Creating a roadmap with the help of our BAME internships.
The week that George Floyd was killed I was half way through the book ‘Biased’ By Jennifer Eberhart. In this book she catalogues the research she has done into bias, particularly focusing on the way the police respond to African Americans and other people of colour. To be reading about the evidence base, which has been around for years, and to be witnessing the same thing still happening in 2020 was powerful and distressing. What hope do we have of changing things when they don’t seem to be changing?
In the profession of Clinical Psychology we have known for a while that there is a problem with bias. We know that less people of colour or of different heritages or ethnicities are making it onto the doctoral programme. We also know that we are not good enough at considering the views of a wide range of people when we have discussions and make decisions. When these issues began to really gather momentum I felt woefully underprepared to offer anything helpful to the argument. I felt (and still feel) that staying silent is not a neutral position. I am aware that there are advantages I haven’t earned but have been awarded just because of the colour of my skin. I know that life was easier for me and the path was smoother and I hadn’t even realised. But I didn’t know what I could helpfully offer. Another voice shouting about the wrongs? That didn’t seem to be enough for me.
So I started trying to find my way. For me, education has always been a hugely important part of my life. As a Clinical Psychologist, finding out what’s going on is the first part of any course of therapy or before offering any intervention. So I read Akala’s ‘Natives’ and then ‘Biased’ and ‘the good immigrant’ in order to understand a perspective I’d heard so little about. There are a lot of books still to read. And that’s where I am now. Still finding my way, still unsure about what I can do to help.
Headspace Guildford is a small private practice running in a middle sized town in the UK. We’re not big and slick. We don’t have hundreds of people working for us and we don’t do big marketing or make big bucks. But we do have 3 white therapists working in the team and to date have also had 3 white summer Interns and 3 white Assistant Psychologists. So clearly we have a role in all this.
So, we’re finding our way. First step is the internship we offered this summer, specifically considering how the issues around BAME representation in Clinical Psychology might be impacting on a small private practice in Guildford. And the candidates who came to interview were both so impressive and so thought provoking that we’ve ended up offering two internships, one to start the work off, and one to extend it throughout the whole year. You can read about the amazing Sarah and Jemima here.
Together, with the help of Sarah and Jemima, and a lot of books, social media trawling, internet researching, conversations, thinking and learning we are finding our way. Do we have all the answers? Definitely not. Are we formulating some sensible questions and perhaps the start of a roadmap. Certainly. And that’s a start when you’re going some where which is better than where we are now.