Trump vs Hillary or Trump vs Obama?

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“This whole effort from Trump is to erase Obama, that’s what’s really going on here. They are trying to erase him as an entity”

Bonnie Greer

I went to see ‘The Hotel Cerise’ a play written by Bonnie Greer, and afterwards attended a discussion of the themes within the play involving Bonnie and the rest of the cast. This play was so much more than an adaptation of a Chekhov play that it was billed as.

The play came about when Bonnie was making a radio piece about African-Americans in World War II and she met this black woman, an older lady, who said “we didn’t worry about segregation in those days because we had enough money so that we didn’t have white people around at all. We didn’t have to get on the buses, we didn’t have to do anything”. Bonnie was intrigued by this class of black people who were insulated from segregation and racism and wanted to put that story on stage.

In the post play discussions it was noted that there were a couple of African-American estates which African-Americans built so that they didn’t have to worry about segregation. There was something called the ‘Chitlin Circuit’ which was a collective term for venues throughout the eastern, southern, and upper midwest areas of the United States that were safe and acceptable for African American musicians, comedians, and other entertainers to stay and perform in during the era of racial segregation. Performers like Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Smith and Louis Armstrong couldn’t go to a white hotel to stay so places like the Hotel in this play, the Hotel Cerise, offered them what they used to call ‘a vacation without aggravation’ so they didn’t have to worry about racism whilst they were on the road.

The family in the Hotel Cerise,  the Mountjoys, were given money by their white ancestors so they were able to build a Chitlin Circuit refuge. The play is set in modern times where the Hotel still exists but times are a changing with new blood coming with new ideas. Bonnie wanted the audience to think about how skin colour is such a drama in the United States, that you can’t think about anything else, you can’t get to think about nuance. She wanted to get through the door of skin colour to find human beings. She simply wanted to start with characters as human beings and end with human beings.

Of note on the stage, on the mantelpiece, was a picture of Obama. Bonnie talked about Obama and how two terms are not enough for him to do what he needs to do to overcome some of the fear associated with the black other. Bonnie believed that Hillary Clinton will be an extension of the Obama administration, Obama’s third term. That’s why they (The Trump campaign and others) are trying to stop her. This whole effort from Trump is to erase Obama, that’s what’s really going on here. They are trying to erase him as an entity. She noted that the killings of black men in America that has sparked the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is a re-enactment of this and part of erasing Obama’s legacy. Bonnie went on to say that when Trump becomes president all of Obama’s acts will be undone, he will become a footnote and a mistake in the history of the United States and that’s the gameplay. She also said it’s important that Hillary gets into the Whitehouse so that doesn’t happen and that’s why the Obamas are campaigning so hard for Hillary right now too.

I’m going to take it one step further and suggest that Trump has studied racial politics and understands that, given there has been a two-term Obama  administration, he can play on the fears, anxieties and paranoias of the white working class to gain some leveraged in the race to the White House. He claims that the media are against him and are blocking his voice getting out there, he claims that social media, Facebook, Twitter are suppressing the establishment misdeeds and he says that he will refuse to accept the legitimacy of the election if it doesn’t go his way. This is the paranoid narrative of a certain section of the white population that believe their rank as the dominant group has been usurped by other nonwhite groups and that their needs and wishes are being given second place, where it was once given first.

As one of the audience members noted “in America skin colour is always the first dynamic and skin colour determines your destiny”.

There’s an awful lot at stake in terms of race politics in this upcoming US election, that’s for sure.

Eugene

Channel 4 News – Identity

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Black people in the UK are more likely to be admitted to hospital for mental illness – they are also less likely to use mainstream services.

Can connecting black therapists with black patients change that?

Watch the video

 

 

Help nurture Black and Asian psychological therapists through their training: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/student-support/?

I took part in a short video for Channel 4’s Facebook news page, identity section. There were a few of us talking about the benefits there might be in black people seeing black therapists and counsellors.

Seemed a straightforward deal to me but reading the posts in response to the video it sounded like there were lots of people feeling uncomfortable about this race conversation.

Guess which of these post is not from a white person?

a) I’m so confused.. is this racist!?

b) I would be very offended as a health professional if someone declined to be seen by me because of the colour of my skin. Equally it’s not something I would think of when seeing a professional. I’m more interested in your knowledge skills and experience that can help me. Just saying

c) It’s about making a connection with another person, and sincerity and all the other qualities that make us decent human beings, it’s not about the colour of a person’s skin, or their ethnic background, or any of those things, which have no bearing on someone’s ability to do their job well !

d) As a Hairstylist whose had many therapists and Counsellors sit in my chair over a 20 year span, I totally agree with this message.. The job doesn’t make the person more understanding or empathetic to another person’s culture.. I can’t tell you how many therapist are on prescription meds themselves and are very biased.. It’s been such an agenda for so long in so many other environments to continue the degradation, media messaging, everything that I agree to have someone Ethnic.. It’s safe.. It’s sad to think this way however, I’ve heard some ish over the years.. The very fact that we have police brutality and a racist dude who got nominated to run for president should be proof enough to choose who you intimately share the details of your life with..

If you guessed d) you had the right answer. It sounded like some of these posts were from therapists too. Very worrying!

This reminds me of what Robin D’Angelo, a white racial justice educator in the states, calls ‘entitlement to race comfort’. In the dominant position, whites are almost always racially comfortable and have developed unchallenged expectations to remain so. When racial discomfort arises, white people typically respond as if something is “wrong” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of colour but not always). This blame results in a socially-sanctioned array of responses towards the perceived source of the discomfort, in this instance denial…

Find out more from Dr D’Angelo. Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism

Help nurture Black and Asian psychological therapists through their training: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/student-support/?

Is it because I am black?

Written by Adriana Dorsett

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-13-05-48To cut a long story short, this Summer I found myself watching a film in a sweltering hot tent with about 5 dozen wet wipe washed campers; collectively emanating a whiff of Olympic intensity. I love festivals for that. The plot of the film was a classic comic book chronicle: the world as we know it on the brink of immanent collapse. Two self styled protagonists, after having successfully launched their careers in the big smoke, burn-out – becoming broken and soul destroyed before giving it all up in search of permaculture, self-sufficiency and pastures new. The film was a remake, but it was both sweet and moving.

The next day I awoke in my tent at 5am, sweating and with a bright light in my eyes, but more than that, a vision was taking shape before me. Perhaps, underneath this tale of white people trying to unearth personal freedom there was deeper Matrix style story lurking. Do you know the way each eye sees a single image and it’s when both eyes see together that a 3rd dimension is formed? Well it felt like that.

You see the Afro-Caribbean slave trade ended between 1750 and 1865, more or less the same period that the Industrial Revolution kicked into gear. Can you imagine, a new mechanical metropolis and all the forced labourers set free to walk away. Anyway, with one eye I could see white and black people united in their crusade to end slavery, and with the other eye I could see poverty-stricken, uneducated workers driven from the countryside into a brutal, exploitative, industrial hell.

It was like the Fat Controllers of that era had been informed by a system of bloody exploitation, and that was condemned, they simply switched their inhumanity onto their own people. In wiki it spells out the trajectory between slavery and the modern workplace much more succinctly.  It describes Sharecropping, which largely replaced slavery, as having more than a passing similarity to serfdom or indenture. This is associated with large living costs and debts that effectively tie down the workers into wage slavery.  Sound familiar?

I don’t mean to depreciate racism by saying this – racism is an ugly jostling war for status and dignity, it’s hideous and it’s heartfelt; but I now wonder if there is more to it. Maybe the catalyst for racism was that it provided a convenient system of carving a social divide; and our current racial conflict is the guilt and grief, shame and blame of a historic psychic wound that wont close together enough to heal. With the the crux of the issue, which seems like it could be more about the labour market than skin tone, continuing to fester within. This idea is not new, The Black Panthers put equality forward, calling on Peace Through Unity. This included women, gays, transgender: even joining forces with red neck hillbillies; and when you read about the prejudice and “culturally transmitted traumatic stress syndrome” the Appalachian people experienced it’s not surprising why.

This version of our reality has all kinds of connotations. Most horribly that social mobility might be just a way to offer ‘the clever ones’ a chance to escape deprivation, rather than being disgruntled and disrupting the status quo by initiating social change. …and of course that racism might have been induced and aggravated in order to distract the masses from consolidating – internationally – and securing constitutional and human rights.

Okay, I’m aware that I’m sitting here quaffing a latte, and I don’t actually feel like a slave. But, as Brexit drives foreigners out, college fees rise to £9k P/A. Wages are almost at a standstill, while rental rates are on the rise; I feel a bitter twist might be in the making. I can’t believe the Brexit backlash will end up offering disillusioned anti-EU voters a way to ‘get their own back’.  With the current race war consuming the West’s freedom fighters, no more Unions or EU, the press no longer free to serve the public’s interests; Corporate business’s capability, once again includes, but is not limited to, recreating modern slavery and causing major ecological destruction, with an insatiable appetite. I think we know this. However, who is out there to help, that’s the question? So when I saw the film WeTheUncivilised: A Life Story (2015) by filmmakers Lily and Pete Sequoia, I was touched. I know not everyone wants to knit their own carrots, but perhaps, dare I say it, the ‘get off the grid’ permaculture movement is really a race-blind, modern day, anti-slavery movement; and a place where all open minded people can unite, not only with each other to form an international civil rights movement, but with our true nature. Just a thought…

NB. I should mention that: I’m mixed race. The Festival was Green Gathering and the time is now.

Try these clips, and ask yourself ‘were these people chosen because that are black’, or was it more to do with their lack of legal representation?

https://www.facebook.com/neonnettle/videos/853713501394822/

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_pvNp9gHjfk

Being Greater Than Our Suffering

Musings on Ben Okri and Jeremy Corbyn in conversation at the SouthBank – 15th July 2016

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering” Ben Okri

Picture-of-Ben-Okri-and-Jeremy-Corbyn_full.jpegI read Ben Okri’s book ‘A Way of Being Free’ some 15 years ago and remember being blown away by what he had to say about the power of stories in our lives, embracing cultural differences and evoking a new kind of politics. It was a very important part of my initiation into a way of being that is both hopeful in its outlook and grounded in the reality of the world as it is. Ben Okra is regarded, as one of Africa’s leading writers and if you are creative in any way this book is a must.

It was facinating  to Ben Okri in conversation with Jeremy Corbin at the Southbank Centre. They were talking about creativity, literature, art and culture. When this was planned the UK political landscape was very different and inevitably the issues of the European Union and Jeremy’s leadership machinations came through. Something I wasn’t aware of was that Jeremy Corbyn spent two years in Jamaica, with Voluntary Service Overseas after leaving school, something he has described as an “amazing” experience.

Listening to Ben Okri on stage was the same as experiencing his words through his books and novels. He wrote a poem called A New Dream of Politics. This was in response to Jeremy Corbyn calling him a genius amongst others like Maya Angelou and James Keir Hardie in his Labour Party conference speech. Ben read this poem in the masterful way that he does. It is a reminder of the power of his writing and the potential to reach out to our higher selves even in the rough, tough world of politics.

Here is the poem.

A New Dream of Politics

They say there is only one way for politics.
That it looks with hard eyes at the hard world
And shapes it with a ruler’s edge,
Measuring what is possible against
Acclaim, support, and votes.

They say there is only one way to dream
For the people, to give them not what they need
But food for their fears.
We measure the deeds of politicians
By their time in power.
But in ancient times they had another way.
They measured greatness by the gold
Of contentment, by the enduring arts,
The laughter at the hearths,
The length of silence when the bards
Told of what was done by those who
Had the courage to make their lands
Happy, away from war, spreading justice
And fostering health,
The most precious of the arts
Of governance.

But we live in times that have lost
This tough art of dreaming
The best for its people,
Or so we are told by cynics
And doomsayers who see the end
Of time in blood-red moons.

Always when least expected an unexpected
Figure rises when dreams here have
Become like ashes. But when the light
Is woken in our hearts after the long
Sleep, they wonder if it is a fable.

Can we still seek the lost angels
Of our better natures?
Can we still wish and will
For poverty’s death and a newer way
To undo war, and find peace in the labyrinth
Of the Middle East, and prosperity
In Africa as the true way
To end the feared tide of immigration?

We dream of a new politics
That will renew the world
Under their weary suspicious gaze.
There’s always a new way,
A better way that’s not been tried before.

Who are the inspirational figures quoted by Jeremy Corbyn?

White empathy vs Black empathy

I am a psychotherapist in the UK. What’s happening with black empathy in the wider social consciousness and in ordinary everyday life? Looking at the news media and going about my business as an individual, black empathy is seriously lacking.

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It might be there lurking under the surface of things and not wanting to reveal itself in all it’s glory for fear of something happening to push it back in again, or there might not be that much of it to start of with. And what about white empathy?

Alton Sterling was shot early in the morning of Tuesday, July 5. According to officials and reports of the incident, a homeless man called 911 to report that he’d repeatedly asked a man who was selling CDs and wearing a red sweatshirt for money and, after saying ‘no,’ the man brandished a gun. After Baton Rouge police responded, officials say, they found Sterling selling CDs and got into an altercation with him, hitting him with a Taser and wrestling him to the ground. During the struggle, Sterling was shot. Two videos captured the final 45 seconds or so of the incident, including part of the shooting.

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The shooting being captured on film

The narrative that race was not part of this, which is all too familiar around these issues, would most likely have continued if it weren’t for the smart phone and social media. Thank God for the smart phone. Watching the news coverage of this incident and the subsequent shootings of police officers in Baton Rouge  I am rendered numb as I’m sure others are. These killings are extremely challenging and complicated to talk about for all kinds of reasons. It’s not just these shootings that are evoked; it’s the many shootings previous to this, the statistics around black peoples’ lower rate of life chances (black men in particular) and also what could be described as everyday micro aggressions, which happen in black people’s lives all the time.

As a psychotherapist thinking about these issues, what is foremost in my mind is not so much the extreme examples of ‘them and us thinking’ but the ordinary everyday racial biases which accumulate over time and leave us all a little bit more numb. This numbness increases as we watch the extreme edges of this bias moving into hatred and non-empathy for the other side of the black/white divide.

A massive challenge for society, including the news media and those tasked with looking after the mental health of the population, is staying with the experience of black people’s hurt that comes from having to deal with race oppression and the impact of white privilege. The conversation itself is a difficult one; even between those we might call our friends or colleagues. There is something powerful that gets evoked within us when we evoke race.

99% of the time when talking about these issues, or when we are forced to have these conversations about the black-and-white divide, things invariably get organised through a lens where white empathy is the focus. The “I’m not a racist” stance.

When talking about Brexit for example or about these killings in the US, we are aware of the high likelihood that this conversation could seriously disrupt the relationship. What we previously might have thought were solid relationships can become fractious as the issues are seen through the white empathy lens and empathy for the black experience is either unexamined and unknown or actively pushed away.

With the Black Lives Matters campaign, there are countless arguments and articles arguing against it. Some arguments say; “are you saying only black lives matter?” or “don’t all lives matter?” These types of arguments are pointing towards the lens of white empathy. Even though a white empathy lens is a given in the wider conversation about race, there is still an annoyed insistence that white empathy remain the focus or at the very least be side-by-side.

In counselling and psychotherapy this white empathy lens is all around. It’s in the theory and evident in the training (as many students I have spoken to will attest) and it’s evident in the community of the people that it treats. Dr Isha McKenzie-Mavinga has coined a term she calls “A black empathic approach”. She talks about this approach as paying attention to the cultural influences of racism and keeping in mind the bias towards a white empathic approach. For many people there is a capacity to connect with a black person’s other life experiences but they cannot connect with a black person’s experience of being black without racial bias getting in the way.

Having the race conversation is a big first step to addressing race inequality. A conversation that stays focused on the issues of hurt that arise out of racism for black people is the very basic first step. Can’t we have these conversations without being forced to have them when someone gets killed?

Eugene Ellis

Psychotherapist and Founder of the Black and Asian Therapist Network

Within the Brexit Crucible

Days after Brexit…

Didn’t have a good night sleep the night after the vote. All I could think about was the feelings left after the EU in/out campaign. My feelings, like many others, are many and complex but after a mediation what floated to the top was a deep feeling in my heart of woundedness. A feeling that I live in a country that can be so easily swayed into ‘them and us’ thinking. That is blind to the brexit-2games the owning classes play and that would so easily shoot itself in the foot in its despair. A country swayed by the rhetoric of life being better out of the EU and a trust in politicians to make that happen given the record of the government in recent years.

The implicit promise that life would become better for people lower down the economic ladder is as unlikely inside the EU as outside. What we have done however, is increase nationalism and kept the underlying and often hidden status quo. The ‘we are strong and can stand alone’, the ‘we’re alright Jack’, the poverty mentality – it is deeply unsettling. What have we done!

As psychotherapists we are aware of the psychology of human nature, the shocking ease at which human beings can exploit the socio-political boundary marker of ethnicity to evacuate powerful feelings onto others. How easy it is to hijack the capacity to think humanly and compassionately about others. There is a pressing need to really understand and come to terms with these processes in order to protect ourselves against this self destructive fault line in human nature. 52% for leaving the EU 48% against. If we did not know it already, there is clearly work to do.

Eugene Ellis

Founder and Director of the Black and Asian Therapist Network

The Black and Asian Therapist Network wants the government to rethink it proposed policy on enforcing counselling on benefit claimants.

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As from June 2015 the first pilots of the Department for Work and Pensions scheme to provide psychological therapies – specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – at Job Centres will be taking place for people suspected of having mental health problems. This is the first of ten pilot schemes in advance of a national project planned to begin in January 2016. The plans, which will make mental health treatment central to the fight to get Britain back to work after the recession, will eventually see centres providing CBT set up around the country.

Those of us at the Black and Asian Therapist network are appalled that psychology is again being used as a way to oppress those on the margins and support organisations like UKCP, BACP, Pink Therapy and the Mental Heath Resistance Network in strongly objecting to the use of therapy being used in this way. Therapy is only therapeutic when it is conducted in a mutually agreeable way and with a view to creating an outcome that a person seeks. This might well be to get back to work as quickly as possible but coercing vulnerable people into this position is unethical. Added to this there is a strong likelihood that those involved in making referrals might assume CBT works for everyone and penalise those that don’t improve.

Using therapy in this way is a gross misunderstanding of what therapy is about and The Black and Asian therapist network urges the government to rethink it’s strategy

Eugene Ellis
MA, Dip, IATE. UKCP registered Integrative Arts Psychotherapist
Director of the Black and Asian Therapist Network 

www.baatn.org.uk