BY Sheila turner, Student
Clinical psychology, fielding graduate university
Dr. Alex L. Pieterse frames racism as “an intentional system of POWER built on social difference…DESIGNED to restrict opportunity, PROFIT on oppression and JUSTIFY its actions by the FALSE ideology of white superiority (emphasis Pieterse, Pieterse, 2020).
With the racial incidences in the United States during the last year, despite their occurrence in the previous 400 years, there has been a particular interest in anti-Black racism. Specifically, non-people of color have decided to take on the banner of what it means to be anti-racist in a racist society. To be anti-racist means to acknowledge racism personally, in systems, education, and actions. When I was growing up, a spiritual adage often referenced was, “faith without works is dead.” Suggesting that talking and reading are not enough, sitting by idly and hoping or having faith that things will change is NOT enough…it requires ACTION!
Anti-racism requires us to challenge the thoughts and policies in place and have been for centuries. It requires non-people of color to recognize how those thoughts, actions, and policies have inflicted racial trauma within the Black community. As scholar-practitioners, we eagerly study the lives of children and adults affected by PTSD. However, do you stop to think about the continuous effects of the daily trauma experienced by your Black peers and Black clients? Research suggests that Black adults and youth have at least five racial discrimination experiences every day (Anderson, 2020). These experiences can occur in multiple settings and multiple ways—ranging from institutional and interpersonal racism to threats of harm and macro-and micro-aggressions (Anderson, 2020; Comas-Diaz, Hall, & Neville, 2019). Each one continues to impact all Black people no matter how they try to shield themselves from literal and figurative darts.
As a scholar-practitioner, you must ask yourself, “How do I plan to show up for them?” Cultural competency coursework is great, as are diversity and inclusion, but the action is a crucial component. Being an anti-racist means:
- RECOGNIZING that Black people are not a monolith.
- IDENTIFYING the power dynamic in therapeutic relationships.
- ACKNOWLEDGING that most research does not include Black people. This also means that most measures are not normed for Black people.
- UNDERSTANDING how racism impacts your Black colleagues and patients.
- RECOGNIZING Black people’s pain and discomfort and standing in unity, and working toward Black wellness.
- Not PATRONIZING, DISMISSING, or DEMEANING, just because it does not affect you or you have never had that experience.
- RECOGNIZING our resilience despite our treatment in the United States.
As we quickly progress through Black History Month, I challenge you to look in the mirror and ask how you can become an anti-racist. Examine your words, actions, and thoughts and see how they impact your Black peers, colleagues, and patients. Educate yourself and your family, ask the hard questions, and not let shame or embarrassment prevent you from making necessary changes to become a better person. Remember BEING AN ANTI-RACIST REQUIRES ACTION!
About the Author
Sheila Turner is a first-generation, second-year Clinical Psychology doctoral student at Fielding. She holds a master’s degree in criminal justice with a Forensic Psychology specialty and recently completed her Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant certification. After working for over 20 years in both the private and public sectors and raising her family, Sheila returned to college to pursue her dream of being a psychologist. Since being at Fielding, she has presented various topics related to the impact of trauma and adolescents, juvenile offenders and alternatives to incarceration, and the relationship between victimization and female adolescent offenders. She is interested in implementing mental health treatment strategies to prevent and reduce adolescent incarceration.
Sheila is a member of the Black Student Association, American Psychology Association of Graduate Students, and the Ohio Psychological Association of Graduate Students. She also serves as the Student Caucus Campus Representative for the Association for Psychological Science Student.