In the wake of Richard Spencer’s visit to Gainesville, FL, I sat down for a timely emotional conversation with counselor Kathleen Joseph. Kathleen talks about fighting cancer, experiencing racism, and struggling to find a therapist in a field of mental health professionals who don’t look like her.
When editing this episode, I chose to leave in many of the long, heavy silences between us. It just didn’t seem right to cut out the places where we may have been the most uncomfortable. I hope to invite Kathleen back soon and risk even more discomfort. I found our talk extremely worthwhile. See below for resources related to our conversation.
Resources and a follow-up note (5/13/19)
Shortly after I released this episode, I received some critical, hard-to-hear feedback from a counselor friend who studies white privilege, multicultural mistakes, and how to have better cross-cultural dialogues. Her feedback led to countless difficult dialogues about white privilege, white fragility, and the appropriate and inappropriate places for white people to express our own vulnerability, grief, confusion, and guilt related to racial issues. I am deeply grateful for my friend for challenging me and pointing me in a direction that has been, and continues to be, personally and professionally invaluable.
Let’s face it: I made a number of multicultural mistakes in my conversation with Kathleen. For those of you already familiar with multicultural mistakes, I’m sure you will hear them immediately. Below are some resources that proved critical for my understanding the nature of my mistakes and what I can do differently. One big “aha” moment was learning that, in a conversation with a person of color about racism, my own vulnerability, however well-meaning and certainly historically privileged, becomes something different–toxic, retraumatizing, and deeply dismissive. I am embarrassed to say that I perceived us to be having a mutually vulnerable conversation, and later learned that my own vulnerability was a demonstration of centering myself and crying white tears.
Being well-meaning in any area of counseling is not necessarily the same as being effective. And sometimes it’s tempting to hide out in, “Well, I didn’t mean any harm.” But we must recognize the places where we fail our clients in ways that reflect our own blind spots and areas of growth. Kathleen was not my client, of course, and I was not interacting with her as her therapist. But still, this conversation revealed my own growth edges related to multicultural sensitivity. As my mentor used to say, it isn’t easy to be in a field that requires us to continually take hard looks at ourselves, but that is the job.
While it’s difficult to keep these mistakes on the internet where others can hear me make them, and to know that I risk hurting people of color who listen to this conversation, I believe it’s another form of white fragility to hide these mistakes, which ultimately formed the basis for a lot of growth. Cross-cultural conversations are hard, and often messy, and white counselors need to strive to do better, even though we will never get it “right.”
Thank you to Kathleen first for having the conversation with me, and to everyone else who has been brave enough to challenge me to keep learning. Over the past year and half since I posted this episode and began to deepen my multicultural education, many of my clients of color have thanked me for holding a healing space for their experiences of racism–something I was unable to do with Kathleen. So, while I am still and will always be imperfect with this territory, I am hopeful about indicators of development.
Please take the time to educate yourself if this is also a growth edge for you.
There are two categories of resources provided below that are relevant to the content of this episode.
- The first category is culturally specific resources for Black or African American people
- The second category is intended for White counselors who would like to learn more about blind spots and allyship
Culturally specific resources for Black or African American people
- African American Mental Health
- NAMI – African Americans
- Kathleen Joseph, LMHC Counseling Services AND Kathleen’s Fierce Award
- Lacretia Dye, PhD, LPCC
- How to Meditate: A Black Woman’s Guide on How to Reduce Stress
- Black Girl Magic Meditation
- Black Men Smile®: Celebrating the Way We See Ourselves
- Melanated Rising Podcast: AND www.sistaafya.com.
- Breaking Isolation: Self Care and Community Care Tools for our People
- Black Yoga teachers Allliance
- Desiree Adaway, Dear Sister Cards (Volume 1 and 2)
- Protect Your Magic! 9 Self Care Acts Black Women Should Practice Daily
- Dr. Ceymone Dyce – Taking care of yourself Dr. Mrs.
White counselors who would like to learn more about Blind spots and Allyship
- Blindspot and the Implicit Association Test
- Ruth King’s book Mindful of Race
- Ruth King Free recordings
- 5 tips to be an ally
- KIMBULU: Invalidating others’ feelings shuts down conversation on race
- 4 Ways White People Can Process Their Emotions Without Bringing the White Tears
- Ep009: #GoodAncestor Glennon Doyle from Good Ancestor Podcast in Podcasts
- 7 Things Black People Want Their Well-Meaning White Friends to Know.
- #BlackLivesMatter Meditation & additional Ally/Accomplice Meditation for Cultivating an Anti-Racist Mindset by Dr. Candice Nicole