top of page

Three Elephants Blocking Our Healing ☥ Part I

Updated: Feb 17


Race in this country is still the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. Lenny Kravitz





It is a question that I have been asked a lot lately: As a Black woman, what would you like for your community to do to better support minority folks in today's society? I consider this question to be offensive because:

☥ I will not refer to anyone as a “minority,” an inaccurate label that perpetuates harmful

ideas about racial hierarchy; and,

☥ I realize that the people who ask me the question don’t actually want to hear an

honest answer. I generally get asked this question once, and when I share my truth, I

am not asked again.


The recently publicized racist attacks in the news caused me to be interviewed for white

publications, but once I spoke my truth, the articles were killed.





I have carried the burden of knowing how to heal what hurts and grappling with how to bring the light so that people will want to heal for far too many years. The most important lesson that I've learned on my own healing journey is that we cannot heal what we are unwilling to face, so even if very few people choose to read this blog, I must share my stories. We make this world a better place by healing ourselves and sharing that love with the people we know. That said, sometimes the truth hurts as it sets us free ...




My affirmation is that these stories will encourage those who read it to acknowledge three elephants in our proverbial rooms (and a host of sub elephants) blocking the healing of ourselves and of our society so that we can transcend repressed emotions, transform our lives and communities.


white girl with a question


It would be a grave understatement to say that racial dynamics are multilayered with many shades of gray requiring thoughtful analysis from an array of vantage points. For this reason, I need to provide a rather lengthy amount of context, so it will take a while to get to the elephants (which I offer as affirmative questions). I humbly invite you to refrain from skimming/reading ahead, and encourage you to read through the discomfort of this truth and reconciliation type of experience from the beginning to the end in order to receive the complete understanding of this post as well as the healing strategies that it provides. I invite you to click on the pictures ☥ hyperlinks to gain additional knowledge ☥ context and practice an array of breathing and movement exercises as you read.





Because many people seem to be too afraid (white people) or too frustrated/emotionally triggered/exhausted/shut down (Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People) to talk honestly and at least somewhat objectively about race, I use true personal stories, compassion and love to assist us in reaching a higher level of understanding.


A Troubling Glimpse Of My K - 12 Years



Christmas tree


Elementary School

For reasons that require a separate blog (or book) to unpack, I truly believed that I was an ugly little Black girl. This feeling was reinforced continually throughout elementary school, but through my part in our Christmas play, I finally had the chance to be pretty. For weeks, I practiced being a pretty doll with the rest of the girls in my class. Our teachers were going to put makeup on us and we would dance around a Christmas tree. I practiced the dance at home. I was excited and ready. Or so I thought.


On the night of the show, while we were getting dressed, one of my white teachers walked over to me and said, "Phyllis, we were thinking that since you are so tall, we would like for you to be the Christmas tree in the play." The teacher didn't sit in a chair or squat down to meet me at eye level and provided no explanation for the abrupt change. She looked down at me, asserting her authority in a friendly yet condescending way. I remember crying and asserting that I didn't want to be a tree. I wanted to be a pretty doll just like everyone else (and like I had been practicing for weeks). Shocked by my reaction, the teachers went to get my mother. I'm not sure what they said to her, and I can't remember what she said to me. But I do remember letting myself go numb, becoming the Christmas tree and making myself put on the happy face so that the white people could have their show, all the while feeling like something inside of me had just died.


Less than 3% of my elementary school peers were Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant students. There were no Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant teachers, custodians or any other personnel, so the white kids thoroughly enjoyed taunting, teasing and even hunting us with no repercussions. In second grade, I had to walk past one white boy's house on my way to school with a barricade of kids around me to keep him from charging me at full speed and knocking me to the ground every school day. A few years later when I was fighting him off, I caught a glimpse of his mother. She was shocked to see her son on top of me, but was more concerned with what people would think about her son than my safety. After she saw him jump me, he never bothered me again. It was one of the only times in my life that racism came in handy.





Middle School

The one time that I went to school with braids in my hair, I was bullied to the point that I begged my mother to let me "perm" (chemically straighten) my hair to make me look less "Black" (a decision that I deeply regretted later). It took many years of experimentation for me to figure out how to reduce the burning sensations and prevent the scabs, caused by the chemical burns, from forming on my scalp when I permed my hair (which happened every six weeks). I did not cultivate the courage to reverse that decision until decades later when I became a Doctor of Natural Medicine/Ayurvedic Practitioner and could no longer deny the damage to my hair and scalp.





To this day, beautiful Black women continually approach me in private and tell me that they desperately want to stop putting chemicals in their hair, but they are afraid of how they will be treated by white people and fear that their husbands/Black men will no longer find them attractive (a complicated dynamic that I'll save for a future blog post, or perhaps a book). As a healer, I have consistently encouraged Black men, who prefer straight hair, to consider how conventional standards of beauty have influenced/brainwashed them and to lovingly support their woman's desire/need to fall in love with their natural hair.







When the movie 10 was released, white girls went from taunting me to asking me if I would braid their hair. I was consumed with rage. I became an avid fan of The Incredible Hulk to help me understand and learn to control my intense feelings of anger.


The pilot episode of "The Incredible Hulk" helped me to identify the frustration that I was feeling and give that feeling the title of "anger." It also validated my feelings, gave them expression/an outlet and warned me of the need to understand its causes. I was an adult child, so I handled problems at school on my own. During this time, we struggled financially and didn't have a car. I didn't have access to books or therapy. I had television and not much more, so I used what resources I had to keep me balanced. I was blown away by how similar my personality was and how much my life had in common with the life of Dr. David Banner.







Middle school was better because the TV mini series "Roots" made white people uncomfortable, and I started to grow even taller which inoculated me from being an easy target. Through the craziness, I consistently found silver linings and managed to connect with every ethnicity, including many white students. My music teacher, who was white, noticed this special ability of mine and called on me to settle a dispute between the Black students (who wanted to sing It's My Turn) and the white students (who wanted to sing Dream On) for our eighth grade graduation ceremony. Although I resented my teacher for putting me on the spot to take on the responsibility of an adult teacher without warning or preparation, the experience taught me a great deal about the art of racial mediation and negotiation.






High School

High school was a different animal and will take a considerable amount of time for me to unpack. Although I have a lot of great memories from high school and befriended many wonderful people, the racial dynamics, from my perspective as a well-known but not popular student, were sort of like a cross between "Roots," (but would be more accurately titled "Roots: The Post Jim Crow Years"), "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (without the murder) and "Flatliners" (without the apologies). Our family moved to a more rural area, meaning that I would have to start over making friends at a high school much further away. I ended up at a high school with a Black superintendent, a few Black teachers, custodians/other staff and about 25-30% of the students were Black. What a reprieve from my K - 8 experiences.







I wasn't popular because I refused to become a member of the social cliques at school, but I was warmly welcomed and quickly made a ton of friends in every grade level and of every ethnicity. I took my first psychology course in ninth grade and it totally rocked my world. It was the first time that I considered that the world may not be the way I perceive it. My psychology studies inspired me to continually run an array of experiments to test my perceptions and create my own diagnoses for patterns that I noticed. Almost immediately, I experienced what I diagnosed to be called "Slave Master Syndrome."




Slave Master Syndrome describes a white impulse to assert racial, social and/or physical power over Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People.



white man and Black woman in plank pose


During the Euro-American slave trade, white males would marry white women and parade their whiteness, presumptions of wholesomeness and privilege in public, but in private, they would rape the Black females (though not often discussed, the Black males were raped as well by white men and white women - a painfully deep topic best reserved for a book). The sanctity of marriage between whites or Blacks did not seem to matter, but for different reasons.



Former slaves Harriet Jacobs, Charles Ball, and Frederick Douglass all mention in their autobiographies that their mistresses were often crueler, meaner, and more violent than their masters. J. M. Allain






Marriage among the enslaved was often weaponized to further control Black men and women on plantations. Their children and relatives would be sold for profit or kept as house slaves — which introduced troubling power dynamics between the slave master, his illegitimate children and his wife. The wife (often called the mistress of the plantation) was put on a pedestal of purity and supremacy, labeled as fragile and needing protection, often left alone while her husband traveled for long periods of time and was humiliated by constantly being surrounded by her husband's children with the enslaved women. Enslaved people were exceptionally vulnerable to abuse as the mistress resorted to passive/aggressive and violent behavior causing a cyclical power struggle between the frustrated mistress and the unapologetic slave master.


While I realize that "Slave Master Syndrome" may seem like an overstatement, I continually experienced the entitled and aggressive assertion of power by the white students at my high school. I noticed that if I were hidden from public view (in between school busses, alone in the hallway, etc.) there would be a white boy present and attempting to touch, kiss, grab or otherwise behave as if he had carte blanche with my body. If only I knew the language of consent and how to enforce it. The only way I could get rid of them would be to say, "If you want to kiss me, then kiss me over there where everyone can see us." This would make them disappear. Of course there were a few select white playboys who would flirt with me (and every other female) in public. If a gnat and an octopus could have a child, it would be those white playboys.






What I called "Slave Master Syndrome" afflicted some of the more popular white boys in school - often those who generally or even avidly pretended to not even like Black girls. Although I'm not thrilled about putting my personal life on blast, these dynamics need to be outed and discussed so that they can be healed. The popular white boys used peer pressure/their status to intentionally sabotage romantic relationships that I could have had which caused me considerable emotional pain.


As an example, one of these boys pursued me (by manipulating/pumping one of my friends for information and attempting to seduce me with his significant popularity/status) even though he knew how deeply I cared for his Brown-skinned friend (who was seeking acceptance and had no idea that his loyalty went one way). Slave Master Syndrome makes a person betray their friends in order to serve their own interests. No one is safe on the plantation. If a slave master wants your woman, he will take her. The incognito look that he gave me when I passed him in the hallway sent an unnerving chill up my spine. Disgusted by this white boy's actions, I told two gossipy girls about his sly move hoping to shut him down and praying that the rumors would make it to the Brown-skinned boy's ears. However, the slave master was too powerful and shut the rumor mill down. That white people could create an environment toxic enough to keep two brown-skinned people from connecting with each other filled me with a sort of hopeless pain. Just like an enslaved girl, I powerlessly watched it happen before my eyes.






Many Immigrant People have parents who are first generation immigrants and, having been seduced by the illusions of life in America, have no idea how to prepare their children for the insidious racism in schools (and its complicated dynamics based on the contemptuous, intentionally hidden history between Black and white people). They see how poorly Black People are treated and (hoping for conventional acceptance and to avoid being treated in similar ways) pledge allegiance to white people (erroneously believing that their allegiance is equally reciprocated). Gradually, they begin to feel ashamed of their family, skin color, hair, language and indigenous clothing. They date/marry people they don't love and drop their cultural heritage. They think that by aligning with white people, they will have more success and be treated better, but this is an illusion of whiteness.


Although they may feel that they have gained some privilege, it often takes them a lifetime/few generations to realize that they are nothing more than house slaves who could be lynched, bought or sold at anytime. I grew up with an East Indian family who insisted that their children married white people. As I have observed them over the years, I've noticed that this decision seemed to bring no fulfillment to their lives and often invited pain. One member of the family (now in his 60's) remains unmarried to this day because he fell deeply in love with a Black woman and his father forbade the union. Another was continually beaten by her white husband. To fall in love with the soul of another who matches yours (even though they are of another ethnicity) is a beautiful occurrence. But, to only date and marry people simply because they are white, regardless of their character or compatibility, is a reflection of deep, internalized self-hatred.










Black People have been persecuted, betrayed and manipulated so much (often fueled by/anchored in the misuse of ethnopsychology and psychological anthropology), by so many and for so long, that we make Indigenous ☥ Immigrant and even Black People (especially if they are also bi/multiracial) work hard for a long time to prove their loyalty (i.e. by requiring that they like everything about Black culture, insisting that they be considered to be Black instead of their own ethnicity/rejecting the part of their ethnicity that is not Black, arbitrarily deciding what actions make them "Black enough," etc.). Make the wrong move or say the wrong thing and you can be dropped quickly. Even if a person initially passes these inefficacious loyalty tests, Black People still struggle with trust and create more and more requirements for acceptance that never seem to be fulfilled because we fail to understand that trust and loyalty cannot be proven, it must be cultivated. This extremely unhealthy behavior is a by-product of oppression that can be deeply unconscious and embedded in the Black psyche.


A way out of this negative merry-go-round is to recognize/accept that Black People are inherently and deeply affected by actions that trigger emotional responses.






To this day, slave masters have, formally and informally, studied ethnopsychology and psychological anthropology to intentionally trigger emotional responses in Black People (which is especially effective when we gather in groups) to distract and manipulate us sort of like the "no-look pass" technique in basketball.


It is imperative that Black People consistently practice raising awareness to consciously disrupt these cycles of manipulation. It is equally important for Black People to study ethnopsychology and psychological anthropology in a healthy way to:

☥ help us better understand ourselves objectively;

☥ help us have an understanding of other cultures objectively and recognize the

cultural connections that exist between us;

☥ disrupt and dismantle predatory behavior from within our culture so that we can

engage in restorative and other healing practices to repair the damage caused

by centuries of colonization/oppression within our families/communities; and,

☥ implement effective strategies for recognizing, preventing, disrupting and







An excellent response to feeling emotionally triggered/awakened would be to resist the temptation to knee-jerk react (which gives away our power). Instead, pause and take a long slow deep breath in and out before choosing a response. If feeling deeply upset, walk away and spend some time in contemplation before choosing an appropriate response.




Listening to inspirational music is a great way to help us take some time to breathe and recenter ourselves before choosing an appropriate response. In times of emotional distress, we tend to forget the greatness from which we came and the excellence that exists all around us.






These simple, yet powerful techniques sound great in theory, but can be very difficult to access in real life situations without constant reminders and a dedicated, consistent practice to help us break hard-wired habitual knee-jerk reacting. We can then take the time to look deeply within oneself while developing an ever-evolving spiritual practice (that must also include nourishing our bodies) which would enable us to heal/release past traumas and monitor, set and enforce healthy boundaries with ourselves and others. Integrating these contemplative practices into everyday life will help Black People to become aware of and develop effective counterstrategies for cloaked manipulative tactics which will help us to cultivate trust and loyalty in ourselves while also attracting an abundance of ethical, virtuous and integrous allies of all ethnicities, including our own (which is what we truly desire at our essence).



Whether we are on or off the slave plantation, we have to face the fact that most of us have been corrupted (consciously and unconsciously) and are in need of deep healing. Racial healing begins with self-mastery, self-correction, self-empowerment, enforcing healthy boundaries, forgiveness and trauma release.





What I found to be most repulsive was that the slave master white boys in high school were not interested in legitimately dating me because they devalued and dehumanized Black females. They just wanted me to be available for them in case they wanted to sneak around with me while simultaneously maintaining their public image as bona fide members of the elite, jock, Risky Business white boy's club. Because some people accuse me of exaggerating when I unpack these racial dynamics, I feel compelled to share another example of how the white students unapologetically asserted their power at my high school.


During my senior year, a male, who belonged to the white boy's club, asked me to go to the prom with him. We were attracted to each other, but he had always dated someone else. Surprised that he was available, I said "yes." He was visibly excited about it, but when the white boy's found out, they pressured the male and he rescinded the ask. I knew something was wrong when he began to avoid me and could read his inner conflict as he choked on his words while backing out of taking me to the prom. I was frustrated enough to skip the prom but refused to let these white boys rob me of my peace of mind and of the experience. I ended up going to the prom with an Immigrant male who didn't attend my high school. I'm not sure why any of these white boys thought that I would want to be their on-demand silhouette side chick - especially amidst their constant bullying and insolent behavior. I did my best to avoid making eye contact with them. It is very important for me to be respected, and I was not going to be some white boy's secret breadcrumb snatcher on the sly.




Black hand holding



The Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant (BII) students knew what was going on, but we didn't talk about it. We didn't want to put the BII males in conflict with the white males, because there was not enough protection for the BII male students. If a fight broke out, only the BII males would have ended up in Juvenile Detention Centers. Just like on the slave plantation, we silently and collectively carried the burdens, sometimes communicated telepathically and did what we could to protect each other. During this time, crack cocaine was intentionally dropped into BII neighborhoods across the US which decimated families and fueled the prison industrial complex. Even though we didn't really understand what was going on in these communities, there was no way that we would dare do anything to increase the targeting of BII males.


I occasionally catch myself walking through the airport or stores avoiding eye contact with white males. While I recognize that this behavior is an unhealthy avoidance tactic/self-protection habit I developed in high school, I've had to sit with the best way to respond to the incessant and incognito advances of white males. white men, who are married to Black women, need to understand that other white men might not respect the marriage and may pursue his wife incognito. Although, I am still in the healing process, I've decided that white males who behave in this manner do not deserve my eye contact. However, I will never lower my eyes like an enslaved girl forced into subjugation. Instead, I keep my head held high and simply look straight ahead and past them as I walk by and only give eye contact or attention to white males who approach me with the dignity and respect that I deserve.




white woman with a Black male



Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. ☥☥ ☥ Matthew 7:6 ☥



If "Roots" reflected the actions of some of the white boys, "Mandingo" is what comes to mind when I think of the some of the white girls. Whenever I would go to the mall or walk down the halls in school, I would inevitably see a bunch of BII boys hanging out, but I couldn't ever figure out how to even get close enough to say hello to them because of the swarm of eager white girls all up in their faces. The white girls were experimenting, flaunting themselves, not because they genuinely liked these boys, but because they just wanted to test the waters. Throwing themselves at the BII males was a way for the white girls to assert their power. What hormonal young BII male would resist a white female who strokes his ego and gives him what he wants for free? Indigenous ☥ Immigrant boys were a special target because they were less risky — different and/or too dark to be white without actually being Black.








I remember having a crush on one of the Black basketball players in ninth grade and thinking that the line of eager white girls to date him was so long, I would still be standing in that line today. The white girls were relentless and had no problem pursuing any BII boys that they wanted. They didn't care if the BII boys had girlfriends - in fact that made it more fun for them (especially if the girls were BII/their BII "friends"). I'm positive that it wasn't just the white boys who pressured my almost prom date out of taking me to the prom.




The teeth are smiling but where is the heart? African Proverb ☥



Because of who he was, none of these types of white girls would just stand by and let him take a Black girl to the prom (even if they didn't like/want him). I was too naïve to realize/accept the truth about their power games back then (because the white girls were friendly towards me), but I still refused to compete with them because mimicking their behaviors would have made me feel as if I were sacrificing my standards, self-respect and self-esteem. To my dismay, the BII boys readily picked this eager low-hanging fruit while the white girls smiled - at least until they satisfied their curiosity or accomplished their goal of making someone jealous or breaking up a relationship. Then, of course, they moved on to the next boy.







I felt like if by some miracle these boys were ever interested in me, they may expect me to engage in some form of subjugation because of their experiences with the white girls. I do not deny that there were white girls who may have genuinely cared for these boys, but many displayed predatory behavior that is unacceptable and needs to be called out, stopped and healed. If I were fortunate enough to grab the attention of white parents, I would urge them to read A Woman's Worth and teach it to their children.






I promised myself that if I ever gave birth to a son, I would work diligently to protect him from predatory white women through the demonstration of consistent truth telling, boundary setting, the cultivation of self-awareness, empowerment and mastery in my own life. When the time is right, without embarrassment/excuses about lack of knowledge of sexual health, and claiming that I would be married, my husband and I would give him both individual and collective interactive versions of "the talk," including an in-depth series of discussions using one of my favorite sexual health books as a guide: “The Invision Guide to Sexual Health” by Alexander Tsiaras. If we felt uncomfortable about talking to our son about sexual health, we would ground ourselves with answers to the following questions:

☥ Keeping in mind that we can learn what we don't know, are we uncomfortable

about exposing our ignorance to our son? If so, what is our game plan for leveling

up our confidence and knowledge?

☥ Are we comfortable sending a sexually naïve child into society - knowing that we

did not adequately prepare our son for what he might encounter, such as being

targeted by sexually devious females?

☥ Have we spent the same amount of time educating our sons as we have

educating our daughters about sexual wellbeing?

☥ What will be the consequences if we avoid this heart work (i.e. contributing

to/repeating the same cycles of trauma that we may have experienced)?





We would then give him the book for reference, offer additional education/resources while remaining open to any questions he may have and inspire inner enlightenment by suggesting/sharing:

☥ The importance of breathing and pausing before responding so he can recognize

that attention coming to him so easily is not worth his time, is often manipulative

and must be questioned/put through the tests of trust

☥ How to know his worth and cultivate the confidence to only pursue women that

he doesn't think he can get so that any woman he pursues will encourage him to

level up in all areas of his life (iron sharpens iron)

☥ Strategies for recognizing and implementing an effective plan of action for

☥ Strategies for cultivating sexual maturity, boundaries and restraint under

manipulative sexual pressure such as challenging his ego or rubbing up against

him to startle him into/force an erection (a sneaky from of rape that creates

trauma bonds and could last a lifetime)



I've had the extreme displeasure of having to witness the predatory behavior of white women towards BII men in my family, at school, on the job, while traveling, shopping and just living my life. I personally know a few BII women who have lost their husbands to predatory white women engaging in sexual narcissism. BII men must take responsibility for their actions and are not innocent in these scenarios. That said, by the time their husbands woke up and realized that they had been targeted and used, they had lost both their families with no hope of reconciliation and had been dumped by the white woman.






I do not use the word "targeted" lightly. As a teenager, I got a job at a local department store. While there, I met a white female co-worker (one of our managers) who told us (there were several younger females of various ethnicities standing around) that she only dated married men. We gasped as she not only unapologetically justified her actions and outlined an elaborate deceptive strategy but attempted to corrupt us by recruiting us follow suit. I feel compelled by Spirit to share some of what she said to us in honor of the sanctity of marriage. She said that the best way to get a married man was to:

☥ Assure him that she will never want to be with him full time. She only wants him

to take her places and buy her nice things once in and while.

☥ Assure him that she will never contact his wife or reveal the truth because she

has no interest in marrying him, disrupting his marriage or having children. In fact,

she'll help him develop a covert strategy for contacting her so that he can feel

safe.






☥ Look for men who seem bored, distracted or uptight. They were easy/had low

self-esteem so she could just stroke their egos to get their attention.

☥ Dress professionally, preferably in a pantsuit, so that they won't think she's a

whore. Read newspapers to impress them with intellect/knowledge of the world

(especially the business/finance/sports sections).

☥ Give him as much sex as he wants whenever he wants and accommodate his

schedule without complaint - at first. Be sure to initiate sex by stimulating him -

it doesn't take much to give him an erection.


The expression on our faces caused her to scold us for being young/naïve and her recruitment continued for the entire time that I worked at the store. She assured us that we would be doing their wives a favor because we would be taking away their burden of accommodating their husband's sex requirements. She also said that it was important to juggle a few married men at a time so that she didn't get too attached. I did my best to avoid her, but she was a manager that I had to deal with from time to time. At the time, I thought/hoped/prayed that her actions were somewhat isolated, but I have regretfully come to understand that my experience with her (and other white women throughout the years) revealed a systemic illness that we have yet to address at its root causes.



While we are not able force white women, who choose to engage in these behaviors, to heal, we have to accept the fact that through our inaction and succumbing to hopeless frustration/incognito complaints, we continue to endorse their behaviors.


As I reflected on my experience with the white woman, who was not only extremely unprofessional but verbally abusive, I realized that white men were as much of a target to her as Black men. Without conscious awareness and the enforcement of strong healthy boundaries, any man can fall prey to being targeted by a sexual narcissist. The deviant behavior of white men during the global subjugation of Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People continues to exponentially create and perpetuate harm because we haven't done the work of healing, addressing or removing the root cause of suppressed and repressed traumas.



… To grow old is not to grow up, to become old is not to become mature. Maturity has nothing to do with old age, nothing to do with age at all. Maturity has something to do with becoming more and more conscious, becoming more and more silent and aware, becoming more and more watchful of what you are doing and why, where you are going and why ... ॐ Osho ॐ



Black female student




Strategies For Overcoming Academic Trauma

I think it is important for me to share one example of an academic experience that speaks directly to the trauma that Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant students often face. My guidance counselor was a white male. I believed that he wanted me to succeed. I stopped by his office to ask him to sign my permission slip for an Algebra II Trigonometry course that I wanted to take. When I handed him the slip he asked me why I wanted to take the class. He had never questioned my decisions before so I was a bit thrown off. I told him that I was interested in science and also thought I might want to take calculus. He paused, asked me to take a seat, and then he said “Phyllis, you have to be realistic. You are a Black female. How far do you think you are going to go? Why don’t you just marry some man and try to stay off welfare?”


I’m not sure what happened right after he delivered that sucker punch because I was truly in shock. I stumbled through some response that forced him to sign my permission slip and left his office in a psychologically drunken stupor. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it to anyone. It took me a long time to process the exchange, but it also shook me out of middle-class complacency and pulled my head out of the sand. What had improved for me racially since elementary school? I was a college prep student with mostly A’s and B’s. If this was the advice he was giving to me, what was he saying to his remedial students?







Sharing my high school experiences with white community members were frustrating and failed to make an impact. I shared my guidance counselor story with a white woman who said that she couldn't believe a guidance counselor would do such a thing. Then I mentioned it to a white man who suggested that my guidance counselor was just challenging me to excel. I decided to join an organization and collaborate with community leaders and school personnel in Northern California to address ways to prevent academic trauma. I commissioned the production of the Journey To Radiance: Health & Healing Strategies Impact Report which outlined strategies to improve Health and Healing Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color (BYMOC) and school personnel. After the organization shut down, I authored a chapter of "Health Promotion with Adolescent Boys & Men of Colour: Global Strategies for Advancing Research, Policy and Practice in Context," a Springer publication edited by James A. Smith, Daphne C. Watkins and Derek M. Griffith (The Menzies School of Health Research (Australia), University of Michigan and Georgetown University, respectively). A pictorial version of my chapter (which is also a new edition of the Journey To Radiance Impact Report) is available on the Journey page (or directly here) and can be used by the community, including any school/all demographics because the healing strategies are universal.




Teacher with students raising their hands



There were many friendly white people at my high school including one boy in particular who was a dear friend and was protective of me while maintaining respectful boundaries (which I greatly needed and appreciated). Yet, it is painful to have to admit that he protected me from other predatory white boys. We were curiously different, yet like two peas in a pod in high school, and I loved him like a brother. That said, some of my closest relationships with white people involved deep betrayals. One of my friends was a “double agent” who I believed sincerely liked me, but was loyal to the white boys manipulating them which caused them to defer to the white boys when pressured. As I reflect on my experiences, what stands out as the most troubling is their ability to smile, be friendly and cause me to relax around them enough to very skillfully ease what I call knives of deception into my back. This pattern has become more insidious with time. In other words, I may be given some sort of anesthesia before the knife is inserted or the technique may involve some other apparatus, but the only improvement that I’ve noticed is in their ability to deceive. How many times had I been a Phillis Wheatley experiment for white people? There also seems to be no remorse for their actions which indicates the enduring legacy of slavery as a dehumanization device. It took many years for me to unpack ☥ heal ☥ develop strategies for protecting myself, such as Sekhmet training, establishing and enforcing strong healthy boundaries and benchmarks for trust. Sadly, I still find that most white people cannot/will not meet those benchmarks, and I can trace the origins of these patterns back to my K - 12 experiences.







I used what I learned in psychology class to help me experiment to figure out how to navigate my way through these complicated/shades of gray racial dynamics. I did my best to stay positive. I wasn't quite aware enough to truly understand that, as a society, we hadn't evolved socially or the societal effects of racism until my university years.



The University Years



The College Boy

When I was in college, I remember being the only Black person in my screenwriting class. For one particular activity, we submitted a short scene which our professor, who was white, read aloud without revealing who wrote the story. When my story (which was about a wealthy woman living in a Victorian style home) was read, the class went wild and kept trying to figure out who wrote it, but not one person in the class looked at me. It was as if I were invisible. There was a moment when my professor silently caught my eyes and shamefully shook her head. I found it interesting that, while I did not specifically identify the race of the woman in my story, the students assumed that she was a white woman.




white male student lying in the grass reading a book



At one point, I noticed that my professor seemed to be stalling. She kept shifting in her seat and shuffling papers as if attempting to avoid reading one of the stories. She then took a breath and, reluctantly, read another story that was about a Black female who was enslaved. When I heard the story, I could understand why my professor did not want to read it. The character was so flat and the story was so ridiculously inaccurate (and thoroughly insulting), I could barely believe my ears. When she finished reading the story, the room went dead silent, and I soon realized that the students thought I had written it! Suddenly, a white male student proudly broke the uncomfortable silence and the rule of not revealing himself.


Perhaps I was too unaware to have made the connection in my youth, but in this moment I realized how little white people knew about Black People, but how much I knew about white culture. The college boy's story revealed a lack of cultural competence and an abundance of willful ignorance that was astounding to me. I waited until everyone left before approaching my extremely embarrassed professor, and before I could say anything, she lifted one hand in the air to pause me and said, "Sometimes, I'm so ashamed of my people." We both laughed out loud in disbelief and were able to have the kind of healthy discussion about race that seeks understanding over shaming.








The Fired Professor

In another one of my college courses, half of the white students dropped our literature class because the professor, who was white, insisted on including one Black author in our list of books to read about the Reconstruction era. Because the Reconstruction era (1865-1877) was the period following the Civil War, I’m not sure how a Reconstruction era course could omit Black authors and be accurately taught. The white students who chose to stay in the course were absolutely moved by the book (“Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs) and were surprised/amazed that they could relate to it. I read books whether or not I thought that I could relate to them. I remember sitting in class bitterly thinking that I can’t "relate" to being a white man with a peg leg or sleeping with a religious minister but I read “