It’s taken me a few days to reflect and work out how I’d like to actively respond to the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

I am aware of whitesplaining, white-shaming, unconscious bias, white fragility and my own privilege.  This makes me pause before jumping to the typewriter but also encourages me to do something.

Coincidentally, the latest edition of the UKCP’s magazine for practitioners has an article highlighting the misrepresentation of ethnic groups in the media and amongst the general public, but also the contribution that psychotherapists must make.

A psychotherapist’s role

Psychotherapists are particularly well-placed to help people engage in conversation and, as the UKCP article says, to help others ‘to learn to tolerate differences, discomfort, uncertainty’.

My psychotherapy training dedicated significant time for trainees to understand prejudice, including uncovering our own hidden biases.

How does racism feature in our lives?

I don’t believe you are racist, I’m pretty sure you worked hard to get where you are, and I don’t doubt you believe everyone should receive equal rewards for equal efforts.  It’s the same for me.  And I’m not about to suggest you give up all you’ve worked for.

Luckily for me, I’m not on the receiving end of racism in my day to day life.  Unfortunately, that means it can slip to the back of my mind until I see something awful on the news.  Is it similar for you?

Let’s change the world… one conversation at a time.

In the end, for me, it comes down to this:

I invite you to pledge with me to include regular conversations about racism (and other prejudice) with your loved ones perhaps once a week, or if that seems too frequent how about once a month?

And in those conversations try to understand how a black person feels, how you may unwittingly benefit unfairly from being white, but also how does a racist come to have their views?  Try not to demonise them; I’m not suggesting we condone racist opinion, but they are human beings and there is a reason they feel that way.

By trying to understand the broader position, those of us white, anti-racists* may start to be able to provide a bridge for those with racist attitudes to hopefully change their minds.  And because we haven’t suffered years of racist abuse, we can take it if someone says something hurtful in response to our efforts.

It will be uncomfortable, but I hope we can stick with the discomfort rather than avoid it.

Action: a surprising consequence?

When we start having conversations and our understanding grows, we find ourselves compelled to take action too.  You might not be the sort of person to make a placard and march on Downing Street, but you might just help someone understand why some things are considered racist and hurtful which goes on to inspire them to change. 

Through understanding and dialogue, we are all changed for the better.


* those of you who read an earlier edit would have seen ‘non-racist’ rather than ‘anti-racist’. I changed this after listening to Ibram X Kendi speaking with Brené Brown in Brené’s podcast.