In the weeks following the presidential election, there has been a dramatic increase in hate crimes, primarily targeting immigrant, Muslim, LGBTQ, and Black communities. Some have dismissed this statistic as indicative of an increase in awareness and reporting practices, but it is more likely that these attacks emerged as part of a societal normalization of hate, bigotry, and xenophobia in the United States as a result of the “Trump effect.” Specifically, as Trump, his supporters, and individuals in his developing administration make discriminatory comments or propose policy that reinforces intolerance, there will be a growing normalization of hatred and disregard for inclusion. Like many in the counseling and education fields, I have been saddened and angered by the lack of humanity emerging in our society. I have been particularly worried about students in school and the younger generation they represent, and the types of messages they are receiving as they witness hate in the form of symbols, speech, intimidation, and victimization.
As counselors, we are in a unique position to support the most marginalized communities as advocates, counselors, mental health workers, and educators. We must work together to respond to these incidents individually and systemically. Like many of you, I have spent the past few weeks trying to grapple with the potential outcomes of our new government and the impact of this administration on the Supreme Court and the policies to come. I encourage all of you to take time to process and share your feelings, connect with loved ones, and reach out to those communities and individuals most impacted by this. In the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I also believe we need to collectivize, organize, and fight. As a daughter of immigrants, I entered the counseling profession to battle the inequities I saw my parents deal with from unfair immigration policies to workplace and language discrimination. Now more than ever, we need to confront and address hate in all its forms to protect the human rights of the most targeted communities. We must intentionally plan and consider how to best support the students, clients, and communities we work with as counselors and advocates. I believe this process begins by understanding our own potential contribution in tackling discrimination, and by coming together as a unified group to protect and partner with communities that are being targeted by the new administration. This includes groups that have been directly targeted (i.e. Muslims being required to register in the United States) and groups that are indirectly targeted (i.e. young girls who are being objectified through Trump’s stated history of sexual assault).
As you meet with clients, students, colleagues, and community members in the weeks and months to come, I encourage you to situate your work and the work of counselors in the larger context of historical racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, and discrimination and to recall how social movements have fought against this hate. Remind yourself about why you are in this field, what your values are, and the change you hope to see. As a parent, and counselor and advocate in public schools, I will prepare my children and others in their generation with critical consciousness, skills, and knowledge to fight the system. I also see many future opportunities for counselors to engage in policy briefs to protect many of the marginalized communities they work with.
Christine Yeh is a Professor at the University of San Francisco and Co-Director of the Center for Research, Artistic, and Scholarly Excellence. She works in solidarity with historically targeted communities to address and fight bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and other forms of hate and bigotry.