It might seem strange for my first blog post as a therapist to be about the Black Lives Matter protests. But the world doesn’t end at the therapy room door. These issues enter the room, whether it’s a client talking about their experience of racism, or a client talking about their difficulties navigating race as a white person. Sometimes it’s in the room because I myself am trying to deal with, and understand, the pain that people of colour experience every day. As a therapist I need to be willing to explore these difficult conversations because to do otherwise is to do a disservice to my clients, to myself and to the wider community.
When I sat down to write something about this, I had two impulses. My first impulse, as a white man, was the urge to explain that I’m not like all those ‘other’ white guys. I’m one of the good ones. But not being actively racist, isn’t something to celebrate, it’s a pretty low bar and it just isn’t enough. People are dying, here in the UK, in the US and across the world. The murders of people of colour by people in power continue and no one is being bought to justice. Not being racist is just not enough.
My second thought was to start spouting off. I’m a white man, we’re pretty good at that, and we have a lot of practice. But the more I fumed and struggled with what to do and say the more I realised that there was one thing I could and should do. As a therapist, I’ve been practicing this skill for several years – I needed to shut up and listen.
Thanks to a recommendation from one of my clients, I’ve been reading ‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Layla Saad. I’ve been spending time reflecting on my own privilege, listening to black voices and trying to really hear in an open empathetic way. The skills I’ve been practicing in the therapy room, now more than ever, need to be taken out into the wider community.
Below I’m listing just a couple of resources that I think are worth checking out. This is just the first step of many. But once we start to truly listen, to take in some uncomfortable truths, we can become useful allies to a movement that needs to be heard.
"Layla Saad's ME AND WHITE SUPREMACY is an indispensable resource for white people who want to challenge white supremacy but don't know where to begin."
"Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today."
What Matters combines documentary narrative with interviews to illuminate specific, timely issues, aiming to create safe dialogue to promote freedom, justice, and collective liberation.