Sunday, January 31, 2010

Racial Equity Report Card: Washington gets a D

by Stacey Prince

Last week on Martin Luther King Day, the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (NWFCO), a coalition of over 20 organizations working to promote racial, economic and social equity, released the first ever Washington State Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity. The purpose of the report was to evaluate WA legislature for its actions in 2009 that either supported or undermined racial equity in our state. This is an amazing document, with an abundance of information gathered in a succinct, 50 page report. I encourage you to read the report yourself (a link to it is available at but here would like to provide a brief summary to highlight some findings and hopefully peak your interest.

The report begins by providing an overview of the current make-up of Washington state residents by county, showing the percentage of people of color, immigrants, and non-native English speakers in our state. This review underscores the fact that people of color are an increasingly large proportion of residents in WA state. It then reviews current racial disparities in our state, some of which are increasing. For example, median income, number of families without health insurance, and high school drop-out rates are increasing at a faster rate for people of color than for whites. The authors make the point that our Governor, representatives and senators have multiple opportunities every year to positively impact racial disparities. This report card is an effort to evaluate how they did in 2009.

To read entire article click here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tips for effective political advocacy

by Stacey Prince

You are having dinner with your in-laws, who live in the Southwest, and one of them makes a derogatory comment about Mexican immigrants, blaming them for increased crime in the neighborhood. He make no reference to factors such as poverty or lack of availability of legal employment, nor does he back up his contention that it is in fact Mexican immigrants who are to blame for the increased crime rates. Instead he comments on the need for the US government to provide more stringent "protection against illegals". You are steaming inside but wonder how you can possibly make your point when you know they are so entrenched in their views.

You are angry that your city's new policy on the homeless has led to the closure of several encampments that previously provided some safety and community. You decide to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in support of legally recognized camps and other services for homeless individuals and families.

You have the opportunity to go to your state Capitol to lobby for a particular piece of legislation you feel very strongly about. You know you will likely have 5 minutes or less to make your point to your local congressperson before the next wave of visitors gets their turn.

Besides being anxiety producing (at least for me), what do these scenarios have in common? They are all about getting your message across in an effective way, a way that has credibility, will be heard by the recipient, is impassioned enough to connect with the listener but not so emotional that it gets dismissed. I am going to loosely call this advocacy. Though we usually think of advocacy as the more formal process of trying to influence decisions in a political arena, such as is described in the last example above, one can also advocate with family members, colleagues, through the media, etc. Wikipedia defines advocacy as "a deliberate process of speaking out on issues of concern in order to exert some influence on behalf of ideas or persons".

To read entire article click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My favorite article of 2010

by Stacey Prince

I know, I know, it's only January! But I just randomly stumbled across this article that was so good that I wanted to share it with you and it holds the temporary status of my favorite article of the year. The article, by Roderick Watts, is entitled Integrating Social Justice and Psychology and appeared in The Counseling Psychologist (2004, Issue 32, p. 855).

In the article the author grapples, as many of us do, with the notion that a "context free" understanding of individual functioning and well-being continues to dominate traditional psychology, focusing primarily on intrapsychic or at the most interpersonal behavior, and ignoring critical contextual variables such as racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and oppression in general. The article states that multiculturalism is a step in the right direction, but still sometimes has a tendency to minimize analysis of power and social inequities. He suggests that multiculturalism is "neither the first nor the only thing people with a history of oppression require for liberation" (p. 855).

However, rather than completely eschewing the concepts of traditional and multicultural psychology, he suggests a rethinking of concepts, what he calls an "upscaling" to reframe concepts in sociopolitical terms. He talks about several forms of such reframing. The first and least drastic he terms "conceptual rehabilitation," in which the new concept maintains the essence of the old, but scales it up to look beyond the micro (or intrapsychic) level of analysis. A good example of this is mapping the idea of self-efficacy onto the community, rather than individual, level of functioning and thus discussing collective efficacy. The upscaled concept address the social context of behavior, rather than considering the individual's behavior in a social vacuum.

To read entire article click here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Social Class and Finances Related to Mental Health

Posted by Anne Phillips

The article posted below discusses the revelation of combining financial planning with mental health therapy. Currently, and historically,( it is of no surprise to you TJP readers), folks struggling with poverty are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, so the idea came to coach financial planners with mental health training.

TJP already recognizes how societal inequality, poverty, injustice are used as justifications to blame individual peoples for their struggles and "mental health" symptoms. The purpose of TJP is to stop blaming and/or ignoring the individual because "they" have the problem and instead recognize "we" all have the responsibility of systematic inequalities to address. If mental health and the healing arts were truly inclusive of the impact of the collective, what we call mental health today would be completely redefined.

One example of possibilities to draw from is from author and activist, Urvashi Vaid. She talks about the movement of "social capitalism" -that capitalism will not die, but equitable shared capitalism for all to take part in is possible, instead of the monopolies that currently control the markets. Ms. Vaid is the author of the book,
Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation.