The “S” in PRISM stands for stereotype replacement. Gupta guides us through a few examples, again saying a word and asking us to be mindful of the first association that appears in our minds, and then inviting us to consider alternate examples, adding depth and complexity to our automatic associations. I found the practice to be simple and helpful, something I can easily do on my own when I notice stereotypical associations arising in my own mind, and something I can teach others to do.
Gupta speaks the names of various roles and asks us to note the very first association that appears in our minds. Examples of the roles includes scientist, entrepreneur, yoga teacher, and lawyer. I’m disappointed and a little embarrassed that the first association my mind makes for scientist, entrepreneur, and lawyer are images of white men, and a white woman for yoga teacher.
Gupta introduces us to himself, his interest in anti-bias work, and his PRISM framework. He then invites us to reflect on this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in meditation:
Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
As I reflected on the parts of that quote, I found myself feeling a longing for my Social Justice Training Institute cohort during the first clause, since that has been my most direct experience of what I think Beloved Community might actually feel like. During the second clause (qualitative change in our hearts) I felt warmth, as I usually do when thinking about inclusion. It was during the the third clause (quantitative change in our lives) that I felt fear. I feared the guilt that arises when I think about my relative material privilege, and I feared having to give up things I enjoy, like bikes, eating out, and traveling.
I’ve begun a course in Insight Timer by Anu Gupta called Breaking Bias with Mindfulness and plan to post short reflections on the lessons here.
I’ve been using Insight Timer, a meditation app, since 2012. I usually just use the timer and meditate in silence, or maybe meditate to some ambient music or sounding bowls. But this year they’ve been honoring Black History Month by featuring guided meditations from Black guides, so I decided I’d give some of them a try. I’ve been so impressed. Lalah Delia’s Energy Cleanse: Sacred Waters is a beautiful guided imagery taking you through a waterfall and beyond. Alexandra Elle has some great guided writing exercises, including one on affirmations and a letter for self-forgiveness. Lauren Ash has a well-rounded practice that includes breath work, a body scan, and connection with intuition, all on top of hip-hop inspired background music.
Rachel Ricketts is a thought leader and champion for Black and Indigenous womxn. As a racial justice activist, lawyer, healer, speaker + author, she educates white folx on their role in perpetuating white supremacy, and helps folx of colour heal from internalized oppression. Rachel hosts workshops that promote racial justice and offer solutions for all hue-mans to dismantle white supremacist heteropatriarchy, heal from racialized trauma, and better connect with themselves and each other.
Her session Lovingly Exploring Our Emtions connects our personal emotional experiences to oppressive, exploitative systems, which I think is crucial in helping would-be activists develop self-interest in the work of resistance and collective healing. I appreciate her warning to address our own pain before or at least as we engage in collective work, so as to cause more good than harm. I also appreciate her acknowledgement of Eastern religious and spiritual traditions that have provided the foundation for many of the meditation practices that are taught today. Her Breathing and Being With the Earth helps us connect to trees and the Earth, ancient sources of calm and wisdom and vitality.
The crown jewel in her library so far, in my opinion, is Stepping Into Spiritual Activism. I think it probably summarizes her mission. It is her invitation to those who want to dismantle white supremacist heteropatriarchy to first dismantle it within themselves, thus avoiding the “spiritual bypassing” she sees often among activists. She gives different advice to white folks and people of color, and acknowledges we’ve all been affected. It’s so good, so helpful, so important, so unflinching and compassionate and well-done. It reminded me of conversations I’ve had with a fellow anti-racist worker about my desire for an activist space that is not owned by a particular religious or spiritual tradition but that welcomes everyone to bring their own religious and spiritual beliefs and practices into the activist work. If we don’t make space for those, I think we rob our movements of deep wells of inspiration and motivation and healing.
I encourage you to check some of these out, regardless of whether you’re interested in meditation. If you like what you hear, consider paying the creators! You can donate directly in the Insight Timer app. Rachel Ricketts can also take donations via Patreon or Paypal.
It’s been difficult to find time to write for anyone other than my professors for the last five years, but I want to start trying. I’m interested in writing about trying to become a professional mental health counselor with a strong focus on social justice, since it’s been difficult for me so far.
Here’s the dynamic I think I’m noticing: for good reason, elders in the counseling world want young counselors-in-training (CITs) to adopt a posture of humility and learning. They want us to recognize that there is so much we don’t know about treating our clients well, and to be dependent on them to learn. That is well and good. It is true that we have much to learn.
But Sue, Arredondo and McDavis was published in 1992, and I imagine it took quite some time to get incorporated into the way that CITs were trained. This means that many of today’s counseling elders likely came up in a system in which Eurocentric approaches to mental health were the largely-unquestioned norm. I imagine that is still the case in a lot of places. In my Theories of Counseling course, we didn’t get to theories that start to question those norms, postmodern theories like multicultural, feminist, narrative and collaborative, until the last two chapters of the book and the last week or two of the semester, when we were already rushing to finish our final papers and the class. So you could say that a strong social justice perspective is still lacking in counselor education. Of course, I can only speak for my own experience, but since my program is close to becoming accredited by CACREP, which places many requirements on curriculum, I’m sure the experience is not wildly different for others students in CACREP programs. I’m grateful my program has some faculty with social justice orientations that compensate for the dearth of it in the curriculum. One of them is responsible for bringing the Multicultural Issues in Counseling course into the twenty-first century by imbuing it with a focus on social justice.
So, while I understand that I and my fellow CITs have much to learn about counseling, treatment planning, note writing, etc., I wish that counseling elders would more readily acknowledge that they may be less practiced in questioning norms than those of us who’ve grown up in a world where doing so is increasingly an expectation. If they did, it would be easier to combine the best of what we each know, rather than falling into the age-old trap of indiscriminately rejecting the values of the previous generation.