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).
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