During Recent Lecture in Buffalo Dr. Umar Addresses Gun Violence

Buffalo is in the grip of a gun violence epidemic. And like cities across the country, Black, Brown and Beige communities are being disproportionately impacted. We applaud the local organizations and groups which have formed to try to stem the tide  – and wherever possible  – eliminate   gun violence.  Just last week Tina Sanders and the No More Tears Group led a “United Against Violence Community Walk.”  Among those who participated were the Buffalo FATHERS Group, Buffalo United Front, Stop the Violence Coalition, Mad Dads, Back to Basics, MVP, BILA, WAVE, Teens In Progress, Betty J. Grant and more.                    

Our communities deserve the right to live free like any other community; free  from stray bullets and young victims laying in the streets or innocents dying in their homes as a result of  the madness (Condolences to the family of the latest victim, 12 year old Badraldeen “Badr” Mohamad Elwaseem who was killed April 6 by a stray bullet  while sitting in  his living room watching tv).

Dr. Umar Johnson

While  we understand and agree that more opportunities,  building social capital, education,   reducing housing  and job disparities etc. (and not stricter policing) , may be helpful;  equally, if not more important,  is that we take a deeper look at the root causes of why our young men feel they have to pick up  a gun and kill somebody to settle an issue.

The most critical challenge we face as a community is saving our children and securing their future.  To quote an African proverb: “Our children are our future. Our life after death.”

Noted Pan-Afrikan lecturer Dr. Umar Johnson, a Doctor of Clinical Psychology and Certified School Psychologist who is considered an expert on the education and mental health of Afrikan and Afrikan-American children, spoke with The Challenger prior to his April 6th  speech  at St. Luke AME Zion church last Saturday.

  Following are excerpts from that interview during which he addressed   the issue of gun violence among young Black men:

“A lot of this violence is the rage against the  reality  under which our young people live and Black people in general,” began Dr. Umar.  “Oppression creates violence by the oppressed against other oppressed people.”

“We are socialized to be conditioned to never even think about inflicting violence on our oppressor –  it never even crosses our mind….we know who the source is but we’re socialized to let it out on each other because the only people we can hurt and get away with are other Black  people…you’re not going to get away with hurting anyone else.”

“The stress of oppression,” he continued, “ creates pain, and that negative energy is generated from carrying around all that pain: the  pain of unemployment, pain of   fatherlessness, pain of  poverty, pain of hunger, pain of sex abuse etc. – all that negative energy is constantly looking for an expression. Energy cannot be destroyed it can only be transformed . That degree of negative energy inside of one’s body is extremely toxic and dangerous…so anyone  who’s filled with pain is  looking to release it at all times.”

“We also feel that by putting someone else in pain we’re going to feel better…it’s not true but it’s human nature to think that…..but that does not work in the spiritual world – the psychological world. That pain will still be there after you’ve hurt someone because you haven’t addressed the source of that pain  which takes us to mental illness in the Black Community.

All Black people have a mental illness because of what we’ve been thru….the intergenerational  Maafa  (Black Holocaust of enslavement) – that pain of our ancestors is still with us…the pain of previous generations is still with us and then the pain that our own personal individual life experiences have brought  is still with us…we keep all of that – so you have all of  this pain from centuries…because you see we’ve never had a period of healing… Black people have been through the worst trauma in human history and never had a period of healing afterwards…We went straight from enslavement to Reconstruction…Jim Crow…Civil Rights…Black Power…Post Civil Rights… Bill Clinton etc.  “

“It’s  been 155 years since the  end of  formal slavery, legally  sanctioned slavery …and we’re starting to see now, in my opinion, the AFTERSHOCK . All this that we see now in my opinion, is the delayed onset of post traumatic slavery disease.’”

In mental illness the manifestation of a disorder is a delayed onset.

“I believe what you see today  155 years  after the  end of slavery is the delayed onset of our   post traumatic slavery disease.”

As a people, he said, many of us are “ totally dysfunctional,” he continued,  but we cannot tell because the two major  symptoms of mental illness   he explained is  one, the inability to perceive ones reality appropriately/accurately and two, denial.

In  order to  address the Black on Black violence there are a number of things we have to deal with,  including what he  called “economic castration” and poverty.

The economic castration of the Black male is  the reason why the gun is so attractive he stated. “So if you are a man and the definition of manhood is power…the ability to control circumstances and situations… and you’re looking for any way to exercise power to give yourself a sense of  manhood,  an attractive yet tragic way to compensate for powerlessness may be to take a life of another person…to be able to pick up a gun  which gives you the power   to end another human beings life. 

“That’s why the Black on Black homicide…the fractricide  the self-inflcted extermination is so appealing to oppressed Black males, “ continued  Dr. Umar

The surge  – that “high,” he said in the moment may make  you feel powerful but like a sugar rush, “It’s a false high.”   

“That’s  exactly what gun violence does to the psychology of the Black male – in the moment you took that life you feel powerful….I am a man….it takes you  all the way up till you end up in jail, or even if you don’t get caught    the reality that you just hurt another Black man in  the same situation you’re in drops you down into a deeper depression than you were in already.”So what can we do as a community?

When  it comes to Black men and fratricide  said Dr. Umar, “The message is clear. America isn’t going to do anything to reverse  the tide of Black on Black genocide because America created it …With that being said, the Black community –which is a $2 trillion community, is going to have to  create  economic opportunities for our men ourselves…we have the  economics …the money to be able to do that…  Black  people have to redirect their spending habits and that’s  the  problem, because oppressed people, people with low self-esteem  mostly  spend their money to make themselves feel better about who they are,.. so many Black people’s spending habits are a  symptom of our post traumatic slavery disease. So until we recreate our economic  priorities we won’t be able to save the Black male.”

Additionally, we have to deal with the mental illness, he said and made it clear that he was not suggesting going to  psychologists and psychiatrists  for pills, warning   “the same people who created your problems cannot solve them.” For starters  he said we need to create among ourselves  safe spaces that are confidential  where Black people can talk because we have so few places we can go to let out the pain. “ We need to share. The mental illness is significant…there’s nothing you can do without addressing the  pain.

“So economics is one aspect, emotions is another aspect  and thirdly,  we have to fight back against the machine because White supremacy is constantly coming  up with new strategies and new techniques  to improve upon its marginalization of  Black men and Black women for that matter …we have so many different  groups of people in trouble”  he said,  referring specifically to  our children pointing  out the high rate of incarceration among Black women and the large numbers of homeless teens and black youth who have never been shown any love…and all they have is nothing but hurt.

“The pain is so strong, that even the band aids are being torn off and if the Black community  doesn’t  start creating our own solutions ourselves, our children will turn on us, they will purge us,” he concluded, because they would have lost all respect for us. 

Dr. Umar Johnson is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology and Certified School Psychologist who is considered an expert on the education and mental health of Afrikan and Afrikan-American children. He  is author of the book “Psycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education and ADHD Wars Against Black Boys.” He is currently working on building his new school, The Frederick Douglass & Marcus Garvey (FDMG) International Leadership Academy, America’s first residential academy for Black boys founded upon the principles of Pan-Afrikanism and International Economics. In the future, Dr. Umar also would like to extend this school to include female students in their own residential school. To donate  towards the    restoration of the FDMG (Frederick Douglass Marcus Garvey Academy ) send check or money order to:FDMG Academy, PO Box 9634 Wilmington, Delaware 19809. To donate by cash ap go to cash.me/$fdmgschool