Power Spotlight: Dr. Frances Cress Welsing

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing is a world renowned, Washington, D.C.-based psychiatrist and race theorist Frances Cress Welsing rocked the fields of cultural and behavioral science with her 1970 essay The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy). This striking theory of the origins of racism is rooted in the effects that varying degrees of melanin–the color-producing pigment in skin–can have on racial perception and development. “The quality of whiteness is a genetic inadequacy or a relative deficiency or disease based upon the inability to produce the skin pigments of melanin which are responsible for all skin color,” she explained in the essay, adding, “The majority of the world’s people are not so afflicted, suggesting that the state of color is the norm for human beings and [its] absence is abnormal.”

In her essay, Welsing contends that because of their “numerical inadequacy” and “color inferiority,” white people may have defensively developed “an uncontrollable sense of hostility and aggression” towards people of color which has led to “confrontations” between the races throughout history. Repressing their own feelings of inadequacy, whites “set about evolving a social, political and economic structure to give blacks and other ‘non-whites’ the appearance of being inferior.”

The second of three girls, Welsing was born on March 18, 1935, in Chicago, Illinois, into a family that had already produced two doctors. Her father, Henry N. Cress, now deceased, was a medical doctor, as was her grandfather. After receiving her bachelor’s degree at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1957, and her M.D. at Washington D.C.’s Howard University College of Medicine five years later, Welsing pursued a career in general and child psychiatry. Her Cress Theory essay was published while she was an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Howard University College of Medicine. According to Welsing, it caused such a stir that her tenure at the university was not renewed in 1975.

In addition to her role as an educator, Welsing spent nearly two and a half decades of her long and distinguished career working as a staff physician for the Department of Human Services in Washington, D.C., and served as the clinical director of two schools there for emotionally troubled children. A specialist in both child and general psychiatry, she began her private practice in the district in 1967 and has gained particular acclaim for her work with young people.

For Welsing, the world’s most pressing problem is the disturbing issue of white supremacy, or racism. “I put the discussion of melanin on the board in order to [describe how pigmentation] was a factor in what white supremacy behavior was all about,” Welsing noted in an interview with Michael Eric Dyson for Emerge. “If I had my way, there wouldn’t be all the discussion about melanin. I would say, Discuss white supremacy.”

Welsing laid the foundation for her ongoing discussion of white supremacy in her groundbreaking 1970 essay The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation and Racism. In it, she reasoned that because whiteness is a color deficiency and white people make up only a small percentage of the earth’s population, they tend to view people of color as a threat to their survival and therefore treat them with hostility. She stated that their defensive reaction has been to impose white supremacy, or racism, on people of color throughout history.

~ by ARR on July 21, 2009.

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