Racial Equity Training – Reflections from the Board

After the death of George Floyd in 2020 shone a very bright spotlight on the racially-based injustices of our society, the board members of GLGPS recognized on a new level (and shamefully late), the extent of the murder, abuse, silencing and marginalization of our clients and colleagues of color. As an organization that consists of primarily white-bodied people, within a field that is white-male dominated, the GLGPS board made a collective commitment to A) educate ourselves about the lived experience of people of color in our country and community, B) become more aware of the benefits, blind spots, defensiveness and responsibilities that come with our white privilege, C) make the programming and resources of GLGPS more welcoming and accessible to our group therapy colleagues of color and D) provide our members training opportunities that challenge their implicit biases and guide them through the development of anti-racist practices in group therapy.

We agreed that this journey needed to start with our own leadership. To that end, we enlisted the help of outside consultants to guide the white-bodied members of our board through a deeper exploration of how and why the leadership and membership of GLGPS has not fully reflected the diversity of the practitioners we claim to represent. In the first stage of this process, we examined our biases and began to confront our belief systems as products of a society that values whiteness and maleness above all else.

Some of us expressed frustration at less than successful attempts to be good allies. Most shared shameful moments when we knew we leaned into our privilege at the expense of others. All spoke of a wish to do better. One board member reflected that he wants “to be aware of the possibility that I fall into interactions that are hurtful.  And I am also aware of using my power as a white, male authority, all of which I surely am, in a way that adversely affects others.”

We reflected on the new understanding that the rush to “fix things” is a uniquely white phenomenon. As a group, we recognized that the work to be done at this early stage is less about “doing” and more about “sitting with”. As we guide our clients to sit with intolerable emotions, we also tried to sit with our own shame, discomfort, lack of mastery and helplessness around the issue of racial inequity and our participation in it. Knowing that our struggle in this work pales dramatically in comparison to the life struggle of multiple generations of those who have been oppressed by anti-black and brown policies and practices, we tried to absorb and hold the painful experience of our colleagues and clients of color. Resisting the urge to problem-solve, we invited the discomfort so that it could begin to inform the actions we do eventually take as an organization. It wasn’t easy. It isn’t finished.

In the words of another board member, “While the training did not provide quick fixes or solutions, it did help me to further recognize my own individual privilege and helped me to slow down. The training helped us to shift from seeking solutions to further defining our values and how our organization will live these values out.  I believe it also instilled hope that by continuing to examine and stay accountable to anti-racist work both personally and as an organization, we can create a culture that truly encompasses anti-racist values and ideals. I know this will take time, continuous reflection, accountability, and willingness to repair, but I am hopeful our organization is capable of this work.”

In the time since GLGPS has initiated our anti-racist training, there has been a marked increase in violence toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, as well as a reawakening of the ethnic/racial conflict in the Middle East. While the task looms large and there will always be more work to do, GLGPS is committed to doing our part to support and uplift all people regardless of color, faith, physical ability, gender, gender identity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, level of education, immigration status or intellectual ability. The work continues…