The Psychology of Racial Profiling

By Dr.J

shutterstock_198665327Recent events, including the shooting death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed African American man in Ferguson, Missouri has re-awakened us as a nation to the continuing problem of race-based violence and racial profiling across the United States. These painful events brought needed national attention to the ongoing problems and complex inter-relationships of race and violence in this country. Sadly, our nation has a very long history of racial violence that has not been adequately treated and thus it persists. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defines racial profiling as a form of discrimination adding that discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion or nationality undermines our basic human rights. I can recount the times that I’ve been stopped by the police in my car or followed in the store. One incident stands out in my mind. It occurred in the spring of 1993 as I was driving home from college. I was stopped by the police for speeding. However, a second police car was called to the scene and if that wasn’t enough, they called for the drug search dogs. Why? I guess because a 19 year old African American female looks suspiciously like someone who would be transporting kilos of cocaine in their sports car. Nevertheless, they found nothing and I was released without even a speeding ticket, because I had not been speeding. So…..what happens when a person has been a victim of racial profiling?

Victims of race-based or anti-minority group aggression know that they have suffered. Yet they incur further psychological damage when despite an attack happening in the glare of daylight it goes unacknowledged.

Shame and guilt about unacknowledged hate and fear– and their denial– lead to emotional numbing and insecurity when in the presence of the majority (White Americans) population. These psychological factors in turn can restrict reason and judgment and may contribute to untempered aggression.

Patterns of racial profiling and race-based violence have a severe deleterious effect on the self-esteem of black youth who realize they are often seen as an ominous, unwanted “other”, no matter how pacific and innocent their activity. It leaves us to wonder, do young black men and young black women feel they have value in this country?

What needs to be done?

  • Promotion of a sense of individual responsibility and “speaking out” against racism. Observers and bystanders must not be silent.
  • Confrontation by the majority group of its unconscious prejudices and blindness to the effects of these prejudices on minority groups and on themselves. The majority’s role in minority problems must be actively examined and acknowledged
  • Begin a national conversation about race, violence, and the related unresolved traumatic history in our country, bringing together minority and non-minority children and adults in neighborhoods, schools, churches and other communities.
  • Educate teachers, pastoral care professionals and community group leaders to look for depression and behavioral problems in minority children who have been exposed to racial violence and profiling.
  • Train law enforcement personnel in sensitivity to the psychological vulnerability of poor and minority populations.
  • Examine state and local laws to see if they are designed to promote dialogue rather than to encourage violent confrontation.

We all need to remember that we are Michael Brown, and remember that whatever city we live in, is Ferguson.#JustiecforMikeBrown

Young woman driving car image available from Shutterstock.



My Love Hate Relationship with Women in Reality TV

By Dr.J

shutterstock_108249626I must admit, I watch the cocktail sipping, Range Rover driving and high end shopping of the Real Housewives franchise and the ridiculousness of Love and Hip Hop. But before you agree or disagree, let me explain why I watch these shows. I love the unscripted format of reality television because it displays exactly-not considering the editing-how the cast lives and behaves on a daily basis. As a psychologist, I can appreciate the fact that these individuals are not being given a piece of paper and being told what to say. They haven’t had a script and weeks to memorize lines and practice in the mirror. They are giving us as viewers the unfiltered versions of who they are. Now, those were the positives, on to the reasons why I absolutely loathe the women on reality television. My discontent with the women in reality television is based on my personal and cultural objective of empowering women. I don’t think that wearing expensive clothing, living in large homes, driving certain cars or engaging in public verbal or physical conflict with other people helps women to be the best “them” that they can be. In fact, there are three areas that simply make me cringe every time I see it occur.

  1. Comparison

Women have enough ways in which we already compare ourselves to other women, based on appearance, vocabulary, etc. Do we really need to add in cars and clothes? By and large, most people watch reality TV so that they can compare their lives to others. If the women on the show travel to Mexico on vacation, they can say that they aren’t doing so badly because they travel to Mexico too. If the relationships on the show consist of hitting, throwing drinks and spitting in faces, then they can say that their relationships aren’t so bad because they don’t include that type of physical conflict.

  1. Relationships

The relationships displayed on reality television serve as a comparison for the amounts of and type of conflict in their own relationships. Thus, if your template for a romantic relationship includes intense drama and instability, your own relationship dysfunction might not seem so bad, although it actually is very bad and unhealthy. If the type of relational drama on reality TV is what is normal for you, you may be less likely to accept the quieter form of satisfaction that comes with a committed relationship.

  1. Objectification

Shows like “The Bachelor” showcase a regressive view of relationships by allowing women to compete for a relationship and saying “pick me, pick me” in hopes that they are chosen by the bachelor. From the slut, the airhead, the backstabber, and the Angry Black women often portrayed, the type of behavior portrayed on reality television has set the feminist movement back at least 30 years! The objectification of women is both common and accepted. Women are objectified – this means we are seen from the outside and our thoughts and feelings are overlooked. The more recent waves on feminism focus on sexuality and family; however, the latest wave of Black feminism challenges racism and sexism directly. I can’t think of a better example of sexism than “The Bachelor.” Women shouldn’t have to be seen as a slut or an Angry Black woman to gain attention and ratings. Nor should any woman have to compete for the prize of becoming a man’s wife. Check out how one woman rejected the opportunity to showcase the Angry Black women stereotype. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/19/laverne-cox-girl-fight_n_4992454.html)

I hope that as women, we demand better programming regarding reality television so that our children will see various images of women on television and not just a few dysfunctional images.

realitytv

Real Housewives image available from Shutterstock.



4 Things That We Can Learn From Maya Angelou

By Dr.J

mayaAfter reading numerous articles, books and internet posts regarding the impact of Dr. Maya Angelou, I couldn’t’ help but reflect on the elements of her life that we can learn from.

 

 

  1. The Value of Friendships.

Alvin Ailey, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. Any one of these individuals would have made the “I wish this famous person was one of my friend” list, but all of these and let’s not forget Oprah. Oprah makes everyone’s imaginary best friend list. As the old saying goes, “in order to get a friend you have to be a friend.” So we must assume that Maya Angelou was a phenomenal friend because she managed to remain in the company of many people that have had a significant impact on the world. This all suggests that she had an energy that drew others to her.

  1. Don’t be Afraid to Laugh, Live and Love hard

Her past vocations include a streetcar conductor, business manager of prostitutes, cook, singer, dancer, university administrator, newspaper editor, producer, market researcher, activist, writer, poet, teacher, composer and actor. That’s a very long list of jobs for only an 86 year time frame. What is fascinating about Maya Angelou is that she was never afraid to take a chance at love and life. She changed jobs based on the circumstance and wasn’t afraid to take on new and different titles. She was married twice and lived in various parts of the world. During those times she was courageous in her zest for love, life and people with various backgrounds.

  1. Overcoming Devastating Situations Can Propel You Into a New Level of Greatness.

We all know that she was raped at the age of 8 by her mother’s boyfriend. After telling her brother, her extended family subsequently learned of the rape. Shortly thereafter that man that raped her was beaten to death. As a result, a young Maya felt as though her voice had killed him. Thus, she decided not to speak for the next 5 years. However, after having been influenced by a teacher and friend of the family, she was introduced to many great pieces of literature. She later turned this devastating time of her life into her first autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The work highlights her quest for independence, dignity, self-love and identity. We’ve all encountered trauma in our lives, but it is how we rebound from that trauma that defines us.

  1. Mentoring is Crucial.

Of course her most famous mentee is Oprah Winfrey. But what about the countless lives that she touched over the years? Some of which we may never know who they are. Maya Angelou has mentored us all indirectly as a result of her influence on Oprah Winfrey, the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil, Brene Brown and countless other entities that have enlightened us through the years. Her works are often used in college and graduate programs to initiate discourse on race and privilege. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is a pivotal element in the Black feminist writings because it was one of the first pieces to give voice to the experience of both being African American and being a woman. As a result of the significance of her works, Maya Angelou will continue to mentor generations forever.

 

In many cultural traditions, it is crucial that we honor our ancestors. Let’s honor Maya Angelou by treasuring our friendships, living life to the fullest, turning our trauma into greatness and participating in mentoring. Either serve as a mentor to someone in your community or reach out to someone that you admire and let them know that you would for like them to serve as your mentor. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ and we all agree that Maya. Angelou has taught us well.

Maya Angelou image available from Shutterstock.



Friends with Benefits

By Dr.J

 

I just returned from my college reunion where I spent the weekend with over 500 of my college classmates. I can safely say that I laughed harder in 48 hours than I’ve laughed in all of 2014. It was wonderful and I’m convinced that the feelings will carry over into the rest of my year. The laughter and positive emotions that I experienced over the weekend was therapeutic for me.

Let’s look briefly at a few of the benefits of laughter. In a 2006 study conducted by Dr. Lee Berk, findings revealed that beta-endorphins (the family of chemicals that alleviates depression) and human growth hormone (HGH; which helps with immunity) – increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video. Using a similar protocol, that same research also found that the same anticipation of laughter also reduced the levels of three stress hormones. Cortisol (termed “the stress hormone”), epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine), were reduced 39, 70 and 38 percent, respectively.

In other words, the benefits of experiencing the happy times are beneficial but, simply looking forward to a happy experience may also be good for you. This study adds to research that has been showing for years that laughter really is good medicine. I can recall the anticipation that I felt during my travel to the college reunion. The feelings were powerful.

Frendship

People who have satisfying relationships have been shown to be happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. Friends may even defend against dementia. Researchers suggest that regularly visiting friends or relatives could significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, friends can really enhance both the quality of our lives and length of our lives.

National Friendship Day is August 3, 2014. But, don’t wait until then. Let’s make every day National Friendship Day. Let’s all agree that instead of feeling down, alone or angry we simply make more of an effort to connect with our friends. Whether it’s a road trip, a telephone call, text message or Face Time, let’s attempt to connect with our friends more. Remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships or reconnect with old friends. After all, laughter and love are the TRUE benefits of friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

American Physiological Society. (2008, April 10). Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Our Stress Hormones, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080407114617.htm



Bring Back our Daughters and Sisters

By Dr.J

On April 15 in northern Nigeria over 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped, 50 escaped but 276 are still missing. The girls were kidnapped by an extremist Muslim group called Boko Haram. Boko Haram is known as “Nigeria’s Taliban.” The group’s name means “Western education is forbidden.” These girls were the smartest girls in their families and villages and were expected to do great things in their villages and in the world. So far, the Nigerian government has done next to nothing to recover the girls.

The attack in Nigeria is part of a global backlash against girls’ education by extremists. Extremists threw acid in the faces of girls walking to school in Afghanistan. And in Nigeria, militants destroyed 50 schools last year alone.  According the Polaris Project’s 2013 statistics, an estimated 20.9 million men, women and children are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labor around the world today. Victims are trafficked both within and across international borders.  Within our own US border, 76.6% percent of human trafficking victims are female (National Human Trafficking Resource Center). This is both a national and international crisis that needs to be addressed.

As a mother of two sons, I shudder at the thought of the horror the kidnapped girls are going through. I think of the trauma these girls are most likely facing presently. We are all connected by our shared humanity; beyond culture, tribe or nationality. We need to stand up, the best way we can so that authorities can take the appropriate action.

If we can’t fight for our daughters and sisters, then who shall we fight for?

dont buy girls

Use #BringBackOurGirls on social media to show your concern over this outrage.



Introducing Diary of a Therapist

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Even amongst people with a mental health issue or a mental illness, there remains discrimination. Women and many other minorities suffer from additional hurdles when seeking treatment, or when asserting their rights in treatment. Television often portrays minorities — and minority women especially — in a certain light that’s all too often unflattering or plays into well-worn stereotypes.

That’s why I’m pleased to present our newest blog, Diary of a Therapist with Jameca Falconer, Ph.D. Dr. Falconer will help explore these complex issues on this blog from her experienced perspective as an accomplished counseling psychologist, educator, entrepreneur and civic leader. You can learn more about her diverse and rich background here.

Please give Dr. Falconer a warm Psych Central welcome!



 
 

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