The recent tragic events and hostile political climate surrounding us are a constant and urgent reminder of why justice oriented counselors and are critical agents in our fight against inequities. The layers of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry that besiege us include individual acts of hatred, systemically embedded discriminatory beliefs, the normalization of intolerance, and oppressive acts and policies that target the most vulnerable communities.
As counselors, we must believe that we can take on these issues by creating meaningful support systems for the communities who are the most targeted—such as undocumented families, transgendered individuals, and people of Color. In our day to day work, we must collectivize to develop and implement critical, anti-oppressive and justice-oriented frameworks, counseling strategies, and structures and policies, that support clients’ cultural identities, political histories, and unique assets.
We must acknowledge this unique political and historical moment and recognize that with our position as counselors comes privilege, power, and responsibility. As counselors, we have access to important and difficult conversations and negotiations. For example, it is important that we create and foster opportunities for open dialogue, multiple opinions, and the development of a critical consciousness. As counselors, we also have access to helpful resources and opportunities for change. We need to understand the resources around us, partner actively with a range of organizations and build connections and opportunities for our clients. We also have the responsibility to see and name bigotry and oppression at multiple levels. We must be courageous in identifying and naming intolerance when we see it in all its forms. This may come in the form of subtle microaggressions or more direct and blatant acts of violence and hatred as we have recently seen in Charlottesville.
The journey of a counselor advocate can be personally difficult during troubling times and must involve self-care, and support for and from important others. Hearing about acts of bigotry is psychologically stressful and can impact our health, emotional well-being, our spirit, and our relationships. We need to be able to recognize when others are suffering and use our counseling skills to create supportive networks.
It is clear out fight against injustice will be a long one and one we cannot do alone. The most important lesson I have learned in my advocacy work is that we are always stronger and more powerful when we collectivize and act in solidarity with the communities we care about.
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.