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Halper, I.S. (1970). The Counterpoint Of Racial And Oedipal Themes In The Psychotherapy Of A Negro Patient. Psychoanal. Rev., 57(2):169-180.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Review, 57(2):169-180

The Counterpoint Of Racial And Oedipal Themes In The Psychotherapy Of A Negro Patient

Ira S. Halper, M.D.


Color is a theme of such great importance in the life of the Negro, it is not surprising that it assumes an important role in intrapsychic conflicts. By the color of his skin, the American Negro has been branded as inferior. For the Negro, the white way has been the right way. Products have been offered to bleach the skin and straighten the hair. The ego-ideal of the Negro became white,6,12,17 and discrimination and segregation were interpreted as punishment for being black. In recent years, identification with emerging African nations and pride in being a Negro have partly changed this picture;4 however, color values were important during the early years of patients now in treatment.

A number of authors have discussed the connection between sexual and racial problems in the relationship between Negro and whites.5,7,8,14,16,18,19,23,29,30 Whites have denied their own “black” instinctual strivings and projected them onto the Negro. The freedom of Southern white men to engage in sexual behavior with Negro women and the taboos against similar relationship between Negro an white women are only too well known.8,9,20 The reactions of the white man to sexual relations between a Negro and his woman were violent. He sometimes killed the offender, or infrequently but significantly, castrated him.8 The theme of castration appears dramatically in Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin. Harlem-born Baldwin takes his first trip to the South. He sees the rust-red earth of Georgia and has the following thoughts: “I could not suppress the thought that this earth had acquired its color from the Wood that had dripped down from those trees.

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