Is America on the Verge of Civil War?

Everybody is talking about something these days and no matter where I turn someone is either talking about COVID-19, racism, politics or police reform. Like others, I feel overwhelmed and drained by all of the negative energy. I am watching people become bullies on social media and are saying whatever they feel without any regard for how others feel. People are rebutting and arguing perspectives instead of listening for understanding. Also, people are telling other people that their lived experiences are not real and that they should get over themselves. And to make matters worse, traditional news outlets are fueling the fire.

I don’t know about you, but I am really concerned about the future of America. Let me explain.

During a recent conversation with a colleague I was asked the following question: Is America on the Verge of a Civil War?

As I reflected on his question and on what is happening in America in regard to the increased racial tension and civil unrest, I have come to believe that America is on the verge of civil war. However, not because of the senseless murder of George Floyd or the different viewpoints about politics or police reform.

America is on the verge of civil war because of a powerful and primitive human emotion called FEAR. The murder of George Floyd and civil unrest across the nation triggered fear among millions of people, especially White people and Africans Americans. The presence of danger for themselves and their loved ones became a reality.

As a black man who was raised in a culture of trauma and fear, I know first-hand what fear feels like both physically and psychologically. Unfortunately, like millions of black men and women I live with hope in my heart, but fear in my mind.

  • Fearful that I will never be good enough in the eyes of White America, although I have achieved great things.
  • Fearful that I will continue to be preyed on regardless of my status.
  • Fearful that another man will take my life although he did not give me life.
  • Fearful that my skin color provides a platform for violence against me.
  • Fearful that the more disappointment and anger that I express about social injustice, the more I will be labeled as an ungrateful nigger.
  • Fearful that people will speak on my behalf and attempt to crucify me as a black man, but do not seek to understand my fear.
  • Fearful that I will be told that I am not a real American and that I should leave if I am unhappy in America despite the fact that I was born here.
  • Fearful that I will be proven guilty before I get a fair chance at innocence.
  • Fearful that I cannot protect my love ones or myself from injustice.
  • Fearful that the value of my life will always be based on how individuals value my culture.

Some people may argue that my fear is unjustified and that I am being overdramatic, negative and discouraging. No…I am simply sharing fear that is based on my lived experience.

Generally speaking, I believe that Black men fear white men and white men fear Black men. As a child I was taught to show the utmost respect for white people regardless of how they treated me. Also, I was taught to fear white police because they possessed the authority to inflict psychological and physical pain without being questioned or accused.

Initially, I thought that the adults in my life where exaggerating and being overprotective until I saw a police officer drag my sister’s boyfriend down six concrete stairs for questioning him. He did not arrest him, but stated that he could if he wanted to. And, while some people may not have experienced this type of psychological distress it is a lived reality for many African Americans.

As I journeyed through life and had a few negative experiences with some white people and police, I realized that my fear like theirs was rooted in survival. I also realized that the desire to survive triggers a survival mindset and fear. And fear can lead to emotional hijacking, which in return can cause people to engage in irrational, impulsive and even dangerous behavior.

The more that I learned about fear, the more that I learned about one simple fact…Everyone is fearful of something! Fearful that they might be harmed; fearful that they might lose their economic status, fearful that they might lose their privilege; fearful that they might be judged; fearful that they might not be accepted; fearful that they might lose their job; fearful that they might make the wrong decision; fearful that they might say the wrong thing; fearful that they might lose their life; and fearful that things will remain the same despite the need for change.

Fear creates a fight or flight response. It also creates defensiveness in people. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that social justice cannot be achieved, and no true change will take place until fear is addressed and resolved. Some individuals express their fear through silence which can reflect a flight response and can also be perceived as passiveness. While others express their fear by vocalizing it or through protest which reflect a fight response and also can be perceived as aggressiveness.

While I understand the importance of protesting for justice and advocating for police reform, I also understand that laws will not and cannot change people. Laws are designed to govern behavior, not change the hearts or minds of people.

It is without question that social justice in some manner needs to occur, but FEAR must be addressed and resolved across racial lines before justice can prevail. No Psychological Intervention, No Justice or Peace!

Unfortunately, we are living in a mental health crisis and America is on the verge of entering into a civil war that is rooted in FEAR. White elitists fear losing power and wealth and African Americans and other ethnic groups fear just about everything.

Americans will continue to feel threatened and remain fearful of a civil war without widespread psychological intervention! America needs to heal from its’ horrific past and the healing must occur inside the minds of ALL Americans and across the nation through social justice for all.

We are stronger together as a Nation of God loving people and must work together to ensure that FEAR does not destroy the LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE.

Just my two cents!

Best regards,

Dr. Dwayne Buckingham

A Fearful Black Man



A Nation That Is Divided By Injustice and Racism: Why Are African Americans Struggling To Breathe?

I would like to take a moment to explain why it is difficult for a large percent of African Americans to breathe. As we continue to struggle to process and cope with the negative psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now also trying to process the tragic death and senseless murder of George Floyd.

For many African Americans, the modern-day lynching of George Floyd reminds us of the systematic injustice that has and continues to threaten the moral fabric of America. As we try to make sense of what it means to be an American and more importantly what it means to be an African American in this country, many of us are struggling to breathe.

  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans are not outraged about the senseless murder of black people.
  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans are remaining silent because they do not have to confront the societal demons called racism and injustice.
  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans believe that injustice is a cultural issue and not systematic issue.
  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans hide behind privilege and false perception.
  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans are well-intentioned, but are naïve about the stronghold and negative impact of racism.
  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans do not understand that social empowerment cannot be achieved without economic empowerment.
  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans lack empathy and compassion for people who look like George Floyd.
  • We are struggling to breathe because some Americans are ok with living in A Nation That Is Divided by Injustice and Racism.

I do not pretend to have all of the answers, but I do not know that civil unrest and violence will be unavoidable as long as African Americans continue to struggle to breath. We are as strong as the strongest American. Given this, I challenge you to look at yourself and decide if you are part of the solution or part of the problem. Also, I challenge you to ask yourself, “What positive and productive actions can I take to ensure that all Americans are capable of breathing freely?

We might not be able to remove all of the obstacles that are negatively affecting this country, especially not overnight, but we can begin to work our emotional and mental wellbeing. This is critically important because a person filled with hopelessness and helplessness sees no way forward.

  • Take a risk and speak up!
  • Take a risk and get counseling!
  • Take a risk and hold people accountable!
  • Take a risk and change what you do not like when you look in the mirror!
  • Take a risk and work to change A NATION THAT IS DIVIDED BY INJUSTICE AND RACISM.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risk will accomplish nothing in life.” -Muhammad Ali

As we all struggle to understand what is happening in America, please remember that breathing is necessary for living. We want to breathe justice! We want to breathe freedom. We want to breathe because Black Lives Matter.


Best regards,

Dr. Dwayne Buckingham

A Culture of Trauma: “When They See Us – The Central Park Five” Story

When They See Us – The Central Park Five” story had me in my feelings so I had to take action.

I often engage in self-dialogue after watching black stories that are somewhat traumatizing. I do this because many of us have been exposed to or lived through trauma so long that we get use to experiencing negative emotions and then ignore them by moving on.

Anger, frustration, dislike, disbelief, shock and fear must be processed or these emotions will surface and cause health problems both physically and mentally.

Individuals like myself are unfortunately too familiar with the trauma and injustice experienced by Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, and Raymond Santana.

Between the ages of 5 and 25 I lived through so much trauma that it became normal. Can you relate?

✅ At age 5 I saw my first dead body while walking home from school

✅ I was bullied for having a speech impediment throughout elementary school

✅ I was shot in the arm at age nine

✅ I watched the police beat and harass black men daily

✅ I feared the police due to harassment

✅ I was held in a jail cell for 4 hours at age 15 for being in the wrong place during a drug raid

✅ I witnessed violence and death due to daily gang activity

✅ I attended my nephew’s funeral – he was killed in a drive-by shooting at age 17

✅ I lost my mother at age 17 after she loss her battle with cancer

✅ I attended my friend’s funeral – he was murdered during an attempted robbery

✅ I was robbed at gun point in downtown St. Louis during summer break from college – the gun was pointed at my chest

✅ And more…

Some of you might be asking yourself, “What does his story has to do with the Central Park Five story?” You might also be asking yourself, “Why was he in his feelings over the weekend?”

Glad you asked.

The Central Park Five story is reflective of the African American story. A story of trauma and injustice.

They were traumatized and treated unjustly because of their ethnicity, lack of resources and for being in the “wrong” skin, in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Time and time again, minorities and especially Black and Brown men have been and continue to be imprisoned, beat and even killed because a percentage of society see us as a threat, not as a human being.

I share my thoughts and feelings, not to solicit sympathy or to trigger back lash, but to simply highlight the importance of processing negative energy and traumatizing emotions.

“When They See Us” is a powerful film that triggers emotions that should and must be processed in a safe and healthy manner.

As a black man who has experienced trauma, I understand this personally. And as a licensed clinical psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience, I understand this therapeutically.

If you watch the movie, please speak with someone if you experience negative emotions. We have to stop feeling bad and not doing anything. It is normal to feel pissed, angry, sad and frustrated, but is not normal to hate, self-destruct, destroy your family or your community because you cannot or do not know how to cope with raw and traumatizing emotions.

Do not hold on to trauma because it will imprison you. The Central Park Five are free physically, but I wonder “Are they free mentally?

For support, please see our services or email us at


No Justice, No Peace? A Black Man’s Guide to Clinically Treating Your Suppressed Rage


Dear Dr. Buckingham,

I am 38-year-old black father who wants to comfort and educate my 13-year-old son during these difficult times, but I am struggling myself.

With the recent killings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the cops in Dallas [Editor’s note: this letter was written prior to the attack on the Baton Rouge officers] my heart has been heavy lately, and I have been feeling a little vulnerable.

I know that you are probably not used to hearing a man, especially a black man, say that he feels vulnerable. I have experienced a lot of things growing up, but I have never really felt vulnerable.

I am trying to make sense out of my emotions and my feelings of white people, especially white cops. Like most black men, I want to comfort and help my son, but I do not understand this emotional thing that is happening with me.

As a psychotherapist can you provide some insight?

Which emotion causes people to feel vulnerable and react violently?

Thanks in advance,

Vulnerable Black Father

Read more

Three Reasons Why Ferguson is on Fire


To understand why Ferguson is on Fire, you do not need a Ph.D. However, you do need to reflect and to allow your heart to guide your thoughts, words and actions. Given that we live in a democracy, every man and woman is entitled to express his or her opinion and I am simply sharing mine as a Black male.
Read more

A Grieving City and Front-line Leadership: Capt. Ron Johnson



Upon returning to my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri on August 20, 2014 to give back to my community and to support outstanding leaders like Capt. Ron Johnson, I experienced mixed emotions. On one hand, I felt proud, grateful and excited about being in a position to provide psycho-education to mourning individuals. On the other hand, I felt troubled, worried and disheartened. Read more

Black Economic Empowerment: “I Can” Speech

In celebration of Black History Month, I would like to share a speech that I recently gave at an event.

Here it is:

Throughout history, blacks have fought for economic equality and were inspired by an “I Can” attitude. The Black Economic Empowerment movement was designed to transform the economy to be representative of this diverse and great country. And our forefathers and mothers envisioned a world where you and I would acquire economic equality and one day stand with our heads held high and say with confidence and conviction “I Can”. Read more

How Does a Black Male Determine if His Life Is Meaningful?


I want to preface this article by telling you that I believe that every man’s life is significant regardless of his ethnic background. I am sharing my personal view as a Black male and do not claim to be a representative for all Black males. I provide this disclaimer up-front because I want this article to be read with a non-judgmental and empathic heart. I encourage individuals to seek to understand the Black male’s mind-set and plight before providing commentary or passing judgment.

In light of the recent George Zimmerman “Not Guilty” verdict, millions of Black males who look like Trayvon Martin are questioning their significance.

Throughout history Black males have lived with the disturbing assumption that our lives are insignificant and dispensable. Why? To help you better understand this mind-set, I would like you to join me as I take a historical review of the Black male’s plight in America.

Over the course of my educational journey, I have read countless stories about violence against Black males, but the seven stories that deeply shaped my mind-set about the meaning of my life as a Black male are listed below.

1. Nat Turner was lynched in Jerusalem, Virginia in 1831.
2. Lint Shaw was lynched in Royston, Georgia in 1936.
3. Emmitt Till was murdered on August 28, 1955 for whistling at a white woman.
4. Medgar Wiley Evers was murdered in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963.
5. James Meredith was shot in Mississippi in 1966.
6. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
7. Sean Bell was murdered in New York in 2006.

Learning about the suffering of other Black males helped me understand my pain and mind-set. The manner in which I currently view the importance of my life and that of other Black males has been passed down from generation to generation. Thoughts of being insignificant are so deeply-rooted in our minds that it invades the very fabric of our souls.

As I reflect on my personal experience of growing up in urban America, I am disheartened by the fact that violence has and continues to be a constant factor in how most Black males experience life.

Here are seven experiences that caused me to question the meaning of my life.

1. At age seven.  I was shot in the arm by mother’s ex-boyfriend while riding in a car.
2. At age ten. I saw a local drug dealer gunned down.
3. At age nineteen. I was robbed at gun point in broad daylight after visiting the library in downtown.
4. At age twenty-one. I attended my seventeen-year-old nephew’s funeral after he was gunned down while walking home from the store. No arrest was made.
5. At age twenty-two. I received a phone call informing me that one of my close friends was murdered during an attempted robbery.
6. At age twenty-three. I attended my thirty-four-year-old cousin’s funeral.
7. At age twenty-four. I received a phone call informing me that another close friend was shot during an attempted robbery.

The violence that I experienced and witnessed as I entered into manhood was the by-product of the suffering endured by Black males throughout history. Unfortunately, experiencing violence is a tragedy that continues to plague Black males and causes many of us to question the significance of our existence.

When asked “How Does a Black Male Determine if His Life is Meaningful?” I remind people that all individuals have a basic need to feel safe and secure. Black males, like others feel that their lives are meaningful when they are protected from violence and receive justice when victimized.

As we all strive to cope with historical and current injustices, we must not forget to address the psychological challenges experienced by Black males. We must provide resources to help them define and give meaning to their lives. To live life without an identity is as harsh as living life without a soul. Knowledge of self and why we exist provides a road map for living our lives and helps shape our souls.

Like many others who have died due to violence and experienced injustice, Trayvon Martin has become the identity of Black males and touched the soul of the Black community. We identify with his plight, pray for his family and will take action to ensure that all Black males are protected from violence. The safety and security needs of our youth must not go unmet.


If you or someone you know is struggling to understand the meaning of a Black male’s significance,  please secure a copy of my book “A Black Man’s Worth: Conqueror and Head of Household“.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

6 Messages That Prevent African-Americans from Achieving Emotional and Financial Stability


Messages are forms of communication that are transmitted to individuals either in writing, in speeches or in behavior with the intent of informing or advising them to take action. Messages can either be uplifting or destructive. As an individual who was raised in the 70s, I heard messages that were empowering, heart-felt, educational and uplifting. During the 70s and 80s era, I like most African Americans, felt proud to be Black. Through the messages I heard and read, I was challenged to embrace my heritage, examine the moral fabric of my character and strive to advance myself and my community.

Over the course of my childhood and educational journey, I have read hundreds of messages, but the six messages that profoundly shaped my mind-set and behavior as I ventured into adulthood are listed below.

  1. Thurgood Marshall’s “Equality” speech inspired me to Fight for civil rights.
  2. Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Comprise” speech inspired me to Advocate for myself and others.
  3. Mary McLeod Bethune’s, “What Does American Democracy Mean to Me?” speech inspired me toValue education.
  4. Madame C.J. Walker’s “I Am A Woman Who Came from the Cotton Fields of the South” speech inspired me to Invest.
  5. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech inspired me to Dream.
  6. Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” speech inspired me to Excel.

As I reflect on my childhood experience and educational journey, I kneel to God daily and thank Him. I thank Him because my moral and ethical foundation was built on messages that were uplifting and inspiring. Throughout history, African American’s prosperity and growth has been linked to the messages that we embrace. Unfortunately, we are now living in times, where the messages are not so inspiring and uplifting.

Here are six messages that prevent African Americans from achieving emotional and financial stability.

1. Get Yours and Don’t Worry About Others. In this day and age, many Black people place more emphasis on meeting their personal needs than ever before in history. The “Village” concept is a thing of the past as more individuals are doing what is best for them. This is definitely not in line with our ancestors’ legacy of helping others. If our ancestors were self-centered, selfish and lacked consideration for others, the Civil Rights Movement would have never occurred. Individuals like Rosa Parks and Dr. King did what was unpopular and dangerous because they understood the value of doing what is right instead of what is popular. They also understood that emotional prosperity is achieved by helping others. Commitment to yourself will cause you to be by yourself.

2. Experience Is The Best Teacher. Many individuals in the Black community are quick to say, “You cannot tell me anything unless you have gone through what I have been through”. We have a tendency to place a great deal of emphasis on learning through experience. Whether intentionally or not, we often encourage individuals to experience some form of drama or hardship so that they can have creditable testimonies. For most, our experiences lay the foundation for the majority of our learning. While experience is a great learning method, we must be careful not to minimize the importance of learning through study or education. Through my personal experiences, I have learned to recognize my mistakes and through my educational experiences, I have learned to prevent them. Simply put, experience in my opinion is an intervention and education is prevention. In the famous words of Vernon Law, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives you the test first, the lesson afterwards”. With this in mind, I highly recommend that you do not solely rely on experience or education alone. Balance your life by incorporating both so that you can grow in a healthy manner.

3. Get a Good Job and Work Hard For Others. This message definitely hinders progression in the Black community because many of us are taught to do well in school so that we can get good jobs. We are also taught to value hard work. Personally, I do not believe that there is anything wrong with securing a good job and working hard, but I am mindful that working hard for others will not propel my lifestyle or my loved-ones’ lifestyles to the next level. In my short-time on this earth, I have never met anyone who has acquired wealth by solely working hard for others. In order to build an empire, it is paramount that we seek opportunities to generate some form of passive income. Although Madame C.J. Walker was orphaned, abused and uneducated, she understood that the acquisition of wealth was acquired by working for self. She began her own cosmetic company and later became the First African-American female Millionaire. If you desire to have financial stability in the twenty-first century, you must continue to work hard, but also strive to become financially independent.

4. Psychological Problems Can Be Resolved By Praying and Attending Church. As a devoted Christian, I truly believe in the power of prayer and believe that God is capable of healing the wounded and sick. However, I also believe that church should not be the only place where Blacks seek assistance for psychological distress. On a daily basis, I interact with a large percentage of individuals who are clinically depressed and suffering from anxiety. Many of them could benefit from psychotherapy and psychotropic medication, but are often encouraged to just pray. As an African-American, I understand the financial, social and culture challenges associated with accessing counseling services. However, when confronted with medical problems or sickness many of us do whatever is needed to seek and receive medical care. We do not place our physical health in the hands of our pastor or the church. So after you finish praying get some professional help. If you desire to achieve emotional stability, you must learn to nurture your mind, just like you nurture your body and soul. As the old saying goes, “The Mind is A Terrible Thing to Waste”.

5. Look Good Even If You Do Not Feel Good. This message encourages individuals to purchase material items (clothes, shoes, cars, homes, etc.) in order to cover up their emotional or psychological distress. It also encourages individuals to internalize their problems. As a community of people, we have mastered the art of faking it until we make it. However, by now most of us should have learned that the possession of expensive clothes, shoes or cars will not resolve our internal turmoil or psychological distress. I grew up hearing individuals say, “Looks can kill you”. I used to believe that this was not true, but after years of observing African Americans invest more money into their outwardly appearance than they do in their emotional and physical well-being, I am starting to believe that looks can kill.

6. Support Black Businesses, but Make Sure You Get The Hook-up. Some of us will only patronize each other as long as we are getting the hook-up: “something free or a discount“. I am often told that I have to offer something free or some kind of discount in order to gain the support of African Americans. While this is disturbing, it is somewhat true. How can African American business owners grow our businesses if we are constantly being asked to give away products or perform services for free. I do not have a problem with giving because I believe that Givers Gain and God has blessed me to be able to give. However, I do have a problem with people always looking for the hook-up. Please understand that getting the “hook-up” does not always benefit you because you get what you pay for. Also, please understand that for profit businesses exist to make money and to grow. If we as a people are to achieve financial stability, we must support each other and be willing to pay fair market price for services and products we receive.

As you continue to celebrate Black History Month, please remember that messages have power and often influence behavior. If you desire to achieve emotional and financial stability, please be careful of the kinds of messages you listen to and embrace. Disregard messages that demean your character, reinforce negative stereotypes and stagnate the Black community. You cannot always control what you hear or influence the kinds of messages that are delivered, but you can control how you behave after hearing them. Remember that your belief system is a composite of messages that you have embraced. With this in mind, I strongly recommend that you disregard messages that inhibit your ability to achieve emotional and financial stability. Listen to the right messages and I guarantee you that your life will change for the better.