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Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle
by Oliver Taylor

Dr Thomas Parham offers some stimulating strategies from his book Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle to prepare for the psychological storms that lie ahead for African Americans and Afropeans in the West. Parham quotes Wade Nobles (1986), a notable pioneer of the African American psychology movement, who wrote: ‘in the African way, ideas are the substance of behaviour.’ Parham elaborates writing, ‘consequently, if our consciousness is culturally congruent, then our behaviour should be focused on responding to our reality in ways which support, enhance, sustain, and actualize our individual and collective beings as African Americans.’

One of several strategies that Parham offers is what he refers to as Differentiating Values and Skill, found in Chapter 6, Preparing for the Next Storm: Fortification. I see this as an essential strategy for Black Atlantics to adopt, and one that if they can take seriously will increase their effectiveness, mental wellbeing and freedom in a Eurocentric society.

Differentiating between values and skills means understanding the fundamental difference between values and skills. Parham quotes values as, ‘”worth or importance that is assigned to something,” and skills are ‘”developed aptitudes or abilities at something;” it’s the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively in execution or performance’. There is a difference, and this is what Parham is emphasizing for the benefit of Blacks.

Parham believes that many Blacks, particularly young Blacks, assume that both terms mean that same thing. Parham writes that the words are not synonymous, and there is a danger making this assumption. Parham notes a case study run by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, which they published on July 24, 1992, to support this. The paper conducted interviews on African Americans who reported having to endure both other-imposed and self-imposed pressures of ‘acting White’ if they wanted to achieve and achieved academic success (Barrington, 1992). Parham writes that this is an oversimplified explanation, and a trap Blacks can easily fall in to, and therefore must be untangled for their betterment.

Correlating excellence in writing, reading, mathematics, science with being White and selling out, and Blackness with athleticism and musicality is an error in differentiating between skills and values. The skills mentioned are not inherently White. Parham writes, ‘indeed, it was ancient Africa (Kemet) and not Europe who taught the world what it knows in almost every discipline’. The Blackamoors invaded Europe and brought them out of the Dark Ages (Sertima, 1991), and the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians introduced the arts of civilization to the classical Greeks (Bernal 1987).

Here Parham makes two crucial points about Blacks learning the ‘skills and technologies of the dominant culture’ while at the same time being true to their cultural values:

‘Blacks do not have to adopt Eurocentric orientated values, especially when they are to Blacks detriment, simply because they learn or use a particular skill’.
‘Blacks cannot avoid acquiring a particular skill that might assist them in advancing themselves or their people, just because they associate that skill with being White’.
Parham then summaries this strategy–highlighting the challenge of maintaining our cultural integrity while learning the skills to navigate the pathways to productivity and success.

It’s worth noting earlier in his book in Chapter 4, The Eye of The Hurricane: Managing Anxiety, Parham shares some behavioural and attitudinal adjustments that Blacks make to manage the discomfort between the competing spirits (mentioned in Part I of this blog post). One of them is relevant to this post: Pass’in.

In reality, pass’in is adopting the values of Whiteness, and therefore what more closely equates to ‘acting White.’

Parham defines pass’in as ‘attempts to understate, downplay or otherwise camouflage one’s African American makeup. These individuals try to embrace and adopt the characteristic of the dominant culture. Every fibre of their beings suggests they want to be White, from their wardrobe, hairstyle, language style, peer group, spouse/partner, and professional affiliations and political views. They have incorporated and clearly project negative attitudes and feelings towards self and other African Americans’.

When Blacks refer to other Blacks who pursue excellence in any arena not considered traditionally ‘Black’ like sports or entertainment, as ‘acting White’ it is expressing an anti-Black idea. However, if Blacks observe another Black person adopting Whiteness and projecting negative attitudes and feelings towards themselves and other Blacks, it is likely pass’in. Blacks can misinterpret the actions of other Blacks if they subscribe to the belief that any form of Black success means that Blacks are ‘acting White.’

An excellent personal story that illustrates the experiences of being mislabelled is in a blog post by Black Leader Analysis founder David Hartful Jr. In the post, David shares his painful experience of growing up and always being labelled as the Black kid who wants to be White and his consequent resentment towards Black people and the immense guilt associated with that resentment. For David, he was ‘trying to be well behaved and productive in society,’ and ‘did not want to perpetuate behaviours that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others’. For other Blacks though, it looked like David wanted to assimilate into White society, gain validation and attain some level of success while rejecting the Black community.

The lesson to be learnt here, as David writes, is ‘attempts to shame people out of their beliefs makes them double down. It creates two opposing camps in the black community. A divided house is that much easier to control’.
Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Dr Thomas Parham offers some stimulating strategies to prepare for the psychological storms that lie ahead for African Americans and Afropeans in the West. Parham quotes Wade Nobles (1986), a notable pioneer of the African American psychology movement, who wrote: ‘in the African way, ideas are the substance of behaviour.’ Parham elaborates writing, ‘consequently, if our consciousness is culturally congruent, then our behaviour should be focused on responding to our reality in ways which support, enhance, sustain, and actualize our individual and collective beings as African Americans.’

One of several strategies that Parham offers is what he refers to as Differentiating Values and Skills. I see this as an essential strategy for Black Atlantics to adopt, and one that if they can take seriously will increase their effectiveness, mental wellbeing and freedom in a Eurocentric society.

Differentiating between values and skills means understanding the fundamental difference between values and skills. Parham quotes values as, ‘”worth or importance that is assigned to something,” and skills are ‘”developed aptitudes or abilities at something;” it’s the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively in execution or performance’. There is a difference, and this is what Parham is emphasizing for the benefit of Blacks.

Parham believes that many Blacks, particularly young Blacks, assume that both terms mean that same thing. Parham writes that the words are not synonymous, and there is a danger making this assumption. Parham notes a case study run by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper on July 24, 1992, to support this. The paper conducted interviews on African Americans who reported having to endure both other-imposed and self-imposed pressures of ‘acting White’ if they achieved academic success (Barrington, 1992). Parham writes that this is an oversimplified explanation, and a trap Blacks can easily fall in to, and therefore must be untangled for their betterment.

Correlating excellence in writing, reading, mathematics, science with being White and selling out, and Blackness with athleticism and musicality is an error in differentiating between skills and values. The skills mentioned are not inherently White. Parham writes, ‘indeed, it was ancient Africa (Kemet) and not Europe who taught the world what it knows in almost every discipline’. The Blackamoors invaded Europe and brought them out of the Dark Ages (Sertima, 1991), and the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians introduced the arts of civilization to the classical Greeks (Bernal 1987).

Here Parham makes two crucial points about Blacks learning the ‘skills and technologies of the dominant culture’ while at the same time being true to their cultural values:

‘Blacks do not have to adopt Eurocentric orientated values, especially when they are to Blacks detriment, simply because they learn or use a particular skill’.
‘Blacks cannot avoid acquiring a particular skill that might assist them in advancing themselves or their people, just because they associate that skill with being White’.
Parham then summaries this strategy–highlighting the challenge of maintaining our cultural integrity while learning the skills to navigate the pathways to productivity and success.

It’s worth noting earlier in his book, Parham shares some behavioural and attitudinal adjustments that Blacks make to manage the discomfort between the competing spirits (mentioned in Part I of this blog post). One of them is relevant to this post: Pass’in.

In reality, pass’in is adopting the values of Whiteness, and therefore what more closely equates to ‘acting White.’

Parham defines pass’in as ‘attempts to understate, downplay or otherwise camouflage one’s African American makeup. These individuals try to embrace and adopt the characteristic of the dominant culture. Every fibre of their beings suggests they want to be White, from their wardrobe, hairstyle, language style, peer group, spouse/partner, and professional affiliations and political views. They have incorporated and clearly project negative attitudes and feelings towards self and other African Americans’.

When Blacks refer to other Blacks who pursue excellence in any arena not considered traditionally ‘Black’ like sports or entertainment, as ‘acting White’ it is expressing an anti-Black idea. However, if Blacks observe another Black person adopting Whiteness and projecting negative attitudes and feelings towards themselves and other Blacks, it is likely pass’in. Blacks can misinterpret the actions of other Blacks if they subscribe to the belief that any form of Black success means that Blacks are ‘acting White.’

Parham, in a fascinating, inspirational and spirited speech, posted on Youtube entitled What Matters to Me and Why, offers some advice to Blacks on pursuing higher education. He says of his graduate students that they should not avoid White institutions out of fear feeling or being judged as ‘acting White’, no he suggests getting into the White institutions of learning, learning i.e. acquire the skills and getting out i.e. not joining their faculty etc.

An excellent personal story that illustrates the experiences of being mislabelled is in a blog post by Black Leader Analysis founder David Hartful Jr. In the post, David shares his painful experience of growing up and always being labelled as the Black kid who wants to be White and his consequent resentment towards Black people and the immense guilt associated with that resentment. For David, he was ‘trying to be well behaved and productive in society,’ and ‘did not want to perpetuate behaviours that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others’. For other Blacks though, it looked like David wanted to assimilate into White society, gain validation and attain some level of success while rejecting the Black community.

The lesson to be learnt here, as David writes, is ‘attempts to shame people out of their beliefs makes them double down. It creates two opposing camps in the black community. A divided house is that much easier to control’.

Maharashtra as a Linguistic Province

A linguistic province is an independent political entity formed to ensure that those who speak a similar language can govern together. Ambedkar takes on the idea of reforming the region that includes his hometown of Mhow as a linguistic province.

Those that support linguistic provinces see it as a way to preserve and develop local culture. If the government creates provinces without considering local cultures, they will die. In heterogeneous societies, people tend to advantage their group over others. The group hostilities will hinder nation-building.

Linguistic states would make a national democracy more challenging to develop. Democracies work best in homogenous societies. By having province drawn without linguistic considerations, everyone in the province would be forced to use the common language. The use of the common language builds national identity.

In addition to hindering the construction of national identity, Linguistic states increase government bureaucracy. The central government would have to make documents and provide translators of all the provincial languages.

The compromise solution proposed by Ambedkar was to create provinces based on common local language but use the national language for business and government transactions. The local language could be used for cultural activities. However, if the national language overtakes the provincial, so be it. A culture can stay together without a government entity or a unique language. Cultures can be cohesive through shared history, experience, and tradition.

Maharashtra as a Province

Ambedkar begins by explaining that the proposed province of Maharashtra would be viable. When comparing Maharashtra to the American state of Delaware, it is much larger. The population is greater than the most populous American state, New York. Maharashtra also had enough tax revenue to stay self-sufficient.

The next question was, should the province be unitary or federal. Federal meaning that Maharashtra would be broken into sub-provinces that work in a confederation. Ambedkar takes the stand that a federal province would only increase bureaucracy without any advantage. Maharashtra should be a unitary province.

Bombay

The largest city in Maharashtra would be Bombay, which has historically been an international trading capital. It has a sizeable Gujarathi population. Most work as merchants and liaisons from English and other European business. Many of the Gujaratis wanted Bombay to be independent.

Mostly the argument was that the Gujaratis turn Bombay into an economic powerhouse, and local Maharashtrians should not rule them. Most of the Maharashtrians in Bombay were laborers. They had no idea how to govern correctly. Many of the Gujaratis believed that Maharashtra wanted the surplus revenue of Bombay.

Ambedkar reminds the Gujaratis that they are only captains of industry because the British East India company gave them privileges to work in Bombay. Also, the surrounding provinces provide tax revenue to keep Bombay afloat. Lastly, the wealth of Bombay would not exist without Maharashtrian labor. The Capitalist did not gather their wealth themselves and had no right to its complete control. Wealth is the property of the society because it takes a community to build it.

Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Dr. Parham’s uses Psychological Storms as a short introduction into his views on Black Psychology. In the book, he explains how racial oppression experienced by the group manifests itself as psychological issues.

The root of racial conflict comes from the differences between African and European worldviews. European worldview is based around individualism, while communalism undergirds the African worldview. As Africans living in European culture, blacks have to balance their natural essence with the need to conform for survival in a capitalistic world. This dissonance between these competing spirits cause psychological issues within individual black people that become widespread and result in societal trouble. The chart below details the European and African worldview.

Eurocentric Dimensions Africentric
Dualistic / Fragmented Self Holitic / Spiritness, Thoughts and Behaviors are Interrelated
Suppressed to rationale Feelings Expressed and Legitimized
Individual Competition Survivial Cooperative Econmics
Formal and Detached Language Informal and Connected
Commoditized with Future Orientation Time Experiential with Present Orientation
People control nature Universe People live in Harmony with Nature
Life ends at Death Death Afterlife starts at Death
Material/Individual Achievement Worth Collective Work and Responsibility

Not only are Blacks forced to hide their true African nature. They live in a world which vilifies them for being different. The Eurocentric worldview dictates control of all people and things non-European. This disregard for Black men not only manifests in personal relations but on a systematic level. It manifests in the lackadaisical investigations of black murder cases. In seeing black colleagues performing at a high capacity and not getting promoted. Mass media ignoring stories centered around black people. Racism has a profound effect on the psyche of Blacks.

Black people have developed many coping mechanisms to deal with the duality of being African in a European world. Many of the mechanisms that are not healthy involve denying one’s African identity in favor of assimilation. The over assimilation leads to feelings of alienation from one’s people. Also, even once one has no connection to their African roots, they may not be accepted in mainstream society.

Another extreme is always challenging other people’s blackness to show how connected one is to the community. Dr. Parham’s shorthand for this is “Blacker than thou.” When this is coupled with negative internalization of blackness leads to referring to fellow compatriots as niggas, bitches, and hoes. Dr. Parham does not condone the use of derogations in colloquial language, only gives background psychological underpinnings of the behavior.

Dr. Parham gives two models of one developing a healthy sense of self. He begins with the idea that all Black people have an African nature. Then they are exposed to an environment. If the environment is supportive, one will develop a Positive African Self Consciousness. If the environment is unsupportive one will undergo the stages of Nigrescence to build a positive self-image.

The stages of Nigrescence, first theorized by Dr. William Cross, are a step by step process that one grows through to actualize a healthy sense of self that includes their identity. The first stage is Pre-encounter. In this stage, a person has never been faced with the race problem and sees themselves as part of mainstream America. Then in the Encounter stage, one is confronted with race through discrimination. As a response to the discrimination, one enters the Immersion-Emmersion stage. In this stage, one immerses themselves in black culture to emerge a new person. The Immersion-Emmersion stage can manifest as joining Black political and cultural movements or just going to black spaces. Internalization is the last stage. In this stage, one accepts their ethnic identities with all their other identities and saliences. One can continue to stay in black groups and space, but one is also comfortable venturing out into the rest of the world.

To weather the upcoming racial storm, black people must cultivate an understanding of Africanity. Because Africanity is based in communalism or the idea all matter in the Universe arises from one spirit, it is specially equipped for building a strong community. Consubstantiation is the term Dr. Parham uses to define the idea that all people are united in spirit. He believes a deep understanding of consubstantiation would solve many societal ills. One couldn’t kill another because he understands that it is suicide. A person couldn’t become a drug addict because he understands how it hurts his people. Those that have education will naturally want to teach others because they see themselves as part of a community. Ultimate, black people have to reach back for the strength to move forward.

Thomas Parham PhD

Psychological Storms; The African American Identity Struggle

Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Operation Clean Sweep Sources

Washington Post Articles

  1. D.C. School Budget Stirs Few Sparks at Hearing: Usual Political Acrimony is Missing By Marc Fisher 02-14-1987
  2. Reclaiming Clifton Terrace; NW Neighbors Wage War on Drug Dealers
  3. Tracking D.C.’s Clean Sweep Arrests; Computer Yields Surprises in 6 Month Oil Crime Crackdown by Linda Wheeler 03-03-1987
  4. D.C. Police End Drug Roundups, Say Funds Short by Sari Horwitz 04-28-1987
  5. D.C. Operation Clean Sweep To Resume, Officials Say by Sari Horwitz
  6. Clean Sweep’s Real Value 05-01-1987
  7. Drug Probes Invigorated By New Commitment, Cash by Nancy Lewis 05-04-1987
  8. Smart Moves by the Police 05-12-1987
  9. Barry Urges $12 Rise in Tax Bills; Public Safety Cited For Budget Shortfall by Tom Sherwood & Gwen Ifill 05-15-1987
  10. 3 D.C. Prison Are 700 Inmates Above June 1 Court Cap by Nancy Lewis 05-18-1987
  11. Car Impoundment Law Hits Innocent Owners; D.C. Police Seize Autos in Drug Arrests by Elsa Walsh 06-05-1987
  12. Gloomy D.C. Financial Outlook; Report on Government Spending Heats Up Tax Debate by Gwen Ifill 06-07-1987
  13. Slain Officer Remembered at Police Promotions by Victoria Chruchville 06-11-1987
  14. Drug-Linked D.C. Killings Rise Sharply; Rival Dealers Use Powerful Weapons In Growing Violence by Victoria Churchville 06-17-1987
  15. Police Seize $233,000 Worth of Drugs in NE Raid 06-17-1987
  16. ANC Actions 06-18-1987
  17. Photographer For Life Sues District Police by Nancy Lewis 10-23-1987
  18. Paradise Manor Co-Op Plan Hailed at Partners’ Party by Douglas Stevenson 10-29-1987
  19. Southeast’s Search for a Little Understanding; Residents of Historic Quadrant Struggle Against Stigmas, Assert Pride in Diversity by Linda Wheeler 11-08-1987
  20. D.C. Officer Shot in NE Drug Mart; Clean Sweep Has Its First Casualty by Carlos Sanchez & Rene Sanchez 12-02-1987
  21. N.Y. Youth Charged in Police Shooting; Officer Wounded In NE Drug Arrest by Sari Horwitz 12-08-1987
  22. D.C. Prison Officials Ask for Emergency Release; Barry Expected to Free Over 1,000 Inmates by Victoria Churchville 12-05-1987
  23. Washington, Police Reach a Separate Peace; On the Third Day, the City, Demonstrators and Even Soviets Seem to Be Loosening Up Series: Summit in Washington by Victoria Mintz & John Mintz 12-10-1987
  24. Clean Sweep Roundup Nets More Than 100 Arrests in SE; Crackdown One of the Largest in Program by Carlos Sanchez & Martin Weil 12-12-1987
  25. Clean Sweep Nets 124 Arrests 12-13-1987
  26. Jail Filled, But Drugs Still a Problem, Chief Says 12-17-1987
  27. 3 Officers Shot in D.C. Drug Deal By Carlos Sanchez 12-17-1987
  28. Sending the Right Message 12-28-1987
  29. Unsolved Killings Hit New High in District; Drug Trade, Burdens on Detectives Cited by Rene Sanchez 12-31-1987
  30. Guns Mean Status to Some D.C. Youths by Patrice Gaines-Carter & Lynne Duke 01-01-1988
  31. “Headline Missing” 01-12-1988
  32. District Revising Drug War; Clean Sweep’s Role May Be Reduced by Sari Horwitz 01-13-1988
  33. Proposed Clean Sweep Cuts Draw Barrage of Criticism;2 on D.C. Council Vow to Save Drug Fight by Sari Horowitz 01-15-1988
  34. Hiring 150 Officers Proposed to Offest Clean Sweep Cuts by Athelia Knight 01-16-1988
  35. D.C. Police: Strained, Overworked 01-22-1988
  36. Clarke Suggests Holding the Line on D.C. Hiring by Athelia Knight 01-23-1988
  37. Prince George’s Battles to Stem Drug Traffic, Improve Image by Retha Hill & Jeffrey Yorke 01-24-1988
  38. Operation Clean Sweep’s Future Uncertain; D.C. Police Officials Seek to Revamp Drug Program to Cut Cost by Linda Wheeler & Sari Horwitz 01-26-1988
  39. D.C. Homicides Equal Record; NW Barbershop Slaying in 32nd Killing in Single Month by Sari Horwitz 01-28-1988
  40. Youth Crime Plan Gets a Slow Start; 3 Times in 2 Years, Barry Has Promised New Programs by Marcia Slacum Greene 02-01-1988
  41. Drug-Induced Frustration Plagues Search for Solutions by Courtland Milroy 02-04-1988
  42. A Regional Ban on Handguns? Yes. They’re at Least As Dangerous As Beer and Wine 02-07-1988
  43. D.C. Police to Boost Drug War Firepower; Officers to Carry Semiautomatic Guns by Victoria Churchville 02-10-1988
  44. D.C. Clean Sweep to Resume Sunday; Turner Announces Offensive Against Drug by Victoria Churchville 02-11-1988
  45. A Drug War With Real Troops; While the Guard Directs Traffic, Out Cops Can Hit the Dealers by Linda Wheeler 02-14-1988
  46. Clean Sweep Reborn as Police Seek Drug Sites; District Officers Enter Suspected Crack Houses by Victoria Churchville 02-15-1988
  47. Why Not Hire More Police? 02-20-1988
  48. More Police Is Not the Answer 02-24-1988
  49. D.C. to Add Police Reserves; Latest Tactic Calls for Training Volunteer Officers by Victoria Churchville 02-25-1988
  50. Suburban Drug Use Here Worst in U.S.; Region’s Problems Unmatched, Report Say by Lynne Duke 02-26-1988
  51. Police, Lawyers and Drugs (Cont’d) 02-29-1988
  52. How to Stop the Murder; Begin with a Consensus the Illegal Drugs are Evil 03-06-1988
  53. Tip Yields Drugs, Guns, 8 Arrests in Raid in NW by Carlos Sanchez 03-09-1988
  54. Clean Sweep Drug Team Cut Swath in SE Area by Sari Horwitz 03-12-1988
  55. Appeals Court Bars D.C. From Using U.S. Prisons; City Sought to Ease Crowding at Lorton by Nancy Lewis 03-12-1988
  56. Operation Clean Sweep Net Snares Atlanta DEA Agent by Lynne Duke 03-13-1988
  57. 90 Arrested in Clean Sweep On Drug Areas in Southeast 03-13-1988
  58. Friday Night Live 03-15-1988
  59. Clean Sweep’s Dirty Trail by Courtland Milloy 03-22-1988
  60. City Workers Arrested on Drug Charges; Corrections Officers Accused of Dealing 03-23-1988
  61. Antidrug Faction Won’t Surrender in NE Housing Project War Zone by Victoria Churchville 03-29-1988
  62. ANC Actions by Virginia Mansfield 03-31-1988
  63. PCP Allegedly Found on Boy, 4; Manassas Police Charge Father With Possession of Drugs by John Lancaster 04-03-1988
  64. Hide and Seek With Drug Smugglers; Union Station Squad Gives Couriers an Inhospitable Welcome by Rene Sanchez 04-14-1988
  65. Drug Patrol Turns Violent; Muslims Beat Man in NE Narcotics Market 04-19-1988
  66. Fighting Fire with Fire by Courtland Milloy 04-21-1988
  67. Legalize Drugs? 05-02-1988
  68. D.C. Police Seize Biggest Drug Cache; 29 LBS. of Cocaine Taken at Train Station by Rene Sanchez 05-06-1988
  69. Drug Problem in Prince William Worse Than Ever; Official Says by Thomas Pierre 05-12-1988
  70. P.G. Police, Posing as Dealers, Arrest 23 for Buying ‘Drugs’ by Jeffrey Yorke 05-13-1988
  71. P.G. Police Arrest 30 More In Drug Sting by Keith Harriston 05-14-1988
  72. Learning to Play the Drug Game; District Youngsters Emulating adults in Make-Believe Deals by Rene Sanchez 06-05-1988
  73. Routine District Drug Arrests Generate Long, Complex Cases by Nancy Lewis 06-13-1988
  74. Drug War Puts Unanticipated Squeeze on D.C. Budget Series; Running on Empty; The District’s Troubled Finances Series Number: 2/3 01-09-1989
  75. Priorities of D.C. Policw 02-06-1989
  76. Year-Old Antidrug Program Falls Short of Barry’s Pledges; ‘Operation Fight Back’ Meets Obstacles by Sari Horwitz 02-12-1989
  77. Manassas Takes Steps Against Drugs by Pierre Thomas 02-16-1989
  78. Detectives’ Overtime Curtailed; New Order Affects D.C. Homicide Cases by Sari Horwitz 02-17-1989
  79. 2 Drug Case Suspects Still WOrk of Police; 3 D.C. Officers File Complaints on ‘Obvious Security Breach’ by Sari Horwitz 02-18-1989
  80. Va. Drug Bust Fills Jail 02-18-1989
  81. Georgetown South Changing Its Image; Manassas Community Turns to Volunteerism to Fight Crime, Recharge Neighborhood by Pierre Thomas 02-23-1989
  82. Turner Acknowledges Need For More Police in District; Police Chief Declares Crime Emergency by Sari Horwitz 02-25-1989
  83. D.C. Anitcrime Proposal Mirror System’s Flaws; Courts Can’t Handle Load, Experts Say by David Broder 03-07-1989
  84. The Mayor’s Forceful Critic; Police Union Leader Gary Hankins, Speaking out on Marion Barry and District Crime by Jacqueline Trescott 03-07-1989
  85. Drug Raids Illustrate Vicious Circle in Criminal Justice by Thomas Pierre 03-09-1989
  86. D.C. Killings Top 100 with No Solution in Sight; Officials Renew Appeal to Public for Help by Sari Horwitz 03-09-1989
  87. Government Actions;City of Manassas 03-16-1989
  88. Strike Force Planned in D.C. War on Drugs;Bennett to Target Markets, Repeat Offenders by Michael Isikoff 03-19-1989
  89. Kemp Quarterbacks a Drug Fight; Crusade in Public Housing Systems Resurrects Legal Problems by Gwen Ifill 03-22-1989
  90. Antidrug Sweep Judged a Success; Arrests Clear Streets in Georgetown South by Pierre Thomas 03-23-1989
  91. D.C. and Drugs:Priorities 04-06-1989
  92. 16 Linked to Drug Gang Arrested in Area Sweep; U.S., District Forces Catch 2 Alleged Leaders by Nancy Lewis & Sari Horwitz 04-17-1989
  93. Taking the System to Its Limits; Prison Director Hallem Williams & the Cost of Containing Crime by Jacqueline Trescott 04-18-1989
  94. Public Housing Residents Describe ‘Emergency’ Drugs, Gangs Plaque Areas, Hill Panel Told by Gwen Ifill 05-11-1989
  95. Bennett and the Priorities Trap by William Raspberry 05-12-1989
  96. Quantico’s Tiny Police Department Gets a Major Influx of Help by Claudia Sandlin 06-01-2019
  97. Weary Drug Unit Losing Ground as District Police Tactics Shift by Rochelle Riley 06-05-1989
  98. In the District, Justice vs Management; Prosecutors’ Role in Papering’ Deflects Cases Before They Reach Court by Barton Gellman 06-08-1989
  99. Next D.C. Police Chief Considered a “Man of Action”; Many Like Fulwood’s Can-Do Attitude but his Style Sometimes Rubs People the Wrong Way by Sari Horwitz 06-13-1989
  100. Barry Nominates Fulwood As Next D.C. Police Chief by Sari Horwitz 06-13-1989
  101. Fulwood’s First Priority: Recuruiting Officers by Sari Horwitz 06-14-1989
  102. Drug Ring Boss Faces Life Term; Tough New U.S. Law Provides No Parole by Tracy Thompson 06-18-1989
  103. Fear of Drug Violence in D.C. Slows Some Suburban Buyers by Jeffrey Goldberg 06-27-1989
  104. Fulwood Sworn In as Chief, Asks Community for Help by Carlos Sanchez 08-05-1989
  105. Va. Businessman Slain in SE; Death Called Drug-Related by Carlos Sanchez 09-15-1989
  106. Ex-Officer Sentenced in Drug Case; Money Laundered for Area Ring by Robert F. Howe 09-30-1989
  107. Barry Says Slayings Are Unstoppable; City Is Doing “All I Know How to Do” by Sari Horwitz 10-20-1989
  108. Courting Rayful Edmond; Ex-Hoya Turner Among Those Who Play Roles in Drug Suspect’s Sporting Life by Bill Brubaker 11-02-1989
  109. Valley Green Wraps Skepticism Around City’s Promises by Lynne Duke 12-04-1989
  110. Fulwood Shakes Up Police Department; Consolidation of Investigative Units Reflects ‘Change in Mission’ by Sari Horwitz 02-01-1990
  111. Just Cause For Change; Is an Overflowing Jail any Reason to Build a Bigger One? 02-18-2019
  112. Regulators Shift Strategy on Selling Ailing S&Ls; U.S. Hopes to Reduce Costs of Rescue by Disposing of Thrifts Before They Go Broke by Jerry Knight 07-11-1990
  113. Ex-Chief As Mayoral Candidate; Turner’s Record Raised in Race Series: OCC by R.H. Melton & Sari Horwitz 11-01-1990
  114. D.C. Police See Thereat to Overtime, Free Parking by Michael York 03-28-1991
  115. D.C. Drug Roadblocks Ruled Illegal; Appeals Court Panel Surprises ACLU by Saundra Torry 05-02-1991
  116. Putting Public Housing in Social Order by Neal R. Peirce 06-08-1991
  117. The Ghosts Are Always Around A Little Bit by Sari Horwitz 06-30-1991
  118. Dixon to Propose Broad-Based Effort Against Violence; Stiffer Penalties, New Programs for Teens on Agenda, Sources Say by James Ragland & Sari Horwitz 11-22-1991
  119. 3,000 Killings Later, A Culture of Violence Poisons Area Series; In the Line of Fire: Five Years of Killing Series Number: occ by Sari Horwitz & Paul Duggan 12-20-1991
  120. Barry’s Setup for Self-Destruction by Milloy Courtland 04-26-1992
  121. Fulwood Passes On an Uneven Legacy: Chief’s Successes are Tempered by Low Morale, Equipment Woes by Keith Harriston 09-10-1992
  122. Former Police Chief Maurice Turner Dies at 57 by Martin Weil & Sari Horwitz 06-17-1993
  123. D.C. Moves To Stem Tide of Violence; More Police Planned for Affected Areas by Serge F. Kovaleski 06-26-1993
  124. D.C. Police Chief Sets An Anti-Crime Initiative by Serge Kovaleski 07-17-1993
  125. Putting Their Best Feet Forward; Community Patrols Send More Police Onto D.C. Streets by Ruben Castaneda & Paul Duggan 09-17-1993
  126. In D.C. Violence,’We’ve Seen It All Before’; Residents Battle to Save Neighborhoods, Watch as Officials Try Again and Again to End Crisis by Rene Sanchez & James Ragland 10-03-1993
  127. Halfway Home 10-24-1993
  128. To Resotre D.C.’s Domestic Tranquillity; Give up The War on Drugs 11-07-1993
  129. Barry Says Jail Gave Him Vision for a Better City;’I Now Know What Didn’t Work,’ Mayoral Candidate Asserts in Outlining Agenda by Yolanda Woodlee 07-01-1994
  130. Crack’s Crash; Teens Are Rejecting the Drug That Ruled D.C. by Katherine Boo 08-26-1994
  131. Back to ‘Clean Sweep’ by Colbert I. King 08-12-1995

Operation Clean Sweep

Washington, DC, was one of the last cities in the nation to encounter the drug boom of the 1980s and 1990s. The crime began to spike in 1986, and the public demanded a response from the Police Commissioner Maurice Turner and his Assistant Commissioner Issac Fulwood. Fulwood created Operation Clean Sweep, a comprehensive crackdown on street-level dealing. Washington was known for large open area drug markets, and the new effort was designed to strike a blow to the practice. Operation Clean Sweep began August 31, 1986.

The operations had a few signature initiatives.

  1. “Stop and Question” any person that is in a drug infested neighborhood
  2. Installing busses and trailers outside drug markets known as “mobile police stations”
  3. Drug roadblock to facilitate random searches in neighborhoods known for drugs
  4. Undercover officers posing as users and dealers

These initiatives created backlash because they sacrificed privacy and freedom of movement for safety. Some examples of the collateral damage of Operation Clean Sweep can be gleaned from how the implementation at Clifton Terrace.

Clifton Terrace was a luxury apartment complex built in 1916. By the late eighties, it was an open-air drug market. The complex was such a popular drug market there would often be traffic jams due to so many customers coming into the apartments to buy their wares.

The police responded by banning people from parking near the building. They also patrolled the halls, randomly stopping anyone in the building. They had a master list of all leaseholders. If the police didn’t find one’s name on the leaseholders’ list, the person would have to name the person they were visiting in the building. The patrolman would then follow them to the apartment to verify the story. [2]

Another example of the cost of Operation Clean Sweep was roadblock set up to search cars for drugs. Police implemented the tactic in the historically black neighborhood of Anacostia. The area has had predominantly black people since the turn of the century. There were pockets of high crime, but there were also many upstanding black middle-class residents. In December of 1987, police arrested 124 people at a single roadblock. The two articles on the bust did not mention how many drugs, guns, and money were confiscated.[24,25] More than likely, these were arrested for small possession for personal use.

Not only were civil liberties constrained, but tax money was exhausted. In February of 1987, Mayor Barry had to cut the school budget to cover the cost of increased policing. In March of the same year, Operation Clean Sweep recorded 12,000 arrests, seizing 6.8 million in drugs, confiscating 300 cars, and hundreds of weapons.[3] Up to this point, there was only a 2% drop in overall crime.[4] However, the cost of $4.5 million exceeded the budget, and the city suspended the program in April. Public outcry forced the city to reopen it the next week.

Operation Clean Sweep was successful in increasing arrests. However, the facility that houses DC inmates, Lorton in Virginia, was soon overcrowded. The overcrowding forced the city to release prisoners. From July to October of 1987, the city released 815 inmates. Housing inmates is a serious problem for DC because there is nowhere in the city limits to put a prison. The District would have to coordinate with another state to house prisoners or use Federal prisons. By 1988 Clean Sweep arrested 46,400 people, but only 1,400 went to prison.[91,90]

Despite increased arrests, there was a decrease in the number of solved murders. From 1970 to 1980, about policed solved 83% of the murders. From 1980 to 1985 it was around 70%. By 1987 the stat fell to around 60%.[29] Part of the problem was people from outside of DC traveled there to sell drugs. When someone from out of town murders or is murdered, it is even more challenging to find the killer. Because no one in the city knew the killer, there were very few witnesses that were useful in court. Investigators had to travel for clues. The percent of drug-related murders increased from 25% in 1985 to 60% in 1987. It is also important to remember 1985 was a record low for murders and 1987 was the record high. [29] To increase the closed homicide rate, the city needed to hire more detectives.

No one took more risks or paid a higher price than the 200 officers assigned to Operation Clean Sweep. The first casualty happened in December of 1987 when Herman Keels died in an undercover operation. Weeks later, three more officers are wounded in the line of duty.

Due to high costs in overtime, Operation Clean Sweep was suspended again in December of 1987. The public was not informed until late January 1988.[35] Publicly Mayor Marion Barry wanted to continue the operation as it was. The police chief Maurice Turner wanted the program to end. They were arresting many people, but the overall crime rate was not going down. Turner wanted to try a holistic approach that included schools and churches.[26] He also supported mandatory minimum sentencing.[43] The city council was pushing to hire 150 more cops.[34] The overtime cost of 1987 could be reallocated in new hires so there would be no net increase in the budget. However, many experts, such as Fraternal Order of Police Chairman Gary Hankins, said 500 new officers need to be hired. [33]

So the city was looking for low-cost ways to supplement the police force. The first method was to modify the role of the City Police Reserve Corp. Previously the Reserve Corp were unarmed volunteers that aided police. Now they would receive full police training and weapons.[49] The Dopebusters initiative was the second. The Nation of Islam ran the Dopebusters force. They would provide unarmed security for problem housing developments on a volunteer basis initially. Eventually, the Dopebusters became DC contractors through Nation of Islam Security Inc.

Operation Clean Sweep officially resumed in February 1988. It could not have started at a better time because there had been 46 murders so far that year. [44] The first order of business was to replace the officers’ six-shooter revolvers with semi-automatic weapons. There was not a large amount of overtime allocated in 1988, so traffic patrol lost officers.[45]

Despite Operation Clean Sweep, straining the court and prison system without reducing the overall crime rates, neighboring communities adopted Clean Sweep tactics. Montgomery County MD, Fairfax VA, and Manassass VA all underwent similar police overhauls. These suburbs needed to respond to a spike in crime partially caused by criminals fleeing the crackdown in DC. Implementing these smaller Clean Sweep Operations further exacerbated the prison population problem.

A power vacuum was left in the drug market as another side effect of arresting large amounts of people at one time. This vacuum was filled by out of town drug dealers, mostly from New York as stated earlier. The influx of out of town dealers made crime investigation even more difficult and costly. Also, children were often employed as dealers because they would not receive long sentences. Usually, when the Washington Post wrote stories about the phenomenon of children dealing drugs, they rarely mention external factors that could cause such a problem.

Fortunately, the DEA created an alternative to Clean Sweep, Operation Pipeline. In this effort, the DEA trained local police on how to spot drug traffickers and collaborated with them on investigations. Drug sniffing dogs inspected packages at train stations. Police were trained to spot shotty welding on cars, which usually mean after-market modification to create drug compartments. By having a detailed methodology for identifying traffickers, older, cruder methods were replaced. One antiquated method would be to stop Hispanic men with Florida license plates to see if they were running narcotics. Operation Pipeline caught drug dealers at twice the rate of Operation Clean Sweep.[64]

Another Alternative to Operation Clean Sweep was Operations Fight Back. Fight back started initially to work concurrently to Clean Sweep. Mayor Barry announced it on January 12, 1988. [76] A new drug enforcement unit was initiated with 101 reassigned officers. The officers would collaborate with Federal and other local drug enforcement agencies. The city would also fund drug education and treatment services.

Turner retired as police chief in 1989, and Fulwood took over. One of his first acts was to end Operation Clean Sweep officially. He admitted, “We attempted to try to make police operation the backbone of fighting drugs. It did not work.”[104] The DC police moved to more comprehensive methods that use community watch, drug rehabilitation, and collaboration with various law enforcement agencies.

Clean Sweep cannot be considered a total failure. Evidence gathered in Clean Sweep arrests and investigations was instrumental in taking down DC most notorious kingpin Rayful Edmond and the Mayfair’s most notorious kingpin Michael Palmer. Clean Sweep was DC’s first comprehensive attempt to take stop the crack boom. There were many problems, but the lessons learned helped DC build the foundation of their current methods.

Police did bring back Operation Clean Sweep in 1993 on a limited basis. It appears that they only increased overtime for officers. By 1994, even Marion Barry admitted Operation Clean Sweep was a failure.

It is doubtful that Operation Clean Sweep will ever fully return. One of the main pillars of the operation, the drug roadblock, was found to be unconstitutional by DC Superior Court. The drug roadblock was used to enforce the law in general, not to find a specific offense such as a DUI roadblock. Therefore it violated the fourth amendment rights.

SOURCES

1971 Central High Walkout and Jerry Anderson Foundation

The Disowned Self by Nathaniel Branden

Trumpet of Conscience

This book is a compilation of lectures given to a Canadian radio audience in 1967. These speeches focus on the future of the Civil Rights movement as it becomes part of the more expansive humanitarian movement.

Impasse in Race Relations

He starts the lecture by explaining the role Canada played in the liberation struggle. Canada was the last stop on the Underground Railroad. In the fugitives, slaves coded songs; it was symbolized by the word “heaven or north star.”

He then moved on to a discussion of the Civil Rights Movement and broke the movement down into two phases. The first was the unified resistance against the legal institution of Jim Crow. Once Jim Crow ended, many whites felt the struggle was over. The relative place of black people improved. The whites that were satisfied saw no need for equality between the races.

The second phase of the Civil Rights Movement is now underway. The focus now is not on law, but building a moral revolution. Also, many repressed feelings are surfacing. The first is the prejudice of whites; now that there are more interactions with other races. The second is the repressed rage of many blacks.

The repressed rage manifested itself in riots in the North. Many whites saw these riots as evidence that black people were fundamentally not able to handle freedom. Many blacks saw the riots as the first stages of an armed rebellion to take over the government.

King holistically analyzed the riots. The rage black people exhibited in the riots was caused by years of failed policy. Poor policy decisions caused discrimination, slums, unemployment, and poverty. The crimes on Blacks are derivative. Even when Blacks serve in the military, they return home to be treated as second class citizens. To build a more egalitarian society, there needs to be a government focused initiative to end poverty. King explicitly asks for a jobs program and Universal Basic Income.

The riots were also caused by frustration in the inability of the Civil Rights Movement to affect change in the Northern cities. Marches have little effectiveness in bustling cities that are used to large gatherings of people. King admitted the movement must devise new methods that are also non-violent.

When King used the term “The White Man,” he explains he does not mean all white people. Many whites had aided him in the Civil Rights Movement. The term “The White Man” is a shorthand to represent the black man’s adversary. Not only people but policy and value systems.

Conscience and the Vietnam War

This lecture was given after the famed Riverside Church speech in which he first denounced the Vietnam War. He addressed his critics asking why a civil rights activist would get involved in the peace movement. In the speech, King not only explains how the two issues are related, but how one that fights for equality in America can not turn his back on the freedom struggles of people across the globe.

There was three main criticism given by King for the Vietnam War. The first was spending for the war diverts funds away from social programs to aid the poor. The second was the poor do most of the fighting when they don’t even have full democracy at home. Finally, one can not advocate for non-violence in their movement and condone state-sponsored violence.

Ultimately, the USA was on the wrong side of history. King admits the National Liberation Front were no paragons of virtue, but only 25% of their soldiers were communist. Their opposition, the Ngo Dinh Diem government, brutally suppressed dissent. The United Buddhist Church, the largest non-communist political organization, was included in this suppression. The USA is motivated to support moneyed interest and the former colonial powers. The Vietnamese can not trust America while they destroy their country and rip apart families.

No American can sit on the sideline on the issue of Vietnam. We are required as Humanists to protest. The only question is what type of protest. This opposition will be under-girded by a revolution of American values centered around wisdom, justice, and love. Communism is ultimately a judgment on the failure of capitalism to meet people’s needs.

Youth and Social Action

The current generation is the first to live under the threat of nuclear war. This threat made ventures such as the Vietnam War risky with no apparent reward insight. America had lost its purpose, and the youth felt this disillusionment.

There were three groups of young people in Dr. King’s estimation. The first is the conformists. They understand the current system is untenable, but they have not entirely given up on it. The second group is the radicals. They understand the urgency for action to induce systematic change. However, they don’t have an ideology, and they are also not committed to non-violence. The last group is the Hippies. They seek to escape and disengage in society. When they participate in protests, it is a form of escape, not a catalyst for change. King correctly predicted the group would not last long, and many will move into communes away from the larger society.

Without a larger purpose to society, material growth has become a means to its end. The marriage of Big Business and the government has left many feeling alienated. Alienation is walking death, and it is especially damaging for the young.

Social cohesion will be regained when a new moral mission is undertaken. The hippies can provide their commitment to non-violence. The radicals will bring their urgency for action. Practical problem solving will be provided by the conformists. The new commitment to purpose is desperately needed because we are running out of time.

Non-Violence and Social Change

King begins with an ethical defense of civil disobedience. Most of his critics disagreed with his tactics because he was, ultimately, breaking the law. He uses the metaphor of a fire truck going through red lights. The urgency to put out a fire matters more than obeying traffic law. In the same way, ending segregation was an urgent need and law had to be broken for the greater good.

In the same way, people were attempting to understand Civil Disobedience. They wanted to understand the race riots happening in the North. Many whites saw the riots as proof that Blacks could not assimilate into society, and they were naturally bloodthirsty. Dr. King rebuts this idea with facts.

The riots did cause millions of dollars in property damage, but no white people were killed. Most of the deaths during the riots were blacks shot by the military. The looting and theft were motivated by a need to rebel against a system of oppression and not personal greed. Many of the loiter returned the merchandise after the riot, which proves they only wanted the thrill of taking something they couldn’t otherwise buy.

The rioters were rebelling against a system and not motivated by a blood lust to kill whites. If they wanted to kill whites, they would have killed them. They didn’t fear death or retaliation because they could be killed for looting. The riots were ultimately a warning. If nothing changes systematically, violence could be worse next time.

King also addressed critics that said non-violent direct action would not work in the North because Blacks in the North were more violent and too sophisticated. This idea results from a common stereotype that Blacks in the South are docile and slow. In reality, violent personalities often channel their anger constructively through Civil Disobedience. In fact, during the Chicago campaign members of the street gang Black Stone Rangers march with King and stayed non-violent. The same was true of people that had violent personalities in the South. However, new tactics need to be devised to address social injustice holistically.

The next phase of the Civil Rights Movement will be international. The first stage would require 3000 volunteers into a non-violent army of the poor. They would receive months of training in non-violent direct action to prepare for an occupation of the mall in Washington, DC. Their focus would be to advocate for policies to lower unemployment and increase wages.

As for the international front, King worked toward reducing military intervention and increasing foreign aid to developing countries. He goes as far as saying 3% of Gross National Product should be going to international aid. Developing countries are poor because of exploitation from the West, not an inability to manage their countries.

He also calls for economic sanctions on countries that aren’t practicing humanitarian values. South Africa was explicitly needed sanction until Apartheid ended. Only a united effort to apply pressure to Capital will lead to conditions of change.

Christmas Sermon on Peace

In this sermon, King explores what it means to have “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” To him, this phrase was an affirmation of the sacredness of all life. It also is a commitment to love over hate.

To better define love, he goes through the ancient greek classifications of the word. The first definition is “eros,” which is the ascetic romantic love for the divine. The next definition is “philo” which is an intimate love between friends. King wants the audience to practice and understanding of goodwill for all man mimicking the love of G-d, “agape.”

There is also a difference in agape love and liking someone. Liking is superficial and spawned from positive interaction. One can’t love someone that slanders, attacks, and dismisses him. Love understands redemptive goodwill. Not retaliating with physical force, but Gandhi’s “soul force.” The King movement will wear down their enemy with their ability to endure hardships.

In this speech, King says one of his most often misconstrued quotes:

“Toward the end of that afternoon (March on Washington), I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.”

He then explained how he was frustrated at the continued violence against black people when fighting for freedom, black systemic poverty, and escalation of US interventionism. He ends by doubling down on the original “I Have a Dream Speech” saying he will not lose hope. King never gave up on integrating America. Instead, he expanded his mission to help the poor all over the world.

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