In the past few years, we have seen several incidents in the news demonstrating social injustice among people of color. If you have not been sequestered from society you have either seen these injustices or even experienced them yourself. After the recent South Carolina shooting, I saw a news article (http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/politics/obama-shootings-responses/) that stated, “President Obama has addressed the nation more than a dozen times regarding mass violence”. As a Black man in America social injustice is not surprising to me, yet it still saddens me every time I see a person of color treated unfairly. The past few days have been extremely difficult for me. I made a conscious effort to take a break from social media after seeing all of the images of social injustice that has occurred on the past months. I was completely broken inside after hearing about the shooting in SC. Although I have no personal connection to the individuals killed or to the state, the build up of all of the incidents that have occurred across the country literally “punched me in the gut” and my body just couldn’t take reading or seeing the news.
The thing that made it was for me was thinking about our society and how it seems that we are going back in time instead of moving forward. Not only do we see White people getting no or lesser convictions for the same or worse violent acts by people of color, but we have a system that continues to justify causing undue hard to Black people. A recent article by Terrell Starr of AlterNet (online news magazine) sums up how social injustice impacts the daily lives of Blacks in America (see here http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/6-ways-white-supremacy-takes-toll-mental-health-black-people).
Being a Black, male psychologist is tough at times personally and professionally. I believe I do a great job at separating my own emotions and personal experiences when I work with all clients. However, given the world we live in I continue to struggle with how to respond when incidents of social injustice occur. I recall one incident Fall 2014 when I was teaching a multicultural psychology course and the verdict of the Michael Brown case was announced. One of my students inquired about if we would talk about it in class. In that case, I had not processed my own feelings so I had to not engage in that discussion. Maybe one day we will grow as a society and will not have to confront injustice. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers”. To grow as a nation, we must change on a systemic level and this will sadly probably not occur in my lifetime.
Copyright 2015 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.
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Dr. Turner is a licensed psychologist with expertise in behavioral pediatrics, child mental health, disruptive behavior disorders, and minority mental health. He is also certified as a National Register Health Service Psychologist.