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A message on the death of George Floyd

Jana L. Jones & Anthony Chambers, Ph.D., ABPP • June 04, 2020

A message from our President & CEO

Recent racist events in our country have brought us outrage, sadness and desperately needed, yet painful reflection. To our Black community, clients, therapists, students, partners, staff and Board Members who have endured the systemic racism of our nation and its brutal inequality, we stand with you, beside you and behind you. The Family Institute is committed to doing our work to be the change we want to see.

We have long known that there are inequalities across the board between Black and White Americans. I ask myself, “why has it come to this?” The inequalities are true in creating access to mental health services and in educating and training more Black therapists. We know we must do more.

As an organization, we are unwilling to go backwards from here. We cannot unknow. We cannot unsee. We will sit in the pain and the discomfort that life-changing change requires. And, then we will do better. 

Jana L. Jones

A message from our Chief Academic Officer

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. Last week, the United States of America and the world were reminded that, in addition to COVID-19, we are still dealing with another virus. The virus of racism. It has been 401 years and, unfortunately, we are still experiencing the historical and systemic manifestations of racism.

Last week, the world witnessed another Black man dying at the hands of police brutality. However, for some reason this one feels different. Part of it, I think, is because of timing. For three months, we have been sheltering in place, and so there is a lot of pent up energy. I also think of the fact that we have fewer distractions such as the absence of sporting events and movies. Thus, the death of George Floyd received unprecedented and focused attention, which has allowed all of us to absorb it even more. 

However, I think there is also another reason. I believe the emotional potency of this moment is the direct result of the fact that we did not witness a murder, we witnessed a lynching. For nine minutes, George Floyd was being lynched while bystanders were helpless to do anything. Witnessing a lynching has an emotional intensity that is above and beyond other forms of violence, which is why this is so hard to process. Moreover, the helplessness of the bystanders and the vulnerability George Floyd felt is isomorphic to the collective pain we are experiencing across the globe. 

I firmly believe that “you should never let a good crisis go to waste.” This moment presents the opportunity for all of us to get in touch with our own feelings of helplessness and vulnerability in order to help us connect our own humanity. It is through connecting with those raw emotions that EVERYONE has felt at some point in their life that we will be able to increase our capacity to identify and transform our empathy into healing. Identifying our shared humanity is at the heart of empathy. It is not until we move beyond this being solely a “Black problem,” but rather understand that we witnessed a crime against humanity. It is only through that recognition, that we will begin to see the kind of change that is required for long-lasting healing.

To everyone who is filled with rage, confusion and sorrow, I encourage you to use your knowledge and skills to facilitate healing. I hope that this moment ignites your passion and resolve to put a stop to injustice. I hope that you use this moment to cement your drive to lead a purpose-driven life that helps solve the most complex problems of our time.  

Yes, the death of George Floyd is about police brutality, but it is also about so much more. It is a metaphor for the insidious and systemic nature of this racism virus. The death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests are a metaphor for injustice, and what brings me hope is that the protesters come from every walk of life. We are witnessing a multicultural coalition of citizens standing up for justice. This is what provides me hope. 

The Family Institute is the manifestation of the idea that human connection is fundamental for healing. From the Board of Directors to the administrative team to our students to our clinicians, we work in solidarity towards actualizing our mission of “strengthening and healing families, couples and individuals from all walks of life.” 

I am hopeful that this crisis becomes a watershed moment for not only each of us, but for society as a whole to move the needle closer towards healing. I encourage you to embrace a growth mindset; know that we will all make mistakes, but don’t let them stop us from continuing to strive towards becoming the best version of ourselves.

In closing, I would like end with an African proverb, which I think proffers some interesting food for thought:

“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”

In partnership,
Anthony L. Chambers, Ph.D., ABPP