Conversations: Deeper than skin

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Conversations: Deeper than skin


America, it’s time to talk and understand one another

By Travis Hajenga

University of West Florida’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) member, Dr. Keya Wiggins, recently led a presentation on The Current State of Black America: Insights from an African-American Psychologist. The discussion focused on the state of the African -American psyche and stereotypes.

Held Thursday, September 21, 2017, at the J. Earle Bowden Building, the presentation discussed how people can be an ally and stand up for others by speaking up instead of letting discriminatory language be excused.

A deeper look into slavery and the impact it has today was also at the forefront of the forum which included topics like Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and mass incarceration.

Wiggins, a licensed psychologist and certified group psychotherapist, engaged the audience by introducing a series of African-American television and musical stars from past to present. She asked the group to state the first thing that came to mind when each image was displayed.

The images ranged from shows like “Good Times,” “227,” “Fresh Prince,” and “Black-ish,” as well as musical artists such as NWA, Common, Lil Wayne, and Young Thug. Each image evoked different feelings from the audience ranging from a sense of family and educational success to negative connotations like “poor,” “sad,” “bougie,” “thug” and “druggie.”

The comments were followed by productive conversations about the effect these icons had on the African-American community.

Some of the outcomes are as follows:

”A Different World” – Encouraged college enrollment in the community. Common – Activism for many causes for the betterment of all. NWA – Aggressive, yet truthful. “227” – Stereotyping hyper-sexuality. “Black-ish” – Funny, thoughtful, unapologetic and encouraging a strong sense of family.

Bias toward Black Culture comes from misunderstanding and media images which funnel stereotypes. Statements like “they all” and “why are you all angry” do not help the cause.

A better question is, why can’t anger exist? After all, a horrific history that society constantly fails to address and the injustices that occur daily to the Black community is a justifiable reason to be angry. Maybe it’s time to talk. All of us.

Cultural encapsulation of people unable to see past their own point of view has been a problem for generations. Without seeking to understand each other, all citizens are confirming the established biases.

If America can accept the fact that this country was built upon racial principles and if a dialogue can be established—maybe then can all people live in the principles of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All men are created equal and the freedoms which are promised are at the core of what is America.

It’s time to think about important topics, such as having equal status, common goals, intergroup cooperation, support of authorities, laws or customs, and personal interaction. As a society which prides itself on being the land  where “all are created equal,” we definitely fall short.

The nation needs to look into the mirror and confront its problems. Again, maybe it’s time to talk. All of us.