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by Tanisha Stewart, Psy.D.
THE UNTHINKABLE STATE OF THE NATION
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you.” James Baldwin (1961, p. 205)
When proposing my dissertation, a study on the developmental awareness of racial microaggressions, I was told that my topic of study, while interesting, was not directly related to psychotherapy. I argue that the process in which a previously hidden and unknown aspect of daily experience comes into awareness is inherent to the task of psychoanalytic work. As my mind, body, and soul struggles to grasp the all-too-frequent murders at the hands of the state and the resulting civil unrest, I keep returning to James Baldwin’s words.
One of the fundamental tasks of analytic work is to bring into awareness the unknowable truths and unbearable thoughts. What is more unbearable than the knowledge that the nation’s public institutions held dear by so many -- the judicial, legislative, and social welfare systems -- which were created to protect liberties and serve the community, were actually explicitly designed to further your oppression? What are the psychic costs of knowing that your friends, educators, law enforcement, mental health providers, and most of those you encounter hold implicit and unconscious beliefs that you are inferior, lascivious, and dangerous? How much psychic energy is expended actively repressing and denying these facts just to walk through the world believing you are immune from state-sanctioned violence and are safe and secure?
by June Lin-Arlow, AMFT
CONFRONTING WHITE SUPREMACY REQUIRES STRENGTHENING OUR CAPACITY TO TOLERATE NOT KNOWING
I’m going to start by saying that I am a Chinese American, who finds myself in a space between Black and White. Chinese Americans have benefited from anti-Black racism and are seen as perpetual outsiders, never fully “American.” The model minority myth has been used as a wedge to divide people of color, and there has been a deafening silence in our communities about the oppression of Black communities under the system of White supremacy. I’ve been a therapist who’s worked with Black families and a client who has worked with a White therapist.
During the week that protests erupted after the murder of George Floyd, I met with a Black mother who I see for family therapy. She and her young son are currently living in a shelter after escaping from domestic violence. She told me that she was annoyed that the protests prevented her from being able to live her daily life. Target and Walgreens were one of the few places she could go to, and now they were boarded up. She told me that speaking to other Black people was tiring, because emotions were so heightened, and that it was actually easier to talk to people who were not Black. “Not all cops are bad,” she said. “I’ve only ever met two bad cops. Cops actually helped me escape from my situation.”