Becoming an Anti-Racist Christian Counselor | FP Bonus Episode

Becoming an Anti-Racist Christian Counselor | FP Bonus Episode

How is being silent helping anyone? How can you fight for the oppressed? Wha are some things you can start doing today to make a change?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks about becoming an anti-racist Christian Counselor and steps you can start taking today to work towards making a change and fight for the oppressed.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • Acknowledgment
  • I am no expert
  • Being anti-racist
  • Fighting for the oppressed
  • What we can do

Acknowledgment

Racism is a problem. The death and trauma experienced by the black community is wrong. I believe we know that in our minds, but we must know it in our hearts and live it in our lives. We have ignored this problem for far too long. I know for myself I disengage from painful experiences. We see this with our clients. The gravity of the problems in our nation weighs so heavy that I find myself wanting to stay quiet, ignore the issue, or run away.

This week has opened my eyes. Someone in the Facebook community said God is doing something at this moment. I believe it is to make movement in the problem of racism. If we each do our own work and make even small steps forward, it will make a difference. But first, we must humble ourselves and be willing to acknowledge where we’re at, our weaknesses, and get help from each other as we come together to do something bigger than who we are.

I am no expert

Silence is worse, silence is doing nothing.

First, I want to admit that I am not an expert in this field. In fact, I am far from it. I don’t know how to address this perfectly or appropriately and I am going to mess up. I will probably offend people not knowing it. But, I am not going to let my fear keep me from pressing forward in speaking. When we don’t speak, and we sit silently, we do nothing.

Martin Luther King Jr said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Being anti-racist

Stop running, take a stand and look at things.

When we do nothing, we are saying what is happening is ok. And, we know that is not the case. I am not going to let my fears and insecurities delay a much-needed conversation. So, please forgive me in advance for messing up. Help me know how to address these traumatic issues. We need one another. I come from a place of humility and a lack of knowledge. And honestly, an embarrassment for this. I want to commit to doing the work of anti-racism.

In 2019 Ibram Kendi came out with a NY Times best selling book How to be an Antiracist. He discusses the difference between being racist and being antiracist. We must not simply keep from doing racist action but we must speak and stop racism. This is being antiracist. Kendi says, “Being an antiracist requires self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” This is constant work that we have to do and a requirement for us as humans to love and help one another.

As we as a nation have faced COVID and now this, the spiritual atmosphere is heavy. I am hearing over and over about the exhaustion people are feeling. This is especially true for us as therapists and faith healers. We feel the pain for the world around us. To break this exhaustion, we need to pay attention to it and address it head-on. We are on the front lines. This is two-fold – as therapists and as Christians.

Fighting for the oppressed

Proverbs 31:9 – Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.

Christians fight for the oppressed. The black community should not have to advocate for themselves. Just as our clients who go through trauma need us to advocate for them, so does the broken and traumatized community.

What we can do

 Audre Lorde – Revolution is not a one-time event.

  • Explore your own family of origin story
  • Examine your own life. How do you live to help the oppressed? What relationships are in your life?
  • Ask God for insight and guidance
  • Make changes in your life, community, and speak from your platform
  • Examine and make changes in your business
  • Diversify your practice
  • Businesses with diversity have greater success – read this article

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” – Elie Wiesel, The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, the Accident

Books mentioned in this episode

Useful Links:

Meet Whitney Owens

Whitney Ownens | Build a faith-based practiceWhitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY]:
The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network. A network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

You’re listening to the Faith in Practice podcast, and I’m your host, Whitney Owens, recording live from Savannah, Georgia. The purpose of this podcast is to help clinicians start, grow, and scale their private practices from a faith-based perspective. In this podcast, not only do we focus on the business side of what we do, but we also focus on the spiritual side and the faith-based side. And often as we know, these worlds come together, and today is a special episode or a bonus episode that I’m releasing outside of the regular series to talk about the current events going on in our world. As we’ve all been impacted in different ways, some of course more than others. Not only have we dealt with COVID-19, and how long that’ll last we’re unsure of, we’re also dealing with issues of diversity, issues of racism, and the death of George Floyd, who’s one of many blacks that have been killed in our nation. So, I want to spend some time talking about what is going on, and how do we help one another and how do we change as therapists and as people with impact in our communities? And how do we bring unity, even when we all have a different experience, and we all process things differently? We all have different skin colors. We all come from different places. But how do we come together to make a big impact? I am no expert in this area, of course. In fact, I really don’t know very much at all. But I felt like it was important that we start this conversation honestly. This conversation has been going on for a long time, but not enough; there hasn’t been enough of conversation. And so, I want to increase the conversation in this community because I think that this community is a very important place to be talking about it.

We know that racism is a problem. I think a lot of times, especially the white community, we don’t embrace it. We don’t acknowledge it the way we should, or maybe you do. I don’t – I’ll be honest on that. The depth and the trauma that has been experienced over and over and over again, is something that we will never understand. But we need to try to understand because what is going on is wrong. We know it in our heads. I think all of us know it in our heads. I mean, we hear it, we see it, this is wrong. But does it really matter that we think it’s wrong if we don’t do something about it? I mean, do we just sit by and see people in pain and people being persecuted for the color of their skin? Now, I think in my mind, I would say, oh, well, I don’t do that, or we don’t do that, right? But the truth is, it happens all the time; all the time, and we’re not paying attention, or at least I’m not. So, we need to acknowledge that it exists and allow the understanding of race and racism happening in our nation to actually cause change to happen in our lives.

We know that working with clients, and even in our own lives, that we often disengage emotionally when we experience pain. And there’s been so much emotion up and down lately, especially with COVID-19, and now the death of George Floyd has increased the emotions in our nation and within all of us. I mean, we are exhausted. But as I started to ponder this exhaustion feeling, this pain we’re going through, I started thinking about how easy it is to disengage emotionally from pain. I mean, we know that trauma survivors literally dissociate when they experience pain as a way of coping. I think we do that too. When it comes to the racism comment, when it comes to our nation, politics, what has happened… I think we disengage a lot because we don’t want to experience the pain. If I fully understood, I couldn’t handle it. I mean, when I started watching videos of what’s happening with George Floyd and others, like, I cannot begin to comprehend and so I find myself running away from the very things I need to pay attention to. And so, this podcast is about somewhat of my awakening, but I want it to be a way to speak out that we need to be woken up to the issues happening in our nation. And yes, we’ve come far but there’s so much further that we need to come. So, this is a time for us to wake up and pay attention. And I’m going to kind of walk through some steps on how to do that the best way that I know how. But it’s easy to let our insecurities, our fears of speaking out get in the way of doing anything. I know I find myself in fear that I’m going to offend someone, I’m going to hurt someone. And the truth is, I’m going to. I’m going to unknowingly hurt someone in a big way. And that will be terrible. That’ll be terrible. And I hope that if someone is offended and hurt that they will come to me in a loving way and that we can approach one another in humility. But what’s even worse is not saying something at all. So, we need to take steps to make change in this problem of racism.

Someone in the Facebook community, the Faith in Practice Facebook community… recently, I was looking through some posts and asking, how are we doing spiritually? And most people said, exhausted, overwhelmed. I feel it too. But somebody said, God is doing something, things are gonna change. And that is my prayer, is that this conversation becomes a lot more than a conversation but becomes a movement, becomes an action, something that we do. But the most important thing to get there is that we take a moment to humble ourselves, acknowledge where we’re really at, acknowledge our weaknesses, and get help from one another as we come together to do something bigger than who we are. Now, that all sounds all great to say, but we need to actually let it penetrate who we are individually, if we’re going to make any kind of change. So, I want to admit that I’m no expert in this area. I have very little knowledge about the field. But I’m not gonna let that stop me from speaking up. Because silence – I don’t know, it seems like silence is actually worse because silence is when we do nothing. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people. But it’s the silence over that by the good people.” Silence by the good people. I actually think that if we’re silent, we’re probably not doing a very good job. And it’s so easy to be silent, right? I mean, when this conversation was beginning, I found myself saying, oh, I’m gonna listen to what everybody else is saying. Well, that’s my way to just ignore things. That’s my way to pull back from things. And we need to do a lot more than that. When we do nothing, in a way we’re saying that everything is okay. When we don’t speak up the world continues, and we act like we’re actually okay with that. So, don’t let your fear and insecurity keep you from speaking. In fact, that’s why I’m doing this podcast episode, because I felt that this was needed to be said.

So, in 2019, Ibram Kendi came out with a book called How to Be an Antiracist. It was a New York Times bestseller in 2019. So, in the book – I have not read it yet, but I plan to, so I just want to preface with that. But the book talks about the difference between racism and antiracism. So, I think it’s easy to say, well, I’m not a racist because I care for races… I mean, I care for people, for all people, regardless of their skin color. So, we say that, but do we actually advocate for people of a different race than our own? Do we actually do anything about it? So, we can easily say I’m not a racist, even though I beg to differ because we probably don’t do a good job paying attention to our own thoughts. But we need to do things that are antiracist. So, as we engage on this journey, it is so important that we take moments to read the literature to make the changes that we need to make to educate ourselves. And I highly suggest this book as being the beginning of that change. And a quote from the book, Kendi says, “Being an antiracist requires self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” Self-awareness, self-criticism, and self-examination. This is not a one thing fits all, do this this way, move forward, you’re done. This is a constant work that we have to do.

So, this is super important, as you know, for us, for many reasons, right? I mean, we are a group of therapists – talk about advocating for those that need a voice That’s what we do all day long, or we should be. But we also are Christians. So, in two different ways, it’s important that we take action. As I was saying before, a lot of therapists or a lot of you in the community or, honestly, everywhere, people are saying, I am exhausted. And this pandemic of sickness has been, honestly, insane. None of us ever thought it would be what it is right now. And fortunately, we’re starting to get out of the house and do a little things, at least in my part of the country, but still, it is difficult, and it is heavy. Well, now we’re tying in this extra heaviness of riots that we’re hearing about and racism and people planning riots so that they can hurt the black community. It’s so sickening, right? And so, we feel the exhaustion going on around us. If you are feeling that which you’re probably right now saying, yes, I feel that you’re gonna find a change when you actually engage with it. It’s exhausting to run all the time. It’s exhausting to run away from your problems, to run away from the issue of racism. That’s pretty tiring. In fact, when we confront things, we find more freedom. We find more energy, more grace. And so, stop running and take a stand and look at things. You’re not going to get it right; you’re not going to understand it all. But that’s why, just as the quote said, it’s a self-awareness. It’s looking at what’s going on in your own life, looking at your own criticisms, understanding yourself in the world around you in a different kind of way.

I even find that over the past week or so, almost like a new awareness. And I think God does that in our lives. He brings us to new awareness. And so my prayer for even myself and for all of us is that over the weeks, years, decades, that we would see more and more of the hate that’s around us, so that we can actually do something about it and that we can create more love and we can stop the pain. So, this exhaustion that we’re feeling, I think we’re feeling it for the black community, for those impacted by COVID-19, for our world, we’re feeling it in the atmosphere. So, we are on the frontlines of this for two reasons: as counselors and as Christians. So, you probably have an idea of where I’m going here but as counselors, we sit with our clients, we help them identify things, we help them emotionally process. And so, as people have come to me and been like, okay, or my staff comes to me, okay, how do I handle working with my clients with what’s going on with racism and riots right now? Well, you do it like you’ve always done when you deal with trauma. You listen. And then you listen some more. You show acceptance. You let go of judgment, and you love no matter what. You help clients come to their own understanding of the situation. Help them tell their family of origin stories, or their other traumatic events that have led to this one, like complex trauma. We talk through that with them and we help them come to their own conclusions and understanding their reality, and what they want to do about it. We do this with clients all the time. So now we need to do it with ourselves. Right? We need to do it with ourselves and continue to do that with our clients. So, we are on the frontlines as counselors in this way in what’s going on in our nation, so we can’t continue to silence ourselves. We need to be alert and awake and understand it. More reason that we need to do our own work around it, right? I mean, in all things that clients bring in, it’s important that we do our own self-reflection on how we feel about things. And if you haven’t done your own work against racism, then you’re gonna really struggle when a client of a different color comes in, or when someone comes in talking about race issues, you’re not gonna know how to address it. So, it’s important that we do our own work ourselves.

Now, not only are we counselors but we’re also faith based, Christians. And we could go into a whole lengthy Bible study if we wanted to, on why racism is wrong, what the Bible has to say about it. But I’m just gonna narrow it down to this because I think this is what is important. The Bible makes it clear on multiple occasions that we are to fight for the oppressed. And the black community is oppressed. Right? So, it’s important that we live out the Christian calling, honestly, and that we fight for them. Proverbs 31:9 says, speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. We are to defend them, to advocate for them. How can we expect someone who’s being oppressed to advocate for themselves? That’s difficult. And so, it’s important that we do that for them, and that we speak for them. They are broken and traumatized. I mean, we don’t expect someone who’s being traumatized to speak for themselves, I mean, we don’t expect clients to do that themselves.

So, I have several points here that I kind of came up with and I think that it will be helpful for us as we move forward as a community. And I want to get you to consider these and I really want to say here, when you’re done listening to this podcast if you have some time, right after or in the next few days, just stop and consider how you can address this in your own life. It’s so easy to hear something and think, oh, that sounds good. But then we don’t do anything about it. So, I’m going to commit to you that for me, I’m planning on getting the How to be an Antiracist book, and I’m going to read. And I’m going to try to understand things and get educated in a way that I haven’t before. And so, if you want to get that book and you want to let me know you did it, that’d be awesome. If you already have something that you know you’re going to do, that’s great, too. And we’ll kind of talk about that in these steps. But I just want to encourage you, as I go through these, for you to be thinking, where are you in these steps? And what are you gonna do about it?

So, the first step here, in how do we address racism in our own lives, is I want you to explore your family of origin. We all have our own story and where we came from. I am embarrassed to say that I saw racism. I definitely did. And honestly, when you grow up in a certain kind of way, I guess you could say, sometimes you don’t know things are a problem. I think I’ve talked about this on another recent podcast, and it’s like even religiously you grow up believing a certain type of faith or reading the Bible in a certain type of way and you don’t know otherwise. Then you get older and you start to notice things, or the scales come off your eyes, and you realize you need to change.

So, as I think back on my family of origin story, yeah, I mean, I was treated or spoken to about things that were very racist, but at the time, I didn’t know that. I grew up in South Georgia. It’s a difficult place to grow up, and I also want to share this story with you because I think it speaks to this, but it’s also painful. I went to a high school that was predominantly black, maybe 70% or so. It was a public school. And the white community, honestly, was probably about 15%. We also had other skin colors as well. And when I was in high school – now this was not long ago, this was in the late 90s – there were two separate proms. Now, it was never verbalized this way. But as I’ve gotten older and I look back and I understand it, it was basically a white and black prom. And as I say that out loud to you, I’m floored. I’m floored that this happened. But it was like, we were treated like this was normal. And we didn’t think twice about it. So, because the school had a very large black community, the school prom was considered like the black prom. There were a couple of white people that were not as popular or cool that went to the school prom. But ultimately, that’s what it was. And some of the more affluent white parents got together – this was before I got to high school – but they got together, and they created what they called the after-prom party that started 30 minutes after the school prom. It was an invitation only, to a venue where you would have a DJ, and pictures, everything, everything that you would have at a prom. It’s nothing like an after-prom party. It was totally a separate prom. The white parents invited, I guess you’d call it, like, the token black kids to come. And so, then they felt better about themselves. And going back to the disengagement thing, it’s easy for me to tell you that story and just say it, but boy, we need to engage with these problems. Now, I was fortunate enough to work on the school student council, and so I actually helped host the prom one year for the school. So, I did get to experience both proms. Honestly, there wasn’t really a big difference. Except one had almost all black people, one had almost all white people. And I did find that very odd, but that is just what things were and so that’s what we did. Fortunately, after I left high school, parents picketed outside of the after-prom party, and that has since been stopped as it should have been way before. But this is our nation, and this is how people grow up, and no wonder we have these really skewed, crazy ideas of race.

So I want you to first step in this exploration journey, is to explore your own feelings, your own family of origin story surrounding race and what you were told by your parents, or told by your community, because you need to change that. You need to change that if it wasn’t right. The second step here is examining your own life. So, look at how you live your life. Do you help the oppressed? If you do, how do you do that? Do you have friends who have different skin colors than you? Do you have more than one? It’s not okay to say, oh, I have one friend. That means I’m not a racist. It doesn’t mean that. So how do you engage with others? How do you engage with others of a different race? When you see someone with a different race, do you act differently than if they’re the same skin color as you? It is so easy for us to just say, no, I don’t. But if you really stop and think about it, maybe you’ll have a different answer. So, we need to be challenged in the circles that we surround ourselves with, that we need to surround ourselves with more diverse circles than where we’re already at. So, I want you to examine your relationships in your life, and the way you live your life, and see if you find racism or not.

Then number three here is I want you to ask God to help you, that this is not an easy work and we know that we need God’s help. Ask him to give you guidance on what does it look like to be an antiracist person. How do you live that out in your life? And ask for more understanding. And I would say the same is a good prayer for where we’re at as a nation, that pray for your friends, pray for your community that we would see and have opened eyes to what’s going on. And I hope that if I see something happening, that God will empower me or give me wisdom or understanding, or guts, honestly, to say the right thing and do the right thing, and not to stand by. So, then I want you to ask for guidance.

And the next step is to make changes in your life. Make changes in your community. Do what you can. So, as I thought through this, and I watched a couple of videos by a black speaking about what whites can do is to just speak out. If that’s what’s being asked of me by the black community, then that’s what I’m going to do. And that’s what I’m doing right now. This was not easy for me to get on here and talk about this. But I believe this is part of the movement for change for myself and change for us. And if I can get on here, and even one person listening makes a change, then it accomplished something, and it was worth it. That if I lose followers, or people don’t like me because of it, I have to be okay with that. Because at least it made change for someone. Man, and I just cannot get over the importance of as therapists, we’ve got to get this. And as Christians, like, we have got to get this right. And so, we can’t just keep being silent about it. So, speaking out in your community. Some of you have podcasts, speak out on your podcast about it. Invite people of different races to be on your podcast. And if you’re feeling like you don’t know someone or you’re worried about asking someone, just pray. Pray about it and ask for God to show you someone or ask people who they know and reach out. And don’t just reach out and have one person; try to have as many as you can because diversity is important. It’s going to bring goodness to your podcast, honestly. So, listen to God and yourself and look around in your community for ways for change, and to notice other people. Maybe you see that your kid is playing soccer and there’s someone of a different skin or a black person on the community, at the soccer field, hang out with that family, get to know them. Get to know others, not just people that look like you.

And then the last one here, we’re going to get into business. I want you to make changes in your practice. Embarrassed again to say, as I was doing my staff meeting, we were talking about the riots and the racism and how do we address this with our clients. And I thought, goodness, like, we’re all sitting here of the same race having this conversation. And we need to have variety here, right? Different voices speaking for the different needs. And so, I love Rachel Rodgers, because she has a podcast, Hello Seven, and you can look at her website and everything, but she helps create diverse businesses because diversity is only going to help your practice, help your business. So, I encourage you to check her out. But she talks about how often white people will think, oh, well, they’re not the right fit for the practice, or this person doesn’t have the skills I’m looking for, or well, I didn’t have enough black people or people of color to apply for this, that and the other. We have so many excuses. And she does training and there are many other people that do this, but diversity training, and maybe that’s something you want to consider, or at least begin to listen to things about it, but how do we diversify our practice? How do we create advertisements that speak to people of color? Because honestly, your ad probably doesn’t. And if someone were to look on our websites, if we don’t have people of color, why would they want to go work there? So how can you put ads in places that black people are paying attention to? How can you rewrite your ad so that it meets their needs? And how can you just honestly be more aware? Be more aware and look out for people that are different than you because that’s only going to help your business.

It is proven that businesses that have diversity end up having more success. There’s a Forbes article, 2018 a study finds that diverse companies produce 19% more revenue. This article was written by Anna Powers and she said, essentially, diversity boils down to curiosity. It’s the antithesis of boredom. When your business is not diverse, it’s boring. It’s boring. You’re gonna have better business with different voices and 19% more revenue comes from innovation. New ideas. Stop working with the people that look like you, that have the same ideas you have. Bring in people who have new ideas that are curious that have different understanding than you do. It’s important in any kind of business that you’re running, but especially in our business, especially in our business, clients are looking for a therapist that understands them. I mean, we know it, when we found our own therapists, when you go to a website, you’re looking, you’re looking for someone who looks like you. And so, all the clients that are not served in your area because you don’t have a therapist on your team that looks like someone else. So, it’s important that you’re paying attention to that.

So, it’s easy for me to get on here and have this conversation and okay, now I’m going to make changes today. But this is a conversation that needs to continue. I want to encourage you to please reach out to me if you have feedback for me, resources that I could benefit from, or resources the community could benefit from, let me know. Or post it in our Faith in Practice Facebook group. Audrey Lorde, who’s the famous poet, said, “Revolution is not a one-time event.” It’s not a one-time event and so we can’t treat it that way. So again, I don’t have all the answers. I’m not perfect on this. But I’m going to commit with you to make change and do the best that I can to do it. So, as I kind of wrap the podcast up for today, I want to leave you with a quote from Elie Wiesel: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political values, that place must, at that moment, become the center of the universe.”

Thank you for letting me speak with you today and for listening. Please share this podcast with others that you think need to hear this message. And I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an e-mail whitney@practiceofthepractice.com. We’d love to hear from you.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the Practice of the Practice, or the guests, are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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