Editor's Note

Editor's Note

By Rich Simon

September/October 2020

In the realm of social justice, our field seems to be on a perpetual learning curve. Just when we think we understand the issues facing an oppressed and marginalized group, we discover that we’ve been missing something crucial, something that’s been going on all along but hasn’t been examined and acknowledged fully by everyone. At this particular juncture, that “thing” is racism. Not as a concept, but an everyday reality.

In this issue of the magazine, we confront the internalized, often unconscious racism that rarely gets explored in daily life, even among those of us who consider ourselves allies. We consider how we can productively address this unnerving reality, and what it means for the therapy field. Every clinician knows that self-knowledge is a precondition for authentic connection and, ultimately, for healing. So how can therapists of all races and ethnicities support their clients of color in voicing their experiences of racial oppression and naming what they need to heal? And how can white therapists in particular use their skills and commitment to self-awareness to look more deeply at themselves and their privilege?

In the spirit of promoting understanding and connection, we’re framing this issue as a series of conversations—first and foremost among clinicians of different races and ethnicities, but also between the parts of ourselves that may not want to engage in these dialogues. Among other pieces, we present a panel discussion highlighting the views of six clinicians of color shortly after the murder of George Floyd, a white therapist’s continual work to uncover his own hidden racism, a look at the cultural and historical trauma that lingers for so many, and a candid conversation between a Black activist and a white therapist who are collaborating on a community project for the Black youth most in danger of being killed on our streets. Each piece explores a different facet of a central challenge: What does it mean to be truly antiracist, and how can a therapist begin to embody and encourage that in the consulting room?

Since the Networker was founded more than four decades ago, we’ve aimed to publish a magazine not just on the art and science of therapy, but also on its intersection with pressing social and political issues. When we got started, this meant moving beyond coverage of individual, psychodynamic approaches, and writing about the field’s then-pioneering work with families, including those beset by poverty, violence, inadequate healthcare, and other systemic ills. We’ve reported on evolving issues around feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, and transgender equality. Over the years, we’ve also trained our lens on the profound suffering caused by racism.

That suffering remains profound, and the current outpouring of anger and resistance has jolted many people into a deeper recognition of the realities of “living while Black” in this country. As the scrawled message on the magazine’s cover calls out, “Can You Hear Us Now?” As a field that’s been historically slow to diversify, we need to listen better. And to stay in those conversations.

This is hard work that triggers intense emotion, no question. But from where I sit, it’s as important as any issue we’ve ever faced.

Rich Simon


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Monday, October 19, 2020 3:16:48 PM | posted by Robert
I have a hard time with this subject. Though I've only recently discovered the extent of my own innate privilege of color and friends of other colors have educated me on how much racism exists around me (unbeknownst to my oblivion), I feel strange in my ignorance. I was partly raised by a black woman in my white family home at a very young age, and honestly did not realize she was a different color than me, my father, and my siblings, until one day she cut her arm deeply and looking at the contrast between her skin color and the inside of her arm, then looking at my arm and back to hers, I noticed we were different. Until then, I only knew she was Amy, we loved her and she loved us. I'm just blown away that life can't just be that simple. I've had lots of racism aimed at me and it surprises me every time. I'm looking forward to the insights this reading will give into my un-seeing and others'.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 12:31:23 AM | posted by Sonja
Thank you for this. I appreciate having this intentional conversation with our national and international community of mental health workers. I am looking forward to diving into the social justice aspect of this work, even more, and discovering my own blind spots. I see this as an obligation to ensure that we are really viewing an individual through their social context. This is not just an added layer of our work, it is our obligation, and has been viewed as a separate issue, a separate training... but really this is the heart of our work. I strive to be a therapist that can be a safe and effective clinician for all races and backgrounds.