The mission of the American Counseling Association is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect and human dignity and diversity. Given the current dilemma this country is facing as it relates to aggressive policing and people of color, one would think that ACA would be the ideal organization to provide leadership to this growing crisis. Thus, I believe that there are several areas where areas where ACA could positively impact society, particularly aggressive policing.
If we truly believe and embrace the notion that counselors are to use the profession to promote respect and human dignity and diversity, then we have a professional responsibility to act in a manner that is consistent with our mission. It is apparent that many individuals in our profession seem to believe that they are culturally competent because they took the CACREP mandated Social and Cultural Counseling course. However, achieving cultural competence is a lifelong journey that really does not have a final destination.
Nevertheless, ACA has a number of well trained and culturally competent counselors. I believe that one of the root causes related to aggressive policing is the long term effect of stereotyping and the dehumanization of people of color, both men and women. Given ACA’s access to professionals with multicultural expertise, ACA should formally partner with law enforcement organizations all across the country to provide training geared towards eliminating negative encounters that occur as a result of both intentional and unintentional racism.
As previously stated the ACA mission promotes human dignity and diversity. On Friday August 5th, officials in Chicago released the video of the police firing into a car. Subsequently, Paul O’Neil, an 18 year old African-American male was killed during the encounter. On August 1, Korryn Gaines, 23 year old African American female died in an “alleged shoot out” with the Baltimore police. The police were attempting to serve a warrant related to an earlier traffic incident. Although we do not have all of the facts relative to these cases, what appears to be consistent is an overall lack of respect for the humanity of people of color by the very people who are trained and paid to serve and protect. I also believe that the ACA membership has a number of professionals who can assist the law enforcement community in the area of conflict resolution and de-escalation training.
Given ACA’s resources and history of advocacy, it is only a matter of time before our organization steps up. Until that actually happens, I encourage the leadership of all of the ACA divisions and ACA members to reach out to your respective Governing Council representatives to share your concerns and move this issue to the top of the priority list for ACA.
David Staten a Professor of Rehabilitation Counselor Education at South Carolina State University. He also co-owns a counseling practice, MERGE Counseling and Coaching, L.L.C The website is www.merge378.com