Centered

By Chanda Griffin

More recent events of racial violence and blatant acts of White Supremacy have brought more of an exploration and sometimes intellectual discussion with patients and within the wider psychoanalytic community. I emphasize intellectual because when I/we begin to feel the hurt, pain and rage, our tongues are often tied and our bodies paralyzed by a visceral experience of anti-blackness and anti-otherness.

I continue to regularly attend groups and conferences with a focus on race and psychoanalysis.  Time and time again, I find myself gripped in a frozen state, more specifically immobile and unable to metabolize what is taking place among us and between us.  I have asked myself, “is it me? Is it them? How is it that I am feeling othered in these very conversations that ostensibly are meant to include and or center the sociopolitical context of race and its impact on the psyche?”

As I reflect on these experiences, I believe there is an unwitting decentering, an othering in the anti-othering when the discourse is largely geared toward White analysts.  Is this an enactment of the very area we are attempting to deconstruct?

I envision the integration of social justice and psychoanalysis within our institutions to reflect that which we speak of: centering those at the margins.  What that looks like to me are more voices of color that center their experience as clinicians within the culture of our organizations and in their consulting rooms. 

A few months ago, I was facilitating a mini-course on racial trauma.  Like most psychoanalytic settings, the zoom room was mostly white with very few clinicians of color. When I present material around race and racialized dynamics, my presentation is a mix of “experience near” (clinical examples) coupled with the literature, both serving as a stimulus for participants to share their clinical experiences.

Later that evening, I was contacted by one of the POC participants who expressed concern as to whether she could continue with the course.  Her description of both her thought processes and bodily reactions suggested to me that she was experiencing racial trauma by virtue of her surroundings-not to mention the very discussion on racial trauma!

It became clear to me that although I was centering racial trauma, anti-blackness and anti-otherness in the course, the discussion was not directed towards those of color in the room.  I cannot thank this participant enough for bringing to my awareness that we, as BIPOC clinicians, grapple with erasure within the larger sociopolitical context, and, in this case within our psychoanalytic communities. It pains me that as a black woman, I too am complicit despite identifying very much with her experience.

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