Dr. Frances Cress Welsing
1935 – 2016
Our Spotlight of the Month for the month of August 2011 is Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, a psychiatrist practicing in the City of Washington, DC, a researcher, lecturer and an author of several publications which we will discuss with her.
Destiny – Pride: Good afternoon, Dr. Welsing. Thank you so much for agreeing to be our Spotlight of the Month for August 2011. You now are a practicing psychiatrist here in the District of Columbia, but let’s first find out a little about your life before now. If you would, please tell us a little about your early life – your birthplace, your parents, siblings and childhood memories or experiences.
Dr. Welsing: I am a native of Chicago, Illinois. My parents were both born in Chicago. My mother was a Chicago school teacher. My father was a physician; his father had been a physician. I have two sisters. I attended Chicago public schools until high school graduation. I went away to college at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio and subsequently to Howard University College of Medicine.
Destiny – Pride: What year did you go to Antioch?
Dr. Welsing: 1951. I was out 1956 to 1957. It was a five-year program.
Destiny – Pride: And then you went back to Chicago?
Dr. Welsing: Well, I went to Chicago for a year and then I entered Howard University College of Medicine in 1958. I went back to Chicago, did an internship at the County Hospital, and then came back to Washington, DC; did a residency in general psychiatry at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for three years, and then a fellowship in child psychiatry at Children’s Hospital for two years. I then became Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Howard University College of Medicine.
Destiny – Pride: What is your marital status and do you have children?
Dr. Welsing: I’m a divorcee, without children. I assume that was not my cosmic assignment [laughter].
Destiny – Pride: What and who in your life have had the greatest impact upon you and your life choices?
Dr. Welsing: Well, I would really have to start certainly with my parents and my family. I think maybe from the time I was six years of age, I remember coming home from school and saying I was going to be a nurse. My father said, “If you’re going to be a nurse, you might was well be a doctor,” and I just said “OK.” And that was that. My father and my grandfather were doctors, and so I just said, “OK.” People say, “Well you look like your father,” so that decision was made.
Destiny – Pride: What are your father’s and mother’s names?
Dr. Welsing: My father was Dr. Henry Noah Cress. His father was Dr. Henry Clay Cress, who was also a Chicago physician. My mother was Ida Mae Griffin-Cress.
Destiny – Pride: Are they still living?
Dr. Welsing: Oh, of course not. My parents are deceased. My two sisters live in Chicago. My older sister is Lauren Cress-Love. She started Pacifica Radio here in Washington, DC. My younger sister was married to the first black astronaut, Robert Lawrence, who was killed at Edwards Air Force Base in 1967.
Destiny – Pride: What faith are you and how has that factored into the decisions you have made in your life’s journey?
Dr. Welsing: Well I was baptized in Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, and christened in the Quinn Chapel AME Church. That just satisfied both sides of the family. I don’t consider myself “Christian” as such. I believe I’m a spiritual person and I certainly think that black peoples’ religious heritage certainly helped them to cope with enslavement. It gave them something to hold on to. But I am not of the belief that Jesus was white, and therefore his father was white. That’s where I say I have another concept.
Destiny – Pride: Pride: What would be that concept?
Dr. Welsing: Well I do believe that there’s a creative force in the universe and it’s possible, through self-respect, to be in touch with that creative force. I think that people who have melanin skin pigmentation have the instrument to be in touch. Everything in the universe is energy, and black pigment is a superior absorber of energy. If you look at all of the great religious figures in the world, they’ve always been people of color. That’s another whole hour discussion [laughter].
Destiny – Pride: OK. I think you’ll get an opportunity later on to expound on that. Why did you decide to become a psychiatrist and what has that taught you about the human psychic?
Dr. Welsing: Well, when I did my internship at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, I really had signed up to do a residency in pediatrics – I was going to be a pediatrician. Certain circumstances evolved such that I couldn’t stay in Chicago and I had to come back to Washington, DC. At the last minute, a very good friend of mine – a colleague (we had been in medical school together and did our internship together) – said she was going to come back to Washington and do a residency in psychiatry. Because it was late when I had to decide I couldn’t stay in Chicago, she said, “Well, you know, you can always get a residency in psychiatry, do that for one year and then go back to Chicago and do pediatrics.”
So I did just that. I signed up to do a residency at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and I’d say the “lazy” factor entered in – where you didn’t have to stay up all night [laughter]. That was certainly the “surface” reason that I ended up staying in psychiatry. I did not really like psychiatry when I was a medical student because it was Freudian psychoanalytic theory and my brain said that just does not compute. So you learn it, but you dismiss it. But once I got into psychiatry – the residency – and started talking with patients . . . In the training program – and that was a long time ago – there were white patients and black patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. I even think maybe the majority might have been white. The training program did not focus on black people and their mental health at all. As a matter of fact it was said in the training program that black people did not have the intellect to benefit from psychotherapy and that the best treatment for them was medication. Well, being a third-generation physician, that didn’t compute for me, and my parents had never stressed that you’re going to get an education to “escape” your community. No, you’re getting an education so you can come back and service your community.
You talk to all patients. You try to help all patients get better. But in talking to black patients, I would see that there was always a major element of racism in their history. It takes me back to when I was an intern and the Director of the Department of Pediatrics at Cook County Hospital read one of the histories that I wrote on a patient in pediatrics. She said, “You take a history like a psychiatrist,” because I was going into detail about the family. But to go back to St. Elizabeth’s hospital, I started wondering what was making black people mentally ill, and concluded that racism was a major dynamic force that was causing black people to be mentally ill. This was not at all the focus in the training program, but on my own I felt that I have to understand racism at a deeper level. When I was an undergrad, I considered myself a Marxist because Marx had certainly tried to tie everything up in its relationship to the economic dynamic. But when you become a physician and you have the responsibility to help people get well, things have to really add up. The Marxism I had really set aside before then. I remembered going home and the family was sitting around the dining room table. My grandmother was there – that was my father’s mother, who was living with us. I said, “I’m a Marxist,” and my grandmother said, “The more education they get, the dumber they get.” [Laughter] Anyway, I had set the Marxism aside, but I’m looking far beyond what I thought I understood about racism, related to economics, and that was not sufficient. I was looking for: what really is racism? And it was at that point – 1967 – that I met Neely Fuller, Jr. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him.
Destiny – Pride: No.
Dr. Welsing: Well you must certainly get to know him and talk to him. I met him after a Black Power Committee meeting. People were sitting around somebody’s apartment off of New Hampshire Avenue – that’s what I remember. People were sitting on the floor, eating African food, and this gentleman on the other side of the room said, “Racism is a ‘system.’” It was like, “Oh, I have to talk to him!”
He had started writing about racism when he was in the Korean War. He said he was on a radar site in Japan when he started thinking about what was going on in the United States, and his thoughts and thinking started evolving from that point. He had written – he had something like 1800 highly styled printings that he had started writing about racism. So when I met him and started talking to him, I was so impressed. I said, “This gentleman’s book has to be published.” That took from 1967 to 1984 [The United Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept: a textbook, workbook, for Victims of White Supremacy]. And so his book is published, and everybody who wants to understand racism needs to look at that work.
When I was teaching at Howard, I would have him every Monday night lecture on racism at one of the main auditoriums at the Medical School, from 8:00pm to 1:00 in the morning – every Monday night in the community, and everybody would come. He said that racism was a system maintaining the power equation of white over non-white powerlessness, and that it consisted of behavior – thought, speech and action – encompassing all areas of people activity: economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war. So in my mind I thought about this power equation. But why would that be a necessity? That’s when things that we learned in medical school – biology, psychiatry – came to mind.
I remember I was in the kitchen washing dishes and cooking. I had the question in the back of my mind: Why would people on this planet think to set up a system of racism/white supremacy? That’s another thing that Mr. Fuller had said, that racism is white supremacy; white supremacy is racism. There’s no other racism, because it’s a “power.” So, if a black person said, “I hate white people,” that doesn’t make racism; that’s just an opinion. Black people do not control the lives of white people. No non-white people control the lives of white people. White people – people that classify themselves as white – are the people who control power on the planet. So I just started thinking about the question “Why?” which turns on the brains in people. Why would they do it?
Then I started thinking about a number of the things that they would say: “black people are genetically inferior” – “genetically” inferior; people of color are ‘minorities.’” Then I started thinking about the facts on the planet, and that whites are a tiny “minority”, and they are genetic recessive to people of color. The ability to produce melanin pigment is a genetically “dominant” trait, and that’s what Barack Obama represents – his mother is white; the father is black. The ability to produce that black pigment is dominant, so anytime you mix a genetic recessive trait with a dominant, you’re going to get a dominant. I maintain that from the time that white people – starting in the 15th century, when they began their circle navigations of the planet – realized that they were outnumbered, and that if the men had sex with women of color, the product would always be colored. And so at some level they can compute “We can be annihilated.” I say that racism then began as the necessity to control the non-white global “majority” for the purpose of white genetic survival.
This is not something that people have functioned with in terms of the “why,” and therefore why the persistence of the behavior. I even say that what President Obama is dealing with right now is that, in his mind, he’s thinking the economy of the world will collapse and that this should be of primary concern to all people, and so therefore increase the deficit. But if you’re thinking as a person who classifies himself as white, then white genetic survival is a priority – by any means necessary. And so it [the economy] collapses. We [whites] have to be in charge, and he [President Obama] represents that white is not in charge. It’s a “black” man in the White House; a black woman, black children, black grandmother in the White House. And so it’s registering consciously, subconsciously in the minds of many people who classify themselves as white that this has to change. So his failure is the priority, not the fact that the budget or the economy – local, national, global – has to be saved.
Destiny – Pride: You have authored a number of books. Please tell us about them and your motivation for writing them.
Dr. Welsing: Well, you see, since I decided to find the answer to racism – and that goes back to 1967 – that was what I was interested in. So the first paper I wrote, “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation in Racism (White Supremacy)” , was presented at the National Medical Convention Section on Psychiatry in 1970, and then every year at the Medical Convention, I would present another dimension of racism – some of the symbolisms in the system of racism. The second book that I wrote, “The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors” [Third World Press, 1990], is the essays that once you understand racism at the level that I’m talking about, then you begin to perceive things quite differently than if you’re thinking it’s “democracy,” and then you keep trying to figure out why is this. But if you understand the whole issue of white genetic annihilation and the concern about white genetic survival, then you see it’s like turning something around and seeing it from a different angle.
Those papers and that book were the essays based on different insights that I would have.
Destiny – Pride: Talk to us about the complexity of democracy in this country and its connectivity to the black experience and where we are today. In other words, when we look at what we as slaves went through under the guise of “democracy,” being subjugated within that process, and eventually, for whatever reason, we began to interface with each other. However, there is a contradiction and a disconnect in that the same system of democracy that enslaved us, later on embraced us without making any significant changes to its infrastructure. Talk to us about that contradiction.
Dr. Welsing: Okay. You see “democracy” is what the so-called “Founding Fathers” had in relationship to white people. What was determining the relationship between white people and black people was the dynamic of racism/white supremacy. So I say that slavery – the enslavement of African people – was a phase of the system of racism/white supremacy, and if we understand the origins of white people from black people, then we can get into another level of understanding of what enslavement was about. So that’s why it has always appeared as a contradiction that the Founding Fathers said “all men are created equal.” They were not talking about black people. Even Lincoln, after black people were emancipated, felt they really couldn’t be equal because that’s hundreds of years of certain white men understanding that if the black people were allowed to be equal, and everybody was just inter-relating, then white would disappear because of the genetic dominance of black. The slaves were emancipated, and they [whites] had to begin to develop laws that would put black people in a permanent state. Even after the civil rights era where the laws were changed, black people felt that if we remove the chains, everything is going to be okay. We found out that wasn’t the case.
The laws have been changed, but blacks have been thrown back into the worse condition they have ever been in – what I call a condition of psychological and mental enslavement. You take a people who in the 60’s were saying “black is beautiful,” “black pride,” “black power,” black dignity,” “black self-respect.” But the system understood, “We can’t have that because if the black people are really emancipated, we could have white genetic annihilation. So the black people were being thrown back via the media. First the “Super-Fly” and the blaxploitation images and black people on drugs and black men and women cursing and beating each other up. And it is continued through the so-called “rap” and “hip-hop” the massive degradation of black people. But the system will pay for it, so it looks like, “Oh, they’re millionaires. They’ve got boats and cars, and jewelry and clothes,” without understanding that there was a determined mental programming going along with it. So whites say: “They can’t be equal. They cannot be out here competing equally because they’re not equal and we’re not equal to them. They are genetically dominant to us, and so if they’re just free, we’re going to be genetically annihilated.” And so the black men unemployment increased as did drugs, guns, incarceration, massive disparity and sentencing. We are at a point where we are on a genocide slide because the men are being attacked. You don’t have a people if you don’t have the men of the people.
Destiny – Pride: That leads me into the next question. You have really been an advocate for black males. I recently saw a video of you where you asked a black male child why he did not want to help black people. His reason was because black people who helped black people ended up being killed, and he named Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X as examples to validate his point. Would you please tell us your thoughts on this?
Dr. Welsing: Well this was a child that I remember seeing at Howard University Hospital. His mother had brought him in. He might have been like ten or eleven, you know, a single parent bringing a child in. The child was considered to have intellectual potential, but he wasn’t studying. I asked the child, “Don’t you want to work hard in school so you can help black people?” The child was very polite and he said, “No,” which was shocking – the child was supposed to say “yes.” I asked, “Why not, sweetheart?” He said, “Because if you try to help black people, you will be killed,” and he said “like Martin Luther King.” I mean it was astounding! I’m thinking to myself: “IQ, 265” – like a child perceiving what actually was going on in the environment.
My focus is on black people in general, but black men in particular because the men are what the system of white genetic survival perceives as a threat. You see, women cannot impose sexual intercourse. They can only entice if they want to have sex, but a male – whether he’s white, black, brown, red or yellow – can impose sexual intercourse. If a woman had a weapon and threatened a man to have intercourse, if he got frightened, he could not maintain an erection. The key is, what is the problem, and this goes back to what Dr. Dubois said the problem was in 1903. The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line between the lighter and the darker races of mankind. If we are in respect of ourselves as black people, it’s like, what do our elders say? The elders laid out what the problem was in the beginning of the century. Neely Fuller comes along mid-century and says it’s a “system” that we’re dealing with, with my understanding that it’s about genetic survival. That’s why the men – especially – are being attacked. Understand that we can’t have a people if we don’t have men. Sometimes people will say, “Well, you don’t talk about the females,” and I do, but in a war, you have to focus on where the enemy force is moving and how that attack is causing the annihilation of the people. This is what we have to wake up to and understand.
Destiny – Pride: And that response leads me into the next question. Many of our young black boys and men, even though they themselves may never have been incarcerated, have taken on the mentality and lifestyle of those who have been incarcerated. How did we allow that jail mentality to permeate our streets and affect our children?
Dr. Welsing: Well, because that’s where the fathers are. Male children need fathers 24/7. We’re asking the reason our young men’s pants are down. It’s because they don’t have fathers. A father would say, “Boy, pull your pants up!” You’ve got a single parent household and a female as head of the household. Let’s just say that 80 percent of what you learn to do is based on observation. My mother is not “saying” how to be a female; my grandmother is not “saying” how to be a female; my aunts are not “saying” how to be a female. They’re “doing” it, and so you are modeling – constantly modeling. How do you cook? How do you sew? What do you do? What do you wear? How do you put on your clothes? A mother can be highly well-intended, but she’s a female.
I just had a child a couple of weeks ago, 18 years old. His father has been incarcerated for 13 years. You need to be able to talk to the parent of the same gender. We have a crisis. Our male children are in crisis. I’m saying to my colleagues in psychiatry at the medical convention two weeks from now that our black male children are looked at as being bad. They don’t want to be.” These children are sad. They are depressed. They are fatherless, and nobody understands the trauma of what it means to grow up without a father. I had a child say to me some time ago, “If I had a father . . .” Again, a male child seeing that confidence about “I can do my homework,” comes from the father “doing” and the child emulating the “doing” of life. This child said, “Dr. Welsing, I think I can do my homework if I just had an official father.” Now that’s when the doctor wants to crawl on the floor and start crying. “If I just had an official father.” What we don’t look at is that a war is being waged against us. The fathers are being killed in one way or another.
Like in the second World War. My father was in the second World War. Everybody in the household is praying that father comes home safe, but you know he’s at war. He’s taking care of business at war. So you hope daddy comes home or writes. You’re involved in all of that. It’s a whole other ball park if the people don’t understand they’re at war and that the fathers are being destroyed. So the mothers are angry with the fathers and the children are hurt and upset because they are told, “Your father doesn’t care anything about you. That’s why he’s not here.” They don’t understand that father is the victim of the war of unemployment, because you cannot be a husband and you cannot be a father if you don’t have an income. But we just talk about love – “he doesn’t ‘love’ you” – and all the stuff that is not proceeding from any insight as to what actually is taking place.
Destiny – Pride: Let me ask you this question. You’ve expounded upon it, but maybe you can bring more clarity to it. You’ve talked earlier about rap music and we’re now seeing the total degradation of the black male. He’s looked at as being incompetent. He doesn’t care. He’s always in the mindset of being worthless. And then the mothers, to a degree, are emasculating the young males in the family, with the absence of the father. I have seen in some instances where the male child has become the de facto man of the house. On one occasion at an event, I asked a young brother, who might have been around 18 or 19 years old, just to give me a hug. His response was, “No, I don’t play that,” and was greatly offended that another male would try to give him love. He said he had been totally raised by his mother.
Dr. Welsing: I think that the problem, not only in the family, but our problem as a whole is that we don’t have any so-called “leaders” or “spokespersons” talking about our problem is racism/white supremacy, and that racism/white supremacy is a war for white genetic survival by any necessary means, helping the people understand what the deal is. People are only coming as certain things hit them, but they don’t have an understanding as to “why.” I don’t know what this male child was responding to because what is happening is the effeminization of the male that is carried to its ultimate state in prison, with men having sexual relations with each other and then coming out on the street and being on the “down low,” not even understanding what’s happening.
My translation of male homosexuality: penis in the mouth; penis in the anus. The mouth – and I’m speaking as a physician – and the anus are opposite ends of the gastrointestinal tract. If a person is feeling “I’m missing male substance,” subconsciously they’re thinking. In other words, if I haven’t had a father, and I’m just looking at my sisters, my aunts, everybody dressing and everybody putting on their earrings and their jewelry, and curling their hair, I’m not aware that I’m absorbing elements of my identity through them, but I know something is missing. It’s being played out, and this is not coming from Africa. This is coming from Greece, Rome. Go back two thousand years, with Rome and Greece going into Africa looking at black men and their masculinity, and then comparing it to white men and their masculinity – genital size and all of that – with the white males feeling deficient by comparison. Homosexuality was a dominant form of sexual expression in Greece and Rome, and is the theme throughout Western culture, in terms of what white males feel about themselves subconsciously. This is where the theme of homosexual expressions start, but then it gets picked up because if the white male is feeling less masculine than the black male, then his tendency is to continuously impose effeminization and detraction of the black male’s masculinity in any way. Now, if a black man wants to have a role in a movie, he’s got to be willing to put on a dress. What this male child was being impacted by, by saying “I don’t play that,” I would say he was just a child trying, within the framework of father absence and all the other things that are taking place, to hold on to his masculinity.
Destiny – Pride: What influence and impact does hip hop and like type videos have on our children regarding their imagery?
Dr. Welsing: Children are programmed by what they see. There was a time before there was television and a lot of videos where the activity circle for black people in their communities was home/school/church, and most activities radiated off of the church. People were influenced by the values that were in that circle. Now those circles have been disrupted and now we have television. People have television screens in their homes where the images on the screen are as big as the people in the house, if not bigger. So the external world is having a major impact, especially since black people have felt as a whole that with the passage of the civil rights laws, that now we’re free. In other words they believe the problem has been solved. The white supremacy society says we’re in a post-racial world, and because of that influence, young people and children are saying that our concern about racism is “old school.” “That’s old school,” they’re saying. They’re being influenced by the larger world.
I was talking to someone last night. People are walking around right now looking at this small screen [cell phones/iPods], tripping. They’re walking in front of cars. They’re in accidents, looking at a small screen of what somebody else pushes. This is reality. And they’re stumbling.
Destiny – Pride: That is part of the correlation of what you’re saying about the images: men in dresses, and we are constantly being looked at, by ourselves and by others, as “buffoons” with our dysfunctional behaviors being looked at as normal in the eyes of the people who watch us in the media. In the past, white folks always made the family structure the center of everything – Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best – with the man in the family being the head. They were even so meticulous that they never showed married couples, like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, sleeping in the same bed, to keep that puritanical imagery.
Dr. Welsing: But that’s also in large measure where many black people were. I tell people to go back and look at the people in the civil rights struggle. Look at the way the people carried themselves. They carried themselves with pride and dignity and purpose. There wasn’t a whole lot of “trashiness.” If you understand that it’s a system of racism/white supremacy (and many of us don’t understand that it’s a system of white supremacy, but it is), then you, as a non-white person, integrate into it. Well there’s a question of what is the role for non-white people in a system of white supremacy – to be the trash. And that’s who we are to them.
Destiny – Pride: What can we do to get our young people “rewired” from their foolish and destructive behaviors?
Dr. Welsing: Get the older people “rewired.”
Destiny – Pride: Okay. What do you mean by that?
Dr. Welsing: These are children, and children follow what they see. I don’t say that the children will save us. No. The older people need to get their heads together so that they can protect and guide the children to the children’s point of maturity. The black people as a collective need to stop being fearful. Like the Attorney General, Eric Holder, said, “Are we a nation of cowards,” being unable to talk about racism? Now he was slapped, and somehow told to shut-up, just like President Obama was during his Philadelphia primary speech. He said we need to have dialog about racism. Somebody told him to shut the hell up. This is the key, and to the extent they can steer us away from the key, or to not have insight and develop knowledge and understanding of the key, then that’s what you do. We need to understand that out of our respect for ourselves as black people, we have to learn how to get the courage to have that discussion. It’s not about hating white people. It’s just like, if you’re playing chess, and you’re playing the black side of the board, you don’t spend any energy hating the opponent who’s playing on the white side of the board. You have to understand the game and you have to be able to decode every move the opponent is making who is playing offense/defense from the white side and you’re playing defense/offence from the black side. So it’s not time to hate; it’s not about hating white people. It’s not about being rude or disrespectful to white people. It’s all about black self-respect – replacing racism/white supremacy with justice so that there can be peace on the planet – which I feel is our cosmic assignment.
Destiny – Pride: Earlier you mentioned that during your residency at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital you were instructed that for black patients, the treatment modality was medication and for white patients, it was psychoanalysis. What, if any, correlation is that today for young black boys in school who are being medicated?
Dr. Welsing: It’s exactly what it was stated to be all those years ago. For example, I know that black psychiatrists are having difficulty in terms of what the insurance companies are now doing. The insurance companies do not want to pay psychiatrists to give their patients therapy. When the patient comes in, the psychiatrist now is supposed to ask: “How’s your medication going? Do you have enough medication? Are you having any side effects? Fine. Let me write you a prescription. I’ll see you in a month or two.” Fifteen minutes! Somebody else with a lesser level of training may counsel you. Now, I consider that to be harming the patient. The insurance company says, “We don’t want to pay for you to have therapy. The best treatment for you is medication.” I was just talking to a pharmacist at CVS last night, and not only that, “We want you on generic drugs, which are a cheaper brand. I said to the pharmacist right down the street, “Are people complaining that the generic Xanax – an anti-anxiety medication – is not the same?” He said, “Yeah, I get that complaint.” I see all my patients for an hour – helping people have insight into the why of what’s happening.
Destiny – Pride: Overall, where are we as it relates to race relations here in America?
Dr. Welsing: I think I’ve said it. In other words it’s not “race relations.” It’s like, where are we in relationship to the total system construct of racism/white supremacy? I would say that we are in a failed state. Right now, we don’t have a critical mass of black people at any level who understands racism/white supremacy and have the courage to speak to it – speak to what is the problem. So we are at a failed state right now, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go from being a failed state and on a genocide slide into being able to lift yourself up. I say, God give us the courage to face a difficult subject.
Destiny – Pride: What have been the responses you have received because of your stance on race relations and how do you deal with them?
Dr. Welsing: Well you can lose jobs focusing on racism/white supremacy. I was denied promotional tenure at Howard University because the Dean said it didn’t make sense for me to say that white people were envious of black people because of their color. I had all kinds of letters from white people at the time. White people used to write me and say, “You’re right. I always wished that I had color. I always wished that I looked like black people.” But it was the political power that was on the University as a whole – that you’re not going to talk about racism/white supremacy, and have us fund it. So, I understood that and I went on to another job. At some point they asked me to go from part-time to full-time, and I said, “Fine, I’ll do that.” Then somebody on the Board said, “Well have you seen that paper she wrote – The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism?” And that was the end of that. And so again, . . .
Destiny – Pride: The truth comes at a cost.
Dr. Welsing: Correct. My grandfather, Dr. Henry Clay Cress, died in 1909 in Chicago. His wife, my grandmother and my father’s mother, was in the home with us. She would say, “Your grandfather was a race man.” So my sisters and I internalized that from infancy. “Your grandfather was a race man.” He knew Ida B. Wells-Barnett and the people who were struggling at the beginning of the century for black peoples’ rights and ending lynching and all of that. So I’m a race woman.
Destiny – Pride: What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Dr. Welsing: I remember saying to my mother when I was maybe a first-year student at Antioch College where “integration” meant one black girl and one black guy per class; being surrounded by all these white people and all of the issues that came with that. I went home crying one day, and said to my mother, “Why did you send me to this school?” My mother said, there are only certain places where you can get certain things.” I stopped crying, and I don’t know what I understood, but somehow I accepted that and went on back. That was living day in and day out with people who classified themselves as white, where you’re learning about who these people are – you know, the most liberal, but learning. My coming from this house out of Chicago – an all black situation – and learning about and understanding racism, I think was my assignment. I do believe that somehow you are directed where you are suppose to go and I just think that this was my assignment, to understand and to somehow contribute to this understanding, because I keep asking, does anybody have a better explanation of racism/white supremacy? I don’t care who it is.
One time I said, I’ll pay a thousand dollars to anybody who has got a better explanation. I mean like in science, let’s say that I’m Dr. A, and I’m working on the problem of a particular kind of cancer. There’s Dr. B and Dr. D in different parts of the country or the world and everybody’s working on what’s the answer to this cancer. So, I’m Dr. A and I have an answer. If Dr. B or Dr. D comes up with a better answer to the problem, then so be it. It’s not an ego thing. It’s like here is a problem to be solved. What is the answer? So if my answer is deficient compared to somebody else who has seemingly more in depth understanding – who can not only explain the genetics of it, but the symbolisms of it and the whole dynamics, getting down to what is happening to black children, what’s happening to black families, what’s happening to black men and women in their relationships – hey, then I would throw mine out. But I haven’t had to, yet.
Destiny – Pride: What would you consider to be your greatest disappointment?
Dr. Welsing: I don’t know that I think of a great disappointment. I’m just a soldier out there in the war. A drum major for justice. You just keep “soldiering” on, being determined to make some headway on our problem. I used to say, if I have to solve the problem by myself, I’m willing to do it.
Destiny – Pride: But sometimes, do you feel like here’s where the majority of psychiatry is going, but it seems like you are a voice in the wind? How does that make you feel?
Dr. Welsing: No, because then I’ll go to the Safeway, and somebody will come up to me and say, “Aren’t you Dr. Welsing? You don’t know me but I heard you 20 years ago, and I knew you were crazy then, but now I understand what you’re talking about.” Or just like the day of the Caribbean Parade. I was down on Georgia Avenue leaving the dentist’s office, walking down the street. A man comes up – he’s coming towards me, and I’m walking. He gets past me and then says, “Miss, wait a minute. Aren’t you Dr. Frances Welsing?” I laugh and say, “Yes.” He says, “You saved my life.” You see people say that to me. I started writing thinking that eight people might be interested in what I had to say. The Cress Theory was written for eight other black psychiatrists to comment on, and so the fact that other people have found the ideas helpful is rewarding. I’m a third generation physician. It’s like “Heal the people.” So if people come and say, “Your ideas have helped me,” I’m grateful. I get letters from guys in prison who write, “I wish I understood this before I got in here.” So, no. Neely Fuller said this is the longest war, like Mao Tse-tung with the long march. So we are trying to understand and trying to answer questions so the people can be stronger.
Destiny – Pride: Do you have any hobbies or interests to help you relax?
Dr. Welsing: I’ve got a house down on the water in Annapolis, but I also enjoy reading and talking to people. I’ve traveled a lot in the world. So it’s not like I’ve never traveled or I’ve never been any place. I do travel, but now it’s like, if you’re in the middle of a war, what do you focus on? You see, we don’t understand that we’re in a war. I understand that – at a critical mass level. We don’t understand that we’re in a war, and so we have been taught to sing, dance and party. We’re losing the war. I tell people that soldiers in Iraq, or Afghanistan, if they have foxholes, nobody’s jumping out of the foxhole talking about “I got to get some sex.” You’ll get it when you get home – if you do.
Destiny – Pride: What insights or last thoughts would you like to leave our visitors?
Dr. Welsing: That we are the parent people of the planet. The Creator of the universe made black people the first people and the mothers and fathers of all of the people on the planet, and so we have to step into the role of the planet. It’s like psychiatrists all the time deal with family situations where the children have taken over the household and the parents are following behind and trying to emulate the children, and that goes to a catastrophe. Getting into very deep levels of respect for ourselves as black people, and understanding that the creative force of the universe determines the role that black people should be. I believe that the vehicle to spirituality is self-respect, because I can’t be in touch with the creative force in the universe if I don’t respect who I have been made to be. So the black revolution in a sense, speaking of it that way, is a revolution of finding our self-respect again, because we’re not in touch with it. That is going to be the instrument that we are going to have to use to neutralize white supremacy and replace it with justice.
Destiny – Pride: Dr. Welsing, again, thank you for agreeing to talk with us and for sharing your life’s journey and your insights with our visitors. On behalf of Destiny – Pride, we thank you.
Dr. Welsing: Thank you.