Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 611–626 | Cite as

When Empathy is Not Enough: a Reflection on the Self-Experience of Black Boys in Public Spaces

  • Danjuma GibsonEmail author


This project explores the self-experiences of Black boys in public spaces, primarily in Chicago. Given the plethora of negative media attention placed on violence in the city and on violent encounters with law enforcement, this project asks how Black boys can experience themselves in a life-giving way when so many negative images and stereotypes denigrate their humanity. The author introduces the concepts of group-level racial delusion and demonic transference. The former term suggests a psychological split occurring at the societal level that historically has allowed emotional and physical violence to be disproportionately and callously inflicted on Black boys in public spaces, which society has internalized as normative while simultaneously extolling democratic and Christian values central to Western identity formation. The latter term suggests the interpersonal or group transference that occurs just prior to the infliction of emotional or physical harm on Black boys—a transference that is propped up by abject images and stereotypes of Black males. The article concludes first with reflections on a qualitative interview conducted with two groups of Black boys in Chicago pertaining to their self-experiences in public spaces and then with thoughts on future work.


Black boys Violence Black males Demonic transference Racial delusion Empathy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Calvin Theological SeminaryGrand RapidsUSA

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