Are Black People Crazy . . . . . or What?



By Na’im Akbar, Ph. D.
Clinical Psychologist (Retired)
Special to the Outlook

There are several psychological factors that seem to correspond with the decline of many “crazy” and self-destructive factors in African-American communities. Two of these factors are “self-awareness” and “self-respect.” There is evidence that we can predict the degree to which we become dangerously self-destructive by the prominence or decline of these factors. We can then regulate the likelihood of self-help by the presence of these psychological factors. In this brief series, we are going to take a look at these factors and what can possibly be done to facilitate healing in our communities. Even though the target of concern in these articles is the African-American community, these factors are just as relevant to other similarly affected communities of people.


Another indicator that insanity is on the increase is the level of disrespect the people show and feel about themselves. Greed and materialism sets us up for another attack of “Crazy”. In our recent history, we were most sane when we proudly and unashamedly proclaimed: “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL” or even James Brown sang with gusto “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
These were proclamations of the dignity of our human beauty cast in a corrective language where the color black had been used to dehumanize us. This high point of sanity became sabotaged by the onslaught of materialism and greed that drove us outside of ourselves looking for value rather than inside where it originates. When we proclaimed this inner beauty, it was not an attempt to de-value the humanity in others but to affirm the value in ourselves.
The creeping monster of insanity began to creep in as we became intoxicated by the materialism that began to make us America’s most gullible consumers with little interest in production. We began to define our worth and value by fashions, fads and flair and before long we were shooting each other down in the streets to take their designer sneakers or over-priced “starter jackets.” What began as a declaration of sanity became a decline into insanity.



The merchants, media and marketers began to seduce us with designer’s names and over-priced merchandise. Our high achievers who excelled in our periods of sanity were used to parade their human gifts, and were seduced into becoming dummies (manikins) that paraded and displayed commercial affluence. Those who had used our hands to pick their cotton now used our emancipated skills to create a modern enslavement to cars, furs, jewelry, shoes, and clothes while they continued to gain wealth at our expense.
Our self-respect got kidnapped by a frantic rush for “things” rather than human dignity and achievement. It wasn’t long before self-respect became the owner of an “AK-47” used to kill another “Brotha” and prove ones greater worth imitating the distorted notions of achievement from a mentally enslaving media.
Soon our pants were sagging below our knees to display our media produced “tattoos” and designer underwear. Female beauty rapidly grew to become who could take off the most clothes and wear the shortest shorts to prove her self-worth from “gangsta” caricatures that were mass-produced on music videos for our consumption.
The constant death, mayhem and competition such as the “Housewives of Atlanta” became the models that created the unreal expectation that death by gunfire and destruction of our dignity was the prize to be won and competed for. The media became increasingly mobile and more seductive from “iPhones” to “TV” screens larger than the walls in apartments that we lived in.
As the commercialism grew so did the insanity and so did the death and self-respect because more elusive and hard to obtain as we increasingly looked for it in all the wrong places.
The gorgeous natural hair styles increasingly became “weaves” of imported hair from any part of the world except the African origin that dignified ourselves with colors that do not even occur in nature.
It wasn’t long before we had displays of achieving Black women snatching weaves out of each other’s heads while the search for inner worth declined. The consequence is a generation that competes to fail rather than to succeed. We have young people who will kill for flashing a “gang sign,” wearing a “gang color” or being on the wrong side of town. We have reached a new level of self destructive insanity.