Dogue at Browndale
Does the Black Child Need an All-Black Therapeutic Family?The following is the transcript of a discussion which took place between John Brown and Bruce Jackson, therapeutic parent at Browndale, about the need lor setting up all-Black therapeutic families tor Black children in treatment at Browndale. Mr. Jackson was the head of the first Browndale all-Black therapeutic family in Newmarket.
John Brown: I wanted to discuss with you, Bruce, the concept of Black treatment houses, and your ideas, philosophies, and concepts of treatment. So I'll just ask you to start out.
Bruce Jackson: Well, I think I can start with something that happened yesterday: Johnny Smith, a Black child, that I would like to take into the Black house with me, had a meeting with Dr. Weininger*. Dr. Wein-inger, after talking with Johnny, felt that he did not need to go into a Black house because he was being effectively treated. But I think we have to realize that no longer can a Black person accept himself if he doesn't have a positive Black identity nor can he be accepted by the Black community. Johnny does not feel good about being Black, and he can't accept the fact that he is Black until he feels that it is O.K. Until he feels O.K. about being Black, in my opinion, he has not gone through a proper treatment process.
John: So what is this proper treatment process in the Black house? What is the role of the Black house?
Bruce: I think the major role of the Black house is to produce Black children who are going to feel good about their Blackness, who understand their Blackness and have definite ideas and theories behind what it means to be Black: not merely having a Black skin. It should be the thought processes of a Black person to be proud of what is Black, to know the history of Black people, to know that it is a good history and that we contribute and have contributed much to society. In White society, there have been many Black people who have contributed a great deal, but we never learn about these achievements in school. Black children, as a result of this, are being robbed of their natural history. I can remember the only "facts" I was ever "taught" about Black people was that they were slaves during the Civil War period. Yet when I started to discover books about Black people I began to realize that I had been cheated all my life.
I think the situation is worse in Canada because in the United States there are enough Black people around to bring pressure to bear where these things have to come out in the open. Here, in Canada, racism is a little more subtle: you run into the subtle prejudices. People have a smile for you instead of a frown, but basically it is the same thing. I know the system perpetuates prejudice, racism, and the polarization of Black/White.
John: Is there any reason why the Black child couldn't get that history in other than a Black house?
Bruce: I think that as important as getting the Black history, Black children need a positive Black person to relate to. I don't feel that any White person, no matter how good his intentions are, can fully comprehend the Black experience. A Black person who deals with everyday life from a Black point of view, has a much more realistic view of how to survive in a White world.
John: So you think that all Black kids should be treated in Black therapeutic families?
Bruce: Definitely, definitely.
John: Can you spell that out a little more? Why that can only be done in a Black house rather than, say, in an integrated house? Why can't the child identify, why can't he become aware of the history, why can't he become aware of Blackness, and be proud of Blackness, without having to be surrounded by it?
Bruce: Because, first of all, there aren't enough people in the existing program who know enough about Black history. Let's look at the basics. You take the word "Negro" which is widely accepted and used. I have told people, I have said: "I don't want to be identified as a Negro, I am a Black man." Still, they are very uncomfortable calling me a Black man, and they won't unless I pressure them.
I have a right to identify myself. And I can't blame this on one individual. It's the system, and the process that we have all been taught, that the word "Negro" is a respectful word, whereas "Nigger" Black is abusive. I would rather that somebody call me a "Nigger", than call me a "Negro". Because if they call me a "Nigger" it means that I am not conforming to the role Whites assign me. I don't want them to accept what I do. If people begin to accept everything that I do, then I know something is wrong with me. I know that I am falling into the pattern, and that I am allowing myself to be oppressed and my manhood stifled.
As long as I can keep stirring people up and keep rebelling in some kind of meaningful way, then if they want to call me a "Nigger" that's fine, because I feel that people who get frustrated and angry with Blacks, because they strike out against the oppressors, out of conditioning will call that person a "Nigger". It means that they fear you because you are doing something that they can't accept, that they don't understand, or don't want to understand because it means taking a look at themselves. They have been taught that Black people are basically very docile, humble, ignorant and lazy people. I think what we need to do is look at the reasons why these stereotypes have come into being and are used so widely.
John: Say we take it for granted for the moment — and I will come back to that later — that certain things can only happen to a Black kid in a Black house. But that requires that your Black staff are also aware of these things.
Bruce: Certainly, but let's just stop for a second. At Brown-dale, we are trying" to create a natural family; so what is more natural than for a Black child to be with Black adults?
John: That I understand
John: This means, though, that you will have to take it for granted that some of your Black staff won't be aware of that, either.
Bruce: Granted, all Black people have to go through a process of re-educating themselves. had to throw out many of the things I learned in the so-called orthodox schools, and research things for myself. Every Black person must go through this process of re-education. What I would say to any Black child in regards to education in the public schools is question everything and don't take that as the proper knowledge. Challenge it, and then they won't have to go through a re-education process. They will be educated along the way with the help of the Black staff emphasizing that Black is all right, that Black is just as good as White, and the reasons why. I can say to a child, "It's O.K. to be Black," but if he isn't being taught about the contributions Blacks have made, how can we expect him to feel good about himself?
Bruce: No, you don't take it for granted. I like to think that the people that I hire, in talking to them, that they have some awareness of what Black is all about, and an awareness of their history. If they don't have this awareness then, at the present time, I can't use them. My primary concern is with the children. Now, in the future, I hope, that, as the program expands, I can take in Black adults who have not started the process and they can start the process while being in the program. I would like to see that come about, but right now the urgency does not allow me the luxury.
John: Let's go back to something else. What about the natural family of the Black child? Even though the child may be a ward of the state, and forgetting that the state may have ideas about whether he should be treated and brought up in a Black house or not...
Bruce: I think the state would not want a Black child to be brought up in a Black treatment centre, or be treated in a Black treatment centre.
John: This is what we are going to have to work with, whether they will or whether they won't. But I am thinking beyond that. That would be a more political question.
But what happens with the Black child whose family is still intact, or where the parents still have some wishes for and rights over the child? Where do their rights come in? And what happens to the child when he comes out of the Black house and goes back into the integrated family, to the typical Black family in, say, a White neighborhood or, say, a middle class Black family which is attempting to integrate, or forget its Blackness, or pretend it doesn't exist?
Bruce: I think you find many Black families trying to pretend that it doesn't exist. My family was one. But I think I was born angry. I think that my father's semen emanated anger. He was afraid to do anything about his anger. He had much to protect: a family he had to support and a house and debts that go with it. I know this happens to White families as well as Black. They become bogged down with
responsibilities and don't become involved. Many Black adults, if they see the opportunity, and perceive it as good for themselves and their family, would be all for it. I would like to involve Black families, not only the Black families of the kids we will be treating, but Black families throughout the community where we will be located.
John: Let's get back to something we touched on a little earlier that has to do with identification. You understand identification in terms of the psychological process?
Bruce: To a certain extent I do, yes.
John: Do you think it is necessary for a Black child to be surrounded by Black adults for him to have a proper identification? Or can he get a proper identification, in psychological terms, with a non-Black?
Bruce: I don't think he can get a proper identification with a non-Black. All you have to do is look at what's been happening to the Black children here. These Black kids have been going around feeling very bad about being Black. You take Paul. At one point, when he was in the Children's Aid home, he would not identify himself as a Black person. He told the kids that he was Chinese. And any time a Black person came around him, he would put him down and say: "Oh, you Black Nigger." Why? Because it was like looking into a mirror. And he didn't want to see himself as being Black. He even threatened a Black boy and ran after him with a knife. I think if we look at that, we realize the implications.
Johnny, another Black child who has never felt good about being Black, was brought up in a White family. He was adopted into a White family. These people would take out their frustrations on him. Whenever things were not going well between the husband and the wife, then it was the Black bastard who was causing the problems. I think we know that he wasn't causing the problems, because this was happening in the home before he was adopted. He is very fond of White girls and wants to meet White girls his age; yet, when he does, he folds under because he feels inferior being Black.
We have to realize that right now, as far as the Black children in treatment at Browndale are concerned, the purpose of a Black house is they are not getting adequate treatment in the houses we have. Many people have assumed that would be like icing on a cake, but in fact this should be part of the core of treatment.
John: Then we come to the question of what happens in the mixed marriage? Where one of the parents is one race and the other parent is another race, like in your own marriage?
Bruce: O.K., now in my own marriage, Kaaren and I have discussed this and I have told her that as far as I am concerned our children will be brought up Black. As soon as they are faced with the outside world, people are going to identify them as Black, as Negroes, so to speak. So we want to prepare them for that. So as far as I am concerned, they are Black and they will be brought up in a Black way, which is very hard on Kaaren. She is learning about Black people, about my way of life, about my sense of values, my morals, which are somewhat different from hers. We have to face it. The Black world is different from the White world, even when we are living in a White society.
John: But your children will be able to be mothered by Kaaren.
Bruce: Certainly. At all times I want them to realize that the things they have to face as Black people are not in their mother's experience. I think a Black child has to build up defences and has to know the reasons why he is being attacked.
John: You are talking now as though you are talking of an interim of some kind, under these present conditions in which the Black child finds himself in North America. But I am trying to get down to the psychological part of it where parents, through giving to their child, create a dependency and identity out of what he sees reflected in the eyes of his parents. And those are going to be White eyes as far as Kaaren is concerned, and is that going to make a difference?
Bruce: Certainly it is going to make a difference. I think it will make a good difference. I think that they can pick the better of the two and that they will have a chance to experience Kaaren's side as well as mine. The anger within me and the frustrations I feel, I don't want them to feel; whereas, Kaaren has the hope that things will change. I am very pessimistic about change. She feels that there are enough good people in the world that things will change and it won't necessarily have to be a bloody confrontation. I hope they can pick up from her this hopefulness and good feelings about life that I don't have. I think that is just as important.
John: Yes, what you are really saying on the one hand is that the Black kids in the treatment program should be in Black houses, but you are talking in your own personal terms of an integrated family, where your wife is White, and you are Black and you find a way to bring whatever is good from both cultures together. Is this what you are expecting?
Bruce: Yes, but I feel it takes two unique people to do it and most people aren't willing to extend themselves that much. I also think that the ingredients of love must be introduced between the two adults and that is not always so in a therapeutic family.
I don't ever want to get divorced from reality. The reality is that we live in a White world and we have to deal with White people. I think the fact that we are going to be living in a community where the staff and kids are going to be stepping outside the door and constantly coming into contact with the White community is something we have to contend with.
John: One of the characteristics of the whole Black movement now, is a pride in being Black, and a pride in race, and a congregating together proudly, but do you think that that means there is going to be a decrease in the amount of intermarriage or integration?
Bruce: I recently finished reading a book about intermarriage by C. Larson and according to the survey in her book, intermarriage is on the rise.
John: I would expect that to happen.
Bruce: I would expect that to happen because there are more Black people going to colleges, and entering the business world, where they come into contact with Whites; I think this is why it is happening. Also, the fact that there are Blacks and Whites who are willing to take a chance like this. You have to realize when you are involved in an integrated marriage there is pressure from both sides: pressure from Blacks, as well as Whites. I get pressure from my mother who was born in the South. Her stepbrother was lynched by the Klan, so naturally, she hates White people; and so for me to marry a White woman just about destroyed her. She is coming around though, and we expect her up for Christmas. I think she can accept me as a son, and to a certain extent she is going to accept what I do, because this is the love of a mother.
John: I'd like to go on a little bit now with how you visualize the Black house in the White treatment centre? What kind of dilemmas does that pose for you? Is it an Uncle Tom house?
Bruce: I think many people would like to see it as an Uncle Tom house. I am doing everything to make it not so.
John: How do you avoid that?
Bruce: This is one of the problems that the other Black staff and I have been talking about. As a matter of fact, we had a meeting last night. As things are going slowly, they are very discouraged and disillusioned and feel we will never get off the ground. I think that what is going to have to happen is that the Whites who are now in the program will have to realize, first of all, that changes are definitely needed. Secondly, they will have to take a look at what they perceive as good for children, and realize that what they perceive as necessary for all children, might not necessarily hold with Black children. They must realize that when they look at Black children they are looking at a way of life foreign to their own. There are many aspects of life that Black people have to face that White people aren't even aware of Whites will have to move out of their comfortable positions and take the role of student.
So, the White professionals need to look at themselves and say: "O.K., maybe I don't know enough about Black people to make a judgment." Then they need to re-evaluate their ideas and theories and realize those-ideas and theories are White oriented. I cannot stress enough the point that all our social sciences are geared to White society and, therefore, for the most part, irrelevant to Black people.
John: Do you think there is such a thing as a Black professional?
Bruce: Yes. As a matter of fact, I recently read a book called Black Rage by two Black psychiatrists, William Grier and H. Cobb. There is a simplified version of it called Why We Act The Way We Do which is a very good title. I have heard many White people say, "Well, I just can't figure them out" meaning Black people. If they really wanted to know they could find out by reading and by asking questions. They have a great deal invested in not knowing, in rationalizing, their ignorance by proclaiming that we are just "Niggers" and letting it go at that. It is a difficult task to take a look at oneself.
John: Do you improve that tendency by having a Black house, where people don't have to face it? Or is it better to have a mixed situation where people run up against the Black child and the Black adult and they have to acknowledge the fact that there is that difference?
Bruce: I hope we can use this as a vehicle for meaningful discussion. What happens is that in the "good" White liberal tradition many Whites run to the book stores to purchase books by current authors — for example, a very popular book Soul On Ice by Eldridge Cleaver. After reading the book, they proclaim themselves experts on Black people. But what they must realize is that reading the books is merely a catalyst, the beginning of a long process which involves cleansing one's mind of the built-in prejudices and racist attitudes. The same White liberal who raves about the writings of a Black book all too often is the one who fails to stand by this man in real life situations. It is important for all of us to relate to people as people, keeping in mind the cultural differences between us and respecting these differences.
John: Do you feel then, than there is nothing you can benefit from that has a Whiteness to it? The knowledge of social science, for example?
Bruce: I think that I have bene-fitted from it. We all need to learn human dynamics, the basic things that all human beings have in common. But while we are learning these, we must keep in mind that there are differences and be prepared to work with these differences.
John: And they should be focussed on the individual group.
Because if we take the implication that you can only benefit from knowledge and experience if it's Black, then we are faced with the fact that we know Freud was a White German, and all the people who have followed him, that I know of, in the lineage that we use in our rationales of treatment, are White, and are more than that. Be- cause of their culture and their background we can take it for granted that they are racist. So where, then, do you go for your knowledge? Where do you get the non-racist knowledge? Do you know any professionals that are non-racist?John: Well, I will challenge you to do that. I'd like to challenge you to identify at some point, if not right now, where these basic, universal human dynamics begin and end in practical terms within the treatment unit. Because if you do that, it will make it possible for the Black staff who come and train with us to know what they can get from us: they won't have to worry that we expect them to get more than that, and we don't have to worry that we have nothing to give them.
Bruce: I don't know of any non-racist knowledge. As I said, I discovered these two men, Grier and Cobb. There are others as well, Chuck Hamilton, to just name one, who is on the campus at the University of Chicago. There are a few professors that I ran into at Mar-quette University who at the time seemed to be looking for what I call true knowledge, un-colored by racist attitudes. We all must come to the point where we research for ourselves and make conclusions on our own; however, always keeping in mind our own attitudes. Naturally, my conclusions are going to be colored towards what I perceive as being a positive orientation towards being Black.
John: You may have to take something from a White too.
Bruce: Certainly. I have been taking things from a White organization, where I have been learning things I didn't know from White people. I realize this as a necessity.
John: Well, what do you do with that? That must be kind of a hell of a feeling, a hell of an admission even.
Bruce: I resent it. I won't lie and say I don't. I rationalize it by saying, "Well, O.K. these are the things that I need in order to take back to the Black community and use in a constructive way, a way that would benefit my people." At times I feel like I am taking crumbs from a White man's table, and I feel badly about it, but there is no other place where I can go and get this knowledge right now. I have to get it wherever I can. And since this organization is set up to do what I am interested in doing and they have many good ideas, then dammit, I am going to take and use their ideas.
John: And it may not be crumbs that you are getting. It may be flour and yeast.
Bruce: Certainly. But I wish there was some place else I could get it, a place that was Black. It would be more palatable, but I realize that we have to deal with reality.
John: That might be one of the values of starting a Black house. That you begin to get a place where Black people can come and learn.
Bruce: Well I hope that this Black house will be a model where Black people could come and learn from other Black people and take the learning to the Black people. I don't really see us doing very much unless the Black treatment house is used as a type of school because we can only help so many people. I'm not just talking about kids, I am talking about the staff, as well as myself. We are all going to be learning from each other, but I hope it won't stop here. I hope that out of this a relevant Black psychology will emerge. This is just a beginning.
John: Let's take some of the framework, some of the tenet
of our own theoretical base and see what happens with them, when you talk about them in relationship to Black children. We can start with the statement that the children that we started to deal with in 1953 were outcasts, without rights, were in a minority position in this society, totally disenfranchised, with no say over their destiny. But there was, in our estimation, a possibility that they could get into the flow of life again, be self-determining, be involved, if something happened to them. And with the framework that we adopted we started primarily with Freud's concept of dependency; that is, the nature of the relatedness between the adult and the child.
I see that as kind of a framework. I don't think it is the same for every child but, at the same time, I think the framework is essentially the same. What transpires between child and adult might be different in the content. But I think every child needs to have an adult he can be dependent upon.
Now how do you react to that? Do you see that there is a difference for the Black child? Are you thinking about differences in the Black community in this respect? Do you think that every Black child needs to have a dependency relationship?
Bruce: I think every child needs to have a dependency relationship and a Black child as well.
John: You don't distinguish a difference there? That's not one of the places where there is a difference?
Bruce: The only thing that I would say is that we have to realize that if it is going to be a good dependency, then it has to be someone whom the child can respect, someone whom he can relate to as a Black person, in essence, someone in his own image.
John: We have to look to what is communicated maybe; and one of the things you want to communicate is this Blackness right from the beginning. But still you would want probably the same things that we would want. That the child is the focus, and that his needs are met.
Bruce: Certainly; and the adult gives him love, warmth, understanding, affection, things that make a child grow.
John: Well, I'd like at some point to go over those steps with you in basic terms within this general framework which seems to be common for all human beings and see, there may be differences in the flavor, or in the color, or the manner in which stuff is presented, or the relatedness occurs. On the other hand, there may be a lot of similarities. It may be that good mothering transcends color up to an age. This is something we need to look at.
Bruce: I'll tell you quite frankly, I feel that, on the whole, if you look at Black mothers and White mothers, you will find a Black mother has always been more sensitive and closer to her children than a White mother. You find in most of the African countries it is taboo to even think about using a baby bottle, and you will find that carries over into the Black community in the United States as well. I never saw a baby bottle; my father insisted on breast feeding. What could be more close, more sensitive and as warm?
John: So there has been a close physical contact and communication and love.
Bruce: That comes out of protecting. Black people have seen a need to protect their offspring and keep them closer to home because of the dangers that White society has inflicted upon us. So you will find that Black people on the whole are a lot warmer and more sensitive to human values.
John: It is easier for them to share, do you think?
Bruce: Amongst themselves.
John: Or, say, within the family unit?
John: Well, let's take the other framework, or one of the other frameworks that we use, which is the familiness, the concept of familiness, and we then get into roles. From my limited experience with Black families, it looks to me that the woman seems to be strong and the man seems to be withdrawn.
Bruce: O.K. Let's take a look at that. This is a stereotype and a misinformation, because we are not looking at the entire picture — only at what Whites choose to look at.
You have to realize that the major role of a Black woman is to support her man, because the man goes out to earn the bread and often times is not given the opportunity to do so.
She has to keep boosting his ego somehow and reassure him that in her eyes he is a man; yet he must daily live with the frustration of wanting to earn a good living for himself and his family and not being able to.
He is then faced with the reality of loving his family, yet not being able to provide for them. So out of pride, he leaves his family, no longer able to allow his family to watch him being beaten by this racist system. The woman, on the other hand, can always go out and get a job as a domestic, or some such nonsense, and Whites then take this opportunity to hold her up as a pillar of the Black community. If it appears that the Black woman is the pillar of the community, then we need to look deeper. Let's examine why White society has so much invested in emasculating the Black man.
I'm from New York City and I worked in New York for two years and there was a situation up in Harlem I'll never forget; a situation which I had read about, but didn't really believe. I went to talk to some people in their home and they were showing me around and telling me that at night they had to take shifts staying up to keep the rats off their children, because the rats would eat their children. Now this man didn't want to be in this house or subject his children and wife to this kind of treatment, this way of life, and with no way of getting around it, he left. As far as I know, they never heard from him again. I can see why. Here was a man who was so ashamed of himself because he couldn't provide the things a man should be able to provide.
John: His manliness was destroyed. Well, this is what I was talking about. That I have seen instances where the manliness is destroyed but now we still live in this kind of a world. The Black man is still being attacked in terms of his manliness.
Bruce: Certainly. I think you hear people say things are changing, and I say, "Yes, things are changing from the Old Mississippi to the New Mississippi." People are finding more sophisticated ways to de-ball a man.
John: Right. And where the Black Panthers get involved and refuse to be castrated, or to play a lesser role, they come down hard on them.
Bruce: Sure, any Black man who says: "Well, wait a minute. Let's not only refuse to be emasculated, but let's protect our homes, our families, and our extended Black family which means the Black community." Then, all of a sudden, the Gestapo, the police, come in and start killing people because they are a threat to the White establishment.
John: Well, what is going to happen in your own Black house? Is it going to be possible for the Black adult male to be the man of the house, to assert himself within the community, to protect his family?
Bruce: I think so, because the Black men who are working in the program right now are men. This is one of the first things I look for, that they are willing to take control of a family and assert their manhood, and this program gives them a chance that they might not normally have had. I expect a lot of mistakes along the way, but I think things can be rectified. What is important is that they are given a chance to do this; so many Black men have never had the chance.
John: As you go along, say, in your married life, how much are you aware of the fact that you and your wife are different races?
Bruce: Very aware. Society makes us aware of it — within our own home, our own structure, our own house. For the most part I would say it is two people communicating together. However, when we become angry, then many times it becomes a Black/White issue, due to the fact that our cultural differences come into play. I want to do something this way, and Kaaren another way, and we haven't found a way to compromise, so usually what happens is that she has to give in to my way, because I demand it.
John: But then you go outside of the family, into the community, and then you get different communications.
Bruce: Exactly. I would say that we are stronger outside our own family structure than we are when we are inside. We find the necessity to be one, to unite, like fighting against the world, so to speak, outside of the home. When we are in the home it is more relaxed between us and there isn't the necessity to fight the outside world. The people who regard us as friends, accept us for what we are.
John: Do you have a concept of a Black family? What is a Black family? Do you know what you are looking for?
Bruce: To a certain extent. I expect to find many things along the way that I am not even aware of now. Much of it has to do with the fact that I haven't seen many strong Black families because of circumstances that surround the family. I think we will have a chance to produce strong Black families at Browndale.
John: What do you mean by strong?
Bruce: I mean a family that is united, people who can openly talk about and act on anything that may come up. I feel I lacked much in that there were many sensitive areas that my father and I never discussed. He was a Black man who refused to talk about these things because he didn't feel good about being Black. I put the expectation on the kids as well as the staff that we are going to talk about anything. If they want to talk about my marriage, I think we need to talk about that. We don't want the tensions that crop up at times when people are not communicating with one another. I want the children to know that inside the house they are safe; that no matter what happens outside, when they come home they are safe and there are people who are waiting to listen to them, to understand them, to be sensitive to them and to love them. That is what I mean by strong, basically.
John: You weren't thinking of strong in terms of fighting outside, demanding from the community?
Bruce: When it becomes necessary we will act as one.
John: Do you make a big distinction between the deprived, alienated, disenfranchised White and the deprived, alienated, disenfranchised Black?
Bruce: No, I don't make a big distinction. What happens is that a lot of people have a great deal invested in keeping the gap between us. I think once the poor Whites realize that they are in the same boat I am in, that they are in the same shit that I am in, then we can get together. I think that we need to get together. I think ultimately Blacks cannot do it on their own, nor can Whites do it on their own. I think that once we get together and realize why so many have very little and a very few have so much, then it is no longer a question of Black aqainst White but the haves against the have-nots. Then we will see sweeping changes throughout the world. I don't think this is going to come about in my lifetime. But I think it will come about. Before we come to this point, there is going to be a greater polarization between the two communities than exists today.
John: Well, the system will change itself, or be forced to change.
Bruce: It will be forced to change. What we are talking about is a revolution and a revolution is 360 degrees; but, we must realize that every circle comes together at some point and we as people must reach this point and work together.
John: In terms of a more democratic . .
Bruce: In terms of social needs.
John: Right. Fairness, and justice to people.
Bruce: People must understand what we are working with: we have two systems of justice now, one for the poor — poor White and poor Black — and one for the rich. The rich can buy off and appease and pay their way through life; whereas, the poor man doesn't have the resources to do this. He is poor. I would even take it a step further and say that even in justice for poor people, there are two types: one for the poor Whites and one for the poor Blacks.
We can look at transcripts of court cases and realize that there has always been one law for Blacks and one law for Whites. If a Black man and a White man commit the same crime, let's take rape — which is reacted to violently — the Black man is placed "under the jail" whereas the White man is at least placed in the cell.
John: In terms of the relationship to the overall organization, I think, underlying what you have been talking about, is an implication that racism runs deep in the culture and that you are going to find it in all places. You find it in the Browndale treatment centre.
Bruce: Anywhere you are working with people you are going to find racism.
John: It will still be there when your Black house is created and operating. What can you do about the racism that some people maybe aren't even aware of, although there will be some who are.
Bruce: I would like to say, "Well, the hell with them" and just go on and do my thing but I would like to take it a step further than that. I would like to use the Black house as a vehicle to communicate to all the people and try to come to some kind of understanding. People are going to have to be willing to expose themselves. I, too, am going to have to be willing to expose myself to a group of White people, but also they are going to have to be willing to expose themselves to me. Eventually, we must let our defences down, which is very difficult to do. Between any two human beings, then, what naturally comes into play is the Black/White type of thing, which was very evident in my therapy group. It's just like a reflex, because we have been trained that way.
John: What I am trying to get at, in some measure, is the dilemma that you find yourself in. You achieve a Black house, but you are a Black house in a White treatment centre.
Bruce: It goes deeper than that. As a Black man, even the Black people that I work with, say, well he must be compromising somewhere along the line because he is working in a White organization. Is he merely doing this because it is the thing to do? Or is he doing it because it is a genuine interest? This is one thing I have to fight against. Another thing is as long as the Black house is controlled, and it is controlled, we can't fool ourselves and say it is controlled by Black people, because it is not. It is controlled by White people. I hope that that will not always be. My hope is that once we establish our-selves as a meaningful treatment centre, and that is going to take longer than it normally would because of the fact that it is Black, then we will be able to control our own program.
This is what we are talking about: that Black people are going to have to control their own destiny. It is going to be a long struggle and I feel it every day. I feel it when I talk to my staff, I feel it when I talk to people in the organization and many times I don't like being in the position that I am in. I think it would be easier to be a child care staff working under someone else than bearing the brunt of this. Last night I went to bed very angry. I had a meeting with my staff and they were complaining and were very distrustful of me. Kaaren went to bed angrier than myself because she knows me and she knows that the Black house concept is a genuine thing. I feel, though, that the staff have a right to bring this up and I just have to deal with it as it comes up. It is very hard to deal with, though.
John: It is a very natural feeling.
Bruce: I feel that they feel I am compromising, that I am Uncle Toming in a sense. I know this not to be true, yet I don't like being in the position. I think that more people are going to have to put themselves in this kind of position if they hope for any kind of change. We can all sit around and talk about change, talk about how angry we are, and have the bullshit sessions, but, I think, until more people start committing themselves and saying, "Well, O.K., I am going to take a chance," nothing's going to happen. It is very comfortable to sit on the fence; it is very comfortable for Black people to sit on the fence right now because they feel, well, look, I am Black and so many White people say, Oh, that's really nice, since that seems the thing to be. They are not really challenged. It would be good if more White people would challenge Black people and not say, Well, O.K., we are just going to please you. Through challenging on both sides, I think more would come out.
John: So you see the setting up of a Black house as an opportunity to do something? You are not just settling into a comfortable Uncle Tom bracket? Bruce: First of all, it is not a comfortable position. Secondly, I definitely see this as a means to change things, not only in the treatment centre but throughout all communities, both Black and White.
John: Do you think you can hang on to the coalition long enough to develop a Black treatment centre?
Bruce: I think so. I see it as necessary and try to deal with reality as much as possible. That reality being that we need to develop a psychology pertinent to Black people.
John: O.K. Good Luck!