Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing joined the ancestors on January 2, 2016. Dr. Gregory Carr, Chair of Howard University’s Department of Afro-American Studies in remembering Welsing called her “an intellectual warrior”. That term I believe fits her perfectly in that it describes her passion and her spirit and her desire to liberate Black people by deepening our understanding and analysis of White supremacy and its functions. Yet as an intellectual warrior and lover of her people, Dr. Cress-Welsing was most certainly viewed as controversial and her theories even dismissed in some academic circles.
Nearly fifty years ago, Welsing wrote her essay “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy)”. This essay would later become part of her book, The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors. Welsing’s analysis of the system of White supremacy and its impact on Black identity, socialization and functioning within all facets of society was hard-hitting and direct. This made her ideas unpopular with those accustomed to polite and meaningless discussions about racism,power and privilege. As a psychiatrist and mental health expert, Welsing’s work always focused on the psychological state of Black people using the lens of race and culture.
In an essay from the Isis Papers entitled, Black Children and the Process of Inferiorization, Dr. Cress-Welsing explains “why a white racist social system is completely incapable of providing total equality of opportunity to Blacks.” She further explains that such a system robs a Black child of their natural brilliance because it is set on convincing them of their inferiority. Within such a system Welsing asserts, “it turns some Black teachers, who could love and educate Black children, into teachers who hate and cannot educate.” If we are to counter the damaging impact of this system she emphasizes the importance of teaching Black children to respect themselves and one another. Most importantly though is Dr. Cress-Welsing’s call for all Black adults to see themselves “as one of the many parents of all Black children” and that we all contribute to their optimal development.
Dr. Cress-Welsing made understanding and countering the system of racism and White supremacy her life’s work. As we are well into the 21st century we are still confronted with the problem of racism. Our homes and our classrooms continue to be two of the most important places where we work to dismantle this enemy to our humanity and our collective power as Black people. This reality demands that as parents and as educators we heed the call of Dr. Cress-Welsing and all our ancestors to love and liberate our children; “our most valuable possession and our greatest potential resource.”
Peace and love, good people.
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