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Restoring the Mind of Black America
By Eddie Taylor
African American ImagesCopyright © 2011 Dr. Eddie Taylor
All rights reserved.
As a researcher and an African American man, I want to thoroughly understand how a movement that gave me hope, identity, and empowerment devolved into pain and agony. A plethora of maladaptive behaviors emerged out of the Civil Rights Movement. This topic moves me emotionally and keeps me up at night.
The African way is to have a tribal leader or chief give direction to the people. Today, African Americans are suspicious of leaders, and we fear becoming leaders. I want to understand how this phenomenon is connected to the death of the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that saw its unfair share of death and tragedy.
Black street gangs have been studied to understand how and why they exist, but I want to understand how street gangs emerged out of the Civil Rights Movement. Gangs are more than "family" for the members. They generate wealth in the underground economy, to the harm and sorrow of all involved. How did our Black organizations degenerate into destructiveness?
I want to understand the pain that has led to violence in my community. This type and breadth of violence did not exist until the post-civil rights era.
Despite all the studies, targeted legislation, conferences, books, workshops, university courses, panel discussions, and documentaries, the pain continues. I believe a phenomenological approach will help us understand.
According to David Stewart (1974), phenomenology is "a reasoned inquiry which discovers the inherent essences of appearances ... an appearance is anything of which one is conscious" (p. 3). Consciousness is vital to phenomenology. The recognition and meaning of an experience are founded upon an individual being conscious. "Both phenomenology and psychology are concerned with consciousness in general as well as specific acts of consciousness such as perception, memory, comprehension of meaning, reasoning, etc." (Gurwitsch, 1966, p. 89).
Stewart (1974) concludes that quantitative methods are inadequate in a phenomenological approach. Phenomenology is not an objective method because consciousness is not an object. Thus a more subjective, qualitative approach is required.
Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl, Georg Hegel, and Martin Heidegger are among the notable philosophers of phenomenology. "Edmund Husserl, the motive force in the development of phenomenology, has remained the philosophic mentor to subsequent phenomenologists" (Stewart, 1974, p. 15).
The phenomenological approach to philosophical inquiry includes phenomenological reduction, phenomenological epoch, and bracketing.
"The Phenomenological Reduction. It is a common mode of expression to speak of reducing a complex problem to its basic elements. This reduction involves a narrowing of attention to what is essential in the problem while disregarding or ignoring the superfluous and accidental. What one ignores when performing the phenomenological reduction is his previous prejudice about the world. By narrowing his attention to what is essential, he hopefully will discover the rational principles necessary for an understanding of the thing (or phenomenon) under investigation.
"The Phenomenological Epoche. This narrowing of attention involves the suspension of certain commonly held beliefs. To describe this aspect of the shift from the natural to the philosophical attitude, Husserl used the Greek term epoche, which was a technical term used by the Greek skeptics to refer to a suspension of judgment.
"Bracketing. Being a mathematician, Husserl also referred to the phenomenological reduction as placing the natural attitude toward the world in brackets. ... In mathematics, one brackets (or parenthesizes) a mathematical equation in order to treat it differently. By bracketing the equation, the mathematician does not eliminate it, but merely places it out of question for the present, while the larger context of the equation is investigated." (Stewart, 1974, p. 26)
The phenomenological method promotes direct experience over secondhand knowledge (obtained from books or hearsay, for example).
"William A. Luijpen (1966) illustrates an example of phenomenology: How is it that I learn the meaning of landscapes, rivers and seas? Is it really through books on geography that I gain this meaning? Whoever proposes such a solution fools himself. It is true that a book on geography contains worthwhile scientific knowledge pertaining to landscapes, seas and rivers, but this knowledge is accessible to me only on the basis of a more fundamental and absolutely original experience; this experience comprises our every day spontaneous contact with landscapes, seas and rivers." (Stewart, 1974, p. 9)
Thus, phenomenology searches for truth based solely on an individual's personal experiences in his world. Husserl "continues to see phenomenology as a method that will lead us to the indisputable by way of a return to the things themselves. ... Only when experience is viewed in this way can it serve as a foundation upon which all true statements can securely rest" (p. 21). Phenomenology, then, seeks to reveal the innermost truth beyond philosophical assumptions or empirical methodologies.
"Phenomenology when seen as an endeavor to uncover the foundations of philosophy, when seen as a method by means of which we can reach the indisputable ground of truth, needs to unmask all philosophical prejudices concerning the nature of consciousness. This unmasking brings in its wake the reinstatement of actual experience as it is lived, namely, as presence to and uncovering of the lived-world." (p. 22)
Meaning is the most important aspect of experience. Whether an experience is meaningful or meaningless determines whether things change or remain the same. "An individual approaches the life world with a stock of knowledge composed of common sense constructs and categories that are social in origin. These images, theories, ideas, values, and attitudes are applied to aspects of experience, making them meaningful" (Denzin and Lincoln, 1998, p. 139).
Phenomenology is not concerned with scientific or quantitative findings. I felt it was of utmost importance to select interviewees who had direct experience of the issues being examined. Only their experiences could give meaning to the topic. This method allowed the participants to freely communicate their opinions and experiences in their own unique ways. Although I believe that with more understanding we'll begin to heal, the objective was not to find a cure per se; rather, it was to honor the experiences of the participants.
"It may be neither necessary nor sufficient for predicting a person's behavior to know about his phenomenal perspective and feelings. But it certainly adds substantially to a full understanding of his conduct, and is in this sense relevant." (Lee and Mandelbaum, 1967, p. 223)
During the interviews, it was important to establish a safe, trusting, emotional bond so that the participants felt free to disclose personal experiences. The phenomenological method allowed the participants' statements to be heard, free from my own personal biases. As the experts and authority of their experiences, the interviewees assumed the role of the "wise old man," which helped to establish trust. Hopefully, by peering into the conscious and unconscious realities of those who live and work in the trenches of the African American community, this study will enhance meaning for us all — including those nations in the Middle East that are currently demanding their own civil rights.
How can a phenomenological approach help us to better understand the destruction that occurred in the Black community immediately following the Civil Rights Movement? A phenomenological approach will allow those who are familiar with the movement and those who lived through it to tell their stories in their own way. The participants are not objects to be observed. They are human beings to be engaged. In this approach, researcher and participants interact as peers on equal ground.
If there is a shortcoming to this approach it is that there is no objectivity at all. All participants were involved, are currently involved, or have a vested interested in the Civil Rights Movement. Those who experienced the movement firsthand aren't always able to articulate their experiences. It may be difficult locating researchers who are on both sides of the movement: the progressive and the condescending aspects of the struggle. Some may choose not to recall or express their experiences. Also, the ability to validate this qualitative approach is more challenging than with quantitative or empirical research.
It is my sincere desire that those who have been touched, either directly or indirectly, by the negative behaviors and conditions in the Black community will find this study cathartic.CHAPTER 2
In this study we will be taking the liberty of applying psychoanalysis to the African American community as a whole. Psychological reparation within the African American community involves a psychoanalytic approach to the community's experience. As such, the African American community is represented by the child; the leaders and organizations are the mother or primary internalized loved object. This chapter will demonstrate how the loss of the civil rights leaders and organizations (primary loved objects) has affected the community psychologically from the Kleinian perspective.
Psychoanalytic theory was developed by observing and analyzing patients of non-African heritage. The pioneering theorists were neither African nor American. Whereas it is likely that some of their constituents were victims of colonization, hatred, and discrimination, they were able to identify a legitimate association with their own people. Since this is not the case with the African American community, I will employ the principles of psychoanalysis with the assumption that "most," not all, things are equal. The work of Melanie Klein and others should not be disregarded, but given the demographics of their patients, we can imagine why the African American community has not thoroughly embraced the idea of analysis.
Contributions for this section are from the following: Michael St. Clair (2000), Bernard Brandchaft (1986), James Astor (2002), H. Solomon (1991), J. Craig Peery (2002), Sigmund Freud (1914, 1917, 1995), Joseph Sandler (2003), Ernest Jones (1953), Paul Roazen (1974), Melanie Klein (1935, 1940, 1943), R. D. Hinshelwood (1991), A. A. Mason (1977), Meira Likierman (2001), Otto Fenichel (1943), B. Burch (1989), Hanna Segal (1964), John Steiner (1992), Judith Edwards (2005), Herbert Rosenfeld (1959), Neil Altman (2005), and Joan Riviere (Klein and Riviere, 1964).
Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud was the father of psychoanalysis. His great contribution to the field of mental health was his discovery of the importance of the unconscious — its role in human behavior and the use of clinical psychoanalysis to uncover unconscious motivations for behavior. Freud's book, The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement (1914/1995), explains his theory.
"For psychoanalysis is my creation; for ten years I was the only one occupied with it, and all the annoyance which this new subject caused among my contemporaries has been hurled upon my head in the form of criticism. Even today, when I am no longer the only psychoanalyst, I feel myself justified in assuming that nobody knows better than I what psychoanalysis is, wherein it differs from other method of investigating the psychic life, what its name should cover, or what might better be designated as something else." (p. 901)
Freud's investigations and clinical practice "taught him that the most complicated processes of thought could go on without being accompanied by consciousness, and he habitually referred to these as 'unconscious mental processes'" (Jones, 1953, p. 368). Freud postulated the independence of the unconscious; I also maintain that the unconscious operates and exists autonomously. My study of the African American community is rooted in psychoanalytic theory and the unconscious.
Object Relations Theory
This writing focuses on one of the important streams of psychoanalytic thought: object relations theory (St. Clair, 2000, p. xiii). "Object relations, broadly speaking, refers to an internal and external world of relationships. Object is a technical term referring to 'that which a subject relates.' Discussions of object relations usually center on the early relations of a child and mother and how this early relationship shapes the child's inner world and later adult relationships" (St. Clair, p. xiii).
To apply an object relations perspective to the African American community requires some modifications of the theory. Sigmund Freud's theory of object relations misses the point of this study, for he had little concern with the soul or deeper aspects of relationships. "He used instinct to explain the relationships and environmental forces that shape an individual's personality. The instincts serve as the framework for his discussions of motivation and object relationships. He assumed that biological or instinctual drives are primary and precede the object" (St. Clair, 2000, p. 22). The object relations concentration for the African American community has little if anything to do with instinctual drives, unless one could equate nationality and instincts, which one would be hard pressed to do. Freud's object was a more literal object than that which Melanie Klein and other theorists presumed. "When Freud looked at an individual's current behavior in terms of a past relationship with a significant person, he saw the relationship's significance in terms of the role that person played in arousing or satisfying the individual's needs rather than who or what that person was" (St. Clair, p. 22).
Regardless of Freud's emphasis on drives and instincts, his theory of object relations was pregnant with new ideas about the unconscious. "Object relations theory could be thought to have begun when Freud and his followers were forced to pay more and more attention to transference phenomena and when Freud decided that reports from his patients of early childhood sexual abuse were the result of fantasies and not of reality" (Solomon, 1991, p. 316).
The theory of object relations held a primary role within the psychoanalytic community.
"In the 1930s object relations became the major focus for the school of psychoanalysis developed particularly in London. Melanie Klein came to England before the war in order to establish a base for her own investigations into early infantile life, the results of which were to radically question some of Freud's basis tenets. She developed a method of observation with her play technique, and, from her observations, the bases of object relations theory were conceived. The two important aspects of internal objects that concern us here are 1) that they are mental representations of instincts, and 2) that they are given their particular shape by internalizing the experience of a real object, which modifies the original mental representation." (Solomon, 1991, p. 317)
Klein's theory provides a way of looking into the unconscious of the African American community through its internalization of certain loved objects (leaders and organizations). Thus, what was experienced externally has become internalized. It is this internalization of a real object that moves from a drive or instinct in Freud's theory to a more personal and phenomenal relationship. Solomon (1991) does a good job of illustrating Freud's influence on the psychoanalytic developments of Melanie Klein and her insights into how external objects are internalized in the unconscious. From there, Klein postulated that internalized loved objects were genuine, legitimate, nurturing people.
Solomon (1991) quoted Klein's perception of the infant's awareness of the mother prior to birth. He said that Klein's acknowledgement of an instinctual relationship between mother and infant "exemplifies Klein's idea of the internal object which pre-exists the experience of the real mother but which will be mediated by the experience of the real mother" (p. 319).
Psychological Reparation and Manic Reparation
Freud's ideas laid the foundation for many who followed him, and that included Melanie Klein. She was a contemporary of Freud, but they had only a "slight personal relationship" (Roazen, 1974, p. 478). However, he did influence her thinking to a great degree. "Klein's stress on the role of inner fantasies was only an extension of Freud's own position; but, for her, unconscious fantasies (internal objects) became the crux of human life, both normal as well as pathological. Regression in the course of therapy becomes then not a danger signal but a sign of the deepening of an analysis" (p. 482).
Although reparation was introduced to the psychoanalytical community by Melanie Klein, ironically, reparation was not the initial theory that Klein sought to establish. She is regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of child psychoanalysis.
Excerpted from Restoring the Mind of Black America by Eddie Taylor. Copyright © 2011 Dr. Eddie Taylor. Excerpted by permission of African American Images.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Remains of the Revolution,
Part 1: Framework,
1. Research Philosophy,
2. Psychological Reparation,
3. Social Reparations,
Part 2: The Civil Rights Movement,
4. Significant Revolutionaries,
5. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
6. Malcolm X,
7. The Black Panther Party,
8. Post-Civil Rights and Manic Reparation,
Part 3: Community Activists Speak,
9. Reparation in the Trenches,
18. Final Analysis,
Part 4: Our Future Hope,
19. Restoring the African American Mind,