A Black Psychologist Weighs In On Ferguson

This message is for the adults in and around Ferguson whose intention is to cause unrest as an aftermath of the jury’s decision.

I write this because as a practicing psychologist I want you to know that not all black Americans are in agreement with your actions.

Fifty years have passed since the Civil Rights Act and one hundred more since the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. Still, in the face of unprecedented growth, limitless advancement, and expanding social opportunities for black Americans, you choose to address injustices through the terribly ineffective strategies of fear and violence.  So, in your frustration, you threaten unrest. So what?

One week after the fires are out you will still live in poverty; still not accessing the opportunities that await you, and still choosing to remain uninspired by those who have moved forward. One week after the fires are out your children will still live in dangerous neighborhoods; still largely unsupported and discouraged by role models unwilling to relocate to more nurturing and fruitful grounds. And, one week after the fires are out you will still align with today’s race profiteers who, after more than one hundred and fifty years of struggle and progress, offer little more than words of disharmony to keep you where you are.

I, for one, do not support, on any level, your lack of moving forward

If you, as an individual, believe your neighborhoods are too dangerous, then move. Not to do so is much more than a lack of funds. And you know it. For many, what needs to be enriched are not pockets, but souls and spirits. Truly!

If your family history is anything like most of the black Americans I know, fifty or more years ago members of your family moved away from the cradle of slavery and toward freedom and increased opportunities. With very little resources, these people completed their portion of your family’s journey toward freedom and respect. Now may be the time for you to complete your portion of the journey.

The ‘Hood – whether we’re talking about Harlem, East St. Louis, Compton, North Philly, Ferguson, or any of the other too numerous black population centers – is not some sort of homeland to be protected and preserved. It has always been and should continue to be just a stop along the way. If you don’t like the living conditions there, then move. And if you don’t want to move, then don’t complain.

These words are not to offer excuse or forgiveness to those people who unjustly victimize our children.

No true citizen of the United States should be pleased with any pattern of racial profiling. Rather, these words are designed to give you pause, as a free-thinking and self-determining individual, to ponder your place in your family’s history. In order to move forward with our lives, sometimes we have to look in the mirror and ask some hard questions.

What keeps you, AS AN INDIVIDUAL, tied to places that we know are destructive of minds, bodies, and souls?

Are you, AS AN INDIVIDUAL, doing what you need to do to complete your family’s journey toward increased freedom and opportunities?

Have you, AS AN INDIVIDUAL, truly run your leg of the race, or are you standing on the sidelines holding hands with those who refuse to run the race?

Irrespective of how you answer those questions, know this for sure:

• Not every black person is rolling with you. In fact, many of us DO NOT and WILL NOT support your short-sighted and ill-conceived way of addressing problems.

• Increasingly, you are being seen as the fringe of the black community; not as those who are “keeping it real”, but as those who are attempting to hold, as emotional hostage, their advancing brethren and the nation as a whole.

• The Advancement isn’t coming to your neighborhood. You have to seek out your higher destiny. That means if you want more than the ‘Hood for yourself and your family, then you have to exist beyond the ‘Hood. You have to move out—away from the racial and cultural isolation that is so pervasive there. What you seek is simply not in the ‘Hood’. It never has been, and it never will be.


Dr. James Davison, Jr. is an African-American licensed psychologist and university professor. He conducts a private practice in Seattle, Washington, and has appeared on several nationally-aired programs including The Phil Donahue Show, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and C-SPAN. Dr. Davison hails from Philadelphia, and is the author of several books - Prisoners Of Our Past and Sweet Release - related to individuality and personal freedom for African-Americans.