Rooting out Racism in Behavioral Health Education & Practice: TIME to Act
“The Reckoning and Rebirth of a society is Rooted in the TIME of its people.” (Larrier, 2020)
We are all affected to varying degrees by the confluence of a global pandemic and the reckoning for racial injustice, both fresh and recent, in addition to past and lingering. As a seasoned educator and practitioner in the field of social emotional wellness during these times, I have thought deeply and frequently about what I can bring to the table to address both these issues. What does our field have to offer? What words can we speak and what roles can we play as counselors, social workers, psychologists, mental health professionals, RUMERTIME wellness champions, life coaches, therapists, counselor educators and supervisors? How can we address the loss and pain, the feelings of alienation and abandonment, the stress of coping and surviving, and the challenges of self-care and adjusting during these times of intersecting crises? What do we say to the protesters? Indeed, what can we say and do for ourselves when many of us fully identify with both the pain and the protest? We are not mere observers on the sidelines; we too may be personally and painfully affected and infected. How can we help ourselves and others?
I believe we must begin with being real, with a full recognition and acknowledgement of our circumstances. I believe this problem has its roots in history and was not simply enshrined in the founding documents of America but more importantly in the thoughts, interactions, mindsets and emotions of the founders, that is in their TIME and each succeeding generation of those privileged and empowered by the American Constitution.
When the founders proclaimed that “all men are created equal”, people of color were exempted since we were not considered to be human but savages and property. These were their thoughts, interactions, mindsets and emotions. This was their TIME. It became manifested and enshrined in every law, every policy, every regulation, every statute, every celebration, every monument and social norm that benefited, privileged and empowered white Americans over people of color. These are the seeds that took root in the American soil and bore trunks, stems, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. The complete dispersal of these seeds is evident in every environment, land and soil, outdoor garden and potted plant across America, from sea to shining sea.
The indicators of this root problem are everywhere: the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on people of color, the inequalities in justice, law enforcement and incarceration rates, education, schooling and instructional role models, housing and homeownership, wellness and healthcare, job opportunities, talent acquisition, advancement policies and practices in higher education and corporate America, business financing and ownership, wealth and even in the liturgy, theology and community of religion.
The indicators and effects are everywhere, including in our broad field of pedagogy and practice: such as the shortage of educators, professionals and practitioners of color, the lack of culturally responsive mental health interventions, funding, counseling, social emotional or therapeutic strategies amenable, accessible and available to people of color, and the continuous use of stigmatizing and marginalizing language, culturally biased and inappropriate diagnoses, and pathologized labeling of the life experiences and stories of people of color.
The protests that we are witnessing, even participating in are indicators, even in the time of a pandemic, not just here in America but around the world. The world has seen enough of this, of the injustice, of the hunting and preying on black bodies, and of their callous and public murder and execution. We must recognize and acknowledge the protests for what they are – indicators, ‘smoke alarms’ and ‘check engine lights.’ None of us, no one gets upset or blames the alarm for sounding the alarm. The alarm is not the problem, the problem is that “thing” that is causing the alarm to sound, that “thing” at the root. We all understand that an alarm is here to warn us, help us and prompt us to take corrective action to address some dysfunction. So, we fix the problem ourselves, or we seek help, a mechanic, 911, the fire station, an ambulance, or our primary health care provider because it is detrimental to ignore an alarm. So, too with the protests, especially when it keeps going on for weeks by thousands of people of all ages, genders, classes and races across the world despite the risk to their lives from a deadly virus.
So, yes our first step is to recognize and acknowledge. This is how every sensor or detector ever created and used works – recognition first, response after. We must recognize the TIME, recognize our TIME, and recognize the TIME of the other, of people of color. We must as a first step of engagement, consciously recognize and intentionally acknowledge the thoughts, interactions, mindsets and emotions of ourselves and of others.
Oftentimes, this first step is painful. It reveals the truth about ourselves, about the seeds planted in our soil, about our roots and shoots and fruits. In plain language, it probes our behavior, it unmasks our privilege, it reveals our beliefs, it lays bare our thoughts, interactions, mindsets and emotions. All of it, out there in the open. It can be ugly, it can be painful but we often need to go through the ugly caterpillar phase before we arrive at the beautiful butterfly stage, before we can help others go through their own pain to their own beauty.
I have been approached repeatedly in the past few weeks by those who express a genuine desire to impact this problem and to make a change. To them, and to those of us who share this desire, I recommend a social emotional system I developed that has now been tried and tested around the world that can help us all be part of the solution. It takes us step by step through a process in which we Recognize our TIME, Understand our TIME, Manage our TIME, Express our TIME, and Reflect on our TIME. I call it RUMERTIME.
Step #1: RECOGNIZE your TIME (Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets, Emotions)
Start with Recognizing (Self-Awareness) your Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets and Emotions as it relates to self, others, and systemic racism. Become conscious about what you are thinking about your clients of color, your colleagues of color, your supervisors of color. When they choose to problem solve using a particular approach or strategy, do you belittle it, do you think, “oh that is not as rigorous an approach as the approach you would use?” Do you use “the established standards as the de facto standards by which to assess people of color” and then conclude that “something is wrong with them and their processes?”
Do you then make diagnostic decisions based on the preset, systemically biased criteria? Do you make placement decisions on your preset, systemically biased criteria? Recognize how many decisions you make based on unconscious, but foundational roots of systems that originated from a position of “white is right, brown is wrong and black stand back?” In other words, Recognize that the origins of the way you see the world, even though most of it may be unconscious, it is not grounded in a “all men are created equal, with inalienable rights” as it relates to people of color. This is what self-awareness is, honestly and accurately assessing one’s thoughts, interactions, mindsets and emotions as it relates to self, others and situations.
Step #2: UNDERSTAND your TIME (Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets, Emotions)
Gain an Understanding (deeper self-awareness) of your thoughts, interactions, mindsets and emotions. Dig deeper. Go there! Get to the root level, understand the truth, seek truth, not what makes you feel comfortable or like “a savior.” Seek Knowledge and Understanding. In order to be a part of the solution, in order to have reconciliation, in order to have justice, in order to manage, you absolutely, imperatively MUST dig deeper, seek understanding and truth. If you are genuinely interested in bringing about change, then you must be willing to push past any emotional roadblocks that will inevitably arise when we start to try to Understand. We must Understand the what, where, how, why, when of systemic racism, whiteness and white superiority. Understand the what, where, how, why, when of your clients of color, colleagues of color, supervisors, professors of color.
Step#3: MANAGE your TIME (Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets, Emotions)
Managing your TIME once you have Recognized (listed, acknowledged, admitted) and Understood your TIME as it relates to self, people of color and long-lasting systemic racism, puts you now in a position to help “fix” ourselves, others and systemic and structural racism
This RUMERTIME Process is not a “quick fix” and especially not with such long-standing, entrenched systemic racism. However, those engaging in this process must initially follow these steps so that effective and sustained transformation can take place initially with oneself. As our thinking becomes renewed and our mindsets and emotions transformed, our interactions with self and others in everyday life and relationships will help to create a more equitable and safer environment for ALL.
Step #4: EXPRESS your TIME (Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets, Emotions)
The current protests and protests throughout history are expressions of being “other focused” or socially aware. Social awareness is being other focused, finding helpful ways to express yourself as a part of the solution. How one chooses to express their Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets, and Emotions in relation to long-standing systemic racism should not be dictated or evaluated by those who have consciously or unconsciously perpetuated this long-standing systemic racism.
As counselors, mental health practitioners, supervisors and educators these protests should be viewed as opportunities to create access and pathways for your clients, colleagues, interns, supervisors of color to become empowered, to be heard without judgement but with supportiveness and the acknowledgement that their form of expression is not second rate, deviant or inappropriate. You are going to be conscious that “the white way” of doing things is not the only way of doing things. The other perspectives, practices and interactions may be uncomfortable for you at first, it may not be labeled as research based, proven, rigorous, or all the buzz words and euphemisms for, “the white way is the best and only way.” Keep in mind that the “other approaches” were not given an opportunity to be considered in the past and therefore, these other approaches didn’t have the privilege of being tested or verified. And if they were it was again based on and evaluated by a biased and heavily skewed criteria.
Step#5: REFLECT on your TIME (Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets, Emotions)
This step is where you reflect on your TIME as it relates to yourself, people of color and racists systems of American society. In order to be effective you must be reflective. So, as you engage in conscious problem solving it is important to make responsible decisions regarding who and what you will leave behind, or take with you as you move forward. Why and when you will interact with others.
Reflect on your Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets and Emotions in all your decisions with people of color who are your clients, colleagues, supervisors, and educators, interns and community partners. Let your decision making be inclusive of truth, inclusive of perspectives, practices, philosophies, paradigms and potentials of people of color and not of your privilege alone. Let your decisions be saturated with and reflective of multiple stories and perspectives.
Will it be easy? No. Is there a direct route or formula to dismantling systemic racism? Not at all. Will change be immediate? No. Will it be comfortable? No. Will you feel shame, anger, guilt, fear, resentment, pain, discouragement, overwhelmed, or rejection? Yes. Is it necessary? Yes!
But, if we are to become a more civil society, the beloved community in which everyone is valued, where all lives are sacred and everyone has a true opportunity to live their best life then we must RUMERIZE. If we are to live out the true meaning of the words that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” then I humbly offer you the RUMERTIME Process as an option. Recognize, Understand, Manage, Express, and Reflect on the Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets and Emotions of ourselves and others.
Rumerizingly yoursDr. Yvonne Larrier, LPC, NCC, NCSC, EAS-C
Founding Director of GCSCORED, Inc.
ACE Interface Master Trainer 2019
International Association of Truancy & Dropout Prevention
Global Change Agent Recipient (2017)
Associate Professor & Department Chair
Counseling & Human Services Department
Indiana University South Bend