Racial Injustice and Community Violence

   June 2, 2020

“And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? ... It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., 1967

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

— Benjamin Franklin

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

— Micah 6:8

Yet again, our country is roiling from the repeated, appalling miseries of racial injustice, racial profiling, unjustified violence towards African Americans, and senseless killings.

I have talked to many clients and friends the last few days. All of us have all responded with sadness, anger, worry, fear, and outrage due to the lack of justice and equity. Today, I saw Terrance Floyd, brother of George, sit on the spot where he was killed, and it brought tears to see the grief and humanity, the unfairness. We see protests and calls for action, action we hope desperately to see in our time.

I hope it is clear that Shorehaven stands in support of equal opportunity, care, diversity, and justice for every staff member and client and our community, regardless of race or ethnicity, or any other status. We are so aware of structural racism in health care, education, political representation, employment opportunities, housing, earnings, community investment, freedom of movement, and liberty.

Kathy Schwengel wrote these words today. “We have the ability to perform impactful work that helps to bring justice and equity to our community. We carry the distinct opportunity to collaborate with influential individuals and organizations that are both steering and commanding change. And we have the talent to craft those messages and help make their voices heard. For that, we should feel proud to be a part of a company that can carry that message.

“Still, we can do more. Get out of your comfort zone. Educate yourself. Take time to walk in someone else's shoes. Recognize that words matter. Check your unconscious biases. Be compassionate and understanding. Be kind. Show kindness.”

Many of you attended our two trainings on racial trauma. We must be aware of the devastating impact of these experiences on the psyches of our clients and on our own reactions. People should not be frightened in their own communities, especially from actions by agents of government.

A further dismaying indignity is how our federal “leadership” provides only thoughts of punishment and threats of force. We see no effort at justice, understanding, empathy, and conciliation.

The injustice must stop. We stand for equality, justice, and healing.

—Don Rosenberg, President and CEO, Shorehaven Behavioral Health, Inc.

        July 21, 2016
We made the statement below four years ago when Milwaukee's community reacted to the unjustified death of a citizen of color. I hope we keep alive the drive toward change and justice and make a difference now and forever.

To Our Staff,

No doubt every one of us has been touched by the unfathomable, sad, and frightening violence that has been repeatedly occurring and frequently reported, particularly the past couple of weeks. No one is immune to the effect of these shootings.

Shorehaven's vision and practice stand firmly against any form of discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping, or racial injustice. We stand strongly in favor of diversity and increasing the well-being of our clients. We worry for the welfare of our staff members and their families and of our clients.

We need to be aware of the impact of these tragic events on ourselves, on our co-workers, on our clients, and on our community. You do not have to have solutions; you are a solution. You know that talking about our reactions to these realities is a path in the direction of inner and community peace.

We recognize our staff members may need a supportive, open environment for expressing our own reactions, thoughts, and feelings. Our supervisors and managers are here to support the staff. The supervisors are open to talking about it in clinical supervision. We encourage anyone who may want to talk about it to come to a supervisor. We will listen and we will ask if there is anything we can do to be helpful.

Again, as a mental health center, we know that awareness of our own reactions is the place to begin to help others. Then, we can create a welcoming place for our clients to express their thoughts, fears, and anxieties. We are privileged to be able to help so many people who are in turn the beneficiaries of the excellent work we all collectively do in this community,

Our practice is to pay it forward, that is, to improve the world by sowing loving-kindness, an attitude that comes forth from our remarkable staff.

We pass courtesy and civility forward into the world. We impact so many lives. Thank you all for the trauma-informed work you do. I include all of our support staff in that message for their sensitive, welcoming responses to our so-often traumatized clients, and for being a foundation for our work.

If any staff member or family member of a staff member wants confidential help, we can put you in touch with our EAP program. A brochure is attached.

How shall we talk to clients about it? Some will suppress or avoid the topic. Some are living in environments in which they are exposed to danger. Others will welcome the opportunity to share. Most have an impressive level of resilience. We need to maintain our own emotional equanimity and control our own reactions. We are aware of the phenomena of secondary traumatization and vicarious trauma.

This is one of those moments of reflection in which we can look at the whole team, all 100 of us, and to treasure what we do together to 'repair the world' in the ways we achieve by our joint efforts.

Below, I've include a few links to short articles which may offer some insights about the exposure of children to violence.

—Don Rosenberg, President and CEO, Shorehaven Behavioral Health, Inc.

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