By Doshon Farad
For several centuries African-Americans have been blessed to hear many brilliant leaders and spokespersons who saw our community’s plight as their personal responsibility. These individuals not only internalized Black suffering but also took on the often very crippling task of relieving it-sometimes at a fatal cost.
Each one added a chapter to the global saga of Black liberation. In essence they all distinguished themselves by focusing on a particular area that they felt was most essential to the liberation of Black people.
For King and Malcolm it was civil and human rights. For Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammad it was social reformation. For Claude Anderson and Ken Bridges it was economics. And for Carter G. Woodson, John Henrik Clarke, Yosef Ben Yochannan, and Chancellor Williams it was history.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, however, made her mark in the area of mental health as it pertains not only to people of Black African descent but to those of white European descent as well. Often referred to as “The Queen Mother of Black Consciousness”, Dr. Welsing helped usher in a new era of Black critical thought as it pertains to the worldwide oppression of Blacks.
Unlike her academic contemporaries such as Drs. John Henrik Clarke, Chancellor Williams, and Yosef Ben Yochannan who provided historical explanations of white supremacy and racism, being a behavioral scientist and practicing psychiatrist allowed Welsing to explain their psychological origins.
In her lectures, writings, and her monumental 1991 book, The Isis Papers, Welsing attempted to prove that global white supremacy and racism were signs of a deeply ingrained psychosis that caused whites to collectively engage in aggression towards non-whites, blacks in particular for over five hundred years. And before that she published her 1970 essay “The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy)” giving her theories on the origins of white supremacy culture in Washington, D.C.
At one point she described racism as: “Racism (White Supremacy) is the local and global power system and dynamic, structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white, whether consciously or subconsciously determined, which consists of patterns of perception, logic, symbol formation, thought, speech, action and emotional response, as conducted simultaneously in all areas of people activity (economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war), for the ultimate purpose of white genetic survival and to prevent white genetic annihilation on planet Earth – a planet upon which the vast majority of people are classified as nonwhite (black, brown, red and yellow) by white skinned people, and all of the nonwhite people are genetically dominant (in terms of skin coloration) compared to the genetic recessive white skin people.”
Now whether you agree with the above description or Welsing’s other often unconventional theories or not-theories that arguably shook the very foundations of Western mental health science- one cannot deny that she caused at least two generations of scholars and activists to rethink their positions on how racism can profoundly affect the psyche of an entire society or group of people.
And despite being lambasted and labeled as a quack by many of her colleagues, she boldly stood her ground and defended her positions literally to the very end, which in turn earned her the respect of many of her other colleagues.
In the early 90s she appeared before the world on Phil Donahue’s show to defend her theories. While being interviewed by Mr. Donahue-as she did while lecturing crowds-she was able to relay them in such very simplistic terms that, although you may not agree with them, would have you thinking and pondering.
I think perhaps Welsing’s brilliance rested in the fact that she was able to take what she learned from white scholars in her field-such as Sigmund Freud- and use it to prove her theories on white racism which in turn ignited a national discussion that is still being held several decades later.
Welsing was the embodiment of the Ethiopian proverb that says “He who learns, teaches.” She skillfully used her platform to attempt to dispel the notions of white superiority while simultaneously attempting to eradicate the long held notions of black inferiority.
And as she constantly proved the horrific affects of racism on the psyche of black people, this caused the youth to be a primary focus of her life’s work. She expressed this many times by asserting, “I won’t rest until Black children are taught to love themselves as themselves.”
Dr. Welsing was able to prove that racism had not only made Black people sick but white people also. As Washington, D.C. poet Bomani Armah recently said of her, “I loved Dr. Francis Cress Welsing because she helped shift the intellectual conversation from ‘What is wrong with black people?’ to ‘What the hell is wrong with white people?”.
Thank you, Dr. Welsing, for your many decades of service to our community. Your brilliant works have immortatilized and enabled you to teach future generations from beyond the grave. Rest in Peace and Freedom.