A Perceptual Transition for Black People

While visiting in Accra, Ghana, I was listening to locally televised community dialogue that was strangely similar to many I have participated in. The subject was the low academic performance of Ghanaian students. Earlier that day I saw a commercial in which a teacher stood in the front of the class and harshly demanded that the student define “global warming.” Suddenly a smile came over the teacher’s face. This time he asked the student to give her answer in Swahili. Her face gleamed brightly, as she stood erect and responded with authority and confidence. Her language had evoked a spiritual awakening.

In his book “Black Skin, White Masks” the noted Black psychiatrist, revolutionary and author Frantz Fanon states a man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language. “Mastery of language affords remarkable power.” Throughout the world Black and Brown students are being evaluated primarily based on their mastery of English or some other European language. A typical Ghanaian student has mastery of a tribal language, a local language, a national language and an international language.


The people who are evaluating their intelligence either solely speak English or some other European language or they have been conditioned to perceive the world through the eyes of White people. They don’t know the students tribal language, local language or national language. Nor do they place any value on the student’s languages. If the student dares to speak a tribal language, a local language, or even a national language the evaluator doesn’t speak, the evaluator will threaten and punish the student severely.

Black people who live in different regions of America speak different colloquial speech and dialects. People tend to best process their thoughts in their language of origin–the language their parents taught them. How many times have you heard a young child speaking and you don’t have the foggiest idea what that child said. So you ask the child’s mother, who understood every word.

The evaluator asks a question in his language. The student consciously or subconsciously translates the question in their mind so-as-to process the question in their original language. Then the student must translate back into the examiner’s language in order to communicate a response to the examiner. As a result of this process the student appears to be slow. The number one hurdle I faced entering a predominantly White college was learning to think like White people think, how to complicate simple things.

Many Blacks have severe problems of identity loss and devaluation when they are forced to have contact with White people and/or the White world. Many Blacks will instantly become neurotic–anxious, aggressive, fearful, disturbed, irrational and start to have panic attacks–and never understand why. It is not unusual for me to have to place Black workers on medical leave because of the above symptoms. Listening to Black radio while at work communicating with another Black person on their cell phones anchor them to their core spiritual essence, which is Black people. I have treated any number of Black female telecommunications workers. Some have been in treatment for several years and typically, have to go on medical leave three and four times a year. At around 50, they retire, lose weight, open a business and start to blossom. All of a sudden they love to work.

Some young Blacks even find it difficult to go to college or to a job outside their community. It’s not that the work is too hard. No, it’s a sense of neurotic alienation from their selves that is the problem. It’s what happens to many soldiers stationed in the Middle East who commit suicide. While in combat the adrenaline holds them together. It’s the inactive times that kill them. Now, take an inner-city Black person and send them to college with Whites or Blacks who come from a totally different cultural life style and see how long it will take that Black person to figure out how to relieve their anxiety by either failing, getting put out, or taking on the personalities of the majority culture–even “Uncle Tom” found his own way of surviving.

Black and Brown people are made to feel that they have to go outside of themselves and their native environments to become something. We are told we cannot stay in the “hood” and be somebody. If you want an education you have to go somewhere else to get it. If you want a good job you have to go somewhere else to get it; if you want good food, good services you must go outside the ’hood to get them. As rich as Africa is in natural resources, Africans have to go to Europe or America to become somebody. Blacks are trying to get to suburbia while Whites are buying up all the inner-city property they can get their hands on; creating construction jobs for skilled Whites and moving closer to the hub of the city. Why can’t we pool our money, buy deteriorated properties and restore them ourselves?

God has granted us a great opportunity to break out of our dependence and decrease our neurotic anxiety states. The economy is busted and there are fewer available jobs in corporate America; but, we keep telling our young people to get an education and get a job working for corporate America. Corporations are declining and it is only when one corporation buys up another that the stock holders get paid. The playing field is being leveled. However, you must change your perception in order to take advantage of the change that is occurring.

The advent of the car created suburbs. However, transportation is no longer affordable. Why do you think Wal-Mart just opened in your neighborhood and there is a McDonald’s on every corner? Likewise, many of my patients are requesting telephone or computer camera sessions. They can’t afford to drive to my office. As a result of the rising cost of gas people will be forced to stay close to home, creating functional neighborhoods including shops, stores, schools and grocery stores, which thieved in the past, will become viable. With all the vacant lots in our communities why are we worried about the rising cost of food? What services do the people in your hood need? Services they once drove miles for. This will give you some idea of the type of business that will be successful. Creating a business near you will not only cut back on gas consumption, it will go a long way as far as improving your mental health and securing the future for the next generation.

High gas cost will restrict busing and school boards will be forced to return to the neighborhood school concept which will decrease students’ anxiety levels. School aggression and violence will decline. The community will have more input into the schools’ curriculum and produce the type of young people needed to enhance the community.

We must put more emphasis on vocational training. I have a friend who is a licensed electrician. He will make over a million dollars this year. A former patient, a young Mexican dropout, recently invited me to his $750,000 home he constructed with his own hands. We must encourage our talented youth to create their own jobs; a Black corporate structure that they can control.

The outside world will have lost the romantic allure that caused past generations to want to move across the country. People can no longer afford to be sick and will develop healthier lives to avoid the high cost of health care. Healthy people will place restrictions on and outlaw degenerate immoral behaviors.

Hard times are here. Our problems are spiritually perceptual in nature. If we are to survive we must go back to the future.

(Harry R. Davidson, Ph.D., Kansas City, MO Based Clinical and Community Psychologist)