Raw Conversations: Stop the Silence Listening Session and Tips to Become a CSD Student Ally

During the past 2 weeks, we’ve invited CSD students to fill out our Join NSSLHA: Stop the Silence engagement form to continue conversations about racial inequalities within the CSD disciplines. This led to our first “Raw Conversation” Zoom session for students who filled out the form.

The “Raw Conversations: Stop the Silence Listening Session,” provided an intimate and safe space for students to hear more experiences, perspectives, and insights about racism within the CSD disciplines from a panel of Black CSD students and a panel of CSD student allies. Our goals were to provide participants with a better understanding of the current racial climate within CSD programs, and actionable ways they can be allies.

Experiences and Perspectives as Black CSD Students

Our first round of panelists—Amanda Pericles, Jackie Jouett, and Lauren Prather—shared with us:

  • their experiences as the only (or one of a few) student(s) who are/were Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in their CSD programs,
  • examples of microaggressions among peers and faculty,
  • how the latest current racial events have impacted them as a CSD student, and
  • how their programs have responded to current racial events.

A common feeling among the panelists is that they feel uncertain and anxious about how current events will impact change and what it means for them as a CSD student:

  • Is anyone going to acknowledge current racial events?
  • Will anyone understand what they’re going through?
  • Will they have the support they need?
  • How will it translate to peers, clinical supervisors, and clients when they go back to clinic?

Amanda shared, “Whatever efforts programs have made in the past to appear diverse, or woke, are usually made in vain . . . because behind the scenes, they’re not. They’re still asking us to do the labor for them. They’re still not changing their curriculums. They’re still not hiring diverse staff. They’re not taking action if you bring up a concern about a faculty member. So, it feels like a fight you just have to tackle on your own—if you even have the energy to do so. Sometimes you just get tired and feel like there’s no point in addressing it within the CSD scope . . . you just want to get your degree and leave, because, honestly, there may not be a change.”

Insights from CSD Student Allies

Our second round of panelists, Aya Khalil, Beth Anne DeGiorgis, and Jo Kalucki, shared:

  • what racial/ethnic diversity looks like within CSD from their perspectives,
  • observances (or reasoning behind lack thereof) of Black peers being racially discriminated against, and
  • what they and their peers have been doing to become more racially aware and anti-racist, as well as taking a stand against racism.

Jo shared, “I wish there was a concrete outline that I could share about self-educating myself on how to be more anti-racist. I wish there was an exemplar for people who want to be allies that they could follow. But there isn’t one, because everyone starts at a different place and everyone brings their own history and their own cultural background with them.”

She went on to say, “If you feel strongly about being a better ally, use your means to get the resources to educate yourself. Don’t rely on asking someone else for them . . . One thing I continue to think about is the best way I can be an ally is to be humble and never be complacent.”

The Time for Change Is Now

The time for our BIPOC CSD students to confront these situations alone is over. There are two approaches to enacting change: top-down and bottom-up. If we hope to see any changes made within CSD programs, we’ll have to enact both. For the purpose of this listening session, we wanted to focus on the bottom-up approach and answer the question many of you have asked, “What can I do to support my Black peers during this time?”

As all of our ally panelists shared, you can start by educating yourself on racial injustices of the world. There are numerous resources available (a simple Google search of “Black Lives Matter” will provide you with plenty), but we’ve narrowed down some good ones for students to start with on the National NSSLHA website.

5 Tips to Become a CSD Student Ally

Then, educate yourself on racial injustices inside the CSD disciplines and within your own CSD program. Our panelists and special guests shared some terrific tips on how you can then begin to create change within your CSD communities:

  1. Support your peers. If a Black student shares a story with you about how they experienced racial injustice, trust them . . . and find ways to support them.
  2. Ask professors and faculty questions. Not sure how African American English impacts therapy? Ask. Not sure how to navigate a therapy session with a bilingual client? Ask. Asking questions to better understand racial injustices within the CSD disciplines is your greatest tool.
  3. Seek-out already-available resources. Check with your CSD department and/or university to see what resources are already available to Black students and allies. Is there a grievance procedure? Is there a chief diversity officer (or someone else who manages diversity issues) who can help you navigate conversations and situations?
  4. Give feedback and constructive solutions. Anonymously give feedback to your program about courses and professors. Involve your program/university’s diversity officer (or someone in a similar role) to help maintain anonymity.
  5. Build a support network:
    • Peers: Find allies to help you constructively navigate conversations with peers, professors, NSSLHA chapters, CSD departments, and universities. There’s power in numbers.
    • Mentors: Don’t just have one mentor. Find mentors that nourish all of the different aspects of your life. Choose mentors who are not only similar to you and your interests, but those who are different from you and will challenge your viewpoints.
    • Groups and organizations: Join one of ASHA’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs) or Multicultural Constituency Groups (hint: you don’t have to be of a certain culture to join).

Because of the power dynamics between students and professors/programs/universities, you’re in a compromising position. We recognize this is a tough spot to be in, but you do have power to address change in your environments.

Beth Anne shared, “We’ve learned that when you speak up at a [national] level, what you find is that you’ll quickly be turned around to do the work on yourself and in your immediate community. Our graduate program is our immediate sphere for next steps. While we have a space to speak and do this kind of advocacy at a broad [national] level, the real steps—the real legacy of things we can change—are within our own [CSD] department.”

So, while it surely feels overwhelming to change an entire educational system, remember . . . take a deep breath and start small. And together, those small steps will enact bigger change.

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