Working through, not around, our racism

Working through, not around, our racism

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As a country, we are facing a resurgence of overt racism (and sexism among other things, but these are topics for other articles). Racism has never not existed within our nation; however, the latent racism within many Americans came to life with the election of an African-American man to run our country. Eight years later, the racism that has risen to and stayed at the forefront of so many Americans’ psyches has allowed for our current state of affairs. The Republican candidate for president — who, by the way, I will refer to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in an effort to spare you from seeing that name any more than necessary — is our racist response to Barack Obama. We have allowed a blatant racist, sexist, xenophobic man to get this close to the most powerful office in the world because we are a racist country that couldn’t fully tolerate a black president. In turn, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is getting closer, with each and every speech and tweet, to normalizing racism in America.

Through his and certain other Republicans’ assertion of stances that inappropriately generalize minorities, by insisting that our nation’s first black president isn’t an American citizen, by promising to disallow Muslims into our country, by planning to build a wall “protecting” us from our neighbors to the south, it has been modeled for us that we can say whatever we want. We can even say the things that would have typically lived dormant, deep inside of ourselves. We are racist and we have always been racist and we always will be racist unless we start working through our racism instead of around it.

For example, in our Gayborhood, we are dealing with a microcosm of what’s happening in the country at large. In fact, making a dress-code policy that obviously targets African-Americans is just the type of racist crap that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would pull. It’s technically not discriminatory (because it’s just about shoes, right?) but we all know it is.

As we as a community try to get a handle on our own racism, there are a lot of emotions running very high. And understandably so. Responses have run the gamut but one that I’ve noticed that isn’t getting talked about very much is the white response of rigid political correctness. While I am frankly just happy to see any white people speaking out, if the people who care enough to fight against racism do not also take ownership for their own covert racism, we will still be going around racism rather than ripping it out from its roots.

While it may be unpopular to acknowledge, none of us is completely free of cultural and racial bias because none of us has grown up in a post-racial society. Every stereotype or racial slur we have ever heard growing up in this country is entwined in our conceptualization of society. The only way to shed these parts of our experience is to recognize them, acknowledge them, understand them, share them in a safe space (preferably therapy) and then ultimately release them.

I do not doubt that some white people have done this self-work and are able to exist in a post-racial personal mentality. I also can comfortably assert that it is not standard practice for many people to do this type of self-reflection about lots of topics, let alone something as sensitive as race. How many of us really understands our personal relationship to race at the deepest levels of ourselves?

Regardless of the exact number, now is the moment, this hideous moment in time when racism is thriving, to use it to truly learn and grow as people and as a society.

In an effort to precipitate this important dialogue with ourselves and our community members, I will be facilitating a free and confidential group on racism during the month of October. Please email through my website listed below to find out details, or check the Facebook page.


Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist specializing in issues and concerns of the LGBTQ community in addition to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other mental illnesses. Her private practice, Philadelphia LGBTQ Counseling, offers both individual and couples sessions (www.lgbtphillytherapy.com).


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