Dear people, after living in North America for twenty-three, going on twenty-four years, I have come to the conclusion that North America is overall, a violent society.
As I’ve prayerfully pondered the whys and wherefores of this conclusion, my observations trace their way back to the violent origins of what is now America on Native American soil. Although there are those who would argue that many civilizations occurred/arose like North America, people from those civilizations would have to speak to the kind of culture they have. I only know about this culture, which is so much more violent than any culture I was exposed in the twenty-six/seven years prior to settling in America.
Like theology, the psychology of a people needs to be contextual, i.e., rooted in a particular place and time, and like good biblical theology, good psychology also needs to expand to become cross-cultural. American Psychology never does that.
American Psychology is based on American contexts but never becomes cross-cultural in terms of looking at and learning from what psychology of other people groups and places are and then loop back to include what is common to human existence in every place, as well as what is different. This is why both the study and practice of psychology in America is more damaging than helpful to non-whites.
Living as a woman of color in America, it was not long before I realized that American Psychology was more harmful than helpful to Black people in America because it interprets the life of Black people from the perspective of how and where white America sees and places Black people and that until this was rectified by Black folks rising up to initiate the study of the psychology of Blacks contextually and then cross-culturally, the ‘regular’ psychology practiced in America is not helpful to non-whites and the non-white experience in America.
Back to the violence, and its place in American psychology.
It has been the most shocking thing for me to see the treatment/recommendation for one’s ‘frustration.’ It has been shocking to me to see the recommendation to learn how to ‘calm’ one’s self down by finding something to ‘punch’ as long as it was not a human being. I have seen young African American men who are already stereotyped for violence, get into more hot water as they practiced ‘violence’ against nature and property as a way of ‘calming down.’
As a mother who birthed and raised her child in America, I have been distressed and appalled to see violence as a form of ‘play’ for children’s video games as young as two years old. I shuddered to imagine what mindset my child would have, growing up on such ‘games’ and refused to purchase or bring them into our home. [Now, there are those who would argue that watching violence all the time does not make one ‘act’ violent. I disagree. What we see, hear, and partake of as a lifestyle, invariably wires our brains to be what we ingest through our senses and while some (very few) have the power to resist such negative influences, not everyone knows nor has the power to resist them.]
As such, violence in the Black community grows. Life for Black people, namely African Americans, in America started with violence being done to them and continues with violence being done to them. Now, although play
in America is offered through violence, Black men are not allowed to ‘express’ their frustrations through violence on place or thing, as that would constitute punishable offense that ranges from death to incarceration. This is why North American police could not conceive that twelve-year-old Tamir Rice
did not deserve to be shot to death for holding a pellet gun.
Whereas this ‘psychology’ of violence is taught and promoted by white American psychology, it is not affirmed for non-white peoples in America. Hence the undergirding argument for refusal to introduce sensible gun laws in America because such laws would restrict the right and permission of white people to inflict violence on both nature and humans at will.
Whereas the negative rhetoric against immigrants that comes from high places in America cites ‘violence’ committed by immigrants as reasons to prosecute and inflict the worst unconscionable treatment against non-violent immigrants, that argument fails to see the violence that is inherently a part of America’s consciousness. So much so that violence is naturally extended to and justified in that most intimate form of play, sex.
White America thrives on violence. Violence is a commodity that is exchanged, offered, and sold from white American thought but which is not affirmed in non-white Americans and most passionately condemned in non-white Americans, especially Black men.
Today, I would like to make the argument that America as a society revises and reviews its psychology of itself from the perspective of white thought AND people of color thought, both contextually and cross-culturally, so that we can find an end to the unequal affirmation of a dangerous lifestyle that potentially decimates the community of Black people from within and without.
The biblical injunction to be angry and sin not applies to sin against nature and humans. We must not tolerate a (white) psychology that teaches us to hurt things and living things, and then penalizes Black kids and Black men for taking out their frustration on nature and property. We must not tolerate a white psychology of play that denotes ‘conquering’ and killing things and people (this is the colonizer mindset rearing its ugly head in the most insidious ways) and then turns around penalize non-white kids and men who enter into this form of play.
Only white people in America ‘shoot’ and kill things for sport! Could you imagine the massacre of Black lives that would occur if groups of Black men started gathering for a weekend, just to arm themselves with guns and walk into the woods to ‘shoot’ things for fun as white folks have the privilege of doing every “shooting season?”
[#StayTheirNames image, courtesy of https://twitter.com/BeyLegion/status/751271055134646273/photo/2]
-Rev. Oghene’tega Swann
Rev. Oghene’tega Swann is an ordained Teaching Elder (Pastor) in the Presbyterian Church(USA). She is a graduate of Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge Pa, where she obtained a Masters of Religion in Church Ministry & Missiology. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry in Missional Leadership at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In conjunction with the Holy Spirit and the beautiful people of Beaver-Butler Presbytery, she planted the first African American congregation in the Beaver-Butler Presbytery, Refreshing Springs Mission Church (PCUSA). A self-described spiritual mutt, Rev. Swann joyfully identifies as a PresbyCostAng (Presbyterian-Pentecostal-Anglican) in honor of the strains of Christianity that shaped and formed her discipleship. She has the honor and privilege to be the mother to one wonderful child.