Measuring the Effects of Racism

 Everyone likes history these days, and January 6, 2021 was historic. Some say it will go down in infamy, a humiliation. Foreign leaders are saying that this is not America, meaning this is not democracy. But it is America. 

There have been marches on Washington before, the most effective perhaps in 1963, predating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Look at these photographs for a second. Over 200,000 people attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to send a message: workplace inequality is unAmerican. 

Same march
Martin Luther King-- it's his birthday  pretty soon, know why the kids are off of school

Then, of course, we have pictures from Wednesday, Trump supporters barging the Capitol to take it back. This is ours, I heard one say. Another: This is a peaceful protest

Yet we see them breaking windows and bullying the Black guard at the door, terrorizing him as he backs off, farther and farther, up, up, up those wide stairs. There are hundreds of them, we're told by the newspapers, perhaps minimizing the count. Maybe not. It is their right to support the president. 

I want to give the benefit of the doubt, as always, to understand. They did not have any classes on narcissism or anger and follow him as a messiah. He is the only one, it seems, who has listened to the needs of this demographic and validated each of them, they feel, individually. They are not happy that he is no longer the president. They only see their pain and a country divided, us against them, and the impossibility of loss. The election had to have been stolen. How could Donald Trump have lost when he said he won? A dream, even if it is a confidence game, is very hard to lose.

Proud Boys apparently came in droves, proclaiming this the new 1776, the new revolution. We're all aware of armed militias in the back hills of America. It is a scary moment. We can put our heads in the sand or give them better paying jobs, a better education (for free). Isn't this the source of their malcontent? Having less than those who make a lovely passive income on Wall Street? It would be generous to say this, rather than to think that this is about racism and ethnocentrism, bringing one's self up by putting other people down.

I don't have any answers, am hoping that the younger generation, the new members of Congress will give it some thought.

Lets look at a few pictures. 

Destroying cameras and equipment 

The videos show protesters throwing camera equipment to the ground. 

Looking up at what I'm watching on television, FD says to me: Journalists love this stuff. 

WE love this stuff and we hate it. But some of us love it as a strange, surreal distraction. Anything not to have to think about Covid 19. 

FD is treating this stinking virus, you know, treating the community. I am beside myself and not vaccinated, yet I want to do Kincare- watch a new grandchild for a couple of days a week after my daughter goes back to work. She took off to have the baby, a good time to get out of healthcare, but worked the frontlines for six months last year. Oh this past year! That 350,000 Americans have died from Covid is devastating, and the numbers keep rising. The protesters call it a hoax. How death can be a hoax is confusing to me, and I wonder, which story will go away faster, the one about people dying from that hoax or the new revolution, the new 1776.

What drives people to break cameras? 

Many of us have had more time to read lately, and there are books strewn all over my living room about racism. The better ones are novels I get from the library, like Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and Americanah, the 2013 novel by the Nigerian author  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Aaron Bady, a book blogger has a few other recommendations.

Scholars say the same thing, that race is a non-word. There are not separate races. We're all of the same race, the human race.  We have different skin-tone. That's pretty much it. 

Isabel Wilkerson, in CASTE: The Origins of Our Discontents (so good) speaks of a pecking order established before there even was a United States of America. In August 1629, a letter from early settler John Rolfe describes Africans sold to English colonists, people who looked different, who would be assigned by law to the bottom of an emerging caste system. Rolfe describes them as merchandise. 

In the decades to follow, writes Wilkerson, colonial laws herded European workers and African workers into separate and unequal queues and set in motion the caste system that would become the cornerstone of the social, political, and economic system in America

There's an obvious parallel to the caste system in India. 

An entire chapter of the book illustrates how Adolf Hitler learned how to institutionalize racism from the good old USA. He praised the near genocide of Native Americans and their exile to reservations, and found the American custom of lynching African-Americans and ritual torture/mutilation, impressive. Seeking alternative models in other white-dominated countries Hitler could find no other that punished interracial relationships, miscegenation. The best example of caste is the United States of America. 

Oh yes, he learned from the best. 

Let us look at Measuring the Effects of Racism: Guidelines for the Assessment and Treatment of Race-based Traumatic Stress Injury, just one more book, and a few take-aways. Unlike most social scientists, Robert T. Carter and Alex L. Pieterse immersed themselves in racial-cultural studies to present themselves as experts in biracial custody cases, equity issues in schools, racial discrimination and harassment, and consumer racial profiling. 

To impute the negative psychological consequences of trauma, experts in mental health are armed with the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the DSM, the definitive judge of mental disorders. Features of the syndrome PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, identify the specific effects of  external events, some as intentional acts (beating a child), some not (hurricanes).  

Carter and Pieterse recognized racial trauma as different and constructed the Race-Based Traumatic Symptom Scale. 

This should be of interest to therapists, right? No matter our color, we work with people who have been excluded or bullied for no other reason than their skin color, and we feel the pain but are one-degree (at least) of separation to it-- unless we are also persons of that color. We know it is different from anything that we will ever experience, even if our parents did, perhaps, as concentration camp survivors. 

No matter how we are treated, white privilege is exactly this, the absence of race-based trauma. If someone slurs us racially, calls us a honky, gin jockey, gubba, pig or whatever the epithet, it is an unusual random event. It is not what people of color experience, always events. An example I like goes like this: 

An Black American tells her White American spouse that they will have to explain to their little girl that if she needs help on the street that she shouldn't go to the police. White skin-colored people don't think twice.  

We therapists have no idea how deeply our clients have been affected. Do we simply ask? How? Do we pull out the Race-Based Traumatic Stress Scale? There is much to be learned about treating racial trauma. I'll write more about it in another post.

Now what about the actions of the mob in Washington, the peaceful demonstrators who occupied a building in our capital, much like tree-lovers occupied the red-woods in the other Washington, and those who occupied Wall Street. Isn't possession nine-tenths of the law? Isn't that all they're saying? We are here, look at us. See us. We live here, too.

Sure, sure. We see you. Now you. Do the same. See everyone else, too. 



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