Fanon’s Tears, Octavia’s Hope: The Ongoing Trauma of Racialized Violence and Strategic Ignorance

fanon-s-tears

I’m still impressed that 4 years after Black Lives Matter movement was founded, thousands of white people still have the luxury of being ‘confused’ about something they could simply clarify by going to BLM’s main website to learn about it, as well as access the plethora of publications that explain BLM as (1) an intersectional framing of anti-racism and (2) continuum of liberation from decades of documented systemic racialized oppression that you can easily find in critical race legal studies publications. Instead, they send me nonsense about “Black on Black violence” or tell me, “If Black people just taught their kids to adhere to the law…”
I call it strategic ignorance, as plenty of white people can self-educate themselves about many things they were once ignorant about that have nothing to with the ‘taboo’ subject of race (well, ‘taboo’ to white people who collectively say they have no race or aren’t the problem). How many white people do I know were ignorant about learning computer programming but then educated themselves to become computer programmers? Or, how many white people do I know didn’t know anything about becoming vegan but consciously decided to teach themselves about veganism? And I know countless white people who knew nothing about Buddhism, but they then learned about it through reading, going to a sangha, etc. This syndrome of “pretend confusion” around race, racism, and racialization was articulated brilliantly in the book Race and Epistemologies of IgnoranceI highly suggest this as core reading to “unconfuse” yourselves….

The confusion, the silence, the ongoing years of, “I just don’t understand what you mean by systemic racism” or “Anti-Blackness” are simply strategic and luxuries of whiteness. I have found that those white people who do have brown and black kids (whether biologically or adopted) eventually became ‘unconfused’ once they realized their children were targets of racialized violence (whether it be their teen daughter being stopped for j walking and handcuffed or their brown son punished 3x worst than the white children who ‘act out’ in his elementary schools.) Or, they fall in love with a brown or Black person and witness first hand, clearly racialized violence against their partners when they did the same thing and got off  “Scott free.”

I think one of my other favorite books for white people to get ‘unconfused’ is George Lipsitz’s book “A Possessive Investment in Whiteness“.

The next one is Chris Crass’s book below, Toward the “Other America” Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter


I also am trying to avoid the trauma of constantly listening to white people tell ME that BLM is anti-white, anti-cop, and racist. BLOWN away and enraged by it. The response is a huge indicator of the consequences of growing up with the ‘privilege’ of being racialized as white in this white supremacist racial caste system.

This morning, I was going through NextDoor posts that are about racial profiling and listening to white identified– mostly men– whitesplain that there is no racial profiling in ‘safe’ communities like N. Berkeley and Albany. They are telling the rest of us that are not them, that us asking about racial profiling of not just police, but mostly white people calling the police about ‘suspicious’ activity has ‘nothing’ to do with race. A white man wrote that there is no racial profiling in Berkeley CA– that if [Black] people only abide by the law then there would be no negative consequences. Complete annihilation/dismissal of the reality that they suggest you simply need to be abiding by the law ‘while being black’ to not be arrested, beaten, killed. Blown away by the arrogance and it’s quite scary because he is in a camp of many , mostly white people, who strongly believe this about the USA we live in.

Sharing Journal Entry Excerpt From July 9, 2016:

Wish there were more mental health therapists trained in Frantz Fanon’s type of psychoanalysis (or similar). There are so many of us going through intense emotional pain and suffering, who need mental health care from the ongoing violences of racism (whether overt or micro-aggressive)–  both experiencing and witnessing it for 500+ years– but also from the constant violence from so many called white ‘friends’ who remain silent or make ‘excuses’….

I spent the the last year seeking someone and found one person available– a Black man in Oakland– who uses Fanon based psychoanalysis but does not take health insurance. When I did find those who do take insurance (and there were only a handful in my area), they could take any more clients. Fully booked. (sigh)

I guess a lot of us resort to other ‘therapies’ like our spiritual communities, working out, meditating, etc… but even though these can be helpful, it’s quite telling that there are not enough professional therapists ready to take on these traumas with deep literacy around the emotional consequences of living in a white supremacist racial caste system…Or, if we do have access to them, we can’t afford them because most charge $120/hr or more and/or do not accept health insurance.

I think about the years of trauma that Philando Castile’s 4 year old daughter will endure and wonder what professional therapists will be there for, trained in racialized violence and trauma, to enable healing; to make sure she can blossom and not internalized what happened to her father for her entire lifetime. I think about Alton Sterling’s 15 year old son, breaking down and crying behind the podium at the horrible realization that his father was shot to death and it was video-recorded. These are only two children that have been centered in the USA media this week out of thousands…

What about an entire collective community who is constantly experiencing these traumas with no adequate professional mental health care support that is focused on our real racialized needs? Yes, it takes more than therapy to fix a broken system, but as I re-read Fanon over the last week, I couldn’t believe how applicable his psychoanalysis from decades ago, is applicable now…

My only nightmares, since becoming a mother about 7.5 years ago, were of my children being victims of racialized violence; or my twin brother and parents being victims of racialized violence. In some of these dreams, I get phone calls that they have been killed as targets of racism. Or, there were the dreams I had the other year when my children were swept away into the past, back into antebellum USA and I jumped through some time hole to find them. Probably me reading a lot of Octavia Butler at the time that showed a terrible past (Kindred) but also amazing hope in the possibilities of afro-futurism...(check out Aph Ko’s talk about this here.)

This journal entry is what I can only call “Fanon’s Tears, Octavia’s Hope….”  

The same morning I wrote this entry I received an email from a friend. Black. Ivy league educated. Mother of a Black boy. Brilliant scholarly mind. She emailed me that if she were ever killed by the police and smeared as ‘asking for it’ because of being Black = ‘inherently criminal’, that I tell her son that it was all a lie… This is 2016…. I’ve seen a lot of these ‘reminders’ from Black friends being posted on FB. ….This is 2016…

Learn more about Frantz Fanon here.

Learn more about Octavia Butler here.


(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)
(Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper
Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.Dr. Harper’s most recently published book,Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014)interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical FoodscapeIn tandem with this book project, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”


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2 thoughts on “Fanon’s Tears, Octavia’s Hope: The Ongoing Trauma of Racialized Violence and Strategic Ignorance

  1. Great post. I happen to be reading Fanon right now, and plan to post some of his comments about colonialism that I find so apt when talking about US racism. I’m very embarrassed by most white people and am trying my darnedest to not be ignorant.

  2. Thanks Amie, as always. I’m white, embarrassed by whites, and last night sat some white friends down who exhibit all your frustrating statements above, to talk bluntly about racism. I usually drop hints about white people’s racist comments or support for bad policies, but given this week and that this couple are trying to be ‘good people’ I thought it was worth a shot to be more direct (and spares black friends of trying to educate them!). It was messy and they’re of course angry and confused, but I do think we got somewhere, as friends, and as a step towards being better anti-racists. I share this just to give you a big thumbs up of support and know some white folk are figuring out how to take this educational load off people of color. I’ve got a ‘date’ with another couple tomorrow night. Hugs!

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