In my last post, I tackled a very sensitive topic of White privilege and in this post I will continue to do so. I must admit that I received what I expected to receive in response - defensiveness, denial, and plenty of explanations for the favor of White privilege. Such reactions are predictable, as some individuals only see what they allow themselves to see, because if one is only open to a specific part of experience, other types of experiences are usually rejected, ignored, and often unnoticed altogether. As an advocate for people of color and LGBTQIA individuals, I am prepared for opposition and even personal attacks as I am attempting to raise awareness of counselors in order for us to better serve our clients.
From the community I have gathered many messages, one of which is prominent - those who created the system are in power to dismantle it. I just heard the same message from a Korean show I watched - the one who set the fire must extinguish it. In other words, White individuals, specifically White males, are in power to overthrow the system. In this case, defensiveness and denial make perfect sense, because hardly anyone would be eager to give away power. Humans strive for power and do whatever it takes to retain it. Therefore, it might be counterintuitive to do the opposite. However, it is certainly possible if one is sufficiently aware, strong in one's identity and mission in life, and has a larger picture on human existence and purpose.
I admit that this request may be too large to swallow for many White individuals; therefore, I encourage you to at least take the first step toward awareness. For some this is the best they can do - awareness of the system in which you live and to which you willingly or unwillingly contribute. I can't tell you that this is your responsibility as a human (unless you choose to take it on) but it is your responsibility as a counselor. For years our code of ethics has been emphasizing multicultural awareness - this certainly includes not only awareness of non-White, non-heterosexual, non-societally-acceptable categories to which our clients belong, but also awareness of the system that is in charge of human lives and the distribution of human resources. My personal opinion is that denial, rejection, and explanations of White privilege and White supremacy is borderline unethical, because it has various negative consequences for our POC, LGBTQIA, and other minority clients: It immediately invalidates their position in our society, it fails to promote understanding and acceptance of their past and current experiences, it perpetuates the invisible divide between you and your clients, it has a strong potential to retraumatize your clients, and more.
Initially, it has been difficult for me to hear and allow this information to settle. I felt unfairly attacked, which prompted defensiveness and anger. However, that was only because I misunderstood the message - it wasn't me who was attacked, it wasn't me with whom POC had an issue - it was the system. And the system isn't personal, it's collective. This certainly challenges our ego, mindfulness, and humility on constant basis, because we have to remind ourselves over and over again, "It's not me, it's the system; I didn't create it, but I may be contributing to it; I'm feeling defensive right now but that's my ego speaking." The fact that we may be perceived by POC as villains based on our Whiteness isn't fair, but the fact that historically POC has been going through even worse treatment is also unfair. I encourage all of us to keep that in mind whenever we struggle.
Evelyn Pavlova is a counselor and an Ally, whose preferred population is LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, invisible minority, asexual, and ally) individuals. Her areas of interest are eating disorders, mood disorders, mindfulness, and spirituality. Read more about her new counseling journey at www.curvyroad.weebly.com