Categories
Change Psychology Racism

COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter

via MEME

As you can imagine, things have been a bit busy at Seattle Direct Counseling. As of June 1 2006 at its inception, Seattle Direct Counseling has been owned, operated, and maintained by myself, identifying with the BIPOC community, and it should be no surprise that the majority of people who seek help and healing here do so, in part, because of that identity.

At this historic time in 2020,  King County, Washington’s most densely populated area, moved to Phase 1 Modified in regard to the Safe Start reopening guidelines issued by Governor Inslee on June 1 2020 in response to a global coronavirus pandemic, more businesses, personal services, outdoor recreation with up to five people not of the same household, construction, household helpers, and other activities have seen new changes. Update: King County has met criteria to be moved to Phase 2 as of June 18 2020, which opens more businesses, including day and overnight camping in state parks and campgrounds.

This means more people are out and about. And the coronavirus has not gone away. 

With a recent series of even more needless and cruel deaths of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, as well as a white woman calling police while using her power to threaten a black man, the nation, the world, and locally in Seattle, protests have continued on a daily basis, calling for accountability, the end of police brutality, justice for those who have died at the hands of others who have used excessive force, and a wake-up call for all peoples to come together to end systemic bias and racial discrimination in all its subtle and gross forms.

This means more people are out and about, shoulder to shoulder, shouting and crying for change. 

Because of the pandemic, unemployment rates rose to 14.7 percent in April 2020, with a small decrease in May 2020 to 13.3 percent. Yet, demographic data shows that unemployment hit black people harder.

This means more people have less means to take care of their physical needs for shelter, medicine, food, clothing, mental health activities, childcare, and other essentials. The pandemic has hit the black and brown communities disproportionately harder, and this is something that I have witnessed with my own eyes. I have volunteered hours as a nurse in COVID-19 testing sites, private and community based, as well as conducted nursing rounds treating presumptive COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 symptomatic people in quarantine.

Truly,  the convergence of two pandemics — COVID-19 and Racism, are showing their devastating effects. What can we do from here?

“No One’s Coming to Save Us” 

One of the most startling truths I have read since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was the statement, “No One’s Coming to Save Us.” I had seen this as a quote applied to taking responsibility for one’s life, and then I saw it again as applied to the coronavirus’ effect on densely populated cities around the world. It cruelly has applied to the lives of black people in America, who have watched the effects of systemic racism as well as overt violence take one life after another, and kick too many people down into a cycle of depression, poverty, addiction, and hopelessness.

Healthcare workers caught in wave after wave of sick and dying people grew exhausted, yet plugged on. No one was coming to save them. In the U.S., governors were told that they were on their own in getting masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, and respirators. Public Health officials scrambled to get test swabs, transport media with a way to seal it once the test has been conducted, and mobile testing sites with medical personnel. If they didn’t have the means, no one was coming to save them. 

When black writers and activists took to the Internets with videos, posts, photos, and calls for peaceful protests, they too made it clear that no one was coming to them. It is we who protest, and we keep protesting until people hear our demands for justice and change, because no one is coming to save us. The outpouring of support has been breathtaking. And the story is not over.

When you realize nothing will change and no one else is going to save you, you step up and do what you can. Every single person has a role to play towards creating change in both of these pandemics. You simply offer what you have, whether that is time, money, energy, a skill, a voice, a conversation, or a power that you have to share (influence, credibility, connections, knowledge).

What Can You Do?

First, we can acknowledge that this truth: no one is coming to save us. It is not a bleak statement devoid of hope; it is an awakening point to help us understand that each of us has within us the power to assess what is within our abilities to act on what we see and what is needed.

Second, we can acknowledge our own shortcomings, what we lack, and where we can improve. Own your own denials. Own your past lack of compassion. Acknowledge when and where and why and how you’ve failed to act upon what you know, when you’ve participated in actions that have hurt and grieved another person or community. Make a plan to alter your course.

Regarding COVID-19:  I encourage each and every person to take responsibility for themselves. Become a mini public health expert on such topics as personal hygiene and handwashing, disinfecting of commonly touched areas, wearing a mask while in public and taking care of a COVID-19 positive person, preparing for isolation and quarantining oneself and any household members for a full fourteen days if you become sick,  recognizing the signs of illness, getting your annual flu shot (and pneumonia vaccine if recommended), and getting tested for COVID-19 if you show symptoms, and if asymptomatic after an exposure with someone who has tested COVID-19 positive, get tested and isolate while waiting for results.

Be compassionate. Even if COVID-19 cases are slowing down in your locale, remember that it is raging in areas of the world like India, and Latin America, and other countries are still bracing for impact.

As of this writing, I am still receiving reports of people dying of complications from COVID-19, or struggling with the long-term effects during recovery (lung damage, organ damage, disabling fatigue, etc).

For some of you who have underlying co-morbidities and health conditions that warrant more vigilance, you will want to continue your life as much as possible as if you are in a long-term quarantine. Just because other parts of the country or your local region are progressing to Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 reopening does not mean that the coronavirus is gone. Case in point: over the weekend, King County has the largest increase in COVID-19 positive cases since the highest point in April 2020.

In summary, it’s to be expected that there will be more positive cases. This is, in part, because we have more testing available, so people who wouldn’t otherwise have known for sure if they were COVID-19 positive have access to testing. Yet, it was expected that with reopening our area, there would be an increase in these numbers, because the coronavirus does not magically go away. If those numbers increase too quickly in any area, city officials will step back down into an earlier phase or quarantine, to prevent an outbreak. And this would be difficult to do, as you can imagine.

Regarding Racism and Black Lives Matter: I encourage you to use what you have and take a role in helping to change the outcome of this pandemic that has raged in America nearly 400 years (1619 is one citation for slaves brought to a British colony in Jamestown).

Some of the actions you can take include: starting a conversation about Black Lives Matter, starting a conversation about what non-black people need to understand about power and privilege in relationship to Black people, supporting a local,  black-owned business or a BIPOC business (stands for Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) , donating to the Black Lives Matter movement,  joining a local protest (please wear a mask, do your best to practice social distancing, and get tested for COVID-19), writing letters to your local mayor, police department, and state government officials, signing petitions for change, learning about what it means to be an ally and not a collaborator in systemic racial bias, taking a course on bystander intervention.

While no one is coming to save us, the truth behind this statement is even more clear. YOU are the the hope you have waited for.

All that is needed is COURAGE.

Categories
Psychology

We Name What Is Without Tiptoeing

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

 

I believe that the challenges that each of us face cannot be addressed unless we name what we see for what it is.

In this short post, I want to speak both personally and professionally about something that affects all of us, not as a political concept, but as a daily reality for many Americans, and as it so happens, for myself and for many of my clients.

I am naming it here, without tiptoeing. Whenever I see, experience, or see another person on the receiving end of racism and racist bullying either in front of my face or in the public sector, I will name what I see.

My promise to you is that I will believe you when you tell me your stories of being on the receiving end of racism and racist bullying. I will also believe you and help you name your own struggles with the racist concepts and bias, no matter where you have lived.

My promise to you is that I will not tiptoe around yours or the stories of other’s treatment at the hands of racist bullies by creating euphemisms, polite explanations, or lessening your emotional distress by calling the perpetrators of racism as simply “racially challenged.” While in public discourse there are opportunities for using more nuanced words to foster open dialogue rather than defensive name calling, in the therapeutic setting, racism and racial bias must to be identified clearly.

You are free to talk about race and the effects of racism on you and your family members, your workplace, your schools, and your communities. You are free to explore past and present scenarios you have traversed in your role in perpetuating generational and systemic racism in order to do something about it. 

Professionally, I do not talk about my political affiliations, yet you are free to talk about yours as they pertain to your care and sense of well being. My commitment is to support you. 

If you have a child that is experiencing racism or racial bullying, this is a crime defined as racial discrimination. You will need to know your state’s laws in order to understand what you can do as a parent to protect your child from racism in their schools and programs.

If you or your child is experiencing racism through Social Media platforms, you may wish to look at how each platform handles complaints, trolls, and bullies. You may wish to talk about how to monitor and limit what your child sees and the access that others have to your child via these platforms.

While racism and racist bullying are not new, what does feel new is the increase in tiptoeing that comes with racist exchanges in public dialogue. Many resist naming it. Much like diagnosing an illness, if you don’t name what is wrong, you can’t treat the problem. If you don’t name the racism that you see, it’s that much more difficult to face how it affects you.

You may ask, “Why wouldn’t I want to name something or someone as ‘racism’ or ‘racist’?” The answers are many.  Perhaps at its most basic truth, you may resist naming something so heinous because of the ramifications that follow. Just like naming abuse, it changes how you interact with the abuser and those who collaborate with the abuser. 

As a mental health counseling service, we do not discriminate because of gender, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or any other point of physical appearance or means of identity. If your concerns fall within the scope of our licensed practices and treatment experiences, you will be met with warmth, concern, and professional care.  If your concerns do not fall within our scopes of practice or experience, we may be able to refer you to someone else who can be of help.

Categories
Racism

Together

As I tried to pull words together last week to write this month’s blog post for Seattle Direct Counseling, words failed me. Exhausted after days of trying to help people process the horrors of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando FL, the recent shootings of black men by police, and the shooting of police officers (and I just got wind of yet another shooting just hours ago), I needed time to put words to what, if anything, I have to offer.

I have no words of consolation, for this is not a time to be consoled.

I do have words of sympathy for all the lives lost, and to the loved ones who grieve their absences.

I have no formulaic plans for action, ways to avoid becoming a statistic, nor recommendations, since just about everything I can think of has been tried — and has failed. Our nation has the highest amount of gun violence in the world, and yet every call for change has been met with defeat.

In the aftermath of each of these incidents, the one thing that does help is that we stick together. Whites helping blacks, blacks helping whites, everyone in their right mind helping each other, and absolutely everyone doing their best to protect the young, the innocent, and the defenseless.

And for our part here at Seattle Direct Counseling, we offer who we are. We are here to help you. We know there are people hurting. Many of them have already begun to pour into the office to talk about what’s on their minds and hearts regarding racism, violence, social justice, activism, and community response.

We are better together than alone. 

It is my commitment to my community that if there is a need to open more office hours in the coming weeks, I will do my best to offer them. While it is not the place of counselors to be “advice givers”, we offer a safe space to process what is happening in our nation and to help you strategize an appropriate, meaningful response.

SDC is about embracing diversity, celebrating difference, welcoming culture and culture change, and personal transformation. We do not discriminate against any people group, color, age, size, gender, orientation, socio-economic background, or spiritual beliefs.