“I knew that my mind could take me anywhere”: psychoanalytic reflections on the dignity of African Americans living in a racist society
This chapter addresses the role clinical psychoanalysis can play when one's experience with race has deleterious effects on one's personal functioning—particularly when such experiences interfere with the rightful claim to one's dignity, self-validation, self-authorisation, and efficacy. Growing up Black in America is inherently perilous in terms of one's dignity since racism by design attempts to reduce one's worth. Historically, slavery was permissible because slaves were not considered human. The chapter explores the psychodynamics of the phenomenon and processes by which Blacks are devalued, and become, in parlance, "othered"—in the extreme meaning other than human, and, therefore, not possessing dignity. It uses a treatment case to show that there are constructive psychoanalytic alternatives to make it possible for patients and ourselves to develop and maintain more secure, supple, and powerful racial identities at the centre of which our dignity is intact.