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  • Jane McKinney

Confronting racism and discrimination

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated this month on Monday, January 20. And while Dr. King fought for racial justice six decades ago, understanding diversity and confronting racism and discrimination are still top of the agenda in 2020. Over the past few years, many professionals have discussed the racism and discrimination they have experienced in their workplaces. Responses to these concerns were, at best, dismissive and, at worst, reinforced discriminatory institutional practices. How should we, as individuals, confront institutional racism and discrimination?

The following suggestions, humbly offered, presume that there are others who know more than myself and presume that there is, most likely, more that can be done to undermine discriminatory practices.

1. Know the terms.

What are the definitions of culture, diversity, ethnicity, discrimination, prejudice, and racism? Read below for definitions of discrimination and racism (New Oxford American Dictionary):

DISCRIMINATION: “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”—and add to that gender, ethnicity, and ability

RACISM: “the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another”

In graduate school, it became clear to me that the term "race" is a constructed, prejudicial term designed to condone social discrimination. Engaging in a more culturally competent discussion would preclude use of the term "race" and replace it with "ethnicity" to honor and acknowledge the fact that we are all humans, and our social differences are rooted in culture.

For information about terms and talking about racism, check out the following links:

2. Listen to people who are different from you

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) provides a framework for cultural competency, placing social emotional skills at the core. These competencies include: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making (please click here for further study).

While social-emotional learning (SEL) supports cultural competency, creating an open stance toward diversities, benefiting from varied ideas, opinions, and experiences, requires one to possess good listening behavior. You can read more about the unused potential of listening in "Listening to People" from the Harvard Business Review.

3. Learn how to have conversations about racism, prejudice, and discrimination that are culturally competent

Now that we share a common starting point for having a conversation, how do we engage in culturally competent conversations—and why should we? The answer is straightforward: to continue to strive toward equality, social justice, and fairness. As a society, we short-change ourselves in terms of achievement, outcomes, problem-solving, and creativity by ignoring racism, discrimination, and social injustice.

While researching for this article, similar steps for developing cultural competency consistently showed up, regardless of industry. These steps are derived from "How do I become culturally competent?" by Rebecca A. Clay and are worth a thorough read:

  • Develop your cultural self-awareness

  • Learn about communities and cultures that are unfamiliar to you

  • Interact and participate with social groups, cultures, and communities different from your own

The first step toward cultural competency," Clay writes, "is to know yourself and recognize those whom you might view as different from yourself." For more information, check out "How Diversity Makes Us Smarter" by Katherine W. Phillips for Scientific American on embracing diversity and "Colorblind Ideology Is a Form of Racism" by Monnica T. Williams, PhD., in Psychology Today.

Be well, Jane



Please note the changes to the following groups. Enrollment can be made through the website at or by emailing

2020 Group Schedule Creative Clinician Group - FIRST SESSION STARTS JAN. 23 2020 dates: Thursdays, January 23, February 20, March 19, April 16, May 28, June 25, July 23, August 20, (no group in September), October 15, November 12 Time: 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Cost: $25 per person / per group

The creative clinician group provides an outlet for therapists to process their own work and engage in self-care in a professional and confidential setting. Focusing on the creative process allows your inner wisdom to bubble up to the surface, offering a fresh perspective to the challenge you choose to explore. This is also a group for clinicians who have an interest in incorporating play and expressive arts in their work with clients. Each month will feature a different creative, resiliency-building activity that you can use immediately in your practice.

  • learn new expressive arts interventions

  • discover your creative strengths

  • explore your professional identity

  • experience your inner wisdom

Please RSVP as soon as you know that you plan to attend as space is limited to 8 participants.

EFT Book Club for Clinicians 2020 Dates: February 6, March 5, April 2, April 30, (no meeting in May), June 11, July 9, August 6, September 3, October 1, October 29, (no meeting in November), December 10 Time: 8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Defiant Child Book Club 2020 dates: Mondays, January 27 - February 24 Time: Mondays from 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Cost: $125 per person / $225 per couple (includes book)

Resiliency-Building for Adults - FIRST SESSION STARTS JAN. 25 2020 dates: January 25, February 22, March 21, April 18, May 30, June 27, July 25, August 22, (no meeting in September), October 17, November 14 Time: 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Cost: $25 per person/session

Offered as single session group one Saturday per month, the Resiliency-Building Group provides an opportunity for participants to access personal meaning and purpose through creative experience. In this group, participants will engage in expressive arts activities each session to achieve one of the four core objectives:

  • Centering - experiencing self as grounded and safe.

  • Compassion - witnessing from a non-judgmental stance.

  • Connection - joining with self and others to communicate thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

  • Contribution - sharing, giving, and receiving from a place of wholesome integrity.



Through work with communities at risk for HIV, Marquita has come to understand that unresolved trauma not only affects the individual but the health outcomes of all people seeking medical treatment. She is dedicated to working with individuals who have experienced trauma through intimate partner violence, interpersonal violence, incarceration, substance use disorder, transphobia and homophobia, and sudden life changes. Marquita believes that resolving unaddressed traumatic events will elevate and heighten personal well-being. Find out more about Marquita on our website.


SOCIAL MEDIA We would love to connect with you on our social media channels! We often share helpful tips for self-care and highlight our therapy and groups. Find us at @abalancedlifekc or by clicking below.

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