You are walking down the street and you notice Euro-Americans crossing the street to avoid walking past you on the sidewalk…You are grocery shopping and you notice Euro-American women clutching their purses tighter to their bodies when they see you approach…You are searching for your favorite snack at a corner store when you notice a clerk following you from aisle to aisle.
If you are an African-American (Afram) over twelve years old, you encounter these situations on a daily basis. Euro-Americans and other ethnic Americans exhibiting avoidance, suspicion and hostility. Your emotional reaction varies from irritation to anger, sadness to dismay. You may ask yourself: Why am I being treated this way? Can’t they see that I’m not toxic, a thief or a threat? It’s normal for you to be dispirited when you are on the receiving end of such treatment. It’s normal for you to feel rejected and invisible when you face such actions. When this behavior is directed at you, it’s normal to ask: can’t they see me?
The Image Parade
The hard and short answer is: no, they don’t see you. They refuse to see you—a unique human being both marvelous and flawed like everyone else. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that other people could be so blind to your humanity, but they are. When Euro Americans and other ethnic Americans (Latinos, Asians, Arab, Native Americans and newly arrived immigrants) encounter African Americans they have been trained to see a loop of mental images instead of real people. This image loop forms a Parade Of Black Stereotypes and Criminals (POBSAC) that is a permanent feature of this society. POBSAC is part of the social and emotional framework that places Aframs at the bottom of American society and renders ordinary Aframs featureless and invisible. Aframs become nothing more than blank screens for other people to play out their fantasies about Afram motives, habits and lives.
Dr. Jennifer Knunst defines psychological projection as: “We see in other people the very things we do not want to see in ourselves. What makes this crafty little defense work is that we are able to see these shameful aspects of ourselves in other people because, in unconscious fantasy, we put them there.”
The images that form the basis of POBSAC have their roots in slavery. The enslavers had to justify their exploitation and mistreatment of other human beings. The enslavers also had to squelch the guilt that resulted from their callous, brutal behaviors against enslaved Africans. This led to racist psychological projections taking root in American society. Three examples of racist projections include:
1. The Thief image grew out of guilt of enslavers who looted other people’s bodies, labor and liberty. The thief projection is powerful and universal to all oppressed groups. The more that is taken from the oppressed, the more their oppressors brand them thieves.
2. The Oversexed Afram Woman image grew out of the rape of enslaved Afram women. The Euro-American men who violated Afram women created the cultural fantasy that Afram women were sexually aggressive to avoid taking responsibility for their crimes.
3. The Violent Black Brute image grew out of fears of slave rebellions. Some modern day bigots claim that Afram slaves were happy with their condition, but kidnapped Africans and later, enslaved Aframs never stopped desiring freedom or rebelling against their enslavement. The enslavers feared retribution for their violence against other humans and forcing them to work for free.
For many Americans, POBSAC images are a means of throwing psychic garbage on Aframs and declaring themselves clean.
These days, POBSAC images pepper all forms of media, including: television (especially newscasts), movies, newspapers, books and videogames and live theater. The power and prevalence of these images leads to:
- The mistreatment of Afram children in schools
- The neglect and denial of care in hospitals
- The association of Aframs with drug addiction and sales
- Higher rates of unemployment for Aframs
- Segregated housing patterns
- Higher arrest and imprisonment rates
Breaking The Loop
The most important steps to regaining balance and visibility are:
Recognize that the POBSAC image loop in the minds of others is their problem and the person reacting to you does not know you. They are making an unfounded judgment based solely on your appearance. Realize the ignorance of someone who relies on POBSAC images instead of intelligently assessing the person in front of them. This understanding will help you avoid falling into the trap of seeing yourself through the eyes of others and hating yourself and people who look like you.
Discuss the problem of POBSAC images with your Afram friends, relatives neighbors, and classmates. Study how POBSAC images are used in conjunction with positive or absent imagery of Euro-Americans and other ethnic Americans. Absent imagery refers to the times Euro-Americans commit crimes or public blunders yet their photos and sometimes even their names are absent from media reports. This omission creates a false sense of innocence among Euro-Americans, in particular, and focuses greater public attention to POBSAC images.
Form a media watch group to challenge the modern providers of these images, such as:
- Local television newscasts
- Local newspapers and news websites
- Local and national magazines
- Video Games
- Music Videos
Link your local media watch group up with groups in other localities to coordinate your challenges to local and national media for greater effectiveness. Your coordinated phone calls, letters, emails, texts, tweets and online comments to media companies and their advertisers will take time and effort. Your efforts will be resisted, but a coordinated group challenge is the only way to combat the lazy reliance on POBSAC images by media companies.
Learn to create your own media. When Aframs create and transmit healthy, balanced images that truly represent our communities, it will be harder for people to use POBSAC images to project their psychic garbage onto Aframs. Aframs will be spiritually healthier and other Americans will be healthier, too. The media you create could range from a printed community newsletter to a website, YouTube channel with drama, dance or comedy offerings or a low power FM radio station.
The greatest victory for Aframs over negative POBSAC images goes beyond the end of avoidance, suspicion and hostile behaviors from others. The greatest victory comes when Aframs no longer see themselves or anyone who looks like them through the eyes of others. Regaining a healthy “inner eye” means regaining a vital part of your humanity…and your visibility.