New Voices: Our Historic Moment

Fanny Brewster, Ph.D., MFA, LP

Octavious Cato
African American Activist*

We are beginning a historic new time in our American collective, welcoming a
new president, a first African Asian American woman vice-president, with an
electoral change that reinforces the strength of our American democracy. This is
important to me as an African American woman, a mother, and a descendent of
African slaves. All of these and more are relevant to my personal and professional
life. The politics of America, and the constant striving for social justice, have been
and remain hallmarks of the life of America’s citizens of color. We have depended
on American laws and acts of justice–from the Abolitionist Movement to the
Black Lives Matter Movement, to provide us with visions and acts of freedom for
our bodies, our minds and hope for our future children of color. The economic,
political, and educational struggles of Africanist people lasted through four
hundred years of slavery. Our cultural lives have been marked through these
centuries with an awareness of the struggle for survival, and the necessity of faith,
tied to a belief in the resiliency of our cultural group. This is a part of my
American identity as an Africanist woman and my calling as a Jungian analyst.
Psychoanalysis began from Eurocentric roots. As a Jungian analyst, I have been
taught American Jungian psychology with the elements of this Eurocentrism,
including its influences of raciality and colonialism. I believe that the movement
of 21 st century psychoanalysis, is to move us into a consciousness that
acknowledges the pain of American racism, while creating a new voice of diversity
and inclusion. These must always be recognized, as they have so often been
excluded, as a part of our training as professionals in the field of psychology. The
attention we give to racial diversity, inclusion and equity, provides more assurance
that we as practitioners, can give our patients a deeper understanding of
compassion and healing. In advancing the relationship between social justice and
psychoanalysis, we must accept our historical beginnings, and commit to
integrating the specialization of psychoanalysis through the acceptance of those
traditionally designated as “Other”, due to skin color, culture or ethnicity. We as
psychoanalysts are not separate from our American politics, and therefore social
justice which must always speak to issues of American societal racism, and its
elimination. The consciousness of the American psyche bears the history of
slavery and the potential for repair. These have a presence that includes how we
live psychologically–as citizens and psychoanalysts.

We cannot separate the two because this is a time that calls us to be in humility for
all that we have endured as American citizens of a racialized body politic, as we
become even more conscious containers for healing racism, within our
psychoanalytical clinical settings, as well as for the communities we serve.
We embody all of our history–no matter how painful. In this moment, we must
hold a vision and light for revealing and healing our racialized American shadow.

*Octavius V. Catto was an African American Civil Rights activist residing in Philadelphia, PA, until the time of his death in October 10, 1871.  He was murdered in public on that day because of his activism while protesting racism and enlisting African American men to vote. At the time of his death he was 32 years of age.

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