Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Healing the Rupture & Extending the Splendor: Black Psychologists Confront the `Maafa'

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Healing the Rupture & Extending the Splendor: Black Psychologists Confront the `Maafa'

Article excerpt

Healing the Rupture & Extending the Splendor: Black Psychologists. Confront the 'Maafa'

by Malik Shabazz

Washington, DC -- In 1968, during the climate of racial polarization, punctuated by alienation from mainstream psychologists, four African Americans, including current National President Wade Nobles, created the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi).

Today, ABPsi is 1,300-members strong and remains at the forefront of addressing the crucial mental health and health issues facing individuals of African descent worldwide. Under the leadership of Dr. Nobles, the ABPsi, similar to the Sankofa bird, is looking back at its African heritage, while moving forward. In his address to the group during the recent 26th Annual National Conference where Nobles was installed in an authentic African ceremony, he spoke of "Healing the Rupture [of the African Diaspora] and extending the splendor," of the African spirit.

He also discussed the need for analyzing the "Maafa" -- a term coined by Donna Miramba Mitchell, author of "Yurugu" and "Let the Circle be Unbroken" -- which Noble defined as "a great disaster...an unbelievable misfortune of death and destruction that is beyond human comprehension and convention...whose essential component was and is the denial of the validity of the humanity of the African."

Said Noble: "The African Maafa gave license to the continual perpetuation of a total systematic and organized process of spiritual and physical destruction of African people ... understanding this is key for the process of healing many of the negative mental and health related pathologies now affecting Africans across the globe."

Psychology and Racism

Most scientists agree that human behavior is the root of the majority of the world's problems, and addressing these behavior-rooted problems is ostensibly what the field of psychology is about. However, according to Dr. Haleford Fairchild, editor of ABPsi's monthly publication Psych Discourse, psychology has an ugly heritage of racism, and in many cases, continued to build upon earlier racist assumptions regarding African peoples. "In other words, this whole notion of racism," said Fairchild, "and the idea that Black people are inferior people and therefore in a sense deserving of slavery, discrimination and neglect, is a product of the social sciences -- and psychology is deeply implicated in that process." Fairchild pointed to the promulgation of theories by "racists" such as William Shockley and Arthur Jensen, who, during the 1960s, advocated mass sterilization of African Americans.

For Ben Nolan, one of the few African-American clinical psychologists, the de-humanization of African Americans through racist theories of inferiority played a major part in his decision to enter the field of psychology and join the ABPsi.

"I felt like I really wanted to come into the field to look at those issues around intellect," he said. Heavily influenced by the writings of Algerian author and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, Nolan felt there was "a need for a definition of clinical psychology and clinical work that met the needs of African American people."

As the ABPsi enters its 27th year of existence, many of the same issues regarding the question of Black intelligence which prompted the creation of the organization, have re-emerged through such media as "The Bell Curve," written by Charles Murray and the late Harvard professor Richard J. …

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