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Indian National Congress and Gandhi on Dalit Issues

In Ambedkar’s book What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to The Untouchables details the history of the Indian National Congress and their relationship with Dalits and Dalit issues. The Indian National Congress is a political party. Ambedkar ran the opposition party called the Indian Republican Party, which he named after the American political party that freed the slaves. The book provides a history and contemporary analysis of the Congressman.

The Indian National Congress (Congress) formed in 1885. Their main goal was to lobby for the full independence of India. Initially, Congress wanted to address political and social issues. However, the two goals often contradicted. When a social issue was championed people of different castes would be set against each other. The disunity weakened the party’s efforts for Indian independence.

There were two schools of thought on the subject of social reform. The first was there needed more equity in Indian society, but the political realm is not the place for it. Individuals and community organizations can improve the plight of the downtrodden. The second was that no social reform is needed at all. Over the years, Congress became less and less interested in social reform, and the subject had not been raised from 1895 to 1917. The Indian Social Reform Party took up social reform outside of Congress.

In 1917, the Depressed India Association gathered in Bombay to pass a resolution to the British government. The Dalit leaders created a resolution that stated India should not receive Independence until Depressed Classes have full rights. These rights would include access to public facilities such as schools, roadways, and water sources. Dalits should also have proper representation in government and legal protection from discrimination if Dalits don’t have full citizenship, then India should stay in the hands of the British. The Depressed Classes pledged loyalty to the British Crown before all other entities. If the Depressed Classes supported Congress’s plan for independence, Congress would have to take their issues seriously.

In response to Dalit’s First Resolution of Loyalty, Congress had to pass the 1917 resolution to improve the lot of Depressed Classes. Congress’s response was to declare that India can’t be free while oppressing its citizens.

Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress in 1919 and completely overhauled it. When he entered, it was a gathering of intellectuals that would pass resolutions and wait for the British government to act on them. Gandhi instituted an overhaul in 1922 called the Bardoli plan.

The Bardoli plan expanded membership to anyone in India for a small fee. Once membership grew to 10 million, they can advocate for the use of the spinning wheel instead of buying foreign cloth, alcohol temperance, and community-led conflict resolution. There was an effort to improve the social condition of depressed classes as part of this plan.

In two interviews in 1920, Gandhi expressed his view on the communal question. He expressed fear that the Dalits or any community asking for help from the government would be moving from the frying pan into the fire. When the government gives aid they do it to manipulate the group against the rest of India. Gandhi references Muslims and Sikhs as examples. Many Dalits wish to convert, but conversion is only a matter of the heart and has no bearing on one’s physical condition. He encouraged Dalits to aid in the effort of independence and that many in Hinduism are pushing for reform. The oppression of Dalits hurts the case for Indian independence. If Untouchables enter the cause of Swaraj, they will be more than welcome.

Congress did state they would work to improve the life of Dalits. However, little was actually done. One of the Dalit’s most staunch allies in Congress, Swami Shradhanard resigned due to Congress’s inaction. In May of 1923, Congress official requested the Hindu Mahasabha take up the issue of removing Untouchability. The Mahasabha was especially unequipped to handle the communal question. They formed as a militant response to Islam’s growth in India. The communal question would not become a priority again until after the Poona Pact of 1932.

On September 30, 1932 Congress established the Harijan Sevak Singh. The name loosely translates into the servants of the untouchables. In the official mission statement the founders are clear the goal is not to end untouchability. Instead they seek to improve the life of Dalits without rattling the social order.

Harijan Sevak Singh or Singh for short embarked on a program to improve public facilities for Dalits. The Singh supplied and aided clinics reserved for Dalits. There was also a campaign to improve water wells that Dalits were allowed to use. Scholarships were given to Dalits for high school, trade school and college. Many Dalits did benefit from the Singhs program.

Even though there was benefit to the program there would always be serious disparity if all public facilities were not open Dalits. There is no such thing as separate but equal. Those in power will always fund their facilities before the facilities of the downtrodden. There were Dalits on the board of the Singh when it began. However, once years passed and the mission never grew to include Dalits in the normal functioning of society, the Dalit leaders left. Gandhi never found replacements and said his reasoning was the curse of untouchability is the responsibility of castemen to end.

Untouchability was not a priority of Mr. Gandhi during the height of his civil disobedience campaign from 1922-1941. Congress boycotted the British government and goods. He was tried in 1922 for sedition and sentenced to six years. He was release in 1924 due to illness. There was a six year effort that began in 1935 to win access to public wells and temples. However, Gandhi never used civil disobedience against Hindus. The effort changed to simply improving water sources already segregated for Dalits. As far as temples, 142 were opened to Dalits. But of the 142 temples 121 were owner less, essentially Dalits were granted access to temples no one else wanted.

During Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaign, Ambedkar was agitating for access to Chawdar Water Tank in Bombay. The most famous of Ambedkar’s acts of defiance of caste rule happened when he gathered a group of Dalits to drink from the water tank in 1927. The Bombay campaign of 1927 included access to other public facilities such as schools. Ambedkar did reach out to Gandhi’s organization Harijian Sevak Sangh and they did nothing. In fact, they aided the Hindus in blocking legal adjunctions by the Dalits.

How Ambedkar Saved Gandhi’s Life

On November 13, 1931, a select committee of the Round Table Conference submitted the Minorities Pact detailing a plan to give Dalits weightage. Weightage is having a percentage of the vote larger than their population size. Also, there would be seats reserved in the legislature and executive cabinet for Depressed Classes. The reserved seats would be elected using a separate electorate of depressed classes. Forty-six percent of the population of India supported the resolution.

Gandhi came out in opposition to the Minorities Pact. He argued that having a specific plan for material redress for the condition of Depressed Classes would make untouchability a permanent status. Instead, untouchability should be removed by building solidarity in the independence struggle. Once British Rule is removed, Indians would naturally work together. There were many already in Hinduism that was working to remove untouchability. By improving the spiritual/psychological condition at the individual level, untouchability would naturally end. The government doesn’t need to protect Depressed classes because Hindus were serious about reform.

The primary advocate for the Depressed Classes was Dr. Ambedkar. He was a Dalit, one the suffered from untouchability, and became a leader in government as well as a world-renowned scholar. He was instrumental in the passage of the Minorities Pact. Gandhi dismissed Ambedkar as bitter about difficulties experienced in his own life. Ambedkar was full of unfounded suspicion and saw all Hindus as enemies. Gandhi could understand his pain because he faced similar treatment as an Indian living in South Africa in his younger years.

Instead of working with Ambedkar to absolve his fears, Gandhi chose to work behind the back of Ambedkar to get the Muslim and Sikh delegation to withdraw their support for the Minorities Pact. Gandhi submitted the Gandhi-Muslim Pact as an alternative. The new pact increased the political power of Muslims and Sikhs with no recognition of other minorities. The British government initiated the Franchise Committee to resolve the discrepancies between the two schemes. The committee began work in January of 1932.

To further undermine the Minorities Pact, Gandhi threatened to go on a hunger strike until all mentions of untouchability are removed from the Constitution. His first letter to Sir Samuel Hoare was dated March 11, 1932. Sir Hoare replied he would make no changes to the Constitution. His Majesty’s Government made the Dalit provision official on August 17, 1932. Gandhi went on a hunger strike the next day.

Ambedkar could let Gandhi fast till death. The provisions were in the Constitution. However, he knew that the death of Gandhi would cause a serious backlash, physical and political, for depressed classes. Ambedkar entered into negotiations with Congress and created a compromise called the Poona Pact. The pact ended the special electorate for Depressed Classes. However, it increased the number of reserved seats in the Provincial (State) Legislatures from 78 to 148. The Central (Federal) Legislature had 18% of its seats reserved for Dalits. The Minorities Pact reserved the seats for 20 years. The Poona Pact reduced this time to 10 years.

The Poona Pact was destructive to the politics of depressed classes. The separate electorate allowed for candidates that specifically addressed Dalit issues to win. If the candidates were chosen from general electorates, the candidate would have to appeal to the masses. In fact, a depressed class candidate could win by only appealing to Hindus in provinces with few depressed class members. The Poona Pact significantly weakened Dalit’s ability to push for their rights.

How Gandhism hurts Dalits

Gandhism is the name given to the philosophy of Mr. Mohandes Gandhi. He never admitted to fathering a new philosophy, but also didn’t object to the publication of books entitled Gandhism. Ambedkar used Gandhi’s speeches, published interviews, and the book Hindu Raj to define Gandhism.

The return to the village and ancient life served as the center for Gandhi’s philosophy. It was not a plan for modernization. He was only against the caste system due to its complication and formation of hundreds of castes. Gandhi supported the Varna system that had only four castes: Brahmin (Priest), Kshatriyas (Soldiers), Vanias (Retailers), and Shudra (Menials). Those without Caste, Dalits, would be added as a fifth caste. There would be no untouchability observed. So if someone interacted with Dalits, they would not need to be cleansed. Dalits would keep their hereditary occupations, including sewer cleaning. So Gandhi was for the replacement of the caste system with the Varna system. He did not support the equality of Dalits.

Gandhi saw the caste system as no worse than any other societal stratification. All societies have rules. Intermarriage between castes are outlawed no differently as a marriage between relatives is outlawed. All societies set limits around enjoyment to prevent the community from devolving into chaos.

The varna system is superior to the caste system because it prohibits no caste from learning or conducting any tasks. It only prevents one from earning a living in any other profession than that prescribed by one’s caste. Because no one can change their profession, there is no reason for class war or struggle.

Gandhi is opposed to unionization or collective bargaining in anything other than extreme circumstances. A strike should happen only with a “real” grievance. Those participating in the strike should live on savings or temporary work. They should not ask for donations or charity. Also, they must make their minimum demand know from the beginning of the strike. So with criteria such as these, it would be challenging for unions to be effective.

The overreach of capitalists was common. Gandhi admitted this. However, he thought workers should show restraint when addressing these grievances. The use of violence was out of the question. The laborers should remember that the capitalists have strength and intelligence. Their guidance was vital.

Machinery is another evil in Gandhi’s view. It removes man from his work, making the body idle. He also said “I would not weep over the disappearance of machinery or consider it a calamity.” If people serve in their caste profession, there will be more than enough labor and no need for machinery.

If India adopted Western values, their culture would dissolve. In Europe, the is suspicion around all the interactions between groups. Workers distrust company owners. French distrust English. Catholics distrust Protestants. Almost all members of Western Civilization are miserable. Indians must hold on to their culture not to be swept up in misery.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with the disparity in Indian society, only the perception of disparity. Instead of being angry that Shudras can’t accumulate wealth, praise the Shudras for not being materialistic. Instead of being jealous that only Brahmin can make a living in academia, say that they were the burden of becoming learned for their people. Most importantly, the Dalits profession of manually cleaning sewers was the noblest profession of all. This profession was ordained by divine fate as all others were. Never mind if most Dalits hated the job or had potential far greater than scavenging.

Ambedkar rebuts by making clear that caste divisions are more stringent than class divisions. Caste is the complete separation of individuals by birth. There is no way to improve one’s lot in the caste system. One can work hard and climb socially in Europe. Forcing people to hold an occupation by birth is an anathema to an industrious society.

Machinery and modernization are vital for the development of culture. When people have the burden of work lessened, time is freed for the development of culture. Man is separated from animals by his ability to build a culture. The growth of science, art, and philosophy is the foundation for a more equitable society.

The main discrepancy between the philosophy of Ambedkar and Gandhi is :

“Is it natural that a group of people solidify to govern society in perpetuity?”

or

“Is the creation of a ruling class the result of a dysfunctional society?”

Ambedkar emphatically sides with the latter. There needs to be a specific plan of redress to funnel resources into underprivileged communities. Gandhi only wanted to lessen the burden of the servile class while keeping society stratified.

The Round Table Conferences

The Indian National Congress (Congress), of which Mr. Mohandas Gandhi headed for most of his political career, never supported fair political representation for Dalits. The party formed in 1885 and not one president brought up social reform from 1895 to 1917. Generally, Congressmen believed that working on social problems distracted from making India free of British Rule. Social reform could be carried out by individuals or community organizations. In 1917, Congress began its program for social reform. Ambedkar accuses the Congress of only making this resolution to counter the depressed classes’ loyalty pledge to the British government.

On November 11, 1917, representatives of depressed classes met in Bombay to pass a resolution on how their freedom was a prerequisite for the independence of India. British India must first pursue a serious program to improve the economic, social, and political position of the depressed classes before they would support independence. The resolution had even more pronounced importance because His Majesty’s government had accepted a policy to make India independent gradually. Often the British government acted as arbitrators between the depressed classes and Hindus.

At the time, there were two competing schemes for the Independence of India. The first was the “Scheme of Nineteen” put forth by 19 elected members of the Imperial Legislative Council. This scheme had more support by the British government. The counter plan was “The Congress League Scheme”. The Congressmen wanted a more aggressive approach to independence marked by the ratification of a constitution. The All-Muslim League had recently supported the Congress League Scheme. Now that the depressed classes came into opposition, Congress could not claim the overwhelming majority of Indians supported their plan.

Britain first mandated the independence of India in the Government of India Act of 1919, which mandated in ten years a commission to investigate creating a constitution of India. The Royal Commission was formed in 1928 and headed by Sir John Simon. Sir Simon did not believe the Commission should include Indians. The Congressmen protested and the government compromised by promising a Round Table Conference to be held after the Commission. The Conference included Indians for the finalization of the Constitution.

The first Round Table Conference began on November 12, 1930. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan represented the Depressed Classes. Serval committees formed, one of which was the Minorities Committee. At that time, the issues of removing untouchability and reforming Indian society were collectively referred to as the communal question.

The first draft of the Constitution submitted in 1919 addressed the communal question. However, the Minorities Committee was able to correctly detail a plan for the inclusion of depressed classes in Indian society. There were anti-discrimination laws specified in the Constitution covering government institutions, public accommodations like hotels, and schools. Also, violence motivated by caste or in retaliation for one protesting for their rights were outlawed. Depressed Classes received access to all public water sources.

Depressed classes would also be given full adult suffrage and weightage. Weightage is giving a population a larger share of the vote than their population would allow. The First Round Table Conference did not determine details of Depressed Class representation. However, there was mention of Depressed Class reservations in the Provincial Legislature, Central Legislature, and Executive Cabinet.

The Indian National Conference boycotted the British government during the First Round Table Conference. Gandhi came as one of the representatives of Congress. Ambedkar describes him as an egotistical zealot, that held the other delegates in contempt. He felt he was the only one at the Conference that was chosen by the people. Also, Gandhi had been in negotiations in secret with the Muslim delegation.

Once the Second Round Table conference began, Gandhi asserts he would only recognize special treatment for Muslims and Sikhs. The Muslim delegation declared that if Dalits get weightage, it will not come from the Muslim’s portion. The government awarded Muslims weightage earlier, and Congress agreed to it. Ambedkar threatened to leave if the depressed classes were not adequately represented and have weightage. The general meetings in the Second Round Table Conference adjourned with no resolution.

The Minorities Committee met later. They were able to agree on provision for Depressed Class inclusion and weightage. The resolution stated that the representatives that were the author represented 46% of India. Gandhi holds in his opposition, and the Conference adjourns with no proper resolution. The matter of special electorates for Depressed Classes would go to arbitration with His Majesty’s Government.

Gandhi would give his reasoning for supporting special electorates for Muslims and Sikhs, but not Dalits. He felt both Sikhs and Muslims had highly educated electorates with nuanced political consciousness. The Dalits had neither. If Dalits were given special electorates, then they would be a political enemy of high caste Hindus. They would have to oppose the Hindu with very few resources. The Dalits and Hindus must be rebuilt as a unified community. As the community naturally progresses, animosity between the groups would subside. Many Hindus were working for reform because they realize that the oppression of Dalits hurts India’s ability to self-rule.

To rebut Gandhi’s non-sensical argument, Ambedkar questions how much Hindus feel ashamed of their role in the oppression of Dalits. Most Hindus do not see Dalits as kith and kin. The actions, or better inaction, of Congress, illustrates that there is no real effort to improve the lot of the Untouchables. With political power, Dalits could secure enough resources to improve education and other resources to improve their condition.

Ultimately, Gandhi is arguing Dalits can’t have the political power to improve their condition, because their situation was too low due to their lack of political power. The Castes System robbed the Dalits of education and the ability to be involved in politics that would naturally produce an educated electorate. These same arguments are made today when advocates ask for specific redress. The conflict between Gandhi would culminate in Gandhi’s famous fast til death.

The Psychology of Blacks Part II

Chapter 5: Approaches to Developmental Psychology African American Perspectives

Developmental Psychology asks four basic questions:

  1. What is the basic nature of humans?
  2. Is developmental qualitative or quantitative?
  3. How does nature contribute to development?
  4. What is it that develops?

All the developmental models fall into one of five theoretical approaches.

  1. Organismic: insists development is qualitative, not quantitative. Also, the process is unidirectional and irreversible. (Piaget)
  2. Psychoanalytic: insists development is qualitative and stage-like, proceeding through conflict resolution from one stage to the next. Progression is linear, but regression is also possible. (Freud, Erikson, Jung)
  3. Mechanistic: humans are machinelike composed of disparate yet interrelated parts. Environmental forces are the chief driver of behavior. Ultimately, the organism is a passive member in an active environment.
  4. Contextual: insists that the organism and environment are mutually effectual and symbiotic. The basic impetus is social-cultural or historical events. (George H Mead and Charles Sanders Pierce)
  5. Dialectical: insists that development happens in the context of contradiction or conflict. Once development begins, it is a continuous process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The change also occurs on multiple levels. (Marx and Hagel)

Parham’s research has found three fundamental flaws with our current perception of human development that necessitate the need for black psychology.

  1. The first three forms of developmental psychology do not account for culture in the development of the theory. By not accounting for culture the theorist cannot account for their own cultural bias
  2. The first three approaches assume cultural universality. Again they saw the European perspective as the standard. Cultural strengths of those in other communities are not acknowledged.
  3. The ones that do account for culture view it as just another variable among others to be controlled.

Now everyone in the black psychology community does not agree on all aspects of the theory. For example, Dr. Joesph White, the father of black psychology, believes the methods should be rooted in the experience of blacks in America. Dr. Wade Nobles believes methodology should be rooted in African culture.

Whether rooted in Africa or the Black American experience, nine principles undergrid Black culture philosophically.

  1. Spirituality: The belief life is vitalist and non-material forces influence people everyday
  2. Harmony: living in a manner conducive with nature
  3. Movement: the idea percussive music and dance are vital to psychological health.
  4. Verve: the propensity of relative high level of stimulation energetic and lively action
  5. Emotional Expressivism: communicating one’s emotions because emotions are not viewed negatively.
  6. Communalism: social connectedness more important than individual privileges
  7. Expressive Individualism: proclivity for spontaneous, genuine personal expression
  8. Oral Tradition: speaking and listening in a charismatic tone, seen as a performance
  9. Social Time Perspective: the idea that time is passing through a social space not a material one. Time is to be enjoyed in the present.

Along with the communal/emotive/physical disposition, blacks have to navigate a world not designed for them. Triple Quandary Theory best expresses the simultaneous realities blacks have to navigate.

  1. The mainstream experience which centers eurocentrism.
  2. The minority experience as a marginalized member of society.
  3. The African cultural orientation that sustains and individuals very existence.

Mental health for black people is the ability to navigate these realities simultaneously.

Chapter 6: Mental Health Issues Impacting African Americans

Dr. Parham believes that mental health is defined differently for blacks and whites. A psychologically healthy black person is one who interprets the African American ethos in their daily life. The ethos being defined as an emotional tone of a group of people or bond of cultural heritage and life experience.

Western psychology not only does not correctly account for the racial differences, but it also views the racial differences as inferiority. This racial bias has lead to misdiagnosis. Dr. Parham points to blacks and whites showing the same symptoms, but blacks were disproportionately diagnosed with schizophrenia. Also, state-run facilities supplied the data for statistics on the mentally ill population. The reliance on state-run facilities and not private lead to a disproportionate number of the mentally ill being poor black people. So the numbers of mentally ill were inflated, showing blacks had a larger population of mentally ill people. These numbers were not questioned because most of the whites reviewing the information assumed that blacks were inferior.

Because black people understand the bias in the field of psychology, they go to people within their community with mental health issues. Often pastors, elders, and extended family are called upon for guidance in hard times. When blacks do seek help within psychiatric facilities, they are in more advanced stages of mental illness, or the court or school ordered them to get treated. The providers must be cognizant of difficulty in treatment. So Dr. Parham recommends cultural awareness training to all providers.

Now all black patients should not be treated by black providers. If providers are culturally aware, they can treat anyone. However, for patients, their stage in Nigrescence will affect how well a service provider can treat them. A white provider would best serve someone in the pre-encounter. They will be predisposed to not believing a black person could provide adequate service. A black provider would best serve a person in Immersion-Emersion because they would not trust a white person.

Not only does the race of the provider matter, but therapy methods are also important. Because black people are more communal than whites, group therapy could be more effective. Also, therapies that focus more on the action and not merely talk therapy.

Chapter 7: Praxis in African American Psychology: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations

Praxis is the alignment of thought and practice of a given ideology. Black Psychology has been centered around three key issues. Protect black people from cultural bias in psychology is the first issue. The second, develop psychological theories to give meaning to the African American experience. The third is to make western psychology more pluralistic and inclusive.

Now within Black Psychology, there is not a critical mass of consensus on many concepts. One of the most important is should black psychology be rooted in the experience of Black Americans or Africans. However, there is consensus on Western Psychology being inadequate in its current form to interpret the lives of a diverse population.

All epistemology is rooted in culture. Unless there is a conscious effort to understand and expel cultural bias, the study of psychology will never be inclusive. Western Psychology is more interested in justifying ideas than advancing them. One example of this is the idea of black intellectual inferiority and IQ testing. The early test did not find any difference in the intelligence of whites and blacks, but those psychologists kept modifying the test until blacks scored lower than whites.

One problem with Western Psychology is the over-reliance on quantifiable data to prove an idea. Quantifiable data is not sufficient in understanding a complete range of human behavior. Even when black psychologists do provide studies on black life, many mainstream journals will not publish it unless whites and blacks are included in the study. When studies do include whites and blacks often, it is difficult to get an equal sample size for both groups. For example, when studying college students, getting a large sample size of white students is very easy. Because there are so few black students in most major universities, it is difficult to get even a hundred subjects. There needs to be a provision to allow small sample sizes for black populations in mainstream psychological journals.

Chapter 8: Issues Confronting the African-American Community

There has been much progress made in racial equality, but there is still a long way to go. Black people have more access to schools and other areas of American life. At the same time, there has been little change in racial attitudes. There will be minimal improvement going forward unless whites decide to confront their attitudes on race.

There has already been work done in the way of whites confronting racism—white Identity Development, which is a framework to explain how whites move toward multiculturalism. Dr. Parham also recommends a yearly conference on whiteness to confront questions about racism.

Racism helps to create and perpetuate invisible systems that confer status and privilege or otherwise unearned assets to whites. The system is perpetuated by taking action to harm people of color and also inaction of not speaking up when one sees someone inflicting racism on someone else.

Once one understands and couples racism with an increasingly competitive work environment, it is easy to see why anxiety is widespread. Difficulties in the workplace were especially true when the book was written in the mid-1990’s. Austerity measures were in full swing. Dr. Parham prescribes building a corporate culture that takes into account the mental and spiritual well-being of its employees. The company should remember it is not always the employee’s job to conform to company culture. It is, at times, necessary for the company to conform to the employee. There is a distinction between desegregation and integration. Desegregation is giving people of color access to institutions. Integration is when people of all cultures see their values reflected in the policies of that institution.

The Psychology of Blacks: Part 1

Chapter 1 African-Centered Psychology in the Modern Era

The guiding principle to the book is African Americans have a unique, coherent, and persistent psychological perspective or worldview. The book is not anti-white, nor does it claim all black people are the same. In addition, African Americans have a unique culture influenced by its African roots, not white oppression.

The African worldview starts with a holistic view of the human condition. The view asserts there is no mind/body duality, and the basic unit is the tribe. Africans live in the present moment with a reverence for the past. In African languages, there is no term for the distant future. Africans revere the spoken word along with their ancestors. Ancestor worship and reverence leads Africans to view death as another stage of life. Living in harmony with nature undergirds their value system.

The study of psychology started in Africa, but it was very different than its modern conception. In Africa, the study of psychology was the study of spirit, defined as will and intent. Western Psychology is a perverted version of the original and focuses on quantifiable human behavior. When one starts by measuring behavior without understanding underlying motivations, differences are seen as deficiencies. Dr. Parham believes that a fundamental misunderstanding of what culture is could be to blame. Culture is a complex constellation of mores, values, customs, traditions, and practices that guide and influence a people’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to life circumstances. Many have inappropriately equated culture with food, music, and clothing.

Because many white psychologists don’t understand culture and how their own culture affects their behavior, they can’t understand the difference between the behavior of blacks and whites. This misunderstanding leads to the presumption that blacks are deficient instead of different. Some white analysts believed that blacks were inferior due to genetics and the inferiority could not be corrected. Others believed blacks were inferior because of oppression and could be reformed with proper rehabilitation. Dr. Parham takes the multi-cultural perspective that all groups have strengths and weaknesses.

Psychological health for black people is dependent on understanding and living your true African nature.

Chapter 2: The African American Family

As stated in the earlier chapter, psychology generally judged blacks by how closely they resembled whites. The family was no different. The black family was considered dysfunctional and a hotbed of various pathologies.

No one evaluated how black families developed in light of the different conditions that they faced. It is no secret that the black family is statistically more likely to be headed by a single parent, usually the mother. However, no one looked at how black extended family networks often shoulder the load of a missing parent. The community generally is more collaborative in child-rearing. The tendency toward collective struggle originated in Africa and never left our community.

Dr. Parham questions whether the white researchers weren’t purposefully painting the black family in a negative light to justify blacks inferior social position. Propagating the idea that blacks were inherently inferior would justify not implementing social policies to help black people. In reality, all families should be judged how they help members build a positive self-concept and face the burdens of life.

Chapter 3: The Struggle for Identity Congruence in African Americans

To create a realistic and positive concept of self, one must ask three questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Am I who I say I am?
  3. Am I who I ought to be?

Western Psychology has not aided black people in asking these three questions. Originating with the Clark Doll test of the 1940s, psychology has viewed black people as self-haters. A group of people that have fundamental low self-esteem because whites won’t validate them.

The problem with the early “self-hate” models is that it assumed that black people only seek the validation of whites. Many blacks value the opinion of their peers above any outsider. The identity of black people is not totally the result of oppression. Much of what makes blacks unique can be traced to Africa. However, many black people need to grow into the knowledge of themselves.

The process of becoming black is called “Nigrescence.” The word Nigrescence derives from French and means “becoming black.” The theory states that people grow in the knowledge of self in several stages. The stages are listed as:

  1. Pre-encounter: a person has never been faced with the race problem and sees themselves as part of mainstream America. Their orientation is pro-white and anti-black. They downplay their uniqueness to assimilate into mainstream culture.
  2. Encounter: one is confronted with race through discrimination. A person realizes the world will not simply see them as a human being. If psychological defense against adverse stimuli is low, a person is more likely to move to the next stage. If it is high, a person could need many more encounter experiences to move to the next stage.
  3. Immersion-Emmersion: 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.
  4. Internalization: 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. Security and confidence fortify their identity, and adverse stimuli do not cause much psychological damage.

Dr. William Cross created the original theory. Dr. Parham made a few adjustments to the original theory. They are:

  1. Everyone doesn’t start at Pro-white anti-black. Many in culturally supportive environments can start at pro-black
  2. It is possible that people stagnate in one phase, move up in stages in a linear fashion, or recycle through phase serval times in life as they face new encounter situations.

Parham also states that a person in the pre-encounter should not be given a black therapist. Those in pre-encounter don’t believe other black people could have the expertise or ability to treat them.

Once a person develops a healthy understanding of their ethnicity, they will naturally want to aid in the freedom struggle of their people. The African idea of consubstantiation, the principle that all things are of the same substance, will permeate their life. All acts of transgression to other people will be seen as an act of transgression against self. A healthy, supportive lifestyle will result from a healthy self-concept.

Chapter 4: Blacks and Education

It is no secret blacks lag far behind in statistics on education. At the same time, tests show that black and white children have similar cognitively, sensory, and motor skills early in life. So the question then becomes how and in what ways is the current education system underserving the black community.

Education is a collaborative effort between the school, parents, and the greater community. Dr. Parham has a prescription for improving institutions that educate black children.

The school should work with teachers to help them understand how their exceptions of students affect the students’ success. According to several studies, when teachers believe students have ability, they are more patient and attentive. Other studies show that teachers that believe boys are smarter than girl have boys that outperform girls. When teachers believe boys and girls have equal intelligence, both genders perform equally. So teachers’ beliefs can manifest in class performance due to their level of attentiveness to the students.

However, one study was alarming. The researchers paired 66 teachers with four students each: One gifted black student, one average black student, one gifted white student, and an average white student. The researchers then evaluated the teachers’ interaction with each student. They found the most gifted white student was treated the best followed by the average white student. Third was the average black student. The gifted black student got the worst treatment. So it is possible that gifted black children are punished for their ability.

Parents are also crucial to educational development. It is essential for parents to set healthy boundaries for their children. For example, ensuring homework is done before any recreation. Black households statistically watch more TV than whites. By making recreation subordinate to eduction, the child will develop the life skills needed in the future.

The community can hold the school system accountable. Dr. Parham has a school system report card template that can grade the school. If the school is insufficient, the local government can be lobbied to make changes.

The community can also supplement students’ education. The government will not be willing or unable to teach things like black pride. So community efforts are needed to teach students that success is rooted in their African ancestry. We can work to obliterate the notion that scholastic success is the same as acting white.

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

The Psychology of Blacks: Part 1

The Psychology of Blacks Part II

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