The USM Counseling team is concerned about the care we provide for all our students, our USM community and the larger community.
We are a group of 15 and we are mostly white clinicians, and mostly female with three men on our team, one man is African American, and the other two men are white, one of which oversees the Recovery oriented Campus Center. Three of the female clinicians are multiracial.
We deeply appreciate President Cummings commitment to challenge our USM community and embrace Goal 10; to lead on equity, race and social justice and to manifest this by investing in learning, training, and development and to engage in university wide programming that focuses on issues of equity and justice.
Our journey to deepen our understanding, identify and share our own blind spots has been complex. It has been arduous as we expand our awareness, examining the history of the creation of race and truth about slavery. It has been difficult to look at the atrocities of the past and the present, and look at ourselves glimpsing our own ignorance, complicity and privilege. Although difficult, it is necessary to be present with ourselves and all we serve.
Each of us comes from our own unique culture and it is imperative to do what we can to understand this uniqueness for each of us and extend this to our BIPOC community. This is cultural humility, a needed process for individual growth and the growth of others. The National Institute of Health defines cultural humility as “a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique whereby the individual not only learns about another’s culture, but one starts with an examination of her/his own beliefs and cultural identities.”
Our studies over the past year have led us to examine our clinical work with BIPOC students and we are making changes in how and what information we gather at intake. We have learned there are times we should do less therapy and more advocacy for our students. We know racial trauma exists and we have seen the financial and social inequities that affect our students. We want to do what we can to remove the barriers and support our students’ academic success by sharing our observations with leadership to ensure successful graduation for our students.
The Counseling team will continue to lend support for institutional transformation to serve all peoples and all of our students.
To demonstrate our dedication we share our antiracist work with you, and we invite you to join us.
Since 2019, we have read “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram Kendi, and have listened to parts of the podcast series “Seeing White” by John Biewen. We have watched the powerful Bryan Stevenson HBO documentary “True Justice” detailing the important work he has done in the criminal justice system. We listened to the Robin DiAngelo and Resmaa Menakem conversation on white privilege on the NPR “On Being” podcast and we invited Dr. Naoko Yura Yusai from the Rehabilitation Counseling Department to come and speak to us about culturally sensitive interviewing.
Racism causes historical, intergenerational, vicarious and personal trauma. We are learning how to address micro aggressions that students share with us, and how to repair breaches and mistakes we make. One of the books we are currently reading speaks to racial trauma, Resmaa Menachem’s My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies.
This book speaks to trauma and contains some grounding techniques to help self soothe and “quiet the mind” when coping with responses to difficult situations and overt trauma.
Our denial and ignorance is deep, because it is painful. Transformation and growth is hard. As Wilma Rudolph states, “Triumph can’t be had without struggle” (Resmaa Menakem).
With grace, let us move forward in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, “Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality” (Resmaa Menakem).
As a single pebble tossed in a still pond, let us extend ourselves as ripples in the water, with kindness, caring and acceptance to transform our culture.