NCSPP

Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology

President's Remarks

by Elise Geltman, LCSW
 
Until white people own the burden and costs of racism and bigotry as a problem they've created and maintained, the change will be far too slow. In America, we have a bad habit of forcing victims of discrimination, be it racism or sexism or Islamophobia, to also be the primary, sometimes exclusive, advocates against that discrimination. And it hardly seems to work. Men must step up to fight sexism, Christians must stand up to fight Islamophobia, and white people must step up to fight against racism as if their own lives depended on it.
--Shaun King, 2017
 
This year the Division 39 conference in New York had an explicit, headline focus on psychoanalysis, racial justice, inclusive practice and theory, and politics. Closer to home, I know these conversations continue. In a recent, brief interaction with San Francisco psychoanalyst and activist Francisco Gonzalez, he noted that what is happening in psychoanalytic circles right now is unusual and presents an opportunity. Not since the 1960s has the field been so necessarily cracked opened and challenged by the politics and zeitgeist of the moment. We have an opportunity to adjust the way that psychoanalysis takes in and takes up the political and social realm. We also have an opportunity to consider deeply who, what, why, and how psychoanalysis is. This moment will not inherently last. Unless it is attended to, the pull of familiar patterning (and the related dynamics of power and privilege), the passing of time, and the lack of attention or intention, could allow psychoanalysis to miss the moment. This moment is an invitation -- internal, external, or better yet both. There is no better moment to to take up who, what, why, and how we are.
 
One of the questions I have about psychoanalysis is (as if it were a monolithic or anthropomorphic thing): Is psychoanalysis a 'white space'? "White space," as defined by the sociologist Elijah Anderson in his 2015 book The White Space, is "a situation that reinforces a normative sensibility in settings in which black people are typically absent, not expected, or marginalized when present. In turn, blacks often refer to such settings colloquially as 'the white space' -- a perceptual category -- and they typically approach that space with care. When present in the white space, blacks reflexively note the proportion of whites to blacks, or may look around for other blacks with whom to commune if not bond, and then may adjust their comfort level accordingly; when judging a setting as too white, they can feel uneasy and consider it to be informally 'off limits.' For whites, however, the same settings are generally regarded as unremarkable, or as normal, taken-for-granted reflections of civil society... What whites see as 'diverse,' blacks may perceive as homogeneously white and relatively privileged."
 
While Anderson's discussion is about blackness and whiteness, he does note that "white spaces" impact all people of color. "White spaces" designate all folks of color as "different." Different from what? This important question helps us see the veil of dominant culture and its power to define conceptions of normal, typical, safe, comfortable. While the ideas above are about race and ethnicity, other aspects of identity and experience could also be considered. As an extension of the concept of "white space," it may also be useful to consider if or how psychoanalysis is a straight space, a gender-limiting space, a male space, a wealthy space, an ableist space, and a colonial space.
 
While we co-create the analytic community, we cannot answer for psychoanalysis. However, as current president of NCSPP, I do attempt to explore and answer such issues on behalf of the organization. With that in mind I ask:
 
Is (how is) NCSPP a "white space"?
Who ends up being included? Who does not?
Who gets to feel safe?
Whose needs are prioritized?
What harm has happened in the spaces NCSPP co-creates?
What can we do better?
 
I invite you to consider these questions personally, professionally, and as a member of NCSPP. Please feel free to send comments (and critiques) to me directly at elisegeltman.lcsw@gmail.com. The NCSPP Board and individual committees are in the process of reflecting on these matters and will be sharing thoughts and potential actions in the future.
 
Anderson, E. (2015). The white space. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 1(1), 10-21.


King, S. (2017, June 5). Flint-area government employee resigns after he's recorded calling black residents the N-word. nydailynews.com. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-flint-area-government-employee-caught-n-word-resigns-article-1.3223031.