most restorative phase of sleep that produces the most benefits in healing and cognition.

Poor sleep has cascading effects on racial health disparities, including increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 
The racial sleep gap is largely a matter of unequal access to safe, reliable and comfortable sleep environments, and this sleeping inequality has a long history. 

For centuries, whites have tacitly accepted and even actively created such inequality. Aboard the ships of the transatlantic slave trade, African captives were made to sleep en masse in the hold, often while chained together.

Once in the New World, enslaved people were usually still made to sleep in tight quarters, sometimes on the bare floor, and they struggled to snatch any sleep at all while chained together in the coffle.

Slaveholders systematically disallowed privacy as they attempted round-the-clock surveillance, and enslaved women were especially susceptible at night to sexual assault from white men.

Poor sleep has cascading effects on racial health disparities, this includes increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One might think that slaveholders, looking out for their bottom line, would be interested in ensuring at least a modicum of restful slumber for their enslaved workers.

The social reformer Thomas Tryon made this argument in 1684 when he wrote of “inconsiderate masters” who compel the enslaved to work so hard that they were often so “overcome with weariness and want of proper Rest” that they would “fall into the fierce boyling Syrups” of the sugar pots.

Ensuring proper rest, he wrote, “would add much to their Profit” as well as to the slaves’ health. Yet just as often, slaveholders justified overwork and minimal rest as a positive good, in the process elaborating curious theories about the supposed natural differences between the races.

Thomas Jefferson, for instance, opined that black people simply “require less sleep” than whites. And while he noted enslaved people’s propensity to drop off quickly at the end of a long day, he convinced himself that a rapid descent into sleep was evidence of inferior intellects (rather than insufficient rest).

White people, he observed, could keep themselves up late into the night to pursue intellectual or creative endeavors, whereas Negroes were deficient in the powers of “reflection” that allowed them to do so: “An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of course.”

Louisiana physician Samuel Cartwright, who conducted a widely disseminated study of the medical condition of slaves, also believed that differences in sleeping were evidence of the natural supremacy of the white race.

Cartwright claimed that black people at rest instinctively smothered their own faces with blankets or clothing, impeding the flow of oxygen to the brain, and that this obstruction permanently stunted their intellectual development.

As for slaves who wandered exhausted across the plantation, he considered this a special kind of black-people disease known as “dysaesthesia aethiopica.” The cure, Cartwright counseled, was “hard work in the open air” and increased discipline on the part of the slaveholders.

The killing labors, constant anxiety and wretched sleeping conditions of slavery no doubt produced chronic fatigue, and yet Jefferson and Cartwright perversely identified exhaustion as the problem and hard work as the cure.

Such cures were often administered at the end of a whip. As Frederick Douglass put it in his memoir, “More slaves were whipped for oversleeping than for any other fault.” Douglass went as far as to suggest that keeping the enslaved population in a state of constant fatigue was a useful tool in breaking their will.

Douglass wrote that, on Sundays, he regularly found himself “in a beast-like state, between sleep and wake” that made it impossible for him to act on the “flash of energetic freedom [that] would dart through my soul.” Sinking back to the ground, he would simply mourn over his “wretched condition.”

What remains of this history is a profound confusion as to the causes and effects of our racial inequalities. Out of Jefferson and Cartwright’s pseudo-scientific racism, the stereotype of the “lazy black man” was given medical legitimacy: Exhaustion was seen as a character trait requiring more hard work, rather than an effect of a fractured sleeping environment and extreme physical and emotional duress.

To this day, opportunities for sound sleep are distributed unequally among the races, while the effects of such disparities are frequently misidentified. For example, minority students who perform poorly on tests, appear apathetic or act out in school are often blamed for lack of will or poor values, when in fact they may be irritable, depressed, or unfocused in large part because they’re tired and stressed.

An ongoing study by psychologist Tiffany Yip of Fordham University examines the joint effects of ethnic discrimination and sleep deprivation on African American and Latino youth; her preliminary findings suggest a vicious cycle in which experiences of discrimination lead to poor sleep, which in turn leads to higher levels of anxiety, lower engagement in school and deepening problems of self-esteem.

Some pediatricians, psychologists and public health advocates are beginning to understand that detection, prevention and treatment of poor sleep is an important aspect of improving the educational performance of socioeconomically disadvantaged children.

Little public attention, however, is given to the more pervasive problem of unequal sleeping conditions that is borne of our troublesome racial history.

Slave quarters are now tourist attractions, but the descendants of enslaved Africans are still more likely than whites to live in inhospitable sleeping environments.

As public health scholar Lauren Hale points out, African Americans tend to live in noisier and more dangerous urban environments than whites; such environments may lead to shorter and shallower sleep.

African Americans are also more likely to have undesirable or unpredictable work schedules than whites, which leads to chaotic sleep schedules. 

Increased risk of hunger as well as fear of violence or of harassment by police make a good night’s sleep even harder to obtain. Langston Hughes described American slavery as “the rock on which/Freedom stumped its toe.” 

As we attempt to address the inequities of wealth, education, health, and incarceration that persist across the color line, we would do well to remember that these problems were formed by night as well as by day. 

If we want to close that gap, we’ll have to confront Hughes’ stubborn rock, which for too many serves in place of a pillow.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Blacks and Shame-Based Living

by Kenny Anderson

I wrote this article reflecting back on the racist shooting massacre of 9 Blacks in Charleston, South Carolina that took place in a Church two years ago this month (June 17, 2015).

As Black folks we must constantly remember this date like we must constantly remember the date September 15, 1963 when 4 Black girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama by a white supremacist bombing attack.

Recently, a Black man
Kiese Laymon wrote an article based on a conversation he had with his grandmother reflecting back on the Charleston murders. 

Laymon said his grandmother who had never talked about the racism she experienced growing-up in the South mentioned about all the work we did to forgive white supremacy, hoping then to be chosen by them and by God. That Black churches have taught us to 'forgive' white people but we learned to 'shame' ourselves.

In the article conversation Laymon had with his grandmother he stated:

“We will lament the numbers of folks killed in mass murders in the United States. There’s a number for that. We will talk about the numbers of people killed in black-on-black murder. There’s a number for that. We will never talk about the number of unemployed and underemployed hard-working black folks living in poverty. We will never talk about the numbers of black folk in prison for the kinds of nonviolent drug-related offenses my white students commit every weekend. We will never talk about the number of human beings killed by young American military men and women draped in camouflage, or the number of human beings murdered by drones across the world. We will never talk about the specific amount of money this country really owes Grandma and her friends for their decades of unpaid labor. We will never talk about the moral and monetary debt accrued by the architects of this Empire. There are shameful numbers for all of that, too.”

Indeed, from my perspective I fully agree with Brother Laymon that we as Black folks for the most part don’t want to see, hear, or talk about the atrocities of the slavery ‘Black Holocaust’ and the continued racist oppression we face.

Yes, we feel ashamed when Black enslavement is discussed, in a distorted self-blaming sense we don't want to talk about slavery as though we enslaved ourselves; that we are our own worst enemy, we just want to forget what we've done to ourselves - don't bring it up! 

Not only were we told to 'forgive' whites for our enslavement without 'reparations', we want to 'forget' about slavery too. Too many Blacks view our enslavement suffering in America as an embarrassment 'ashamed of it', yet Jews 'honor their suffering' under Hitler's Nazism vowing 'never again' - they are 'empowered' by its remembrance. Unfortunately too many of us feel 'powerless' about our enslaved memory to the point that most of us don't observe Black History Month.

When the movie 12 Years of a Slave was out in theaters I asked many Black folks that I know had they saw the movie, some said they didn’t want to see it because it would make them angry, but most who said they didn’t want to see it did not give a reason, for me the unspoken reason was shame!

Long before Brother Laymon’s talk with his Grandmother and long before the movie 12 Years of a Slave, I grew up in the 1960’s (Detroit, MI) around adult Black southern migrants - parents, relatives, and their friends who never discussed their experiences growing up in the racist ‘Jim Crow’ south. I learned about their lives in the South through the Civil Rights struggle exposed on television news coverage.

Like my parents generation who covered-up their Black experiences, most folks of my generation that I know admit they haven't talked to their children and grandchildren about their Black experiences; have not really discussed racism, thus 'shame non-communication' socialization continues which often leaves our children 'racially ambivalent'.

Often today when I visit family, relatives, and friends and bring up any discussion of racist Black oppression, folks get immediately uncomfortable and defensive, some will even say I don’t want to talk about ‘that Black stuff’, some are even harsher saying I don’t want to hear that ‘Black shit’.

I told them that you won’t hear white people say I don’t want to hear that 'white stuff' when it comes to their issues; you won’t hear Middle Easterners say I don’t want to hear that ‘Arab shit’

This attitude of 'not trying to hear no Black stuff' is shameful; shame in the sense of not addressing the varied problematic socioeconomic issues that we face due to racism; shame of not being responsible to ourselves; shame of not doing what we should be doing.

Unconsciously, Black folks are ashamed ‘covering up' - avoiding discussing their experiences with racism in the past and present; the roots of the word shame derives from a word that means ‘to cover’.

Black shame is similar to wanting to hide our faces behind our hands, wearing a mask desperately trying to 'escape' from dealing with racism or 'pretending' that everything is okay. The more powerful our experiences of shame are, the more we need to hide those aspects from others and even from ourselves.

A part of who we are as a Black person or how I feel must now be disowned, silenced, or hidden at all cost, and I essentially become estranged from a part of myself.

At the heart of Black shame is a feeling that we are exposed either to others or to ourselves. No other feeling is more disturbing or destructive to the self. Black shame is stressful, it's 'inner-enslaving' and toxic!

Black Shame

Black enslavement in America is a dehumanizing legacy; a socio-psychological transmission of an internal sense of Black inferiority, inadequacy, and unworthiness. This shameful legacy has led us to continue to feel as though our whole self is flawed, bad, and subject to exclusion.

Malcolm X once said the greatest crime of slavery was the white man taught Negroes to hate themselves; this self-hatred caused the ‘toxic shame syndrome’, he expounded on this hate induced shame:

"In hating Africa and in hating the Africans, we ended up hating ourselves, without even realizing it. Because you can't hate the roots of a tree, and not hate the tree. You can't hate your origin and not end up hating yourself. You can't hate Africa and not hate yourself. You show me one of these people over here who has been thoroughly brainwashed and has a negative attitude toward Africa, and I'll show you one who has a negative attitude toward himself. You can't have a positive attitude toward yourself and a negative attitude toward Africa at the same time. To the same degree that your understanding of and attitude toward yourself become positive, you'll find that your understanding of and your attitude toward yourself will also become positive. And this is what the white man knows. So they very skillfully make you and me hate our African identity, our African characteristics. You know yourself that we have been a people who hated our African characteristics. We hated our heads, we hated the shape of our nose, we wanted one of those long doglike noses, you know; we hated the color of our skin, hated the blood of Africa that was in our veins. And in hating our features and our skin and our blood, why, we had to end up hating ourselves. And we hated ourselves. Our color became to us a chain - we felt that it was holding us back; our color became to us like a prison which we felt was keeping us confined, not letting us go this way or that way. We felt all of these restrictions were based solely upon our color, and the psychological reaction to that would have to be that as long as we felt imprisoned or chained or trapped by Black skin, Black features, and Black blood, that skin and those features and that blood holding us back automatically had to become hateful to us. And it became hateful to us. It made us feel inferior; it made us feel inadequate made us feel helpless.”

You won’t find 'disorders of shame' as a category in the DSM-5 (the official American manual for mental health diagnoses), and yet shame is probably the biggest single driving cause of most Black psychological problems - an ongoing source influence of 'internalize oppression'.

Excessive feelings of shame are at the heart of much Black psychopathology. It is concealed behind guilt; it fosters low self-esteem; it lurks behind anger; it fuels Black-on-Black violence; it can be disguised as despair and depression; its demoralizing and breeds apathy; it influences addictions and suicides.

As Black people we rarely talk about shame experiences; shame is a difficult emotion to detect, especially as it comes in so many disguises. Many Black people with shame develop an obsession with becoming someone other than who they are - 'wanting to be white' in some form or fashion.

For many Blacks their entire life becomes a flight from self and a desire to merge with the ideal white image standard by altering themselves. They want to be free from Blackness and embarrassing traits, but can only hope to achieve this by cutting off a part of who they are.

Unfortunately, the distancing solution they are seeking - the problem they are trying to escape are two sides of the same coin. The more they pursue to become other than their Black self, the more they increase their judgment on who they really are. Shame and the pursuit of overcoming shame are thus often one and the same.

The problem is of course that we cannot run away from our past, nor can we heal the wounds of shame by simply trying to run away from our self. Shame will always follow us as our shadow unless we attend to it and address its root cause.

Moreover, Black shame may lead a Black person to make negative attributions about other Blacks that are disguised attempts to restore a positive self-view or hide negative self-perceptions in order to escape shame's self-diminishing effects. Thus a Black person attempts to bolster their own view of themselves by finding flaws in others so that they become the ones who are shameful.

This view of flaws in other Blacks also has collective self-sabotaging consequences; it fosters doubt and distrust that undermines racial 'Unity' preventing us from uniting to struggle for 'political self-determination' and 'economic self-reliance'.

We can continue to choose to be injured victims of our Black 'shame wound' or try to defeat it through a courageous battle that includes psycho-healing: improving our sense of self-esteem, increasing our feelings of worthiness and belonging; fostering greater self-acceptance; and reducing unhealthy reactions to shame such as avoidance, defensiveness, and attacking.

Countering Black shame-based living is the process of transforming daily who one is and how one feels about oneself; it doesn’t come from changing who one is, but rather from truly embracing, knowing, becoming, developing, actualizing, and honoring who one is.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What is Black / African Centered Psychology?

Definition from the Association of Black Psychologists (ABP)

African Centered/Black Psychology is a dynamic manifestation of unifying African principles, values and traditions. It is the self-conscious "centering" of psychological analyses and applications in African realities, cultures, and epistemologies.
African Centered/Black Psychology, as a system of thought and action, examines the processes that allow for the illumination and liberation of the Spirit. Relying on the principles of harmony within the universe as a natural order of existence, African Centered/Black Psychology recognizes: the Spirit that permeates everything that is; the notion that everything in the universe is interconnected; the value that the collective is the most salient element of existence; and the idea that communal self knowledge is the key to mental health.
African Centered/Black Psychology is ultimately concerned with understanding the systems of meaning of human beingness, the features of human functioning, and the restoration of normal/natural order to human development. As such, it is used to resolve personal and social problems and to promote optimal functioning."

                      Dr. Kobi Kambon on Black Psychology


10 African American Psychologists You Should Know

by Barry Wallace Jr.

kenneth-clark-1-sized1. Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-2005)
Contributions:  Work essential in case of Brown v. Board of Education. In the famous “Doll Study” he studied the responses of more than 200 Black children who were given a choice of white or brown dolls. His findings illustrated that children showed preference for white dolls from as early as three years old. Thus, he concluded segregation was psychologically damaging which played a role in the Supreme Court decision in outlawing segregation. Additionally he was the first black president of the American Psychological Association.

url2. Francis Cecil Sumner (1895-1954)
Contributions: First African American to receive his Ph.D. in Psychology. Helped establish the psychology department at Howard University to train African American Psychologists. Sumner completed vast amount of research which counteracted racism and bias in psychological studies of African Americans. Some of his students went on to becoming leading psychologist in their own right, for example Kenneth Clark.
Mamie-ClarkColumbia3. Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983)
Contributions: Her work with children showed that African American children became aware of their racial identity at about three years old. Many of these children began to see reflect and internalize the views that society held about them. She also found that many African American children who were tested and informed they had a learning disability or disabled were diagnosed incorrectly due to biased psychological testing.
url4. Inez Beverly Prosser (1891-1934)
Contributions: She was the first African American woman to receive her Ph.D. Her dissertation examined the academic development of African American children in mixed and segregated schools. Her findings showed that African American children fared better socially and academically in segregated schools. Specifically she found that African American children from integrated schools experienced more social maladjustment and felt less secure, a barrier to their learning. She spent the last seven years of her life teaching at historical Black colleges.
images5. Robert Lee Williams II (1930-Present)
Contributions: He was a founding member of the National Association of Black Psychologist and served as its second president. He created the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity by utilizing African-American vernacular and personal experience. This test showed that African Americans weren’t intellectually inferior to European Americans, but the differences in speech and experience can skew IQ results. Also, he created the term Ebonics to refer to the African American vernacular English.
url6. Albert Sidney Beckham (1897-1964)
Contributions: He is regarded as the first African American to hold the title school for Juvenile Research and Chicago Bureau of Child Study. He brought together ministers whose parishes included families of students he was working with, allowing for the first time a church-neighborhood-school relationship in the community that benefited African American youth.
images7. Kobi Kambon (aka Joseph A. Baldwin)
Contributions: Served as the president of the Association of Black Psychologists from 1982-1983. He does research in the areas of African American mental health and psychological outcomes of racial-cultural oppression of African Americans in American society. He developed several measures of African-centered worldviews and philosophies. His works examine how deviations from African-centered worldviews can have detrimental effects for African Americans in the US.
url8. Beverly Daniel Tatum (1954-Present)
Contributions: She’s widely recognized as a race relations expert and leader in higher education. Her areas of research include racial identity development and the role of race in the classroom. Her book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” examines the development of racial identity. She argues racial identity is essential to the development of children.
url9. Joseph L. White (1932-Present)
Contributions: Helped found the Association of Black Psychologists and establish the first Black Studies Program during the 1968 strike at San Francisco State University. He wrote “Toward a Black Psychology” and argued that whatever the future of race relations and the destiny of Black people, the creation of a Black Psychology was necessary because psychology created by white people could never adequately apply to define African Americans. He pointed out that the application of white psychology to African Americans often led researchers to incorrectly conclude that African Americans were lacking and less than.
hcanady10. Herman George Canady (1901-1970)
Contributions: He was the first psychologist to examine the role of the race of the examiner as a bias factor in IQ testing. His master’s thesis discussed the role of race of the examiner in establishing testing rapport and provided suggestions for establishing an adequate testing environment in which African American students could thrive. He was instrumental in founding the West Virginia Psychological Association, the West Virginia state board of psychological examiners, and the Charleston Guidance Clinic.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why Are So Many Black Kids Dying From Suicide

By Alex Zielinski

From police brutality to health care gaps, there are countless forms of systemic violence that impact black communities. But there’s one quieter, overlooked threat that’s begun to have a deadly impact on black children: mental health stigma.

The rate of black youth committing suicide has never been higher. A
2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that for the first time, the suicide rate of black children in between the ages of 5 and 11 had doubled between 1993 and 2013  while the rate among white children had declined.

Suicides by hanging nearly tripled among black boys in particular. These findings were so surprising to researchers that they spent an extra year re-analyzing data just to double check themselves, only to find the same results.

We must combat the notion that blackness has to be synonymous with pain. And while white people still have the highest suicide rates in the country, suicide rates among black youth have increasingly grown over the past decade. The most recent census data found that black youth are killing themselves far more frequently than their elders  and suicide has become the third leading cause of death for black people between the ages of 15 and 24.

These sobering numbers reveal how mental health problems have been quietly chipping away at the young black population over the past decade. However, in many black communities, community health experts say mental health remains a deeply stigmatized “white people problem,” or
a personal weakness, rather than an illness. And little is being done at the community health level to shift this perception.

Jessmina “Minaa B.” Archbold, a social worker and mental health resource for New York youth living in poverty, is hoping to change that.

In 2014, Archbold began an online story-sharing project for people struggling with addiction, inspired by her own work in the field. After hearing so many stories of stigmatized mental issues in the black community, she helped the project morph into a platform for black girls to talk openly about mental health.

The project, called Respect Your Struggle, quickly became a place for black girls and women to work toward unapologetic acceptance of their unique battles with mental health issues.

To Archbold, the biggest challenge in getting her audience to embrace their health challenges is shattering the stigmatized labels that surround it. “People hear ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression,’ they are told medical diagnoses, they see white people on the internet sharing their stories of battling mental health — and they think ‘Oh, that’s not me’,” she said.

So instead of instantly assigning people to a clinical label,
Respect Your Struggle shares relateable stories from other black women and offers holistic ways for women to practice self-care  framing it as a strength-building process as opposed to an illness.

This approach is merely a first step in a bigger effort to do more community mental health outreach in black communities, work that Archbold said shouldn’t stop at black girls. In a white-dominated industry, Archbold said it’s vital to also educate professionals on how to relate to black youth battling mental illness.

“People need to be with someone they feel safe around, who have a sense of understanding of the pressures they face,” she said. Ideally, Archbold said, this would be another black person. Many fellow experts in her field agree that increasing the numbers of black doctors and social workers could help black communities feel more comfortable about accepting health care.

Trusting health professions has never come easy for black communities. Haunted by destructive clinical experiments by white doctors  like
Alabama’s Tuskgeegee study, in which federal researchers misled black men into participating in a study that tracked their untreated syphilis   and findings of present-day unconscious racism within the medical system, it’s not surprising why.

I found my own strength through facing my weaknesses. Without them I would be powerless. “There’s a history of medical experts violating black people’s trust. They’re not eager to relive that. Seeking that care is looked down on in black communities,” said Kimya Dennis, a professor of sociology and criminal studies at Salem College, who has studied the factors contributing to suicide among black youth for several years.

“A lot of families rely more on spirituality to heal. Going to a professional would be a betrayal of faith — regardless of your faith base,” she said.

This deep distrust in medical professionals could leave children, who may be dealing with serious mental health, undiagnosed or untreated  leading to long-term neglect. To combat this, Dennis said some organizations should set up mental health screenings in predominantly black churches to approach people in a comfortable space.

If parents do decide to seek professional help for their child, Dennis said many are quickly deterred by the cost in the current health care landscape. The uninsured rate among black Americans is
persistently higher than the rate for white Americans.

Plus, more than 50 percent of the county’s black population lives in the South, where few states have expanded their Medicaid programs to reach more people living just above the poverty line. For many, lacking insurance could be the deciding factor between getting their child on recommended medication or continuing to ignore a serious mental illness.

Dennis agrees that addressing the heavy stigma associated with mental illness in the black community, especially within families with children, is key to moving forward.

“We must combat the notion that blackness has to be synonymous with pain,” said Dennis. “Some people believe that to be black means to be permanently outraged. We want to be the people who can overcome any trauma. But it’s not that simple.”

A lot of families rely more on spirituality to heal. Which Archbold has struggled with herself. She openly identifies as a strong black woman. But as someone who quietly battled thoughts of suicide in her teens, she’s hesitant to fully embrace this label.

“For black people, ‘strength’ means being too proud to accept help. It means taking on a heavy load of stress and suffering silently. It’s become an unrealistic stereotype among black girls,” she said. “I found my own strength through facing my weaknesses. Without them I would be powerless.”

She’s seen this struggle in the faces of many black girls raised  like her  in a black community where emotional weaknesses were looked down upon, and believes it’s time to shift the long-ignored stigma.

Archbold said this strong pride that black communities have in their ability to endure should actually embolden them to seek care. The strength of her ancestors fighting for equality paved the way for allowing black people to access mental health resources.

“This is 2016. Our ancestors didn’t have the resources we had today, they didn’t have Black Lives Matter, they couldn’t speak out about their health problems,” she said. “We can no longer be blinded by our pride. It’s time we redefine what these terms we want to represent really mean. Then we can see change.”