Saw a client today who on the surface just seems to embrace every stereotype of an aggressive/violent man. I could have treated his violent tendencies through behavior modification. I could have used narrative therapy to explain that “men shouldn’t tell their wives to shut up — ever!” like they taught in grad school. I could have taken all kinds of moral high roads with the man. None of these things would get to the heart of the matter. Though his wife was White and he was… not… It became clear that somebody had called him “stupid” at some point in his life, and when she had said the word “stupid” talking about something else (not him), he had lost it.
Standard question: “who called you stupid in your past?”, assuming the answer to be a family member. Nobody in the family. Some body at school when you were a kid? No. “Nobody saw race when I was a kid. We all knew all kinds of kids.” “So somebody — where? at work? said something about… race?”, I asked. “Yeah. Everybody did”he said, and this very angry man described incidents of racism from 20 + years ago… and brought the list up to the present day. As he did, you could see the anger leave his body.
It turns out his child followed in his footsteps and — though he has white skin– his name badge indicates something else. His colleagues are using racial epithets around him all the time. His kid is in therapy, too, for depression.
Today, between clients, I watched a police tape of a shooting in Chicago. There must have been ten cops in the video and the driver was going very fast through an apparently suburban neighborhood. I had expected to see — as we all have now — dozens of time, cops shooting a Black guy while he lay in the street, or as he ran through a park. Turns out in the video (from a chest cam), I couldn’t see the suspect’s color. But I saw all the other things I just described. Turns out he was Black — and they knew that. Clearly, the law was broken or some code of conduct by the police was broken or some procedure wasn’t followed. If that’s not the case, no one should ever go to Chicago.
The choices here are: 1) The police are horribly violent in Chicago with no reason or 2) The police are horribly violent in Chicago with some reason. That reason is race, according to the protestors who interrupted a police press conference.
If I put these two stories together, I get this: daily hammering away with words about who somebody is — or thoughts or actions like it– create anger and then creates rage. It happens so much that people of color assume if that many cops shot a person, that person must be Black. He is.
It’s not the riots that get to people — the odd bursts of anger here or there — it’s the day-after-day whittling away at someone because of their color or culture or looks or whatever that destroy a culture. Then we tell them not to get angry, that they’re all just making it up. White folks, at least in this area do and say stupid things all the time re: race or culture, and they don’t even notice it.
But after 24 hours a day of this, we tell them their experience isn’t true, that it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them, because they are angry all the time. Want to depress someone, or make them feel crazy? This is how you do it. The way out of depression (anger turned inward) is by getting angry (anger turned outward) and that’s not allowed because it’s a sign that they’re bad… and the circle goes around and around.
Put 20 depressed/angry/feeling crazy people in a place and you’re setting them up to vent their anger, now called a riot.
This must end. Justice must happen. We white folks need to change the way we think and act if we don’t want riots to happen, our friends to die unnecessarily, and our country to implode on itself.
We need to start believing the experience of people of color. We need to grieve, because these are our sisters and brothers and our friends who are dying. We need to do something differently because what we’re doing and people of color are experiencing just isn’t right. Period.