A new way of thinking is required to assess whether offensive language afflicts the psyche (Egyptian for “soul”) of struggling Black American youth. Ordinary evaluations are inadequate because the subject is in chaos; the subject possesses many hidden recesses; and the subject’s components are beyond the scope of the “Objective ” Scientific Method. To the end of getting around these problems, and to remove barriers to insights concerning causes and effects, and to design a new paradigm for management, this article focuses on five major points.
First is discussing the Subjective Realm of Ancient African Tradition so as to spotlight standards against which the effects of offensive language can be compared. Second is reviewing how offensive language arose in Africa and then mushroomed when Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves. Third is classifying offensive language and outlining how it is displayed in “The Streets.” Fourth is speculating on how offensive language afflicts Black’s psyche and self-esteem. Fifth is proposing over-simplified methods for reversing presumed psyche afflictions. Despite the inability to ever prove or disprove the propositions contained herein, they still serve as “workable” tools for assessing and managing problems of an offensive language nature
Observation, the most basic process of Science, began when the earliest Africans “took note” of their natural disasters and what was seen, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled inside their daily surroundings. Building on this information, Very Ancient Africans conceived of different planes of Cosmic existence- i.e. the Immaterial (e.g. the “heavens” and the Ocean of Nun); the Intangible (the Sublime); and the Tangible (the material planes), Next, they developed the Subjective (the Intangible and Immaterial Realms) and Objective (Tangible) Sciences. In its broadest sense, the word “Science” (Latin, scire, “to know”) denotes a system that follows a set of rules within experience, reflection, and/or experimentation so that one knows that one knows.
“Objective” Science evolved in Tangible realms as sharper observations gave rise to more specific inferences; then to reasonable generalizations; then to pertinent hypotheses; then to testing for evidence; then to verifying for proof; and then to grafting upon proof static concepts and materials for practical distribution. These were probably the steps followed by the Egyptians when they formalized and thereby originated (between 2000 and 1500 BCE) a six step Scientific Method (Sertima, 1976).
“Subjective” Science was created by Ancient Africans to acquire whatever was needed to reach the heaven Afterlife. Its essence, as found in African Creation Mythology, was revealed to Sages by higher powers. The Ocean of Nun was deemed a Unity/Oneness transition because it represents the body of God (a Unity); contains no objects; consists of a dual nature of Consciousness/Will and Energy/Matter; and possesses an infinite variety of Potential Possibilities (a Oneness) destined to be expressed within the Tangible world (Amen, 1990). When that moment of expression occurs, an Archetype (‘seed’) appears for a given creature group or a given creation group- say a human being or a tree. By deriving out of the Nun (i.e. out of the body of God), all Archetypes and their respective offspring creatures and creations are spiritually related, no matter how remote in time or space. This is called the Law of Sympathy.
Meanwhile, to gain insight into how God organized the Cosmos and the creatures and creations inside it, Very Ancient African priest-astronomers studied the stars and planets. By means of astro-mathematics, they developed Subjective Realm laws for use as standards against which all spiritual assessments are to be made. Around (?) 5500 BC these laws and standards were crystallized by the Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus (Tehuti, Thoth, Tout, Tehuty or Djehwty) into Seven Principles (Three Initiates, 1940).
Pertinent here is the Principle of Correspondence: “As above, so below; as below, so above.” It embodies the truth that there is always conformity between the laws and phenomena of the various existence planes of Being and Life. Thus, by understanding the known, African Sages could infer (by Deductive and Inductive reasoning) much that would otherwise be unknowable (Three Initiates, 1940). In other words, they used this “Pre-scientific Method” (e.g. observations of the Tangible) to explain the unknown and the unseen above the Material planes (i.e. within Sublime and Immaterial Realms).
To study other aspects of the Subjective World, Ancient Africans perfected the basic tools of Observation, Reflection, “Pure” Feelings, Productive Imagination, Contemplation, Inductive and Deductive Inferences, and Common Sense. Despite only providing a glimpse into the speaker’s personality, system of values, and significant concerns and desires, the “Pre-scientific Method’s” approaches and methods applied to the Subjective Sciences can be workably modified for studying offensive language.
In addressing the question: “What are the spiritual, mental, social, and physical afflictions caused by offensive language?” this article provides background concepts and definitions for key terms; offers comments designed to remove barriers to understanding; and presents ideas intended to fashion a new paradigm for thought – a paradigm based upon Ancient Africans ‘ “Wholistic” Law of Sympathy. Similar to a string in a fishnet being essential to the integrity of the entire fishnet, each of God’s creatures and creations are interdependent and essential to the Cosmos’ integrity.
Defining Key Concepts
Offensive language is socially and/or morally unacceptable public expressions of generally familiar words, gestures, or behavioral symbols. Whereas its personal meanings derive from an individual’s private mental world, its effects on Afrocentric people conceivably range from none to as high as mystical realms. Although offensive language is present in every culture and is engaged in by people on every rung of the social ladder and although it conceivably corrodes and erodes the inner worlds of most people, the focus of the discussion to follow is strictly limited to Struggling or Inner City or Ghetto Black American youth. Although the Italian term “Ghetto” strikes a nerve with some Blacks, it is preferred here and without any derogatory connotations.
Centuries ago, “ghetto” designated local European cultural areas that had arisen over time- either built up by the most disadvantaged people or involuntarily enforced. As a result, “ghetto” came to suggest a “special” (“out of the ordinary run of events”) nature of its environment. A metaphorical “ghetto” creation is a “tunnel” linking conditions of the African American slave quarters with those of today’s inner cities. These conditions- with its complex, difficult, innumerable, and overwhelming social, biological, philosophical, psychological, spiritual, economic, physical, and Selfhood turmoil- generate “Special” Minds in struggling Black Americans.
“Special” Minds are dominated more by philosophical disorganization than by psychological burdens. Also, they are set apart from psychiatric disorders, low self-esteem, or low intelligence – none of which are present in the overwhelming majority of struggling Black people. “Special” Minds are characterized by extreme difficulties, if not an inability, for afflicted individuals to take advantage of what is available around them or what might be offered to them in the form of money, property, education, direction, opportunities, or employment. Besides being filled with chronic frustration, “Special” Minds possess no harmony in constructive thought; no direction; no information pushing them toward enlightenment; and no peer pressure, role models, or sub-cultural patterns motivating them to want to change for the better.
Furthermore, ghetto conditions and their associated turmoil cause many to feel ashamed, demeaned, depressed, unimportant, and unwanted by society at large. This translates into a lack of “ownership” of their own (or any) community; attitudes leading to destruction; and “being about nothing.” Chronic anger super-imposed on chronic frustration perpetuates offensive language. From the long-standing deprivations, losses, and obstructions that create “Special” Minds come “different” self-defeating patterns of dunking and varied forms of self-defeating behaviors. Together they account for fragmented subcategories within “Special” mental afflictions.
Assessing Barriers to Insights
There are several barriers hindering the study of offensive language. Being a subjective subject whose expression is public and whose cause reflects one’s disturbed inner thoughts and emotions necessitates that assessments occur on highly abstract planes of existence. Although the background for discussing offensive language properly starts with Ancient African philosophical values, an obvious first problem concerns acceptable interpretations of their specific religious, social, and personal philosophies (Bailey, jablifeskills. com). Even knowledgeable Black authorities often do not agree as to which philosophies or values are pertinent and foundational.
Outside difficulties result from many Ancient African concepts being unknown to or misinterpreted by the Eurocentric Mind; being hazy or foreign to the Afrocentric Mind; and/or being hard to accept (e.g. transcendental memory transmissions) by most peoples of the world. Each of these contributes to huge gaps in understanding the complete truth concerning Ancient Africans’ highest and most enduring system of values. Then there is the tremendous problem of the varying and often emotional opinions erupting from today’s interested individuals about the premise upon which any significant Afrocentric discussion is to be based. Examples include whether Ancient Africans had a monolithic or polylithic society; whether they were a unified people; whether they had a common “group mind” philosophy of life; and whether they believed in multiple gods and/or one universal high God. The following two comments are in keeping with my research on these questions.
First, Williams (1975) persuasively made a profound statement that interweaved Ancient Africans’ religion, philosophy, and social structure. He said:
One of the most significant developments in the entire history of the black race [was] an ancient system of democracy (existing before Greece)… it evolved from a continent-wide constitution that governed the whole African people as a single race. . ..The constitutional principles and practices were held on to and carried by the migrating Blacks to every part of the African continent. . .. Even those societies that sank to barbarism held on to the fundamentals age after age as though they were clutching the last threads of life itself. Even in Egypt, where the Asian and European impact was greatest, African constitutionalism could not be completely blotted out. (P. 26)
Second, according to The Kybalion (Three Initiates, 1940), during the early days of the oldest dynasties of Egypt- and actually much before that- the concept of a one Universal High God was emphasized. The Egyptian Hermes’ (?5500 BC) said everything in the Universe springs from God’s mind; whatever is contained in God’s spirit is loving; and whatever is void of God’s spirit is unreal. Ancient Africans thought the spirit of God or “life force” (symbolized by the African Ankh) present in all real things was “a kind of individualized fragment of the Supreme Being (Bennett, 1988, P. 24) Therefore the “Ufe force” presence in humans formed the Highest or Divine Self- the image of God- the “soul.”
Ashby (2002) states that from the remotest times of Egypt there has been the implication that the Supreme Being and the Human Soul are identical; that the two are in union; and, regarding religion, that those of Ancient Egyptians and other African peoples followed close parallels. As a result of these “cornerstone concepts,” Ancient Africans believed they were made in the image of God; that all God’s creatures were spiritually related; and every human had the duty to show harmony and unity through fellowship; through a sense of community; and through a respect for each of God’s creatures and creations.
With respect to the polylithic or monolithic issue, my position is that Ancient Africans had, for tens of thousands of years, a monolithic religion (a uniformed continent-wide belief in God as the Supreme Creator) and many polylithic societies (diversified languages, physical attributes, and customs). In other words, a common philosophical frame surrounded them as a people ~a frame penetrating deeply into each of the individualized polylithic societies. One ‘soft’ support for this opinion is Asante7 saying that throughout Africans’ existence “…their particular histories are distinct but their general history is the same.” Another prop is that after studying nearly three hundred peoples from all over Africa, Mbiti(1969) found, without a single exception, that they had a notion of God as the Supreme Being.
Ancient Africans’ Creation of Offensive Language
Out of Ancient Africans’ God-centered system of values evolved certain words, names, and beliefs about Good and Evil. The decreasing priority order of name importance was God (at the top); the pantheon of lesser gods and goddesses, identified sometimes with terrestrial objects (Bennett, 1988); the spirits of humans who died long ago; and the living humans (Ashby, 2002; Mbiti, 1969) Things “offensive” (“to strike against”) to Africans included evil magic and violations of the humane, the loving, the lovable, the peaceful, the harmonious, the Unified, the Real, the Truth, the family, the Beautiful, and the Good.
Since Ancient Africans believed the power of curses and obscene gestures lay in their magic, words considered as fear-producing or “forbidden” or “unspeakable” took on the characteristics of the things they stood for (Mbiti, 1969) – i.e. “the word becomes what it is declared to be.” This is important because in my experience many Black people to this day believe in the magical powers of curses and obscene gesturesand these individuals are quite susceptible to psychic afflictions from offensive language.
In order to possess a solid relation with God, to maintain fellowships, and to fight evil deeds, Africans devised many laws, customs, regulations, rules, observances, taboos, and set forms of behavior (Mbiti, 1969; Hayakawa, 1964; Bailey, 2007). These were incorporated into their original continent-wide constitution. For example, one form of Ancient African justice was administered through curses- and curses were greatly feared by all Africans. Casting a potential curse on crime suspects would typically cause the guilty to confess. Thus, police and jails were unnecessary.
Like “witchcraft” and the “evil eye,” curses also helped keep in check those who otherwise might engage in bad relationships, possess bad values, demonstrate bad behaviors, or spew disrespectful and offensive expressions (Mbiti, 1969). To display obscene gestures was permissible for counteracting or preventing the effects of evil words or the “evil eye” of a dreaded individual. Otherwise, up to the time of their capture by Europeans, Africans tended not to use offensive language or gestures for fear of the “boomerang” effectthe concept
of “what goes around comes around”- in the sense of evil sent out comes back to the sender as greater evilness.
of “what goes around comes around”- in the sense of evil sent out comes back to the sender as greater evilness.
African-American Slavery’s Offensive Words
The enslavement of Africans by Europeans and their transportation to the Americas reduced the mental functioning level of the vast majority of slaves to that of primal self-preservation. The deliberate “divide and conquer” methods (e.g. fear and envy) used by the captors against the slaves resulted in inter-slave group dissention and self-defeating fragmentation of Black Power. By being abruptly and completely cut off from family, neighbors, friends, relations, customs, traditions, language, and destination in life; by being renamed and maliciously labeled; by being brainwashed into a delusional state; by being treated as subhuman chattel; and by being machine-gunned daily with verbal “bullets” containing false messages of their inferiority and worthlessness- most slaves came to possess the sense and the feeling of being cursed by supernatural spirits. This sense helped disorganize their sound African worldview.
At the same time, the mushrooming of offensive language in the Americas began during the early eighteenth century. European convicts, especially from the British Isles, were released early from prison upon agreeing to go immediately to the Americas. By taking jobs on slave ships and on plantations as overseers, they easily and freely imparted their criminal underworld slang language on to the slaves (Spears, 1981)- language consisting of violent, malicious, and belittling words – language reflecting aggression, distrust, and suspicion. In fact, a deliberate aim of their brainwashing methods was to ensure that those same offensive and rebellious verbal weapons be used by the slaves to attack each other and for self-attacks (Bailey, 2006).
For reasons given in the 1712 Letter of Willie Lynch (Bailey, 2006) slave vocabularies were deliberately limited by the captors to about a hundred words, with many being of an offensive nature. Wiping out the language of the enslaved Africans (who each spoke twelve or so foreign languages or dialects at the time of their capture) helped wipe out their effective and efficient thinking abilities. In addition, to reinforce the ridiculous White superiority/Black inferiority myth, the captors’ willing and actual sadistic use of the whip and the gun constantly reminded the slaves that Whites had the power; that the slaves were helpless; and that the slaves dared not question their authority or express contrary opinions (Chapman, 1986). The realities of a worldview in disarray; of almost total hopelessness; and of daily despair made it an easy next step for brainwashed slaves to internalize evil messages and thereby form a delusional mindset.
These mindsets, the slaves’ terrible work situations and customs, and the learned inter-group verbal hostilities (among others) were culturally tunneled through the “Ghetto Tunnel’- and on into today’s descendente of these slaves. Always surrounding, supporting, reinforcing, adding to, and maintaining this “Ghetto Tunnel” were (and are) chronic racism; problematic thinking skills (especially a lack of foresight and forethought); lack of jobs; poverty; inner and outside hostilities; Slave Survivals (handed down slave generated self-destructive and self-defeating thoughts, emotions, and beliefs); word deprivation (a tiny vocabulary that failed to be expanded and is checkered with repetitive offensive language); and vicious cycle behaviors.
Today’s Black American Verbal Weapons
What we see in today’s struggling Black American youth is a combination of the way Ancient Africans applied offensive language; the way the slaves were taught; and the way the slaves used it within the context of their horrible Maafa experiences. During transmission through the “Ghetto Tunnel” some offensive word meanings were modified, expanded, or reversed- as illustrated in the evolution of the “N” word (e.g. who uses the word “nigger” and with what meaning and under what conditions). Apart from these changes, today’s verbal weapons are generically defined in (Table I).
First, “blasphemy ” is the attempt to harm the reputation of God directly (as by irreverence) or indirectly (as in disrespecting any of God’s creatures or creations). In addition, abusive language directed against God indicates a disconnection from God.
Second, “profanity” is disrespecting whatever a person holds as sacred. The sacred may consist of objects or ideas treated with reverence and awe – e.g. an alter; a prayer; or religious beliefs, legends, and myths. Sacredness is not a property inherent in an object but rather the belief of the beholder that it derives from some supernatural power (located between God and humans) or directly from God.
Third, “cursing” is based on child-like magical thinking- thoughts about unrealistic things bringing about changes in reality. To “curse”- verbally, silently, or by gesture – is to call on spirit forces to cast a “spell” designed to produce harm, misfortune, a catastrophe; or to bind or weaken the intended victim. By refusing to acknowledge, by de-glorifying, by disowning, or by failing to forgive another out of anger carries the same intention as desiring to place that person in an inescapable trap – or at least ensuring a reduction of the cursed person’s sense of importance.
Fourth, “swearing” beckons God to witness the truth of a statement. It becomes offensive and blasphemous if that statement is false or creates problems for others or is said hypocritically or done because one is forced to do so out of self-interest.
Fifth, “obscenities” consist of offensive words, gestures, or relationships that arouse disgust, filth, or repulsiveness because of their lewd, foul, and crude attacks on decency and Goodness. What was deemed “obscene” stimulated outrage in Ancient Africans because they believed it to deliver an ill-omen; to have evil powers in and of itself; or to have the ability to cast a spell on a thing. Today, a common example of “disgust” relates to topics of excretion, reproduction, or pornography.
Sixth, “vulgarities” pertain to indecent expressions. Such coarse and violent talk, characterizing the ignorant and the angry, points to a lack of good taste-and a lack of good taste (e.g. picking your nose at the dinner table) can be offensive to some.
Seventh, “malicious name-calling” was very significant to Ancient Africans. An individual’s birth name, thought to spring from the supernatural world, was said to describe who the newborn was as a person; to possess the power to fight the forces of evil; to be a protector in life; to command and control certain problems; and to help shape one’s self-concept and self-esteem (Asante, 1988; DeLys, 1996; Bailey, 2006). The malicious assignment of a “bad” name or using one’s name improperly or cursing one’s name constituted violations of one’s spiritual beliefs. Rumors said it adversely affected the health, the spirits, and the life of the victim or the victim’s close relatives (Mbiti, 1996; Schlauch, 1955). Residuals of these old beliefs persist.
Eighth, “maledictions” (“a speaking evil of), as in slandering through gossip, is done by the envious or the mean. Others use it to exert social pressure on the victim by means of “punishment” through isolation from the group or ostracism by the group.
Today’s Foul Language Users
A major premise of this article is that the habit of using offensive language by those slaves with “Special” Minds (“not happening as usual”) has been culturally transmitted though the Ghetto Tunnel and contributes to the lifestyle of today’s most frequent foul language users. An over-simplification is to place those users into the “Big Three” groups. Anderson (2002) subdivides poor inner-city Black communities into a “Decent” and a much smaller “Street” society. Personal experience causes me to insert the Transitional Group between the “Baddest Dudes of the Streets” on one end of the scale and the “decent” youth on the opposite end (Anderson, 2002).
The “Decent” residents are quite intelligent and eager to learn; are oriented to mainstream society values that promote hard work, self-reliance, and respect for authority; are often church-goers; are believers that life is precious; and will do well if given half a chance. Still, their survival necessitates being able, in a streetoriented confrontational environment, to “manfully” handle themselves-typically starting with verbal masks and masquerades. When they get into trouble, it is usually the result of having done what they see fit in order to defend their “manhood respect”- and not from some gross character flaw. Speaking bad words is not a fixed habit.
“Street” youth place “respect” at the core of their system of values. Their purpose in life is aimed at gaining, maintaining, and adding to “respect”- or at least not losing any of it. They are at war with any who fail to give them respect or who try to take it away. They copycat White gangsters. For many residents of this Ghetto environment, offensive language can be an effective indicator of a willingness and/or readiness to engage in physical aggression, even over such nebulous things as “territory,” “status,” and “rights.” Since “respect” from society at large has never been part of the Black American experience and since it is so scarce in the Ghetto, there are continual “testosterone fights” to either grab “power respect” (mainly by “Street” youth) or to prevent losing their “manhood” command appearance (by “Decent” youth).
Transitional Black youth positioned on the midrange scale of offensive language involvement are burdened with complex mental factors. By having a need to be in control of any thing, they tend to participate in foul language usage at every stage mentioned below (Table II). When challenged, bad words are the only non-physical weapon available. Common is blasphemy, profanity, cursing, malicious name-calling, and maledictions (a sort of homemade defilement). Also, offensive language and offensive behaviors may be reflections of their “Spiritual pain.” Others use it to get momentary relief from their afflicted psyche, as through bullying scapegoats; through self-destruction; and/or through destruction of others or their property.
In short, the “Big Three” groups share “manhood,” respect, and self-esteem “specialness” issues in common. “Manhood” and “respect” issues require displays of a certain amount of violence to convey the message of being able to take care of oneself. Those who do this best and therefore command great respect are the “Baddest Dudes of the Streets” (Anderson, 2000, P. 203; Bailey, 2006) Their features consist of having no fear of dying; no fear any man; and no hesitation in killing someone “for no reason.” Lacking any constraints, rules, or moral conscience, their emotional impulses can lead to violent behaviors or at least to regrettable behaviors. The offensive language attacks of “Street” and Transitional members often cause needless lifelong estrangements; victimization of the community; fighting; homicide; or suicide.
Self-esteem, in its most complete state, is the summary judgment of everything a person can assess about him/herself (Bailey, 2003; Bailey, 2003; Bailey, 2004; Bailey, 2005). Those judgments concern: (1) who one is as a person (i.e. one’s philosophy of life and character); (2) what one does in life (i.e. one’s tangible and/ or intangible work products regarding people, nature, objects, or oneself); (3) what one has in life (i.e. one’s inherited, developed, or acquired qualities and quantities); (4) the different levels of how one appears (i.e. one’s physical body, personality, and reputation); and (5) to whom or to what one is attached (e.g. God, a dynamic concept, an esteemed person or group, money, possessions, or power).
“Special” self-esteem, rather than implying low self-esteem, is the use of ones self-assessment in unusual ways. Whereas the mask and masquerade for a flawed self-esteem may be a superiority complex (a façade of arrogance showing as a reality of aggression to mask a sense of inferiority), the mask and masquerade for a “special” self-esteem may be a “turtle-like” withdrawal or some type of camouflage. As it was among the slaves, both are quite common among today’s struggling Black youth.
Human Beings’ Transcendental Bonds
“Cosmic Sympathy Bonds” are those present inside the Law of Sympathy – i.e. invisible ‘silver cords’ (as Ancient Africans called them) which connect all God’s creations and creatures. Perhaps they are like nerve synapses. Examples include bonds within “Epic Memories”7 (an interplay between what ancestors did and what their offspring do); within the Collective Unconscious (bonds between archetypes of experiences or of original ancestors); within the African Mantu (dead ancestors influencing the living); and within the Afrocentric Mystic Memory. Each of their bonds are said to contain timeless and space-less information about all societal things past, present, and whatever is essential for making sound predictions to better the future (Watson, 1991).
Put another way, the term “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds” specifically refer to the invisible connection between the individual(s) and God as well as the invisible connections between one individual and another individual(s). Personal mystical strivings and having good relations with and good behaviors towards other people and towards nature were means designed by Ancient Africans to repair, strengthen, and increase in numbers their “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds.” For achieving these objectives, Ancient African people fashioned what is now called the Afrocentric Mystic Memory-a concept related to expanding and spreading Love and to attaining Wisdom.
The Afrocentric Mystic Memory bond components consist of a “sender, ” a transmitter, and a receiver (Bailey, 2007). When each Ancient African villager put forth similar and significant amounts of time, effort, practices, and sincerity into their mystical strivings, mystical beliefs, and good character work products, they formed a “group spirit” and a “group mind” of Goodness and Truth that was capable of helping them reach the heaven Afterlife. This means their thoughts and feelings were in the flow of Universal Energy and thereby enabled them to transcend ( “to climb across “- the over-reaching of human mental limitations) into the Sublime.
The Sublime is a place said by Ancient African Sages to be located just below the sky – an atmosphere of “the Ether,” Love, and Goodness springing from “the heavens” – a place above and beyond all categories of thought and duality, time and space (Moyers, 1988). Positioned inside the Sublime are “Thought Clouds” (Ramacharaka, 1904, P. 77), which contain the messages generated by the “senders”- messages vibrating at the same rate of speed as that of “the Ether.”3 These Sublime “Thought Clouds”- now acting as “transmitters”- serve to convey Good Character messages of the “senders” into the “receivers.”
The “receivers” are the psyche of Afrocentric people who are anywhere in the world and at any point in time. A given “receiver” has a “free will” choice to accept or reject any mystic memory message. However, by “tuning in,” each Black person receives messages concerning the highest practical values of their Ancient African ancestors- messages about what is the morally “right” and the best thing to do for fashioning harmony and unity for the most people and over the longest period of time.
Stages of Foul Language Usage
The frequency, duration, depth, scope, height, and setting of offensive language is likely to play a role in the overall destructive effect of “loaded” bad labels applied to and/or internalized by Black youth. This is especially true when bad labels are super-imposed on compromised pre-existing psychological mindsets. Examples of non-label factors include being attacked in public and thereby carrying more significance than if done in private. The impact may be harder if the attack comes from an enemy, a loved one, or a stranger. The blow is usually devastating if one is attacked “as a person” rather than for what one did; or when one had done ones best, despite the outcome.
Even if something said is not actually offensive, a non-loving or harsh tone can have psyche penetration and perfusion, especially for children and for hyperemotional adults. The depth of attack is increased by skillful timing in speech delivery or if the victim is in a state of emotional vulnerability at that particular moment. An attack is more likely to “stick” if the victim believes it contains a kernel of truth. Those lacking experience in defending against being attacked or those not prepared with immediate counter-attacks when attacked will probably feel the attack deeper and longer, particularly if they are of a young age chronologically or immature or “gullible.”
Nevertheless, how foul language is used and what it is used for can be subdivided into stages (Table II). When the “Descent” Group resorts to offensive language it is usually for reasons related to Stage I (habit), Stage II (fellowship), Stage III (tension relieving), or Stage V (a competitive contest done in fun). For “Street” youth it is likely to be Stages IV, VI, and VII. The Transitional Group may engage in any of the stages but more often follow that of the “Descent” Group.
Stage I is the habitual use of foul language from never having acquired the vocabulary or the socially accepted skills for expressing disturbing thoughts or emotions.29
Stage II is using foul language to establish and/ or maintain a friendly relationship and identification with peers.
Stage III is using foul language as a way of relieving built-up emotional tensions – whether from chronic anger, chronic emotional pain, chronic frustration, or chronic despair (as from not being able to cultivate ones talents).
Stage IV is the use of foul language on a scapegoat.
Stage V is “one-upmanship” or “gamesmanship” usage of foul language whereby skill and style are the wedges for gaining a verbal advantage over one’s opponent. An example is “signifying” (said to be rooted in the mythic African folklore figure of “Esu, ” the trickster) and built upon the concept of amusing and clever verbal traps. The “winner” gains respect.
Stage VI is the calling on of some supernatural power to participate in the dispersing of evil deeds.31
Stage VII is malicious verbal attacks aimed at opening up old psychological scars, enlarging upon the victim’s existing self-esteem or mental sanity vulnerability, and irritating existing open psychological wounds. Such vulnerability and scars often reflect “survival” patterns from slavery or from the post slavery period. Or, they may result from vicarious experiences related to “bad” things that happened to Black American ancestors or to present loved ones. Or they may result from personal traumatic experiences, or from distorted perceptions of those experiences. Or, they may result from “Spiritual” pain Bailey, 2007). A sado-masochistic affliction may be part of this.
Speculations on “Psyche Afflictions”
Flawed “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds” refer to disturbed, separated, or destroyed “sympathy synapses.” So how does this happen? The answer starts by stepping behind psyche afflictions to speculate on how information arriving in ones head reaches the psyche. Outside or inner world information coming into the brain causes the brain to somehow set up processes for “casting” or “molding” mental states. By inference, ones mental contents can similarly interface with ones “soul.” To infer from that inference, ones “soul” can interface with higher powers.
As previously discussed, since universal harmony (and also Love) is ever present, “life forces” of the Immaterial and Intangible worlds flow into all parts of the material world – into things like spirits, humans, animals, vegetables, and minerals (Bennett, 1988; Asante, 1990; Watson, 1991; Ramacharaka, 1904; Bailey, 2007). Specifically, “life forces” originating from God’s Mind are in constant interaction with ones Real Self “soul/ mind” interface. When these “Cosmic Sympathy Bond” channels are open, “life forces” flow into the mind and produce Contentment and Wisdom.
But, when these channels are closed (and thereby block the Love “life force” flow into, inside, or out of the mind) and when thoughts springing out of the Brain/ Mind interface are disharmonious and/or if the feeling tone is unpleasant, then the mind is as irritable as an inflamed nerve. Such mind irritability ‘bleeds’ pus-like expressions that “Afflict” -and this can be caused by offensive language. The biblical word “Afflict” (“to dash distress upon”) refers to a human psyche condition more broad in scope, more deep in penetration, more profound in effect, more enduring throughout life, and more resistant to cure than either grief, violently wounded emotions, or torment.
Let us now turn our attention to a more complete discussion of the causes and nature of offensive language effects. In general, the benefits or advantages derived from expletive language usage, if any, are momentary and superficial. By contrast, their disadvantages vary in the degree of mental, spiritual, physical, and/or social destruction that one allows to happen. Here, perhaps offensive language of a “big bang” magnitude or of a repetitive nature can variously but adversely afflict the “sympathy bonds.” The basic cause would be an interference with the flow of Love.
As a generalization, since “Decent” Group members are in control of their offensive language usage, they presumably have intact “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds, ” whether weakened or not. By contrast, “Street” youth presumably possess disconnected bonds (regardless of degree)- and that disconnection causes the ultimate in “Spiritual Pain.” The mid-range group has varying aspects of the extremes. So what happens when members of the “Big Three” engage in verbal confrontations?
In public confrontations (e.g. on the “the streets”), a “winner” emerges when the opponent becomes angry or when laughed at by the crowd. Although the verbal competition may immediately stop, for the “loser” to choose to “let it go at that” is to invite mounting disrespect from peers. Such disrespect can afflict the psyche. The level of hostile tension generated by “losing” or the amount of self-confidence gained by “winning” creates the situation for what will happen next. A perception of an extreme loss of “manhood respect” causes psyche effects in the “loser’s” mind. Based upon the work of Le Doux, as presented by Goleman(1995), my interpreted inferences are as follows.
Normally, “bad” emotional messages (i.e. psychic wounding), as determined by the receiver, go to the brain’s thalamus. A signal is then routed from the thalamus to the neo-cortex (i.e. the “rational brain”) where self-control can be exercised. But when one emotionally hyper-reacts to being personally attacked, a shortcut allows for impulsive actions to occur before the message gets to the neo-cortex. After impulses of a humiliation nature go to the thalamus, the “shortcut” relays the message across a single nerve synapse to the amygdala. In this way, emotions overwhelm the mechanism of self-control. Future behavioral studies are needed to determine the validity of this hypothesis as well as to determine practices for effectively stopping the presumed “shortcut” reactions interfering with self-control.
Another question: what are the effects of offensive language when it afflicts? The most important form, said Ancient Africans, causes “Spiritual pain”- an extreme and profound pain resulting from disturbing or destroying “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds.” Typically, it displays as apathy and despair; or as impulsively striking out at those closest around; or as Black-on-Black dissensions, “zombie” feuds (causes/reasons faded out of the behavior), and attacks. The result of these habitual wayward activities usually leads to an aimless life, jail, physical disability, and/or early death.
A second form may relate to a bad ‘Extra Dimension’ added to ones afflicted mind. Let us suppose in a Stage VII (name calling) verbal confrontation among “Descent” and/or Transitional Group members that a “winner” and a “loser” have resulted. The “loser” feels disgraced, self-conscious, “dissed” (disrespected), and isolated from the crowd. Then, in the “loser” a chronic anxiety ‘dimension’ might unconsciously result from, say, transcendental messages attributing what happened to bad karma. Or, suddenly appearing in ones mind might be the ‘dimension’ that evil would happen to him/her (or the guilty) according to the words used in cursing him/her (Mbiti, 1969).
Or, a widened bad “dimensional sense” (Asante, 1990) may occur, as from being afflicted by an evil spirit (?? a primordial image drawn from “the Collective Unconscious” Bailey, 2005). Such is not too far-fetched when one considers the “crazy man” techniques of Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) before his heavy weight champion boxing match with the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Some say Liston was overwhelmed by Ali generating a ‘dimension’ filled with “bad spirits” and then placing that atmosphere around Liston.
A third form could afflict the “winner” – despite the “winner” having gained a sense of “respect” from the crowd; despite feeling as if he/her has “magical powers”; and despite possessing intact “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds.” He/she is still likely to have a vague moral infringement awareness- either culturally or transcendentally transmitted from Ancient African Ancestors (a Mantu or an Epic effect?) and/or from family teachings- of having violated personal good character values.
A fourth form concerns “sympathy” bond problems in the previously mentioned five aspects of self-esteem. If those attacks merely dent sympathy bonds, there is no change in the health of ones self-esteem. If specific bonds are weakened, then limited “special” self-esteem problems (e.g. hyper-self-awareness; uncertainty) may result. If the attacks bull-doze sympathy bonds indiscriminately, one rumbles into low self-esteem and, perhaps on into an inferiority complex. Even if the “winner’s” deliberately spoken foul words designed to attack the “loser’s” self-esteem does not progress into the “extra dimension” realm, those words may be powerful enough to weaken or even break pre-existing weak Cosmic Sympathy Bonds. At the very least, it is conjectured that (further) weakening of “sympathy bonds” can adversely affect self-esteem.
Management of Offensive Word Users
An Ancient Egyptian proverb says: “the beautiful infant’s soul can be drawn down away from God” (Ashby, 2002. P. 190). To me this implies that a “Soul Affliction” might occur from continuous and/or highly destructive energy applied to ones “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds” so as weaken, damage, break, or widen a gap between afflicted “sympathy synapses.” The cause of such destructive energy is from whatever or whomever ignores, rejects, neglects, attacks, is indifferent to, or deliberately disconnects “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds.” An example of how this can work is that one is separated from God or from people each time one engages in any character and dignity attack.
Once afflicted, the individual may manifest the features of Spiritual Pain and/or cause it in others by hammering on their intact “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds” or by creating wedges to break those bonds. The more destruction one does, the easier attacks become and the greater is the blurring between what is morally right (loving values) and what is morally wrong (the association with hateful thoughts and evil deeds). The progression of such blurring gains speed in an environment whereby “everyone” is doing it or nobody says it is wrong or with self-justification excuses.
Two categories of the afflicted having relevance to management are Offensive Language Users and Offensive Language Victims (Table III). Questions associated with both are: what is our criterion for deciding what are offensive words? What problems can bad words cause on youth’s psyche? Answer: Ancient Africans said that the ultimate standard against which the effects of anything bad (e.g. offensive language) can be compared is Love. Anything anti-Love is offensive to healthy mindsets. Bad words can interfere with the flow of Love into, inside, or springing out of a person. In tum, any flaw in Love slows, stops, or reverses ones wholesome progress through life.
The Offensive Language Users are grouped into four categories. The Mild represents the “normal” people who resort to offensive language on at least rare occasions. The Slight corresponds to “Decent” members who tend to self-correct once removed from environments that call for offensive language. The Moderate or Transition Group has minds inflated with destructive thoughts and a disarranged worldview; minds that interfere with progressing toward a wholesome destination; and minds that have made offensive language a bad habit. The Extreme or “Street” Group’s destructive mindsets are at such a low level as to be in tandem with their destructive behaviors. They produce on-going vicious cycles for all concerned.
Offensive Language Victims have constantly absorbed Mild (e.g. unpleasing reactions); Slight (e.g. annoying or disagreeable reactions); Moderate (e.g. adversely affecting one’s mind or self-esteem); and/or Extreme or Severe (e.g. attacking one’s “soul”) effects. The criteria for the level of disturbance are related to the ability of each attack to afflict one’s emotions, mind, spirit, or psyche. Thus, what would appear to be without effect on one person could cause corrosions or erosions (i.e. continuing micro-trauma) or even a “big bang” effect on another’s self-esteem or sanity (Bailey, 2003). For the purpose of assisting afflicted individuals in rising above the bad habit of using offensive language and since Black youth require a total Selfhood approach, let us start with some suggestions for Moderate Offensive Language Users.
Step I is to obtain and maintain the Users’ attention. Effective teachers are those formerly in the same position as their students but are now successful. Of course, nothing can be done until youth are receptive to change. This is most likely done by speaking their language in a way they understand and in a rhythm to which they can relate. One “Street” youth said he would adjust to my way of speaking simply because I showed him respect before making him aware of his use of offensive language.
Step II- After gaining the youth’s attention and approval to proceed, there is no specific “cookbook” method to establish good interpersonal relationships and to teach fundamental concepts. However, it helps to: ( 1 ) let the afflicted know they have a free-will choice to change; (2) direct their attention to the preciousness of life; (3) get them to appreciate everyday things of worth (e.g. harmony, peace, unity, Love) and of appropriate things of value (e.g. making “enough” money in socially acceptable ways) for the purpose of benefiting loved ones, if not themselves; and (4) substitute their primary focus on “respect” to that of something related to “Goodness” (e.g. a legacy lifetime goal). The key is to shift their attention onto something meaningful to them.
Step III is dealing with problems, circumstances, and situations relevant to the youths’ lives. A “tried and true” approach – the African Age-Set system (Kenyatta, 1965)- is about peers- after being properly instructedhelping each other become educated and good citizens. They work “all for one and one for all. ” Such an experiential group approach remains in the African ancestral “race” memory of Black Americans.
Step IV- Instead of a set program, I fashion an instructive process that evolves out of where the youth are in their mindsets, problems, and environments. The idea is to lead them out of their delusional mindset (believing what is not real and not believing what is real), vicious cycle habits; and foul language in order to give them a glimpse of their true nature- i.e. their Real Self. This process includes mentoring and guiding them in life-skills; cultivating their ability to think rationally and critically (Bailey, 2008; Bailey, 2008; Bailey, 2008); having a viable means to develop their skills and talents; being aware of realistic niches for the display of their work products; enlarging their vocabularies; and providing them with job opportunities.
Step V- For constant offensive word users I have had them up-grade by applying big “dictionary” words. They laugh because the opponent does not know what to get mad about- or when. They suddenly realize that using offensive language is not so important and that gives them a glimpse of other ways to get the job done.
Step VI is widening any glimpse of reality. If that glimpse is about who they are, follow up to help them discover and develop their talents in a manner beneficial to themselves, to loved ones, to their peer group, and to society. This process is improved by exposing them to many varied constructive situations, environments, and people.
Step VII is intra-peer group “play practice” or “role playing” in how to shield one’s self-esteem from offensive language; how to build an alternative vocabulary for better self-expression; and how to gain control of one’s emotions. Role playing on how to receive offensive words can be quite effective. So can playing with the meanings of words-like “I axed her” (while simulating chopping up the person) instead of ‘asked.’
Extreme Offensive Language Users are in Selfhood disarray, mainly because of their extreme “Spiritual Pain.” The manner of displaying this pain is often fashioned by their own childhood abuses from within the family and/or by outsiders. To distance themselves from that pain, they manufacture mechanisms of defense (“escape”) and coping “accommodation” (Bailey, 2006). These, in turn, partner with drug and alcohol abuse; prostitution; “bad” attitudes which quickly resort to aggression; manhood “power” sensitivities; and free-flowing “gutter language.” By being addicted to superficial pleasures and things of Value (e.g. money), they must do more and more to get less and less relief. Their mental turmoil may progress into Psychological Dissociation (Bailey, 2006).
In my forty years of orthopaedic surgical practice experience of evaluating tens of thousands of patients (including prisoners), the “Baddest Dudes” – who presumably have the widest sympathy bond separation from God and the greatest “Spiritual Pain” – are still inside at least a bit of a God oriented atmosphere. One reason is that they were born into and have lived in the atmosphere of a religious Black community, with its orientation towards Afrocentric mysticism (Linn, 1996). Another is that many say they are religious. I assume this to be true in planning a management program for the “hard-core” and recommend they follow the pattern of Africa’s mythical Benu bird that undergoes a mystical death, regenerates, and “re-births” to start a new and better life.
The Benu process for humans was done by Ancient African Sages in fashioning a system of values centered on Love, harmony, and unity oriented fellowship. Malcolm X followed it while in prison by doing what it takes to achieve a state of mysticism: (1) rising above oneself in order to get into the Universal Energy flow (which springs out of God’s mind); (2) dissolving into God; (3) identifying with God in the most intimate way; and (4) behaving as God’s helping hand.
Other members of the Extreme Group might benefit from shattering whatever has fashioned their “unreal” world and by shedding their “extra dimension” (Bailey, 2006). It helps for them to realize that it is not evil spirits and it is not any particular magic in the offensive word or action that afflicts their minds. Instead, to be afflicted or not is a free will choice and to be susceptible or not to a mind affliction is under ones control. To reconnect ones “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds” is extremely hard work but it can be done with the help of mentors, role models, and religious leaders (Bailey, 2007). The Black Muslims discovered and applied methods (including the spot-lighting of ones sense of dignity and selfresponsibility) effective in converting the destructive into the constructive.
Part of my program includes: (1) really caring about each male for who he is; (2) allowing him to vent his pent-up emotions until completely emptied of all negativity; (3) validating his beliefs and opinions (“I understand your position”), even if you disagree; (4) guiding each to reconnect with his Real Self; and (5) putting each in contact with a good model who is a living example worthy of being emulated.
In conclusion, the proposition inside Subjective Science has been made that offensive language can afflict the psyche of vulnerable Black youth. A way this is done is by causing a flaw in bonds present in the Cosmic Wholism of which they are a part. Regardless of the nature of the flaw, one experiences “Spiritual pain.” The circumstances leading to and maintaining this pain fashion “Special” minds, behaviors, and environments. “Special” implies that which reflects a damaged selfesteem; that which is self-defeating; and that which is not necessarily pathological.
Management concerns relieving Spiritual Pain by re-establishing “Cosmic Sympathy Bonds” and continuing to strive in elevating ones platform of loving thoughts. In other words, once present, nothing relieves “Spiritual pain” except to repair the flaw in the Cosmic Sympathy Bonds so as to re-establish the flow of Love coming into, circulating inside, and springing out of ones Selfhood. Dedicated and intense work is then required to connect or reconnect ones Love with the spirit of others and of nature. At this point one possesses too much self-respect to disrespect oneself or to disrespect others as, for example, by the use of offensive language.
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The author expresses appreciation to Charles Moore and Richard Harry for their constructive critique of this paper
JOSEPH BAILEY- RETIRED ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON, CARSON, CA
Dr. Joseph Bailey, MD graduated from Meharry Medical School and became an orthopaedic surgeon. He then began private practice in San Bernardino, California. During this period Dr. Bailey made several orthopaedic inventions; devised new operations; and published a classical text on Dwarfs (which changed the world’s literature), a medical/legal dictionary, a book on Workers’ Compensation, and over 35 medical articles (including lead articles on Achondroplasia and Self-Esteem in Black Americans). He had published 20 other books and numerous articles in medical journals and Black newspapers. Visit Dr. Bailey’s website at, jablifeskills.com. He retired in 2000.
Subject: Self esteem; Sympathy; Scientific method; Science; Role models; Psychology; Behavior
Publication title: Western Journal of Black Studies
Number of pages: 13
Publication year: 2006
Publication date: Summer 2006
Publisher: Washington State University Press
Place of publication: Pullman
Country of publication: United States
Publication subject: Ethnic Interests
Source type: Scholarly Journals
Language of publication: English
Document type: Feature
Document feature: Tables; References
ProQuest document ID: 200338813
Copyright: Copyright Washington State University Press Summer 2006
Last updated: 2010-06-06
Database: ProQuest Central