Practice Healing-Centered Engagement Via Affirming Interactions

In response to recent protests and uprisings by young people in this country, it is imperative that social justice defines the ways we interact with one another.  Deeply tied to ensuring social justice is that we share a healthy respect for diversity and individuality everywhere we go.  What is urgently needed is more inclusive, equitable and anti-racist frameworks in child and family-serving programs and systems, especially community-based organizations  and public education institutions.

The most avoided acknowledgement of this country is the centuries long harm done to the groups of people whose central plea represents a strong and unwavering demand for justice. What has been a continued reality for these folks, is characterized by  persistent culturally and racially-based structures and systems commitment to inflict harm upon their daily lives.

Awords and  sincerity with which There are concrete actions to take both at the organizational and individual levels, that will build supportive service-oriented, people-focused and healing-centered work  and learning spaces.

  For Organizations:

  • Make inclusion, equity and anti-racism a priority, in policy and practice
  • Require accountability from everyone in the organization, at all levels
  • Recognize exemplary staff and departmental units, to reinforce positive actions
  • Provide resources to support these efforts[ like training, time, budgets]
  • Identify and implement best practices, such as racial equity frameworks
  • Utilize SMART[specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound] goals to strategically align with objectives

For individuals:

  • Take personal responsibility for your actions and failure to take actions
  • Educate yourself about equity issues, which includes listening out to the voices who “
  • Practice the platinum rule: treat others the way they want to be treated
  • Become more mindful about equity issues in your daily life
  • Work within your areas of influence to be a positive force for change
  • Discover and disclose the uniqueness of others around you
  • Engage in affirming interactions every day.

What are ‘Affirming Interactions’?

Affirming interactions are positive micro-message or micro-affirmations that show others that you value and respect them. Central to these messages is the language used when they are expressed or demonstrated to others. Words are important and actions support and align with the words. Whether in policy, practices, or perspectives, the words we use will be reflected in our actions and will define our approach to engaging and empowering others.

Examples include:

Advise       Advocate     Apologize     Acknowledge     Assist

Believe      Commend    Compensate     Consult           Credit

Educate      Empower     Empathize      Entrust           Guide

Inform       Listen            Mentor              Notice          Recognize

Reward       Sponsor       Support             Train              Trust

Understand      Value       Yield, etc… 

In creating equity, and inclusion in anti-racist frameworks, it is critical that there is a shared understanding of key concepts and terminologies.  Thus, there must be common definitions of each by which we are informed, beginning with the concept of ‘race’.

Race is “a social and political construction—with no inherent genetic or biological basis—used by social institutions to arbitrarily categorize and divide groups of individuals based on physical appearance(particularly skin color), ancestry, cultural history, and ethnic classification.” (CSSP, 2019)


Inclusion is when everyone feels valued and respected.
Equity is “the effort to provide different levels of support based on an individual’s or group’s needs in order to achieve fairness in outcomes. Working to achieve equity acknowledges unequal starting places and the need to correct the imbalance.” (CSSP, 2019)
Racial Equity is “the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we are thinking about racial equity as one part of racial justice, and thus we also include work to address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them.”
Anti-Racism is an “active process of identifying and challenging racism, by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices, and attitudes, to redistribute power in an equitable     manner.” (CSSP, 2019)
Anti-Black Racism is “any attitude, behavior, practice, or policy that explicitly or implicitly reflects the belief that Black people are inferior to another racial group. Anti-Black racism is reflected in interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels of racism and is a function of White supremacy.” (CSSP, 2019)


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