Join Tabitha Moore as she explores critical themes in Race & Racism in Child Welfare with Dr. Ken Hardy. Over the next three weeks, Tabitha and Ken will explore critical themes in race/racism as they relate to the Child Welfare Workforce, Caregivers, and children and youth of color in the child welfare system. Please note- although each episode in this mini-series does have a distinct focus, our hope is that you listen to all three, in the order of their release, as some of the concepts Tabitha and Ken discuss will build on ideas from the previous episode.

Guest Info:

Tabitha Moore (she/they), is the owner and principal consultant of Intentional Evolution,LLC. She has been consulting on the topics of identity-based equity and racial justice for over 20 years. Her work centers on the intersections of identity and systems of care, learning how and whether said systems promote, inhibit, or prohibit healthy individual and community identity development. She has worked extensively in systems of care including organizations that serve people with disabilities and the fields of mental health, law enforcement, education, and child welfare.

Tabitha earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wells College by creating her own major, the Psychology of Latin America in the Context of Its Language and Culture; a convergence of psychology, sociology, Spanish language, women’s studies, and Latin American cultural studies/anthropology. For her research on women and identity development conducted in the Dominican Republic, she earned the honor of graduating with distinction.

Tabitha maintains her license to practice Marriage and Family Therapy; a degree earned in 2002 from Syracuse University, and is nearing completion of her doctoral degree from Saybrook University in the field of Transformative Social Change. She has the privilege of being awarded the following honors: the Vermont Leaders and Achievers Award from VSAC in 2019, the New England Leaders and Achievers Award in 2019, the Rights and Democracy Human Rights Award in 2020, NAACP Rutland Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021, and the Wells College Outstanding Young Alumnae Award in 2021.

In addition to her career and activism, Tabitha is the mother to three human children and 4 dogs. She finds peace and rejuvenation hiking with her family, exercising, eating high quality dark chocolate and testing out the nearest spas.

Kenneth V. Hardy, Ph.D. is the President of the Eikenberg Academy for Social Justice, and Director of the Eikenberg Institute for Relationships in New York City. He is also a Professor of Family Therapy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Hardy has provided Diversity and Racial Sensitivity training and consultations to an extensive list of Health and Human Services agencies as well as a host of educational institutions. He is a frequent workshop presenter, trainer, and consultant on the topics of cultural and racial diversity, trauma and oppression.

Dr. Hardy has published prolifically and is the author of numerous articles and book chapters. He has co-authored the following books: Minorities and Family Therapy; Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence; and Revisioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice. His latest book is Culturally Sensitive Supervision and Training: Diverse Perspectives and Practical Applications. He is also featured in several therapy videotapes as well as a documentary devoted to slavery. His videotape “The Psychological Residuals of Slavery” has been well received by both the professional and lay communities for serving as a catalyst to promote conversations about race relationships.

Dr. Hardy has received considerable acclaim for the contributions that his publications and videotapes have made toward challenging our field to think critically about issues of diversity, trauma and oppression. He has been a frequent contributor to the popular media and has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline NBC, and 20/20, the Discovery Health Channel, and ABC Nightline. Dr. Hardy maintains a practice in New York, New York.

Show Notes:

Want more from Ken?

Check out the Eikenberg Academy Website:

Or watch this short video:

Making Talk about Race our Work with Dr. Ken Hardy (4 mins)


Cassie Gillespie (00:02):

Hello, I’m Cassie Gillespie. And you’re listening to Welcome to the Field, a podcast for child welfare workers, caregivers, and community partners. Today, we are bringing you the first episode in a very special three-part mini series on race and racism with Tabitha Moore and Ken Hardy. Over the next three weeks, Tabitha and Ken will explore critical themes in race and racism as they relate to the child welfare workforce, caregivers and children, and youth of color in the child welfare system. Although each episode in this mini series does have a distinct focus, our hope is that you’ll listen to all three in the order of their release. As some of the concepts that Tabitha and Ken discuss will build on ideas from the previous episode. Today’s episode will focus on race and racism in relation to Vermont’s child welfare workforce. Here we go.

Tabitha Moore (00:53):

Thanks Cassie. Hello everyone. Tabitha Moore here to welcome you to this episode of Welcome to the Field, I’ll be with you for the next leg of our series as we dive head and heart first into talking about race and racism and child welfare. I’m fortunate to be joined by racial justice legend expert and marriage and family therapy icon Dr. Kenneth B. Hardy. Dr. Hardy is a Clinical and Organizational Consultant at the Eichenberg Institute for Relationships in New York, New York, where he also serves as director. He provides racially focused trauma informed training, executive coaching and consultation to a diverse network of individuals and organizations throughout the United States and abroad. He’s a former professor of family therapy at both Drexel University in Philadelphia and Syracuse University in New York, and has also served as the director of children, families, and trauma at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York, New York. Ken will be joining me for three episodes as we explore themes around these critical issues. This is our first episode. Ken, thank you so much for joining me today.

Ken Hardy (01:51):

Thank you so much. And thank you for having me.

Tabitha Moore (01:52):

So as we consider identity and its impact on systems, families and children, and of course the work we do, race and racism are huge topics right now. With the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey and Brianna Taylor it seems that this moment is one in which people, white people to be specific, are collectively paying more attention to white supremacy culture and systemic racism than they have arguably since the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties and people in power seem more interested in addressing and dismantling the systems and how they operate. As corporations, businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies turn their focus inward to ask what they can do to promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, or Jedi as it’s known, Family Services Division here in Vermont is doing the same. Oftentimes one of the first things administrators ask is how they can recruit and retain workers of color. Today’s podcast focuses on the child welfare workforce and how workers have the global majority, which is another way to say not white, can survive and thrive in their work. So can my first question for you is that as we’re considering the meaning of race and racism in child welfare, specifically for workers of the global majority or people of color as I said, or BIPOC, which is another popular term, black indigenous and people of color at will likely use these interchangeably throughout our time together. What are some of the main themes or experiences folks should be aware of as they’re entering the field?

Ken Hardy (03:14):

Well I think that race is a critical issue. And I think just coming in and having some consciousness about that and this misnomer that we seem to operate from which is that race is a people of color issue. I think race is an issue for all of us. You mentioned the workplace. And I think that one of the major challenges in the workplace is that when we attend to race, we tend to think that somehow if we are successful in changing the complexion of an organization or system, that that is tantamount to change in the culture, which it isn’t. And so that you can have high levels of representation of people of color. And you mentioned in your intro just to pervasiveness of a white supremacist ideology and whiteness. And so you don’t change the culture of a system simply by changing the demographics of that system, I think is important for issues of representation.

Ken Hardy (04:10):

But I think there’s a per a kind of culture that that’s invisible that really serves as the, you know, the artery for the transmission of white ideology, which makes systems larger systems that serve people of all races and particularly people of color deeply entrenched in an ideology of whiteness. So I think just, you know, the workforce, having some consciousness of that I think would be important. I also think that there’s a level of it’s kind of unspoken, but it is powerful, that there’s a level of acquiescence that’s expected from people of color who joined systems regardless of whether it’s profit or non-profit or public or private. And I think just coming out, I think having some consciousness of that, that, that there are these sort of unspoken and visible, pervasive, you pick ubiquitous kinds of pressures around whiteness. And if you’re not aware of it, it can be quite a fixating actually can be a fixating if you are aware of it. And so I think it raises the issue about why that is important to be able to have conversations about race today, recognized the significance of race, and then a willingness to actually lean in and have conversations about it.

Tabitha Moore (05:35):

So you mentioned a couple of ideas that I’d love to have you talk a little bit more about one was the ideology of whiteness and the idea that, you know, essentially add brown people in mix isn’t what changes culture. Can you talk a little bit more to both of those things please?

Ken Hardy (05:49):

Absolutely be happy to because I, like, I think that whiteness is a a kind of pervasive ideology and it’s like most other ideologies, it’s not concretized. It’s not anything that you can physically touch, but you certainly see the impact of it. So I liken it to like, it’s like democracy and, you know, democracy has certain principles upon which it’s a space and, and things that we don’t think about. Like I had a colleague wants to say to me, who was actually born and raised in Taiwan. And she was pointing out that how we, you Americans really value your privacy. And, and she started pointing out these examples to me, and it was quite compelling for me. It wasn’t anything I’d ever thought about concretely, I’ve grown up here. And it’s just this expectation of privacy, for example, was just an expectation I have as a way of being.

Ken Hardy (06:47):

And it was that, that it was oblivious to it, but she could see it and rather stark ways because it was antithetical to the experiences she had had growing up. So I share that brief story, because I think that whiteness is exactly the same way that, that what most white people don’t see whiteness and people of color may not see, it may not identify, but we feel, certainly feel the pain and pangs of it on a daily basis. And so what happens is that when you have any institution like child welfare, at least on the institutional side of it, that has been historically populated by white people. That essentially systems that have been pocketed by white people become white spaces and white places. And once a place becomes white, it doesn’t matter who actually comprises that system actually doesn’t matter who runs that system because essentially the underlying values that shape the mores and the behavior of that institution are so deeply and seamlessly integrated.

Ken Hardy (07:56):

And to the ideology of whiteness, that it then becomes a major perpetrator if you will, of systemic racism, because what happens is that then you have what I refer to as these sort of nefarious P’s in organizations, policies, practices, and protocols that become pure and treat it as if they’re poor, pure treated as if they are racially neutral. When in fact, the architects of those policies and procedures, and we can think of our, our country the same way that the policies and procedures start, the architects of those have been principally white people, largely white men, largely white heterosexual, cisgender men. And so their values are reflected. And these policies and procedures, then when a person of color disgruntled comes along and says, Hey, you know, that was racist. The typical response is always well, I had nothing to do with race that’s our policy as if the policy is pure.

Ken Hardy (08:53):

And so I think the way when I think about what the artifacts of whiteness are as an ideology, that it means that the tendency to place a higher value on abstract intellectual thinking than affective experiences. And so you have people of color and systems where they’re feeling a lot, but then those feelings are pathologized. And somehow they become reasons for why someone doesn’t advance in the position of some that, you know, Tabitha Moore is too emotional. Ken Hardy’s too emotional as if somehow having emotional expression is problematic. I could fill up this entire time with examples of concrete, examples of whiteness, just in terms of this knee, this idea of organizing the world hierarchically. And so that I don’t know that white people invented it, but certainly it is inextricably tied to whiteness. And so when you think about, even within this group, we call white people.

Ken Hardy (09:57):

There are hierarchies of, of white people, even within the group we call white. And so if you are white and wasp, that you considered more white than someone who’s white and Jewish or white gay or, or these other kinds of identities and you see that same hierarchical structure existing, even among people of color, you know, light skin is better than dark skin that Asians and Latin X are preferable to black people. And so my point here is that one, doesn’t a couple of things just to bring us in focus, but did whiteness as pervasive throughout our systems and our individual behaviors. One does not have to be white in order to be infected and affected by whiteness. It affects people of color just as much as affects white people. And that there’s a certain I liken whiteness to, I don’t know if the invisible fences that you see around the backyard, the families where there’s, where they have pets and where that dog or animal will run to the perimeter of that yard and stop dead in his tracks. And it seems almost magical to the onlooker that, oh my gosh, you know, there’s nothing prohibiting his movement that dog’s movement. And yet they only go so far. Well, whiteness sets up the same type of guard rails in our society and people of color, like, you know, dogs in the backyard with an invisible fence, you know, get clear messages about how far you can go before you get shocked. And these are the invisible kinds of constraints that, that the naked unscrutinizing racially neutral eye. Doesn’t see. Unfortunately,

Tabitha Moore (11:47):

I, I really I’m taking both by that example. And then that last thing you said, the racially neutral I. How does that come to be the racially neutral I?

Ken Hardy (11:58):

Well, I said that somewhat sardonically cause I, I, I should’ve said proclaim racing to try, because I don’t think that when we, when we claim, we don’t see race, then we don’t see all of these issues in our society that is so incredibly racialized. And so I don’t think that, that there is a racial neutral, I think there’s a proclamation of there being one, but I think it’s part of our sort of idealistic notions about, you know, our cliches and our banter about race is so more, so much more idyllic and romantic than the realities of the world we live in.

Tabitha Moore (12:39):

You know, as, as you’re talking about, you know the need for us to recognize whiteness in child welfare and the ideology of whiteness and its pervasiveness, when it shows up in child welfare for the workforce, what are some of the, you know, you said that you could go on for days. I just, I, I would love to hear all of the different ways. You know, that in the examples that you were talking about earlier, but could you talk for a minute about the ways that it shows up specifically in child welfare for workers?

Ken Hardy (13:11):

Yeah. Well, I mean, I just think that first of all, that in I assume this is true in the great state of Vermont, as well as other places that when you look at child welfare, you, when you look at child welfare system and it like the juvenile justice system, these are systems that are replete with, with children and families of colorAll the while we say that race has nothing to do with it. And so then there’s a way in which that workers who are trained to work with populations of large populations, of people, of color, for the most part, have not been trained to work and communities of color that the ideology that they have been exposed to in their education, whether it’s an MSW or BSW or high school, it doesn’t really matter, that the education is oriented around white. And so I’m often asking when I, when I’m doing presentations and systems and particularly I asked this of white workers, like, what is it that qualifies you to work and communities of color, or to work disproportionate with people of color?

Ken Hardy (14:21):

Now, the question is not to imply that somehow I think that white people should not do the work, but rather is a very different question I’m asking is what is prepared you? Because we live our lives fairly segregated in our society. And I’ve been on the academic side of things. I’ve been, I’ve had two different tendered professor positions. And so I, I know what gets disseminated and programs around delivery of services. And so what happens is I think the worker comes into this work with lots of unexamined preconceived notions about who they are as workers, but also who the people are they’re serving. And so there’s, there’s a disconnect there in terms of really understanding the context that people of color and what shapes the reality of their experiences. And so our way, our pet strategy for handling families of color and children of color is some variation of, of punishment.

Ken Hardy (15:24):

And it varies depending on whether you’re talking with the juvenile justice system or child welfare that we know that that there’s a way in which the worker is probably sensitive to the kind of trauma that these children have experienced. But again, the understanding of trauma from my perspective is fairly limited because it’s looking at these sort of classical manifestations of trauma, which have to do with child abuse and neglect and, and, and exposure to substances and things like that, which I think are important issues to look at. But I don’t know that I believe that there’s anyone or any system that can work effectively. And I think just through the child welfare system, that when you’re delivering services to people of color, if you’re not also attending to the impact of racialized trauma, and from, in my opinion, doesn’t matter how much you focus on the sort of family-based trauma.

Ken Hardy (16:20):

I think that’s, it’s important to attend to that, but really most families of color in the child welfare system and children of color are dealing with a unique form of complex trauma that is compounded by hyper exposure to racial trauma. And so what that means is that my discussion with a child or a family has to extend beyond the parameters of talking about the dysfunctional relationship with the father or abandonment. Again, like I think those are really the, the part of me, it’s the family therapist. Those are really critical issues that to focus on, but it is equally as important to be concerned about the ways in which that child and that family have been battered and bruised, and perhaps even abused in a racist society that where they are now the carriers of racial trauma. And I don’t know that it ever gets attended to. And so that the same framework that’s used to apply to white children in a system is applied to children of color. And I think there are aspects of that framework, that work, but I think it’s limited when it comes to children of color, because the issue of race has to be dealt with explicitly,

Tabitha Moore (17:43):

As I’m listening to you talk, I’m really excited that we’re going to be really diving into those those concepts and constructs and how vital they are. When I think it’s our second podcast, when we focus on children, but I’m thinking, you know, for me as a person of color, who’s worked with kids of color and that invisible fence that you were talking about earlier as a worker of color, I often felt, you know, some of that kind of reticence when working with kids of color, even with white kids and wanting to talk about race, I’m wondering, and then going back to your idea of the infection of whiteness. I think is what you called it that people can get infected whiteness. So I’m thinking about our workers of color and working with kids of color here in Vermont, or even working with white kids and that concept of the infection of whiteness. What was that, what do you think that that looks like or feels like or how does it manifest in the child welfare worker in a worker of color?

Ken Hardy (18:42):

All too often there isn’t a fundamental difference in how workers of color approach this work and white workers, because what happens is that in many systems, workers of color really don’t have the latitude to really negotiate relationships with their clients in race, the way it has to be done, because they have that the successful child welfare worker of color will have to be white-like or white light in their approach to the work in order to survive in that system. Because that, see, again, this is, this is the multi-systemic nature of it. So if a worker of color is out there and seeing the nuances of race and racism and attempts to call that too vociferously, at some point, she or he are going to find themselves the receptacle of feedback, like why do you keep focusing on race? You know, your, your view is too narrow.

Ken Hardy (19:44):

You’re allowing your personal issues to get in the way. That the system is set up in a way that it limits the latitude of even like that handful of, of workers of color who understand intuitively what the issues around race are. There is usually isn’t the freedom to talk about that. So then what happens is that that oftentimes workers of color are, are really boxed into becoming to purveyors of kind of white ideology. I was just, just on a call yesterday where I was challenging a supervisor of color who was castigating, her staff of color who are actually working out in the communities in Oakland, California, about them not wearing hoodies and tucking their shirts into their pants. Now, you know, these are not executives at a desk. These are folks, these are black and brown people who are out in the community working.

Ken Hardy (20:43):

And so she’s writing them up for this reprimand. And when I sort of interrogate that with her, she says, tearfully it’s for their own protection, because I know that there’ll be judged and that somebody is judging them. And so these are the kinds of pressures that exist for workers of color and where if we’re not self scrutinizing, we could find ourselves reinforcing the very same ideology that white workers are because almost because we have to, and this is there’s also the issue that, that I run into a lot where workers of color, who have had their own share of exposure, racialized trauma, feel retraumatized by the work because they’re intimately familiar with it. And so for them, it’s not just showing up on the job and doing the work it’s like showing up and continuing to have to deal with difficulties and struggles and hardships within the work that they also have to deal with in their broader society.

Ken Hardy (21:54):

And like I had a woman tell me once she said, you know, it’s really triggering for me to go to work because it raises all these different feelings for me. I see images in mirrors of my own families and the families that I work with. Then I have these days where I feel guilty, that somehow I managed to get out and, you know who am I to do the work? And so I think, and there’s no, it really, in most settings, there really is no place for the worker to process or metabolize, all these issues that come up, particularly around race, because we tend to take this sort of racially colorblind approach to the work. And so I think it can be really challenging for workers of color.

Tabitha Moore (22:39):

So then how do we change that? And I think here in Vermont, because, you know, Vermont’s really white, we have like 94.7% white. So there’s a good chance that even if we have, you know, even if they manage to sprinkle a few workers of color throughout the workforce, their supervisors are going to be white. The leadership is white, you know? So how do white supervisors then support people of color in the workforce, especially when they haven’t yet been able to reconcile, you know, the fact that they were, that they have been taught in white ways?

Ken Hardy (23:10):

Well, I think it’s hard. I think it’s hard. I mean, and I’ve, I may have worked with a number of organizations there, as you will know in Vermont. And I just think that the first task I think is hard for white workers and white supervisors to do racially sensitive work. If one has not come to terms with themselves as a racial being. And so it means that white people have to, it requires white people to recognize that they’re white, which lot, as strange as that sounds lots of white people don’t necessarily. I mean, and as this slide aside, and that is one of the fundamental differences, I think that, that children of color, if I use myself as an example, I knew by age four, that I was black. And the fact that I was black was a conscious deliberate conversation in my family.

Ken Hardy (24:05):

And it was perceived as preparing me for a world that I would go out into that may not necessarily warmly embrace me as my family had. And so they wanted me to have that, that consciousness about not just who I was, but also how I was going to be perceived. And still in some ways that children of color are socialized to be people of color and white people are socialized to be people. So that there’s that white children don’t grow up in families where someone is saying to their child you’re white. And this is what this means. So when you think about just the context we’re in, where people of colored lives are very pervasively impacted by white people and a very white people with whom they interact with are oblivious to their whiteness. I mean, that’s a recipe for hurt and disaster.

Ken Hardy (25:01):

And so I think for the white supervisor coming to terms with one owns whiteness, and then asking oneself, if I’m, if I’m working with this person, I’m supervising this person of color, how might our process not, not to current that it is, but how might our process, how might our relationship be shaped by the nuances of race at least to raise that question? Because I think there’s a process of self interrogation. That’s so important, even if one doesn’t know the answer. I think the question is more important than the answer, just to ask, might race have an impact on what’s what’s transpiring here. And then I think that just like the worker who’s working with working with children and families, it respectable the races that the worker has to be the broker of permission in terms of top bringing up race with families. And I don’t mean just with families of color. I mean, with the families you’re working with, I think the supervisor has to be the one who, who gives permission to remove the gag order that we, that we tend to be under in our society with regard to having conversations about race. And so this notion that I’ll wait until the client brings it up or I’ll wait until the supervisor brings it up I think is problematic.

Tabitha Moore (26:27):

So then how does the supervisor remove the gag order so to speak?

Ken Hardy (26:33):

Well, it’s like, so in my writings, I talk about, you know, the broker of permission. And so this broker of permission means that it is not like as a supervisor, I’m saying, okay, it’s okay to talk about race here. I mean, that’s one way to do it, but I don’t necessarily recommend that. But the, when one assumes a role of broker of permission, which I think that super all supervisors should, all clinicians should people in positions of power and privilege. It, it means it’s what you do is, is through your deed. And so that it is I’m demonstrating through my use of self, a willingness to have conversations about race. I’m demonstrating to you that I, that race is one of the prisms through which I see the world. And so if I’m a supervisor and I’m discussing a case with a supervisee, and they’re simply talking about the family, the family structure as a supervisor, I’m asking the question, what race is the family?

Ken Hardy (27:35):

And by asking that question, I am, I am essentially saying to the supervisee race is one of a multitude of issues that I consider in this work, and it’s okay to introduce race into the conversation. It also means if I’m a supervisor and I’m white and I’m supervising a person of color that might actually infuse into my supervisory process, you know, as a white supervisor I’m very much aware that you’re the first person of color that I’ve supervised. And this is, you know, raising all sorts of insecurities for me, that’s the way to be the broker of permission where I’m, self-disclosing where I’m locating myself as a white person there. And I’m, and I’m not asking you as a person of color to take care of me, to reassure me that I’m okay, nor am I asking you, what is this like for you as a person of color, having me as a white supervisor, because I think that places an unnecessary burden on the person and their relationship who has the least amount of power.

Ken Hardy (28:44):

And so I do think it’s, but again, if I sort of, if I take a minute here to be a seamstress to stitch these pieces together, that it is very uncommon for a supervisor to make the, make the kind of disclosure I just mentioned, because that supervisor has been trained in a way that is deeply rooted in whiteness, which says that it’s all about the supervisee. You don’t, self-disclose, you keep yourself neatly packaged away that you, you keep this sort of hierarchical relationship in place. And I think all of that’s antithetical to doing racially informed racially sensitive, racially inclusive, racially equitably, equitable work, I think that’s just totally 100% antithetical.

Tabitha Moore (29:37):

It’s like, it creates a it’s not a similar vulnerability, but the supervisor then has a level of vulnerability that they wouldn’t, that the supervisee can look at it and judge how they want to be in relationship to it, instead of finding it out, you know, through,uyou know, it, comes out inadvertently.

Ken Hardy (29:57):

Yes, that’s absolutely right, because, and you said the key word that, what that does, what I’m suggesting is that it builds a relationship and a relationship that’s, that’s built on a kind of reciprocity, a kind of we’re in this together. And I think it’s what it says to that. And what is said to me is that person of color sitting there is I can let my guard down a little bit that maybe this is a person I can trust. And I might be able to traverse the racial divide here. Just given what this person’s shared. You contrast that with sitting with someone where I’m expected to talk about a case and race never comes up and there’s no there’s no indication for me as a supervisee that my white supervisor has any consciousness, not even remotely speaking of his or her whiteness. Then what it says to me is that this may not be a safe place for me to bring up race. This may not be safe to bring it up because it’s never come up before

Tabitha Moore (31:03):

And we don’t know how they’re going to handle it. So something happens. It becomes really difficult to trust that relationship as one that you can lean into. So, as, as we’re thinking about this concept, one of the things that I find across the child welfare workforce here is that people, white folks are willing to ask the question, okay, well, what race or races oftentimes, it’s when there’s a person of color. So we’ve been really leaning into helping people ask in all cases about consistently about race, but as they’re either asking about race or doing their own introspective work. One of the things we want to do is prevent recursive thinking, which is, you know, like, you know, what are the ways race shapes me? I don’t know you know, I gotta be racist, you know, but not that deeper level or in terms of, in the supervision realm they may ask about the race of, you know, the clients and you know, that they’re doing that consistently, but now what, what happens after they ask about race about, you know, just naming the race, because, you know, we have this habit of exposing things but not then taking that next step toward either repetitive work or healing or, you know, really understanding what the implications of that will be.

Tabitha Moore (32:18):

How, how do, how do we get to that place? That’s often the question that I get here is, okay, how can we, we know that racism an issue here we’re consistently asking about race now, what?

Ken Hardy (32:27):

We’ll see that. And that skip back to my earlier point, I think, and I really appreciate your question. It’s a great question, because if we’re only treating, treating race as a demographic, then to me at the individual level, that’s analogous to the child welfare system saying we need more black and brown workers. It’s the same process. And now that you have them then what, what are the necessary, how are you factoring this and to how you reshape your culture, how do you use this demographic information to inform what you do? Because if I’m simply asking what is the race of the client? Oh, okay. It’s a person of color. And now I’m proceeding to do what I would, would normally do. Then finding that ascertain the information about race is it is nothing more it’s as perfunctory, but it serves no Bible purpose. I mean, so once I know a is a racist more than a demographic, it’s also an indicator of someone’s context.

Ken Hardy (33:35):

And so once I find out what race it is, I’m now asking myself and how has race one of the things it’s not the only thing, but how has race shaping this family’s process? How is it informing this child’s behavior? What, what are the signs of racial trauma do I need to look for? And now once I, once I get a sense about that, how do I recalibrate and redesign my treatment intervention engagement strategies to, to take into consideration race as a critical intervening variable. So if I’m asking what the race is, and then not using that to inform what I do, how I am and who I am in the process that I think it serves no purpose. I don’t think it serves any purpose. It should be informing what we do.

Tabitha Moore (34:32):

And so if it’s not, then it is incumbent upon the person to do what, what do they need to do? Because one of the things that I find is that people feel often lost. Like I want to be racially informed. I want to be sensitive. I want to be thoughtful. How?

Ken Hardy (34:46):

Well, I mean, I, you know, I, and you noticed I have placed a very high premium on like self of the worker at work. And so I think if you haven’t done your own racial interrogation, your own racial work, then it’s hard to go to know what to do. It’s hard to do because I mean, what I believe Tabitha is that, that this work occurs on a continuum that I talk about all the time. And that continuum is that it moves us through seeing, being in, doing with regard to race. I don’t think we can do the work of race if we’ve not done the seeing and the being associated with race. And so the seeing means what, what is the work that I’ve done with my supervisor within my department, within my agency, within my institution, what is the work that I’ve been intimately and passionately engaged, and that’s designed to change what I see that’s been done.

Ken Hardy (35:46):

That’s been instrumental in allowing me to see all the ways in places where race is so delicately, nuanced in virtually all aspects of society. If I haven’t done that work is hard to just get to the doing, because what it means is like, what am I doing? Because I don’t even see all there is to see. So that there’s something that there’s a process that the pers the worker and the system has to be involved in that enhances its visual acuity disability to see race and the very nuanced ways in which it occurs. And so it means if I’m a worker and I’m looking through this prism of race, maybe it makes sense to me. I, now I have at least have a working hypothesis about why these two kids in the same family who are biracial and one darker than the other is having more symptoms than the light-skinned child.

Ken Hardy (36:39):

I’m now thinking about the impact of race on that. And again, race not, may not explain the totality of that difference, but it certainly is a salient factor that has to be considered. And so the seeing is about how do I change my eyes to begin to see all of this? Because I can’t do anything about that if I’m not seeing that through the prism of race. And then once one engages the seeing there’s the being and the being is about asking myself really critical questions about myself, my own upbringing. How did my growing up in a largely white community having been in very few racially integrated places where I’ve never had intimate experiences with people of color where I’ve never had the feeling of being the only one, how are all, how is the totality of my experiences shaping how I do this work?

Ken Hardy (37:40):

What have I have, I really made an effort to do anything with the fact that I grew up in his family of origin, where I heard the N word use, rather liberally all the time. I never used it myself, but I certainly was exposed to it. And one of the done with the internalization of that, because see, I think that until one does, is sing and it being, and I’m not just about white people to what we all have to do this, but I think that, I think it’s a bigger task for white people. I don’t think we can prematurely get to the doing. And I think sometimes if that’s that, that’s my worry about the post George Floyd era we live in. That we all watched George Floyd get murdered, and then suddenly we all woke up and we said, gosh, we need to do something.

Ken Hardy (38:20):

And I think it’s, I think it’s great that we’ve been motivated to do, but my worry is saying, okay, but what about the seeing and the being like, because I think attempting to do it without the seeing, it being as like shooting without aiming, that’s, you’ll hit something. I’m not sure you hit what you’re, what you, what you intended to hit. And so that’s the piece. And, but if I can come back to whiteness, try to take this message back to a child welfare system. And what happens is that that part of the ideology of whiteness is that you placed a higher premium on product than you do on process. And so this race, racial work requires process and what most agencies and systems will tell you is we want to do this. We want to have racially sensitive workers. We want to have a racially inclusive workplace, but we have to get our numbers up.

Ken Hardy (39:12):

We have to keep our senses. And so what happens is that the orientation around the product always takes precedence over process. And so we can’t, we can never quite get there because to have the kinds of conversations that you and I are talking about now in the workplace, and having supervisors go through a kind of conference of training, that’s not going to happen in most organizations because you don’t see that the bottom line is not nearly as concrete as it is when that supervisors supervising 15 workers who have 25, 30, 40 clients that all that translates into reimbursement dollars. Whereas bringing your supervisors or bringing your workforce along does not.

Tabitha Moore (39:57):

So I want to make sure, cause I’m sure people who are listening are probably taking in everything that you’re saying as much as they can. And trying to really it’s going to take a, several listens y’all. So you should go back now. But the relationship between doing, seeing and being, we can’t just focus on what we do, right? We can’t just focus on the product the need for self-disclosure and the supervisory relationship is critical to really understanding the ways that race is playing a role, but also for white supervisors of, of well, of anybody, but particularly of BIPOC supervisees is really helpful in creating a vulnerable we’re in this together type of relationship that self of the worker piece, where we’re really doing some deep exploration of self and understanding self in the larger context and understanding of race is really critical as well.

Tabitha Moore (40:44):

I think you said, and then that we’re consistently talking about race across every aspect of what we’re doing. I heard you say on the I think it was kind of on a larger level, you were talking about examining policies, practices, and procedures. I think you may have had a different P for the last one. And then I just heard you say moving emphasis you know, again from product to process, and I would also say relationship is really what you’re saying to product processing relationship. So as I, as I work with organizations, as FSD is really trying to move forward in this work, I definitely see some areas that you’ve already mentioned that they could, you know dive into on those individual levels, but looking at those three P’s and working within the context of the Agency of Human Services, how then do the top administrators advocate for and push and ensure that, you know, this, this work at the lower levels is able to happen without repercussion. That is to say, how do they systematically shift from product to process and relationship in ways that allow that deeper, more relationally focused work to happen?

Ken Hardy (41:53):

Yeah. And again, a great question, because like, I think that this is it, it will look differently for every system. And what I believe is that there has to be a kind of inspired visionary leadership at the top who is willing to experiment and live with a dynamic tension that exists between product and process. Right now, there is there isn’t tension because it it’s clear that the priority regardless of system is on product. It’s clear that there’s, there’s no tension whatsoever. And I think there has to be that kind of inspired leadership. That’s willing to sit with that tension. And it’s like, it’s like learning how to drive a standard shift car. Like no one can ever tell you specifically what the balance of power, how to balance your, the pressure you put on the clutch and the accelerator that no one can tell you exactly how to do that is there’s something you have to experience.

Ken Hardy (42:57):

And I think that that is the metaphor use for what it’s like to try to find that balance between product and process, to sort of experiment with it. And to at least to create a context where there is a tension because I observed right now, there is no tension whatsoever. And, and I just think it means changing. This is part of the larger systemic change is necessary. That it means changing how you measure success or what you have as outcome. Because I think that if your, if your census goes down, but the aptitude and the sensitivity of your workforce increases at some point, you will make up for that deficit and the depletion of your, your, your, your client’s senses, because we have this rather myopic notion that somehow that again, because we don’t see the relational connectedness that we see them hierarchically, we, that product is more important than process.

Ken Hardy (44:05):

So we don’t see the relationship exists between the two, but when you have a workforce that is unhappy or is overwhelmed or feel a sense of ineptitude or depletion because they can’t quite meet families where families need to be met, that will ultimately affect your product. It will affect your product. And so I do think it means investing and you know, training for supervisors. So the supervisors, for example, is looking at doing an audit of those nefarious P’s and say, okay, what, how can I work with HR to rethink some of what we have, what we have always treated as these indisputable truths around what gets defined as what constitutes professional, because all these are all these little, these seemingly little things are the places that create a tension point and the high attrition rate and the lack of belongingness, the staff of color often feel in predominantly white institutions.

Ken Hardy (45:12):

It’s not one, it’s not one big thing. It’s a combination of compilation of lots of little things about you know, what you wear, how you show up when we know that women and people of color historically have been surveilled critique for, for their appearance in ways that that white men had never critiqued think about Michelle Obama being criticized for having her arms out or Barack Obama wore a beige suit, that was somehow an assault on the presidency. And so all these things get are so integrated into the culture of institutions that it is these issues and create the kind of tension that people of color feel in those systems. And then when you come in and you’re feeling these issues, but then the priority is on product. There’s no place to talk about this. There’s no place to metabolize. There’s no place to process it. So it becomes like your problem and you have to adjust. And so you, either you adjust or you leave are the options.

Tabitha Moore (46:25):

It almost, you know, as I’m listening to you talk about all of this in particular, the symptoms that people who are feeling unhealthy and devalued in a system when we’re talking about people of color, these things, you know, we hear all the time in terms of workforce burnout. It’s almost like you’re saying that the ideology of whiteness and using white values or emphasis of product over process or relationship, aren’t just harmful to people of color they’re harmful to everyone in the organization.

Ken Hardy (46:55):

Exactly and that’s why, and I always say that because I think if a white person needs a pep, talk about why this is essential, the very point you just made, it is harmful to all of us. And what I say to white folks, all, all the time and particularly white leadership is, look, you can’t help the fact that you were born white anymore than I was born black. And so the skin we’re born and is a life sentence. We can’t change that. I can’t, no matter what I do, I can’t change the fact that I’m black, nor can my white counterpart, but what is not a life sentence is this subscription to an ideology of whiteness that is changeable. And so, while you cannot change your complexion or your skin color, you can work rather assiduously and rethinking, reshaping your ideology. And I think that’s important.

Ken Hardy (47:50):

And, and I think that’s the kind of hopeful message that, that aspiring white allies need to hear is that you don’t have to be confined by the life sentence of your skin color. It is your ideology that is much more critical than the color of your skin. And I think this is also true for people of color, because there are people of color who you can find high place, people, you can find people of color and highly placed within organizations. And part of the trade-off to get there is that you have to sort of relinquish, you have to give up on who you are racially and the extent to which you do that. And you can be elevated in a predominately white system, because for all practical purposes, you are adhering to an ideology of whiteness.

Tabitha Moore (48:44):

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you. We’re coming to the end of our time together, but I do have one, just, just one last question. I’m going to have a ton of questions, but the one that is most important to me personally, and I’m going to be selfish here is how do people of color, workers of color, protect themselves in the field of child welfare?

Ken Hardy (49:02):

Well, I think that one of the most profound saving graces for people of color over the course of time has been community and relationships. And so I think it’s absolutely imperative for workers of color in this system to find ways to connect with each other, to have a sense of community a place where you can come and share your verse of ain’t it awful. And to know that it’s gonna fall unempathic years, where people, where your experience can be held and heard and held, and it won’t change, it won’t change the order. It won’t change the dominant order out there or at the workplace, but what it will do, it will retool, refuel, and rebuild you to be able to go and, and to cope with another day of it. And so I think that’s important, but often in lots of workplaces, that there’s a fear that people of color have even about congregating with each other, because that’s subject to the criticism of white people, or whereas white people congregate together all the time, but, you know, we shy away from it because we don’t want to seem like we’re antisocial or only talk to other black and brown people.

Ken Hardy (50:20):

But I think that sense of community is really important.

Tabitha Moore (50:23):

Well, thank you so much, Ken. I really appreciate you being here with us today. If folks have been enthralled confused you’re in your feelings about what you heard today, please listen to it again, and then listen to our other two podcasts with Ken Hardy, Dr. Ken Hardy, that are going to focus on working with children in the child welfare system, and also with families on the topics of race and racism. Ken, thank you so much for being here with me today.

Ken Hardy (50:49):

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Cassie Gillespie (50:52):

Thank you for listening. Welcome to the Field is produced by the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership and the State of Vermont. Our music is composed and performed by local band Brick Drop, and our sound production and engineering has been brought to you by Esmond Communications and Egan Media Productions for Welcome to the Field. I’m Cassie Gillespie, and we’ll see you next time.

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