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Nigrescence

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.

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’.

My Story of Nigrescence: Internalization

So I did not feel that there was anywhere I could go to feel accepted. Either I could join integrated groups and become raceless or black groups that would force me to be pro-black/anti-white. The feeling that I had nowhere to go forced me to try to create my own safe space. That is what led me to create this website Black Leadership Analysis.

I wanted to evaluate the thoughts of black people using Spiral Dynamics. I often would read blogs and articles on Spiral Dynamics that mention black people. Most of the time black people were classified as Red/Blue and whites were classified as Orange/Green. Of course, all statements would be qualified by there are black and white people in all memes, but ultimately black people were discussed as at a lower state of development. The dynamic of blacks being in a less complex state was also very prevalent in The Crucible.

The idea that black people are at a lower level of development has been prevalent in science from the very beginning. Dr. Cross explained the origins of this idea in psychology. Now I do not think the founders of Spiral Dynamics intentionally continued the tradition. However, I think science’s inability to confront its racist history has allowed the idea of black inferiority to exist.

Now I do not believe that it is impossible for black people or white people to be generally at different levels of development. However, to make the assertion one must look deeply into Black America. Not just a few hundred test subjects. The great thinkers have to be evaluated. It is possible that higher order thinking appears in a different manner. Once one explores the possibility that the intersection of ethnicity and ego development makes the memes appear differently, one can then assess if black people are generally at a lower level of development.

One of many barriers in Spiral Dynamics is the idea that anyone that talks about ethnicity is Red Meme. It is believed that once a person moves up the Spiral they naturally let go of ethnicity. The goal will be creating a raceless intellectual. If this is the final goal, the Spiral Dynamic community should expect limited influence.

I also felt Spiral Dynamics could be beneficial to the Black community. Often it is difficult for us to have political or philosophical dialogue without immediately moving to ad hominem attacks such as: “you’re brainwashed” you’re a hotep”, “you hate yourself.” The lack of dialogue prevents black people from developing an informed social philosophy to help us navigate an often hostile world.

Now there is quality political discussion within the Black academia. However, there needs to be a method to bring these strategies to the mass of people. If normal people don’t have a way to dialogue, there will be unnecessary division and stagnation. For a group of people already disadvantaged, not being able to dialogue will be detrimental.

I began with the website by randomly picking leaders. The first one I did was Brother Polight. I found him to be pretty impressive from the few YouTube videos I watched. I watched all the videos on his YouTube channel looking for common themes. Once the common themes were determined. I would judge what meme is central to the person’s thinking.

Facebook is the best place to share these articles. However, I realized every Facebook group on Spiral Dynamics was not down to talk about race. So I created my own group Black Leadership Analysis. I wanted it to have it be a place were Integralist and Black people can talk about race. The focus would be on black thinkers. I went through and recruited people I felt to be influential in Spiral Dynamics. It was disheartening to find so few black people in the Integral Facebook Groups. However, all the black people I saw got a personal invitation.

So my Facebook Group has always allowed all ethnicities to be part of the discussion. However, the discussion focuses on black issues and the thoughts of black leaders. Many black members have criticized discussing black issues in front of whites. They mainly think we should “air dirty laundry” to outsiders. My rebuttal is black issues are always in the public sphere. It is better to provide outsiders the opportunity to hear black people to discuss issues candidly to give them perspective.

I also had one person that was white that believed race discussion could only be Red Meme. He was also a big Sam Harris fan. He took one of my posts down in an Integral FB group. So I decided to recruit him for Black Leadership Analysis. I thought it would be good to have someone against the idea in the group to see how my ideas would play in front of the most conservative Integralist.

So the white guy from the other Facebook Group, let’s call him Bill, claims not to see race. However, the first post that he tries to post is of Sam Harris blaming police brutality of black people’s gangster culture. The idea of the video was that Black people idolize gangsters and criminality. Exalting criminals leads to violence and more interactions with the police. Increased police interactions then lead to instances were police use brutal force. I found this an odd video for a person that does not see race to post. I allowed the post because I wanted to critique the video.

My rebuttal along with most people in the group was black people can’t be simplified into a monolith. Also, white people control the “culture” that he has easy access to through television and radio. Ultimately, only a person that has deep-seated anti-black beliefs would even find the video valid. Bill did not change his position, but he understood our perspective. Ultimately, it was a constructive conversation.

Bill symbolized to me the problem with merely dismissing those that speak on race and asserting that black people are at a lower stage of development compared to white people. Because one is living in a culture that dismisses outsiders as savage one will be predisposed to anti-black views. The only way to re-evaluate these views is to study the other sub-culture thoroughly. Until a sub-culture is carefully examined, one can not make any declarations. The study should go beyond test subjects and include the great thinkers.

Ultimately, I want to build a genuinely multi-cultural Integral community. I understand it will take more than one blog to accomplish this. However, I think the discussions we have will help to improve the Integral and the Black community. The world is at a turning point right now, and if the proper dialogue is not established the world could turn to fascism.

My Story of Nigrescence: Emersion Immersion

The People of Color Sangha
Most of my life I have never felt included in black spaces. As a child and as an adult I felt singled out as not black enough.

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to work on my ability to build relationships, especially with those within my race. I had always been perceived as an outsider or someone not aware of blackness. I had also had a horrible experience in Concerned Black Men (CBM). After the CBM experience, I had no real interest in joining a specifically black organization.

I had known about the People of Color Sangha for three years before I went the first time. I just figured I would meet a ton of extremely judgmental people that would judge by expression of blackness negatively. I had been part of another Western Buddhist Sangha for many years. After a while, my relationships in the Western Buddhist Sangha became strained because of racial misunderstandings. Ultimately, I needed a new group.

I went the first time, and I was very nervous about going and being rejected. That was usually how things went for me in black organizations and groups. So I sat quietly and just said hi to a few people.

Then a Dharma (Truth) sharing started. For those that are not Buddhist the Dharma sharing is when the members of the Sangha talk about their personal experience on a subject. I can’t remember what the theme was that night. For some reason, I decided to share my experience at CBM in which the other members made a lynching joke after they found out I was dating a white girl. I expected to get ridiculed, but as it turns out people were receptive and sympathetic. After that, I felt more comfortable.

I have been going to the People of Color Sangha for two years now. It is my favorite Buddhist group in the city. My experience with the People of Color Sangha is also the first time I have felt genuinely respected in a group of black people. I express myself reasonably freely and am developing some pretty strong honest friendships.

Ambedkarite Buddhism

One of the problems I see in Western Buddhism is its lack of focus on social justice. All religions use some spiritual bypass when talking about ethnicity. I
I do not think Buddhism does a worse job than other religions. I just felt the infrastructure in Buddhism can deal with race in a more robust way. Just like with all other personal issues I had used Buddhism to help me through, race can become something that no longer gives me anxiety, and at the same time, I would not have to ignore. With Buddhism, I could see race as it was.

Of course, I had found black Buddhist teachers. These teachers used blackness to inform Buddhism and Buddhism to inform their blackness. The best example of this is Lama Rod Owens. He is originally from Georgia and is steeped in the black church. He converted to Buddhism in adulthood and had many of the same problems with racelessness in the Buddhist community. He had not turned bitter though. Instead, he studied the works deeply to understand where he and his community fit in the religion.

Lama Rod along with other teachers showed me how to become authentically black and Buddhist. However, I still wondered if we were projecting solutions onto the religion or is social justice inherent in the faith. Another aspect I felt necessary in adopting a religion from another community is staying true to its origins. I wanted to know that social justice was always a part of the Buddhist expression historically and in Asia.

Buddhism is an Asian religion because it started there. Many Western Buddhist try to play down the importance and centrality of Asia in Buddhism. Some do it because they want the religion to be inclusive and egalitarian. Others want to whitewash the religion. Still, others have done a spiritual bypass of ethnicity and couldn’t deal with it.

In my mind, I have to find a cultural and historical case to include Buddhism in my understanding of social justice. Luckily, I discovered Bhimrao Ambedkar from a Facebook post. I found out that he was a political reformer from the lowest Indian caste. I have written extensively about him on this blog as a result of my deep admiration for him.

However, I feel it is essential not only to know the history from an intellectual standpoint but know understand the community produced by the religion. I went online to google Ambedkar organizations in America and discovered the Ambedkar Association of North America. I found out they had weekly online meetings and began attending them. From there I found out about tons of Ambedkarite organizations in the USA. I have gone to many events and felt welcomed. Many are interested in my story and connecting the struggle of Dalits and African-Americans.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I consider myself connected to the social justice struggle. So my Immersion stage looks different than what originally was purposed by Dr. Cross. However, I do think I have delved into my culture more lately than any other time in my life. I hope these experiences will help me to show up in the world in a more loving manner.

My Story of Nigrescence: Encounter Part 2

This blog will be one of the most difficult ones that I have written. One of the things I am most embarrassed by in my life is my difficulty to make connections to other black people. Even though this will be difficult and many people will be offended, I think it is necessary to have these discussions to move our people forward.

So growing up I was always labeled as the black kid that wants to be white. Now I never saw myself that way. I was trying to be well behaved and productive in society. Even though I could not articulate what I felt at a young age, I saw many examples of general dysfunction in the community. I did not want to perpetuate behaviors that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others.

One thing that is unique to black Americans is that our identity is so wrapped up in our oppression and the damage resulting from it. If you are Mexican and educated, you can copy or act like a Mexican professor. If you are a rich Italian, you can pretend to be a De Medici. That is not to say that there aren’t smart or rich black people. It is just in America smart or rich makes you more a part of mainstream society. America views people like Magic Johnson and Reginald Lewis as more than black or part of American society in general.

Blackness is traditionally defined as outside of American culture. Historically, legal protection did not include black people, so we understood ourselves as outsiders in our land. Many black people were trying to come up or improve their standing in life had to separate from their community. Often they would aid in oppression for their own benefit. So historically black people have every reason to question overly ambitious black people or black people that appear to want to assimilate with the greater society.

If I had one wish, it would be that our community spends time learning how to work with all the identities we can now access. We were a people defined by having no or very little agency. We were thrust into a society without really having time to redefine ourselves outside of oppression. We never established what a culturally aware black academic looks like or a culturally aware black businessman. I think the young generation has to deal with these issues less. However, there are many people in my age that feel ostracized by their people for trying to be productive.

I feel an immense amount of guilt about resenting other black people. I have spoken to a few people about my resentment. Usually, I am told I am trivial, and I should grow up. These issues you had with black people only happen when you were a child. In reality, adults also have a problem with how other black people perceive them. I am not the only person to feel this way.

After I started my blog, someone posted an article on my associated Facebook page about a white comedian using nigga in a joke. The comedian is known to be liberal, one member, let’s call her Sue, said that we should forgive him. My reply was that black people shouldn’t protest or anything. Just stop watching his comedy show or going on as a guest. Our replies were getting long, so we continued them over e-mail.

So once the e-mail conversation kept going over for a while. Finally, I said this to end the debate. I told Sue we were talking about to different things. She wanted to facilitate racial reconciliation through forgiving the comedian. I tried to protect black people by just not interacting with the comedian again. Both of us wish the best for black people. We have different ways of getting there. She told me she started crying. It was the first time she disagreed with another black person on a racial issue, and the conversation ended without her being called a “coon” or “aunt sally.”

I have many stories like this from my Facebook and WordPress site. Black people are coming forward that never felt comfortable expressing their feelings on race to other black people. I think proper and constructive political dialogue is necessary if we want to move up as a community. We will need conservative, liberal, and radical plans to move forward. Also, 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.

Unless black people can unite and build their community, the greater society will stigmatize us. Even groups committed to inclusion see inclusion as a way whites can help blacks. Once black people have a more stable community, diversity will be seen as something that will be beneficial to all people.

Also, black people will have a difficult time finding intimacy with people outside their ethnicity. Whether a person likes it or not your ethnicity is a huge part of your lived experience. Even if you don’t realize it, the lived experience of your community now and in the past shapes the world around you more than your actions or ability. How many black women are single even though they are attractive and educated? Many, because so many black men are systematically put in jail. How many black children go to college and feel alone? Many, because the educational system was set up against us a long time ago. A person really can’t understand their situation without understanding ethnicity. You also can’t understand someone without understanding their ethnicity. We are not independent actors acting in a rational world.

The study of Ethnic Identity Development will facilitate black people working with all their identities and dealing with the personalities of other black people. There is no one correct way to be black anymore. We must allow people to express themselves authentically. We also must let people to have room to change. In the end, black people only have each other, and there will not be many alliances until blacks work together.

My Story of Nigrescence: Encounter Part 1

I have recently discovered the psychological theory of Nigrescence. The theory gives a natural progression of how individuals grow to embrace their ethnicity. It also details many pitfalls one can fall in while discovering who they are.

There are five stages in the theory of Nigrescence.

  1. Pre-encounter: A time early in life when one does not use their ethnicity to create a worldview. It can also be used to describe people that purposefully neglect how their ethnicity shapes their worldview.
  2. Encounter: An event or series of events that create psychological discomfort that leads one to modify worldview
  3. Emersion: Individual rebel against mainstream culture and surround themselves with the new ethnic culture
  4. Internalisation: Individual moves past rebellion and can re-enter society with ethnic consciousness. The individual will no longer separate themselves yet interact with people of all backgrounds
  5. Commitment: Individuals have an authentic commitment to their ethnic struggle. Most of their time is used building a better world

This blog post will cover the time I spent in Encounter

Encounter

I had always had a hard time making friends and building relationships. Alot of my stumbling blocks involving relationships involved suffering from depression. To cure my depression I used many methods simultaneously. I began meditating which led to learning Buddhism. In addition, I began to study psychology which eventually led to studying Spiral Dynamics.

So the biggest problem I had in relationships was depth. I knew alot of people but I had no one I really could share intimate experiences with. I could find someone to eat dinner with or going to the movies with, but no one to call when I was really down.

One example of what the trouble I was having was my relationship with Marvin. Marvin is a Jewish guy I met at a Buddhist Temple. He was really gregarious and we always talked after service. I never thought we could really be friends. He was about twenty years older than me and about to retire. I figured we would have very little in common. However, I did find him to be interesting so I decided to do second body practice with him. For those that are not Buddhist, second body practice consist of meeting out in public and talking about how Buddhism affects out life. I usually last about an hour a week for a month and a half.

Over our sessions we got to know alot about each other. He told me alot about his job and how he was glad to retire. I told him about fighting my depression and how I was working to build relationships. I think we really provided each other good advice. Over the session we got really close. He would then invite me to different events over the years.

I was always careful never to talk about race to people that are not black. However, over the course of our talks the subject would come up. I mean my ethnicity is the a large part of my experience. Sometimes I would go into it without even realizing it. Then Marvin would comment and it would normally offend me. He would always say I was above race and should no longer thing about it. In his mind, I very well could have surpassed race. However, to the rest of the world I had not.

Well Marvin called me to hang out with him. He knew I liked dancing and decided to take me to this modern dance recital. He spent a lot of time complaining that his wife never wants to go and hang out with any of his friends. His wife was from the Phillipines and spoke broken English. It was obvious why she would feel uncomfortable hanging out with professors that Marvin was taking classes from. Yet, I sat and listened to make sure he knew I cared.

That night I did not say much. I had just started my blog Black Leadership Analysis. I was really hyped because the third article I wrote got 100 views in a day. He kept asking me what I was up to. So I finally told him about the blog.

His reaction was very telling. He goes on this long diatribe about how I shouldn’t worry about race and I should only worry about my personal advancement. He went on to say worrying about teaching black people is a waste of time. He felt generally black people were unintelligent and not much can be done about it. Needless to say I never spoke to him again.

Now I don’t believe Marvin to be malicious. I see him as a natural product of a spiritual community that bypasses race. If we don’t have a method to discuss and work through race in a constructive manner, we will get people like Marvin. Marvin did not hate people of other ethnicities, he actually made an effort to be around people that were not Jewish. Yet, his meager understanding of ethnicity kept him from having empathy and listening. It also kept him from questioning his preconceptions.

This story is not unique to my experiences in new age spiritual communities. I always censored myself to seem raceless. Not because I was ashamed of who I was, but because I knew most in the community would be insensitive. This led to me just being in their space not making the space ours. I would come, smile, nod, but never really achieve a level of intimacy. My lack of intimacy caused the discomfort that made me move to the next phase.

My Story of Nigrescence: Pre-Encouter

I have recently discovered the psychological theory of Nigrescence. The theory gives a natural progression of how individuals grow to embrace their ethnicity. It also details many pitfalls one can fall in while discovering who they are.

There are five stages in the theory of Nigrescence.

  1. Pre-encounter: A time early in life when one does not use their ethnicity to create a worldview. It can also be used to describe people that purposefully neglect how their ethnicity shapes their worldview.
  2. Encounter: An event or series of events that create psychological discomfort that leads one to modify worldview
  3. Emersion: Individual rebel against mainstream culture and surround themselves with the new ethnic culture
  4. Internalisation: Individual moves past rebellion and can re-enter society with ethnic consciousness. The individual will no longer separate themselves yet interact with people of all backgrounds
  5. Commitment: Individuals have an authentic commitment to their ethnic struggle. Most of their time is used building a better world

This blog post will cover the time I spent in Pre-encounter

Pre-Encounter

I grew up in Murfreesboro, TN. Both of my parents are college educated and knowledgeable about black history. Both made sure I read books on black history and the struggle of my people. By the end of high school, I was well versed in Black History and even won a black history trivia bowl held in high school.

Most would wonder how a young man knowledgeable about black history could not have a worldview shaped by his ethnicity. Well, I can think of a few reasons.

Striver History

The history that my parents focused on teaching me primarily focused on blacks achieving in the face of adversity. I knew the first open heart surgery was done by a black man and how Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. However, we did not talk about how systematic justice caused most black people to stay in a vulnerable condition economically and politically. If systemic injustice was brought up in a conversation, my parents would just counter with how black people can overcome any obstacle.

As an adult I understand that my parents did not want me using my race as an excuse. Many black people never try to pursue their dreams because they feel the white man will not let them succeed. Nothing will ever happen in life if one simply accepts their place in society.

The unintended consequence was not having compassion for other black people or myself when life falls short of expectations. Even if one keeps a positive attitude and work ethic circumstances can prevent reaching all goals. When this happens one must re-evaluate everything that caused the outcome to determine why they failed. If systematic injustice is a blind spot, an individual will end up on a path of self-loathing. Most black people hit a glass ceiling in their career. If this happens one needs all the tools to evaluate what needs to change if anything.

Social Climbing away from Black people

My parents were very culturally aware. They supported left-leaning politics and took me and my siblings to black history month events. My house was filled with celebration when someone black achieved a goal on a national stage. My father often commented on how proud he was of Oprah Winfrey because she comes from the South and became a media mogul.

In spite of all of my parent’s black pride, they would still go on long diatribes on how black people are their own worst enemy. I remember my parents going on long diatribes on how black people can’t seem to get anything right. Everything we do is disorganized and how we should imitate non-black minorities and white people.

To be clear, I am not blaming my parents for my worldview. My parents were simply reflecting the society they lived in and the predominate narratives on race in the 1990’s. I will say when I raise kids or if any parents ask for my advice, I would tell them to not berate or complain about their race. If you are speaking in front of your kids make sure to not simply repeat right-wing talking points. If you want to criticize some to show a child an example of what to not do is explain the issue in terms of individual problems and individual remedy. Before speaking think about if the statement you are about to say would cause a fight if said by a white person.

My parents also gauged their success by the exclusivity of their neighborhood. When I was born my family lived in the low-income part of town. The neighborhood became dangerous so he moved us to a firmly middle-class neighborhood. Again the neighborhood crime rate went up over the years and we moved. The last time we moved it was to one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in town. My parents were proud to be one of the few black people in the neighborhood.

The perception that social mobility leads to being around less black people helped to impede using my ethnicity in my worldview. To be successful, I had to be able to interact with whites or at least non-black minorities. If I wasn’t able to do this I would be alone as I was in my childhood. Moving to predominantly white neighborhoods meant I had no peers to interact. Blackness was something that separates me from those around me.

Few examples of Commitment phase

Of the people I saw in childhood and early adulthood, few were in the commitment phase of their ethnic development. Most of the people I interacted with fell into the following categories.

Real Brothas vs Squares

Those caught in constantly proving their black authenticity. Normally, going out of their way to be stereotypical, yet being horribly offended when others stereotype them. They also went out of their way to point out someone else they felt was emulating whites or perceived white society. Most often the people they disparage are simply trying to be productive citizens.

Ideologues

Those totally caught in a social or political philosophy and feel others must conform to their worldview. It could be a complicated philosophy or simply an organization. Many are caught in proving their organization is superior to all others.

I found the most salient representation of ideologues in Black Greek Letter Organizations in college. Every organization would discharge the other fraternities or sororities. It could lead to an altercation in some cases.

It is true that all fraternities and sororities will fight at some point regardless of race. However, BGLO’s were organized for the specific purpose of racial solidarity. It seemed to me these organizations would already have the infrastructure to quell animosity. The members should just agree to not insult or fight each other in public. I found the sororities were worse than the fraternities. I heard many girls from one sorority call members of another sorority ugly. It seems that women wouldn’t do this to each other knowing how looks cause so much insecurity. I felt these women would be better served in a non-racial feminist organization. In a feminist organization, they would not be calling each other ugly.

Bougie vs Ghetto

The other identity that was common was Bougieness. Bougieness work similarly to the Real Brotha persona, but instead of focusing on stereotypes it focused on one’s level of sophistication. Everyone not meeting the exacting sophistication standards was Ghetto and deserved to be ridiculed. The bougie persona is the silliest of all because very few black people have any real wealth. Most people in this persona signal wealth while not having any to people that also don’t have wealth.

I did not see a persona I could adopt that would unite black people and facilitate interacting with other cultures. It seemed like the personas were just another way to isolate oneself. Every black organization I saw spent most of its time attacking everyone outside the organization. Blackness was something that isolated. It forced an individual to hold everyone else suspect. I knew to get where I need to go I had to build a network.

My Presception of Black History

My knowledge of black history also played a factor in my decision to not fully integrate my ethnicity. I saw the primary reason black people found themselves in a vulnerable position financially and politically was isolation. Segregation and slavery chiefly worked to keep us away from the knowledge to improve our situation in life. We have been conditioned to isolate ourselves and to this day we have not snapped out of the mindset. That led to a lot of the conflict I was seeing in the personas. We were pitted against each other in slavery and to this day we continued the pattern.

The solution as I saw it then was to not worry about race or use it to inform your worldview. The black people around me seemed to be going out of there way to separate themselves socially not only from whites but other black people. Those with the biggest network get ahead. I was determined to reach the top and nothing including race would hold me back.

Now I have to say the categories listed above do not fully categorize black America or the black people I met in my childhood. I am talking about my perceptions. If I were to meet those same people now, I could find them to be complex individuals. But, as Dr. Cross says a person’s perceived experience is more important than their actual experience.

Ultimately, I saw few examples of people that used blackness to inform their experience in a healthy way. I just saw a bunch of people coming up with any reason to be at odds with each other. I also saw people killing themselves to be part of a mainstream suburban culture that didn’t want them. They would always criticize and demean whites but buy a house they could not afford to send their kid to a predominately white school. It was just a world full of contradictions.

Dr. William Cross

Biography / Philosophy

Analysis

Ethnic Identity Development (Nigrescence)

The Evolution of Ethnic Identity Development

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