The current racist atrocities in the U.S. and the worldwide demonstrations of rage, whether expressed peacefully or violently, have heightened our awareness of our complacency about the impact of centuries of violence visited upon Black lives. We recognize that racism is deeply entrenched in American history, reinforced by current systems and policies, and experienced by its victims, day in and day out.
The Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center is committed to educating ourselves to the harm and pain caused by systemic racism; to scrutinizing ourselves and our organization for racist ideas and practices; and to taking active steps towards becoming a more fully antiracist presence in the world.
As professionals who study the development of the mind from infancy, we know that humans are born with an ability to project unwanted feelings and blame outside themselves, onto others. Under optimal conditions, this ability is modified as the child develops both a conscience, and also a larger capacity to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. And yet, a tendency to attribute our own undesirable qualities onto others persists lifelong.
We also know that young children readily absorb their families’ ideas, attitudes, values, moral code, and behavior from the beginning. The transmission of this knowledge occurs through instruction at home, school, and cultural and religious institutions. Equally important to explicit teaching is nonverbal, or implicit, communication of information. Racist beliefs and biases are internalized unseen, like the air we breathe.
The mind of a child is fertile ground for sowing feelings of racial superiority or inferiority, as their identity is formed and consolidated over time. Racial identities tend to endure, unless they are modified by antiracist experiences and by discovery of one’s own conscious and unconscious racial beliefs. Equating differences with inferiority paves the way to discrimination. These truths apply to our own families and ourselves, including the most seasoned of psychoanalysts.
- The members of the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center acknowledge that a belief in white superiority has thoroughly permeated society since the destruction of American Indian cultures and the theft and enslavement of African people. Inevitably, American psychoanalytic training programs and the broader mental health community have been, and continue to be, participants in the culture of racism. We recognize that we have furthered the interests of the white majority, even as we also affirm the inherent dignity of all people.
- We acknowledge our complicity as flawed individuals in perpetuating racist attitudes, practices, and policies within the training, membership, outreach, and leadership functions of our organization, as well as within our individual clinical practices.
- We acknowledge our failure to apply psychoanalytic theories and modes of therapy to the racial biases that exist in us all.
- We acknowledge that aspirations and ideals alone are insufficient to establish us as evolving antiracists.
- And, we acknowledge that we as a psychoanalytic center need to actively study racism, both conscious and unconscious; to identify racist practices and policies within our organization; and to bring antiracist actions to bear on our recruiting, teaching, mentoring and supervising, and clinical practices.
We believe that psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapies are powerful instruments for promoting deep self-awareness and opening new avenues for personal growth, development, and change. We hold that sincere and continual reflection on our racial values will:
- Yield a more fair and equitable distribution of the mental health and educational resources that we steward;
- Reduce racism within the walls of our classrooms and consulting rooms, and;
- Establish the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center as a safe place for the open examination of our racist blindspots and antiracist ideals.
We acknowledge antiracism as a moral imperative, and we commit to both urgent and persistent actions to implement this pledge.
We gratefully acknowledge the following for their leadership in framing antiracist statements that are relevant to a psychoanalytic center such as ours: The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas (PCC), Christine Erskine, LCSW, President, and Dorothy Evans Holmes, Ph.D., Training and Supervising Analyst and advocate for antiracist change within psychoanalytic centers and institutes; Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis (WBCP); and the American Psychoanalytic Association (apsa.org).