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Sometimes being comfortable can start to feel uncomfortable

It’s true, sometimes being comfortable really can start to feel uncomfortable, especially when you hear the stories of people who mean a lot to you. Their stories shape you and sitting still, sitting silent, no longer feels right. It’s a gift when people can open up about their stories and their scars and invite others into their world. This week I asked three colleagues and friends questions about how they experience the racial divide and what can be done to heal it. Each individual gave their perspective to my questions below…

Amy: Tell me what it’s like to have black skin in the U.S. right now…

Laura: To be Black in America is to be in a constant state of fear. To be unconscious of our skin, as Black people, is life threatening. Our skin has history. The color of my skin introduces me to a group of people in the room, before I can part my lips to speak. My Blackness creates discomfort, it is layered with assumptions about how loud, educated, intelligent, or how human I am. However, with a willful pride and resiliency I stand in my authentic and genuine truth.

Laura Dupiton, LMFT

Clinical Supervisor, Doctorate of Philosophy Candidate

PhD research titled, Wearing a Mask to Supervision: A Phenomenological Exploration of Black Female Therapists and Covering in Cross-Racial Clinical Supervision

Amy: Do you have a story to demonstrate how racial prejudice has impacted you and your family?

Taja: I attended a predominately white university for college and started a job as an orientation leader the summer of 2008. There were about 20 of us (60% white, 35% black, 5% other). We lived in the dorms and went through intensive training throughout the day. A conflict arose between 2 of the orientation leaders after they had a misunderstanding (one was Caucasian the other was African American). This conflict began to divide the group based off who were friends with each other and race (people gravitate towards people they feel they can relate to). One of the Caucasian orientation leaders who had close ties with the director told her what was going on. One day I was told that I had to attend a meeting (which I knew nothing about). I walked into the room and saw a group of about 8 women including the 2 that were involved in the original conflict. The program director (who was also Caucasian) turned to all of the African American girls including myself and yelled "I am tired of you people". As you can imagine I was not only offended but shocked. I was not involved in whatever was happening but was automatically grouped in with all the other African American girls. This meeting would turn into a 2-hour discussion of what happened in the incident and about race. By the end of the meeting everyone was crying and the Caucasian women apologized for assuming things/ going to the program director rather than just trying to talk it out.

This situation showed me that racism and implicit biases are very real and still happen. I left that meeting feeling extremely defeated but also motivated to prove to the world that I was not going to be another stereotype. It motivated me to not only focus on my academics but get as far away from that school as possible. I graduated in 4 years and went on to pursue my masters and focus on mental health work with minority children. Racism and prejudice DOES affect ones’ self-esteem in a negative way. I went through my entire college career trying not to fit into a box that African Americans are put into. I was afraid to be "too black" or that I would be profiled again. Our children go through this the first day they walk into a classroom and usually have no one to express these concerns to. I am determined to be that person for them.

Taja Riley, MA, LPC, NCC

Child Therapist, Owner of “Like Gold”

Amy: How do you celebrate your skin color?

Lori: I honor the melanated glory that is my complexion by eating healthy and moisturizing consistently. I also am unashamed to express my admiration for others who authentically express their humanity because we have all been gifted to be image bearers of God. The diversity of complexion is an enriching bonus.”

Rev. Dr. Lori Banfield,

Author, Professor, & Founder of the Spiritual Resilience Council

Amy: How can we work to heal the racial divide in the U.S.?

Laura: This society is in need of healing. I believe that healing will come forth by the willingness of all individuals to look at the blaring truth of racism and to accept the challenge of welcoming the murky feelings that arise. It is in the persistent commitment to keep our hearts open to understand and learning each other that change will arise.

Laura Dupiton, LMFT

Clinical Supervisor, Doctorate of Philosophy Candidate

PhD research titled, Wearing a Mask to Supervision: A Phenomenological Exploration of Black Female Therapists and Covering in Cross-Racial Clinical Supervision

In the process of healing the racial divide we can celebrate our oneness as a human body, but also honor the vast uniqueness that presents itself in the people that make up our country. In the process of honoring the uniqueness, we need to be aware of the wounds that have made us who we are as a nation. May the conversations continue on this topic, and all topics necessary so all voices are heard no matter what racial, ethnic, or culturally background. All voices make us who we are as a country and need to be heard.

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