SAPU Racist Enactments


 «I am from urban Sweden, and my favorite colleague, a woman I have worked with for almost a decade, is from Kenya. When I started out here as a fresh psychologist, her decades of clinical experience helped me greatly with finding my place in the field. We both speak Norwegian with a slightly foreign accent. Sometimes, however, people request a change when assigned to her as a therapist because they “did not understand her accent.” This may happen after only one session or even after reading her name on the summons letter. Because at the time I was the only other psychologist at the clinic, I got a few of these patients transferred to my case load. I was upset to discover that my own accent was never a problem. Never. Even though my Norwegian grammar was terrible compared with hers, I was never rejected because of language issues. Even though it was hard to prove in every case that it was not a matter of personal chemistry or alliance, I found myself having the creeping suspicion not only that I was treating all the racist patients, but worse, that I was part of a racist enactment at our clinic. The ethics were complicated: How could I keep empathy for the patients toward whom I had become angry or suspicious? Equally important, how could I show solidarity with my colleague? The question turned out to be even more complicated when I naively tried to address the problem of societal racism among our patients as well as in our small, predominantly White society at a team meeting. The question was handled very defensively in the group; people made all kinds of far-fetched excuses except those involving racism and skin color. «


* Are there any racial, homophobic, or sexist enactments going on at your workplace? Are you contributing to this in any way? How can you address this issue?

* How do you handle racist patients? Can you maintain empathy?

* Are all minority therapists at your clinic treating all the minority cases (racial/ethnic minority, sexual minority, or other)?

* If you are not a minority therapist, how can you support the minority therapists?

* If you are a minority therapist, what kind of support would help you the most? How can you ask for it?


From:  A Grammar of Power in Psychotherapy: Exploring the Dynamics of Privilege, by M. Fors. Copyright © 2018 by the American Psychological Association.