From Ally to Antiracist: Using Psychological Science and Mindfulness to Cultivate Growth and Action

Free Public Lecture

Jonathan W. Kanter, Ph.D.

About this Event

George Floyd’s death woke white America but most are still in bed. Although many people have attended protests, real change requires all of us to engage more meaningfully in antiracist action on an ongoing basis. Yet, even within the passion and power of a large protest movement, obstacles remain. Some may find themselves ordering antiracism books and surfing resources on social media endlessly but doing nothing more. Others may be overwhelmed by uncertainty about what to do, such as how to address racism within their own families or circles of friends. Still others may be paralyzed by anxiety about stepping out of their comfort zones and making mistakes. Inaction is the result.

Traditional training and education efforts often focus on raising awareness of problems such as implicit bias, white fragility, white privilege, and microaggressions but often fall short with respect to producing behavior change and sustained action. They often do little to address the obstacles to change head on. For some participants, the terms produce defensiveness and become another obstacle to taking actionable steps towards being antiracist and promoting racial justice.

For the last decade, our multi-racial team at the University of Washington Center for the Science of Social Connection has been developing an approach to antiracism work that couples an activist mentality with the psychological science on bias and the technology of sustainable behavior change. In this talk, Dr. Kanter will review this science, including new research that emphasizes the important role mindfulness and acceptance practices can play in protest and antiracism efforts, particularly as tools to overcome the barriers of fatigue, uncertainty, anxiety, and defensiveness. Dr. Kanter will lead participants through exercises and examples to demonstrate how mindfulness and acceptance can address these obstacles to get people out of bed and translate antiracist values into everyday action.

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About the Presenter

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Jonathan W. Kanter, Ph.D.

Dr. Kanter received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Washington in 2002. Shortly afterwards he became a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  In Milwaukee, Dr. Kanter spent several years collaborating closely with members of the Black community on issues of social and political activism (including police brutality and voter rights), racism and discrimination, mental health stigma, and culturally appropriate treatments of depression.  Dr. Kanter also spent several years working closely with Latino researchers and community members to develop culturally informed treatments for depression in Latino community settings for low-income Latino immigrants.  Dr. Kanter also worked closely with members of the Muslim community in the United Kingdom on Islam-consistent approaches to depression treatment.  His lab consisted of a multi-cultural team of committed student researchers working on individual and collective projects.  

In 2013, Dr. Kanter came to the University of Washington to direct the Center for the Science of Social Connection (CSSC).  As Director, he brings a wealth of experience working in the trenches with people of color and disenfranchised groups as a team member, as well as working with scholars and scientists internationally.