“Let me hold the door for you. I may have never walked in your shoes, but I can see your soles are worn, your strength is torn under the weight of a story I have never lived before. Let me hold the door for you. After all you’ve walked through, It’s the least I can do” – Morgan Harper Nichols
Ongoing experiences of violence, discrimination and racism directed towards Black American citizens are shocking and all too common. Hate crimes, violence, and racism are abhorrent, and inexcusably something that all people of colour have fallen victim to for centuries. Systemic racism, overt and covert, impacts Black Americans and other minority groups disproportionately in a multitude of ways including, but not limited to, disparities in healthcare, discrimination in employment, and an elevated risk for multiple mental health struggles. For example, in the current climate, direct or even vicarious trauma can take a toll in so many unfathomable ways.
We have seen the recent acknowledgements on television and in the written media that Black Americans experience fears and many other emotions that not everyone in this country has had the misfortune of experiencing. However, the truth is that it cannot only be the Black American community and other marginalized minority groups who experience this pain any longer. We ALL need to find that place inside of us where pain, fear, shame, anger, confusion, isolation and frustration have held us back or made us feel less-than, and we must ALL help confront despicable attitudes that continue to affect the lives of people of colour.
As a provider of mental health services to clients throughout the state of Iowa, Central Iowa Psychological Services embraces our responsibility to serve everyone and to stand up for the rights of all people. As the majority of our practitioners experience white privilege, it is also our responsibility to not only listen fully and clearly but to also educate ourselves about the history and experiences of being black in Iowa, in America, and in the world at large. We acknowledge there is no way, as individuals or as a practice, that we can fully understand the experience of our Black American colleagues or clients, or any groups or individuals who have experienced the atrocities of bigotry. However, we can do better and we will.
We will continue to work even harder to stand shoulder to shoulder with these individuals, families, friends, clients, and colleagues who have lost loved ones and who continue to suffer cruel and senseless attacks and violations of racism.
As fellow human beings, please stand with people of colour in fighting for human rights, respect, love, and overall dignity. Please offer support, empathy, and listening to all those struggling with direct or vicarious trauma as a result of systemic racism and the current tragedies in America. If you are experiencing trauma please reach out to family, friends, and other trusted sources of support to share how you are feeling.
We stand with you, as flawed fellow humans, working to break the bonds of racism in our world by standing against racism, hatred and violence in all its forms. We support efforts by the mental health community, healthcare workers, educators, researchers, and legislators to eliminate hate crimes, racism and brutality in our communities.
While this position statement is an important demonstration of our practice’s thought processes and emotional stance, a commitment to action is also desperately needed at this time in our history. Therefore, we at Central Iowa Psychological Services, commit to the following:
1. We commit to broaden and deepen our knowledge and emotional experience with the daily struggles and triumphs of Black Americans and other people of color by arranging for and attending regular diversity training conducted by members of the diversity and inclusion training community. One goal of this training will be to continue to learn about black history in the state of Iowa.
2. We will identify our own implicit biases and continue to listen to the stories of Black Americans and others of colour.
3. We will be more intentional about supporting Black Americans in our social justice initiatives including participating in the annual “I’ll Make Me a World Festival” in Des Moines every January (worldiniowa.com).
4. We will be more intentional about supporting businesses owned by Black Americans in order to promote racial equity.
5. We also vow to denounce all forms of bigotry every day, at every turn; and to act accordingly to mitigate and condemn all sources of oppression.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. said, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
The road ahead is neither short nor easy. But it is our commitment and our hope of hopes to keep the dialogue going, to listen and get to know all fellow human beings we encounter, to facilitate even more constructive and respectful dialogue, and to learn and work together to help reduce this fear Dr. King spoke of. We strive to increase the sense of better knowing one another, bring down the walls that divide us, and improve caring and connectedness to UNITE us all.
Central Iowa Psychological Services