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Diverse, Yet Unified: Empowered Voices

(photo source: Facebook)

By Ashley Morris, LCSW and Lisa Catania, LCSW

Therapists often stay quiet and neutral during socially disruptive, violent times. We sit, in confidence, as individuals tell us about their fears and hurts. We lovingly hold their pains, encourage healing, and promote assertiveness and advocacy. Yet, we have been drawn to our profession because we want to heal damage before it even takes root. In the face of all the recent societal violence, we at Beverly Therapists are drawn to share our voices and advocate for change that includes all of us. Below you will find our diverse, empowered yet unified voice.

Should Black Lives Matter? by Ashley Morris, LCSW “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” ~Abraham Lincoln As we are all grieving, we must join together in supporting movements for change.  The dispelling of myths designed to foster discrimination and separate people will allow for eliminating barriers to joining a force for change.  Although what the media portrays are angry people, we should understand that the underlying feelings are hurt, sadness, worry and disappointment.  This is not a war on race, but instead a war against those who hate.  Only with love can we win: Immense, genuine, heartfelt, and continuous acts of love.  We’re all working to discover our roles in this movement. Should we attend peaceful protests; reach out to community leaders, offer our support, and inquire about how we can help? Should we write letters to our congressmen? Yes, those are options that many are considering or pursuing, but this may not be the role of every individual compelled to act. In a nation in dire need of healing, we can all show compassion and encourage those around us to do the same. When an opportunity arises for us to unite in love, we can show up!

By now, we’ve all heard the statement “Black Lives Matter”, and are at least somewhat familiar with the events leading to this movement.  Many have expressed concern or discontent regarding this intervention asserting that “All Lives Matter”, and the ideology disregards the lives of others (including police officers).  Although it would be difficult to argue against the notion that “all lives matter”, the problem with this idea is that it fails to take into consideration the very cause and premise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Furthermore, it disregards or at very least minimizes the impact of the systemic and intentional targeting of Black lives. Would there be less opposition to this movement if the hashtag read #blacklivesmatterTOO?  Of course, all lives matter! We the “un-racist” know this to be true. However, the institutional racism that perceives all black people as a threat sets these tragic events into motion. The actions of a few police officers prove that some lives warrant consideration and measures to preserve, while others are not worthy of such extended efforts.  Perhaps the dispelling of a few myths might allow for a better understanding of this movement.

Myth #1: More White people are killed by police than Black people. Reality:  Although this is actually true, it fails to take into consideration the demographics of our great Nation!  According to the United States Census Bureau, African Americans make up approximately 13% of the US population, while Caucasian Americans make-up 77% of the population. When we account for the racial make-up of the American population, police officers kill Black Americans 3x more often than they kill White Americans.

Myth #2:  Black people are more prone to violence than their white counterparts. Reality: While this is beyond disturbing and racist, I will dispel nonetheless.  The reality is that rates of violence are significantly higher in poverty ridden areas. According to the US Census Bureau, the highest national poverty rate is for African Americans at about 27%, whereas the rates for White Americans was significantly lower at slightly over 11.5 %. So as one can see, the issue of violence is related to poverty, not race.

Myth #3:  It’s not a race issue. It’s a policing issue. Reality:  The issues are related to both race and policing.  See Myth #1. As disturbing and unsettling as it is to accept, the data suggests that race is a factor in the policing practices of some.

Myth #4: This has nothing to do with you, and there’s nothing you can do to help. Reality: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” (Desmond Tutu).  Regardless of whether you support #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and/or #AllLivesMatter, we are in a state of crisis where PEACE is the only resolve. Rather than allowing our differences to divide us, we must allow our commonalities to unite us. We are all Americans. We are all troubled by recent events in the media. We are all hurt and concerned. We are all capable of love and acceptance.

Ashley N. Morris is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and lover of ALL human life. She is an advocate for human rights, social justice and cultural awareness. More information about Ashley can be found on our website and Ashley can be reached at 773-231-8609. If you are interested in joining in an act of love with your community, please email Ashley at

Healing and Unity by Lisa Catania, LCSW

As a therapist in my beloved community of Beverly-Morgan Park, I find myself deeply connected to many individuals’ personal, painful experiences of the reverberations of societal/cultural racism. I sit with many Black American clients, who feel like family to me. I hear pain, loss, anger, outrage, fear…For some, it is a deep fear for their child’s rude awakening from the bliss of their loving, protective family to find they will be judged, punished, limited in subtle and overtly violent ways because of the pigmentation of their skin. Others fear the safe passage for their sons through life. They ask questions that are asked in war zones: will my son be recruited by gangs with the enticements of false power and security?  Will they be targeted by authorities, and falsely perceived to be dangerous?  How do I teach them confidence and to protect themselves, but to act in ways that will prove to white people in power that they are not a threat?

I also sit with the protectors and first responders, our police officers and firefighter and their families, and I see the flip side of the same coin. Most are drawn into the profession of heroes, helpers and protectors.  It is in their spirit to help keep the peace, to be there in the darkest moments of humanity and to protect and care for the vulnerable and hurt. They risk their lives every day, and they show up to handle and care in situations which would cause us nightmares. What I see most is an accumulation of unprocessed trauma, and a conundrum of needing to be numb to their own pain and that of victims to continue to function on the job. Most officers are proud to share that they have never shot anyone, and they hope to retire on that record. Their families fear their well-being and safety too, as if they were soldiers in a war zone.  First responders feel targeted, unappreciated, jaded, apprehensive, defensive.

Personally, my heart has been heavy with sorrow for all the pain, and the elusiveness of real peace and resolution. Divisiveness in the wake of tragedy perpetuates strain, misunderstanding, reactivity, and ultimately, more violence. We should all be outraged that innocent people are being killed – both Black individuals (and other minorities) and police officers. Indeed, both of these groups share traumatic stress reactions and a higher incidence of undiagnosed PTSD. These two groups are in a pressure cooker to act out reactively, resulting from unresolved racism and power dynamics that we have all inherited societally. We need to stop placing blame on the victims, or the victims-turned-reactors, and even those victims-turned-oppressors.  We need to see that we are all responsible for these dynamics. Not for creating them, but for perpetuating them through complacence, blame, and justification. Equally, we are responsible for what happens on our watch – we are powerful, and can be the change. Now is a time in our history, to break the patterns of hate, fear and dividedness that are being played out in big political arenas and amongst each other on the streets. Compassion, kindness, understanding, love will pave the way to solutions. As a society, we need to pause and listen to the pain and experiences of the disenfranchised and the blamed. We need to stop pointing fingers and hear the pain of our brothers and sisters and unite with compassion for all points-of-view and find solutions to racism, and find ways to support our first responders better. We need to unify and march together.

My heart feels hopeful when I hear Facebook stories of individuals, especially Black individuals, stopping to pray with police officers in shared acknowledgement of vulnerability, pain, and the need for change. These are our leaders. We need healing, grace from a greater source, and unity.

Lisa Catania, LCSW is one of our co-founders at Beverly Therapists.  She is passionate about supporting the individual journey towards compassion, understanding and peace, which she believes starts with self-compassion and self-love.  She works with adults, adolescents and couples and has daytime availability in her schedule. More information about Lisa can be found on our website and she can be contacted via phone at 773-719-1751.


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