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Does The High Rate of Gun Violence in America Reflect Our Values?

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

How do we understand the prevalence of gun violence in America?

The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in the United States is 101.05 firearms per 100 people. (http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states)

60 percent of U.S. homicides occur using a firearm, which is the 26th-highest rate in the world. In other gun-permeated countries, such as Finland (45.3 guns per 100 people), only about 19 percent of homicides involve a firearm.
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/14/schoo-shooting-how-do-u-s-gun-homicides-compare-with-the-rest-of-the-world)

30,000 people in the United States die every year from gun violence. Education is key in debunking the myth that you are safer with a gun in your home. You may feel safer, but statistics show you are much more likely to be a victim of gun violence when in possession of a firearm. The rates of homicide and suicide are higher when there is a gun at home.

In 1993, in the wake of a San Francisco mass shooting, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence was formed. Each year this organization provides a state “report card”, grading individual states on the strength of their gun laws. Last year, twenty-eight states received an F. Our guest on our last podcast was Mike McLively, a staff attorney for The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. We discussed the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment, how that has impacted our gun laws, and how that affects our safety. … A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html)

Attorney McLively stated that there is substantial evidence that the founding fathers enacted the Second Amendment out of fear of a centralized national military, which would tyrannize the individual states. The Second Amendment was originally intended to counter-balance a central military force, and protect a collective right to bear arms. This remained true up until the 1970s, when the National Rifle Association (NRA) argued that it was the right of the individual. The interpretation of the Second Amendment really changed in the 2008 though, with Supreme Court case, The District of Columbia vs. Heller. This monumental case set a precedent that it was, in fact, the right of an individual. (Vote of 5 to 4)

After this court case, the lines of preexisting gun laws became blurred. What does the right protect? What does it mean? Can government not do anything to regulate firearms? Can they do a little? McLively says that these are all questions that were asked following the case, and continue to be asked today.

Mike McLively urges the importance of understanding that gun control is about gun safety. It’s about making sure that those exercising their right to bear arms are doing so in the most responsible and safe way. We need to shift the framework of the debate, because currently gun control advocates are seen as wanting to disarm the population, and that’s simply not true. In fact, 2008 Supreme Court decision re: interpretation of the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

McLively states that not only proper education and legislation impact our safety when it comes to guns, but so do cultural norms.  Wearing a seat belt used to be unheard of. The first seat belt legislation was enacted in 1968. After three decades, fastening a seat belt is the first thing we do when getting in a car. As a consequence, today deaths from gun violence have risen above deaths as a result of car accidents. Even small changes in cultural norms, like locking up and storing our firearms can make all the difference, just like fastening seat belts did.

If you’d like to learn more about The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, you can visit their website. You can discover more about laws and policies, statistics, and how to take action.

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The Devastating Effects of Domestic Violence on Adult Children: A Call To Action

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

Forty million people in the US experience domestic violence in their home during childhood. That is more than one out of every seven of today’s adult population. On this week’s show, our guest, Dr. Linda Olson, discussed a new topic that the domestic violence community is just beginning to address: adult children who grew up with domestic violence. Dr. Olson talked about the wounds that children of domestic violence internalize, how the wounds affect their development, and how becoming aware of the pain opens a door into healing. This is a very important step forward because many adult children repeat the pattern of domestic violence in their own lives.

There is such shame and self blame involved in growing up with domestic violence that many survivors keep their past traumas secret, never sharing their story with a friend, pastor or therapist, and as a result, are unlikely to heal. Dr. Olson cited that adults, who grew up with domestic violence are six times more likely to commit suicide, fifty times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and seventy-nine times more likely to commit a violent act against another person.

Living with domestic violence at a young age causes lasting effects. Dr. Olson, a trauma specialist, explained that kids think emotionally not rationally, because their brains are still developing, and they are unable to process or deal with their pain. The child internalizes many false beliefs such as: they are responsible for the violence, and therefore worthless because they are not able to stop the violence. Their sense of self is completely undermined by feeling unlovable, depressed, sad and angry. Such beliefs then become their character.

So what can we do to help? Breaking the silence and the stigma is something we can all do. Domestic violence is not a family-only business; it’s everyone’s business. As Dr. Olson pointed out, “Avoidance perpetuates violence”. By not speaking out we become part of the problem.

If we are going to break the cycle of domestic violence and abuse, we need more than just crisis intervention. Individuals who grew up with domestic violence are most vulnerable to become adult abusers or victims of domestic violence themselves.

Two Hearts Ribbon For Hope is a program founded by Dr. Olson to help adult children of domestic violence. When presented with a safe and supportive place with a highly trained staff, victims can begin to share their story to take steps towards healing.

Dr. Olson also recommended a book to our listeners: Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free (Brian Miller, 2014, Penguin Group).
For more information about Dr. Linda Olson, or to contact her directly, you can visit her website. If you’d like to learn more about the program she founded, you can find it at twoheartsribbonforhope.org.

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Sex Trafficking in the US

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

It’s a commonly held attitude in the US that sex trafficking is something that doesn’t happen within our borders. In reality, 100,000 children are victims of sex trafficking in the US every year.  The average age of these victims is 12 to 14. However, it’s not unknown for a girl to be sold to sex traffickers from a very young age (5 to 10) by her parents.

The guest on this week’s show is documentary filmmaker, David Trotter. His film, In Plain Sight, tackles the subject of sex trafficking in the US from a unique perspective. He joined us to discuss the motivation behind the film, and how you can get involved in your community.

In Plain Sight is not the first documentary that aims to educate and spread awareness about sex trafficking. What makes it so unique is the hopeful framing of the film’s narrative. It focuses on six female abolitionists after leaving Aftercare homes. These women are brave and strong, and have transitioned into new lives for themselves. By doing this, Trotter hoped to focus on problems as well as solutions, and how we can all do something.

Trotter explained there is so much that people can do to spread awareness about sex trafficking. The most important thing is to just do something. But, it all starts with proper education. A common perception is that sex trafficking only happens after a kidnapping. The reality is that it is much more likely to occur through parents selling their own children or “boyfriends” coercing young women and girls into sex slavery.

State legislatures are making strides to take action. Trotter explained that Tennessee recently passed a law to protect trafficked minors from being charged with a crime. The problem is that there’s no way to hold them. As a result, it is then difficult to get them on programs or provide services that will help them. Once they are back on the street, they are vulnerable and often become victims of trafficking again.

Trotter made the point that prevention is not just about preventing potential victims from becoming victims; prevention is also about stopping potential traffickers. In the film, a Chicago program called CAASE (Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation) is featured. CAASE teaches boys and young men to have healthy relationships with women through everything from the way they speak to and about women, to what it means to respect them. More often than not these men are not aware of how degrading and cruel their behavior is. They are usually simply modeling their fathers and uncles examples about what being a man is.

Those most likely to be trafficked are those living in underserved areas. Victims are always vulnerable in some way: most have been sexually abused by family members, or grew up in domestic violence homes. Although true, it’s important to remember that sex trafficking could happen to anyone. One in three runaways are picked up be sex traffickers within 48 hours. And it’s happening right here in our own communities.

If you’d like to become a part of the movement, you can start with In Plain Sight. On the webpage, you can learn more about how to host a screening, find the book and film resources we’ve talked about today, and contact David Trotter directly.

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Thinking of Caregiving as an Opportunity for Personal Growth, Not a Burden

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

No matter the path our lives take us, we all eventually find ourselves having to deal with aging; it’s inevitable. This week’s guest, Amy Goyer, discussed the subject of caregiving from a refreshing perspective, offering insight on how aging can be a rewarding opportunity for generational bonding.

Goyer, AARP’s Home & Family expert, has firsthand experience as caregiver – she takes care of her dad, who has Alzheimer’s. However, Goyer insists that he still takes care of her as well – because he’s still her dad. Neither age nor disease will ever change that. Goyer shared how it’s crucial to understand that even when your parents are aging and perhaps beginning to need assistance in different areas of their lives, they are still owed respect and compassion. That’s why making comparisons to how a baby or young child needs taking care of versus the way an aging parent needs taking care of is something that has never sat well with her. Needing assistance is no reason to infantilize or dismiss the relationship cultivated up until that point. Rather, it’s an opportunity for new growth. She urged that you just have to take on an attitude of compassion.

But even with an attitude of compassion, caregivers cannot forget to take care of themselves. Self-care is so crucial, and one of the first things to be forgotten, Goyer insisted. We discussed the importance of not only getting enough sleep so that you can cope, but also eating proper nutrients so that you are energized, and recognizing the role support can play for the caregiver.

The AARP website offers resources for those caregivers looking for support of their own. Specifically, if you go to the Caregiving Resource Center, you’ll find a lot of information as well as online or in-person support options. At eldercare.gov, you can find local Area Agencies on Aging for additional in-person support. And a support group might not fit the needs of each individual – some caregivers may just look for that one friend who they can call in the middle of the night when they need reassurance. It’s important to have that something or someone to support you, so that you aren’t feeling isolated. You need to be able to create joy.

Goyer sees joy as a survival skill for caregivers. She made it a point to convey how it can be so easy to get lost, to get down about things that inevitably happen during the aging process. So, you have to be able to find joy in things. There is so much to be gained, and there are so many simple joys to be experienced if you create them. Being mindful and seeing the value in now can be a game changer.

Goyer made two wonderful videos on the subject: one is about creating joy, and the other is about noticing joy. They are both great supplementary resources for those looking for a new and informed perspective on caregiving, and living as a caregiver.

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Advocacy for Changing Domestic Violence Law

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

USA Today Sports recently reported news about an investigation of NASCAR driver Curt Busch for allegedly becoming excessively violent with an ex-girlfriend. Patricia Driscoll filed charges about a violent and threatening act that she claims occurred on September 26th when Busch was upset after a poor qualifying run for the Sprint Cup elimination race.

Most people may be unaware that purple ribbons are to domestic violence and abuse, what pink ribbons are to breast cancer. The purple ribbon is not widely recognized as a symbol for domestic violence. Women from all walks of life, of all ages, of all races, and in all countries are subjected to abuse.

Professor Leigh Goodmark of the University of Maryland’s Carey Law, a member of the Maryland, District of Columbia and California bars, who specializes in domestic violence law has taught and written extensively on the subject. She believes laws regarding domestic violence need to be changed if our society is to effectively deal with the problem, to help those subjected to abuse as well as their children, and to find ways in the community to promote understanding and treatment to the abuser. We need to address society at large to find ways to effectively confront domestic violence. Research indicates that peer pressure in a community is a powerful influence. If your behavior is not acceptable to your friends and community at large, over time it will deter such criminal activity because we are all looking for connections with others. It’s part of human nature.

Desensitization to violence is frightening, and it permeates our society. Many of us turn a deaf ear to domestic violence, and the excuses for this are complicated and extensive. However, as Goodmark points out, instead of the legal system providing options for women who are subjected to domestic violence, it provides a predetermined procedure that must be adhered to, in which the woman has virtually no control or say. Women are infantilized and treated as if they are incapable of making decisions about their future and the future of their children. They must play the role of the weak and battered woman, if they wish to stand a chance for legal action to be taken on their behalf.

The view most people have of the “battered” woman has to change. Walking out of a relationship is an all-or-nothing option providing no consideration for the length of time the couple has been together, complicated emotions involved in the relationship such as love, dependence, attachment only to name a few of the extenuating circumstances. To think insisting the relationship come to an abrupt end without any consideration to all these other factors is basically ineffective and only serves to create an entirely new set of issues and problems for all those involved.

We must start somewhere. We need to admit that our present method for dealing with domestic violence and abuse is not working. If we put a community based rather than a justice system focus on domestic violence, we have a better chance of being successful because peer pressure and the universal need to be accepted  trumps any punitive law enforcement sanction, and takes a step towards prevention.

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You Can Raise Awareness re: Domestic Violence

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

Every 9 seconds (approximately the time it will take you to finish reading this sentence), a woman in the United States is beaten. Worldwide, the statistic narrows to a third of that—every 3 seconds. There is no standard profile for victims of domestic violence—it affects people of every race, gender, and economic background.

This week, Rita Bailey, Co-Chair of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Partnership Task Force in Darien, CT joined me to discuss how to help raise awareness of domestic violence.

So why aren’t domestic violence awareness efforts more successful? What’s hindering us as a society from really rallying behind this cause? As one listener pointed out, everyone knows that the pink ribbon is the symbol of breast cancer awareness, but how many people know that the purple ribbon is the domestic violence awareness symbol?

According to Ms. Bailey, there are many reasons. One is that we live in a world desensitized to violence, and where violence is put forth as a legitimate problem-solving method. Another huge barrier to domestic violence awareness efforts is the stigma attached to it. Many people view domestic violence as a private, rather than public concern, and blame the woman for staying in the abusive cycle, when the reality is far more complicated. A woman subjected to abuse has her reasons for staying: from financial dependence, to immigration status to a desire to protect her children.

Another factor inhibiting domestic violence awareness efforts is that we as a society lack the necessary vocabulary to appropriately tackle the problem. Consider the language we use in describing those affected by breast cancer, for instance. We say ‘survivor’ instead of ‘victim’. The word survivor carries an inherent positive spin—this is someone who has faced difficulty and triumphed, whereas the word ‘victim’ implies negativity—someone who is passive, who has bad things happen to them.

So what should you do if you witness domestic violence? “Don’t be a bystander,” Ms. Bailey urges. There are a number of actions you can take to stop the violence. The most effective technique, Ms. Bailey suggests, is distraction. This can be as simple as approaching the couple and asking for directions, or saying “your car is being towed.” If you are in a public venue, such as a restaurant or bar, delegate to figures of authority and law enforcement, such as a manager, bouncer, or police officer.

Should you call the police? Ms. Bailey warns that this can be a tricky situation, as calling the police can incite more violence from the abuser. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to report the abuser rests with the abused, so ask the victim if she would like you to call the police. Always address the person being abused, rather than the abuser, with your eye contact and words.
On a grassroots level, domestic violence awareness efforts must start in our homes and schools. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to teach young children what types of actions and words are appropriate and what has the potential to hurt others, physically or emotionally.

How can you create a task force in your local community? Organization is key and having a strong leader and a forum to discuss programs, statistics, and initiatives is essential. The media and police can be very supportive. Also, reach out to your local town representatives. The Darien, CT, Domestic Violence and Abuse Partnership Task Force originated in 2008, with a mission of creating awareness about domestic violence through educational programs and special initiatives, and draws its members from collaboration with the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, the YWCA, the police department’s Special Victims Unit, and other community organizations.

Ms. Bailey generously offers her guidance and support for those looking to build grassroots efforts to raise domestic violence awareness. If you are thinking about starting a task force in your community, you can contact her at ritabailey@aol.com.

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Domestic Violence and Its Health Consequences

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

Domestic violence is an issue that will occasionally make its way into public headlines, as was the case recently with NFL player, Ray Rice; however, the majority of these situations occur behind closed doors.

According to Susan Delaney, founder of the Medical Advocacy Project (MAP) for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center Connecticut and also this week’s guest on Dr. Abram’s podcast, four women are killed everyday here in the U.S. from the hands of their partner.

Ms. Delaney believes that the key to effectively address this issue is to take a holistic approach that entails the services of a wide range of professionals from counselors and law enforcement to the medical community. It should be emphasized that domestic violence is a community problem, not “their” problem. No one can or should confront this challenge alone. We also need to educate the bystander as to how to appropriately respond.

Educating medical professionals in particular has been largely overlooked by domestic violence agencies in the past, which is why current programs such as MAP are encouraging physicians to adequately screen patients. This is important to address because domestic violence can have an immense impact on a victim’s physical health (e.g. diabetes, asthma, heart disease) leading to emotional and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The police and the medical community are often the first point of contact for the victim. This unique position allows the MAP trained professional to properly screen the victim and offer appropriate care immediately, whether it be medical, legal, psychological or a referral to a Safe House. It is essential that the first point of contact be non-judgemental and accepting, increasing the likelihood of the victim to return or follow through on the referral.

It is no secret that domestic violence victims are often fearful to reveal their situation to anyone, but they are more likely to accept help from their doctor if the professional compassionately expresses concern and offers helpful resources. This is why, according to Sue Delaney, it is crucial for medical professionals to: (1) educate themselves on the domestic violence problem, and how to properly screen, (2) become aware of resources within their communities, and (3) create awareness in their offices. Connecting victims to advocates will increase the likelihood that they’ll reach out to attain other services such as counseling by 33%, making it so important for the medical community to become a part of this comprehensive approach.

It is also important, however, for the public to understand why victims often shy away from receiving help, the number one reason being fear of death. When news broke of Ray Rice violently hitting his fiancé, many blamed her for the occurrence. In order to break this cycle of violence we must stop judging and acknowledge that the only person responsible in these situations is the one performing the violent act. Sue Delaney stresses that we must all become a part of the solution and she hopes that the attention the Ray Rice situation has received will have far-reaching, positive consequences for victims, including those behind the scenes.

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, contact the Domestic Violence Crisis Center’s 24 hours hotline at 888-774-2900 or visit their website at www.dvccct.org. People do not choose to be victims of domestic violence but thanks in part to the efforts made by advocates like Sue Delaney, there are resources to help them escape it.

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“37 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Divorce”

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

“37 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Divorce” is a fantastic resource that I recommend to anyone who is considering, going through, or healing from a divorce. Mother-daughter co-authors Francine Baras and Nicole B. Feuer joined me on my radio show to discuss divorce – sometimes referred to as “uncoupling”- and how to do it well. As co-founders of Start Over Smart: Divorce Advisors LLC, they had a wealth of information to share.

Less people are getting married, but for those that do, the often-quoted fifty percent divorce rate remains steady. This indicates that even as the stigma fades, divorce will continue to happen. It appears that the profound complexities of life-long coupling will ensure that a large portion of marriages will end in divorce. So, the question becomes: how do we divorce well?

According to our experts, the average period between the initial thought and the actual filing of divorce is eight years. According to Ms. Baras and Ms. Feuer, this delay is largely fear-based. People are afraid of being alone, of financial independence, and of damaging their children. Our experts empower their clients with the knowledge they need to understand, envision, and accomplish a comfortable post-divorce lifestyle.

Divorce is devastating, even for the partner who initiates it. No one enters a marriage thinking that it will end, and it is practically impossible to go through the process without experiencing acrimonious feelings. Ms. Feuer and Ms. Baras help their clients separate these feelings from the extremely important decision-making process embedded in the legal divorce process. It is extremely important to remember that divorce establishes a new way of life that affects the entire family forever. It needs to be as carefully considered as the marriage itself – if not more so. Many people want to get it over with as soon as possible because it is so painful, but our experts advise that you do not run to an attorney. Once you make that call, you are following a path laid out for you with little understanding of where that path will lead. Instead, use the immense resources available to educate yourself, and do not rush. If you have children, your ex-spouse will be part of your life forever, so do all you can to support each other during this immensely difficult time. Communicate as much as possible, and apologize when you fly off the handle- both to your spouse and to your kids. This will help your family remain a team that can transition peacefully.

A peaceful transition rarely occurs in isolation. There is no reason to go it alone when there are so many resources available! Www.sosdivorceadvisers.com is a great place to start. Our experts also highly recommend support groups- not just during the process, but in the following years, when much of the emotional processing happens.

Divorce is not the best option for everyone. Our experts agree that couples should try their hardest to save the marriage, as statistics continuously illuminate the trauma associated with divorce. However, Ms. Feuer read a study that persuaded her to pursue her own divorce, which found that children raised in conflict zones are far worse off than those raised in peaceful separations. One thing is clear: a divorce process that worsens the conflict won’t benefit anyone! A peaceful separation is difficult to accomplish, but it’s the only kind worth pursuing.

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Demystifying The College Admissions Process

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

Can you define biometrics, cyber security, and petro engineering? I couldn’t. And guess what? Those are three of the hottest ten college majors in the country right now. The college admissions process can be extremely baffling and stressful. How the heck do we guide our children through a process that has changed so drastically since we ourselves went through it?

To de-mystify the college admissions process, Sheryl Santiago – Independent educational consultant and owner of Coll-Edge Partners, LLC – joined me on my radio show last week, with a wealth of information to share with us.

First of all, she addressed that perplexing list of majors I just referenced. College counselors talk a lot about STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. These majors are the most likely to lead to employment, and they are training students for jobs that don’t even exist yet!

Well then how do we help our children decide which of the 2,000 accredited colleges in the US to pursue? Many parents get caught up in the prestige of certain institutions, particularly their own alma maters. According to Ms. Santiago, the name on your bumper sticker hardly matters; what your child accomplishes at school is the most important thing. “The Best College” for your child is where your child will thrive.  So cast a wide net. Research lesser known institutions and be as attuned as possible to what your child wants. What are their strengths and passions? Which campuses did they like the best? Many parents get frustrated by their child’s seemingly arbitrary preferences, but Ms. Santiago reminds us that these preferences are often intangible: students will have a “gut feeling” one way or the other. Listen to your child! This is their experience, not yours.

Ms. Santiago does not recommend applying early decision. In her opinion, a student that is accepted early would probably have also been accepted via the regular admission process. The only difference is that the student who applied early has promised to attend, so they don’t have options, which are particularly important from a financial standpoint. Ms. Santiago has sometimes doubled the gift aid offered by leveraging one institution against another. The prices intitially presented are not set in stone, especially for institutions that are well-endowed. This cycles back to Ms. Santiago’s first piece of advice. If you are realistic about your child’s academic ability and apply to colleges where they will be at the top of the list, they are likely to receive the most gift aid.

For those students who are unsure about their next step and don’t have a competitive transcript out of high school, community college is an incredible option. You can demonstrate your ability as a college student, then transfer to your dream school: transfer rates are much higher than initial acceptance rates. Not to mention the thousands of dollars you’ve saved to acquire the same degree!

The bottom line: have realistic expectations, and stay attuned to your child. This is their decision.

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The Myth of The Post-Racial Society

Posted on by Dr. Annie Abram

Many in our nation are heartbroken and enraged at the killing of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18 year old black youth who was shot to death in Ferguson, MO by a white police officer.

Unfortunately, according to Dr. George Yancy, this week’s guest on my blogtalk radio show, this tragedy will occur again, and again, and again. Young, innocent, black males like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin – (whom Dr. Yancy and I discussed on my show over a year ago) – will continue to die until American society confronts its systemic racism.

We have a long road to walk. Dr. Yancy is a profoundly accomplished scholar on the critical philosophy of race with a PhD from Duquesne University as well as M.A’s from Yale and NYU; according to him, racism is embedded in our culture in a way that the majority of our white citizenry does not – and perhaps cannot – perceive. Many of us view the Michael Brown case as an isolated moment, an aberrant incident rather than a symptom of systemic violence. After all, we elected a black President, didn’t we? We are all saddened by this child’s death, aren’t we? And what if it was an honest mistake? There is video evidence of Michael Brown potentially shoplifting…

Dr. Yancy gives us the ideas and language needed to debunk the above reasoning, but it can be difficult to digest. First of all, the idea that Michael Brown’s killing is linked to potential shoplifting illustrates what Dr. Yancy calls the “niggerization” of the black body. Only a society that views the black body as sub-human, as an automatic and hyper-aggressive threat, could even entertain the justification of a child’s killing with petty thievery. But can we go so far as to say that mainstream, American society dehumanizes black people? Do we truly approach all black bodies with unnecessary aggression? Dr. Yancy gave us some historical and psychological context to process this.

We all know about slavery of course. But have you ever heard of Mary Turner, a pregnant black woman who identified her husband’s lynchers in 1918? She was tied to a tree, upside down, and burned to death. Her stomach was sliced open and, when the fetus fell to the ground, a white man smashed its skull with his boot. What about Claude Neal who, in 1932, was accused of rape? He had his genitals removed and stuffed in his mouth, was made to say he enjoyed it, and then his fingers were cut off and he was burned all over with a hot iron. Let’s use some modern examples: in 1999, Amaduo Diallo was shot 41 times while reaching for his wallet; Jordan Davis was shot for listening to music – in 2012. Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are victims of the continuous brutality toward African Americans by white people in power. White racism is a fact. And it asserts itself even in our most basic neurological patterning.

Ever heard of neuronal mirroring? Dr. Yancy referenced studies done with MRI machines that recorded the activity of mirror neurons.  If a human (or a monkey) observes another human performing an activity, her mirror neurons will fire in a way that mimics the brain of the person performing the activity.  When white people were hooked up to the machine and shown a black person performing a task, no mirror neurons fired: it was as if the person was staring at a blank wall.

If you are interested in learning more, Dr. Yancy recommends a few of his books. One that profoundly affected me was: Black Bodies, White Gazes. There’s also: “Look, a White!”: Philosophical Essays on Whiteness and Pursuing Trayvon Martin: Exploring Race in Predominantly White Classrooms, which Dr. Yancy edited with his colleague Janine Jones. Dr. Yancy also invites us to email him at: georgeandsusany@aol.com .

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