Have you heard about "anti-racism" recently?
In the last few months we have seen a centering of the ways systemic racism affects Black and Latinx communities in a different way. Especially when it comes to higher proportion of deaths by COIVD, police brutality, healthy and economic inequities. We have heard and seen black grief and rage and may not understand the trans-generational and cumulative impact of 400 hundred years of discrimination because we likely grew up in the time of color blindness. You may have only recently heard the phrase "anti-racism".
Making Your Therapy Practice More Anti-Racist
You likely have been wondering how you can be more of an anti-racist practice. Of course, you feel for the BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities. You support the premise of Black Lives Matter [too] and care about diversity, equity and inclusion in your practice. You have often thought I am not a racist, but have begun thinking are you anti-racist? What does it actually mean to be anti-racist? It is taking an active stance against racism. To be “not a racist” is a stance of neutrality. It is often being indifferent or minimizing the legacy of white supremacy in this country that supports the white supremacy system continuing. Check out my other blog post about white supremacy and history of racist policies. The reality is we are all indoctrinated and conditioned into white supremacy [the system that creates white privilege]. We likely learned a Eurocentric curriculum in school. We might have grown up or currently live in segregated areas. We went to graduate school and learned therapy models that centered white, cis, male, heterosexual, able bodied, neurotypical, Christian, upper middle class theories of understanding human behavior, culture and therapy.
Unlearning Racism to Embrace Racial Justice and Anti-Racism
We have an opportunity to unlearn racist ideas but first we must deconstruct our current paradigm that centers whiteness without naming whiteness. We have to lift the veil and make visible what has been invisible. There are a lot of different anti-racist or diversity, equity and inclusion options out there. Why is mine different? I really embrace a paradigm shift for everyone (no matter what your race is or how you have been an ally in the past). I bring a mindfulness lens to all trainings and conversations along with a clinical background. As a black licensed clinical psychologist who is also a yoga teacher and somatically trained, married to a cis white man, raising bi-racial children who has worked in community mental health, been a clinical and administrative director at partial hospital, intensive outpatient and inpatient programs, worked in college counseling center and owns a group practice I have seen the ways anti-racism is rarely embraced as a value in a way that transforms a culture.
white supremacy and racism lives in our bodies
We bring those bodies into our therapy rooms and our bodies talk to each other. When we talk about racism we have to do it not only from a cognitive place but also a fully embodied stance so true transformation can occur. We have to understand how implicit bias takes root unconsciously and how our bodies react first and then the mind follows. We have to learn to settle our bodies (engage our ventral vagal nerve) as Resmaa Menakem talks about. Learning about different cultures (cultural competence) is great and yet not enough if our paradigm doesn’t shift and reduce our implicit bias. We have to embrace cultural humility, a recognition that we often don't know and will always be learning.
How do we move away from centering whiteness as the norm?
How do we create truly inclusive spaces- spaces that welcome the intersectionality of identities, that affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all beings. How do you start to critically analyze from an anti-racist lens and do a power analysis? How do you recognize the barriers to having productive, embodied discussions about race? Who do your websites and marketing materials speak to? What is not explicitly stated? Where is your practice located and who can easily access your services? What is your payor mix? How do you hire and retain BIPOC clinicians? How do you partner and become an ally for BIOPC communities from a genuine place rather than a performative place? How do you hold space for black rage and grief as well as the intergenerational trauma of racism? How do you start to see the model minority stereotype as anti-blackness culture? How are you unintentionally committing microaggressions and how do you repair that? How do you build shame resiliency and skills to sit in discomfort?
There are certain values related to white supremacy culture.
When we start to intersect it with other identities we uncover sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, and religious intolerance.
An Anti-Racism Assessment for Organizations
I have adapted this anti-racism assessment grid from National Juvenile Justice Network which looks at the culture of different organizations. There are four main categories:
Embrace the Best of Yourself, Reject Shame and Become More Anti-Racist
What if you were to embrace "I want to get it right rather than I want to be right" as Brene Brown says when she talks about moving away from unhealthy shame to accountability? How do we step into vulnerability to address your blindspots, the areas that you were purposely never thought because white supremacy system cannot persist if everyone is awake and aware about the anti-blackness culture that is the foundation of the United States. Shame is not a social justice tool but rather a symptom of white supremacy. Shame interferes with our ability to feel empathy, build bridges or invite people into the conversation. How can you create more healing in your communities for white, black, indigenous, people of color, and multiracial people where there is less stigma about mental health issues and therapy is more accessible for everyone in your community?
Are you ready to get started with an anti-racism consultant?
Check out my anti-racism resource page to start this process. Schedule a training for your staff. Join one of my upcoming trainings. Purchase an online training video. Learn more about me here.
Have you noticed people talking about this concept called “anti-racism”?
It means moving away from a binary labeling of someone as racist or not racist. The binary system has several problems. The number one problem is that it puts people into boxes of being racist and hence bad or being not racist and hence good. That is very limiting and not helpful if we want to see real change. We have to look at individual and systemic racism and take an active stance against this which is anti-racism. We first have to understand history and center those who have been oppressed in our telling of history.
Some Core Elements of Anti-Racism
Here are a few things to consider that supports the idea that we are all indoctrinated into a racist society that has white supremacy as its foundation:
We are NOT taught anti-racism or racial justice history in school
Is some of our history surprising? Was it what you were taught in school? Did you think of white supremacy as a small group of people with extreme views wearing white hoods? I did for a long time. My eyes were opened when I started seeing it a system. A system that makes whiteness as the norm and superior. From white supremacy comes white privilege. White privilege is a series of advantages that makes life a little easier even if you don’t have other privileges.
Being "Not Racist" Isn't the Same as Being Anti-Racist
It is easy to say you are “not racist” but often that means you are neutral in discussions about racist policies and ideas. We can assume that we all have internalized racist ideas if we have spent any time in the United States. If you agree with some of the history described above it makes sense how we got to today’s Black Lives Matter movement and a cry for some radical change across economics, education, policing, and healthcare access. You can now decide what you want to do going forward. How important is true equality and equity.
"Antiracism is the commitment to fight racism..."
I like Ibram Kendi’s definition of anti-racism which is someone who supports an antiracist policy through their actions or expresses an idea based in antiracism. What do you think and do on a daily basis that supports or dismantles white supremacy and supports or challenges anti-racist policies? What if it is really indifference of most individuals on a daily basis that maintains white supremacy rather than extremists that are explicitly racist.
Ready to Learn More About Anti-Racism Resources and Racial Justice?
Do you want to dive deeper into these topics? Start to unpack your racial conditioning and start to commit to anti-racism in your daily life. Check out some of the videos created by Dr. Nathalie Edmond and the anti-racism resource page. Sign up for one of the upcoming anti-racism workshops. Finally, set up a consultation for your therapy staff, yoga instruction, educational team and more.
In the meantime, check out this video of Dr. Edmond reading the untold story of racism by Ruth King. Perhaps, you might even adapt this resource to talk to your children or teams about racism!
Part of what I have learned from Eastern philosophy is this concept of metta meditation. This is also known as loving kindness meditation. You repeat a couple of phrases and wish yourself well, a loved one well, and someone who is difficult in your life or caused you harm. The idea is to have the intention of wishing this person well. Sometimes it is easy to say it and sometimes it is difficult. Ultimately when we hold on to anger, it stops being healthy and can make us sick. I wish people well so that I don’t hold on to their pain and hate.
People ask me when I make an anti-racist comment, video or blog and have people say harmful things to me why don’t I ignore it. Sometimes I do ignore it if I am not in an emotionally resourced place to address it. I think sometimes it does me more harm to ignore it. I carry their pain (anger, sadness, shame) in my body, in my energetic zone and that is not helpful to me. I find myself ruminating about what they said and all the ways I can challenge it.
When I reply from a grounded place and am able to still see their humanity by wishing them well it frees me. I can move on more easily. I let go of someone winning or losing. Grounded doesn’t mean I don’t feel a lot of emotions. Rage or sadness is often simmering but it hasn’t hijacked my nervous system to the point that I can’t see the multiple truths. I remind myself that many people, particularly white people, have been taught a certain narrative about post racial United States and that if people work hard enough they can be successful as well.
It seems that the concept of racism, individual and systemic racism, excites strong emotion in people to the point they have polarizing conversations where they cannot see the other person’s viewpoint. At extremes we forget that we are each human and start to attack each other rather than build curiosity and common ground.
I love how Ruth King invites us to think about the following things when you are inviting people into conversation about race, rather than calling them out:
This is one of my favorite exchanges and gives me hope:
Him: 94% of black deaths are caused by black men.
Me: I wonder the context of this data. Hard for me to know without more than one line shown. Could you send an article?How do systemic issues contribute to individual issues while holding individuals accountable.
Him: easy go to FBI crime statistics and research the truth
Me: interesting to think that a system designed to police Black people is the only truth out there. Who gathers the info, what is it used for, who tends to be profiled? What data isn’t collected? What leads certain communities to be so impoverished and desperate and internalize racism. Just some of the things I tend to think about. Thank you for telling me your source.
Him: funny. You change the topic without any research. You know the truth.
All I know in this world is a victim stays a victim.
Why have people succeeded in getting out but majority stay in sane circumstances
Him: Democrat community gives data to the fbi. Keeping voting blue, then people stay impoverished
Me: there is so much we could talk about. Too bad social media platform isn’t the place to have deep conversations that help people understand each other’s perspectives in my opinion. Thanks for engaging with me for a little while. I appreciate hearing how others come to understand things. So curious about the ways the Republican Party is trying to address poverty especially in black and Latinx communities to decrease the longstanding wealth gap. Will look for that in their platform.
Him: historic minority and female unemployment and earnings. Opportunity zones in black poor areas. I would research the period between 40s to civil rights in 67’ and wonder why black Americans stopped prospering after civil rights as they did before civil rights. Very interesting info. I love a smart discussion 🙏❤️
Me: Wishing you well.
If you are interested in learning more about having race based discussions from a mindful and compassionate place and invite people into conversation, sign up for one of my upcoming offerings. Next anti-racism workshop is 8/8. Full list can be found here. Check out my RAIN meditation to help take a breath and slow down when conversations cause you distress.
by Nathalie EDmond, PsyD, RYT-500
Who knew that three words could be filled with so much emotion. ALL LIVES MATTER. At face value the phrase seems obvious to be true. It seems like a value I would teach my bi-racial kids from an early age. As a yogi I call on ancient sacred texts that have universal messages in it about all humans being connected on an energetic level. Sitting in a therapy room I think all lives matter and I have to also understand what that phrase means in our country. All lives matter is based on white supremacy. What is white supremacy? It is the foundation of this country.
Robin DiAngelo says “white supremacy captures the all-encompassing centrality and assumed superiority of people defined and perceived as white, and the practices based upon that assumption”. If we look at history we see that the United States is based on that. Colonists escaped Europe to escape persecution and to create a better life for themselves and their families. One of the fundamental assumptions of the nation that was founded on the land of indigenous people was the right to enslave black people to build wealth. The first slave ships arrived in 1619. Originally there were indentured servants (white people) who had to serve a certain amount of time before they could be free and enslaved people (black people) who had to serve a life sentence. When there started to be resistance about this system the notion of whiteness was created that indentured servants could strive to achieve which came privileges such as the right to own land and have their own slaves. Over the centuries we see the exclusion and persecution of other European ethnic groups until they legally were given the designation of whiteness with all its related privileges.
So if we look at history the phrase ALL LIVES MATTER is coded language for all white lives matter because the United States has always seen Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) lives as less than white. White is the ideal in which laws, clothes, media, education, economics are based. White privilege comes from this system of white supremacy. There have been many laws and policies over the years that affirm the notion that whiteness is ideal. Policing was created during slavery to return runaway slaves to their masters and has a history of enforcing racist policies that view black lives as animals, savages, super predators, lazy, dangerous, 3/5 of a (white) person.
Segregation and Jim Crow laws had clear messages that black people were not as good as white people and should be separated. Redlining and discriminatory lending impacted housing in the 1900s as well as unequal access to the GI bill. After the Civil War, states could create barriers to allowing black people the access to vote which continues today. The Civil Rights Act made significant progress to change some racist policies but didn’t do anything to change the hearts and minds of individuals. Where did all those racist ideas of black people being inferior go. They went underground. Racism was then often talked about in coded language. The “war on drugs” began which was the beginning of the new jim crow which we now call mass incarceration. Many scholars talk about mass incarceration which disproportionately impacts black and latinx lives through racist policies and sentencing laws as a new form of slavery that strips humans of their rights for life which was encoded in to the 13th amendment.
We never fully owned our racist history the way Germany has owned the holocaust. We don’t center the enslavement of black people for hundreds of years in our history books. We moved to colorblindness which is a nice sentiment but doesn’t do justice to the fact that BIPOC individuals are treated differently than white people. There is a huge wealth gap between white individuals and black and latinx people. There is a higher percentage of kids of color who are suspended and expelled in schools (instead of counseled) than white students. There is a higher proportion of black people dying during COVID. 1 in 3 black men will be incarcerated in comparison to 1 in 17 white men. There is a history of police brutality and excessive use of force towards black people which leads to the death of black people. We can either learn that there are racist policies based on white supremacy operating or say that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Black community that causes them to be inferior.
Black Lives Matter is a cry to look at our collective history. To address hundreds of years of inequity and the anti-blackness culture that is the foundation of this country. It is not anti-police; it is not promoting violence. It simply is saying Black Lives Matter too and we have to make changes to make the phrase ALL LIVES MATTER truly matter on an individual and systemic level. The system of white supremacy persists because we don't lean into the pain of our racist history and the legacy that leaves across generations and in our daily lives. Learn more by checking out Dr. Edmond’s video on white supremacy or check out one of her anti-racism workshops. Learn more about Dr. Nathalie Edmond, a licensed clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and anti-racism educator.
Nathalie Edmond is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of trauma from a mindfulness based and somatic approach. She is also a yoga teacher and anti-racism educator. She lives with her family in New Jersey.