Friday, August 31, 2007

Mahalia Jackson - Just A Closer Walk With Thee

One of New Orleans' finest, a gift to all the world. There's just something about hearing HER sing THIS song at this time of commemoration. If you have even the slightest bit of New Orleans in you, you know exactly why I can't even find the words to explain

Thursday, August 30, 2007

K+2 Anniversary, NPR, and 15 Minutes of Fame

It was my pleasure and quite an honor to be invited to share my thoughts, as I do on my blog, on NPR's News & Notes roundtable bloggers segment with host Farai Chideya (of whom I am a long time fan and consider a rockstar, but thankfully the nervous anticipation of speaking to her subsided enough that I didn't throw up on air). And as if that weren't enough, I had a blast hanging out with the fellow local bloggers responsible for The G-Bitch Spot and Cliff's Crib who are just fantastic to kick it with, as anyone who is familiar with their work would assume.

Click on the title of this post for audio of the segment (which FLEW by way too fast!). But at least they didn't try to censor us, unlike our local lovable Chris Rose on Oprah's K+2 anniversary show.

I wanted to post this yesterday, but my day took an unexpected turn when I met Katina, one of those truly great Americans who see a problem and then get to fixing it using whatever raw talent and wherewithal God gave them. It seemed as good a way as any to spend the anniversary helping her help us by suggesting ideas for the documentary Katina is making to promote the ultimate goal of her New Orleans: A Labor of Love mission. Her goal is to not only recruit 5000 volunteers to continue coming here through 2008, but to also serve as a resource to help them navigate the Bizarro life of our Third World nation-state. I'll be posting more about my overall impressions from August 29, 2007.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

8 Percent...

I'm still shocked and quite unnerved about a story I heard on local radio nearly two days ago. EIGHT PERCENT of New Orleanians are apparently suicidal, according to a study that followed up on 800 of an original 1000 people surveyed 6 months post-Katrina. People in hard hit Mississippi aren't faring much better as about 6% of survivors there now admit to currently considering killing themselves. I hear a million disheartening stories a day about our (un)recovery, and they all upset me, but this one...I'm scared speechless.

I've been busy moving to a new place (don't worry, friends -- I'm still in N.O.!) but I don't think I've been SO removed from society that I may have missed our public officials' alarmed reaction to this news. Maybe I did. I know we're down on our politicians right now, and we have every reason to be. At the same time, I know they're so overloaded that they can't react to EVERY negative development right away. But, my Gawd, nearly one-tenth of their constituents is contemplating suicide seriously enough to tell research assistants from way across the country that they feel they can't go on anymore! Hello...that's a cry for help! What more do we need to do?! Throw up the fuckin' bat signal?

[Sidenote: Anyone planning to post a comment about how we are only whining for help and won't get off our asses or that we should let this "cesspool" sink into the sea can kiss my ass on Canal Street.]

I realize that stats and epidemiology comes across as Greek alot of times (assuming one doesn't speak Greek), so let me put some context around this:
  • The National Mental Health Association estimate that 4% of American adults contemplate suicide. If I figure correctly, based on the optimistic population count of 300,000, the 8% translates into 8,000 New Orleanians per every 100,000 who are thinking of killing themselves.
  • The National Institutes of Health reported that in 2004, 10.9 per every 100,000 people killed themselves, and estimated there are 8-25 attempts (or roughly 87.2-272.5 attempts per 100,000 persons) for every completed suicide. Attempting is different from contemplating, but I can't help but assume we're blowing national estimates out of the fucking water. If even 1% of those considering suicide here were to take their lives, that' d still put us at 80 (compared to 10.9) per every 100,000, which would mean 640 to 2000 New Orleanians per every 100,000 residents will attempt to take their lives within a year's time.
Overcoming major adversity can give people hope and perspective on things; feeling like there's no way out of hard times does not. I fear that the window for recovery has closed for some people. Everyone is worn down, I know, but we must somehow find the energy and concern to check on those around us. Sometimes a simple, "Seriously, how are you?" will give someone the chance to unload enough of their burden to get them through.

If you find yourself in the 8%, you are certainly not alone. Don't let shame or a sense of doom and hopelessness lead you to do something that will only add to the greater misery. And remember, you're doing alot to aid our recovery simply by not being a politician. (And if you're a politician, just remember you haven't even come close to fucking things up like those idiots we elected to serve with you).

In all seriousness, here are some resources if you or someone you know could use a few

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good News, For a Change

A simple click on the title of this post will bring you to a bit of sunshine, that is, if you love New Orleans. It's a news clip about Tulane just inducting its largest 1st year medicine class ever -- 173 students -- who actually chose to come here. Their comments give one a bit of hope about the future. The med school specifically added 20 spots and 20,000 sq. ft. of space in order to train more doctors to help rebuild the healthcare system, so it says in the news story. It also reported that about 1/3 of each graduating class remains here for residency, and faculty think even more will stay if the new state-of-the-art proposed LSU/VA complex is built.

The med school even lured Harvard's dean Benjamin Sachs, MD. Maybe at least the medical brain drain is beginning to turn around. The state was even gracious enough to give us back a few psychiatric hospital beds. ALOT of well-meaning people have moved here, like the teachers chomping at the bit to teach here and the folks starting charter schools. For the ones who won't get scared away after a few weeks -- because some will (wimps), it might be a nice idea to try and make things nice enough around here so they'll want to stay. (I don't know where I get these zany idears from.)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life

"Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory,or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities."

"In the world of business, the term “microinequities” is used to describethe pattern of being overlooked, underrespected, and devaluedbecause of one’s race or gender. Microaggressions are often unconsciously delivered in the form of subtle snubs or dismissive looks, gestures, and tones. These exchanges are so pervasive and automatic in daily conversations and interactions that they are often dismissed andglossed over as being innocent and innocuous. Yet, as indicated previously, microaggressions are detrimental to persons of color because they impair performance in a multitude of settings by sapping the psychic and spiritual energy of recipients and by creating inequities (Franklin,2004; D. W. Sue, 2004)."


I know there will be more than a few white people reading this, already getting set to roll their eyes all over their heads because "now that they can't find real racism, they gotta go make up this 'racial microaggression' bull!" The term sounds juuuust a bit dramatic to me too, and I'm a black psychologist so trust me -- I have used my share of "weird" terminology. But before folks just reflexively dismiss this as "P.C., bleeding heart liberal, Rainbow Coalition" shenanigans, I hope they at least consider WHY such a phenomenon couldn't exist? It's easy to say, "oh that's just baloney," but tell me why it's baloney.

Receiving this article from
American Psychologist serendipitously occurred at the end of a week during which allegations of police brutality against a young black boy inspired many an exasperated citizen-neighbor to vent on talk radio shows and porches. More frustrating was hearing two black women, one from N.O. and another from Metairie, consecutively tell two remarkably disgusting and frightening stories about run-ins with local officers only to be followed by a white male police officer who was obviously feeling a bit demoralized and shocked that his fellow officers could do such a thing.

That was his sentiment at first anyways.

You could almost hear him processing his disappointment in some law enforcers' behaviors. Then he said, "Those stories are SO frightening and just awful, I have a hard time believing all of it." Granted, a normal reaction when most are given shocking news. That opinion then quickly became, "I really don't think everything in those womens' stories were true." But why?

Aside from the issue of how white people feel they can give authoritative answers regarding the existence of discrimination, a minority who alleges discrimination has to bear the burden of proof to be believed, yet frustrated white people are often let off the hook with maybe an anecdote and data that's usually more perception ("Mexicans are moving in all around here") than fact ("Three Latino families moved into 3 houses in a1000-home subdivision - and 2 of those 3 families are actually the American born descendants of mid-century Puerto Rican immigrants").

Anyway, this article nicely lays out what racism looks like these days, and why most white people can't see it. Are minorities overly sensitive about race? Probably. Most people who've endured traumatic things get touchy when one mentions or does something related to such a painfully negative situation. (So even if you think it's all just in our heads, this should at least answer that age old question: '
Why are you people so angry?") The main audience of this article is counseling professionals, but anyone who can read or have it read to them will learn something beneficial (in my opinion). If not, then ask yourself why the odds are such that you are right; and then maybe even consider why it is impossible for racist interactions to occur so much?
"Most White Americans experience themselves as good, moral, and decent human beings who believe in equality and democracy. Thus, they find it difficult to believe that they possess biased racial attitudes and may engage in behaviors that are discriminatory (D. W. Sue, 2004). Microaggressive acts can usually be explained away by seemingly nonbiased and valid reasons."
And yes, please consider it without switching the focus to nefarious reasons this "liberal doctrine is being forced upon us in this election cycle!!"

More Excerpts from American Psychologist, D.W. Sue et al., 2007:
Microinvalidations are characterized by communications
that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts,
feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color. When
Asian Americans (born and raised in the United States) are
complimented for speaking good English or are repeatedly
asked where they were born, the effect is to negate their
U.S. American heritage and to convey that they are perpetual

When a Latino couple is given poor service at a restaurant
and shares their experience with White friends, only to be
told “Don’t be so oversensitive” or “Don’t be so petty,” the
racial experience of the couple is being nullified and its
importance is being diminished.

White Americans tend to believe that minorities are doing better in life, that discrimination is on the decline, that racism is no longer a significant factor in the lives of people of color, and that equality has been achieved. More important, the majority of Whites do not view themselves as racist or capable of racist behavior. Minorities, on the other hand, perceive Whites as (a) racially insensitive, (b) unwilling to share their position and wealth, (c) believing they are superior, (d) needing to control everything, and (e) treating them poorly because of their race. People of color believe these attributes are reenacted everyday in their interpersonal interactions with Whites, oftentimes in the form of microaggressions (Solo´rzano et al., 2000). For example, it was found that 96% of African Americans reported experiencing racial discrimination in a one-year period (Klonoff & Landrine, 1999), and many incidents involved being mistaken for a service worker, being ignored, given poor service, treated rudely, or experiencing strangers acting fearful or intimidated when around them (Sellers & Shelton, 2003).