Source: Blacks and It’s Middleclass
Source: Blacks and It’s Middleclass
Over the past 12-18 months, I have seen, heard and personally experienced the most cruel, unkind and thoughtless actions. From politics to personal relationships, things have become progressively more and more egregious. I’m not sure if everyone’s paying attention to what’s happening around us and the umpact that it is having on us as individuals and as a productive community. So, I can only suggest that we need to fall back to our spiritual foundation.
In any community, the Black community in particular, the ability to utilize the structure, meaning, purpose, and direction provided by the Bible has dated back tens of thousands of years ago. To that end, when I think about the health, strength and progress of the Black community, I believe we must collectively respect, honor and embrace the Word. Its truths have gotten us through every painful and degrading thing put before us, attempts to destroy us, our family unit and therefore, our community.
Please afford me the opportunity to share with you the very words that we should consider reviewing and internalizing as our ancestors did. During this day and age where any and everything is acceptable in this world, let’s be reminded that it is not what is expected of us nor will it serve to heal one another or lift one another up.
Those of you who know the scriptures, even on an academic level or refer to yourselves as “Christians” or “believers” should take note. Because even you….especially you, have treated the scriptures as “trail mix”…picking and choosing what you will live by and others you’ll leave behind. It’s also not a “subway” that you only make use of when other options are not available.
How about starting with the biggest and most impactful issue…how we treat one another? Can I remind you what the Word says about that? Even non-Christians have been heard to use the well-known scripture, which says that we should, “treat one another as you would like to be treated”. In fact, it has become a colloquialism these days. But lets check out other scriptures that provide more detail, and can at a minimum assist us in guiding our behavior:
1 Peter 3:8-12, Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind, Do not repay evil with evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”.
Romans 15:1-2, We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Philippians 2:4, Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Matthew 7: 3-5, Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speak out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the speck out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Mark 12: 31, The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
1 Peter 2: 1-3:22, So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to Him a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….
Psalm 37: 30-31, The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.
These examples barely touch on all that has historically guided our behavior. There’s no better time than the present, to change our behavior and to contribute to positively building our community. Trust me, everything you do and how you do it does matter.
You know there are a myriad of reasons why individuals get low self-esteem over their life time. Sometimes people relate it to childhood experiences…having been bullied, not feeling encouraged, an experience of humiliation, or worse, an experience of abuse. Others attributed it to an emotionally abusive relationship later in life, having been taken advantage of, having repeated disappointments, etc. And still others succumb to low self-esteem due to suffering loss, rejection, and abandonment. There’s lots of potential reasons that could contribute to such a negative experience in your life.
But in my opinion, it just doesn’t matter what the reasons are. I know from experience that the misery felt because of such a feeling, can do great damage to you and your ability to move forward in life. You make poor decisions, your judgement is skewed, your ability to determine what’s good for you and what is not is hampered. Eventually your world view becomes a bit off…how you perceive things, others in your life and most importantly, yourself.
Like me, you may not even be aware that you have a low self-esteem. Let me share with you a few identifying symptoms that may indicate that you are on your way to having a low self-esteem. Do any of the following things resonate with you:
- Social withdrawal
- Anxiety and emotional turmoil
- Lack of social skills and self-confidence. Depression and/or bouts of sadness
- Less social conformity
- Eating disorders
- Inability to accept compliments
- An Inability to see yourself ‘squarely’ – to be fair to yourself
- Accentuating the negative
- Exaggerated concern over what you imagine other people think
- Treating yourself badly but NOT other people
- Worrying whether you have treated others badly
- Reluctance to take on challenges
- Reluctance to put yourself first or anywhere.
- Reluctance to trust your own opinion
- Expecting little out of life for yourself.
Addressing low self-esteem in anyone is not as simple as bombarding them with “positive messages”. But research has shown that positive affirmations worsen the mood of people who already have low self-esteem. It seems that positive thinking as a “blunt instrument” used repetitively to try to brainwash people to feel better about themselves is too superficial an approach. And the person with low self-esteem senses this.
Telling someone they are great or wonderful when they are constantly negative about themselves will not work. Imagine if you really detest yourself and someone tells you that you’re lovely even as they are telling everyone else the same thing. In fact, people with low self-esteem can be upset by disconfirming feedback. Healthy self-esteem needs to emerge subtly, not as a sudden result of hearing you are ‘really special’ or ‘fantastic’.
Paradoxically, being “too nice” to someone with very low self-esteem can drive them away. People need to develop better self-esteem gradually, through “proof” in the real world. Just being repeatedly told (by someone who doesn’t know you that well) that “you’re wonderful” has never been found to work in lifting low self-esteem.
Whenever we’re highly emotional our perception is distorted. When people calm down around the idea of themselves, then a healthier self-esteem can emerge like a green island coming into view when mist clears.
In addition, contrary to popular opinion, people with low self-esteem tend to be very sure of themselves. That’s the problem. This manifests in their conviction that they are worthless or inadequate. As you will know if you have ever tried to argue with someone who puts themselves down continually, it is very hard to do! When someone with low self-esteem starts to become less sure of their own opinion of themselves and therefore begins to assess counter evidence regarding their worthlessness, their self-image begins to become healthier.
Good self-esteem is actually a by-product of living in a healthy way. So, rather than trying to raise it directly it’s easier to focus elsewhere (such on what a person does) and let self-esteem rise as a happy side effect of a change in living. What do we all need in life that will help us incidentally feel better about ourselves?
For anyone to be psychologically and physically healthy then core needs have to be fulfilled. Being clear about what you need and making efforts to meet those needs constructively means you’ll naturally have better self-esteem as a by-product of living well.
This is a useful list of basic human needs:
- The need to give and receive attention
- The need to look after your body.
- The need for meaning, purpose and goals.
- The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves
- The need for creativity and stimulation
- The need for intimacy and connection to others.
- The need for a sense of control
- The need for a sense of status and recognition from others.
- The need for a sense of safety and security.
- The need for a strong spirituality and faith.
Of course, it is likely that at any one time, one or more of these may be slightly lacking in your life, without dire consequences. However, in the long-term, they must all be catered to one way or another.
Something else the “low self esteemer” needs is the capacity to focus off their own emotionality and merge with experience so they gain more enjoyment from life. If you really want to help your friend or loved one at this low point in their life, you can help by being a distraction, helping to get involved in activities and meaningful fun things that they would enjoy. We all need to engage in activities which we enjoy and in which we can ‘lose ourselves’ regularly.
Someone’s mental and even, to some extent, physical health can be directly related to how ‘self-referential’ they are in their conversation – as people become healthier they use the ‘I’ word less, in the same way that when your knee stops hurting you don’t need to rub it any more. People should be encouraged to focus their attention away from themselves and this becomes easier once they have met their own basic human needs in healthy ways.
We all amplify some parts of our experience and minimize others. But if we habitually do this by expanding the bad stuff and linking that to self-esteem whilst belittling the good stuff, distancing positives from self-esteem, then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or even a psychologist) to see that low self-esteem will result.
Low self-esteem requires a particular attitude towards success. Whenever you succeed at something, you must not ‘write it off’ as good luck, chance, or someone else’s responsibility. To gain a more realistic view of yourself, you need to take appropriate credit for your successes. This involves learning how to convert real successes into statements about your self. The other part of the picture is to view perceived failures as temporary and not manifestations of your ‘core identity’. When you stop discounting things that go well and magnifying stuff that doesn’t go so well you are less likely to be depressed or suffer low self-esteem. Period.
Ultimately a healthy balance should be encouraged, as should the development of real practical skills such as how to be assertive and build a positive social life. Work hard and consistently to avoid those in your life who find benefit to your maintaining low self-esteem. Help yourself by resisting people (including those who claim to care about you) who continue to say and act in such a way that underscores the negative feelings. I recognize how challenging that might be when you trust them and their views…in fact, it can be extraordinarily painful to even think of them in that way. We are all deserving to avoid such negativity.
What do you think? What has been your experience with dealing with low self-esteem? Do you have some other ideas?
History of African Americans and Depression
In 1921 in the first edition of American Journal of Psychiatry, Beavis wrote his feelings “most of the race are carefree, live in the here and now with limited capacity to recall or profit by experiences of the past. Sadness and depression have little part of his psychological makeup” (p. 11). A study of African American ministers suggested that spiritual advisors believed that suicide was a ‘White thing’. It was also noted that some even believed that there was no such thing as black suicide. It was thought that blacks, who have suffered through the effects of slavery, were a resilient people, most of whom were just happy to be. “Blacks were historically viewed as a psychologically unsophisticated race that were naturally high spirited and unburdened with a sense of responsibility.” (Prudhomme, 1938; Prange & Vitols, 1962). Detailed records of slave logs suggest that slaves did commit suicide during capture and after being brought to America. Some slaves believed that their soul would return to Africa after death.
Slave owners would mutilate the body of those that committed suicide to dissuade others as slaves also believed that dismembered bodies could not return home. Suicide in the black community has not been studied partially because previous studies have not distinguished between races. Most studies are done, unless specific, on college campuses where you have an attentive demographic, most of whom receive extra credit from their professors for participating in these studies.
Intro psychology classes are generally thought of as a good sample to survey because often these classes contain over 250 students. However, African Americans are quite underrepresented in this major (I was, in most cases, the only one in my upper division psych classes.). The reality of suicide in the black community is, according to a 2004 study, “African American adolescents and young adults have the highest number and the highest rate of suicide of any age group of African Americans. Suicide was the third-leading cause of death among African American people aged 15 to 19 years, fourth among those aged 20 to 29 years, and eighth among those aged 30 to 39. Among African American adolescents and young adults, it is particularly the males that have the highest rates.” (Reese, Crosby, Hasbrouck, & Willis, 2004).
You see this beautiful young Black man? He looks like he has a promising future doesn’t he? He looks like he could be anything he wants to be. There’s a promise breaking release from the bondage within his bones. There’s a salvation gasping for air within his mouth. But somewhere behind those brown eyes of his, there’s a story–a story of a young Black man fighting. And he feel like he’s losing–he feels like his demons are winning and there’s no more fight left within him to hold on.
This beautiful, bold, courageous, young Black man is MarShawn McCarrel…and he committed suicide at the tender age of 23.
MarShawn was a Black Lives Matter activist-the Ohio native was one of the youngest activists at the forefront of the movement, passionate about seeking justice and equality for other Black lives just like his. He assisted in organizing protests in his home state after the killing of Michael Brown, gave back to his community and founded the Pursuing Our Dreams youth program, and led the Feed the Streets project, which assisted Ohio’s homeless community. Just last Friday, he attended the NAACP Image Awards, where he was recognized for being named one of Ohio’s Radio One Hometown Champions for his community activism.
He had a heart for his people; he wanted them to get the freedom they deserved and he fought relentlessly…but it got to him.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, McCarrel shot himself near the Statehouse of the Franklin Township. Authorities say they “don’t have any evidence to know the reason why he did it.” The only messages that remain are the ones McCarrel left on his social media accounts, one on his Facebook saying,
My demons won today. I am sorry.
McCarrel’s story caught me off guard when I read about it Monday during one of my classes. I should’ve been paying attention, but while on Twitter, I saw a link to The Root about McCarrel’s death and immediately, my heart sank.
How could this happen?
Why did this happen?
Did his fight for justice exhaust him to the point where he felt he h
ad nothing left to fight for, not even his own life?
How did no one see it?
And then it dawned on me–someone did see it; we all did…but we over looked it, just like we do our Black men who are suffering in silence with depression.
A common narrative within the Black community is strength–we weigh the weight of our issues and problems on our shoulders, and we get a pat on the back for it. Another one is “what goes on in this house, stays in this house.” These two common narratives, I believe, are killing our mental psyches, especially within our Black men. We ask how we’re doing without really caring about the answer because it’s a conditioned response for us to say we’re doing just fine.
With the odds already not favoring our Black men, in a system that has been intentionally set up for them to fail, it’s almost impossible to not wonder, how are our Black men really doing emotionally, mentally and spiritually. They’re physically here, but are they really here? While we as Black women are continuing to climb up the career ladder of success, breaking down barriers, and becoming “independent,” we in a way lose sight of things sometimes–we lose sight of our men. We forget that our men are our leaders, and instead of participating in the narrative of attacking them, and/or removing them from our homes, we should be embracing them, celebrating them, and correcting them from a place of love. We, as Black women, have just as much blood on our hands as our entire community does when it comes to this conversation because we don’t talk about depression either.
According to the Black Mental Health Net, in research done by Ward and Collins (2011), suicide rates for African American males have been increasing for the past 50 years by nearly 30%. In 2007, 1,958 African Americans committed suicide; 83% of those suicides were committed by Black men (American Association of Suicidology). According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among Black males ages 15-24, with homicide and unintentional injuries being the first two. Yet, the topics of depression and suicide still remain taboo in our community?
Studies have shown that most African Americans, men in particular, believe that if they admit to their mental health issues, they will be condemned by their social groups. Mind you, men are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than females (CDC).
And our men will continue to kill themselves, no matter the cost, no matter the fight, no matter the fame (Sam Sarpong, Lee Thompson Young, Don Cornelius), until we have the conversation and began to truly care. Life happens…to all us, but when we begin to think that our issues have more power than we do, we begin to fail ourselves.
Black Lives Matter…every single one of them. And because they do, we need to start talking, not just about police brutality and systematic inequalities, but about our physical, mental and emotional health. Depression and suicide is not a race issue, it’s a humanity issue and it can happen to anyone.
You never have to suffer in silence alone, and you should never cast your brother or sister aside, being content with them being “just fine.”
My thoughts and prayers are with the family of MarShawn. May his life and his fight for our people never be in vain. God, please have mercy.
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