What does it mean to be a racially responsive therapist? Well, I spent my time in graduate school researching how to best train therapists to be more racially responsive. I think I mostly learned about all the institutional barriers that get in the way. We defined racially responsive as attending to racial issues and dynamics that come up in therapy, to be able to identify and understand where our clients were in their racial identity development, as well as our own (which sometimes is the most important part).
I didn’t need research to show me that people of Color receive worse mental health care than their White counterparts, though it does. Having worked in systems like hospitals, healthcare centers, colleges, and schools I’ve seen the avoidance of talking about race and racism first hand. We know obstetric care is worse.
As a White person, it is crucial that I don’t remain silent about racism right now. But, I don’t speak at this time necessarily for White people to work towards being anti-racist, though that would be great. Developing racial identity as a White person takes committed personal and emotional investment of time, effort, and ability to move through discomfort, confusion, helplessness, guilt & shame in order to find empathy.
As women we know that we are socialized to take the perspectives and empathize with men, it’s almost like second nature. Conversely, we know how often men (even with their best intentions!) miss the mark on how it feels to live in our shoes. This is how oppression works. Our society is set up so that people with privileged identities simply don’t have to empathize with those with less privileged identities.
I write this now for my clients of Color and women of Color that I don’t know. For women who have non-White children who are scared and worried for the future of their babies. For women who possibly have never been more challenged than now with the added stress of the pandemic. For the women who are trying to take care of themselves despite providing so much care for others.
Your life matters, your baby’s life matters, your family's and friends’ lives matter. You matter.