Saturday, December 31, 2016

We can, have, and continue to oppress our own. Structural Racism and (YOUR COMMUNITY NAME) White Establishment (Part - II). Black Mental Health Alliance

Personalize your reading whenever a city or community of African America are mentioned.
Consider the possibility that this is your community.
Your community from Los Angeles, to Baltimore.
Your community within the Caribbean,
Your community even within the communities of the nations of Africa.
From the townships of South Africa that still exist, to the shanty towns built in urban areas of the major cities throughout the world.
Economic, financial, the gap between the rich and poor are always key factors mentioned.

CDS CEO BEMA International






Structural Racism and Baltimore's White Establishment 
(Part - II)
by 
Richard A. Rowe

"If you do not understand white supremacy (structural racism), then everything will confuse you." 
Neely Fuller

 "The progressive approach to policy which directly addresses the effects of white supremacy is simple - talk about class and hope no one notices."
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Author of Between the World and Me

 "The essence of American structural racism is disrespect
."
Ta-Nehisi Coates

"Here are White men poised to run big Marijuana businesses selling weed, after 40 years of locking up impoverished young Black men for selling weed. Their families and futures have been destroyed. Now, White men are planning on getting rich doing precisely the same things." 
Michelle Alexander - Author of The New Jim Crow

"In the ghettos the white man has built for us, he has forced us not to aspire to greater things, but to view everyday living as survival." 
Malcolm X

"The key indicators of structural racism are inequalities in power, access, opportunities, treatment and policy impacts and outcomes, whether they are intentional or not. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually producing new, and re-producing old forms of racism." 
The Aspen Institute on Community Change (2004)

In part I of this article (December, 2016), I tried to offer Baltimore City's "white establishment" a formal and experiential definition of structural racism and its devastating, pernicious and lingering socioeconomic and psycho-cultural effects on Black people and Black communities throughout Baltimore. In Part I, I admonished Baltimore's white establishment and recommended that they forego the sponsorship of anymore structural racism symposiums and advancing the same "trickle down" organizational and programmatic strategies disguised as a "community empowerment and engagement" in their efforts to set the City's underserved and neglected Black communities on a trajectory of true social and economic transformation.

Furthermore, I pleaded with members of the white establishment to drive/stroll through some of Baltimore's devastated Black communities and "take in" the optics. I concluded Part I of the article with the following statement: The cumulative effects of decades of structural racism must be addressed with a greater and total commitment from the white establishment to transform the paralyzing and predatory policies that continue to traumatize and plunder Black communities. 

Finally, in Part I, I was not suggesting that Blacks have no responsibility in this problem; however, I was suggesting that as a result of structural racism, Baltimore's white establishment sets the context and sustains it through its paralyzing and predatory racial policies. If this truism cannot be acknowledged and accepted, then it will never be possible to transform Baltimore City's poor, underserved and neglected Black communities.

Therefore, It is my hope in Part II of this article to speak directly to Baltimore City's "Black establishment"(i.e., politicians, corporate, CEOs, preachers, teachers, public and private bureaucrats, "grass tops community" leaders, et. al)  to inform and to shed much needed light on how Baltimore's white establishment's paternalistic "community transformation" approach has left the "black establishment" grossly dependent on "white help," obscenely passive when it comes to independent black agenda development, which has left Black communities trapped in a trance of unworthiness and "unprivileged-ness."   Moreover, in Part II, it is my desire to offer several recommendations that every member--regardless of their socioeconomic status--can embrace to enhance and restore their overall emotional, cultural, physical and socio-economic health.

At the outset and to be fair, over the years, there have been a lot of African Americans in metropolitan Baltimore, of all socio-economic backgrounds that are and have been doing a lot of good work and speaking out about the deleterious effects that decades of structural racism has had on the socio-economic and psycho-cultural underdevelopment of  Baltimore's Black community; however, it is very difficult to really know and assess the true effectiveness of their work and advocacy efforts, because there are so few serious and available impact statements to examine, and so very few process/outcome evaluations to assess levels of real progress, accountability and transparency.  This assessment is reflected in the following:
  • In spite of the myriad discussions about food deserts in poor and Black communities in Baltimore, the "Black community" did not do what was necessary to keep a Black-owned grocery store open (i.e., Apples & Oranges Fresh Market) beyond two years of operation. Again, this is in a city that is 63 percent Black.
  • The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, which opened in Baltimore with great fanfare in 2005, has fallen short of attendance and fundraising goals, forcing the state to shore up its finances.  Again, this is in a City that is sixty-three percent Black and a State that is almost 30 % Black.
  • The tragic death of Freddie Gray and many others, and a scathing Department of Justice report highlighting numerous civil rights violations perpetrated against Baltimore's Black residents occurred in a city where among the 46 Baltimore police officers who hold the rank of captain and above, 25 are from ethnic or racial minority groups; and, where more than half of the 2,745 active duty officers are African-American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.
  • After a record-breaking year of violence in 2015, when there were 344 homicides, this year is tracking not far behind. Unfortunately, the city will surpass 300 homicides again this year, for only the second time since 1999.
  • For young black men between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment rate is an astounding 37%, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. The unemployment rate has been two, three and even four times higher than it has been for white men of the same age for decades.
  • A recent report out of Harvard revealed that Baltimore is the worst big city for Black boys to escape poverty.(New Study: January 2016 - Differences in childhood environment affect gender gaps in adulthood) 
  • Given the critical need for African American male teachers and male mental health practitioners to fill the needs in Baltimore City Public Schools and the community-at-large, there has not been an intentional and sustained movement in the Black community to increase the number of these two critical professions by any significant percentages in the past 20 - 30 years.
  • Since last year's uprising in April of 2015, there appears to be more white people being hired to serve in executive leadership positions to lead, manage and oversee the "charge" in Baltimore's recovery efforts. Are the "optics" real or imagined, and are there any Black organizations or public officials tracking hiring practices in Baltimore? Again, this is happening in a City that is 63 % Black.
  • While Baltimore City African American-owned firms were numerous, there were fewer than 800 African American-owned firms with employees (out of over 9,700 firms), and their sales, receipts, employment, and annual payrolls made up a tiny proportion of the Baltimore City totals (Associated Black Charities, African American Business Report -2009).
  • School districts across the State of Maryland opened another year and one thing was very, very clear, no other school district sent a majority of its students back to dilapidated, rodent infested, air conditioned deprived, clean drinking water deprived, basic equipment/resource deficient and inadequate staffing challenges than the Baltimore City Public School System. To quote civil rights leader Julian Bond, "Violence is Black children going to school for twelve years and receiving six years worth of education." 
To quote the prolific, iconic and master jazz trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis, Baltimore's Black establishment, "where yall at?" And, I will add, "where yall been?" Given these trends, and there are many others, it is my contention that one of the most serious and pernicious byproducts of structural racism is its impact on the mental health of its victims (i.e., all members of the Black community), that contributes to a sense of perceived deficiency, and causes every member of the Black community to see itself as unworthy, thus never realizing how their judgments, aversions and delusions keep them from supporting a life-giving and life-saving Black agenda and finding genuine group unity. It should never be forgotten that structural racism promotes and supports a paradigm of Black group failure rather than a paradigm of Black group success.     

Several years ago, many members of the "Black establishment" watched the series of television dramas (The Corner, 2000), (The Wire - 2002-2008) and (12 O'clock Boys - 2013). All of them chronicled the lives of Black individuals/families living in concentrated poverty on Baltimore City's East and West sides, amid open-air drug markets, boarded-up houses, and that were victims of structural racism and white aggression. All three of the docu-dramas were so graphic, raw, gritty, uncompromising and realistic that it was easy to predict Baltimore City's inevitable uprising in April, 2015. What could have been more emotionally traumatizing than decimated communities, gross socio-economic disparities and pervasive neglect that were graphically depicted in every one of the docu-dramas?  To quote the brilliant writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, "I think the sad fact is, there's a long history in this country at looking at African-American as subhuman. And I think that's reflected in the fact that, when we have problems that really are problems of employment, that are really problems of mental health, that are really problems of drugs, our answer is the police".  ...Segregation, by which I mean people living in a certain area, was a planned system. It was made that way. And what you have is a system in which people are there to be exploited. They're right there waiting for it. A community of people, who've been denied wealth, denied wealth-building opportunities, are right there."

I strongly believe that everything I have mentioned thus far from high unemployment, poor educational opportunity, lack of affordable, quality housing, and other problems all have important racial dimensions. Equally important, the psychological effects on members of the Black community and on the community as a whole have been hyper-destructive and emotionally traumatic.

And now the question remains, will Baltimore's "Black establishment" be able to disenthrall itself from the spate of individuals programs that have received funding, or the sophomoric obsession with the latest triviality that dominates the local or national television/social media news programs that divert attention from the critical challenges resulting from decades of structural racism and "benign neglect?" 

To profoundly alter any and all present/future discussions related to structural racism to bring about real, lasting and structural change, Baltimore's Black "establishment," with significant input from the community - must create and place on the "table" a bold, socioeconomic progressive, psychologically and physically transformative shared "Black Agenda," or plan-of-action that creates a series of metrics to measure, not individual, but genuine "group progress" - both quantitatively and qualitatively; that holds "Black leaders" and Black organizations/businesses accountable; that prescribes the pre-requisite motivations and underlying emotional, psychological and coping mindsets needed to cause a greater number of Black people -young and old- in metropolitan Baltimore to succeed in all life-giving and life-saving areas of human development. This essentially demands the implementation of a psychology and methodology directed toward "the reconstruction of the personality and the orientation of Black children and Black families". Such a thrust would be directed towards educational and cultural change which teaches Black children- in particular- how to think, not simply prepares them for jobs but also facilitates and encourages high levels of self-development and service to their people. To quote the brilliant Black psychologist, Dr. Amos Wilson, "Blacks who are not conscious of their Blackness, who have no sense of destiny, and then go though (white systems of education) ultimately end up their own oppressors and a means of oppressing their own people."

Finally, the Black agenda must detail what "community" infrastructure is needed to organize its own economic, political and cultural assets and potential to obtain an equal share of the resources that are available in metropolitan Baltimore; and, that finally declares to the "White establishment "what it wants on all levels of socio-economic and psycho- cultural/political levels; and, what is no longer negotiable and acceptable. Only then will the Black community be taken seriously and not, metaphorically speaking, viewed as forever rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. 


Richard A. Rowe's email address is rrowe84@aol.com.



Mr. Richard A. Rowe, M.P.A. - Over the past 25 years, Mr. Rowe has operated and managed direct services programs for African American men, parents and male youth, and has provided training to hundreds of volunteers, parents, educators, community leaders and organizations - both locally and nationally on topics such as male leadership and responsibility, enhancing single mother-son relationships, fatherhood, rites-of-passage programs, college retention initiatives, special education, Black male - female relationships, developing school/faith-based mentoring programs and parental involvement. As a past recipient of an Open Society Institute Fellowship, Mr. Rowe was involved in the design of a unique psycho-cultural "success identity" paradigm for African American male students. He is currently a trainer and consultant for several national and local organizations. Mr. Rowe graduated from both the University of Baltimore and Morgan State University and he has completed several executive leadership programs. He serves on a number of community boards, and is a contributing writer to several local and national publications and websites, including Black Parenting Magazine, The Journal of Black Manhood, and Black Fatherhood. Mr. Rowe has served in a number of roles as a long standing volunteer of the Black Mental Health Alliance including two terms as Board President.


The primary mission of the BMHA is to provide a trusted forum to lead and promote a holistic, culturally relevant approach to the development and maintenance of whole health, mental health programs and services for African Americans and vulnerable communities. BMHA actively engages healthcare professional members through an expansive database of culturally competent and patient centered licensed mental health clinicians.



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