"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."-James Baldwin
This quote has many meanings, as is the gift of the great James Baldwin. As a couples therapist and relationship coach, my urging to couples is to always look at their relationship honestly and address problems before they become bigger challenges. It is how we create health and strength in our relationships.
As a white therapist and woman, the bigger and more important truth of this quote is the need for me and all white people to look at our privilege and at our role in perpetuating white supremacy. Until we look honestly at the reality of our role in this through our actions, our inactions, in our words and in our silence we are complicit in the danger and in the damage to people of color.
This is especially true in my role as a helping professional. I am looking hard at the ways I have centered whiteness in my practice and how to undo this to be creating safety and justice for my clients and for the larger world. This is not easy work to examine my role in the racism that is woven into every institution in this country. It is painful to see the ways that I have benefitted from this system, and allowed myself not to notice and undo this. As painful as it is, it is my job to be as honest and diligent in creating health for the world we live in as I am in asking my couples to do this work in their relationships.
We have to see things fully as they are, rather than how we wish them to be. There are many times in my life where I have focused on my intentions to be safe and healthy, rather than the reality of whether I am successfully doing so. Many times I have clung to my intentions to be anti racist rather than taking action to be anti-racist. The same comes to pass in relationships: we focus on our intentions to our partner to be giving, rather than looking at the impact our actions have. In doing the hard work to become fully anti racist in both word and in action, I demonstrate the willingness to do the work I ask my clients to do.
And more importantly, in looking at my actions honestly and making the necessary changes, I am doing the work to undo systemic racism and white supremacy which hurts us all. I am a long way from finished in this work and like our relationships, becoming healthy is only the beginning. It takes a full and honest commitment to maintaining health every day, though an honest inventory of our actions. Creating healthy and honest relationships is a rich and rewarding career and I hope to do so for the benefit of my couples and for a more fair and just world.