When the Killer Wears a Badge: Race, Advocacy and Healing
I am currently researching a paper while reading the works of psychoanalysts who are uncovering how power uses race as a tool to oppress people around the globe for economic gain. I appeal to all psychoanalysts to step up and advocate for human kindness and dignity to be afforded to all people. The profession is in an ethical impasse, as I understand it, about its place in society to advocate from their position as professional healers. And while Rome burns, they fiddle. This I know is harsh criticism of the profession and I know it does not reflect the position of everyone in the profession. Yet, society needs them to lead the way towards healing. The works of Paul L. Wachtel, Carter A. Wilson, Robert Maxwell Young, Frantz Omar Fano, Joel Kovel, Eugene Victor Wolfenstein and so many more reveal that we must never lose sight of the economic and social interests being served and mediated by racism. Racism is viewed as false consciousness at the social level, scapegoating and rationalization at the individual level. It is not unique and is always a mediation of socio-economic issues. What is unique is its virulence – the sheer psychotic permissiveness of racist feelings and the actions to which they lead.
I can’t do this work, as I am not a trained psychoanalyst. Thus I call upon the profession of psychoanalysis to engage in professional advocacy on behalf of human kindness and dignity.
As a lawyer who studies critical race theory and spirituality, and having developed a theory for personal and social healing, I still felt in my body shaking, my stomach churning, tears streaming from my eyes; and the emotions of profound sadness, helplessness, frustration, exhaustion, insecurity, disgust and so many more emotions when I read stories of two black men and a 13-year-old male child were killed by police since September 14th. (Tyre King, Columbus, OH; Keith Lamont Scott, Charlotte NC; Terence Crutcher, Tulsa, OK) and the release of a shocking video characterized by former Cook County Judge Andrew Berman as “gangster-like” police shooting, saying, according to Susan Richardson, Editor and Publisher of the Chicago Reporter, “If these had been White kids, this would not have been handled this way.” How can one justify tazing a motorist who is trying their best to not be a threat by hands up, hands on vehicle when all that is happening is a motorist needing assistance? Where is the “Serve?” The facts of these killings suggest something deeper is happening. The psychoanalysts have insights to this phenomenon. The economic and social relationship comes first and finds plenty of scope for mediation through human psychic processes. I can relax, breath deeply and write. The emotions of hope, optimism and enthusiasm now give me courage and vitality to carry on my work. I am a lawyer. I recognize that policing is difficult; it requires continuous training on officer safety, identification of threats, proper use of force, and so many other tactics. Yet the center of policing, to “Protect and Serve,” requires people skills and emotional intelligence.
In doing the work of critical race theory and spirituality, I can add that it might be wise for society to consider a higher standard of care required by trained police officers than that of an ordinary citizen who has not received the specialized training of police officers. The current “fear of imminent danger” is woefully lacking in its acceptance of a recitation by trained officers that “I was afraid.” Policing by definition places officers in harm’s way. One should be afraid. Yet, proper training and debiasing practices can reduce or eliminate the emotion of fear to the point of killing when encountering black people.
I think about Young’s statement that “the dialectic – the deep, mutually constitutive interrelations between the racist and the oppressed. What binds them together is not only the worst aspects of human nature – aspects that may well be ineradicable. What makes these destructive aspects take the specific form of racism is historically contingent, and at the root of that contingency is the social and economic organisation of the world that gives order to consent along the lines of economic and nationalistic relationships which are specific to our own age.”
I intend to incorporate these psychoanalytic findings and revelations into my work. On September 16, 2016, NBC News published an article by writers Kurt Chirbas, Alexander Smith and Erik Orti, reporting “As with all police-involved shootings, the officers will receive “mandated psychological support counseling” and be given the opportunity to “take leave time to assist in recovery from a traumatic experience,” according to Columbus police.” Let’s hope the psychological support counseling is lead by professionals familiar with the psychoanalytic studies about race, power and justice. Let’s hope the counseling provided is informed by the economic and social interests being served and mediated by racism. Let’s hope, dare I add, the counseling reaches beyond recovering from a traumatic experience to racial healing.
“The key to any attempt to keep economic and social interests in the forefront of our understanding [about racism] is to try to think dialectically,” suggests Young.
“The arch of the moral Universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.