When the Area D Community Mental Health Center kicked off its Community Conferences last Friday, two Washington Post staff writers asked to go. Both were intrigued by local psychiatrist Dr. Frances Cress Welsing's topic, "Black Male and Female Relations in a White Supremacy System and Culture."
They returned with distinctly different impressions of the conference, hence twin columns.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing has been called a crazy, black supremacist. I couldn't disagree more. She fits into that special mold of people who dare to study, research and come up with new conclusions about what reality really is. The author of the Cress Theory on Color Confrontation and Racism, she impresses me as a woman with a profound dedication to helping blacks improve their mental health.
The issue of the conference was not simply relations between the sexes. The real, two-fold issue Welsing wanted to deal with was this: How does living in a society dominated by white people's values, customs, idiosyncrasies and biases affect black mental health? And, what are the whys of whites' racism?
Though her views are sometimes simplistic, other times radical, Welsing essentially is trying to make one very important statement: She has an explananation, based on psychological and scientific data, that possibly can account for many of the social, economic, political and interpersonal problems affecting black people in America and elsewhere in the world.
As she explained it, racism, which white people consciously and subconsciously practice to ensure their genetic survival, because of their minority in the world population, is responsible for many conflicts between black men and women, arguments, violence and resentment (especially by the men towards women).
Racism obviously has spawned many of the societal problems -- including poor housing, poor education and unemployment -- which directly and indirectly result in much of the frustration among blacks, which in turn drives black people to misplace their aggression and become destructive towards themselves and each other. Welsing wants to show black people that they need not blame themselves for being victims of a system and culture set up to perpetuate white supremacy.
The main thing black people must do is respect themselves, love themselves, be sensitive with one another and teach their children to do the same, Welsing says. She does not advocate hating white people; she advocates understanding the psychological nature of whites, which, possibly in the past has driven them to celebrate the castration of black men and continues to make whites tan their bodies.
If black people respect themselves and understand whites according to her theory of white "genetic inadequacy" and its psychological ramifications, Welsing believes many black interpersonal problems can be eliminated. She also contends that if whites are "sincere in their attempts to stop the practices of white supremacy (racism) they may be able to find methods to do so once they understand the possible cause."
Welsing struck a nerve in my psyche when she said that "Sigmund Freud is irrelevant for blacks today. The worldwide symptoms of racism plague black mental health," not sexual repression. For as long as I can remember, whenever I've seen two pregnant women, one black, one white, I've imagined setting both babies on scales of life and envisioning how one child, because of its color, will inherit the greater load of strife and injustice. Aside from having to confront the problems of physical and psychological development, commonly called growing pains, as well as the problems of inflation and pollution, the black child will always carry with it the burden of color prejudice.
Has Welsing been labeled a black supremacist for merely writing down what so many blacks have observed for years?
Last Friday, the tall black woman, with the afro hair style and calm speech, went on to discuss several other thoughts shared by many blacks concerning how their lives have been shaped by the forces of racism and white supremacy.
She argued that the phenomenon of there being more black female than male breadwinners reveals a scheme by whites to keep the black race suppressed. mConsider this: Since black women are the dominant figures in most young black men's lives, and because most black men are less economically powerful than their sexual opposites, the young black male soon realizes the black female is most likely to succeed in the white system. Once he realizes this, he is psychologically prone to be submissive and/or want to adopt feminine characteristics in an attempt to increase his chance of being accepted and successful.
Add to that those black men who've dared to be outspoken, and subsequently suffered reprisals on their jobs, been beaten, jailed or worse, and you have the logical result of many black men resisting political involvement in their own communities or confrontation with whites on sensitive issues.
Wesling challenges the status quo and explanations for why things are the way they are. Whether you believe or not, the exchange of ideas, ideas which some blacks have considered but never spoken out loud, is stimulating and encouraging in an increasingly confusing era.