I am rounding the corner on the topic of Internalised Racism with this blog. The games we play to keep ourselves safe or amuse ourselves is observed within this post.
Games I was interested in playing Freeze Tag, Bulldog or climbing and jumping from climbing frames at my primary school. The game of disgust and dislike, projective identification, lateral violence and internalised racism would be concepts I could only begin deconstructing when adult. An unrealised inheritance. As a child I tried to make myself invisible and stay away from these two sisters. The new and best game to play. An unwilling game of hide and seek. But a type of hiding an aspect of myself that was plainly visible, similar to the faces of my friends and also of my tormentors – these Dementors, was a plight I could not extricate myself beyond. They were me. I was them. Zero sum with no winners. Mainly losers of ground, development, progress, time…
Lateral Violence The experience of infighting amongst others who are at a similar social standing or within an organisation. The expression of animosity with others from similar cultural and racial backgrounds. Where outrage and dissention cannot be shared with managers or dominant racial, class, gender, groups for fear of individual and of a group’s destruction stall efforts at empowerment, or truth sharing.
Expression of an individual’s or a group’s displeasure, rage, disappointment in a sideways motion can be a safer way to share dissatisfaction to others. The damage is done amongst others who feel bullied, hurt, outmaneuvered, played, let down and powerless. It has been said before “Hurt people, hurt people.” Lateral violence ultimately is an extension of powerless groups expressing pain amongst people groups, similar to them.
‘Lateral violence is a term that describes the way people in positions of powerlessness, covertly or overtly direct their dissatisfaction inward toward each other, toward themselves, and toward those less powerful than themselves.’ By Jens Korff
Issues of Identity As a group, Black people experience and perpetrate internalised racist acts against those who are African, African American, African European, African Caribbean, African LatinX. Lateral violence is also visited amongst and within Asian communities, South East Asian communities, indigenous groups in the South Pacific and across the Americas. Holding to a belief of what oppressive devious strategies were used upon many peoples across the planet to divide conquer and rule.
An outcome of hurt people who willingly went on to hurt others.
Resources Freeze Tag is a powerful song by the super group Dinner Party that reminds of the many who whilst surrendering were still/are slain. Put your hands up. Freeze. Don’t move! The scene from Harry Potter from Prisoner of Azkaban perfectly depicts for me the experience of the soul sucking force bullying can have. Jens Korf goes to great lengths to explain lateral violence, and what steps can be taken to cease internal and external conflicts. Dr Kira shares an idea of reconceptualising the idea of internalised racism. A useful clip from a groundbreaking tv show ‘The School That Tried to End Racism’. I found Bright’s awareness of the challenges he and friends face heartfelt. Bullying & lateral violence – Creative Spirits Dr Kira explains Reframing Internalised Oppression Internalised Oppression Explained The School That Tried to End Racism clip
I have continued with the theme of Internalised Racism offering a personal insight of how I recognise what it looks and feels like with this blog.
Miss Hit What is missed by projecting outward on to others, what we cannot stomach? We could benefit from further understanding ourselves. This point Dr Dwight Turner invites us to spend time with. Projective Identification (P. I. ) is a self protecting act, but the act cannot fully protect the persons who expel what they cannot tolerate in themselves onto others.
It creates in the object projected upon, a sense of fear and loathing. Deficits of self-worth, self-esteem, anxiety and low mood. Manifestations of the disdain are re-presented by the subjected upon persons internally/interiorly and to others who resemble or behave in similar ways to them.
Here my attempt is to match P.I. and Internalised Racism as cousins. In essence those who are treated by a nationally sanctioned power structure; unkindly, unfairly, with prejudice, do not have the power to represent their hurt to those who hurt them. The hurt people observe the hurt in themselves internalise it and project this hurt on to others who appear similar to them. Both Zed and Daniel offer useful interpretations in last week’s post.
Division An early experience I can remember that woke me up to what internalized racism is was being bullied at primary school by two Caribbean girls. I can’t exactly remember what these 2 girls repeatedly said to me. Something like ‘Smelly little African boy’. The resemblance was of a hatred that was borne as a result of my father – African. His genes a part of mine. This an undeniable truth. I could not make sense of their disowning of our joint cultural heritage and obvious visible similarity. My skin – brown like theirs. My mum was from the Caribbean too, so were we not the same? Not to them.
Power Over This experience of internalised racism was one I could not comprehend at the age of 6. The bullies dislike was a felt sense of wrongness. Mine. Possibly theirs too. I assume (now), that these two sisters felt a sense of power and a feeling of entitlement.
Brené Brown discusses the concept of power over, as opposed to power with, or power amongst. The Caribbean for me was well represented amongst my friends. Culturally, London and the UK of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, Caribbean influence was acknowledged and appeared valued.
Music, Slang, Fashion all influenced by children of migrants from the Caribbean. Bob Marley and other reggae stars were regularly heard on stereo systems across the estate I lived on. My world – Tottenham High Road and Wood Green felt like mini slices of Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts, Dominica, the Grenadines. The homes we visited, the shops and grocery stores, the foods we ate were of mostly Caribbean and West African flavour and influence.
Norf My awareness of racial and cultural understandings arrived late, like the 243 bus to Wood Green , or the 321 to Seven Sisters. The raising awareness job is a lifelong one, but peaked when I moved out of London to Cambridgeshire in the mid 80’s. The North London Estate I grew up on was filled with newly arrived immigrants from a great collection of African, Caribbean, Asian and European countries. These two girls would sneer at me whenever our paths crossed at school or on the estate. They, whispering to each other and cutting their eyes in my direction as if their waspish looks could make me disappear. Their disapproval didn’t make sense to me but left an invisible mark. That of being disliked by others for a seemingly senseless and unknown reason. I became distrustful of persons who cast unkind and disparaging looks my way.
Resources Ursula Rucker performs Innocence Lost. The line that stands out is missed hit. The resonance is palpable as this poet intones an all too familiar story. The Roots woke me up to the power in poetry. Hana and Leila discuss in detail the insults that are thrown back and forth between Africans and African Americans. I thank Kimberly Cato of True Roots who passed on the Halton Voices video. Sameera discusses with guests what Internalised Racism is. The Stoop You Called Me African What? Diverse Perspectives conversations with Sameera Ali, Leena Sharma Seth, Mifrah Abid
I continue reviewing the concept of Internalised Racism in this post.
Closed The True Roots conversation on the 30th of June was a closed group for Black and Brown (Racialised) people to hold an open, challenging and affirming conversation. With members from White communities barred, the freedom to share difficult experience with others unburdened double consciousness. Links to current and past personal histories were made. Unfettered – the conversations were like a surge of blood to an unseen unnoticed wound. Members who attended discussed their understanding of Internalised Racism. Part of the discussions observed what has been the learning in relation to ourselves and about the societies we live amongst.
So We Dare Having written a little about group the idea of being amongst a closed experience felt risqué and yet also necessary. Inclusivity is undoubtedly an ideal to be achieved. Perhaps once Racialized communities recognise their needs for active participation in healing, liberating from outdated and ill fitting, ideas can begin. Exclusive meetings held amongst communities that are representative of diasporic Africans, Asians, Indigenous communities and LatinX communities are often framed as anti-White. Generally, these encounters are experienced as spaces for important idea generation, healing and application. The focus is on uplift. The experience of being amongst the True Roots online space felt unapologetic. Panelists and guests offered clear resourced and relative experiences about their growing understanding of what is lost by trying to acclimatise to societies that are structurally racist.
Abdicating Responsibility The UK, Canada and the US deny and work to hold on to the outcomes of Colonial pasts and historic abuses against Black and Brown bodies. Claiming each country’s sovereignty and superiority over former and existing colonies. European settler behaviours have largely bestowed power upon European descendants and centred on greed gaining wealth. I would argue that centuries of war, genocide, trauma, and vilification of others has left a fetid festering wound amongst the planet. Calling all to attention, yet only a few hear the Earth’s cries. Fewer still tirelessly wrestle to create change that invites resuscitation or better regeneration.
Resources Ms Xaba offers a number of personal stories of coming to realise the impact of the invisible marks left by apartheid. I recognise myself in the Ghana experience. Making self small, with the idea of perceived threat. Choosing to leave, before being told to. Daniel shares his realisation of Internalised racism and the connection to misogyny. His story takes him from the US to Jordan where he learns to understand himself anew. Internalised Oppression by Zed Xaba Internalised Racism and Misogyny by Daniel Juweid
Hidden by same race or similar cultural groups. Internalised Racism could be experienced as lateral violence. I will do my best to explore both terms and offer a few resources that look at the experiences of internalised racism in blogs to follow.
Internalised Racism Definition The upholding of a system such as White supremacy by racialized groups both unconsciously and consciously. It looks like in racial group dislike or hatred of peoples from similar racial backgrounds. Looking to confirm one group being better than another group. It is Shadism/Colourism, Poor v Rich, Educated against Undereducated, Gender, Age, Sexual preference, Religious affiliation and denomination against other faiths and beliefs. Many of these points of sameness, difference and otherness are well addressed by the book Mockingbird.
Group Discussion I was asked what my thoughts were in relation to internalized racism by Kimberley Cato. This question was posed for the last group discussion for True Roots of the season. My thoughts on internalised racism in late May 2021 weren’t fully formed. Reading ‘Intersections Of Privilege And Otherness’ helped to begin formulating my understanding. I will share below what Dr Dwight Turner writes because it offers an understanding that is useful to how my mind has been able to make use of these earlier incisions to character development. I recognise that a discussion on this topic can be sensitive to engage with. I will offer my experience as a base board from which to move beyond in later pieces of writing.
Resources Explained Jabari discusses his growing into an awareness of internalised racism in an accessible and personable way. Farah Nasser discusses with University of Toronto professor Girish Daswani, and communications professional, Gelek Badheytsang about internalized racism. The conversation highlights some of what the True Roots conversation spent time; evaluating, rueing and laughing at. What I enjoyed from the Living Colour interview was the unequivocal idea that internalised racism can be changed.
Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy, by Dr Dwight Turner.
Opening I wrote to my friend Banjo Aromolaran-Eaton that ‘Mockingbird is an outstanding reflexive undertaking. Dr Dwight Turner has done a difficult job of contending with Intersectionality and otherness brilliantly.’ Like wrestling with a thunder cloud. Every droplet of water examined and the electrical charge removed from most of the ion particles.
Indent When a good book lands, one might read it once, and think on what has been learned occasionally. With a book like Mockingbird the learning will be a consistent reminder of what work and stretching still lie ahead. As an adherent of life long learning, the idea of continually growing – a welcome challenge. The ‘once read and gone’ idea is past, in our age currently being lived. Information once read, understood and digested can now be actively applied. We can demand more from what we consume.
Unapologetic What Dr Turner does is turn the lens he is looking out at the world with, upon himself profoundly, unflinchingly, unapologetically. The book wilfully presents the discomfort of observing and feeling around challenging self concepts of identity. You might find yourself wincing in parts of the book that boldly delve way beneath the surface of safety. This is what makes Mockingbird stand out. Dr Turner does not turn away from the difficult. He in fact chooses to pause, point and move toward the unaligned (taking us with him), like an architect or builder snagging all fixtures that don’t sit right.
Beyond Bubbles A message for those looking for an Aladdin’s cave of treasure, we won’t find it at the end of our lane/road/village. We will have to leave our comfort zones and go in search of it. There will be trials, there will be miss steps and lost chances. We will experience failure and defeat. What we will also come across, are clues as to where the treasure is hiding. Getting forever closer and seemingly further lost. I am writing as though the book is a story. It sort of is. Mockingbird is an heuristic undertaking with many points of learning. Mockingbird is both excruciating and exquisite in how it presents us with both understanding and many moments of insight. It is the Sea at the End of the Lane! The point of interest for me is, when a writer writes about themselves in intimate detail as Dr Turner has, they invite us to look at ourselves too in just as brave a way.
Scythe My least favourite part of Mockingbird. The most challenging and at the same time best learning, came as Dr. Turner, focused his attention to Death of the other. It took me about a month to read this chapter. (A slow reader I am not!) It’s the apex part of the book. This chapter is the half mile Andy Dufresne has to crawl through to arrive outside of Shawshank as a smelly free man. Dr. Turner observes the many millions that have been classed as other and killed throughout history. In all honesty my heart sank at this point of the book. Death as a subject I had thought I had vanquished.
Death, I find is only over when our story inevitably ends. Mockingbird pulls no punches and everything is unearthed to be picked over and reviewed: Privilege encompasses us all he shares. This is a hard concept to bear witness to. There is death in acknowledging our experience of privilege, when believing that privilege belongs to everyone but us. How wrong was I?
Why Read Mockingbird Questions that arise from a position of confusion, outrage and a sense of powerlessness are addressed. The book does well to hold the paradox of being othered and yet also having power. ‘Intersections…’ provides a way to begin engaging with the unconscious for answers, as Dwight has and wilfully shares his findings. The aspect of battling with the barely conscious parts of ourselves sounds challenging, because it is. With Dr Turner as a guide, who continually shares his discoveries, the uncovering of hidden meanings, make questing in a psychological way appear painful yet appealing, and also ultimately freeing. There is bravery in Dwight being so open and vulnerable with us.
Flawed Without question there is difficulty in first understanding ones privilege within Western societies. Both Canada and the UK present a few preferred specific characteristic identities above others. As a Black male, grappling with the disabling effects of Relapsing Remitting MS, there are dynamics of feeling both disempowered, and yet held as powerful, whilst counselling to empower others. At times it can feel as though I/We are in the Minotaur’s labyrinth trying to make sense out of the complex multiple narratives held about Black and Brown bodies. If we include ableism, mental illness, gender, culture, race and class, we can begin to widen our lens and witness how Intersectionality encapsulates everyone. Post Trumpism, with Canada waking up to it’s residential school horror, of indigenous children’s remains being discovered in mass unmarked graves across Canada, post Britain’s exit from the European Union (I have refused the misnomer, for it was never fast and it was never easy), post the social reckoning that George Floyd’s murder awoke many people up to. Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy is a just and balanced and intrepid response. Intersections aims to support readers understand the paradox of the part held and the part we are to play at this critical multi-layered moment in world history.
We are all human animals making sense out of chaos.
Resources Explained The list below is extensive primarily because much of what Dr Dwight Turner has been involved with has been affirming and informative. The links to his Twitter, Website and the numerous interviews and discussions all offer insight into a psychotherapists expansive explorative and sometimes explosive understandings. Heuristic research initially I wanted to engage with for my Masters, but the subject of my topic to be researched wouldn’t fit into the model that Alice Shlegel shares. Alice’s explanation of Heuristic research further confirms my choice to use autoethnography. A Son’s Journey will be dissected further at a later point here. Ionized particles and them being contained in Thunder Clouds was a useful aside to examine the comparison of Intersectionality, power, race, psychotherapy and the heavy charge a mix like this offers. A thank you is extended to Kate Bowler who recommended that I read The Sea at The End of The Lane. Tim Ferris interviews Neil Gaiman about his process of writing. The line in Exhibit A by Jay Electronica in the 2nd or 3rd verse remains one of my favourite verses referencing struggle, redemption and winning against multiple odds. Shawshank was/is a life long great film. Morgan Freeman offers these words about his friend Andy at the end of the film. Morgan’s character intones how Andy lives on as a memory – whispering a promise of life after incarceration.