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ARE TODAY’S UNACCEPTABLE AFRICAN, CARIBBEAN MENTAL HEALTH STATISTICS A LEGACY OF THE CHATTEL SLAVE TRADE? PowerPoint Presentation
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ARE TODAY’S UNACCEPTABLE AFRICAN, CARIBBEAN MENTAL HEALTH STATISTICS A LEGACY OF THE CHATTEL SLAVE TRADE?. Peter Scott Blackman C.E.O. – The Afiya Trust peter.blackman@afiya-trust.org Tel: 020 7582 0432.

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ARE TODAY’S UNACCEPTABLE AFRICAN, CARIBBEAN MENTAL HEALTH STATISTICS A LEGACY OF THE CHATTEL SLAVE TRADE?

Peter Scott Blackman

C.E.O. – The Afiya Trust

peter.blackman@afiya-trust.org

Tel: 020 7582 0432

slide2

Please make note of the following websites:For fresh and helpful information concerning racial/cultural psychology look up:www.roberttcarterassociates.comFor a novel insight into stereotyping please look up:www.implicit.harvard.eduOr search on the internet for: Implicit Association Tests

slide3
Contemporary Black and Minority Ethnic mental health and criminal justice figures are not ‘just very worrying’, they are atrocious.
  • Those concerning to the young African, Caribbean population are particularly unacceptable.
  • As successive generations come of age, we are incubating and reiterating the crisis. And black families, generation after generation, watch as the lives of our loved ones are destroyed.
  • This curse is epidemic in our community. Our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, our friends, hardly a black family is untouched.
  • If these same statistics concerned white people, loud alarms would have long ago declared a national emergency.
slide4
Mental health studies in the Caribbean showed the incidence of acute psychotic diagnoses in Trinidad and Barbados was lower than within the UK black African, Caribbean population; and no higher than within the wider, general population of the UK.
  • This suggests there is an active and selective environmental determinant within the UK that can ‘drive black people mad’.
slide5
To understand the present it is necessary to know the past.
  • Today’s unacceptable BME statistics, above all those for the African, Caribbean population, have their source in the legacy of centuries of chattel slavery and imperial colonialism. The typical socialised European view of black people is a fiction concocted from the traditions of slave traders and slaveholders.
slide6
The insult of that legacy is the unremitting psychosocial and economic oppression that, my people suffer today, in the face of socially assumed white privilege.
  • Today’s appalling BME mental health and criminal justice statistics reflect the black man’s struggle to make it in a white world.
  • This is also my struggle.
slide7
The French government recently declared May 10th as a national day of remembrance for victims of slavery. The French President, Jacques Chirac stated:
  • “A county’s grandeur means it must take responsibility for all its history, with its pages of glory as well as its periods of shadow.”
  • “Slavery fed racism. When people tried to justify the unjustifiable, that was when the first racist theories were elaborated. Racism is a crime of the heart and the spirit, which is why the memory of slavery remains a living wound for some of our fellow citizens”.
slide8
The Church of England also recently voted to apologise to the descendants of victims of the slave trade. They recognised they were “at the heart” of it”, were “directly responsible for what happened” and acknowledged “the dehumanising and shameful” consequences.
slide9
We need our Prime Minister to apologise to the world and to the British BME population for the role Britain played in the chattel slave trade; and for the damage and blight its legacy still brings to modern day BME families.
  • This would be a positive step towards healing the suppurating societal lesions that lead to the unacceptable figures. It presents an opportunity for the Prime Minister to do something positive. By demonstrating genuine humility, an apology would help to alleviate the current climate of BME anger and resentment.
slide10
People ask, why should we apologise today for crimes other people committed so long ago? The slave trade was abolished 200 years ago. This is the 21st century, so why keep dragging up the past?
  • Well, for many of us, even in 2006, that past is inescapable. My very name Peter Scott Blackman is a slave label. This is true of the vast majority of African, Caribbean people with European surnames. Slaves were property. They were given the mark of their owners. Our original African titles were stripped from us.
  • Scott, my mother’s maiden name, denotes that a plantation owner called Scott owned her African ancestors enslaved in Jamaica. Likewise, Blackman denotes that a slave owner called Blackman owned my father’s ancestors. Scott Blackman is the mark and brand of chattel ownership.
  • Thus the legacy of oppression began. It involved the complete and thorough degradation of the African and their descendants. That legacy still thrives today deep within in the collective subconscious of modern Europe.
slide11
How do modern Western European societies value people of colour?
  • And how did those values arise?
  • Where is the psychic toxin of racism rooted?
  • Let’s take a quick look at just one example from the story of sugar.
slide12
The following quotes are from “Seeds of Change - Five plants that transformed mankind” by Henry Hobhouse (1985)
slide13
“…the sugar story: how an unnecessary “food” became responsible for the Africanisation of the Caribbean”
  • “…one ton represented the lifetime sugar production of one slave who had been captured, manacled, chained again on board ship, sold on the island market, and then naturalised to the conditions of the Caribbean (“seasoned”)”.
  • “…on average, for (the sugar consumption of) every 250 English men, women, and children a black died every year”.
  • “Every ton represented a life. Every teaspoonful represented six days of a slave’s life”.
  • “It was…the first time in history that one race had been uniquely selected for a servile role”.
slide14
“..The novel feature of this particular slave trade was not only that the slaves were Negroes and the traders were white, but that a whole new mythology grew up to justify the industry. The Negroes were the children of Ham, and therefore were unworthy of consideration as human beings; free white men could not be expected to work in the sugar plantations; the Negro was discouraged from becoming a Christian, and forbidden to read and write, so that he could continue to be regarded as hardly human. These theories became accepted within two generations of the first ship load of slaves arriving in Lisbon in 1443, and were perhaps necessary to blunt men’s minds to this monstrous aberration in the history of the western world.”
slide15
Financial accounts from sugar plantations in Barbados, the birthplace of my late father, show clearly that black people were counted in with the beasts.
slide16
The following quote from “A True & Exact

History of Barbadoes” by Richard Ligond

(1657) – is an entry from the planter’s

annual account:

slide18
“As also for the moderate decays of our Negres, Horses, and Cattle,

notwithstanding all our Recruits by breeding all those kinds - £500”

There were also huge differentials in annual allowances made for clothing:

  • Annual clothing for 30 white servants £164.40
  • Annual clothing for 100 black slaves £ 35.00

That is:

  • For each white servant £5.48
  • For each black slave £0.35

Thus black African humanity was valued at around 1/16th the value of white

European humanity, i.e. each white servant was worth 16 black people.

slide19
The degradation of African peoples was codified by academia.

The quotes that follow are sampled from a lecture delivered by Georg Wilhem Freidrich Hegel (1770 -1831). They demonstrate the approach of learned 19th century Europeans to Africa.

slide20
Hegel was perhaps the greatest of the German philosophers.
  • Hegel thought the role of philosophical science was to link the development of the rational powers of the human mind to lived experience.
  • He taught that reality is absolute mind, reason or spirit, made manifest in history and human affairs.
  • One of my favourite sentences, “the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts” had its roots in Hegel’s teachings.
  • Perhaps no thinker since Kant has had a comparable influence on European philosophy, art, religion, and literature.
slide21
During 1822-83, at the age of 52, just 9 years before the end of his life, Hegel held the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Berlin. When introducing a course on “The Philosophy of History”, this is what he taught his students about the people of Africa.
slide22
“The Negro exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state. We must lay aside all thought of reverence and morality – all that we call feeling – if we would rightly comprehend him, there is nothing harmonious with humanity to be found in this type of character.”
  • “…Cannibalism is looked upon as quite customary and proper. Among us instinct deters from it…But with the Negro this is not the case, and the devouring of human flesh is altogether consonant with the general principles of the human race; to the sensual Negro, human flesh is but an object of sense – mere flesh.”
slide23
“Among the Negroes moral sentiments are quite weak, or more strictly speaking, non-existent…”
  • “Through the pervading influence of slavery all those bonds of moral regard which we cherish toward each other disappear, and it does not occur to the Negro mind to expect from others what they are enabled to claim.”
slide24
“…It is manifest that want of self control distinguishes the character of the Negroes. This condition is capable of no development or culture, and as we see them at this day, such have they always been .The only essential connection that has existed and continued between the Negroes and the Europeans is that of slavery…We may conclude slavery to have been the occasion of the increase of human feeling among the Negroes.”
slide25
“Africa…is no historical part of the world, it has no movement or development to exhibit. Historical movements in it – that is the northern part – belong to the Asiatic or European world…Egypt does not belong to the African Spirit. What we properly understand by Africa, is the unhistorical, undeveloped spirit still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the world’s history.”
slide26
In like manner in universities throughout Europe, the indigenous, African disciplines of communal and spiritual management, philosophic conviction, worship and law making were mocked by academia and misrepresented as so much ‘superstitious clap-trap’.
  • European distortion globally promoted a generalised view of traditional black African cultural life as an object of contempt. It was depicted as a manifestation to be associated with fear, fecklessness and bizarre life-threatening rituals.
slide27
For example, common English usage of the term ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ is associated with gibberish and meaningless nonsense.
  • Mumbo-jumbo /.... n. (pl.-jumbos) 1 meaningless or ignorant ritual. 2 language or action intended to mystify or confuse. 3 an object of senseless veneration. [Mumbo Jumbo, a supposed African idol] - (The Concise Oxford Dictionary 9th Edition, 1995)
slide28
Yet, the truth is that Mumbo-Jumbo is a Mandingo phrase from West Africa. It refers to a spiritual leader who protects his people from evil.
  • This relates to the ancient, sophisticated African spiritual community of stilt–dancers, who practise their art in Africa and the Caribbean to this day.
  • In the Caribbean this practice survives largely as a carnival masquerade called ‘Mocko Jumbi’. ‘
  • Jumbi’ means ‘spirit’ in the Caribbean and ‘Mocko’ refers to a doctor who cures illness and who also `sees' in the spiritual sense.
  • In action, the colourful, fourteen feet tall Mocko Jumbi stilt dancers seem to defy gravity. Whirling and twirling precariously, they bend over backwards and stumble as if about to fall; all to the pulsing, hypnotic rhythms of the Mocko Jumbi drummers.
  • It is a very spiritual art that represents the balance between this world and the next
slide29
Please bear in mind the profound impact Hegel and others had on modern European thinking.
  • Echoes of the academic codification of crass ignorance and frank racist domination still resonate today in contemporary mainstream thinking.
  • The BME populations bear the oppressive burden of coercion and suffering that results from this.
  • Nowhere is this more obvious than the disproportionate over representation and treatment of the African, Caribbean population in our mental health and criminal justice systems.
  • And the proposed contentious Mental Health Bill will serve to further reinforce the relentless racist intimidation.
slide30
As young black adults reach puberty and grow away from the relative shelter and nurturing protection of school and family, they are increasingly exposed to more and more explicit racism and prejudicial treatment.
  • In my view, and relating to my own personal experience, this is a significant contributory factor to the high rate of, ‘apparently sudden unpredicted onset of crises’ among BME young adults.
slide31
As they explore their independence in society, most BME young people become aware that racism in the wider populace can frustrate their most fundamental life aspirations.
  • Experiences of racism, at this point in their lives, become inescapable, concrete and upfront personal.
  • This almost invariably leads to sensations of dysphoric confusion.
slide32
For young BME British who were socialised to self-identify as ‘English’, it is shocking to be faced suddenly with the fact that you ‘do not really belong’
  • That you are disinherited of those privileges that are the naturally assumed inheritance of ‘the white British social family’
  • That you are denied things the dominant population takes for granted.
slide33
You discover that doors open to your white friends are ‘politely’ shut in your face.
  • That you must now work twice hard and be twice as good as them to (if then) receive the same level of recognition.
  • You learn on all fronts to anticipate discrimination and rejection.
  • Thus young BME British people have to come to terms with the fact that UK society has a duplicitous morality that really is divided along black (punishment) and white (reward) lines.
slide34
It is well known within black British society that our young people, when internalising this reality, often go through a process of critical and very distressing self-confrontation. This can lead to the discovery of a strong and resilient new ‘Black Self’. It can also lead to serious, often life threatening mental health and/or criminal justice crises.
  • Few black families in Britain are free of complications generated through this negative experience.
  • It is a stage in black British life that has, to date, been largely ignored by the establishment; and one that must be taken seriously into account by both mental health and educational services.
slide35
The diversity of British BME social cultures and their variable levels of access to supportive social capital will cause such ‘coming of age’ crises to present in different forms and levels of severity.
  • Thus mental service providers need to take account of diverse ‘imported and indigenous’ cultural, religious, linguistic and social mores, as well as issues of social class, single parent families and other social pressures.
  • Service providers need to reflect on the importance of such factors and how they might affect individual experiences (in both service user and provider), and thus the perception, presentation and interpretations of such distress. A system is needed that can interact with the community.
  • The ‘Delivering Race Equality’ programme is a first significant step in that direction.
slide36
It must also be noted that social factors, being dynamic, constantly evolve over time.
  • Unfortunately British racism, although it too evolves with time, is a constant factor distressing the well being of BME populations.
  • It is important for white people to recognise that you too have been observed from a BME viewpoint.
  • More than fifty years ago my late father penned the following words. Unfortunately for us they still ring true today.
slide37
This is a quote from The True Negro written in 1953 by Peter MacFarren Blackman (1908 -1993)
  • “That offensive person, the vain, swashbuckling arrogant white man, the scourge of our epoch; who struts across the world setting his skin in the face of the nations and claiming their awed submission…is a product of bourgeois industrial technique. His extravagant claims and equally extravagant cruelties have kept pace with this. Today he brandishes the atom; crying ‘bow down or burn’, his aim the peoples’ obliteration or obeisance. Experience teaches he gets neither.”
slide38
Perhaps you feel this is offensive commentary – that it is too harsh a judgement.
  • You may say that too was all in the past – 21st century British society has since moved on.
  • You may think that such views are not appropriate – that they do not reflect modern Europe. I disagree. More than 50 years have passed, and as we speak today, it’s still happening.
slide39
The pejorative ideas about BME peoples were codified and made universal.
  • Even today they resonate deep within the European collective subconscious as a powerful subsonic, subterranean rumble.
  • They play a significant, active role in the socialisation and personality development of all modern Europeans.
  • As such they contribute to the racial identity profiles of every white and BME person growing up in Europe.
  • Our current racial-cultural psychological and racial-cultural socio-political difficulties are embedded in peoples' socialisation and personality development.
  • These problems are profound and very pervasive. They affect each one of us and infiltrate every aspect of our society.
slide40
Thus mental health professionals have a unique opportunity and power to truly catalyse genuine social change.
  • However this can only happen if, and only if, they learn how to understand and cope with the racial influences in their own lives and in the lives of their service users.
  • Even relatively minor changes can have amplified and positive outcomes.
  • In this context, wherever we refer to ‘cultural issues’ or ‘cultural competence’ we need to expand the term to refer to ‘racial and cultural issues’, or ‘racial/cultural competency’.
  • When we refer to culture only, it negates the profundity of our predicament.
slide41
I quote from Robert T. Carter (The Influence of Race and Racial Identity in Psychotherapy - 1995):

“One might argue that, in part, race has become less salient because mental health clinicians, scholars, and researchers are more comfortable examining presumed cultural and ethnic issues. Many writers seem to suggest that race is included within analyses and explanations of culture and ethnicity. I contend that race is not understood when culture and ethnicity are assumed to encompass racial issues. When race is subsumed in ethnic and cultural phenomena, our history….our current socio-political climate, and the operations of our institutions are ignored. Emphasis on ethnicity and culture, particularly when it is grounded in broad definitions of culture, obscures how central race is…in the delivery of mental health services, and in psychotherapeutic encounters.”

slide42
It is very important to take this into account. We are helping to set the future agenda for progressing mental health outcomes for Britain’s BME population.
  • An apology from the Prime Minister for Britain’s role in the slave trade would have significant influence.
  • The time is right.
  • On a universal scale, such a demonstration of good will would undoubtedly contribute towards an improved mental health status for Black and Minority Ethnic Britons.
  • To achieve this, the Prime Minister could take advantage of the bicentenary of the Slave Trade Act (1807) that marked the abolition of the slave trade.
  • It would mark a significant step towards the turning of the tide. It would also go a long way towards reclaiming the Union Jack flag from the extremely racist British National Party.
slide43
I finish with another quote from my father. It is an excerpt from a longer poem he wrote during my childhood.
excerpt from my song is for all men peter macfarren blackman 1952
“To all my wide continent I welcomed these they came to

Africa

Seized all they could lay hands upon

Took the best lands for their tilling to build them white

houses

I pass them each day cool deep-shaded in green

Their dwelling places wanton in lovelinesses

Spread for their senses by sky river and sea

I am unlearned in the philosophies of government

I may not govern myself children must learn of their elders

Till they are elders themselves

I know nothing of science never created a great civilisation

Poetry song music sculpture are alike foreign to my

conceiving

I have never built a monument higher than a mudhut

Nor woven a covering for my body other than the passing

leaves of the grass

I am the subman

My footprints are nowhere in history

This is your statement, remember, this your assessment

I merely repeat you

Remember this too, I do not ask you to pity me

Remember this always you cannot condescend to me

There are many things I remember and would have

you remember as well

I smelted iron in Nubia when your generations still ploughed

with hardwood

I cast in bronze at Benin when London was marshland

I built Timbuctoo and made it a refuge for learning

When in the choirs of Oxford unlettered monks shivered

unwashed

My faith in the living mounts like a flame in my story

I am Khama the Great

I helped Bolivar enfranchise the Americas

I am Omar and his thousands who brought Spain the light

of the Prophet

I stood with my spear among the ranks of the Prempehs

And drove you far from Kumasi for more than a century

I kept you out of my coasts and not the mosquitoes

I have won many bitter battles against you and shall win them again

I am Toussaint who taught France there was no limit to

liberty

I am Harriet Tubman flouting your torture to assert my

faith in man’s freedom

I am Nat Turner whose daring and strength always defied

you

I have my yesterdays and shall open the future widely before

me”

Excerpt from: My Song is for All Men - Peter MacFarren Blackman -1952